Nov 9, 2018 in Research

Buddhism and the Environment

There are different religions around the world. Each of them aims at helping people find their place in life and to explaining what they have to do for it. Buddhism is one of the most prominent religions of the world. Buddhism teaches its followers to be extremely tolerant to ecology, because people are interrelated with the environment and are the elements of nature. Nowadays, the environment experiences crisis due to the pollution and exhaustion of the natural resources of the planet. Buddhism is the religion, which enables people not only to avoid suffering and achieve the state of happiness, but also to live in harmony with the environment and solve the environmental issues.

Buddhism is a religion which is based on the teachings of Buddha, whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama. It appeared in 500 B.C. and aims at enabling sentient beings to experience enlightenment. When Buddhists achieve enlightenment, they begin to feel the constant state of happiness, known as Nirvana. People from all over the world can become Buddhists, regardless of where they were born and where they live. There are approximately 300 million Buddhism followers all over the world. Buddhists do not worship gods, on the contrary to most religions of the world. Buddhists perceive Buddha not as God but as a first man who managed to experience awakening and enlightenment. They perceive Buddha as their teacher, who guides them on their way to enlightenment.

The aim of Buddhism is to make people understand that they are responsible for their own lives. People’s lives consist of actions they take and of the natural consequences of such actions. If people are not satisfied with the consequences of their life, they should change their behavior and their experience in life will change alongside with the world around them. Buddhists aim at living according to the moral norms; they control their thoughts and behavior and strive to understand the nature and life. Buddhism helps people deal with craving and ignorance. In order to become more kind, self-aware and wise, Buddhists meditate. Meditation enables Buddhists to look inside of themselves and to find peace and harmony. Meditation enables followers of Buddhism to perceive themselves as the components of nature and to understand the interrelation of life.

The message of Buddha’s teachings is conveyed to Buddhists via Four Noble Truths. According to the First Noble Truth, life comprises suffering. It means that when people experience diseases, pain and death, they suffer. People also suffer when they experience anger, frustration, loneliness, fear. Even though, it is the absolute truth that life includes all such kinds of suffering, Buddha shows the way to elude suffering and to become fully satisfied with life.

According to the Second Noble Truth, craving leads to suffering. It means that people suffer when they do not meet their expectations, when they do not receive what they want and when people around them do not behave as they want them to behave. However, Buddha shows the way to avoid suffering, which was the result of craving. According to Buddha, if the wish of a person comes true, it does not mean that the person will be happy. In order to achieve the state of happiness the person needs to shape his/her expectations and desires. Such Noble Truth also states that craving enables people to be born and reborn.

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The Third Noble Truth indicates that people can avoid suffering and achieve the state of happiness. Buddhism teaches that in order to be happy people need to reduce their desires and live their life step by step, day by day. People should live in the present time and not remain in the past or try to get to the future. When people live in the present, they achieve Nirvana by living in harmony within themselves and the environment. The Fourth Noble Truth claims that following the 8-Fold Path enables people to avoid suffering in their life. The 8-Fold Path is the path of morality, during which, the person controls his/her own thoughts and behavior according to the Four Noble Truths and other guidelines of Buddhism. The morality of Buddhism is guided by the Five Precepts. They are: to never kill a living thing, not to take something from someone against someone else’s will, to avoid sexual debauch, not to lie and to keep the clear mind. Buddhism followers must be wise and compassionate to all living things. In order to become wise, the person must understand that life is not permanent, have an open mind and flexible attitude.

Buddhism is based on the theory of karma. Such theory explains the fact that everything has consequences. Karma explains why people die young sometimes, why not all people have equal rights and why some people are born disabled. The theory of karma enables people to understand why they should always take responsibility for their actions and control their behavior, in order not to pass a bad karma on their children. According to such doctrines of Buddhism as rebirth and karma, life of every person is a cycle. The cycle is being constantly repeated and there is no end of it. The cycle of human life can be compared to a cycle of water. Body of a person is not permanent, because it can exist in one shape only for a certain period of time. After the death of a person, his/her body goes through different natural processes, while, according to the perception of rebirth, the mind of a person is transferred to a new body.

According to Buddhism, people are the components of nature. On the contrary, Western religions tend to separate people from nature, and to perceive people as something higher than nature. In Christianity, there are human beings and nature, while in Buddhism people and nature are the same thing. Buddhists believe that they are inseparable from nature and from all other living things. All elements of nature are interrelated. Buddhists understand that they will not be able to exist without the environment, because they are a part of nature. It means that all components of the environment must be protected, in the same way as people protect their organism from damage.

Nowadays, the Earth is severely polluted. Environmentalists are constantly trying to attract people’s attention and to explain that it is highly important to reduce the level of pollution, in order to enable human race to survive. Buddhism explains that people produce a significant impact on the environment. The doctrine of impermanence explains that people cannot use much of the natural resources of the Earth, due to the fact that the resources will be exhausted one day. The karma theory states that it is highly important what feelings motivate the actions of a person. For example, if the behavior of a person was motivated by hatred, then the results of such action will be negative for the person. In order to have positive results, the behavior of a person should always be motivated by positive feelings. According to Buddhism, the Earth treats the person in the same way as the person treats the Earth. It means that in order to always have enough of natural resources, people should never use such resources with greed. If people will be generous to Earth, Earth will be generous to people and there will always be enough of resources.

Environmentalist’s view on life has much common with the views on life of Buddhism followers. All practical Buddhists understand what important role nature plays in the life of every person. There are no Buddhists who do not support the environmental needs. However, there are Buddhists who perceive environmental needs above their own. It occurs due to a fact that Buddhists seek for personal enlightenment for all their life. They are constantly trying to live in an absolute harmony and unity with nature and the environment. According to the First Precept of Buddhism, humans are obliged to respect all sensible creatures. It means that not only people, but also animals and other creatures, which possess senses, should be respected.

Many Buddhists are not vegetarians. However, according to Buddhism it is ideal to be a vegetarian. It is so, because according to a theory of karma, when people kill animals they fill themselves with a bad karma. Practical Buddhists take care of animals and protect them. They aim at never hurting a living thing. Nature reserves are often being established by Buddhists around their monasteries. Buddhists do not hunt. Killing animals without a reason is not acceptable for Buddhists.

Even though plants are not animals, and they do not have the same senses as people and animals have, they should also be treated with respect according to Buddhism. It is caused by the fact that plants have a sense of touch. Thus, they might also experience some kind of pain. Buddhists constantly try to protect plants. For example, they grow the trees around the monasteries. However, humans cannot live without eating plants and using them for other needs. Therefore, Buddhism followers try to protect as many plants as possible. For example, they try to never use to much wood and not to eat too much plants. Using too many plants for food is an example of treating Earth with greed, which will lead to negative consequences for a person, while using too much wood will lead to the exhaustion of natural resources of the planet. For example, regarding the fact that rainforests are being destroyed nowadays, different kinds of animals are on the edge of extinction. The extinction of one kind of animals will lead to the extinction of other kinds of animals due to the rules of a food cycle. Thus, the First Precept of Buddhism states that people should not cause harm to nature and should respect other people, animals and other sensible living things.

According to the Second Precept of Buddhism, people should never take and consume something that they do not require. It is explained by the fact that taking something, which a person does not need, means wasting natural resources. It means taking something from a person who would need it in the future. Therefore, people should consume only the things which they need to satisfy their basic needs. Buddhists understand that it is important to preserve the natural resources for the future generations, because future generations should not be deprived of their rights only because their time has not arrived yet. According to the Buddhist’s perception of life, human life should be simple. People should satisfy only the basic needs and they should be able to enjoy simple things. The desire of people to live a luxurious life leads to the overexploitation and pollution of the Earth. For example, people build the factories, which produce more products than people need, and use to many nature resources on the manufacturing of such products. During the process of production different fumes are released into the atmosphere and waste liquids are released into the rivers and lakes. It results in the severe pollution of the planet. Using too much natural resources is motivated by greed, so it contradicts to the beliefs of Buddhism. Thus, it is natural that if people use too much natural resources and pollute the environment they cause harm to it. As a result, the environment causes harm to people’s health due to pollution.

Buddhist monks serve as the example of the ideal Buddhists. They show other people what an ideal Buddhist should be like. If all people would adhere to the way of life of a Buddhist monk, environment would not be polluted and there would be enough natural resources for everyone. As Buddhism initiates simple life, it encourages people to be satisfied with simple things. Buddhist followers do not need to buy expensive clothes, manufactured by the famous brand, because they are satisfied with comfortable clothes, regardless of the price and brand. 

To conclude, Buddhism is a religion, according to which people should appreciate the interrelation between all components of nature and respect the environment, because the state of happiness can be achieved only when the person is in harmony with it. People have to be broad-minded and open to the needs of environment, in order to achieve mutual benefits brought by the interrelation of all elements of nature. According to the views of Buddhism, if something is harmful for nature, then it will bring harm to all elements of nature, including people. Thus, by polluting the atmosphere and exhausting the Earth’s resources, people cause harm to themselves, as they are inseparable elements of nature. In order to save and protect the environment, according to the views of Buddhism, people should live a simple life. It will lead to the reduction of manufacturing, which will result in the reduction of pollution and reduction of natural resources exhaustion.

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