Environmental protection is one of the urgent problems facing
mankind today. That concern has been manifested in the the World
Environment Day on 5 June 1996. All scientists, economists, philosophers,
researchers through newspapers, television, radio, etc. analysed
and were alarmed on the seious adverse impacts of toxic substances
on the living environment of human, animals, and vegetation. It
is ironic that man is the one who pollutes his own health, and
kill the life of all beings in this Earth. The risk threatening
our ecology is not minor. It leads to many mearures to prevent
or minimise the pollution, of world-wide scale, including the
ten important International Coventions to protect the environment.
The awareness of protecting life and living environment has been
generated in recent time. However, in Buddhism, it is one of the
main basic laws which was set out by the Buddha some 25 centuries
ago for his students to follow.
In fact, Buddhism represents the way of compassion. The Buddha
manifested a complete compassion and is respectfully seen as the
compasionate protector of all beings. He taught that for those
who wishes to follow his Path should pratice loving-kindness,
not to harm the life of all beings - not only to protect mankind,
but also to protect animals and vegetation. With his perfect wisdom,
He saw all beings in the universe were equal in nature, and in
this phenomenal world, lives of all human and animals were inter-related,
mutually developing, ans inseparable.
However, men have seen themselves as the smartest species of all
beings. They have misused and abused their power and selfishly
destroyed these species of animals, those forests and mountains,
natural resources, ... and finally reaping the results of destroyed
living environment of their own. All those damages and destructions
to the ecology up to an alarming level are originated from the
unwholesome and greedy mind of mankind. While the animals are
seen as low-level beings, however fearsome as tigers and wolves
may be, they never detroy the nature as badly as done by human.
Only human who cause the most devastating destruction in the Earth.
The external environment is seriously polluted because the internal
environment in the mind is seriously damaged. The bottomless greed
has pushed mankind to satisfy excessive and unnecessary demands,
and take them into endless competitions, leading to self-destruction
and environmental damage. Contrasting to the unwholesome and greedy
mind is the spirit of simple living and contentment by those who
practise the Buddha's teaching.
Living in contentment does not mean the elimination of desire
of knowledge and truth, but to live in harmony with all beings
and with nature. On that basis, those who understand the Buddha's
teaching will limit their selfishness, to live in harmony with
nature, without harming the environment. They will see what should
be explored and to what level, what should be protected for future
use by the next generations and other beings. Excessive greed
to possess everything for themselves, or for their own group,
has make men becoming blind. They are prepared to fight, make
war, causing deaths, disease, starvation, destruction of life
of all species, gradually worsening the living environment. By
all means, they try to maximise their profits, without being concerned
of the negative impact of unplanned exploitation leading to depletion
of natural resources, discharge toxics into the air, water, earth,
leading to environmental pollution, destroying the ecological
For thousand years, the Buddhist forest monateries have manifested
a harmonious living with nature, being established in the mountains,
in the forests. Tranquil life in the forest helped Buddhist practitioners
to improved their inner mind, and at the same time, they also
worked for the protection of animals living in the area. With
loving and tolerant heart, the Buddhists live with natural vegetation,
wild animals in the forest in harmony and for mutual survival.
Men used oxygen partly discharged by trees, live by their shadows,
and in return, men looked after the trees. Wild animals may come
to eat crops planted by the temple without running the risk to
be killed. The harmonious living of Buddhism is completely different
from the competitive, opposing living and fighting against the
nature as seen in the West and also in an increasing number of
countries in the East, which tend to destruction for selfish gains.
Today, we can still see the landscape of a number of temples and
meditation retreats in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, ... located in
native forests, with green vegetation, clean and refreshing ponds
and lakes, clean air, and a variety of species living in peace.
These are locations which attract people from all directions coming
to enjoy the nature, finding peace of mind, getting away from
noisy and polluted places.
I think it is still not too late for all religions, all strata
of the society and all nations to come together, jointly participate
in the protection of the environment for all living species, based
on the harmonious model which Buddhism always advocates.
Note: Ven. T.T.Q. is a Buddhist monk and Chief Editor of a
leading Buddhist magazine in Vietnam