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Symposium on Buddhist Environmentalism at USC

On September 6, 2013, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) and the Center of Japanese Religions and Culture of the University of Southern California's School of Religion co-organized a symposium on “Buddhist Environmentalism” which was held at the University of Southern California (USC) Doheny Memorial Library. Experts in Buddhist approaches to the environment from the US and Japan attended, as well as audience of around 30 students and other concerned individuals.

The symposium was chaired by Prof. Duncan Williams, codirector of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC) and director of the USC School of Religion. In his opening remarks, Prof. 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.”

Prof. Donald K. Swearer, distinguished visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, then introduced three prominent Buddhist activities on environmental issues in Thailand, and raised the question of how to bridge the gap between meditation and activism.

Prof. 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 the 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 ecosystem and forestry protection in Japan, and IOP Director Dr. Yoichi Kawada addressed environmental issues and approaches to happiness.

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 version of the Lotus Sutra manuscripts to the library of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.

Following presentations were given at the symposium:

Session 1
Ruben Habito (Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology)
“Buddhist Wisdom and Ecological Awareness: Exploring Horizons of Praxis”

-Mikio Matsuoka (The Institute of Oriental Philosophy)
“The Wisdom of Ecosophy and Buddhism”

Session 2
-Donald Swearer (
The Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School)
“Environmental Ethics: Thai Buddhist Perspectives”

-Shuichi Yamamoto (The Institute of Oriental Philosophy)
“The Buddhist Influence on Edo-Period Ecosystem and Forestry Protection in Japan”

Session 3
-Nathaniel Rich (
The Center for Japanese Religions and Culture)
“For as Long as Space Endures, For as Long as Beings Remain: On Empathy and Ethics in Contemporary Tibetan Buddhism”

-Yoichi Kawada (The Institute of Oriental Philosophy)
“The Global Environment and Theory of Happiness”

Session 4
-Stephanie Kaza (University of Vermont)
“Buddhism and the Complex Issue of the Climate Change”

-Joan Anderson “Buddhist Values, Action for Sustainability and the Earth Charter”

Keynote Lecture
-Mary Evelyn Tucker (Yale University)
“The Challenge of Climate Change: For Science, Buddhism and Future Generations”

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