International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
Interfaith Climate and Ecology network (ICE)
Eco-Temple Community Development Project
“Seed Planting” & Mid 2016 Update
Since the conclusion of the 1st Eco Temple Community Development Project meeting in Sri Lanka in January of 2016, Jonathan Watts, the group coordinator, with other members have made site visits to the Sukhavati Eco-Temple (Tamil Nadu, India), the Shwenadi Temple and Monastic School (Kyaupaduang, Myanmar) and The Smart Pagoda (Chonburi, Thailand) to learn more in detail of the work and assess needs and resources for sharing in the network. Also during this time, Ven. Miao Hai of Zhengjue Temple (Mt. Lianhua, China)—who before becoming a monk held significant positions in research and development in the solar industry in China—visited a number of sites in the formal Eco Temple Network and in the wider INEB network. He has provided technical consultancy and donations for the building of solar facilities ranging from 10kW to 40kW (see update at the bottom of Zhengjue Temple site). He is also now working with Ven. Rathana Thero of the Sadahamsevana International Buddhist Information and Research Institute (Colombo, Sri Lanka), who also serves as an MP in the Sri Lankan national parliament, on a national plan for small-scale residential solar.
The work of Ven. Miao Hai to provide solar panels to our member temples and out network affiliates is a critically important form of “seed planting” for the Eco Temple Project. These small scale solar facilities are helping the temples to not only eradicate their energy bills and/or provide a more reliable source of energy but also provide a steady source of long-term income (by selling excess back to the main grid) to the temple to be used for further environmental work. This vision was first realized by our member Rev. Hidehito Okochi in Japan who by installing solar panels on his temple in Tokyo in the late 1990s has been able to financially run a local CSO working on global warming. In the Eco Temple Community Design mentioned above, this solar “seed planting” provides a key fulcrum for immediately realizing components of the holistic design—such as 1) ecological temple structure and energy system and 2) economic sustainability—while providing a financial base for realizing others—such as 3) development projects to support and maintain the surrounding environment, 4) educational projects with local community and other regional groups, and 5) realization of spiritual values by embodying environmental values in a religious community. In the long-term, as renewable energy grows, this “seed planting” can go beyond the installation of solar to include micro-hydro, wind, biomass, and even geo-thermal.
As seen in the 5 core components of the Eco Temple Community Design, there are a wide variety of methods of engagement to realize a full-fledged eco temple community. “Seed Planting” can also start with other initiatives in Eco Temple Community Design, such as establishing Sufficiency Economy schools as with out member Phra Sangkom Khunsiri’s Temple of Buddha Relics and Smart Pagoda, There are also a huge number of potential sites for the work through the ICE and INEB Networks. INEB itself, as a predominantly Buddhist based network, has affiliates, members, and extended connections to temples throughout all of Buddhist Asia. These include extremely sensitive environmental areas, such as the Himalayas and the Mekong Delta, and areas of dense population where the human environmental footprint needs to be drastically reduced, such as India and China. The potential of just Buddhist temples, not to mention all religious facilities, to act as centers for lifestyle change in terms of energy use and environmental preservation is needless to say immense.
With this tremendous scope in mind, the Eco-Temple Community Development Project seeks to proceed step by step, temple by temple, by establishing a core foundation in a secretariat and its principal member temples. With the establishment of a secretariat and full time coordination, the essential work of 1) documentation of activities, 2) coordination of technological and methodological inputs in the network, and 3) coordination of site visits and conferences can be accomplished. The project, however, does not seek a funding model based on an annual budget for activities and administrative costs, which while yielding tangible outcomes does not create further financial resources and hence needs constant replenishing. Instead, using the model of solar “seed planting” mentioned above, the project seeks to secure single time donations towards the construction of solar facilities, ultimately enabling the temples in the network, like Zhengjue Temple in China, to in turn become “seed planters” for new temples in the network. This financial model has already been successfully achieved by Rev. Hidehito Okochi who not only has used the profits of his solar facilities to run a local environmental CSO but used the Buddhist practice of generosity (dana) and support for the local temple by its lay people to raise capital for the initial installation of solar panels.
The Interfaith Climate and Ecology network (ICE) of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) was initiated in 2012 after many years of individual members in the INEB network engaging in a wide variety of Buddhist/faith based environmental activities. These activities came from our commitment as Buddhists to engage in the suffering we encounter in the world (1st Noble Truth). In this context, it has been the suffering throughout Asia brought about by environmental degradation from the modern industrial development process, such as deforestation and the destruction of numerous habitats. A critical aspect of this process has been the economic marginalization of rural communities and the exploitation and destruction of their environments for the creation of massive energy projects for the creation of high consumption urban lifestyles— e.g. massive dams that have relocated hundreds of thousands of people and nuclear power plants that endanger the entire fabric of life in rural areas. As such, INEB members in their environmental activities have pushed deeper into the structural and cultural causes of environmental suffering in their regions (2nd Noble Truth) and have articulated alternative visions based on Buddhist teachings (3rd Noble Truth) with activities to realize these visions (4th Noble Truth). The Eco-Temple Community Development Project is a plan to bring many of these activities in different regions together to bolster the integrative efficiency of each individual project and support and advance a wider movement among Buddhists, other communities of faith, and wider civil society, business, and governmental initiatives to build sustainable and ecological societies.
The Eco Temple Working Group was formed at the 2nd ICE international conference in Seoul, Korea in April 2015. This working group has emerged from the participation of Rev. Hidehito Okochi of Japan in the 1st ICE Conference in Sri Lanka and the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear incident. Since then, the Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists (JNEB) has created an International Project on Energy to share experiences on nuclear energy among Buddhists and other religious groups in the Global North, and in coordination with INEB conduct two study tours (2012, 2015) for those in the Global South to learn of the resiliency activities of Buddhists priests and other civil society groups in Fukushima and to study more in depth Rev. Okochi’s own eco-temple communities in Tokyo. A two-day meeting held just after the INEB General Conference in Sri Lanka from January 29-30, 2016 was the first time this new sub network had an extended period together to share their activities and delve more deeply into the numerous interconnected issues in eco-temple community design. In this way, the meeting sought to: 1) share experiences, identify needs, and begin collaboration among core members to support the development of eco-temple communities; and 2) from this shared knowledge, further develop and articulate an Eco-Temple Community Design Scheme, which can be a planning tool for our own and other eco-temple community initiatives. Our focus was not on technology transfer or aid, but rather sharing perspectives and experiences to empower participants to develop answers in their own localities.
Vision and Strategy:
The specific goal of the project is to initiate and realize holistic Eco-Temple Communities based out of Buddhist temples (and applicable to the centers of other religions) in the INEB and ICE network. INEB and ICE members have a wide variety of communities, resources, and needs. By working together to develop an Eco-Temple Community Design Scheme, an information base of best practices and available resources can be developed for each community’s specific needs. The overarching goal is to develop ecological human communities that are sustainably interconnected with the natural environment through the community center of a religious facility/temple. Such religious centers will manifest ecological standards on the material, relational, and spiritual levels:
- Material: design, building materials, energy usage, waste management, economic sustainability, and connection to outer environment through gardens, agriculture, and forestry/water management
- Relational: community solidarity and interconnection through participation in various temple based ecological activities, including education and linkages with CSOs, government, and business
- Spiritual: cultivating the inner ecology of community members through spiritual practice and teachings that relate to ecological issues, which forms the basis of realizing the relational and material goals through grounded human interaction
The Eco Temple Community Design is a holistic development process that involves much more than simply putting solar panels on the roofs of temples. It involves a comprehensive integration of: 1) ecological temple structure and energy system, 2) economic sustainability, 3) integration with surrounding environment, 4) engagement with community and other regional groups (civil society, business, government), and 5) development of spiritual values and teachings on environment, eco-dharma. In this way, we are planning to move forward in supporting the creation and/or continuing development of holistic eco-temple communities based out of Buddhist temples (and applicable to the centers of other religions) in the INEB and ICE network.
As a faith based network, INEB and ICE see one of their key contributions to social change as the reform and revival of our Buddhist and spiritual traditions, especially in this case, the community and the physical presence of a holistic and ecologically minded religious center/temple. Through the religious center/temple, we can contribute greatly to the critical need for education and practice of inner ecology, while connecting that to outer ecological activities, such as community mobilization on environmental issues, right livelihood, and, foremost for this project, the establishment of a zero-waste, clean energy temple structure integrated into the local environment. From such a movement, religious communities can have a progressive role, contribution, and linkages with wider movements for ecological design and post-industrial societies, critical to the immediate global environmental crisis.
In this way, we will seek to develop the Eco-Temple Community Development Project more as a meme, or as a method or path, rather than as a fixed project with fixed membership. This means that we will try to further develop the Eco-Temple Community Design Scheme so that it can be used as a planning and action tool for our own and any other eco-temple community initiatives in the world. We hope to continue to enrich the design scheme and further our own work based on a number of cooperative agreements mentioned in the temple community profiles below and through an ongoing series of small meetings and site visits (often with a particular learning theme) as follows:
- April 2015: South Korea (2nd ICE conf.) & site visit: Japan (theme: nuclear & clean energy)
- January 2016: Sri Lanka (INEB general conf.) & site visit: south India (theme: earth bricks & environmental justice in new Buddhist communities)
- December 2016: site visits (2): Thailand (opening of Phra Sangkom’s Smart Pagoda) & Myanmar (theme: ecological use of bamboo)
- July 2017: Indonesia (3rd ICE conf.) & site visit: TBA: Muslim eco mosques?
- November 2017: Taiwan (INEB general conf.) & site visit: China (theme: solar energy)
- Sukhavati Eco-Temple (Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India) under the Foundation for His Sacred Majesty (Mr. Gauthama Prabhu Nagappan, Executive Director)
- Shwenadi Monastic School (Kyaupaduang, Magway Region, Myanmar) under Ven. Yuzana, Abbot, and Socially Engaged Monastic Schools SEMS (Awipi, Coordinator)
- The Temple of Buddha Relics (Chiang Mai, Thailand) & The Smart Pagoda (Chonburi, Thailand) under Phra Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsiri, Abbot
- Juko-in Temple & Kenju-in Temple (Tokyo, Japan) under Rev. Hidehito Okochi, Abbot
- Zhengjue Temple (Mt. Lianhua, Zibo City, Shandong Province, China) under Ven. Ren Da, Abbot & Ven. Miao Hai, Head of Renewable Energy Application
- Bodhi Hill Learning Community (Shan State, Myanmar) under Sai Leng Wan (Harn), Director
- The Sunshine Temple Project (South Korea) under Tae-Ok Lee, Secretary General of Won Buddism Eco Network
Eco Temple Community Working Group core members:
Japan: Rev. Hidehito Okochi (JNEB)
Japan: Mr. Jonathan Watts (JNEB)
Myanmar: Mr. Awipi (Coordinator, Socially Engaged Monastic Schools)
Myanmar: Mr. Sai Leng Wan (Harn) (Bodhi Hill Learning Community)
India: Mr. Gautham Prabhu (Foundation for His Sacred Majesty)
India: Mr. Prashant Varma (Deer Park Institute)
Sri Lanka: Ms. Kanchana Weerakoon (Eco Friendly Volunteers)
Austria: Mr. Mischa Altmann (freelance)
South Korea: Ms. Junghee Min (ICE Network)
Hungary: Ms. Melinda Varfi (freelance)
China: Ven. Miao Hai (Zhengjue Temple)
Thailand: Phra Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsiri (The Smart Pagoda)
USA: Ms. Emilie Parry (Oxford University)
Switzerland: Ms. Liza Zogib (DiversEarth)