IOP and SGI Join Symposium on Buddhist Environmentalism at USC




USC A discussion during the symposium

On September 6, a one-day symposium on "Buddhist Environmentalism" was held at the University of Southern California (USC) Doheny Memorial Library. The symposium was jointly hosted by the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at USC, the SGI-affiliated Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) and the Asia Society Southern California. Experts in Buddhist approaches to the environment from the US and Japan attended, as well as an audience of around 30 students and other concerned individuals.

The symposium was chaired by Duncan Williams, codirector of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC) and director of the USC School of Religion. In his opening remarks, Professor Ruben L. F. Habito of Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology highlighted ways the wisdom of Buddhism can contribute to healing the Earth. He also mentioned Nichiren’s concern that we must transform the planet into what he called "the Lotus land."

presenting books IOP Director Dr. Yoichi Kawada (left), presenting books and facsimile Lotus Sutra manscripts to CJRC codirector Duncan Williams. Also pictured are Dr. Shuichi Yamamoto (2nd from right) and Dr. Mikio Matsuoka (right).
Donald K. Swearer, distinguished visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, then introduced three prominent Buddhist activists on environmental issues in Thailand, and raised the question of how to bridge the gap between meditation and activism.

Nathaniel Rich of UC Santa Barbara addressed the issue of compassion for all sentient beings and vegetarianism in Tibetan Buddhism, and Professor Stephanie Kaza of the University of Vermont gave a presentation on how Buddhist perspectives and leadership could contribute to the challenges posed by climate change.

From IOP, Dr. Mikio Matsuoka gave a talk titled "The Wisdom of Ecosophy and Buddhism," Dr. Shuichi Yamamoto spoke on the Buddhist influence on Edo Period  ecosystems and forestry protection in Japan, and IOP Director Dr. Yoichi Kawada addressed environmental issues and approaches to happiness. related article A Quiet Revolution: The Earth Charter and Human Potential Seeds of Change: The Earth Charter and Human Potential is an exhibition created by SGI and the Earth Charter Initiative and first shown at WSSD (the World Summit on Sustainable Development) held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002.

Joan Anderson of the SGI Office of Public Information also spoke on the environmental activism of SGI members around the world.

On September 5, the IOP also made a donation of books and facsimile Lotus Sutra manuscripts to the library of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. 

[Adapted from a report from the SGI Office of Public Information and the September 15, 2013, issue of Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Martin Cohen]

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