Karma Drubdey Thargay Ling Nunnery, Tilokpur, Himachal Pradesh
1st – 5th October, 2016

Khoryug was founded in 2009 with the recognition that the environmental crisis is, in the words the His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, “not just a political or scientific problem, but also a moral and ethical one” that Buddhists must address. Although Khoryug often works with secular organization, this approach to environmental action is being taken by numerous other leaders, communities and organizations.

Khoryug recently partnered with one such organization to run the Khoryug Spiritual Ecology Fellowship Workshop at Karma Drubdey Thargayling Nunnery in Tilokpur, Himachal Pradesh.

The Spiritual Ecology Youth Fellowship is a fellowship program for emerging young leaders who can act as catalysts for change rooted in spiritual values of interconnectedness, service, stewardship and reverence for nature. 11 fellows traveled from the United States to Tilokpur to participate with 30 nuns from KTDL Nunnery in a five day workshop from the 1st to 5th of October. The workshop was structured to provide nuns and fellows the opportunity to exchange and deepen their understanding of the scientific and Buddhist explanations of environmental degradation while working to together to develop practical responses and calls to action.

The workshop began by laying groundwork for the collaboration to come. During the first day, fellows received an introductory talk from Khenpo Drubdey on the relationship between Buddhism and environment. Khenpo’s address was effective in placing Khoryug and the goals of the workshop in a Buddhist context. In turn, the nuns were introduced to the five major environmental categories of forests, water, wildlife, waste and climate change and their specific relevance in the Himalayas. These five categories provided a framework for both scientific inquiry as well as teamwork and project development during the days ahead.

 

Spiritual Ecology fellows took the lead on the second day of the workshop by presenting mini classes on the science behind these five categories of environmental change and degradation. These classes provided the nuns with a basic understanding of the science behind the most pressing environmental issues in the Himalayas and their homes.

With a foundation of scientific understanding established, workshop participants then split into small topic groups for each of the five environmental categories. The nuns became the teachers, explaining with the help of a translator their analysis of environmental destruction from the perspective of the Buddha’s teaching and their own life experience. In the afternoon, groups began working together to brainstorm practical responses to the problems associated with their environmental topic.

 

Participants spent much of the fourth day working diligently with their groups to develop one of their ideas into a specific call to action. Each group drew upon their collective talents to produce a creative appeal or educational material that could be used in the future to spread awareness, provide helpful information or incite action. Huddled with their groups, participants began composing songs, writing plays and designing social media to share with the world on their topic.

The last day of the workshop was devoted to bringing together the major themes and sharing the various products. Fellows joined the nuns on the beautiful banks of a river near the nunnery in an aspirational puja to benefit all sentient beings. Upon returning to the nunnery, each group finalized and then presented their creative call to action.

 

The presentations demonstrated the powerful creativity that can arise from cross cultural teamwork on an issue that transcends borders. The forest group presented first, sharing their plan to develop a tree nursery at the nunnery as well as an educational song detailing instructions for how to most effectively plant trees. The water group then performed a play highlighting the importance of conserving water and protecting its source. The waste, wildlife and climate change groups all shared songs that they had composed on their topic along with motivational pictures and messages that could be shared widely on the internet.

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