A Buddhist Perspective on Ecological Crisis and Inpidual Social Responsibility
Editor”s note: This article was previously published in the 10th issue of the now retired Bodhi Journal in December 2008. It has been republished with some minor formatting changes.
A – Aṅguttara Nikāya
D – Dīgha NIkāya
DH – Dhammapada
Vin – Vinaya Pițaka
S – Saṃyutta Nikāya
Kh – Khuddhaka Nikāya
The term ecology dates back to 19th century, introduced by the German biologist Ernst Heinrich Philip Haeckel (1834-1919) which he used to refer to a study of organism in the environment. An ecologist named Woodbury defines ecology as “a science which investigates organisms in relation to their environment: a philosophy in which the world of life is interpreted in terms of natural process (Principles of general ecology). In other words, the term Ecology can be considered as the study of the inter-connectedness of the living things.
The ecosystem in Buddhist perspective is seeing things in their relatedness and that naturally implies a deeper understanding of the conditioned co-production, seeing things not as beings but as patterns of relatedness. In other words, the modern theory of the relatedness of man with its surrounding ecosystem totally concurs with the fundamental Buddhist teaching of Dependent co-arising. Nature is the first teacher of man. We cannot porce man from the nature and its surrounding living creatures. Therefore, we need to see ourselves not as isolated skinned and capsulated egos but as part of the larger body of the Earth.
Man, animal and other creatures as well as the natural resources depended on one another from the start. Everything on earth had served one way or other for living and survival. We humans are related to or made entirely of non-human elements like natural greeneries, earth, water, clouds, sunshine etc. which make us a part of the nature. For the long lasting survival of mankind, the ecosystem needs to be respected highly and preserved. Protecting human life is not possible without also protecting the lives of animals, plants, and minerals. All living sentient beings in one way or another are totally interdependent towards each other for their own survival.
Natural environment, like forests and plant life, serves men and wildlife with numerous benefits, social, economical and environmental. Many daily needs like papers and timbers as well as minerals, and petroleum are forest-provided. It shelters the wildlife habitat and provides recreational opportunities. Vegetables and plants are taken as food by man. The animals are hunted for food as well. Various plants and roots are used as medicinal drugs for healing purposes. It also plays a critical role in the management of global climate. The leaves of trees and plants absorb the deadly and polluted gases like carbon-dioxide which is responsible for global warming and climate change and release oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. The trees block the polluted air and rainwater making them settled. They help the air get purified and maintain an even flow of water to rivers and lakes preventing flood holding the soil still.
The relationship between the plant life and animals is mutual. Men, animals (i.e. baboons, monkey squirrels), nectar collecting birds (i.e. humming birds, bats, sunbirds) and insects (i.e. ants, bees, flies) help plants in pollinations by indirect ways of carrying the seeds from one place to another and spreading them out. Various types of termites play their part for the enrichment of the soils by the woody material works and building termite-mounds with large amount of dead leaves, which circulate fresh nutriment to the plants, and help the soil, get ferti…
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