Thursday, December 17, 2015

Buddhist Attitude towards Environment

Environmental crisis is a global problem that we are now experiencing in modern age. We should consider with different aspects on environmental crisis and we should find the way to protect the environment. Environment is the most important issue since the Buddha time and the Buddha encouraged to the people not to destroy the nature but maintain as it is. The Buddha gave advice to his followers the benefits of maintaining environment and follow as the natural way. The Buddha even laid down a rule for monks in vinaya concerning protecting of environment.

 As the environment is essential for all biotic or non-biotic, everyone individually has responsibility to aware of the value of environment and should follow the Buddha’s guidance to protect the environment.
Buddhist View on Environment

Basically, the environment could be divided the two types as the natural environment and social environment. For the social environment, human relation is one of the most important in life. We can examine ourselves that how many friends do we have. Furthermore, look and judge ourselves again that how many good friends and bad friends do we have among them? So that we have to find a good environment in order to associate with good people. If we do not have good friends in our life, we might have trouble or difficulties to get success.
1.                       Patirupadesavasa- living in suitable region, living in a good or favorable environment.
2        Sappurisuppassaya- association with good people, relying on a good person.[1]
For the natural environment, the Buddha point out that people should live in appropriate society and a good environment. The best example is that the Buddha mostly spent his life in the forests. The Buddha was born in the forest; the Buddha forsakes his luxury lifestyle and left to the forest to seek the lasting happiness, the Buddha attained the enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi tree. And the Buddha taught his followers to respect the environment and also taught to realize the value of nature and live in harmony with nature.
Kalupahana notes that the Buddha “pointed out that ‘living in an appropriate surrounding’ (Patirupadesavasa) was a factor that contributed to the moral and spiritual advancement of the individual.”[2]  
The Buddha told us to gratitude the environment, we should build a good environment with good attitude toward peace society by understanding of the value of environment. Living in a good environment will improve our good attitude and Dhamma in our mind. So when we have good attitude, we will bring benefits to the environment. 
For the social environment, one of the most important key to be successful in life is to have good friends and to associate with good people. If we have a good environment and meet with good people, we are basically living in peaceful and harmonious way with each other. And we have to be good persons first to make true friends. Normally people examine the others fault and weakness but they cannot see their own gaffes, shortcomings, and mistakes. They can see and gossip the greed or Lobha of others but they cannot judge their own stinginess. Therefore, to be able to associate with people, we have to look ourselves and examine ourselves first before you criticize others.
Environmental Aspects on Five Precepts

 Dalai Lama mentioned about all living beings seek peace and protect from any dangers themselves whether they are human or animal. By understanding of this passage, every life is valuable and precious, so should not destroy any life.
Whether they belong to more evolved species like humans or to simpler ones such as animals, all beings primarily seek peace, comfort, and security. Life is as dear to the mute animal as it is to any human being; even the simplest insect strives for protection from dangers that threaten its life. Just as each one of us wants to live and does not wish to die, so it is with all other creatures in the universe, though their power to effect this is a different matter.[3]
In the first precept, abstain from killing any living beings.  We should understand how the life is precious or valuable. It is just not only referring to destroy living creature but it also refer indirectly destroying natural environment because many kinds of animals inhabit in the forest. If people destroy the forest, It is exactly the same people destroy the animal’s home or killing animals.
 The second precept indicates about taking others properties what is not given and from environmental aspect, nobody really owns the tree but earth. The tree grows itself naturally, but tree offers peaceful shade, and fruits for people. But if people misbehave on the trees such as break of the branches. Any kind of acts which is harming to tree is an act of breaking the law of precept.
The third precept describes about sexual misconduct. By looking from environmental aspect, the forests are being raped by unwise people in all over the world. Many tropical forests are suffering with greed, hatred and delusion people. People need to understand the third precept and the value of environment.
The four precept is about not to lie but tell the truth. From environmental aspect, human uncontrolled action lead to climate change which could lead great impact on next generation. In this case, practical action is more important rather than words or lip service. Many leaders told about environment but not into action which is false speech.
And the fifth precept is to avoid any drugs. The use of drug consequence is impact on not only physical and mental of users but also destroy upon tropical ecosystems. In some countries, such as Laos or Burma, forests are destroyed by fire in order to cultivate for poppy plantation. The mountain became bald mountain, the forest become empty land, and then the climate changed significantly.
Much of Dhamma understanding and wisdom involves thinking like a mountain or nature from an ecocentric rather than an anthropocentric viewpoint.[4]
The Buddha even laid down some rules in Vinaya Pitaka for monk disciples to take care of tree and love nature as fully understanding of the value of environment. The Buddha laid down Bhutagama Sakkhapada the rule in Pacittiya with reasonable cause that there was a monk in Buddha time cut down the branch of a tree but there was many spirits residing at that tree and one of the spirit’s son was cut off his arm by monk, so the spirit came to the Buddha and complained the Buddha that a monk had cut off his child’s arm. So from that day, the Buddha laid down the rule for monks not to cut down trees or branch of tree. And monks are not even allowed to dig ground.

The Buddha enacted the monastic rules for not cutting trees, not digging the ground, not releasing the waste into the river in reasonably and also the Buddha suggested monks not to travel during raining seasons that time farmers grow the rice and encouraged to live in the forests or one particular place.
In Bhikkhupatimokkha, Bhutagama vagga the Buddha laid down the rule as follow.
Bhutagamasikkhapadam. Bhutagamapatavyataya Pacittiyam. In causing damage to plant beings there_ is an offence entailing expiation.[5]
So we can consider that how the Buddha takes a good care of environment and how he appreciates it. The Buddha encouraged acting with compassion and respect for the trees. He provides the teachings for us to be grateful and to conserve nature.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu said
The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise - then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish.[6]
Everything dependents on each other whether it is biotic or non-biotic. Human cannot survive without a good environment, in the same way environments could not be retain if human destroy without proper take care of environment or lack of knowledge on the value of environment. So people should have proper knowledge and awareness on consequence of good or bad environment. By development of personal development, people can live in peace and build harmonious society without any conflict or riots. 

    Many of problems that we are facing today are based on uncontrolled situation. We cannot control our Lobha, Dosa, and Moha, (greed, hatred and delusion) then our misbehavior leads to negative impact on the environment. In order to protect the environment, we must change our mindset and misbehavior first with greedy to generosity, hatred to loving kindness, and ignorance to wisdom.  The forest became less because of human’s greed. We can assume that the future of the natural environment depends on the morals of any society. We should try to develop our bad action to right action and wrong thought to right thought.  By developing individually, observing five precepts, we can live peacefully with nature and live without breaking any moral rule in order to build peaceful society and environment.

[1] Dharmakosajarn Phra, Dhamma and Environmental Preservation, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Ayutthaya, Thailand, 2011, P.4
[2] Kalupahana. David J, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, University of Hawaii Press, 1986, P.135
[3] Dalai Lama, A Human Approach to World Peace,

[4] Henning Danie H, Buddhism and Deep Ecology, Montana Xlibris Corporation, 2001, P.93
[5] K.R. Norman, The Patimokkha, Pali Text Society, Oxford, 2001, P.196
[6] William M. Johuston, Encyclopedia of Monasticism, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, London, 2000, P.191


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