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Buddhism and Environmental Protection


来源:世界佛教论坛论文集   作者:Saddhamma Kovida
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Buddhism and Environmental Protection

Triratna Mananadhar "Saddhamma Kovida"

Environment is the aggregate of surrounding things. The surrounding things may be air, water, minerals, organism etc. It includes social and cultural forces that shape a life of person or entire population[ Random House Webster's Dictionary, (New York: Random House, 1991), P 447]. Good environment is essential for a balanced life. Lack of environmental protection due to different types of pollution threatens the life of the people. Environmental protection generally relates to the protection of physical surroundings i.e. forest, trees, plants, wetlands, animals etc. But overall environmental protection also needs to include the social, psychological and the moral values. With out protecting those aspects complete environmental protection will not possible. Therefore it is simultaneous protection of surrounding of out side and the norms, morality and inner heart of people. Only then the peace and prosperity will be possible benefiting the universe
Now a day's world is facing serious problems of environmental destruction. Most of the forests, trees and plants are destroyed causing disappearance of several types of rare. Smoke and dust from the chimney of Industry is making air pollution. Rivers and seas are getting polluted from the human and industrial waste. Increment of carbon dioxide is depleting ozone layer, creating acid rains in several places, soil is losing nitrogen, global warming is increasing etc. In this way deteriorating total environment of the world is destructing health and wealth of the human beings. People expert in this field are threatening that the environment destruction will result bad consequences as it increase land slide, flood, scarce of water, lack of oxygen, disturbance in rain etc. So people are indeed needed to be aware of the consequences of environment destruction. The people are feeling proper knowledge and education is inherent for them in making conscious in protecting environment to make the earth a safe place to live in.
Now a day's protection of environment is becoming the important agenda for government and people. Several organizations are emerging for making aware about the protection of environment. But they focus only to the protection of physical environment and pay less attention toward the role of bad mentality. They are not aware that environmental destruction in not merely cause of technological development but also due to the ego centeredness of people. So it is getting late to be aware also on the importance of protecting mental factor for environmental protection. An attempt is made here to discuss on the theme with help of Buddha's theory and practice.
Buddha a great teacher can be said as the pioneer in protection of the physical as well as mental environment. According to Buddha actual up-grading the life of people is possible only by protecting physical and mental environment of the people.
Buddha has given importance of proper environment to get success in physical as well as spiritual development. According to him the overall development of a people start from the environment he is living in. In Mangala (Auspice) sutta, Buddha had said that "patirupa desh vaso ca etam mangala mutttamam"[ Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda - Daily Buddhist Devotions,( Kualalampur: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1993), P 96] The meaning is ''It is auspice to live at the proper place''. Proper place here means the place with good environment. Good environment include less polluted place, with protection of nature, having necessary opportunity of good education, medical cure, employment facilities and opportunity of spiritual practice. It is obvious that one can live and get success easily physically as well as spiritually, if he is inhabitants of good environment.
Generally accumulated karma is the decisive force in shaping the life style of a person. But good environment also plays vital role in making good or bad life. The instance can be given of Angulimala or Ahinsaka who despite of having the quality to attain arhathood, became a murderer of 999 people due to the bad environment and company with bad friends in the school[ Narada - The Buddha and His Teachings, (Malaysia: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1997), pp. 221-223]. Similarly the instance of a son of multimillionaire of Varanashi[ N'athmal Tatiya - Dhammapada Atthakatha-vol 2,I (Nalanda: Navanalanda Publications, 1996), P 142] who according to Buddha had capable to achieve arhathood or setthi of that country if he could make effort at proper time, but due to the lack of good environment and good company became a beggar in the street. In this way good and proper environment plays vital role in getting success in life. So protection of environment that makes welfare of self and other is taken as a pious work in Buddhism.

Buddha and Environment
Buddha was born under the tree at Lumbini garden. Mahamaya devi gave birth to Siddhartha only after holding a branch of tree. Siddharth at 35 year's old attained enlightenment under a tree which became popular in the name of Bodhi tree (tree of enlightenment). After getting enlightenment he became so grateful to the Boddhi tree that he with profound gratitude gazed Bodhitree with motion less eyes for one whole week[ Op.cit, f.n. 3 P 50]. Similarly he delivered first sermon to five hermits under the tree and took last respiration between two Sal trees of kushinara. In this way several events of Buddha can be seen taken place under the tree. It shows there is near relation between Buddha and trees in Buddha's life.
In the course of 45 years discourse Buddha had given several teachings on the need of environment protection. Buddha not only inspired people to preserve environment, he himself had shown the activities for preserving it. Buddha emphasized not only to abate physical pollution which is cause due to destruction of physical environment, he emphasized also to protect social psychological and moral environment.
The paper intends to survey the teachings of Buddha on the protection of environment that will inspire the people in protection of it which will help to make world a pleasant place to live in.

Buddha's concerned toward protection of physical environment
Physical environment is concerned to the Physical surroundings. It includes trees, water, air etc. Buddha had realized the important of tree for people. There are several teachings of the protection of trees in the Buddhist literature as in Vinaya pitaka, Jataka, Dhammapada, petavatthu etc. There are several rules in Vinaya pitaka which prohibit monks to make pollutions. In the Bhutagamavagga pacittiakanda[ Pacittiya Pali, (Igatpuri: Vipassana Research Institute, 1998), P 52], Monks are prohibited to cut the trees.
Monks and nuns are not allowed to excrete stool and urine in the green grass and into the water. Among pacittiya 162, Bhikkhunis are prohibited to throw discretion and dust in from the window and also should not throw those things in the field full with crops[ Bhikkhu Dhirsumedho - Tipitakaya Saar, (Kathmandu: Suganda Vihar, 2002), P 496]. Sariputta the chief disciple of Buddha used to go out for alms round only after cleaning toilets and sweeping rooms.
Buddha once laid down a rule forbidding the exercise of supernatural powers by monks following on the miracle performed by Pindola Bharadvaja. Then heretics went about saying that they would perform no miracles except with the Buddha. King Bimbisara reported this to the Buddha, who at once accepted the challenge, explaining that the rule was for his disciples and did not apply to himself. He therefore, went to Savatthi, the place where all Buddhas performed the Miracle. In reply to King, Buddha said he would perform the miracles at the foot of the Gandaba-tree on the full-moon day of Asadha. The heretics therefore uprooted all trees for one league around, but on the promised day Buddha received mango offered by Ganda. After consuming mango Buddha planted the seed and instantly developed as a marvelous tree where Buddha performed miracle of the "double appearances"[ G.P. Malalasekera - Dictionary of Pali Proper Names-vol 2, (New Delhi: Munshiram Manohar Lal Publisher's (P.) Ltd., 1983), pp 682-683]. This incidence of making effort to save tree shows Buddha's love to nature and is against cutting tree.
In Dhamma pada monks are instructed to live in the village with out disturbing the people and with out making pollution. In this regard Buddha had said:
Yatha pi bhamaro puppham
vannagandham ahethayam
Paliti rasam adaya
evam game muni care[ Narada - The Dhammapada, (Taiwan: The Corporate Buddha Educational Foundation, 1993), P 53]
It means:
As a bee without harming the flower, its color or scent, flies away, collecting only the honey, even so should the sage wander in the village.
The great concerned of Buddha in the protection of tree is also depicted in this verse of Dhamma pada where Buddha had said:
Vanam chindatha ma rukkham[ Op.cit, f.n. 8, P 228]
It means: Cut down the unnecessary brush (of the passion) but not a single tree. It has a great significant meaning in the sense that we should protect trees from unnecessary and unwanted bushes and grass which may hamper actual growth of the trees. It also signifies that we should cleanse impurities of our mind to achieve purity.
The instance of Ankura petavatthu of khuddaka nikaya also clears the Buddhist literature is much more devoted for protection of trees. In this petavatthu a trader named Ankur once took a caravan of a thousand carts from Dvaravati to Kamboja, led by himself and a brahmin colleague. On the way their water supply fails, but they are befriended by a yakkha of great power, who, in his previous life, had been one of Ankura's trusted and loyal servants. The Brahmin noticing the powerful action of yakkha proposed him to take back to dvaravati for getting benefit from him. But other kind hearted persons did not accept the proposal of Brahmin saying that one who had served by providing water at the crisis should not be ill treated. In course of giving example, Brahmin said as a tree which gives shade and fruits, if necessary should also be cut down similarly the yakkha should be taken to the city in order to get benefit from him. But several people rejected his argument and said cutting the tree that gives shade and fruit is showing ungrateful so it should not be cut down rather it should be protected[ Ibid vol 1, pp 15-16].
Certain trees are taken as deities in Jataka[ Jataka is the text of Khuddaka Nikaya of Sutta Pitaka constisting the stories of 550 Previous Birth of Bodhisattva.]. In Jataka there are several stories of Bodhisattva born as a Brikshye devata (tree sprite) which is actually a tree. According to Buddha one can be a tree sprite only when he accumulates pious by performing wholesome deed in the human life. There are more than a couple dozen births taken by Bodhisatva as a tree sprite.

Conservation of animals
There are also several discourses for preservation of animals and bird in Buddha's teachings. Animals and Birds are given equal important in the Buddhist literature.Buddha had taken several births as animals and birds and had performed several welfare activities for their community. Five precepts which are basic teachings of Buddha prohibit killing and slaughtering the animals. The Right lively hood of eight fold noble path prohibits to do trade of animals, meat etc. Monks also are not allowed to use the things made by bone, teeth and horn of an animals according to Ratana vagga pacittiya kanda[ Ibid pp. 220-221]. There are several Jatakas in which Boddhisattva as a leader got success in getting abhayadana (right to live without fear) from king for animal community. Hunting was one of the entertainments of Kings but the king who comes in contact with Buddha could not be seen going in hunting. In this way Buddha had given great contribution for preservation of animals which is the part of environmental protection

Good physical environment for spiritual development
The main goal of Buddha's teachings is to get free from defilement and bondage by attaining enlightenment. One can achieve enlightenment only when sufficient effort is done. Buddha had shown the clear path to attain enlightenment or Nibbana. It is making effort to practice of Sila (morality), Samadhi (concentration), and Panna(wisdom). Specifically the only one path that makes the people free from the bondage is practice of Satipatthana[ Ten Suttas from Digha Nikaya, (Rangoon: Burma Pitaka Association, 1984), P 307] or Vipassana which is called Buddhist meditation. For practicing this type of meditation good physical environment is essential. Buddha had said good environment is needed for the proper practice of meditation. The Buddha, Arahats and other Bhikkhus regard the tranquil, calm and quiet environment of the forests as an ideal site for meditation. Buddha is Satipatthana sutta had traced the proper place may be at the forest (arranna gato), under the tree (rukkhamula), calm and quiet place (sunnyagara) etc. Buddha also had attained enlightement in the Uruvela forest of Gaya under Bodhi tree.
In this way the forest, trees are the place where one can practice for the liberation. So Buddha had given more important to protect those places.
Preservation of Mental pollution
As stated earlier mental pollution is also a significant factor that effects the environment. It is intangible things but has great effect in making good and bad environment. Buddha's teachings emphasize to make good mentality in order to get peace of mind. The first verse of Dhammapada states mind as the forerunner of states. Mind is chief; mind -made are they. All the activities are based on the mind so if mind get polluted several problem would arise and if mind is free from pollution environment becomes so pure that every one will be able to enjoy calm and peace[ Op. cit. f.n. 8, P 1].
Buddha's had spent whole life in teaching how to develop good mind. According to him the cause of suffering is the polluted mind and to get free from it one should be free from the polluted mind. Cakka vatti sihanada sutta[ Op. cit. f.n. 15, pp. 355-365] of Digha Nikaya points out a close link between man's morals and the natural resources available to him. It says that man's moral deterioration accelerates the process of change in nature bringing adverse effects on human well being and happiness. Cittena Niyati Loko is a Buddhist theme, which means the world is governed by mind. Human mind dominated by greed, hatred and delusion produces pollution within and outside. Generosity, compassion, loving-kindness (Metta), altruistic joy and wisdom produce purity inside and outside of human mind. In abhidhamma Buddha had classified the mind into 89 and 121 in number and the classification is done according to the mental factors which is 52 in number. Mind gets polluted due to the bad mental factors which are called ashovana chetasika. The ashovana or akusala cetasika makes the mind impure creating impure environment pollution. Following are the 14 unwholesome cetasika that creates mental pollution:
Moha - Ignorance
Ahirika- Lack of moral shame
Anotappa-Lack of dread
Lova - greed
Dristi-Wrong view
Maan-InfatuationDvesh - Anger
Irshya - Jealous
Maccharia-Stinginess, Avarice
KukuChha-Uneasiness of conscience
Vicikichha -Sceptical doubt[ Nyanatiloka - Buddhist Dictionary,(Singapore: Singapore Buddhist Meditation Center, 1946), P 39]
Those above mental factors are emerged in the mind of people making the whole environment with polluted mental vibration. Peoples full of those types of mentality destroy the peace and prosperity of the society. Such type of people every time creates the tense and conflict situation which eventually makes quarreling, vandalizing. Person who comes in contact with such environment become unhappy and become unproductive. The whole teachings of Buddha are concentrated to get rid from that unwholesome mentality and to produce positive vibration in the environment.

Delightful environment through good mentality
Buddha had said that good or bad environment is also the product of the vibration produced by people living at the place. Good vibration is produced by the people who are free from defilements; the place would be cheerful and peaceful where the saintly person with out defilement lives. It is because each and every person produces mental vibration in the atmosphere creating good or bad environment. So the place would be delightful if there are people living with good vibration and vice versa.
Buddha in Dhammapada had uttered the verse in this respect as:
Game va yadi va ranne
ninne va yadi va thale
Yattharahanto viharanti
tam bhumim ramaneyyakam[ Op. cit. f.n. 8, P 93]
This means:
Whether in village or in forest, in vale or on hill, wherever Arahants dwell, - delightful indeed, is that spot.
According to Buddha mental vibration has powerful effect in making the environment delightful. Only making good environment physically is not sufficient, people inhabitants should also possess good mentality in order to make the place delightful. One can't live happily and peacefully at that place if the majority of people there are full of anger, hatred and illusions. But people even with full of tension can feel happy and peace if the place is full with loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. In this way a person with good mentality can contribute for the good environment in the society.

In this way good environment is the aggregate of both physical as well as mental environment. Only protection of physical environment is insufficient and not a complete protection of environment. In Buddha's teachings there are several discourses of protection of not only of physical environment. It also has focused on the need of protecting mental environment. Buddha's teachings if is securitized properly it reveals the protection the society from the pollution that could be from the Kaya (body), Vacana (speech), and Mana (mind). Buddha had inspired to make good environment because it helps to get success in social life, economic life and spiritual life. If the teachings of Buddha are propagated properly the problem of environmental destruction can be minimized significantly.




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