Can Buddhism contribute ideas for a successful sustainable future?

Buddha quotes, illustrations Kenneth buddha Jeans 2013 copyright


Can Buddhism teach us something about sustainability?

The world is in an ecological crisis. All around the world are signals of a globe in trouble, melting ice, extreme weather; the disappearing rain forest  Companies and wealthy investors  put their money in water resources rather than oil.  We are obligated to rethink past actions. The big question is how shall these problems be solved? If we continue with an economic paradigm based upon money sequence  we might face huge ethical and dangerous international situation; toll barriers, water taxes, exploitation of landmasses, war, poorness, violence and protectionism. However, is there a solution based on new values replace money? Can wealth be measured in happiness or compassion? Can Buddhism contribute with fresh ideas for a successful sustainable future?

Who was Buddha?

Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563–c.483 BCE), trough out his life, he seeks for a way to become happy and free from the sufferings he experienced. His theories and practices he found during his struggle to achieve this are now called Buddhism. The Sanskrit word Buddha means the awakened, wise or learned and already in the word lies a great deal of what sustainability is. Nonviolence is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. Non-violence or Ahimsa encourages non harming  attitudes to all human beings and eco systems.

Engaged Buddhism

Buddhism has earlier been criticized for their passive actions, withdraw from society and seldom take part in issues and conflicts. However, gradually this has changed over the last 40 years, and few people tend to look at Buddhism in this way. Dalai Lama is a great example of this, and maybe the most important Buddhist practicing engaged Buddhism is the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author and poet a Thich Nhat Hanh.  In 1963 during the Vietnam war the term Engaged  Buddhism, were Buddhist are concerned with social, political and economic problems. Furthermore, directly take part in eliminating poverty, disease, war and exploitation.

  • Engaged Buddhism. With mindful and compassionate practice of Dharma, they are the human face of sustainability.

Nature, do you think we can rely on you?

Sustainability is described in many ways; however, modern sustainable thinking started in the late 1980s with the Brundtland Commission and during the summit in Rio 1992, definition of sustainability  sounded; “Moderation is the solution to keep and remain Earth sustainable.  Sustainability within a society is the ability to maintain the level of reproduction and balance of needs as food, shelter, energy over time.” In Buddhism, these words described in details and even more. Whatever scientist  might say aboutglobal warming and the reason it’s happening is irrelevant. However, we can all agree that we share a planet with limited resources, more people and an outdated economic model based upon growth. This growth requires a consumer culture that moves goods rapidly. Since the economy is based upon fast consume products are not built with a short lifespan. In fact, product sustainability is inverse to economic growth and slows or breaks a fast consumer culture.

Which shopping mall do you come from? Research and statistics show that one of the largest spare time activities for woman’s in America is shopping. What can be so rewarding spending time at the mall? Advertising, PR and media have over generations and with billions of spending created illusion of consumer culture were the success measured in luxury symbols; expensive cars, watches, yachts and fashion clothes and that is right to feel better when we know other people admire what we have achieved.

Can Buddhism help turn this view?

Nevertheless, a shift to sustainability is needed, however, requires profound individual and social transformations throughout the world and that such transformations necessitate the involvement of the spiritual traditions of the world. Buddhism can teach us a method on how these issues can be solved on an individual as well larger scale. In recent years, Buddhism economy has developed and gained a broader interest in the west. In 1970s, E.F. Schumacher published one of the most important books about sustainable economics. The book Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered was written during his work in Burma. Buddhism economic has proven an alternative to mainstream economics based on growth. Two countries have based their fundamental economic model from a Buddhist view upon what can be regarded as valuable in a society; Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness and Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy.

  • Buddhism economy basic is based on moderation and fair sharing in a world with limited resources  and proven an alternative to mainstream economics based on growth and infinite resource. 

We are all connected to Earth

Buddha teachings stress that humans are included and a part of nature, this view is different from major religions as for example  Christianity was humans are regarded superior and chosen from God. The world is continuous flux and is impermanent, Buddha.  Buddhism is based on the idea that everything is interconnected and impermanent. Therefore, central in Buddha’s teachings is individual development of compassion, love and respect for all life, avoid killing of living beings include trees, the ocean and the mountains.  The Buddha after his Awakening chose to live in nature even though, he could easily have returned to a regular indoor life and made that his basis for teaching. His decision to remain in the wild most properly indicates that it supported his realization better.

His profound teaching of Vipashyana is an insight into the nature of things, of the greatness and deepness of Nature beyond all concepts of time, space, location and relationship. Modern environmental philosophers s share these ideas. The more diversity, the better said philosopher and renaissance man Arne Naess founder of Deep Ecology movement in 1970s. Naess named it Ecosophy, rooted in the view of Gandhi and Buddhism with respect for all living beings, nonviolence, and self-realization within a personal contact with nature. Naess lived as Buddha close to nature and led several climbing expeditions in the Himalayas and published in the 1970s  one of the most remarkable environmental book’s Ecology of Wisdom, The

  • Buddhism teaching of a world interconnected, where we are included in nature, cherish diversity, and develop compassion and for all living beings is essential to understand sustainability.
  • When Buddhism talks about impermanence is actually an understanding of a planet with limited resources.

Sustainability  is, in reality, a question of balance

We believe wishes of material wealth will give us happiness and well being. However, it’s rather creating more problems than its solves. In Buddhism, a central issue is to “live a life in balance” or what Buddha called the “middle way.” To stop or change the clinch to materialism and strive for balance is difficult; to develop a sustainable lifestyle require a change and bigger emphasis upon spiritual values; to obtain a way of living based on fewer possessions, we must let the transcendent place take a greater part otherwise the loss of our former lifestyle and addiction to things will overwhelm us. In the definition of sustainability this balance is described;  “Sustainability within a society is the ability to maintain the level of reproduction and balance of needs as food, shelter, energy over time.”

  • One of Buddhism most central issue is to live in balance or by the middle way; as well, one of the mail pillars of sustainability.
  • Buddhism offers a way to live with less focus on material wealth and with a greater emphasis on spiritual values, essential to transform and shift to sustainability.

Buddha quotes, illustrations Kenneth buddha Jeans 2013 copyright

Karma in a sustainable world

In the classic Indian language Sanskrit, Karma means action. Karma can be easier be understood as the universal law of cause and “fruit” or the result of karma (its most usually misinterpreted as effect to the cause). In a sustainability viewpoint Karma can be understood only when we develop other qualities as compassion, love and respect for all sentient beings. When we understand that negative actions create negative Karma, and these actions can harm others now, or later we can turn these actions into beneficial. The enormous power positive Karma develops on a universal level is hardly understandable. Even small actions as recycle your newspaper or picking up a piece of paper on the street can create such Karma. Can we learn to create positive actions? Buddhism have a method to turn old bad habits into new good ones. Where we can liberate negative actions.  In many Buddhist texts, it is said that contentment arises not merely from the absence of afflictions but from the presence of their opposites. Thus, when greed is replaced by generosity, hatred by love, and delusion by wisdom, afterwards one is truly contented, and when these replacements are permanent, then one has earned liberation from negative actions on a long-term perspective with less or no harm to the environment. In other words, when we know our weaknesses, we can turn them to strengths.

  • Buddhism has a method to turn old bad habits into new good ones. Where we can liberate negative Karma and develop a set of values where we can live with a sustainable lifestyle.

The four simple steps of sustainability

How to live sustainable  can be found in simple steps of the Buddhism philosophy, a set of  tools were made 2500 years ago, we can use them to achieve a better and more sustainable way of living; we do not need to invent something that is already made. First of all, we need to exam who we are and understand how we can transform actions that is in conflict with a sustainable lifestyle. In Buddhism the most important meditation is Shamata (Sanskrit means to rest the mind). Shamata meditation intention is to empty and establish peace of mind, furthermore,  develop a state where we live in the present, not the past or in the future. When we achieve a state of mind that is less stressful we tend to view things and situations better, this gives us an opportunity to understanding why we do and handle without being aware of negative consequence we might cause. First then can we be able to do something about it.

  • Buddhism meditation and practice and teach us to be more in harmony and closer to nature, reflect, handle situations and take wiser decisions on a daily basis

Finally, can Nature rely on humans?

Buddhism is traditionally summarized in a formula called the four noble truths: (1) all forms of existence involve some suffering, (2) suffering arises because of idealistic expectations, (3) suffering can be eliminated by eliminating unrealistic expectations, and (4) there is a method to be followed to eliminate them. The method itself is summarized in the formula: “Do what is beneficial, avoid doing harm, and keep the mind pure.” The first noble truth can be described that we all are, in one way or another, afflicted by negative actions caused to the environment. It might be actions that leads to diseases due to lack of clean water or skin cancer because of the damage to the ozone layer. The second noble truth can illustrate the consumer culture and a society based upon our unrealistic expectation of what  makes us happy, and the illusion of a world that is infinite of resources. The third noble truth give a method to end this unrealistic clinching to materialism and harmful actions and last the  forth noble truth to practice and follow this method to end it. The four noble truths offer us diagnostics tool for a better sustainable future and can contribute to a better sustainable future.

Buddhism can contribute in a positive way:

  • Engaged Buddhism. With mindful and compassionate practice of Dharma, they are the human face of sustainability.
  • Buddhism economy basic is based on moderation and fair sharing in a world with limited resources and proven an alternative to mainstream economics based on growth and infinite resource.
  • Buddhism teaching of a world interconnected, where we are included in nature, cherish diversity, and develop compassion and for all living beings is essential to understand sustainability.
  • When Buddhism talks about impermanence is actually an understanding of a planet with limited resources.
  • One of Buddhism most central issue is to live in balance or by the middle way; as well, one of the mail pillars of sustainability.
  • Buddhism offers a way to live with less focus on material wealth and with a greater emphasis on spiritual values, essential to transform and shift to sustainability
  • Buddhism has a method to turn old bad habits into new good ones. Where we can liberate negative Karma and develop a set of values where we can live with a sustainable lifestyle.
  • Buddhism meditation and practice and teach us to be more in harmony and closer to nature, reflect, handle situations and take wiser decisions on a daily basis
  • The four noble truths offer us diagnostics for a better sustainable future

 



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Kenneth Lyngaas
Sustainable fashion designer & eco-philosopher Sustainable fashion dedicated the twenty-first century green living, design for change through system thinking, eco philosophy, spirituality and sustainability. Site made with passion for people who loves fashion and care for the environment.
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
sustainableFASHION// dedicated the twenty-first century sustainable community and living. Every day, I deliver selected news on Eco design across the Internet. Most people appreciate an update without searching latest news themselves. Therefore, it’s already served. Don’t miss it, subscribe! http://paper.li/buddhajeans/1322177882
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