Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) 114-116
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The Earth Charter: Buddhist and Christian Approaches
Soka Gakkai International
Seattle, Washington, is well known as the home of the coffee renaissance that swept across America in the 1980s and 1990s. Its hometown favorite, The CoffeeBrand, first appeared in 1971 in an open-air farmers' market; the popular round, green logo now seems to appear on the streets of every city and suburb of the world.
But what really impresses the visitor to the Seattle-Tacoma area is not The Coffee; it's The Mountain. When you look to the southeast, it rises there, big and craggy and snow-covered, and alone. It dominates the horizon. Even when you're not looking at it, or when it's obscured by the morning haze, you feel its presence. The Mountain . . . that's what the locals call it, as if it were the only one in the world.
Those of us from other parts of the country call it Mount Rainier, but it looms large just the same. And from August 5 through 12, it seemed to watch over us like an expectant teacher as we convened on the wooded campus of Pacific Lutheran University for the Sixth International Conference of the Society of Buddhist-Christian Studies (SBCS). More than 170 scholars, students, and practitioners (and scholar-practitioners and practitioner-students) joined in a week of dialogue, study, and reflection on the theme "Buddhism, Christianity, and Global Healing."
The conference opened with blessings from both the Buddhist and Christian traditions and with musical performances representing the traditions of the West--the passionate resonance of the pipe organ; and East--the evocative sounds of the simple bamboo shakuhachi.
Boston Research Center (BRC) founder and president of Soka Gakkai International, Daisaku Ikeda, sent a congratulatory message to the gathering praising their efforts and noting the key areas in which Christianity and Buddhism can make important complementary contributions to the issues facing the world.
The theme of global healing provided an excellent opportunity to focus on the Earth Charter. Under the title "Spirituality and the Earth Charter: Buddhist and Christian Approaches," co-chairs Professor Jay McDaniel, of Hendrix College, and BRC Executive DirectorVirginia Straus assembled a rich program of presentation and dialogue, which included some of the most renowned scholars, activists, and scholar-activists of the Earth Charter movement. [End Page 114]
Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker, of Bucknell University, began by introducing the Earth Charter not as a document but as a living movement, whose activities are inspired by the ideals and guidelines contained within the charter. Dr. Tucker, who played an active role in the shaping of the charter, spoke of how the input of various constituencies (indigenous peoples, developing economies, businessmen, political leaders, and yes, lawyers) was solicited, considered, and, where appropriate, given voice in the charter. She noted that we now have what will be--more or less--the final form of the charter. Our next step is to make it come alive in our behavior as individuals, communities, businesses, and nations.
Virginia Straus spoke of the contributions of the global Buddhist community to the Earth Charter process. It began with Professor Steven Rockefeller's call for participation, which in turn led to contributions by prominent Buddhist leaders and scholars to the charter language, scholarly and grassroots consultations, publications by the Buddhist Peace Foundation (BPF) and the BRC, and the efforts of Buddhist organizations and engaged scholars to build grassroots support for the charter. Straus noted that the charter now reflects central Buddhist beliefs, with its clear recognition of interdependency and its emphasis on a change of mind or heart, and on "becoming more" rather than "acquiring more."
Jay McDaniel rounded out the Earth Charter introduction by providing a very personal Christian perspective, giving special attention to those elements of the charter that speak to the human soul. As an example, he highlighted the broad spiritual and moral vision contained in Article 16(f) defining peace as "the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the...