Fitting the quotidian into the eternal can be a heavy lift, as demonstrated by this article in the Huffington Post:
He spoke about Fukushima and how we do not really know how much radiation has already or will in the future rain down on us. Fukushima is still unstable yet we hear very little about it anymore. Sungjand Rinpoche said, « Fukushima releases a lot of radioactivity in the sky and it can fall on America, Alaska, China, Russia and Europe. We should end all nuclear energy because even that can be like a nuclear bomb. It will kill everybody. The main point is in society we have to change the insatisfaction [sic?] and selfishness to Love ».
Well, no, it isn’t releasing a lot of radioactivity in the sky and nuclear energy has no capacity to kill everybody. But you know, if you do believe that, you may as well set your cap on changing selfishness to love. That’s certainly a good goal.
He repeated that we were destroying the future for our children, destroying the planet, and bringing about destruction which in Buddhist teachings is usually left to unkind, technologically advanced aliens travelling to Earth to bring about the Shambalic [ed: I think the author means Shambhalic] ending of this world.
What does one say to this? Holding views sincerely don’t make them more correct.
This plain-speaking young man in his deep red and gold robes, praying with such intent for all of us, a living Buddha in his own right, expressed a deep compassion for the suffering of the entire planet and all of the living beings on it as he spoke of the nuclear threat.
Rinpoche is described as “the reincarnation, by the Dalai Lama, of the 4th Ngawang Drakpa, the disciple of Je Tsong Khapa who founded the school of Dalaï-lamas in the 15th century.”
Let’s let one of the commenters at the Huffington Post weigh in:
Perhaps Fukushima is being forgotten because radioisotopes are extremely easy to detect and track, and to date there are no deaths, and the total projected impact on human health is certainly smaller than the number of lung cancer cases caused by coal activities every hour. Yet, it is not being forgotten, because it is constantly being brought up as some sort of catastrophic extinction event by anti-nuclear activists. I work with nuclear and particle physics on a daily basis at Los Alamos, am trained and educated in the impact of radiation and the ways radioisotopes can reach humans, and know enough details of fundamental reality to be able to filter the comments of a Buddhist. Carbon Dioxide is the real enemy, don't ever forget it, and don't mistrust nuclear: its actually here to save us from ourselves.
This fellow identifies as Joey 03. “Catastrophic extinction event,” even by anti-nuclear advocates, seems an extreme characterization, but Sungjand Rinpoche believes it can lead to such. Although he holds some of the same views as an anti-nuclear activist, I would put him in a different class.
I think we can call Rinpoche wrong about Fukushima and nuclear energy without dismissing the positive qualities ascribed to him and expressed by him – and which are positive and life-affirming even if more readily accessible to Shambhala Buddhists. He isn’t primarily a pundit and, in a way, I wish the article had been on other subjects because focusing on nuclear energy probably sells Rinpoche short.
The least we can do is provide Rinpoche reading material. NEI posts its Fukushima update each week on its Safety First web site. The latest edition is here.