The Environment

The Environment is currently an important issue for everyone and so Buddhism’s relationship to this issue is equally important. The Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly ‘Friends of the Western Buddhist Order’) point out that to “live in harmony with nature is a crucial Buddhist practice”.

In the traditional Buddhist texts there is little reference to what would these days be called environmental or ecological ideas. However, this is because the culture in which the Buddha lived was in far greater harmony with the environment than ours. In the Buddha’s life all of the most significant events occur in the countryside and are associated with trees (his birth, his early meditative experiences, his Enlightenment and his parinibbana / parinivarna). Thus we see a close harmony with nature, which Buddhists should attempt to continue.

Similarly the doctrine of Dependent Origination teaches the inter-relationship of all causes and effects. Thus it is clear that human actions have effects – for example, pollution through acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer and global warming. This clearly has a negative effect on all living beings, even to the point of making some species extinct. For Buddhists, this clearly breaks the first precept (harming living beings).

In Christian thought, there is the idea that man is given ownership of the world, to manage its resources. Buddhists do not have this idea and see the relationship between the world and humans (and all being for that matter) as mutual, each conditions the other and a balance of harmony should be strived for.

Finally, in accordance with Dependent Origination, humans are the principal cause of environmental problems. Therefore, in behaving in a way which has a negative impact on the environment we are causing countless animals to suffer and die, which is breaking the first Precept. Thus to live in accordance with refraining from killing or harming living being, Buddhists try to live in harmony with the environment.

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