16 BUDDHIST ANSWER FOR  ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, CIVIL STRIFE & UNREST

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 12:52
by Dr. Priyasen Singh



 

BUDDHIST ANSWER FOR  ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, CIVIL STRIFE & UNREST

 
by Dr. Priyasen Singh




Importance of living in tune with nature and respecting life is reminded by Buddhist teachers and masters constantly to us. Buddhism teaches us that if we wish to save the environment, we must first analyze our lives to determine how our self-deification is destroying the world by depleting, overpopulating, and polluting the environment. Thus there are many environmental problems in the present world. The environmental problems include the global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, the deforestation and the decrease of biodiversity, desertification, acid rain, and the sea-water pollution etc. Along with this there are an endocrine- disrupting chemical, agricultural chemicals and the food additive for the problems in livelihood zone. These environmental problems become the biggest task at the global level because it means destruction of the living base of the human race at the present and the also for the near future. Many countries took various counter measures for environmental problems which can be divided into two measures by the development of the technology and by the control of the human activity besides the investigation of the cause.
How does Buddhism contribute to the environmental problems from the basic viewpoints of that environmental problems will cause physical and mental suffering for all living beings and that


 
  • Assistant  Professor,  School  of  Buddhist  Studies  &  Civilization,  Gautam  Buddha University, Greater Noida, U.P. (India).
 


the mission of Buddhism is to reduce and remove the suffering for them. They are that the views of nature and environment, the cause and the feature of the environmental problems, the meanings of the Buddhist precepts, the ideal way of a civilization, the ideal ways of the environmental education and the environmental ethics and so on, from the viewpoints of Buddhism. Here three points can be described that recognition of the environmental problems, reexamination of lifestyle, practice and activity to solving the problems.
In this context, Buddhism also recognizes the indirect form of violence in the social systems to be external causes of conflicts as well. Violence, conflict and war caused by injustice in political and economic structures bring even more harms to people on a grand scale (Shih Yin-shun, 1980; Sivarksa, 1992; Sumanatissa, 1991). How to promote human rights and equality along the social, legal, political, and economic dimensions of our collective structures, not for the benefits of ourselves but for alls, thus becomes part of the Buddhist mission to eliminate the potential causal forces of violence and peace. Recognizing the material needs for sustaining human living, Buddhism postulates the principle of Middle Way as a criterion in making decisions on all levels of activities and encourages frugality as a positive virtue. The relentless pursuit of economic development and personal property regardless of environmental or moral consequences is considered not in accordance with the Middle Way since it destroys the balance between consumption and resources, as well as material gain and spiritual growth.

From the Buddhist perspective, even when no threat of personal safety or collective interest is in presence, conflicts may occur, as a result of our two major mental attachments to, first, subjective views, opinions and, second, the desire for materials, relationships. The stronger the attachment is, the more obsessive one would be, the more extreme behaviors one would engage, and the more severe the conflict would become. The attachment to views refers to insistence on the correctness of ones own views, ideas, and ways of doing things. It would elapse into prejudice, polarity, negating other views and ways of life and ultimately negating people who are different from us. The Buddha sees this attachment to difference
 


as one major cause of in-group and inter-group conflicts. Two thousand years later, this has also been identified by modern scholars as central to conflicts between ethnic, social, religious groups and individuals (Blumberg, 1998; Myers, 1999). The second major cause of conflicts, the attachment to desire, refers to want for material goods and longing for affection and belonging in human beings. It can easily go beyond the level of necessity and become greed. The greedy desire to have and to own drives individuals, groups, and nations into competition for what they want, followed by conflicts and even wars.

Behind the mental, behavioral and structural causes of violence and conflict, Buddhism goes even further to the ultimate fundamental cause leading to all the suffering inflicted by violence and conflict. Buddha attributes all our attachments, the resulting harming behaviors and the suffering hence caused, to the human ignorance (avijja), that is, we can’t see the world as it is and see our self as such. We are ignorant to the cosmic reality that everything in the world is inter-related, interdependent. Not adopting the Buddhist worldview, we thought we are separate from others as an independent entity: our views are different from theirs; our properties are certainly not theirs. Hence we develop our attachments to views and desires through the reinforcing notions of meand mine. We are not impartial in looking at things. We tend to focus on the harm that is done to us, instead of examining the whole event in its context with all the causes and conditions conducive to its happening. This ignorance to the principle of dependent origination alienates us from what really happens in the situation and the complex set of conditions around any given event, and thus rids us of the possibility of making correct assessment of the event and reacts accordingly in time. Without the lucidity to discern the causes, development and effects of specific events, we are inevitably causing conflicts and doing harm to others as well as ourselves all the time. Even wars between states come out of great fear and the collective ignorance (Thich Nhat Hanh, 2003). This ignorance is what Buddhism identifies as the very root cause of violence, conflict, and war, which prevents human beings to live a peaceful life.
 


In the era of globalization and technical advancement, the whole world has become a unit in itself. Most of the experts of Social Sciences may agree with the fact that the main cause for environmental degradation, civil strife and unrest is over- population which insists the state to manage more food, land and other requirements for growing demands for survival of human beings. Finally, it may be agreed upon that if the present lot of leaders able to control the growing population most of the problems can be solved easily.

THE WAYS TO SOLVE THE ISSUE OF OVER POPULATION:
    • Ensuring family planning services accessible
 
    • Empowering women to have equal say in family and society on the issue of reproductive decisions;
 
    • Modification in school curricula with induction of drawbacks of over population and its implications in future;
 
    • Encouraging such people with relaxation in paying taxes who has not more than two children. (They would still be able to have as many kids as they want, but the tax code would no longer subsidize more than two.)

Buddhism, one of the oldest religions, provided the solution to this problem roughly 2500 years ago. To lead ones life according to Buddhism itself gives answer to the present day problems.

A Buddhistic society is divided into four categories – Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Upasaka and Upasika. The order of Buddhist monks and nuns was founded by Gautama Buddha during his lifetime of over 2500 years ago. The Buddhist monastic lifestyle grew out of the lifestyle of earlier sects of wandering ascetics, some of whom the Buddha had studied under. Monks and nuns are expected to fulfill a variety of roles in the Buddhist community. First and foremost, they are expected to preserve the doctrine and discipline now known as Buddhism. They are also expected to provide a living example for the laity, and to serve as a field of merit’ for lay followers—providing laymen and women with the opportunity to earn merit by giving gifts and support to the monks. In return for the support of the laity, monks and nuns are expected to live an
 


austere life focused on the study of Buddhist doctrine, the practice of meditation, and the observance of good moral character. The relative degree of emphasis on meditation or study has often been debated in the Buddhist community.

As is known, the first two categories have to follow celibacy in their lives, while the last two categories may go for a family life. Thus the natural process of birth control becomes operative in the Buddhist way of life. For example in Tibet, in the late 1940s and early 50s, more than half of the countrys male population was ordained.

Monasticism (from  Greek, monachos,  derived from Greek monos, alone) is the religious practice in which someone renounces worldly pursuits to fully devote their life to spiritual work. The origin of the word is from Ancient Greek, and the idea originally related to Christian monks. In the Christian tradition, those pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brethren (brothers) if male, and nuns or sisters if female. Both monks and nuns may also be called monastics. Some other religions also include what could be described as monasticelements, most notably Buddhism, but also Taoism, Hinduism, and Jainism, though the expressions differ considerably.

Celibacy refers either to being unmarried or to sexual abstinence. A vow of celibacy is a promise not to enter into marriage or engage in sexual intercourse. Celibacy has long been a synonym for abstinence or chastity, with celibacy’ a weightier word implying a commitment or even a vow.

Chastity is a virtue expected of the faithful of many religions, including Christians and Muslims. This usually includes abstinence from sex for the unmarried, and faithfulness to a marriage partner. In many religions some groups of people are expected to practice celibacy — to abstain from sex completely, and remain unmarried. These groups include most monks and nuns in Christianity, and priests in the Roman Catholic church.

The Hindu tradition of Brahmacharya places great emphasis on abstinence as a way of harnessing the energy of body and mind towards the goal of spiritual realization. In males, the semen (Veerja) is considered sacred and its preservation (except when
 


used for procreation) and conversion into higher life energy (Ojas) is considered essential for the development of enhanced intellectual and spiritual capacities.

In the Vedanta tradition of Hinduism, the Brahman (Infinite Being) is regarded as the true Self of all and the ego-personality is a lesser self. The belief that one is the ego rather than the Self is regarded as the root of ignorance which leads to the problems in the world and in ones own life. All desires which centre around the satisfaction of the ego are considered to have their basis in ignorance, because the true Self is all-pervading and therefore without desire for anything outside itself.

Most spiritual traditions share the view that humans are essentially spiritual beings and that excessive indulgence in physical sense pleasure takes one away from spiritual self-knowledge.

Buddha taught that man is a slave to his ego and that the cause of suffering is desire, essentially the way to end suffering is to overcome desire. Buddhist views toward sex are those constituting that it is a natural part of human life, but also something that is associated with craving. As the Buddhist path involves overcoming these cravings this also means becoming less oriented towards sex. In most Buddhist traditions, devoted practitioners become celibate monks and nuns, and in traditional societies this was the only alternative to a family life. Celibacy traditionally signifies a noble, yet mystifying devotion that is difficult to understand and has become the subject of much critique, especially within the realms of Catholicism. But what are the origins of this tradition? This paper will present various sources of information on the subject from various traditions, with an emphasis on celibacy within Buddhism.

Celibacy is an age-old, multi-religious practice to which both men and women, abstain from sexual relations as because of religious vows. But most monastic celibacy implies a devaluing, and hostile attitude towards the world, life, the body, sex, and the opposite gender which directly conflicts with both monastic and Buddhist life. Monasticism as a whole often carries a reputation of being elitist in that those involved often regard themselves as spiritually superior to those that are outside of this particular lifestyle.
 


Most variations of Buddhism do not go much into details of right and wrong regarding sexuality and other activities of life. The historical Buddha advised his students to avoid sexual misconduct, but at the same time largely avoided to define how to have sex. The interpretation of sexual misconduct will thus vary between the different schools and traditions, the cultures and even between individual teachers within the respective traditions.

Another variation in the view of sexuality is dependent if the Buddhist practitioner is an ordained monk or nun, since monastic Buddhism has very strict regulation regarding celibacy. Lay Buddhists do not have these regulations, since sex is a very natural part of having a life in society with family and children. In Vajrayana, sexual intercourse can even be a part of the way to enlightenment, the goal of Buddhism.

Those who choose to practice Buddhism as ordained monks and nuns, also chose to live in celibacy. Sex is the downfall that could end a monk or nuns career, and seen as the most serious monastic transgression. There are four principal transgressions: sex, theft, murder, and boasting of superhuman perfections, where sex is listed first. Sexual misconduct for monks and nuns even include masturbation. In the case of monasticm, chastity is seen as a necessity in order to reach the goal.

Twenty One out of the Two Hundred and Twenty Seven disciplinary rules for a bhikkhu concern sexual behavior. The four parajika rules laid down for the bhikkhus have been increased to eight parajika rules in the disciplinary rules applicable to the bhikkhunis. Three out of these additional four rules applicable to the bhikkhunis pertain to sex life and can be considered as secondary rules deriving from the first parajika rule.

Hence half the number of the parajika rules laid down for bhikkhunis deal with sex in one way or another.) Similarly amongst the many additional disciplinary rules introduced for Bhikkhunis in the category of Sanghadisesa and Pacittiya rules too, a substantial number deal with sexual behavior and impairment to the life of brahmacariya.
 


REASONS FOR CELIBACY
  1. Health reasons, to eliminate the risks of venereal diseases.
  2. Desire to focus energies on other matters, like social issues.
 
  1. Religious reasons: Catholics understand celibacy to be a reflection of life in Heaven, and a source of detachment from the material world, which aids in ones relationship with God. Catholic priests are called to be espoused to the Church itself, and espoused to God, without overwhelming commitments interfering with the relationship. Catholics understand celibacy as the calling of some, but not of all. The Church has clear teachings on sexuality and family life, and the intrinsic supernatural goods of both. Many public aberrations of celibacy, then, can be explained by a misunderstanding of celibacy itself.
 
  1. The Greater good: A refusal to reproduce, because it may be detrimental to society by contributing to over-population. Celibacy could also be a means of preventing a hereditary condition or contagion from spreading.
 
  1. It could make a relationship less complex and even more democratic. It can be argued that the historical Christian ideal was celibacy partially for this reason.
 
  1. An inability to obtain a willing sexual partner, due to social awkwardness or anxiety, physical or mental handicap, or lack of physical attractiveness and/or financial resources (involuntary celibacy).
 
  1. It could even be a case of no interest in sex or simply disliking sex (asexuality).

In Buddhism, the main goal of living according to the celibate, is to eliminate (or at least decrease) desire. Desire is seen as one of the main causes of suffering, both in the world as in the mind or heart. A commonly-used metaphor sees desire, especially sexual desire, to be like drinking salty water: the more one consumes, the greater the desire -- and the worse ones (mental) state of health becomes.

In Hindu culture, celibacy is observed when the young child leads a student life. A Hindu renunciate may take the vow of celibacy
 


at any age when they have understood that living for material/ sensual pleasures will never bring the perfect happiness that their soul desires. Thus their life becomes centered on surrender to Guru and God with the firm hope of God realization and the perfect Divine Happiness.

There is a divergence of views within Buddhism as to whether vegetarianism is required, with some schools of Buddhism rejecting such a requirement. The first precept in Buddhism is usually translated as “I undertake the precept to refrain from taking life. Some Buddhists see this as implying that Buddhists should not eat meat, other Buddhists argue that this is not the case. Some Buddhists do strongly oppose meat-eating on the basis of scriptural injunctions against flesh-eating in Mahayana sutras.

Mahayana Buddhism argues that if one pursues the path of the Bodhisattva for enlightenment, one should avoid meat eating to cultivate compassion for all living beings. Similarly, in Theravada Buddhism, avoiding meat eating for the purpose of cultivation of metta (loving kindness) is also seen to be in accord with Buddha Dharma.

Theravada commentaries explain the Buddha was making a distinction between direct destruction of life and eating of already dead meat. Moreover, they point out that the cultivation of vegetables also involves proxy killing. In fact, any act of consumption would cause some degree of proxy killing. Theravada canon does not contain Buddha making a reference for lay followers’ meat eating. The distinction is rather crucial as monks and nuns beg for alms, eating left over foods of lay household. In this case, therefore, economic chain of proxy killing is largely absent. On the other hand, monks and nuns must stop collecting alms once they judge that enough amount for daily sustenance has been collected and they are not allowed to cherry pick food. Instead they must eat whatever given to them, which include meat.

According to the Buddha teaching of Dependent Origination (paticcasamuppada), everything, including the psychophysical compound, that we call individual, exist only in relation to other beings and things and undergoes  constant  changes  responding and reacting to them. Believing that the root of violence is located



within the mind, Buddhism has placed a greater urgency upon inner reflection Will be replaced by loving-kindness (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), sympathetic joy (muditā), and equanimity (upekkhā).

On the behavioural one practices peace daily by observing the five precepts (pañca-sila). To prevent in group disputes, the Buddha teaches the six principles of cordiality in any community (sāraṇiyadhamma). As for inter-group or international affairs, Buddhist scriptures are rift with stories that teach nonviolent (ahiṃsā) intervention.

But the supreme remedy is the practice of loving kindness or friendliness (maitri). This is a key terms in Buddhist thought and culture (Brahmavihāra). One of the most important and fundamental teachings of Buddhism is the practice of friendliness. It is the declared Buddhist road to peace and harmony in society; it is the key to peace, justice and happiness in the world of living beings. On friendliness the Buddha has taught in the Discourse which is mentioned in Pāli Literature (Suttanipāta) that even to our enemies we should be compassionate.

As the peoples and nations of the world prepare to enter the twenty-first century during a time of dramatic social change and increasing global interdependence, considerable attention is being given to the task of developing a new global ethics. Moreover, in the wake of tumultuous times the world is undergoing at present - such as sport in terrorism, rising fundamentalism, ethnic conflicts and political aggression; Buddhist heritage eternally stands as a harbinger of peace and harmony.









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