Geshe Thubten Ngawang was the former resident teacher at the Tibetan Center in Hamburg. He passed away in 2003, leaving behind many teachings about cultivating the method and wisdom aspects of the path to awakening. He developed a rich 7-year program that summarized all the main topics that monastics in the Gelug tradition would study over a period of 15-20 years in great monastic universities like Sera Je. While some teachings by Geshe Thubten Ngawang have been published in Germany, others are only available by oral transmission through Geshe Thubten Ngwang’s German disciples.
We have to protect mother earth like our own body.
Geshe Thubten Ngwawang (Hamburg, Germany)
Geshe Thubten Ngawang once gave a teaching on how to meditate on the four immeasurables, combined with prayers to support a good relationship with mother earth. This teaching was published in a book entitled Contentment and Non-Harming. Through practicing this meditation, I gained a strong conviction that we can change our attitude towards mother earth and the four elements so that many more generations can live on a healthy planet with good soil, fresh, clean water, and pure air, where the elements are in harmony.
I feel great responsibility not to destroy our nature as far as possible, not to waste natural products but to protect our closest friend or mother, the earth. We have to protect mother earth as we would protect our own body.
Geshe Thubten Ngawang emphasized that sentient beings are totally dependent on the four elements: “To survive as one single human being depends on the friendliness of other sentient beings—human beings and animals—as well as on the natural produce of this earth.” This interdependence makes our actions extremely important if we want to live a meaningful life that benefits both ourselves and others.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has spoken on this topic in the past 20 years as well. In a talk given in 1990, he said,
In the past the perennial snow mountains of Tibet had very thick snow. Older people say that these mountains were covered with thick snow when they were young and that the snows are getting sparser, which may be an indication of the end of the world. It is a fact that climate change is a slow process taking thousands of years to realize its effect. Living beings and plant life on this planet also undergo change accordingly. Man’s physical structure too changes from generation to generation along with the change in climatic conditions.
(HHDL, India, December 29, 1990)
I am sad to hear that we may be facing the end of the world. I am unhappy to see the suffering of sentient beings that might come with all these environmental changes. However, I can’t blame others for not protecting our natural environment. What good would that do? I have to work on my own behavior and by this, set a good example. I also can support organizations that speak up on these issues, which are concerned about the future of this planet and all the living beings who will live on it. From a Buddhist perspective, that might be even our own mindstream in a human, animal, or whatever form that is experiencing the karmic result of our current actions.
To raise awareness, to develop more compassion and a sense of our interdependence with mother earth, with each and every sentient being on this planet as well as plants and the four elements—water, fire, earth, and wind—I would like to share with you Geshe Thubten Ngawang’s meditation on how to protect our environment like our own body:
Buddha, whose thoughts and actions were full of wisdom and compassion, taught the four immeasurables:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes.
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and anger.
Geshe Thubten Ngawang combined the four immeasurables with the four elements. His meditation outline is as follows (lightly edited by me):
Meditation to raise consciousness for a healthy relationship with nature
With concentration we imagine the Buddha in front of us, brilliant and made of transparent light. He is full of compassion and love for each and every sentient being. From his heart, cooling light and nectar enters into us and into our environment. It purifies all negativities, especially the four elements, from all dirt and destructions. We combine with these visualisations good wishes for all sentient beings, for their happiness and end of their suffering. May nobody harm the natural environment.
The ground of equanimity
Think: “How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings would abide on the far-reaching plain of equanimity, that is free from the delusion of being attached to friends and having ill will towards enemies. May all sentient beings train in equanimity. I myself will do my best so every being can be inspired by and follow my example. May all holy beings give their blessings for this.”
The earth and the other major elements are the closest companions of sentient beings. Only through their cause do we have access to what sustains our lives. All elements carry, hold together, ripen, and move. But in our ignorance, we think that we have attained everything on our own. The friendliness of the elements can’t be paid off. May we especially care about the earth element and stop poisoning the ground and food with chemical substances.
The earth element has the function of carrying, the water element holds together, the fire element supports ripening, and the wind element brings growing and increasing. Through the elements and the work of sentient beings, we have all the necessary conditions to be alive. Through the power of the elements we have air to breathe, water to drink, and food, clothes and much more that we take from nature.
Reestablish the visualisation of the Buddha in front of you. He gave up all afflictions and obscurations and has real love that is as stable as the king of the mountains. Imagine that through the power of his love, nectar in form of light and a soft, cool rain flows through head of each and every sentient being. It fills their whole body and mind. From their body light and nectar streams out to the environment. The sentient beings and their environment become purified of all destruction that has been caused through the earth element, e.g., through chemically processed food. All physical and mental sicknesses of the beings will be healed.
Through this purification, the positive powers of the earth element grow, and as long as living beings remain, plants, forests and harvests will exist on every part of this planet. Through this, benefit and well-being of body and mind of the beings will be attained and they receive new energy.
The water of loving-kindness
Think: “How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings in every realm would have happiness and its causes. May they realize that they lack happiness because their mindstream is not filled with the humidity of loving-kindness. May they have happiness. May I do all my best to make it possible and may the holy beings give their blessings.“
All resources are important for all sentient beings’ lives now and in the future. How wonderful it would be if every sentient being would realize that and protect their environment like their own body. May they especially see the water as a very rich treasure and may it be free from poisonous substances.
Again nectar and light flows from the Buddha into each sentient being and purifies them from mental obscurations and their causes, especially from attachment to fabricated objects of attraction. The nectar purifies all human beings of their greed, which causes them to engage in harmful actions like killing animals and eradicating entire species. Through the light and nectar human beings feel love for all sentient beings and wish each and every sentient being happiness and the causes of happiness.
The light and nectar also fill the water element in their environment and purifies it of all poisonous substances. They fill all the water resources on this planet. All this water will bring causes of well-being to each and every sentient being.
The warmth of compassion
Think: “No sentient being wants to suffer, not even in our dreams. But we are not aware that we have to create the causes of happiness, that we have to give up the causes of suffering. Through hurting others we experience suffering day and night. How wonderful it would be if each and every sentient being would be free from suffering and its causes. May they attain this. May I do my best to support sentient beings to attain freedom from suffering and its causes. May the Buddha therefore give his blessings.“
Without our natural environment, no sentient being could survive even for one day. How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings would realize that and refrain from destroying the environment—our forests, soil, water and air, and from killing species of animals.
We think we are intelligent and educated, but in reality we don’t know the difference between wholesome mental states and unwholesome mental states that are caused by wrong views. As a result, we do not know how we can achieve long-lasting happiness and remove suffering. Overwhelmed by these mental states, we are under the control of our afflictions. Our mind is a slave to our misconceptions and afflictions.
In this situation, sentient beings do a variety of activities that bring harm to the natural environment and their inhabitants. Such actions are causes for suffering. Therefore I request you, refuge object, to protect through your compassion me and all sentient beings from suffering and its causes. Free us from the pain in our mind that is caused by the wish to hurt others—through hatred, miserliness, and crime.
Please purify the environment, especially the atmosphere, from the causes of climate change and other destructions that are causes by the heat/fire element, e.g., through the burning of fossil fuels and other toxic substances. May all sentient beings have the good fortune to breath clean air free from pollution.
Nectar and light streams from the Buddha and purifies me and all sentient being from physical and mental suffering. The light and nectar also heal the air, soil, forests, and plants on this planet. Also through the power of the Buddha, the fire element becomes harmonious and supports growth and fertility.
All human beings realize now that the result of virtuous actions is happiness, and the result of harmful actions is suffering. Even the most subtle thought to hurt others will increase.
The harvest of rejoicing
Think: “Sentient beings wish happiness for themselves, but they experience suffering due to their self-centeredness. The basis is wrong views that lead to wrong actions. How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings could live in prosperity, free from any kind of suffering. May this come true. May I bring it to fruition. May the refuge beings give their blessings of support.”
May all human beings who are using the natural resources of this planet realize that these resources are important for survival. May they all realize that they should not waste natural resources for the good of a minority.
Through the prayers we direct towards the holy beings, who feel deep compassion for us, beams of multicolored light and blissful nectar stream forth into all sentient beings. All physical pain and mental suffering is removed, especially any imbalance between the four elements. Through the power of the Buddha, the light and nectar causes all sentient beings to refrain from any destructive or exploitative behavior, and to lead a life with mindfulness, in harmony with their natural environment.
Light and nectar from all sentient beings comes out from their body and removes all the outer destructions and dysfunctions through the wind element and their results, like poverty, sickness, and shortage of food. This leads to a reestablishment of the natural functioning of the wind. The elements regenerate in harmony. Natural resources are refilled and harvests everywhere increase. The whole environment is in harmony so each and every sentient being that will live in the future will have healthy food and pure water. Forests, plants, and other resources of the earth will lead to a contented life with well-being, and without any lack.
German original: Die Umwelt schützen wie den eigenen Körper
This article is available in Spanish: Meditación para una relación saludable con la naturaleza