Roots & Shoots at DDM
It was a precious occasion for everyone at Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education in the morning of October 28th, Jinshan Township, Taipei County, to listen to a speech given by Dr. Jane Goodall, who is internationally recognized for her beloved chimpanzee conservation and humanitarian works in Africa.
Warmly invited by the Dharma Drum Cultural and Educational Foundation to share her precious experience of wildlife conservation and humanitarian thoughts with up to 350 attendants at the International Conference Hall of DDM, Dr. Jane Goodall laid a heavy tone in the speech on the importance and strength of making a slight change by every individual in the world for a better future buildup on earth.
Unlike most people who often possess a gloomy attitude toward the future, Dr. Jane Goodall remained optimistic and confident on the fulfillment of making a better place on earth because of a high potentiality of human strength.
"Just like the theme of today speech, every individual can make a difference. So I am still hopeful. The world can be changed just because of a small effort done by every one of you in the world," she said.
Venerable Guo Dong, the Abbot President of DDM, Venerable Hui Min, the Rector of DDM, Venerable Guo Goang, the Provost of DDM, Venerable Guo Guang, the Vice CEO of DDM Administration Center and other honorable guests all attended Dr. Jane Goodall's speech to welcome her visit.
By saying, "Dr. Jane has impressed us the most deeply with her endless, tired-less efforts in conserving the natural environment and preserving wildlife of all kinds. Her zealous passion and dedication have inspired many people to join her, to share the same spirit, and to start taking actions to make changes as individuals so that we can make a world a better place for the environment, animals, and the human community," Venerable Guo Dong highly appraised Dr. Jane Goodall's works in the welcoming remarks.
Venerable Guo Dong agreed that the 'Roots & Shoots' educational program promoted by the Jane Goodall Institute in the world shared the same philosophy with the idea of 'Spiritual Environmentalism' of DDM.
"The 'Root & Shoots' educational program promoted by the Jane Goodall Institute and the 'Spiritual Environmentalism' that DDM has been promoting echo each other (share a lot in common): both start with the individual, both emphasize the education of the human mind, both advocate the protection of the stability and purity of the mind, both encourage individuals to lead environmentally sound and healthy lives."
As the Master Sheng Yen said: "Poverty of material things threatens the lives of people, whereas poverty of the spirit and heart deprives people's living environment of security and happiness."
DDM thus is promoting the 'Spiritual Environmentalism Movement', where individuals start by purifying people's mind, filling it with gratitude, kindness and compassion for life. In this way, they will dedicate the fruit of their efforts to others, Venerable Guo Dong said.
The Abbot President recognized Dr. Jane Goodall's proposal that if we could start by changing ourselves and then affect others in positive ways, we could weave and expand the network of goodness, and spread it further. "We could accumulate the 'little goodness' of every individual into the 'great goodness' of all."
Strength of a Small Change
"The biggest problem today is when people come to the global problems they often feel they are powerless, hopeless and even depressed. They feel they can not do anything to make a change," Dr. Jane Goodall warned.
But she said that if every one of us do the same thing such as switching off the light, it will be a massive power on earth to make a difference. "We are actually making difference everyday. That 'little goodness' contributed by every individual can be gradually accumulated into the 'great goodness' of all, just like the Abbot President has said."
Because of her long-term efforts in the wildlife preservation and humanitarian works, the Roots & Shots program initiated by the Jane Goodall Institute in 1991 has already registered almost 9,000 active groups in more than 90 countries. Each group, whether of suburb US elementary schoolers or youngsters living in Shanghai, tackles local hands-on projects to make its worlds a better place---projects for the human community, for animals and for the environment we are sharing, Dr. Jane said.
She stressed that Roots & Shoots makes a concreted effort to foster global connectedness. All over the world, members are encouraged to correspond, network and learn from each other. "For instance, some of our newest Roots & Shoots group are in and around refugee camps in Uganda and Tanzania in Africa, founded in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee."
Four school groups inside the Lugufu refugee camp near Kigoma, Tanzania in Africa, are learning about conservation. They are also raised money to buy chickens as a source of eggs to eat and sell, and planted three large vegetable gardens, Dr. Jane Goodall introduced another instance.
This is why although the population of Chimpanzee is declining from around one million in the 1960s to today less than 200 thousand chimpanzees because of the growth of human population that leads to the destruction of rain forest, she acknowledged that people's struggles in Africa for making the life better must be secured ahead of producing better score of chimpanzee-saving and environmental protection. "How could people in Africa think about saving the population of Chimpanzee when they are living with no enough food to eat?"
"People in Africa are facing tremendous difficulties for living. So how could we expect them to save the population of chimpanzee? This is what our programs are all about. We want to connect more local people to have a better quality of life. We teach them how to farm the land; we provide them with a small amount of loan for starting business; we provide scholarship for female students to stay in school."
Thus, in spite of pessimistic attitude spreads among most of the people today, especially among the youth who often feel depressed and impotent on making a change to the future, Dr. Jane Goodall encouraged that a confident attitude on the human future should be held on to because of solutions that have already been proposed for issues what we are facing today such as global warming, a high resilience of the land on self-healing and a high potentiality of the youth in the future.
"Through love and compassion, we can attain the success of the program, not by violence and hatred. This makes a small change made by every individual in the world become so important. A massive power can be reached for change," Dr. Jane Goodall encouraged.
Indeed, we all know that 'the progress of human life is without an end'. When individual seeds of goodness and kindness are planted, they start to grow roots and shoots begin to emerge, and they will reach out and connect with the same roots and shoots of goodness and kindness around them.
Just like the Abbot President said, "When we begin to take compassionate care of all sentient beings, to take actions with wisdom, the people, the things, and the environment around us will react with the same kind of wisdom and compassion."
(Reported and photos taken by Jin Yang)