When first looked at Buddhism seems a world-denying religion. Nirvana is outside of this world and the principles of dukkha, anicca and anatta could be said to reinforce this belief. About a thousand years after the Buddha dies, a theory of creation did emerge. This theory said the world would always evolve only to be destroyed, this is an on-going cycle and there is no creator of the Earth. And because of this on-going cycle, there is no meaning to the created world. Ergo a Buddhist’s aim should be to reach Nirvana and not be reborn into the world again.
The world is seen as an obstacle that prevents people from reaching Nirvana “How can there be laughter, how can there be pleasure, when the whole world is burning? “1 Many people during the time of the Buddha reached enlightenment. However in modern day society, the process to reach nirvana is much longer. And for this reason attitudes towards the world have changed so that they are more positive. It was believed that there are six destinies open to us these being, humans, animals, ghosts, gods, demons and demi-gods.
These were known as gatis. In each of these gatis there were many different lives. This idea is shown in the wheel of life. It was also believed that if an animal became extinct, it was nothing to be sad about, as it was all part of samsara. In modern day attitudes principles such as metta and ahimsa should be followed when it comes to nature and the environment. “Hatred does not stop hatred, only love stops it. This is an ancient law. “2 Both ahimsa and metta should be practiced with animals; this means that a trapped animal must be freed.
According to Buddhism all animals should be loved “creatures without feet have me love, and likewise those that have two feet, and those that have four feet I love, and those, too that have many feet. “3 As animals are believed to be less wise then humans Buddhists are obliged even more so to practice the two principles towards them. Interlinking with these two principles is the first precept “I undertake to abstain from taking life”4 again this includes animals. Because of this precept many Buddhism are practicing vegetarians, the Buddha never imposed vegetarianism onto his followers.
Animals are believed to be much more important then just provisions for food “Many creatures have toiled singly or jointly to make our lies comfortable. The food we eat and the clothes we wear have not just fallen from the sky. Many creatures have laboured to produce them. “5 Again for these reasons animals are to be treated with respect and kindness. It is believed that as long as there is life on the planet, Buddhists should do all that they can to preserve it.
That inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals- are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world”6 Also believed is that the environment is a result of collective Karma. The world is our creation, so as is the future of the environment. Ergo care for the environment will result in a better future “positive causes bring about happiness and negative actions cause negative consequences”7 It is not only animals that are believed to be important in this world.
Trees play a significant role in the Buddha’s life “trees are referred to in accounts of the Buddha’s life. His mother leaned against a tree for support as she gave birth to him. He attained enlightenment seated beneath a tree, and finally passed away as trees stood witness overhead”8 Trees also should be treated with metta. Buddhists now understand that practical help is also needed to now help the world. This is known as engaged Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism “seeks to use the philosophy of Buddhism for social awareness. “