PoWR,Master Hsin Tao focused on Spiritual Ecology as Higher Education's Cornerstone at 2021 PoWR Forum
The time-honored, heavy-weight league Parliament of the World's Religions (PoWR) 2021 featured a forum entitled ‘Loving The Earth: Higher Education on Spiritual Ecology’ on its content-rich agenda. The forum opened at 10 A.M. Taiwan time on October 18 and was organized by the Museum of World Religions (MWR) and the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (LJM). University professors from different parts of the world were invited for interdisciplinary discussions on spiritual ecology, its connection to higher education as well as unsurpassed potential as the centerpiece of solutions to the ecological crisis threatening sustainability of the Earth. Giving parameters to the discussion was experience with, and findings from, the pre-launch pilot program ‘Winter School’ of the future University for Life & Peace (ULP). Leading the discussion and at its center was Dharma Master Hsin Tao, MWR founder and LJM founding abbot, who stressed spiritual ecology as the cornerstone of higher education and suggested that the ecology would be cherished when the spiritual angle is adopted. Master Hsin Tao also advocated to materialize Earth-loving actions via education, to manifest an interdependent and co-existing livelihood by honoring respect, tolerance, and altruistic love to ultimately enable a sustainable partnership between man and Nature in ecology.
The forum was moderated by Professor Ruben Habito of the Southern Methodist University, who highlighted the ULP as a polytech that combines ecology and spirituality towards healing our Earth. Professor Michael von Brueck, who is in charge of the ULP's academic development, first addressed the occasion and explained aspirations the ULP embodies. Many people have finally realized that the Earth is approaching the dire tipping point that life itself, as is, would disappear along with planet Earth in a mega disaster resulting from environmental destruction that man keeps inflicting upon Nature.
Master Hsin Tao is of the opinion that sharing instead of exploitation ought to mark the relationship between mankind and other life forms. The future university would be best positioned to link spirituality to ecology and pass on such experience to future generations, so that a better natural environment and future remain possible for mankind. The ULP experimental pilot project ‘Winter School’ became an online feature due to COVID-19, but the program will certainly forge on to cooperate with different educational institutes to expand the spiritual horizon of academic curriculum besides incorporating the power of science and technology to confront the pandemic.
Master Hsin Tao addressed the occasion to highlight the vision and mission of the future ULP. He said that spiritual ecology is the critical cornerstone of higher education, and Earth-loving tactics must be materialized by way of education. Key points of the Master's observation include the following: crisis management needs to be prioritized in the face of accelerating climate change that tipped the ecology off balance with ensuing calamities; further damage to the ecology must be halted right away to allow revival of organic cycles; ceasefires must be secured the soonest to curb nuclear contamination and to neutralize the danger of our own extinction; and existing ecological crises must be dealt with head-on and by the power that higher education is capable of igniting to transform, so that average people can adopt a mindset that shows respect to ecology and affords space for positive interactions. The Master unveiled that the goal of the ULP is to render sustainability possible, promoting a general appreciation based on the notion that ‘spirituality is ecology’ and that the permeating mechanism of ecology is partnership and it's all about making that partnership sustainable. The demonstration of respect, tolerance and love, the Master added, give rise to a life of mutualistic symbiosis.
A basic approach to loving the Earth, according to Professor Marion Cherrtow of Yale University, is to understand our planet by appreciating the environment from the viewpoint of experts from different backgrounds. As an environmental engineering professional, loving the Earth boils down to waste reduction. Statistics show that 33% of energy, 30-50% of food, and 60% of water resources go to waste as we speak. She urges the public to focus on waste reduction or resources repurposing in lieu of the bland ‘recycle & reuse’ slogan.
Professor Cielito Habito of the Ateneo de Manila University and former advisor on national policy of the Philippines also shared his insight from the perspective of an economist. Habito said that an economist would almost always employ the concept of overall economy and base calculations on the best possible yield. Such thinking patterns and economic behavior, however, need to accommodate changes presently. Prof. Habito shared his personal experiences in joining the experimental Winter School of the ULP. The interactions with professionals from different disciplines and cultural diversification not only afforded positive exchanges, but enriched all participants’ knowledge pool of how best to improve the Earth's environment while mitigating further damages to the ecology, he said. In concluding, Habito cited lyrics of a John Lenon song that echoes the vision of the ULP of love, peace, and care for the Earth. It was thus hoped that the spirit of love and peace will lead the world to overcome the pandemic.
Focusing in recent years on his research work of the ecological process and how sustainability works, ETH Zurich Professor Peter Edwards said that we are all part and parcel of the ecology, as are all forms of life and existence, and all are thus mutually dependent on one another. Most of the issues confronting us, such as the pandemic or the pollution by and large, stem from the ecology off balance. Interdisciplinary cooperation is critically important to ecological issues, and experts of different backgrounds should work together to resolve problems we all have, which actually relates to spirituality as well. In most cases people examine issues largely in terms of technicality and hardly ever touch on the dimension of interpersonal or man-nature relations. Our behavior is inevitably influenced by our value set, and sustainability will forever remain beyond our reach if our value set stays unaltered in the face of eminent ecological crises.
The ‘Loving the Earth’ Forum was a popular platform where scholars and experts offered different views from their domain of expertise, but not without the convergence of concepts of spiritual ecology for a consensus. As avidly phrased by Dharma Master Hsin Tao in the Forum's Q&A wrap-up that spirituality is the core and cornerstone of everything, as evidenced by the fact that spirituality is a built-in element for the consideration and strategic buildup of the curriculum and syllabus of all courses of the ULP. It will string up all key elements for higher education to pass on the ideals of ‘Loving the Earth, Loving Peace’ to future generations for solid thorough-put. As the ecology already finds itself critically challenged, it becomes self-evident that sustainability is attainable if the principle of ‘Respect, Tolerance and Love’ applies to enable a diversified symbiosis and an interdependent co-existence for man and Nature.