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Buddhism and Conservation Ethics

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Well we have just discussed how Christian religion which is being sort of guided by the Western ideas or western science and technology happens to pretty much lethal and then seen to be much more responsible for the present ecological crisis which we are facing now. Now moving a bit different from what the Christian religion talks about we will try to look at how to locate the Buddhist teaching if not the kind of biodiversity conservation ethics which prevails in Buddhism and I am sure you all know like how Buddhism or the religion Buddhism emerges and who is the founder.

So I did not go into detail presuming that you all know what Buddhism and then how Buddhism was founded. Now we will try to discuss few points what are being addressed in some of the classical religious textbooks of Buddhism of their sort of closeness to nature. Now Buddhism in a way view humanity has an integral part of nature so that when nature is defiled, people ultimately suffer that is if we are causing some kind of negative act the consequences in a way will be you know how people tends to not just ultimately be harmed.

Therefore these negative consequences arises when the culture in a way eliminate themselves from nature and when people feel separate from and become aggressive towards the natural system and also when we abuse nature we tends to forget that we are also abusing ourselves because this is because when we sort of created dualism between human and nature or maybe rather a dichotomy relationship is minted. Now when we see human pretty much close and in relationship with nature we would not really engage ourselves in harming and abuse nature.

Now one of the book on this Buddhism that is the Jataka in a way also glorified the birth stories of Buddhism and also that is Buddha which are abundant with poetic appreciations of nature that is if you look at the Jataka that in every passages there are importance which are given on the forests, waters and earth’s wild creatures and the Archon aesthetics are pretty much being enshrined in the book of this Jataka and almost all Buddhist literature in a way states that the Buddha was borned in a grove of sal that is a lovely straight-backed trees with large leaves. The sal tree in a way is also sacred to many religious group particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. And the Buddha's further in a way in his search for this quest for this enlightenment was in the company of a banyan and as we said the ultimate that is the enlightenment was under the spreading branches of a tree and which was recognized for its special place in human faith even in its scientific name that is the Ficus religiosa that is the scientific name.

Therefore the tree or the forest happens to be right from the period when Buddha was born and at the same time till the time when he attained his enlightenment he was pretty much close to nature and then live in the forest rather and if you look at the early Buddhist community which were small in numbers they tends to live in forest and the large squeeze in caves and in mountain areas. I am sure like if you all have visited the state in Orissa wherein a place in Hathigumpha where the monks normally during the period of Asoka so to say happens live in forests normally under the cave of a stone.

Now this early Buddhist community live in forests under large trees and caves and in mountainous areas. So I presume that the place in that Hathigumpha in Odisha is still something which one can witness and visualize how the early Buddhist monks could have survived and lived in the natural surroundings and as a riddle of this they are died with dependent on nature and they cultivate great respect for beauty and diversity of their natural surroundings. Every healthy forest is also a home for wildlife so when a monk accepts the forest as his home he also respect the animals who live in the forest that is the animals are not seen as something which is different but also a part or a family around
the members of the family. The early buddies maintained this kind of friendly attitude towards the natural surroundings and opposed the destruction of forests or their wildlife. Now therefore since they have that direct exposure to the environment or to the natural surroundings they tends to sort of perceive or the attitude they have shown to the natural surrounding is that they should not destroy the forest or the wildlife or rather they should not be harmed.

Now in the portion in this the Sutta-Nipata one of the earliest texts of the Buddha says that know ye the grasses and trees then know ye the worms and the moths and the different sorts of ants, know ye also the four-footed animals small and great, the serpents, the fish which range in the water, the birds that are borne along on the wings and move through the ear, know ye the marks that constitute species are theirs and their species are manifold. Now therefore in a very high light that one needs to be familiar and then pretty much have a wider knowledge and understanding of not just the immediate surrounding but what does the human but also the other grasses, trees, the animals, even the tiniest ones.

So therefore it is a species in a way contribute or have their own purposes. Now therefore Buddha in a way was pretty much in support of people's perception and understanding of knowledge. Now what is this the precept of Buddhism that is the principles or the guiding principles of Buddhism. Remember each and every religion has their own guiding principles or may be on the foundation on which it is being founded.

Now the first precept of Buddhism explicitly says that do not kill that is one should not engage in harmful activities violence. This precept is not merely a legalistic prohibition but realization of our affinity with all who share the gift of life that is a compassionate heart provides a firm ground for this precept. Now the first and foremost for once to not engage in killing something is to have a compassionate heart that is if you have that compassionate heart I mean towards anything you can in a way have that kind of symbiotic relationship with the species. The community of monks are also in a way forbidden by the Vinaya that is one of the text the ancient rules of conduct from eating ten different kinds of meat mostly animals of the forest that is which are not domesticated. The Buddha in a way taught his disciple to in a way communicate to animals their wishes for peace and happiness. So if one have this compassionate or compassionate at heart one can maintain a peace and happiness even with their fellow animals.

Now these are some of the precept of Buddhism that is the founding principles. Now Buddha also in a way talks pretty much eloquently on water conservation that is how the Buddha set down rules forbidding his disciples to contaminate water resources not to engage in polluting or putting a waste on resources. For example monks were in a way dissuaded from throwing their waste or leftover food into rivers and lakes.

And they were also urged to guard the lives of all living beings abiding there that is not just contaminating or polluting but rather to necessarily protect and then guard the lives of all living beings which are inhabiting that place. Now in the Vinaya Pitaka there are detailed descriptions of how to build toilets and water wells in a way you can compare with the present or the current government which strongly sort of projected the idea of the swatch Bharat campaign of not engaging in the littering
and open defecation of which every household are supposedly to have a toilet. Now this is something which we are talking about the medieval period or much earlier than that. Now in the Vinaya Pitaka there are detailed descriptions of how to build toilet and water wells now which means every kind of garbage or something which unwanted should not be spread rather it has to be exposed in a more hygienic manner.

Now therefore it not only talked about this conservation of water but also rather maintaining of hygienic sanitation. One of the eight qualities of the ocean is cleanliness and another is that it must be the abode of various kinds of fish and not necessarily fish but also other creatures as you all know like tortoise so and so forth. Now therefore if you look at the present ecological crisis which we are facing now we all know how the oceans are being polluted and then as a result of this contamination we also seldom witness big big fishes which are being killed, swelling of those plastic items, toxic items so and so forth. Now perhaps these great minds or great intellects I would say they enlightened, they were in a way being guided or they might have foresee that if one wants to have a healthy or if not to live in a very safe environment one should not engage in polluting because the amount of waste dumping the toxic items which are disposed of not only to the ocean but also to every part of the earth surface in a way we are facing the brunt of it because we abused and then we are facing the brunt and the consequences. This is something more to do with sort of a cyclic or a change reaction.

Now we cannot afford to see things in a more nonlinear way or maybe in a more non repetitive rather source. Now Buddhism in a way also holds a great respect for and gratitude towards nature that is they
tends to perceive nature as the mother that gives rise to all the joyful things in life. So in a way the idea of this mother art is something which is also being followed by Buddhism that is in terms of their in a respect and gratitude towards nature. Now if you look at the Metta Sutta thus as a mother with our own life guards the life of our own child, let all embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine. So this sort of
respect and mutual caring and nurturing is something which is also explicitly spell out in the Metta Sutta of the Buddhist texts. Now in one of the lectures of his Holiness the Dalai Lama that is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet who also is a strong supporter or strong proponent of Buddhism in a way has repeatedly his concern for the Environmental Protection that is he raised an idea that our ancestor viewed earth as rich, bountiful and sustainable because if once wants to flourish and then stay as a human or a people one needs to sort of take care of surroundings in a more responsible way.

Now therefore if we consistently engage in harming and then exploiting the nature this idea of these rich, bountiful and sustainable will perish and then it will be reversed that is the other way around. Now therefore the Dalai Lama who is also in a way propagating and then professing Buddhism also expressed his strong concern for the environmental protection in the international firm.

Now we also know that this is the case but only that is if we take care of it you know in one of his recent speeches on the subject of ecology he pointed out that the most important thing is to have a peaceful heart that is a compassionate heart so if one deviate from this or maybe obsessed with this hatred, jealousy quit then there is no solution to it. So the only way out or the only solution is to have a compassionate or a peaceful heart that is only how we take care of things around us.

Now there is a place in Thailand where the Buddhist monks are engaged in the wildlife fun project wherein they team and domesticate those animals and it happens to be a very successful project because if you have maintained that kind of balance and that sort of accomplishment with the animals it in a way tends to like espouse the kind of the richness and a bountiful and sustainable possibilities of the earth surface only when we understand it through nature lying within we can live harmoniously with the rest of the natural world.

So in a way self-realization is also important that is to realize the basic essence of nature. In fact Buddhism can be meaningful only when it is relevant to our everyday life and to our environment. Now having said that in as mention in the religious text of maybe to engage not in harming or to engage in violence also one should engage in conservation of water or maybe the nature but all having said and how it is to be executed that is if we are in a way to see the relevance of Buddhism in the present context. And how are we going to apply the application or the implementation part is something which
we all needs to sort of recon with. Now the Buddhist tradition in a way counsels us to treasure and conserve nature of which human beings are an active part that is in our everyday life we are in constant engagement and we can in a way do a bit of conserving nature.

Now as we had partly discussed in the ecological crisis in the viewpoint of a Christian religion of how Christian religion which is guided by the western science or western science, modern science and modern technology in a way is responsible and have affected the nature or exploit or abuse nature like anything but in the context of Buddhism again way back from the 16th century how Buddhism emerged and the founding father that is Gautam Buddha in a way denounced worldly pleasures that is accumulation of wealth and certain other worldly pleasures. And also explicitly pointed out that not only to engage to abstain oneself form harming or polluting if not using violence against nature but also to partake in the uplifting is not protecting nature and this in a way will be able to maintain healthy and the bountiful or the bountiful bliss and nature or the beautiful nature can in a way be realize and how a sustainable world can be established. So the question which remains from what we have discussed is how to make the or how to situate the relevance of Buddhism in the present context or it in a way allow us to contextualize us in a position of retrospection how we tries to position ourselves in nature.

Are we in a position to do things in a free will or in a much more you know take part in protecting needs. So you can refer this on the Buddhism that is the early Buddhist views on nature its an extract from the book by Allan Hunt Badiner and which is written by Kabilsingh. So you can perhaps read this and its a few pages of chapter and then this can help you and we will be discussing more on the Hinduism and response of Pope John Paul of how they are trying to in a way retaliate the kind of stance which is being posited by the Lynn White. Thank you.