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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 a 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 nature, however, could easily live indoors. His great wisdom and later Buddhism philosophy describes a view that all living beings have the equal right to live in nature. Do not kill any living beings includes humans, animals, forest, mountains, water and air. The Buddhist philosophy has been followed by great thinkers, not as many European philosophers as they did not have access to the Buddhist Dharma (Dharma means teachings, these was written in classic Indian language Pali or Sanskrit not easily translated), 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 greater than most people know as his philosophies already written down 25000 years ago included many European thinkers ideas, they just did not know it. For example The Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, meditations techniques etc.

Buddha’s life

Prince Siddhartha’s historically and his later understanding and interpretation of the teachings include a deep understanding of nature. Whatever story followed discussing Buddhism ethics or Buddha’s teachings are not essential when talking about how he was transformed from a prince to become Buddha, as there are many different stories about how the young Prince Siddhartha finally 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 obviously 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 and 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, 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, but 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 old 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 Siddhartha experienced living inside the castle could not any entertainment, pleasure, harem, storytellers, clothes, or luxury stops him from. Siddhartha despite his desire to find out got married to a beautiful girl Yashodara maybe this could stop his never-ending search, not even the beauty of Yashodara could fill the emptiness. Siddhartha still a young man he soon realized escaping the golden cage was a possibility; he knew deep inside the only solution to break free from the emptiness he felt, was escaping 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 finest horse and most loyal servant. Finally, outside the gates of the castle, Siddhartha gave his loyal 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.

We cannot find happiness in material illusion

Buddha saw through the illusion of entertainment and materialism as non-existence. His lifestyle made him see through the matrix and layers of Samaras illusions that before had hidden the truth dissolved, suddenly he understood the concept of starvation, sickness and death. Understood life was suffering and from that point, his jailkeeper sat him free, his felt no desire and Siddhartha understood material wealth could not bring permanent happiness. He realized a world dominated by pure entertainment was an optic illusion it took the focus away from seeing the world as it! Disturbed his mind from clearness and stability. The noise-illusion had confused his mind for long, impossible find a happier state. The permanent noise hard or impossible to stop, since never experience silence it feels unpleasant and fears escape emptiness. Nevertheless, the hunger Prince Siddhartha felt living the ascetic life without any possessions did not bring him happiness as reflected previously.

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. Nevertheless, 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 hunger 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 he looked the suffering, hunger, war, poorness diseases, and death followed. How could he ever find the key to unlocking happiness? Siddhartha was now a wanderer, drifted around for years. He had not achieved the happiness he sought after. However, he was no longer in the hopeless situation being wealthy nor poor. During Buddha’s time in Nepal and northern India meditation an important part of everyday life.

The Middle Way

Felling stronger after leaving the ascetic lifestyle, Siddhartha gained better insight from his daily meditations, the increased capacity from no longer starvation he settled by the riverside in Bihar district of India. He felt grounded started working as a boatman carrying humans, animals and goods across the river, the work calmed his mind. By the river Siddhartha had a simple life, yet more comfortable, after a while, he did not pay attention to his previous and endless search for happiness. In harmony with nature in the countryside, he found inner peace. Siddhartha became almost possessed with a tree near the riverside; The tree was Ashvattha (comes from Sanskrit means the names of Shiva and Vishnu; terms, shva (tomorrow) and stha (that which remains) by most people known as a Bodhi (Pali means awakening or enlighten) tree and it described Siddhartha’s spiritual condition, awareness and presence.

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 eternal speed, every wave acted differently, looped, hurtled and disappeared with the constant flow. It reminded him of endless lifetimes, cycles of birth and death. He discovered how everything apparently 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 is interconnected. All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone, everything is in relation to everything else.

Everything interconnected

Siddhartha visualized a stream of endless lives attached to the wave of emotions and energy. With his hands still in the river, he constantly felt the less resistance if the hands was only following the stream, water floated around and easily without the hand fight back; almost like non-existent and without substance. Siddhartha realized rather than fighting against forcing the hands to move towards the stream he let go. Lightweight and comfortable to move without any resistance the arm was floating in balance.

Deep meditation

Siddhartha took the wisdom and experience he learned sitting by the riverside deep within his meditation, the experience and insight took Siddhartha deep into a meditative state that lasted for days, during the deepness he was given teachings from previous Dharma where he finally became enlightened. Siddhartha became Buddha finally free from Samsara and entered Nirvana. Buddha understood visions of 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 suffering 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


  • The Four Noble Truths
    • All existence is suffering.
    • Suffering is caused by craving.
    • Suffering can have an end.
    • The way to the end of 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, the basic is simple The Four Noble Truths. It easy, understandable and simple, nevertheless it requires a daily practice. We have already entered the age of global warming, we can learn to live with it, and with the time reverse the process. This can merely happen if we are willing to follow certain steps.

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 were not made for the benefit of humans alone, there are more than ten million species living around us with the same rights to be here. Nature was not made for humans, humans were made for nature. Buddha lived interconnected within nature until he died at the age of. His understanding of the middle way, means do not harvest more than needed included material wealth, money and finally Earth belongs to all living, not corporations or any capitalist.


The benefits of developing compassion for all beings, rich and poor as they suffer in various ways is important. Buddha talked about the middle way, for example, some have too little others too much. To change our lifestyle is not easy as material wealth has a hold on us, nevertheless necessary. 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 positive action can result in even more positivism and the other way if the actions performed are negative. 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; they are traced back to a proximate or remote past. Therefore, what we are doing now is an important part for future generations inheriting Earth; is it right to destroy the environment so our children experience hunger, natural disasters, and lack of global resources? We are responsible for our own actions to create a better future. Karma is the fruits of past actions, 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
  • Nature as a way of life or a lifestyle
  • Buddhism is the middle way of Buddhist economics. Simplicity and non-violence is the keywords
  • 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 be protected in their existence; that all creation has the right to feel the dignity of life and have equal right to exist in the environment as we have
  • Understand that everything is connected.
  • Develop Eco compassion through an understanding that other people and living beings might suffer or cause negative environmental impact because of the actions we chose to perform
  • Karma, personal responsibility to perform positive actions, for example, a bicycle to work instead of driving. This can create large positive effects on other people, now or in the future


Sources and Useful Information (Click and Open)
  • 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
  • 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

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