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Categories: Opinion

Waiting for the Morning Dew Drop on the Grass: Reflections on Buddhist Philosophical view of Ecology.

In this brief article I will limit myself only towards discussing the philosophical approach to Ecology through lens of Buddhism. In classical traditions mainly two approaches are followed Deep Ecology and shallow Ecology. I will mainly connect more with Deep Ecology as I find it more relatable with engaged Buddhist traditions as introduced by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. I do not aim to criticize any other approaches but I feel that from a Buddhist perspective Deep Ecological approach suits the best.

The theory emphasizes more on the intrinsic value of nature which reflects that all living forms on Earth, which I may also call sentient beings as referred in Buddhist texts and traditions are a part of nature and there is no separate self, which implies that we in totality with nature have a potential value in our existence but it may be quite complex and doubtful if we try to value the resource potential of nature in terms of its usefulness to human beings separately.

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The basic proponent of Buddhist teachings is cessation of suffering which applies to all life forms in this earth and collective wellbeing or ‘interbeing’ as Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh advocated in 1980s.[1] K.T.S Sarao in his article mentions the fact very clearly that that deep Ecology promotes a sense of inclusion of all life forms where each form has a unique role to play in the Environment and we human beings should definitely assume our responsibilities to be in harmony with all other life forms in nature as moral agents. It’s not only about us human beings but what we should nurture is a collective vision of how in totality we are related to nature and how interrelated we are to other non-human animal life forms? As far as the intrinsic value approach is concerned I will again restrict myself just to philosophical views and will not asses the theory using Buddhist Economics as a tool in this small article.

Rise in demand for material security and luxuries often leads to competition among states and corporations in terms of achieving economies of scale and lowering per unit production costs through greater set up of production infrastructure that in turn leads to greater extraction of resources.  However in such an interaction between free capitalistic market mechanism and Environmental preservation it is very necessary to admit the fact that Science and technology is definitely required to achieve economic growth but what is more important is to use it for eradication of poverty, better viability of basic needs and to use technology with a humanitarian approach.

Though to some extent materialistic prosperity should be emphasized but not in isolation but with an integrated approach along with cultural, spiritual and anthropological dimensions. In this regard what should be highlighted is the localized and small scale use of technologies to avoid mass extraction of resources and promote more local consumption and supply of products. This can be viewed as in solidarity with the middle path view of Buddhism.[2]

Now taking a deeper look into the meaning of Ecological suffering under the shadow of Buddhism, it implies the several damages that are happening to nature to satisfy unlimited human want and how we can develop absolute measures to integrate deep rooted cultural norms, human faith, believes and spirituality in our dealings with nature? Every one of us as individuals can act as change agents being much more compassionate towards our natural environment and we may adopt eco friendly techniques to address our human materialistic needs and adhere to more organic and ethical consumption.

The basic nature of Buddhism deals with the cessation of the root causes of suffering, by acknowledging the fact that suffering exists.  This can be achieved by mindfulness at individual level and through mindful usage of natural resources to the minimum that is needed to cover basic needs is a ray of hope from a Buddhist perspective.[3] In the modern society one may question that how Buddhist traditional views can cater to the Ecological needs but it has always been quiet obvious over that Buddhism can reconstruct itself and as rightly mentioned by author Rita Gross that it’s all about what in the present scenario Buddhism can offer as solutions to several Ecological crisis.

The concern is not to embrace technologies but how we manage our excessive want for consumption and excessive production of products catering luxuries more than need. Maximum utility with minimum range of consumption should be the ideal scenario. In this regard what can be a highlighting factor is the law of dependent origination according to the teachings of the historical Buddha. It highlights lack of independent existence and our interrelatedness that states that if one entity exists the others exist and if one ceases to exist the others also cease to exist.[4] The other principle that should be pondered upon is the principle of non duality which surely will help us to develop an integrated approach and stop the dual approach of considering human and nature as two different entities. Buddhism has thereby always highlighted on the aspect of sentient beings and it extends its karuna

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(love) and metta (compassion)towards all living forms on earth.[5]

The greatest challenge is to adopt the so-called middle path as one may ask that what the way out because in a 21st Century fast track society economic and technological advancement is the absolute necessity? How can the middle path in this regard reshape itself creating equilibrium between technology, Science, and environmental ethics? The only person that I can think of is Buddhist Economist E.F Schumacher who coined the term and advocated the principle of ‘Small is Beautiful.[6] A balanced materialism and integration of Happiness index in demand-supply mechanisms. By this word integration I mean developing a relative choice of consumption not at the stake of hampering the right and dignity of the existence of any living forms on Earth that provide us with the relevant resources for existence.

We should be what nature offers us in its own capacity and not extract forcibly resources that lead to ecological instability. I will restrict my discussion till this point in this blog since it’s just a medium of expression of a thought and not a research paper. I put the title of the blog article waiting for the Morning Dew Drop because it’s a wonderful sight to experience such, given the fact that the basic principle of life in accordance with Buddhism is impermanence and the dew deep will also disappear with the broad daylight heat. But it leaves a sense of joy in our mind and so is the concept of integration of Ecological Ethics and Buddhist principles which may be contradictory to several capitalistic theories but still we see a deep potential in the development of such compassionate approaches towards the conservation of Environment.


Notes.

[1] See ‘Ecology’ Section in https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/key-teachings/ Accessed on 14/06/2021 at 7:00 P.M .

[2] Professor K.T.S. Sarao, “Buddhist Quest For Deep Ecology” is an enlarged and modified version of the paper presented by Professor Sarao at the Indo-Korean International Seminar on  Buddhist Culture organized at New Delhi by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and Department of Buddhist Studies, Dongguk University, Seoul (S. Korea), 5-7 December, 2001 at New Delhi Accessed at http://du.ac.in/du/uploads/departments/BuddhistStudies/Study%20Material/Dr%20Nirja%20Sharma/203/11052020_203_BUDDHIST%20QUEST%20FOR%20DEEP%20ECOLOGY.PDF on 13/06/2021 at 6:00P.M

[3] Sulak Sivaraksa, “Ecological Suffering: From a Buddhist Perspective,” Buddhist-Christian Studies , 2014, Vol. 34 (2014), 147-153. Accessed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/24801360

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[4] Rita Gross, “Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethic,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion , Summer, 1997, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer, 1997): 333-353. Accessed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1465768.

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[5] Padmasiri De Silva, “ ‘Buddhism, Environment and the Human Future”  in UNDV Conference Volume Buddhist Approach To Environmental Crisis, The International Buddhist Conference on the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations 4-6th May 2552/ 2009, Thailand: 11-38.

[6] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia. “E.F. Schumacher.” Encyclopedia Britannica, August 31, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/biography/E-F-Schumacher. accessed on 15/06/2021 at 7:24 P.M 

REFERENCES

Book

Singh, Anand. Planet, Plants and Animals: Ecological Paradigms in Buddhism. New Delhi: Primus Books, 2019

Articles

De Silva, Padmasiri. “ ‘Buddhism, Environment and the Human Future” in UNDV Conference Volume Buddhist Approach To Environmental Crisis, The International Buddhist Conference on the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations 4-6th May 2552/ 2009, Thailand: 11- 38.

Gross, Rita M. “Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethic,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, summer, 1997, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer, 1997):  333-353. Accessed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1465768.

Sivaraksa, Sulak. “Ecological Suffering: From a Buddhist Perspective,” Buddhist-Christian Studies, 2014, Vol. 34 (2014): 147-153. Accessed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/24801360.

Swearer, Donald K. “An Assessment of Buddhist Eco-Philosophy,” The Harvard Theological Review, Apr, 2006, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Apr., 2006): 123- 137. Accessed at https://www.jstor.org/stable/4125290.

Web Sources

1.Sarao, K.T.S. “Buddhist Quest For Deep Ecology” is an enlarged and modified version of the paper presented by Professor Sarao at the Indo-Korean International Seminar on Buddhist Culture organized at New Delhi by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and Department of Buddhist Studies, Dongguk University, Seoul (S. Korea), 5-7 December, 2001 at New Delhi Accessed at http://du.ac.in/du/uploads/departments/BuddhistStudies/Study%20Material/Dr%20Nirja%20Sharma/203/11052020_203_BUDDHIST%20QUEST%20FOR%20DEEP%20ECOLOGY.PDF on 13/06/2021 at 6:00P.M

2. ‘Ecology’ Section in https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/key-teachings/ Accessed on 14/06/2021 at 7:00 P.M.

About Author: Sourajit Ghosh or Rudra Sourajit Ghosh is a Student of Buddhism at Nalanda University, Rajgir, India. He holds an M.A in Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions from the same University and holds a M.Com degree (Finance) from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata (Autonomous). He also holds a Diploma in Nalanda Philosophy Studies International from Tibet House, Delhi, Cultural Center of HH The Dalai Lama.He is mainly interested in Gender Studies in Buddhism, Buddhist Archeology, Buddhist Ecology and Buddhist Economics.

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Scientific Monk is an initiative to establish logical temperament in Yoga, Meditation, and Mysticism. Most of our content follows logical inferences based on the Indian System of Pramanas except for art, stories, epics, and opinion.

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