Buddhism, an ally in the protection of the environment

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Carrying both a discourse of "universal compassion" and a practice accordingly, notably through meditation, Buddhism delivers a particularly useful lesson when confronting the ecological crisis, by questioning the relationship humans with the rest of the living world. Various movements throughout the world are also concretely involved in this battle. Explanations.

“We are not defending nature, we are Nature defending itself”. Could the climate justice movement have drawn some of its inspiration from Buddhists? Having become a unifying mantra for demonstrations against climate change, in the four corners of the globe, this slogan indeed takes up an essential principle of Buddhism: the unity of all things, and more particularly the non-duality of life and the environment.

“This interdependence is the very foundation of Buddhist teachings, deciphers Amy Hollowell, Zen Master and founder of the Wild Flower center in Paris. This helps to fight against this idea of ​​being a special, fixed and solid Self, separate from others. It is from this illusion that the origin of most of our evils and our environmental disasters arises”. Proof is largely made, today, of this interdependence in the case of global warming, for which the first victims are rarely the first responsible... In other words, considering one's view of one's neighbor also means considering one's view of one's environment. .

In fact, Buddhism proves to be a rich source of reflection on the major issues of the ecological crisis. In particular because the idea of ​​nature is omnipresent there, in its teaching: "By defending the respect of all life, human as animal or vegetable, with the intention of causing no harm to it, Buddhism can very easily be associated with ecology, explains Martine Batchelor, co-author of a book in English on the subject, entitled Buddhism and Ecology. Moreover, there were already texts of a very ecological nature in the time of Buddha”.

Buddhism and its gestures protecting the environment

2500 years later, the then president of the Union Bouddhiste de France, Olivier Wang Genh, recalled this in his own way, during a speech delivered to the Senate in May 2015, on the occasion of a symposium preparing the event of COP 21: “The first observation that the Buddha made was that everything, absolutely everything in the universe and beyond, has an impermanent nature. That is to say, nothing is stable, nothing is fixed, nothing lasts indefinitely. […] To become fully aware of this impermanence is to stop acting as if natural resources were eternal”.

On a daily basis, Buddhist practice goes hand in hand with a critique of the consumer society. “Distinguishing between one's desire and one's need is at the heart of the Buddhist approach. Modern Buddhism therefore questions this model of society which depletes our resources and arouses useless greed”. Concretely, this Buddhist practice is often associated with a set of gestures protecting the environment: vegetarianism, permaculture, self-sufficiency or reduction of consumption and waste, most of the major Buddhist places respect environmentally responsible and coherent rules, like the plum center, founded in Périgord by the monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

“The first observation the Buddha made was that everything, absolutely everything in the universe and beyond, has an impermanent nature. To become fully aware of this impermanence is to stop acting as if natural resources were eternal”. Olivier Wang Genh, president of the Buddhist Union of France

Several other movements also campaign, around the world, to defend the causes of nature. Whether it is the famous monks of the forest in Thailand, around the figure of Phra Prachak, Joanna Macy with her work around nuclear power or the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, all of them illustrate the diversity of Buddhist involvement in environmental concerns. . In France, the Éclaireurs de la Nature, a Buddhist scouting movement launched in 2007 following a meeting with Pierre Rabhi and which today brings together more than 750 young people, testifies to the real interest of new generations in these questions. . The Lungta Buddhist centre, based in the Val de Marne, is also organizing a seminar on the subject, entitled "Environment and Buddhism", on Saturday 2 March.

And for those who live through all these challenges with the feeling of anxiety that they can legitimately arouse, meditation is there to help deal with them. “In the United States or in Thailand, there are special retreats for activists, who sometimes become exhausted in their fight. Meditation can help them regain stability and lucidity”, says Martine Batchelor, who teaches meditation herself, “which helps us to develop wisdom and compassion so that this is beneficial to ourselves and to others”. Even more, meditation also remains a formidable tool for spiritual awakening: "meditation is a direct experience, without mediation, of another perception of things", sums up Amy Hollowell. In this, it proves to be invaluable in rehabilitating this quest for harmony between humans and the rest of the living world. But also to carry the message of hope and of optimism which must accompany this commitment to a fairer and more sustainable world

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.

Leave comments