The Bodhisattva's Arcology,
an Ecological Way of Life

September 2005



His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in Tucson, Arizona at the J. W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort, a luxury hotel located in the Tucson Mountains. Underneath its roof are Startbucks, other expensive restaurants, and businesses. There are a number of bars and several swimming pools within the hotel complex. The ballroom, where the Dalai Lama gave his teachings, held at least 2,000 people. Looking at the view of the city through the gaps in the hills from one of the hotel's balconies before the lectures started, we saw grayish smog hanging above Tucson.

When the Dalai Lama entered or exited the ballroom, faithful Buddhists did prostrations to him, bowing down in the presence of a Buddha. This practice is believed to clear one's mind and leads to the collection of merit if when you are prostrating you think, “I believe the Dharmakaya is present, and the Buddha exists, and I acknowledge it.” During classes in Buddhism, I did prostrations in front of a picture of the Dalai Lama, but now, the picture was alive, a Buddha in front of me.

He was teaching from Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life chapter eight on Meditation. During his lectures, he was funny or at least made everyone laugh. Even though I wasn't sure I understood his jokes, I laughed any way because the laughter was contagious. The funniest thing he did was when he put on a medical face mask and started doing the teachings with it over his nose and mouth. He said that he was getting a cold. I guess he wore it because he didn't want us to give him our germs or either he didn't want to give his germs to us. He asked us to say, “God Bless You” to him when he sneezed. When he sneezed the whole room followed his instructions and blessed him. When I sneezed, I was lucky. One of my neighbors blessed me.

I must admit that it was difficult for me to keep awake while he was teaching. I'm embarrassed about this because how would you like to struggle to stay awake in the presence of a Jesus, or Gandhi, or any other great spiritual leader? Then as I was about to doze off, the Dalai Lama would awaken me with the words from Shantideva who said that the essence of the teachings was to achieve the awaken mind.

Maybe my sleepiness was due to the ancient text. Even though the text could be applied in contemporary society, I wanted to know more than what the text had to offer. I wanted to know how we were going to create a peaceful world. What could the text teach us about how we can stop the automobile culture polluting the air in Tucson? Yes, I knew that it would take each one of us to go to the root of our mental afflictions and working to achieve a calm mind and control our anger so that we could reach the unpolluted, awakened mind, but I wanted to know how we could live collectively in order to create an outer peace and harmony with all beings. What is the divine blueprint of freedom? After all, most of us drove our polluting fossil fuel private cars to see the Dalai Lama. The air pollution hanging over Tucson is giving countless children asthma and other diseases such as lung cancer. Aren't these diseases only a reflection of our inner afflictions causing a pattern of life that was disconnected with a holistic order? The war in Iraq is a war so that Americas can drive to places in their cars such as out to the Marriot Hotel to see his Holiness. My question was: how was our negative karma, this daily cycle of collective violence to the environment around us going to be broken?

What I learned from the lectures was that I perceived way the ancient theocracy works in Buddhism with a humble “king” on stage passing along his wisdom. After each of his two hour lectures was over, outside the ballroom in the hallways of the hotel vendors were selling all sorts of Tibet prayer objects, clothes, jewelry, paintings, bags, wallets, books; it was like a shopping mall of cool religious stuff followed him. For the vendors, this was capitalist Buddhist heaven and I wanted to buy everything in sight.

For the first day I observed the buying frenzies as the American dollars poured out of pocket books. There is nothing like getting caught up in the consumer religious madness to bring the spirit down a notch or two. Of course, I controlled my lust and greed for these objects up to a point. But on the second day, I gave into my desires, got out my credit card, and charged things that perhaps I really didn't need. I would have felt better inside if I had given more to Tibetan charities which had donation cans on their literature tables asking for dollars for the Tibetan children.

During his public address in the Tucson Convention Center where 7,000 people had gathered to hear the Dalai Lama, even though I was still fighting sleepiness, his words spoke more directly to me. He said we need both inner disarmament and external disarmament. He said when conflicts and problems arise, we need to resolve them through dialogue and peace rather than by violence. Since the whole world is a part of us there is no “us and them.” Long term peace is a gradual matter created through warm heartedness and by building a global community based on compassion. Only through looking at ourselves and disarming our mental afflictions will we eventually move towards nuclear disarmament. The entire audience clapped with those words and somehow those words seemed ultimately important.

But why did it have to be gradual? Why couldn't there be simultaneous enlightenment that war is wrong and building nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity? Why did it have to take more decades or centuries for us to realize that we can't go on living this way and that we must convert our resources from building bombs, cars, single family houses, and toxic industries to building pedestrian-centered ecological cities?

He said that all religious speak the same language, the same voice of peace. We need a diversity of religious approaches of life and so different religious traditions are needed. His generation lived most of their lives in the 20th Century, the most violent century in the history of the human race, and his message to the youth was that it was their job to make the 21st Century a century of peace. Yes, but how do we do that? Still my quest for the utopian vision wasn't being fulfilled by the Buddhist worldview. How do we redistribute the wealth of the world so that no one has to live in poverty or starve to death because of the lack of food? What is the pattern of development needed so that all the homeless people of the world can have a roof over their heads? How can we create a world that lives in harmony with the ecology so that the species that are struggling to survive can have the habitat they need to survive? I thought of the pygmy-owl whose habitat within the Sonoran Desert is being destroyed by housing developments on the edges of the city.

When he was asked about the problem of money, he said that there was nothing wrong with money. It was good. Some people have exceptional births. They are born into wealth or fame or have good mental abilities to make money. These people can do great things for humanity with their intelligence and resources as long as they have the wish for enlightenment or bodhichitta. Yes, I would like to know how I could achieve this money making thing myself so that I could work more successfully for the benefit of all beings.

What was preventing me from reaching my spiritual goals? Perhaps this is the real reason why I turned to the study of Buddhism, to find out what karma was holding me back from obtaining my spiritual goals of freeing the world, to make us see that there is an architecture pattern that could liberate all from the suffering caused by a poorly designed, ill conceived, morally depraved, ugly, and unjust civilization.

I clearly saw a vision of peace the final event of the Dalai Lama's teachings during the concert with Carlos Nakai and Nawang Khichog on the Meecha Lawn. It was so beautiful sitting on the steps of this grand hotel built like the ancient Native American pueblo of the Southwest watching the full moon rise while listening to the flute music of two cultures. The music was a meditation of oneness. The hotel reminded me of what the physical structure of an arcology (ecological architecture) might be like.

As the day turned to night, the lights of the city of Tucson got brighter and brighter, a brightness rivaling the harvest moon light. The heat of the city made the light flicker as if stars were on Earth. Some people perceive the lights of a city at night as a beautiful vista, the urban sprawl expanding for thousands of acres, the lights symbolized the progress made by our head-light civilization. But for me, I saw it as something chaotic, and energy out of control, our collective mental afflictions lit up in front of us.

I realized that only together will we be able to experience the inner lovolution needed to find a new path, the renewable light of a new world, a sacred arcology where no one's material needs goes unmet and everyone gets to partake in the luxury of breathing fresh air, drinking clean water, and living underneath the roof of a magnificent arcology.

If only there had been time and space for the enlightened mind to guide a single point meditation on building the sacred arcology for the audience at the Mariott hotel and at the Tucson Convention Center so that we could experience the mass joy of transcending the ecological destruction caused by an ignorant way of life. This visionary meditation had become my Bodhisattva's guide. It couldn't be found in any ancient sacred text because it arose with the knowledge of emptiness I had gained within me, years and years of research about the nature of ultimate reality outside of me. The potential of constructing the sacred arcology with cocreators beside me set off a light bulb within me affecting my whole body with a clear light of an active peace. Arcology was my source of Enlightenment, a container for the bodhisattva's way of life.


Human Extinction or Lovolution?