The Gratest Environmentalist Series
Can Buddhist Ethics Helps Save The Environment?
Before telling the story about the Prince Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563–486 BCE ) that later should be better known as The Buddha ( means the “Awakened”). I admit writing the story of his life is not easy and therefore strictly simplified. However, the intention is to highlight Buddha’s relationship and ideas for the environment or Buddhism Ethics. The history of Buddha historically is time-travel of 2500 years or 563BC. Our story of the greatest environmentalists and eco-philosophies begins, when Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born close to the Nepal border in northern India, in a small village named Kapilavastu. Seven days after giving birth, Maya died. Therefore, as the son of King Suddhodana Siddhartha’s direction in life was already pointed out to be a king of wealth, power, fame and glory.
We all have the equal right to live in nature, not to kill any living beings
The Buddha would have filled all descriptions as an environmentalist; later in life, he lived in the environment; however, could comfortably live indoors. His great wisdom and then Buddhism philosophy describes a view that all living beings have the equal right to live in nature. Do not kill any residing people includes humans, animals, forest, mountains, water and air. It was not before people from Europe started to study Indian languages classic Indian language Pali or Sanskrit) and not accessible for most European thinkers.
However, The Indian leader Gandhi, Albert Einstein and later the eco-philosopher Arne Næss (deep Ecology) was engaged and inspired by the Gandhian view, Buddhism and the philosopher Spinoza. Buddhas influence is much more significant than most people know as his philosophies already written down 2500 years ago included many European thinkers ideas and discussions. The main Dharma was not easily accessible initially written in Sanskrit or Pali. They are written in complicated languages and not translated easily. Therefore, terms such as the “four noble truths”, “The Middle Way, interconnected, constant change, yoga and meditation unknown to most westerners.
Prince Siddhartha’s historically and later interpretation of the teachings include the in-depth knowledge of nature and mind. The story followed discussing Buddhism ethics or Buddha’s teachings are not essential. The story is about the historical Prince Siddharta and after a lifetime searching for the happiness he did not succeed before he gave up searching for it. As a prince with all the material wealth, he did not feel happy and restless despite all the luxury.
He, like every other living a protected life become blind and delusional, he did not see through the clutter. Siddharta did not succeed in happiness, living a miserable experience, and he struggled with as many problems when he got everything. It took many years and did no longer seek happiness when the transformation came.
The young Prince Siddhartha became the “enlightened one”. While in deep meditation, sitting under a Bodhi tree at the age of 35 became free from his desires and found a way to permanent happiness. Prince Siddhartha was predicted to become a great King in either his realm or a great spiritual master, a vision Maya his mother dreamt.
King Suddhodana, his father, was afraid that the young Prince should become a great spiritual master, then he would lose the kingdom. Therefore the King kept Siddhartha occupied from daily worries of life and instead gave him all kinds of toys to play with, his son grew up with his private harem, wealth. He lived illusionary life as he had no idea of the real-life happening outside the Castle walls. Nevertheless, he wondered and did not properly understand why he felt unhappy nor optimistic, and he did not find happiness in his luxury lifestyle.
The king protected his son from seeing reality in the Samsaric world
King Suddhodana however, felt something was not right with his son Siddhartha and feared of losing his son to a spiritual path. Therefore the King made sure that the Prince was not exposed or could experience situations that could make Siddhartha understand life impermanence, his father prevented his son to experience the endless cycles of life from birth to death. Siddhartha did not understand old age nor sickness. The King protected him from experience situations that could trigger his sadness. King Suddhodana tried to keep the young Prince Siddhartha in the Palace, not experience life’s reality outside the walls.
Siddhartha begged his father to see the outside world, afraid to lose him the King not to refuse. Prince Siddhartha was three times allowed to walk outside the Castle. Still, every time his father made preparations beforehand, the King commanded his servants to remove the poor people, the disabled, cripple’s, old people not to worry the boy and prevent him from asking questions. The streets were cleaned and decorated; nevertheless, his father, the King, could not control everything nor hide it from Siddhartha. The three times he as outside the wall, the Prince experienced seeing an older man he did not understand the concept of death. Was not life permanent? He saw suffering, illness and Siddhartha’s curiosity wondering, he started to ask questions and dug those he met on his way. Back in the home inside the Castle, his restlessness never stopped. Siddhartha was concerned, and his anxiety amplified the fear of getting sick, old and finally death.
The Buddha breaks the emptiness
Hungry for filling the emptiness experienced. The miserable life despite endless entertainment, pleasure, harem and luxury. Siddhartha married to a beautiful girl, Yashodhara as he thought she could fill the gap. Prince Siddhartha, still a young man realised he could find it outside the castle walls. He escaped the golden cage was a possibility; he knew deep inside the only solution to break free from the emptiness he felt, was fleeing leaving his old life behind, even material possessions, the love of his father and a comfortable lifestyle.
One night the Prince decided it was the right time escaping; Siddhartha left the Castle, took with him his most elegant horse and most loyal servant. Finally, outside the gates of the Castle, Siddhartha gave his faithful servant the horse and beautiful clothes. Siddhartha rapidly left the place without even looking back. The Prince had now abandoned his father’s eternal love, the wealth, power, and world of entertainment, replaced with a new ascetic lifestyle, he had no possessions only a bowl to beg for food and a single piece of cloth around his body. The ascetic lifestyle was a common way of practice in old India and Nepal soon he was one of many travelling together.
Owning many or too few things are neither solution to happiness understood Siddhartha
Siddhartha followed for several years ascetics’ tribes and beggars because he thought was the right direction finding happiness, nevertheless, unable to see the truth. Stories told that Siddhartha only ate half a grain of rice daily in this search forsake everything. However, after years of ascetic acceptance, he finally was about to die from hunger, everyone around considers he was dying. Siddhartha became unsure before he thought life entirely in authorial resignation from desire and without any other things than food scales was the way out of suffering and sadness. The happiness and awakens Siddhartha searched for did him nothing but weak, out of focused, loss of concentration. Then came to a conclusion and finally understood a total denial of existence, things, and food could not bring him happiness.
Siddhartha understood living a life in poverty and deprivation was devastating. Still confused, discouraged and with no ideas left on how he could get rid of the suffering experienced and of others. Everywhere pain, hunger, war, poorness diseases, and death followed. How could he ever unlock happiness? Siddhartha was now a wanderer, drifted around for years. He had not achieved the satisfaction he sought after. However, he was no longer in the hopeless situation being wealthy nor poor. Two thousand five hundred years ago meditational practice the essential part of everyday life.
The Middle Way
After leaving the ascetic lifestyle, he felt stronger, Siddhartha gained better insight from his daily meditations, the increased capacity from no more prolonged starvation made his mind stable, managed to stay by the riverside in Bihar district of India. He felt grounded, his simple work as a boatman carrying humans, animals and goods across the river; the work calmed his mind even more, very soon forgot the hunt for happiness. Siddhartha lived a simple life by the river; comfortable Siddhartha felt the harmony of nature, the sound and noises without disturbance gave him inner-peace while resting under a particular tree. He almost possessed of a calm and straightforward structure. The tree was Ashvattha in Sanskrit. Ashvattha is a name for the gods Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva means “remains tomorrow”. The name is better known as Bodhi the “awakening or enlightened”. His meditation practice created conditions for transformation. Spiritually in the present.
One day Siddhartha sat down by the riverside, as paralysed he starred into the water and saw how the water never was similar, flowing, forming circles, making waves, sank and disappeared. The waters constant speed, every wave acted differently, looped, hurtled and vanished with the continuous flow. It reminded him of endless lifetimes, cycles of birth and death. He discovered how everything was interconnected and that nothing existed on its own. When he touched the water again, he caused the forever floating river unstable, without substance and endless variations. He came to a realisation; everything interconnected. All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone, and everything is concerning everything else.
Siddhartha visualised a stream of endless lives attached to the wave of emotions and energy. With his hands still in the river, he always felt less resistance if his hands following the stream, water floated around and easily without resistance. Siddhartha realised rather than fighting against, forcing the sides to move towards the flow, he let go. Lightweight and comfortable move without resistance, the arm was in balance.
Siddhartha took the wisdom and experience he learned sitting by the riverside deep within the mind and experienced new insights; the meditative state lasted. His transformed mind received ancient teachings from previous Dharma. Finally, he saw a clear picture and became enlightened. Siddhartha was the past, Buddha free from the endlessness of Samsara. In Nirvana Buddha understood visions of a thousand lifetimes, clearness of previous lives and deaths. The precious wisdom warmed his hearth. Buddha became a part of everything around him, the harmony, desireless, the interconnecting nature and harmony of people.
Buddha’s clarity accepted and manifested suffering caused. He understood the concept of the different sufferings; some suffered from war others from mental disturbance, starvation, deaths and illness. He also discovered a way out of experiencing a cure. The cure was simple only through meditation and practice could we be free from desire and the illusion of the ego. Buddha was 35 years of age when he received the Dharma, became the enlightened one and reached Nirvana.
The Four Noble Truths a diagnostics tool for environmental ethics
- All existence is suffering.
- Suffering caused by craving.
- Sufferings have an end.
- The way to the end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.
Despite global problems such as global warming, exploitation of human labours and natural resources, global corporations enemies of nature, greed, poverty, wars, inequality and corruption, there are solutions for a better world with sustainable and human-friendly solutions. Buddhism Ethics offers many tools, and the basic is simple The Four Noble Truths. It easy, understandable and straightforward, nevertheless require practice. The age of global warming already started, learn to live and by time, reverse the process. It can merely happen unless willing for change.
If the rest of the world had an ecological footprint as the Americans of Europeans Earth would go on without us. The Four Noble Truths used as a diagnostic tool for Spaceship Earth and its passengers, taking care of the Ecology, ecosystems and the immense biodiversity. It requires a deep respect for all living beings, trees, alpine meadows, marshes, mountains and the air. All the elements not for the benefit of humans alone; more than ten million species are living around with the same rights to live. Nature not here for the human species only, instead we are here for life. Buddha interconnected within the environment until he died. His understanding of the middle way, not to harvest more than needed, nature belongs to all living, not corporations or any capitalist.
The benefits of developing compassion and loving-kindness towards all beings, rich or poor, suffer in various ways. Buddha experienced both ways. To change our lifestyle is not easy, material wealth has a hold. Less is more. Actively cultivate our generosity in meditation as well as do it physically.
“Regardless of what we do, our karma has no hold on us” Bodhidharma
Buddha understood this as Karma. By reducing our ego, we think less in terms of “me, mine, and ours”. Our ego is a tricky illusion as it triggers desire. When we reduced our ego, a transformation of the mind is possible from less materialism and more spiritualism. Everything is interconnected, and nothing happens; one person is the difference; a decisive action can result in even more positivism and the other way if the effects performed are adverse. How we treat the environment are we not only doing to others but ourselves as well; if we respect nature, animals, trees, lakes and mountains, it creates a positive impact on others even living far away places.
Do we have the right to destroy the Earth for the next generations?
The final and invisible causes and visible effect of our actions performed are not necessarily limited to current life; traced back to a proximate or remote past. Therefore, what we are doing now is an important part, future generations inheriting Earth; is it right to destroy the environment our children experience hunger, natural disasters, and lack of global resources? We are responsible for our actions a better future. Karma is the fruits of past action Karma depends on what we do now in the future.
Recap of Buddhism and protection of the environment
- Respect for all life and not to kill any living
- Dalai Lama Website Nature is our teacher
- Nature as a spiritual force in life
- Quality as a way of life
- Buddhism is the middle way of Buddhist economics.
- Simplicity and non-violence the key.
- Economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the mind of cherishing the pattern of natural resources, diversity and protection of the ecological environment.
- A standpoint that humanity of all time and space protected their existence; all creations right to feel the dignity of life and equal freedom exist in the environment.
- Understand the concept of interconnected.
- Develop Eco compassion through an understanding that other people and living beings might suffer or cause adverse environmental impact because of the actions we chose to perform
- Karma, personal responsibility perform affirmative action, for example, a bicycle to work instead of driving. Make conditions for future life in distant places.
Sources and Useful Information
- Wikipedia Website or Gautama Buddha was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings of Buddhism founded around 2500 BC
- Faiths and Ecology
- Karma – Is a word from the classical Indian language Sanskrit, also Karman, and Pali, Kamma, means action – doing whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma and makes influence interconnected not only here and now but from the past and into the future, Karmic tracks.
- Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered is the collection of essays by British economist e. f. Schumacher. The phrase Small Is Beautiful came from a phrase by his teacher.
- Buddha is not a name but a title, simple means the enlightened one or awaken one.
- The book, Buddha prince and beggar by Torkel Brekke
- The Book, Path to Buddhahood by Ringu Tulku
- Souledout.org Website The story of Buddha
- Modernserenity Website What would Buddha Do?
- A Buddhist Approach to Environmental Protection
- Manifest of green, Kenneth @ buddha jeans
- Brainyquote Website Buddha Quotes
- Eco Buddhism
- Processing compassion and Mind path to Buddhahood Ringu Tulku cutting through spiritual materialism Chögyam Trunga
- The good Heart of the Dalai Lama
- Dictionary of Buddhism
- Dalai Lama the message about the environment
- Environmental Ethics in Buddhism