As many religious people view it, Buddhist reality is profoundly ecological, and
Buddhism itself is an ecological religion. It powerfully expresses human identification
with nature. Buddhists believe that all things, including humans, exist by
their interrelationship with all other parts of nature To think of one's self as isolated from
the rest of nature is be unrealist.
José Kalapura said:
"The Buddha taught that respect for life and the natural world is
essential. By living simply one can be in harmony with other creatures and
learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of all lives. The simplicity of
life involves developing openness to our environment and relating to the
world with awareness and responsive perception. It also enables us to enjoy
without possessing, and mutually benefit each other without manipulation." 1
teachers and masters constantly remind us of the importance of
living in tune with nature and respecting life.
Buddhist precepts direct the faithful to seek a right livelihood,
an essential dimension of which is concern for the life of all
creatures. 2 This puts emphasis on
"ahimsa" (avoiding injury to any sentient
creature) . This is the first of the five precepts of Buddhist life and a major
principle of Jainism. In practice, Buddhists believe that it is the act of killing or hurting
an animal which is harmful, but not the eating of meat that someone else has
Note that the Buddhist king Asoka the Great established hospitals for both human
and animals. He insisted on kindness to animals, and forbade their killing even
Buddhism teaches that if we wish to save the environment, we must first analyze our
lives to determine how our
self-deification is destroying the world by depleting, overpopulating, and polluting
The Buddhist approach to solving the global
ecological crisis then includes :
- Compassion is the basis for a balanced view of the
whole world and
of the environment.
The use of the "save and not waste" approach
means that nothing in nature
is spoiled or wasted. Wanton destruction upsets the vital balance of life.
Ecology is rebuilt through the philosophy of Sarvodaya (uplift of all), which
is based on loving kindness, compassionate action, and altruistic joy. 3
Suval Sivaraksa and Aubrey Meyer have suggested the following modifications of the
Buddhist Four Noble Truths to make them relate to ecology:
- Climate change is a reality. It is the source of flooding and drought,
desertification and loss of land.
- Climate change is caused by over-consumption of fossil fuels, loss of soil,
and excessive herds of livestock. Individual over-consumption in the global North
is an expression of greed and a fear of loss. Fear and greed are root causes
of all suffering. Capitalism thrives on individual fear and greed.
- The climate we have to change is the climate of greed and fear, in which
consumerism and profiteering can thrive.
To overcome suffering, start at home, with yourself. Ask yourself: Where can
I cut down my consumption? How can I repay my carbon debt to my children’s
children? Plant trees. Don’t fly. Eat local and organic foods. 4
A search of the Amazon.com data base shows the following books on Buddhist responses to the environment:
At least, it should. Sometimes Amazon returns the strangest selections.
If you see a generic Amazon ad below, please click on your browser's refresh key.
The following information sources were used to
prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still
Robert A White, "Spiritual Foundations of an Ecologically Sustainable
Society," The Journal of Bahá’í Studies 7.2 (1995), Pages 47-74.
Sean McDonagh, "To Care for the Earth," Geoffrey Chapman, (1989).
José Kalapura , "Science-Religion Dialogue & Ecology: An Asian
Michael Schut & Tanya Marcovna Barnett, "The Cry of Creation," Earth