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What does Daoism (Taoism) teach us about ecology?

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Taoism / DaoismWhat does Daoism (Taoism) teach us about ecology?

Four main principles of Daoism guide the relationship between humanity and nature:

1. Follow the Earth

The Dao De Jing says: 'Humanity follows the Earth, the Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Dao, and the Dao follows what is natural.' Daoists therefore obey the Earth. The Earth respects Heaven, Heaven abides by the Dao, and the Dao follows the natural course of everything. Humans should help everything grow according to its own way. We should cultivate the way of no-action and let nature be itself.

2. Harmony with nature

Taoism - the way of balanceIn Daoism, everything is composed of two opposite forces known as Yin and Yang. The two forces are in constant struggle within everything. When they reach harmony, the energy of life is created. Someone who understands this point will not exploit nature, but will treat it well and learn from it. It is obvious that in the long run, the excessive use of nature will bring about disaster, even the extinction of humanity.

3. Too much success

If the pursuit of development runs counter to the harmony and balance of nature, even if it is of great immediate interest and profit, people should restrain themselves from it. Insatiable human desire will lead to the over-exploitation of natural resources. To be too successful is to be on the path to defeat.

4. Affluence in bio-diversity

Daoism has a unique sense of value in that it judges affluence by the number of different species. If all things in the universe grow well, then a society is a community of affluence. If not, this kingdom is on the decline. This view encourages both government and people to take good care of nature. This thought is a special contribution by Daoism to the conservation of nature.


Buddhism and ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds

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Buddhism and ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds
Edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryuken Williams

Reviewed by Steven Heine

p. 136-138 Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection
of Dharma and Deeds
Philosophy East & West, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2001)

Buddhism-and-ecology-the-Buddhism and ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds    Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryuken Williams, is the first book in the series on "Religions of the World and Ecology" edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. The book series is an outgrowth of a series of conferences held from 1996 to 1998 at the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, funded primarily by the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation in addition to a variety of other sources. Each volume of the series is to be edited by Tucker along with a specialist in the respective tradition. By the time this review appears, several other volumes will have been published, including books on Hinduism and Confucianism. The aim of the series is to examine the similarities and differences in the attitudes of world religions to ecological issues in an era in which " f rom resource depletion and species extinction to pollution overload and toxic surplus, the planet is struggling against unprecedented assaults ... that are aggravated by population explosion, industrial growth, technological manipulation, and military proliferation heretofore unknown by the human community" (p. xv). The series editors hope to stimulate "scholars of religion to respond as engaged intellectuals with deepening creative reflection" (pp. xxx-xxxi) rather than remain as seemingly uninvolved armchair observers of the ongoing environmental crisis.

    Buddhism may be a likely candidate for the first religious tradition to be examined in the book series because it appears to have a special affinity with environmental concerns and causes for several reasons. The basic Buddhist philosophy of karmic causality and dependent origination stresses the interdependence of all sentient beings who participate in transmigration throughout the six realms; the nonduality of humans and nature; and the moral retribution that awaits those who violate the sanctity of existence. This nondualistic worldview is enhanced, especially in Mahayana Buddhism in East Asia, by interaction with the organic cosmology of indigenous Chinese religions based on yin-yang ideology, and the result is a pantheistic notion that, according to Lewis Lancaster, asserts that "(t)he rocks, trees, lotuses, streams, mountains -- all have Buddha-nature" (p. 13).


Buddhism as an Ecological Religion or a Religious Ecology

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Buddhist Faith Statement

Buddhist-MonkThis statement was prepared by Kevin Fossey, Buddhist educator and representative of Engaged Buddhism in Europe; Somdech Preah Maha Ghosananda, Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism; His Excellency Sri Kushok Bakula, 20th Reincarnation of the Buddha’s Disciple Bakula, head of Ladakhi Buddhism, and initial rebuilder of Mongolian Buddhism; and Venerable Nhem Kim Teng, Patriarch of Vietnamese Buddhism.


All Buddhist teachings and practice come under the heading of Dharma, which means Truth and the path to Truth. The word Dharma also means “phenomena,” and in this way we can consider everything to be within the sphere of the teachings. All outer and inner phenomena, the mind and its surrounding environment, are understood to be inseparable and interdependent. In his own lifetime the Buddha came to understand that the notion that one exists as an isolated entity is an illusion. All things are interrelated; we are interconnected and do not have autonomous existence. Buddha said, “This is because that is; this is not because that is not; this is born because that is born; this dies because that dies.” The health of the whole is inseparably linked with the health of the parts, and the health of the parts is inseparably linked with the whole. Everything in life arises through causes and conditions.

Ecology and Buddhism

"Like the Buddha, we too should look around us and be observant, because everything in the world is ready to teach us. With even a little intuitive wisdom we will be able to see clearly through the ways of the world. We will come to understand that everything in the world is a teacher. Trees and vines, for example, can all reveal the true nature of reality. With wisdom there is no need to question anyone, no need to study. We can learn from Nature enough to be enlightened, because everything follows the way of Truth. It does not diverge from Truth." (Ajahn Chah, Forest Sangha Newsletter)

Many Buddhist monks such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, Venerable Kim Teng, and Venerable Phra Phrachak emphasize the natural relationship between deep ecology and Buddhism. According to the Vietnamese monk Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Buddhists believe that the reality of the interconnectedness of human beings, society and Nature will reveal itself more and more to us as we gradually recover—as we gradually cease to be possessed by anxiety, fear, and the dispersion of the mind. Among the three—human beings, society, and Nature—it is us who begin to effect change. But in order to effect change we must recover ourselves, one must be whole. Since this requires the kind of environment favorable to one’s healing, one must seek the kind of lifestyle that is free from the destruction of one’s humanness. Efforts to change the environment and to change oneself are both necessary. But we know how difficult it is to change the environment if individuals themselves are not in a state of equilibrium."

In order to protect the environment we must protect ourselves. We protect ourselves by opposing selfishness with generosity, ignorance with wisdom, and hatred with loving kindness. Selflessness, mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom are the essence of Buddhism. We train in Buddhist meditation which enables us to be aware of the effects of our actions, including those destructive to our environment. Mindfulness and clear comprehension are at the heart of Buddhist meditation. Peace is realized when we are mindful of each and every step.

In the words of Maha Ghosananda:

"When we respect the environment, then nature will be good to us. When our hearts are good, then the sky will be good to us. The trees are like our mother and father, they feed us, nourish us, and provide us with everything; the fruit, leaves, the branches, the trunk. They give us food and satisfy many of our needs. So we spread the Dharma (truth) of protecting ourselves and protecting our environment, which is the Dharma of the Buddha. When we accept that we are part of a great human family—that every being has the nature of Buddha—then we will sit, talk, make peace. I pray that this realization will spread throughout our troubled world and bring humankind and the earth to its fullest flowering. I pray that all of us will realize peace in this lifetime and save all beings from suffering.

"The suffering of the world has been deep. From this suffering comes great compassion. Great compassion makes a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart makes a peaceful person. A peaceful person makes a peaceful family. A peaceful family makes a peaceful community. A peaceful community makes a peaceful nation. A peaceful nation makes a peaceful world. May all beings live in happiness and peace."


Hinduism and Ecology

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Buddha - ecologyThe Hindu has no authority over creatures of the earth. God (Brahman) is the efficient cause and nature, Prakrti, is the material cause of the universe. However, this division is non-dualistic in nature. They are one in the same, or perhaps better stated, they are the one in the many and the many in the one.

Despite western assertion that Hinduism is polytheistic in nature, this sort of polytheism is actually monotheistic in nature. While the Divine is manifest in many, the many are all and no less than, but not equal to the Divine.

While Hindus are not given the sort of authority over nature and creation that Judeo-Christian God grants, they are subject to a higher and more authoritative resposiblity for creation. The most important aspect of this is the doctrine of ahimsa, non-violence. Faith in this doctrine is comprehensive, Yajnavalkya Smirti warns, "the wicked person who kills animals which are protected has to live in hell fire for the days equal to the number of hairs on the body of that animal."

This doctrine's most important aspect pertains to the belief that the Supreme Being incarnates in to forms of various species.

The Hindu belief in samsara, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth encompasses reincarnation into forms other than human. It is believed that one lives 84,000 lifetimes before one becomes a man. Each species is in this process of samsara until one attains moksha, liberation. The Hindu religious goal of moksha is not salvation, and does not require forgiveness, but detachment from the material world. Though one might argue that such a goal in essence rejects the natural world as having value, the Hindu goal is to liberate one from the self, from the illusion of the material world as being separate and individual.



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Christianity and ecologyAnyone who has studied the global environmental movement has no doubt heard the term "Gaia".  Gaia is a revival of Paganism that rejects Christianity, considers Christianity its biggest enemy, and views the Christian faith as its only obstacle to a global religion centered on Gaia worship and the uniting of all life forms around the goddess of "Mother Earth".  A cunning mixture of science, paganism, eastern mysticism, and feminism have made this pagan cult a growing threat to the Christian Church.  Gaia worship is at the very heart of today's environmental policy.  The Endangered Species Act, The United Nation's Biodiversity Treaty and the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development are all offspring of the Gaia hypothesis of saving "Mother Earth".  This religious movement, with cult-like qualities, is being promoted by leading figures and organizations such as former Vice President Albert Gore, broadcaster Ted Turner, and the United Nations and it's various NGO's.  Al Gore's book "Earth in the Balance" is just one of many books that unabashedly proclaims the deity of Earth and blames the falling away from this Pagan God on the environmentally unfriendly followers of Jesus Christ.  The United Nations has been extremely successful in infusing the "Green Religion" into an international governmental body that has an increasing affect and control over all of our lives. 

So, what is this new cult of Gaia?  It is basically a rehashed, modernized version of the paganism condemned by God in the Bible.  Science, evolution theory, and a space age mentality have given it a new face, and made it sound more credible to a modern world, but it is the same paganism in all of its evils.  There have been other religious movements that have presented similar revelations about the deity of a living earth, but Gaia has succeeded in uniting the environmental movement, the new age movement, Eastern religions, and even the leaders of many Christian denominations behind a bastardized version of paganism where the others weren't able to. 


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