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Light of Kailash Lecture 13 With Dr Alice Millington 

Climate Change and Kaliyuga: the Degeneration of Cosmic Time in the Himalayas.

With Dr Alice Millington 

Climate change is manifesting across the whole Himalayan range, but little is said of the spiritual consequences that this poses for Tibetan Buddhist communities in the region. In high altitude villages, which are at the frontline of rapid ecological shifts, the changing climate has been read as a portent of the end of the meritorious era, kawa sangbo, (Tib. bskal pa bzang po), and the initiation of the degenerate time, kawa nyampa (Tib. bskal pa nyams pa). This  period is associated with environmental calamities, including landslides, disrupted snowfall and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). This talk draws from ethnographic fieldwork within the Nyingma Buddhist community of Walung (Olangchung Gola) in Nepal’s Taplejung District. This time of degeneration, of which climate change is only part of the story, indicates more than simply environmental risk and the disenchantment of a sacred landscape – it also heralds the Kaliyuga, and the fulfilment of the Kauśambī prophecy which foretells the demise of Buddhism.

About the Speaker

Alice Millington has just completed her PhD in Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on beliefs about climate change causality, moral retribution and Tibetan Buddhism in remote Himalayan communities, with a particular focus on Taplejung in far-eastern Nepal. She is soon to begin a Junior Research Fellowship in Anthropology at the University of Oxford.