Buddhist Leader Marches India for the Environment
In India, political and religious leaders continue to raise awareness for the environment. Last week, the Gyalwang Drukpa, the 12th spiritual head of the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism, started his seventh “Eco Padvatra” walk from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi to create awareness among people about keeping their surroundings clean. The walk not only draws attention to Modi’s environmental initiatives, but brings hope to a country facing dire environmental threats.
Traditional Indian holidays, like Diwali and Holi, raise concerns about toxic contamination and air problems. All of India’s sacred rivers are heavily polluted — in fact, Modi has teamed up with holy men to save the sacred Ganges River from industrial effluent, cremated bodies, untreated sewage, and garbage. And even the glowing, white walls of the Taj Mahal are in danger of crumbling due to intense groundwater pumping.
But the environmental initiatives being passed by Modi, as well as the growing push among religious leaders to care for the environment promise change. Approximately 1,000 people, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have joined the Gyalwang Drukpa’s walk, which follows a route of approximately 800 km from Varanasi to Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal.
“The motive behind this march on foot is to create awareness among people to protect the environment and stop the use of plastic products,” Buddhist monk Bhante Jalbung said. During the walk three years ago, the group picked up nearly one ton of non-biodegradable plastic trash.
“I admire Modi’s passion for cleaning the Ganges. This initiative has led to a lot of positivity. I support his campaign,” said the Gyalwang Drukpa. “This is the first time a leader has taken an initiative to protect the environment. Whenever any issue was about protecting the planet, everyone took a backseat.”
But the Gyalwang Drukpa has a long-tradition of taking a front seat on environmental issues. He is internationally acclaimed for taking the lead and creating awareness about environmental consciousness and driving the masses to embrace environmentally-friendly initiatives. In September 2010, the United Nations honored him with the Milllennium Development Goals Award for his efforts to “create compassion into action.” The Gyalwang Drukpa was also named “The Guardian of the Himalayas” by the Waterkeeper Alliance during the UN Week in September 2013. And the Legislative Assembly in Mexico City recognized the Buddhist leader as an honorary member of its body last July.
Hopefully, the Gyalwang Drukpa will inspire others toward environmental enlightenment as he walks across the land he loves.
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