Buddhist Center for Environmental Health and Awareness
The entire project will showcase permaculture principles wedded to the unique spiritual architectural traditions of Buddhism, and the philosophy that informs these traditions are investigated in brief below.
The practices and structures Bhakha Rinpoche aims to put into place are all are based on the principles of powerful positive intentionality, a willingness to work with environments as they are, and activities of giving back to the earth.
"Positive intentionality" is the ability to shape and transform the very meaning of our lives. This capacity begins with the understanding that there is no "reality," only perspective. Within the vision of this insight we do not passively "read" the meaning of our environment, but are constantly the source of all interpretation and understanding. As such, we are the ones responsible for choosing to attribute a set of meanings to our encounters in the world while ignoring countless others. Understanding this principle is the foundation of what Tantric Buddhists call "the view of emptiness." The view of emptiness is the source of all power, the source of the creative force of the universe. When we recognize this, we actually cease to become a victim of circumstances in our lives and actually begin to work with our own raw brilliance. The view of emptiness in application then becomes the realization that practices of transformation and practices that utilize prayer and positive intentions are not just "wishful thinking." We begin to recognize that they are actually effective to the degree to which we take responsibility as the source of all habits of seeing. This recognition dawns in the realization that we are truly responsible for all the meaning we find in our lives.
"As it is:" community organizer and author Saul Alinsky wrote in his book Rules for Radicals that the key to creating meaningful and powerful change starts with seeing and understanding the problem as it is, not by fantasizing about how we wish it to be. This allows us to get into the nitty-gritty of the situation, to understand the problem intimately and personally, so we know the nuts-and-bolts of what we have to address. But this is not an easy thing to do. Meditation practice is one of the most effective ways to develop this capacity, as the dzogrim meditation tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism has no "goal" other than to rest exactly in the clear presence of whatever is arising. This capacity allows us to examine the unsightly and unflattering aspects of our problems so we are able to attend to the cause rather than continuing to treat merely the symptoms of disease in ourselves and our environment.
"Giving back to the earth" is the principle of generosity in action. It is ironic that the word "exploit," as in "exploit the resources" rolls so easily and innocently off the tongue of us Westerners. On the other hand, we have our own tradition here in America of environmental generosity: we need only remember Johnny Appleseed. The principle of generosity actually is not "unnatural;" it is expressed in one of the fundamental laws of physics, the Conservation of Energy, which states that "energy is neither created nor destroyed." But as Buckminster Fuller noted, in his book Operation Manual For Spaceship Earth, energy is unequally distributed on this planet; and therefore, "our total planet is at all times involved in the industrial integration of the unique physical behaviors of each of all the elements." (pp.115-6) When we look at any city in our country, we quickly see that humans tread most heavily, destroying and taking from environments and rarely remaining within homeostasis. By consciously participating in the process of environmental re-integration, by actively manifesting generosity and creating contexts of abundance, we find ourselves part of an immense process of healing that is long overdue and essential to the survival of all.
Some of the specific initial projects of the Buddhist Center for Environmental Health and Awareness are as follows:
--All Building Projects: The building projects will be workshops to teach both natural building methodologies and the philosophical underpinnings of buddhist environmental practices. In this fashion, every part of this project will be a part of the educational initiatives of the Center.
--Adobe Bricks: All buildings of the project will be made out of adobe, and adobe buildings rely upon uniform bricks. These bricks are made from molds filled with clay located from the vicinity of the building site. The bricks are first pressed into the molds, then sun dried and stacked for later use. We will produce molds that contain Buddhist mantras, so that all the bricks made for the buildings will be suffused with the awareness speech of enlightened intent. Creating bricks in this manner connects the intention to benefit all beings with the very soil of the land.
--Orno: The traditional outdoor oven of the Southwest, the orno will be built for the purpose of performing the fire practice, or "smoke offering," called "sang" in Tibetan. This ancient practice is performed for purification and harmonization of the inner and outer elements.
--Chorten: "Chorten" is a Tibetan word for a harmonizing and energy focusing structure. Various styles exist, each reflecting the interpretation of the culture that built it. Chortens exist in India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Japan and elsewhere. Architecturally, they contain forms that incorporate square and circular elements in their design, and often have spires puncutated by a series of stacked disks. There are many levels of symbolism encoded within their forms, too detailed to elaborate completely here. Basically these structures are based on the principle of the axis, and the sphere within the cube. They are also expressions of the mandala principle in that they take the shape of square palaces, utilizing the principle of the five directions and the five elements. These chorten are built on specific sites identified as being energy meridians of the earth's body, and have the power to generate a field of intentionality and coherence around them. They are filled with various precious substances, millions of mantras as well as numerous buddha images.
--Treasure Vases: Treasure vases are vases buried in the ground or dropped in lakes to harmonize and balance local energies. They act as "seeds of enlightened intention" planted mostly during the springtime.
--Wind Power: Surveys of wind power will be conducted, and where appropriate a wind turbine will be built with mantras painted on the blades. The windmill will act as both a generator of electricity and enlightened speech with each revolution.