Buddhism and Ecology

 Buddhism and Ecology

Monk Protecting the trees (Vasan Sitthiket 1957, Thailand)

Although the Buddha lived and taught more than 2500 years ago, his teachings are surprisingly relevantly timeless. The Buddha's teachings on compassion and cause and effect resonate with the recent Green movement. He certainly would had approved of the need to protect and preserve the natural environment. Below is a list of some of the "green" teachings by the Buddha. (It is by no means exhaustive) -

Compassion: The Buddha taught compassion, that all creatures want happiness and shun suffering.

The First Precepts: All serious Buddhists would take up the moral precepts (5 Precepts for lay disciples and at least 227 for monastics). The first precept is to refrain from killing. This respect for life extends to both human and animals. Even as killing might be inevitable indirectly, it should be minimised.

Monastic Rules: In the monastic rules, monks and nuns are not allowed to even break tree branches for no valid reason. During the rainy season, they would refrain from travelling, so as to avoid stepping on and accidentally killing new plants and moving insects.

Monks and nuns who go for alms rounds are also forbidden from accepting food if they suspect that any meat given to them is taken from animals specifically killed for them. Later traditions evolved where both the monastic order and lay disciples would refrain from taking meat altogether. Vegetarianism is especially prominent in the Mahayana tradition.

Right Livelihood: The Buddha also advised lay disciples to refrain from engaging in livelihoods that involve animal trade or killing of animals.   

Animal Sacrifice: Some popular religions of the Buddha's time practised animal sacrifice as a means to appease the gods. The Buddha spoke against such practices, citing that it is better to  sacrifice our defilements.


A Story of a Boy and a Tree

A long time ago, there was a huge apple tree. A little boy loved to come and play around it everyday. He climbed to the treetop, ate the apples, took a nap under the shadow... he loved the tree and the tree loved to play with him. Time went by... the little boy grown up and he no longer played around the tree every day. One day, the boy came back to the tree and he looked sad. "Come and play with me" the tree asked the boy. "I am no longer a kid, I do not play around trees any more" the boy replied. I want toys. I need money to buy them."

"Sorry, but I do not have money... but you can pick all my apples and sell them so you will have money" The boy was so excited. He grabbed all the apples on the tree and left happily. The boy never came back after he picled the apples.  The tree was sad.

One day, the boy who now turned into a man returned and the tree was excited "Come and play with me" the tree said. "I do not have time to play. I have to work for my family. We need a house for shelter. Can you help me?" "Sorry, but I do not have any house. But you can chop off my branches to build your house." So the man cut all the branches off the tree and left happily. The tree was glad to see him happy, but the man never came back since then. The tree was again lonely and sad.

One hot summer day, the man returned and the tree was delighted. "Come and play with me!" the tree said.  "I am getting old. I want to go sailing to relax myself. Can you give me a boat?" said the man. "Use my trunk to build your boat. You can sail far away and be happy." So the man cut the tree trunk to make a boat. He went sailing and never showed up for a long time.

Finally, the man returned after many years. "Sorry, my boy. But I do not have anything for you anymore. No more apples for you..." the tree said. " No problem, I do not have any teeth to bite" the man replied. "No more trunk for you to climb on" "I am too old for that now" the man said. "I really cannot give you anything.. the only thing left is my dying roots" the tree said with tears. " do not need much now, just a place to rest. I am tired after all these years" the man replied. "Good! Old tree roots are the best place to lean on and rest. Come, come sit down with me and rest." " The man sat down and the tree was glad and smiled with tears...

This is a story of everyone. The tree is like our parents. When we were young, we loved to play with our Mum and Dad... When we grow up, we leave them... only come to them when we need something or when we are in trouble. No matter what, parents will always be there and give everything they could just to make you happy. You may think the boy is cruel to the tree, but that is how all of us treat our parents. We take them for granted. We don't appreciate all they do for us, UNTIL it's too late. Love yout parents before its too late.