Buddhism is known as a peaceful religion which treats humans and animals as equals. As a result of this, many Buddhists are vegetarians whom also embrace a kind attitude towards nature.
Buddhist teachings give the basic moral teachings of life, which are then incorporated into their actions towards animals. These teachings include The Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path.
The Eight Fold Path compromises of eight aspects to further morality and mental training. All of these can be applied, in some way, in Buddhists treatment towards the environment and animals. Right Intention, Right Livelihood, Right Action and Right Mindfulness are four key aspects of the Eight Fold Path and can be taken further to examine how Buddhists should treat the environment and animals.
Right Intention is thinking and reasoning in situations. If the action is wrong, at least the intention is still there. With Right Intention, a Buddhist is able to intend helping the environment: thus, the motive is there. This is then carried forward through Right Action.
Right Action helps guide a Buddhist and states: “do not destroy life.” Some people inadvertently tread on insects or kill insects without realizing, but a buddhist must try hard not to do so.
This has become such a problem, that one group of Buddhist monks refuse to wear clothes, so they have no way of killing any animals accidentally. (i.e. if an insect became caught in their clothes).
With the phrase “do not destroy life” it does not only refer to animals but also to nature. Buddhists believe that we should all care and look after all living things. They would take consideration not to step on plants and object to deforestation. It seems that Buddhist would make good gardeners as they would treat plants in this respect.
Right Mindfulness strives for a person to become more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Right Livelihood within The Eight Fold Path encourages work to benefit others. These Buddhist teachings are taken very seriously, as they can be incorporated very easily into everyday life and into the treatment of animals and the environment.
With Right Mindfulness, a person is able to become more aware of the environment and animals, and thus -With Right Livelihood- would mean that more effort would be made by more people to care and save the nature from destruction.
The teaching of “Esho Funi” is incredibly linked to how a Buddhist would treat the environment and animals, as it reveals that life and the environment are one. This concept- that we are all the same, would give Buddhists more insight and strive to help the animals and the environment.
“Because it is beneficial, it belongs to the fundamentals of the holy life, it leads to enchantment, to dispassion, to cessation of suffering, to peace, to direct knowledge to enlightenment, to Nirvana. That is why I have declared it”
The quote above was said by Siddharta Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. He was talking about The Four Noble Truths, and how serious they should be taken. Any Buddhist strives to achieve enlightenment through the realization of the four teachings: Dukka, Sangha, Nirodha and Magga. These Four Noble truths can easily be included into how a people should treat the environment.
“The Root to all unhappiness is desire”
Dukka, translated as “suffering” in English, is the realization that through life there will always be suffering. Magga and Nirodha, are craving and the elimination of it. Once a person realizes that we are suffering and desiring things constantly, they are able to detach themselves from this to become better people. Thus, eliminating craving (Nirvana). This would lead to selfless acts as Buddhists aim to lead selfless lives.
A person would incorporate this into their treatment of animals, and try to eliminate their suffering as they are – according to Buddhist teachings- equal to humans.
“Magga” – the fourth noble truth, aims to find a middle way and follow the eight fold path. This shows all Buddhist teachings are very important to achieve Nirvana and how a person must help others through their journeys to better themselves.
Buddhists also believes in re-birth. They believe that if we have good karma in our life, we are likely to be reborn as something better in the next life. If we, however, have bad karma, then we are likely to be reborn as plants or animals. This further encourages Buddhists to look after animals and nature and encourage others to do the same.
The Buddhist way of life, thus, encourages Wisdom, Morality and Mental training. This means that if people are wise they will be able to save the environment, if people follow the morals preached by Buddhists animals and the environment would be treated with respect and through the use of mental training it would encourage people to become more selfless. Furthermore, the Four Noble Truths and Eight fold path are reminders to Buddhists and other people that nothing is forever and all problems can be solved by finding a way to achieve it. This way we can learn to respect our surroundings and other “lesser beings”.