Buddhism and nature

- through Francois Leclercq

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Anam Thoubten Rinpoche

Imagine yourself sitting at the foot of Mount Kailash, the summit of which is gently enveloped by an orange-tinged sunset. Almost everyone would feel awestruck by the magic of nature and would have no difficulty surrendering to such a sacred or indescribable mystery, whether one is spiritual or not. This large mountain nestled in the highlands of Tibet is considered sacred from its summit to its base. Tantric Buddhists and Hindus come from far and wide to purify their minds and bless their hearts with the power of seeing its sacredness, which resides in the eyes of devotees who believe it to be an abode of the divine. This worship is the act of witnessing the sacred in nature, not just in man-made totems, temples, scriptures, and statues.

The question is whether the sacred resides only in these chosen places or whether all of nature is sacred? If the sacred resides only within demarcated spatial boundaries, then most areas of nature are not sacred. What impact would such a perspective have on our relationship with the natural world? Would this bring harmony or conflict?

Instead of seeing the sacred only in particular natural places, we must try to sense that the sacred is found everywhere, in every forest, every river, every tree and even every leaf. This perception will have a benevolent impact, bringing healing and joy to our lives, linked to nature in the eternal knot of the interconnectedness of all things. Many people in Tibet believe that nature is not just a dead object that can be conquered and exploited, but that mountains, rivers and trees are the abode of Spirit. If they cut down a tree, they will not do it carelessly but with respect. Even today, when some Tibetans build a road in the mountains, they make a ceremonial offering to the mountain before digging the ground.

The modern, Western-led world, whose worldview is heavily influenced by science, is not known for viewing nature as sacred. For a long time, Western culture viewed nature as the property of man to conquer and exploit as much as possible, viewing it as an inanimate and soulless thing. This culture even views animals as soulless creatures given by the lord for the use of humanity, so there is little awareness of the idea of ​​slaughtering cows, pigs and horses for to feed themselves, or to use animals as a means of transport.

Tantric Buddhism has a very different view. He considers nature sacred. In her archetypal model, known as the Five Families of Buddhas, all elements – earth, water, fire, air and space – are considered female Buddhas. For example, Earth is considered Buddhalochana, intrinsically pure, free and blameless. Water is Mamaki, a female Buddha who is the most sublime of all the sublime. Tantric Buddhism teaches that the nature of all beings, including animals, has always been that of Buddha. Sometimes this can be very radical for the ordinary world mind that is trapped in an arbitrary system of hierarchy of living beings. A true Tantric Buddhist master would have no problem bowing to a rock, an ordinary person, or an animal. She might not do this in public to meet conventional standards. It is said that Dzogchen master Do Drubchen Jigme Trinley Odzer of Tibet said that he sometimes felt emotional at the thought of bowing to all beings he encountered on the road. The main doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism is the theory of Buddha nature, tathagatagarbha, or divinity which pervades all living beings. Some go so far as to assert that all things, including rocks and dust, are imbued with Buddha nature. Be that as it may, all beings, whatever their form or type of walking – on two legs or four legs – etc., are also considered Buddhas in their true nature. This view helps us learn to respect all animals, something that seems to be lacking in conventional Western religious teachings.

Taken from thichnhathanhfoundation.org

Many destructive marks due to not seeing the sacredness of nature are left everywhere. The examples of man's reckless actions are so numerous that they cannot be counted. One day, a group of us visited a majestic grove of redwoods nestled in a unique ecosystem near the coast of Northern California. These large, imposing trees are so splendid that they take your breath away and make you feel like you are walking into the land of spirits or magic. It can easily be considered a wonder of the world. One person began to tell the story of the grove based on what they had heard. He said there was a very old redwood tree, which was the largest among its peers. It sounded exquisitely majestic. Eventually it was felled for the timber trade. This story immediately made me sad. The men who cut it down probably did not see the sacredness or unbearable beauty of the tree. They had the choice not to pursue her. Perhaps they plunged into the intoxicating pride of being powerful by conquering this mighty tree that was the queen of the forest.

It's not about being against development and progress. The modern world has reached an unprecedented level of scientific and technological progress, which our ancestors could not even imagine. This has brought many benefits to each of us: we have no desire to change course and return to the way we lived centuries ago. It is about changing our mechanical and material attitude and learning to respect and see the sacredness of nature among all living beings. If humanity continues to lose itself in the mentality of exploiting nature, it will not only lead to environmental degradation, but we will all lose something truly precious: our spiritual connection with nature. It is time for us to revive the ancient wisdom that can open our eyes to recognize the sacredness of all things. We must hope for a great change in the consciousness of society in general.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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