Buddhism and the Environment

I’m reading a fascinating book called, The Buddha in Your Mirror, and came across this passage regarding Buddhism and the environment:

Buddhism is a way of life that makes no distinction between the individual human being and the environment in which that person lives. In its concept of the interrelatedness of all life forms in a complex web beyond complete human understanding, Buddhism has provided a spiritual and intellectual framework for environmental awareness… views human kind as a part of nature, supporting and giving rise to the notion of bioethics. Since every individual is connected to everything on earth, the destiny of our planet is influenced by the individual’s actions.

One way to look at this is to say that I have influence on all living beings around me, including the vast environment. That does not entitle me to control the environment, but rather there’s a synergy there. Oftentimes I’ll come across something in the environment that is clearly a response to my own Buddha nature. For example, my efforts to support and encourage other living beings in a hopeful way can manifest in my environment as someone helping me in the time of need. This is a form of Buddhist protection based on the strict law of cause and effect.

The other interesting point from this passage is the general interrelatedness of all living beings. In the case of friends and family in particular, there are karmic bonds from lifetimes past that bring us together. It’s natural to think that a new person you meet has links to you from the infinite past, and even if you may not get along (you may despise this person), given those links you should fundamentally respect him or her. In fact, if we’re all related and inter-dependent, then I should consider the far-ranging consequences of my actions even beyond the normal nexus of my life and that of my family. I should even take the opportunity in trivial encounters to be respectful, be hopeful, and put my Buddhism practice to work in daily life.


Buddhist Next Door


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