Buddhists believe we should live in harmony with each other and nature. Buddhists try to educate people to respect the environment, this includes yourself, other people and nature. Buddhists believe people should show Metta, loving kindness to all things. Doing this promotes a person good karma, this results in Punna, skilful acts, which in turn earns Merit. Merit helps people gain enlightenment. Buddhists believe that Metta reflects collective karma. This is the idea that everything, everybody does are reflected onto everything and everybody, around them. So good karma makes the environment a better place and bad karma can cause bad changes to the environment.
A Buddhists tries, through their karma to get rid of greed, hatred and ignorance, this also applies to institutions that run our societies and multinational corporations that work in our societies. Through institutions and multinational companies, the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance are spread across the world. Tich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist from Vietnam, speaks of engaged Buddhism. This is the belief that Buddhism is concerned about the way people live and is engaged in trying to improve life for them. An example of engaged Buddhism in Britain is the group called “Network of engaged Buddhists”, who give help to the dying, poor and the homeless and help those in prison. This is showing respect to others.
Another example of Collective Karma and Engaged Buddhism are the associations of Buddhists running their own companies. These are known as TBRL’s meaning ‘Team Based Right Livelihood’. The TBRL’s only take money that is needed to on the Buddha’s teaching in the noble eightfold path on Right livelihood. That is interpreted as earning your living in a way that does not take advantage of other people or animals. Buddhists try to show kindness towards all living creatures. So it is important for then to live in a way that does not damage the earth.
An example for Buddhists scriptures- Dhammapada 49, says this is show a sage, a wise person should live
“As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so that the sage wander in life”
Buddhism teaches us to stop Dukkha-suffering- for ourselves, for others, for animals and for the environment. To do this we must follow the Four Noble Truths. Buddhists believe that we should only take what we need from the earth like natural resources and no more. We should allow the earth time to replenish and be fruitful for those who are to follow us. This is known as sustainability. Buddhists teach that we should overcome the effects of Tanha, that is, greed that causes suffering all over the world.
An example of this is the multi million pound corporation of McDonalds who cut down rainforests in order to have bigger areas to graze cattle that in turn will be produce more burgers. They are exploiting the world’s resources to make money. Buddhists teachings would encourage people to eat a more balanced diet by overcoming the effects of Tanha. All Buddhists try to follow the Five Precepts. These are guidelines which help people to avoid actions which are likely to bring about harmful results, for themselves and others. All the precepts are relevant when teaching people how to treat the environment and animals:-
1) Avoid taking life. That means not killing people and is interpreted as animals too. Many Buddhists are vegetarian. It is also interpreted as not killing the earth either, avoid destroying the natural world around us. Buddhists teach us to show loving and kindness towards all creatures.
2) Avoid taking what is not given. Don’t steal, don’t take more than your fair share, and don’t grab at wealth or power or fame at the expense of others. Buddhism teaches us to be generous and willing to share.
3) Avoid harmful sexual activity. This means not hurting others through sex. Buddhism teaches is to be content with our sexuality.
4) Avoid saying what is not true. Don’t lie, don’t give the wrong impression, and don’t be dishonest with yourself. Buddhism teaches us to be truthful and open in everything we say.
5) Avoid clouding out minds with alcohol or drugs. Don’t get drunk or become addicted to anything that can take over your life and cause suffering to others. Instead try to keep our mind clear so that you can be aware of everything around you.
The Five precepts are interconnected with the teaching in the Noble Eightfold Path. Right actions teaches us to be kind to all living beings, be content, be generous, be truthful keep your mind clear, treat others equally and don’t promote yourself. Right livelihood teaches is to earn our living in a way that reflects Buddhists values- For example, don’t cheat or hurt others (people, animals and the environment) by what you do. Buddhism teaches us that the job we do should one that helps people, animals or the environment- For example, doctor, nurse and the police. Avoid jobs such as butcher, scientists experimenting on animals and the armed forces.
Buddhists describe actions as skilful or unskilful. They are unskilful if that are foolish and likely to lead to more ignorance, anger and greed. They are skilful if they are the result of wise choices, and are likely to lead people towards peace and happiness. A person who acts foolishly, according to Buddhists, will eventually suffer the consequences, and will spoil the very things that make life worthwhile. An example from the Dhammapada illustrates this, “He who destroys life, who utters lies, who gets drunk with strong drinks-he digs up the very roots of life.”
Buddhists meditate and think how they ca make world and its environment a better place. The Cambodian prayer shows how just one person can make a huge difference to the environment around them which rubs off onto the world.
“Great suffering leads to compassion,
Great compassion makes a peaceful heart,
A peaceful heart makes a peaceful person,
A peaceful person makes a peaceful family,
A peaceful family makes a peaceful community,
A peaceful community makes a peaceful nation,
A peaceful nation makes a peaceful world.”
Different Buddhists traditions follow Buddhist teachings in different ways. Theravadan Buddhists follow the teachings of the Buddha in a strict way, they believe in the interdependence between humans and the environment therefore, they say, we need to help not destroy the environment. As Theravadan’s believe that only some people will achieve enlightenment they so not place so much importance on care for animals. Mahayan Buddhists, including Zen, Tibetan and the western Buddhists order, on the other hand, believe that everyone contains Buddahood and by treating all humans, animals and the environment with care and respect it can help is to reach enlightenment.
Tibetan Buddhists believe in interconnection, that you can’t have healthy people without healthy environment. People therefore should be aware of what they need not of what they want. The western Buddhists order believes that a healthier environment is achievable if we overcome selfishness. Zen Buddhists teach that even a small change in tour actions has a big effect, like the ripples n a pond. For example, rid yourself of wanting more and instars of throwing away things, recycle them.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, promotes ‘universal responsibility.’ He teaches that the world has limited resources, that the world has an increasing population and that the environment affects everyone, and what we do affects the environment. Every action we take we have an effect on the rest of the world. A person’s karma always has consequences. To generate good karma helps everyone. The Dalai Lama said we can deal with the world’s problems if we are calm and have inner happiness. So by developing inner spiritual qualities we are performing social action. The first gives deep inner security which makes the latter possible.