Religious Tradition Depth Study
Contributions to:
 Development
◦ 3rd Buddhist Council – unified the Theravada text into a canon
◦ Cleansed the Sangha – forumulating the vinaya
◦ Propogation of the faith – edicts spread throughout his empire, on
which were the dharma
◦ All the infrastructure, including hospitals, roads, education
◦ His own model of compassion for living things
◦ Increase in number of Buddhists
◦ More people were educated, and could read the edicts. This resulted
in people using the dharma in their lives
◦ All the infrastructure – including roads, hospitals, etc as a reflection
of his Buddhist beliefs
◦ His entire empire was governed with the Dharma
◦ Short Term: entire empire was exposed to
Buddhism. Many people converted
◦ Short Term: purification of the Sangha & the
Theravada texts
◦ Short Term: propagation of the faith
◦ Long Term: Buddhism moved from a sect within
Hinduism to its own religion
◦ Long Term: Buddhism is one of the five major
religious traditions in the world
Environmental ethics
The Five Precepts
◦ To abstain from:
Harming living beings
Taking things not freely given
Sexual misconduct
False speech
Intoxicating drinks/drgs
The Vinaya Pitaka
◦ Rules for monastic life
◦ 227 for monks, 311 for nuns
Environmental Ethics
How do Buddhists view the environment?
◦ We are one with all existence, from our immediate
environment to the entire universe
◦ Therefore, when people work on their inner-selves,
they are affecting the environment around them
Principal beliefs
◦ Annica – impermanence – all physical things will end
(including our bodies, the wider environment, the
◦ Karma – our actions towards all things have
consequences. Damage to the environment will have a
causal effect on us.
Environmental Ethics
The Four Noble Truths…
 The Eightfold Path
◦ Right Action
 Includes precept: “to abstain from harming sentient
 Includes hunting for sport, indirect (and direct) killing
of animals in destructive/damaging actions – e.g.
deforestation, pollution
Environmental Ethics
The Eightfold Path (continued)
Right Intention
◦ Can be described as a commitment to ethical self-improvement.
◦ Commitment to: nonviolence (ahimsa) which results in actions that are not
destructive or harmful, loving-kindness (metta) and compassion
◦ Includes recycling, reducing waste & pollution, reducing carbon footprint,
advocating for animal rights, etc
Consider - global warming, as a result of burning fossil fuels—an activity
which, in itself, seems fairly mild, though evidence indicates that if this is
not reduced in the next few decades, it may reach an uncontrollable,
self-sustaining level, that will be a great threat to much life on earth.
 To ensure the right intention was used, a person would need to become
educated in the correct application of right mindfulness of the situation. This
would presumably instil a greater awareness of the unintentional consequences
of their actions in the minds of potential polluters.
Environmental Ethics
The Eightfold Path
 Right Livelihood
◦ One should earn one’s living in a righteous
way, peacefully and legally
◦ Buddha mentioned four specific activities that
harm other beings and, so, should be avoided:
 Dealing with weapons
 Dealing with living animals (e.g. raising animals for
slaughter, engaging in slave trade or prostitution)
 Working in meat production and butchery
 Selling intoxicants and poisons (e.g. alcohol)
Environmental Ethics
Link the teachings back to the Five Precepts (especially “to abstain
from harming living beings”)
Link the teachings to the core ideals of Buddhism:
◦ Metta (loving kindness)
◦ Ahimsa (non-violence)
Link the teachings to the principal beliefs of Buddhism:
◦ Karma, Samsara, Nirvana – what is the ultimate purpose for Buddhists?
Discuss issues such as:
◦ Pollution, deforestation, logging, overpopulation, hunting for sport –
basically, anything at all to do with the environment.
Remember: humans are very much part of the environment, as all
things are connected (interdependent origination) – from nature
(plants and animals) to humans. SO when you are effecting nature,
you are also affecting humans, and vice versa.
Environmental Ethics
Some quotes
Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed, and lack of
respect for the earth's living things. This lack of respect extends even to the earth's human
descendants, the future generations who will inherit a vastly degraded planet if world peace
does not become a reality and if destruction of the natural environment continues at the
present rate. (Dalai Lama)
He who has understanding and great wisdom does not will for the harm of himself, of
others, or of both. So willing, he wills for the welfare of himself, of others, of both, and of the
whole world.Thus, monk, one has understanding and great wisdom. (Aguttara Nikāya
Monks, you have not a mother or a father who might tend you. If you, monks, do not tend
one another, then who is there who will tend you? Whoever, monks, would tend me, he
should tend the sick (Buddha) (Vin.I.302)
Progress of men comes from the exhortation in favor of non-injury to life and abstention
from killing living beings. (King Asoka)
Describe the practice & beliefs expressed:
◦ Wesak is – a celebration of the Birth, Enlightenment,
Death of Buddha
◦ Typical symbols include:
 Lighting of Candles (a symbol of enlightenment – the light of
wisdom replaces the darkness of ignorance)
 Releasing of caged animals (a symbol of the escape from
 Bathing of the Buddha statue (a symbol of cleansing oneself of
bad karma)
 Etc.
◦ Consider VARIANTS – make the connection between
geographical/cultural differences in celebration and
link to variants of Buddhism (Theravada, Mahayana,
Significance to Individuals
◦ An annual reminder that we are all part of the Wheel
of Life
◦ Hope for our own enlightenment
◦ A remembrance of Buddha as an ordinary man who
was able to escape Samsara and enter into Nirvana
Significance to Communities
◦ Community gathers to celebrate a common belief
◦ Community gathers to hear the Sangha teach its
wisdom (through sermons)
◦ Sangha are celebrated and the community are
reminded of the Three Jewels
 Refuge in: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha