Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 13:31
by Ven. Galle Dhamminda Thera


by Ven. Galle Dhamminda Thera*



The terms bījagāma (seeds to be grown) and bhūtagāma (grown seeds) are very significant as those fundamentally talk on Environment. They reflect upon a kind of philosophical teaching and are explained from the perspective of environment in Pali the Canon. The places where the term bījagāmabhūtagāma occur in the Pali Tipiṭaka include as a single form not separate one. It means that the term altogether means its interdependent idea also. The research collects five of those ‘bījagāmabhūtagāmareferences in the Pali Canon. All those references can be divided into two categories in the sense of academic consideration. One, is the reference that is based on environmental ethics attached to the way of life of saints: Brahmala-sutta (D I.5) explains one of eminent practices of a recluse to refrain from violating ‘bījagāmabhūtagāma’ a practice of the Tathāgata that came to be praised in contemporary India, Pācittiya XI (Vin  IV.35)  which  emphasizes  that  as  destruction of vegetable growth an offence of expiation for the Saṅgha, and Chabbisodhana-sutta (M III.34) denotes that this is one of the qualities of an of Arahant that is not to harm the Environment

*. (BA Hons, [Pera.], Dip in Education [Merit], MA [Kel.), Dip in English), Lecturer, Dept. of Buddhist and Pali Studies, Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

on his way to Nibna. Two, is the teachings those are related to natural environment. The ja-sutta (S V.46) mentions that as the earth as much helpful for vegetation of plants the success of monkhood is based on morality (sīla). The ja-sutta (S III.54) illustrates a firm connection of the five groups of plants (pañcabīja jātāni) with kamma-vñāṇa (the growth of consciousness) as they are interdependent with each other. All these references reveal the significance of the environment and answer for the environmental crisis with reference to the Pali Canon. The methodology of the research is based on the Pali Canon and some of references from the commentaries are used as necessary. The tentative conclusion points to the appreciation of Earth-friendly ways of life and solution for modern environmental crises based on Ethics found in Buddhist teachings.

Buddhism, with more approaches of living properly in society, is very much attracted and admired the value of the Environment in the sense of physical and mental well-being. What is physical environment? Things around us are generally considered physical environment. Physical ground contains water, soil, fire, earth, sun and moon and so on. For mental environment, for a better mental environment and for the development of mental environment physical environment too is obviously important. Buddhism is fundamentally come out with its ethical approach even for the Environment. So it is important to say that Buddhism emphasizes the utility of mental environment than physical outside. In this regard, Buddhism is highly applicable with environmental ethics as it emphasizes mental environment.

It is well known fact that Ethic means the system of moral principles; rules of conduct. (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 304-5pp) But for Ethics which means science that deals with morals (Ibid) is quietly different with the form but similar with the sense of morality. Ethics is the one of branches of philosophy. In the Oxford English Reference Dictionary the word Ethics has been defined as the study of moral in human conduct or moral

philosophy.(Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 481p) So we can imagine that ethic and ethics are together associated with moral concepts, especially ethics is much connected with human conduct as well. In this regard, environment can be related with ethics, which is called environmental ethics in the modern world. In this field, it is found ‘Ecology, (1. The relationship between living things and their surroundings 2. The study of plants, animals, peoples and institutions, in relation to environment, Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, 417p) a significant subject that talks about environmental subject-matters and ‘Environmental Philosophy, (Environmental philosophy is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the natural environment and humansplace within it. [1] It asks crucial questions about human environmental relations such as What do we mean when we talk about nature?” What is the value of the natural that is non-human environment to us, or in itself ?” “How should we respond to environmental challenges such as environmental degradation, pollution and climate change?” “How can we best understand the relationship between the natural world and human technology and development?” and What is our place in the natural world?” As such, it uniquely positions itself as a field set to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century. Environmental philosophy includes environmental ethics, environmental aesthetics, ecofeminism, environment hermeneutics, and environmental theology, http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Environmental_ philosophy, 20.01.2019) a branch of philosophy that is purposely connected with the Environment. In this writing, it would search in depth for a better concept on the Environment as found in Buddhism. Environmental ethics is newer discussion on the Environment that is most beneficial in the sense of safeguarding nature. As it is evident in the world itself, this subject is mainly focused towards the Environmental preservation for the next generation. Words such as Ecology and Environmental Philosophy had occurred because the world had to face much degradation owing to human beings. Environmental ethics (Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental

law, environmental sociology, Eco theology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography. http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Environmental_ethics, 20.01.2019) is considered as a part of environmental philosophy which is obviously focused on human- nature relationship.

When considering this theme the Environment with its ethical basis two notable concepts are highlighted; environment and the environment. Here, environment’ means conditions, circumstances and things that are affecting peoples lives. (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 298p) It directly points out that the background which we have in this space in the sense of living freely (Ibid, 298p). For the Environment’ it is of course applied with natural conditions (Ibid, 298p) such as land, air and water, in which we live and generally this term comes with the,’ definite article. At the heart of environmentalism are three views of the world, namely techno-centric, eco-centric and deep green. (The Social Science Encyclopedia, 251p)

These three concepts altogether stand for precautionary steps on the Environment. Here it can be found a strong discussion that has been taken for the betterment of survival of the nature. First, the techno centric mode visualizes humanity in manipulate or heroic would, capable of transforming the earth for the betterment of both people and nature. (Ibid) The second view, eco centric is optimistic, totally discusses human-nature affairs as well. In this conceptual step, examples of five of devices can be seen;
    1. Sustainable development: this was highlighted at the Brundtland Commission (1987) and the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the basis of Agenda 21, the programme for integrating development and environment) (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992
    1. Precautionary principle: accepts that scientific knowledge may never be complete, or ready in time to take justifiable action in anticipation of disaster.
    1. Ecological economics: the incorporation of valuation studies to calculate the worth of environmental services provided by natural systems.
    1. Environmental impact assessment: a whole enterprise of environmental consultancy and is slowly turning the planning, engineering and accountancy professions more environmentally  sensitive.

v. Eco auditing of industry: part of the environmental management systems approach to quality assurance in business practice. (The Social Science Encyclopedia, 252p).

Deep green, the final topic seriously points out environment is profoundly radical both in terms of ethics and social structure. (Ibid, 252p)

Environmental degradation is one of major issues faced by the modern world. The modern world is of modern technology, scientists, technical solutions and scientific approaches for them. Although, the modern society empowers its intellectual support for the issues like environmental degradation the support would not be able to cease the issues permanently. It is because that the whole society or the mankind is not ready enough to accept that the environment is everything what they perceive, what they belong and where they are located themselves. Buddha as a noble being was given numbers of luxurious monasteries like palaces, but always associated the environment in his birth, ascetic period, Buddhahood, the first sermon and the demise. (Parinibbāna) This research basically depends on the Pali Canon which signifies the words of the Buddha as an environmentalist.

The terms bījagāma (seeds to be grown) and bhūtagāma (comes from Bhūta [pp. of bhavati] grown, become; born, produced, nature as the result of becoming Bhūtagāma: vegetation, as trees, plants, grass, etc., Pali-English Dictionary, 507p) (grown seeds) are very significant as those fundamentally talk on Environment. They reflect upon a kind of philosophical teaching and are explained from the perspective of environment in the Pali Canon. The places where the term bījagāmabhūtagāma occur in the Pali Tipiṭaka includes as a single form not separate one. It means that the term

altogether means its interdependent idea also. This research collects five of those bījagāmabhūtagāmareferences in the Pali Canon. All those references can be divided into two categories in the sense of academic consideration. One is the reference that is based on environmental ethics attached to the way of life of saints. The second category of academic consideration on the term bījagāmabhūtagāma reference is the appreciation of natural environment in the sense of safeguarding the environment as well.

The first reference of the first category bījagāmabhūtagāmais referred to the Brahmajāla-sutta attached to the short section on morality (Cūla-sīla) of the Dīgha-nikāya. The sutta explains that the ascetic Gotama is of virtuous and does not harm to seeds and crops. (The ascetic Gotama is a refrainer from damaging seeds  and crops, D I, WPB, 69p) This recommendation of the ascetic Gotama is coming along with many of those types of moral behaviors of him. Apart from those significances this is much considerable to us. So this confidence of ascetic Gotama, prior to Tathāgata is proved that he was an environmentalist. His observance of environmental ethics is significant. Buddhism considers that damaging seeds and crops is an offence. (Bījagāmabhūtagāmasarambhā paṭivirato samaṅo gotamo, D I, BJT 8p) This observance of ascetic Gotama is a unique statement among the cūla-sīla (short section on morality), majjhima-sīla (middle section on morality) and mahā-sīl(great section on morality). (He eats once a day and not at night, refraining from eating at improper times. He avoids watching dancing, singing, music and shows. He abstains from using garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, ornaments and adornments. He avoids using  high  or wide beds. He avoids accepting gold and silver…. (D I, WPB, 69p) This precept that observed by ascetic Gotama is also an imposed offence in the Jain tradition. (The destruction of bhūtagāma is said to be no sin in the eyes of the world, but a sin in the teaching of the Jain, TBD Vol II, PTS, 227p). Here, both Jain and Buddhist traditions are allied to environmental existence further. On the other hand, this rule observed by ascetic Gotama which is referred as an offence of the traditions of Jain and Buddhist is not a sin or such an imposed rule in other Śramaṇic or Brahmin traditions. It says that refraining from the destruction of seeds or plants helps to protect flora and fauna in a broad sense. Bhūtagāma, the term has its vast

idea with different types of categories of vegetation, as grass, plants, shrubs and trees as well. (Dictionary of the Pali Language, 91p) It is said that this term vegetation makes its broad sense than flora with reference to the Wikipedia. (It is broader than the term flora which refers to species composition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Vegetation, 21/01/2019) Wikipedias idea further asserts that the meaning of bhūtagāma and it is similar to vegetation with its many senses. These types of modern references are obviously highlighted and directed the subject area as Environment which comprises Environmental ethics. (See. Burrows, Colin, J. p1)

It is very clear that Buddhism has its own responses to environmental degradation based on Environmental ethics. The 11th Pācittiya (expiation), entitled ‘bījagāmabhūtagāma,is narrated with its original story. The story tells us an ethical understanding on the environment. At the very beginning, the story tells that a certain monks of Āëavī cut down an abode of a devatā and the monk was called upon by the Buddha and rebuked them saying foolish men.(The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying: How can you, foolish men, cut down trees and have them cut down? It is not, foolish men, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased…
, (TBD, Vol II, PTS, 227p) In Buddhist literature, it is rarely found that the Buddha uses this statement “moghapurisā. (See. tis story, Mahātaṅhāsaņkhaya sutta, MI) At serious situations, as the last reminder, Buddha used to use this statement in order to the situation there. This occasion is also important for us to analyze the lesson taught by the Buddha to these monks. The monks of Āëavī did not concern that they had involved with an unethical matter that might be understood by the public general as these trees are still alive. (…Jīva saññino hi moghapurisā manussā rukkhasmiṃ. Netaṃ moghapurisā appasnnānavā pasādāya. Vin II, BJT, 106p). Then, it would be a social contradiction furthermore. It is critically revealed that Buddha was concerned the social awareness and he too was applicable with them as well.

The Pācittiya (Pācittiya: Requiring expiation, expiatory, Pali- English Dictionary, 72p) XI (expiation) of the Vinaya-piṭaka points that “Bhūtagāma pātavyatā pācittiyanti. (Ibid) (for destruction of vegetable growth is an offence of expiation). This expiation is known

as bhūtagāma in the Vinaya. The text further introduces five kind of propagation as follows: (what is) propagated from roots (mūla bīja), propagated from stems (khandha bīja), propagated from joints (elu bīja), propagated from cuttings (aggi bīja), and propagated from seeds (bīja bīja). In order to five kind of propagation, seeds with examples can be mentioned;
    1. Propagated from roots: turmeric, orris root, ginger, garlic, black hellebore
    1. Propagated from stems: the fig-tree, the banyan tree, the Indian cedar wood
    2. Propagated from joints: sugar cane, bamboo
    3. Propagated from cuttings: basil, camel-grass
    4. Propagated from seeds: grain, pulses

These examples further define that propagation (bhūtagāma) is a vast concept that expanded from a smaller seed to larger one. So this remarks that Buddhism clearly alerts on the environment and its survival. Among the ordinary people, destruction of bhūtagāma is said to be no sin. But, in Environmental Ethics, (Environmental ethics: is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, Eco theology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography. (https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Environmental_ethics, 27/01/2019) is a considerable concept that asserts on moral assessment. It totally says that the need of ethical awareness on the nature in the basis of human-nature relationship. Here, Buddha teaches that vegetation is a living being that was believed by human beings. In this research paper, attention is to be defined the necessity of moral perspectives towards the environmental preservation. This idea is fully illustrated in the Commentary to the Vinaya-piṭaka. The Samantapāsādiillustrates that the ethical contexts of this expiation which is said to be a sin in the teachings of the Buddha. je bījasaññī (Vinayaṭhkathā, 226- 30pp) - having the sense of vegetation is the first intention to ones destruction of vegetation. The Commentary further declares that

one can use tools or weapons to harm the vegetation. It is of course; considerable to report that the commentator sentences that the offender might be the doer or the person that gives the order to do so. (Ibid) Today ones orders are activated even in the destruction of vegetation. Mostly political interferences are monitoring the world. People are separated with party to party in politics. Giving political orders make the differences in between truths and false and damage the flow of administrative systems as well. The truth behind the result is that the decision is correct but the credit goes to political authority and if not, the government officers will be the offenders. Not most but many countries have faced this type of political tragedy with reference to environmental degradation. Citizens are moving from the city to the forest. Then, they built all the constructions engaging with multinational corporations. These corporations do not care about ethics based constructions or Ecology. Many of the third world countries have these types of current issues as they arise against to the environmental survival. It is believed that this some of issues can be solved with the awareness of environmental ethics. The Commentary of Vinaya with its scope of Ecology has taught that bhūtagāma or vegetation has its boundary to the earth and water. (Vinayahkathā, 226-30pp) In the earth ethics on the environment must be certain centered when sweeping, walking and firing. (Chindati vā chedāpeti vā, bhindati vā bhedāpeti vā, pacati vā pacāpeti vā, Ibid) It is said to be that one of causes to deforestation is resulted with making fire on the forest. These three broad instructions teach a very good lesson to someone based on non-violation of forestation. In the water, damaging Udakapappaṭaka (a kind of mosses) Uppalapaduminī (ferns and grass that grow in the water) is an offence to the higher ordained monks. (Ibid) This remembers that how the Buddha refrained from damaging vegetation and taught his disciples to protect them. The Commentary says that the offender of the destruction of vegetation will be released as he has no intention (asañcicca), no attention (asatiyā), and no awareness (ajānantassa); otherwise, he definitely is of an offender.

Chabbisodha-sutta emphasizes that one of the qualities of the Noble beings that refrains from damaging seeds and crops. (MLD,

BPS, 907p) This practice of noble beings is quite similar with the reference of Brahmajāla-sutta. But  in  the  Chabbisodhana  sutta, the same reference is somewhat contextually different. This source mentions that  the  gradual  development  of  the  mind.  The  sutta is entitled The Six fold Purity’ in both Bhikkhu Ñānamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhis translation. It shows that the purification from the six fold elements;
  1. The earth element
  2. The water element
  3. The fire element
  4. The air element
  5. The space element
  6. The consciousness element (Ibid, 905p)

Then, the very next step is to understand six internal and external bases. There are the eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odors, the tongue and flavors, the body and tangibles, the mind and objects. (Ibid) The sutta discusses that the importance of the liberated mind from taints. This arrangement of the sutta finally reveals the nature of noble beings as the positive answers to the clinging mind. (Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is one with taints destroyed… and is completely liberated through final knowledge; this is the nature of his answer:) On the other hand, the sutta proclaims that refraining from the destruction of vegetation is one of major qualities of an arahant.

Next attention will be focused on Buddhist moral teaching focused on the emancipation with reference to the natural environment that is said to be well learnt is to be protected. Bīja sutta (S III) and Bīja sutta (S V) are significant sources that delivered by the Buddha to talk on Nibbāna. Bīja sutta of S III, says the Buddhist karmic concepts philosophically. Apart from karmic (kamma: Pali) teachings this source introduces five kind of propagation (Pañcamāni bhikkhave bījatātāni, katamāni pañca: mūla bījaṃ, khandha bījaṃ, elu bījam, agga bījaṃ bījabījañceva pañcamaṃ, S III, BJT, 94 p) which discussed earlier. In relation to ‘bīja(a seed) the sutta teaches that wind and sun will be essential to its growth,

increase and expansion and also, the importance of water and earth. (TCD WPB, 891p) The first category of the sutta mentions how the seeds are planted and its later growth in relation to Ecology. It can be drafted by a diagram as follows:
  Five kinds of seeds Status Earth and water Results
Step 1 Root-seeds, stem-seeds, joint-seeds, c u t t i n g - seeds, and germ-seeds unbroken,

u n s p o i l t , undamaged by wind and sun, fertile, securely planted
no    earth or water five kinds of

seeds    do not       come
to growth, increase, and expansion
Step 2 Do- broken, spoilt, damaged by

wind and sun, infertile, not se- curely planted
there      is earth

and water
Step 3 Do- unbroken,

u n s p o i l t , undamaged by wind and sun, fertile, securely planted
there      is earth

and water
five kinds of

seeds come to growth, increase, and expansion
This diagram shows how the seeds grow gradually with all these necessities. In the 3rd step it is clear that all the components should be connected with each other otherwise seeds will not able to provide their expansion. The sutta has given three main instructions with similes are to be seen.
Taint Simile
Four  stations  of  consciousness  (rūpa, vedanā, saññā, sakhāra) The earth element
Delight and lust (nandirāga) The water element
Consciousness (vñāna) Five kinds of seeds

These doctrinal aspects are much special with their values that directed to Nibbāna. It is said that cankers are deeper grounded in individual level. Here, vñāna has been added with five kinds of seeds that allied to Kamma-conditions (kamma-paccaya) in Abhidhamma related to 24 Paccayas or conditions. It is because that a seed is grown with above mentioned supports and requisites and highly absorbed in the earth permanently as well as the consciousness is conditioned by the Saṃkhāra or Karma formations in the teachings of Paṭiccasamuppāda. The pre-natal kamma is the generating condition (cause) of the 5 sense-organs, the fivefold sense-consciousness, and the kamma-produced mental and corporeal phenomena in a later birth. Karmic volition is also a condition by way of kamma for the co-nascent mental phenomena associated therewith, but these phenomena are in no way kamma- results. (Buddhist Dictionary, 250p) The above mentioned understanding of the sutta is on the basis of philosophical aspect. Apart from philosophical teachings this will provide a collected knowing of vegetation. It is significant that Buddha always associated natural phenomena when he wanted to verify the fact in order to the audience.

Bīja sutta of S V, in accordance with its title bīja which means seeds that grown discusses on the established principle sīla that is much beneficial for the Noble Eightfold Path. (TCD, WPB, 1553p) The sutta has used a distinctive simile earthto upgrade its meaning more. The specialty of the usage is Earth. Every seed grows in the earth. Earth provides the basement to the seeds for their growth, increase and expansion. The sutta has been added the general circumstance of the process of vegetation but in philosophical ground it examines the value and utility of virtue.

The sutta with the title of Bījagāma of S V-II is obviously an absolute statement of the reality of environmental degradation and the amount of it.

Evameva kho bhikkhave, appakā te sattā ye jagāmabhūtagāmasamārambhā paṭiviratā. Atha eteva bahutarā sattā ye bījagāmabhūtagāmasamārambhā aapaṭiviratā(S V (II), BJT 340p).

So too, bhikkhus, those beings are few who abstain from damaging seed and plant life. But these beings are more numerous who do not abstain from damaging seed and plant life.(Ibid, 1881p).

This statement presents what the present world faces at this moment. They are:
  1. Pollution
  2. Global warming
  3. Overpopulation
  4. Natural Resource Depletion
  5. Waste Disposal
  6. Climate Change
  7. Loss of Biodiversity
  8. Deforestation
  9. Ocean Acidification
  10. Ozone Layer Depletion
  11. Acid Rain
  12. Water Pollution
  13. Urban Sprawl
  14. Public Health Issues
  15. Genetic Engineering

Statistically it is said that environmental degradation attached to the above mentioned areas is increasing and decreasing day by day. Even though the solutions fill up the vacuum of earth friendly environment, but results will not be firmed until the last human being destroys himself. So, very urgent thing is that the awareness on the environmental ethics of the society. Buddhism covers this

needy with its teachings on ‘bījagāmabhūtagāma title’ in the sense of Environmental Ethics that is to be applied to stop environmental degradation and to build up harmonious families, healthcare, and sustainable societies.


D             – Dīgha-nikāya
WPB       – Wisdom Publication, Boston BJT   – Buddha Jayanti Tipiṭaka TBD        – The Book of the Discipline Vin       Vinaya-piṭaka
M            Majjhima-nikāya
MLD       – Middle Length Discourses BPS      – Buddhist Publication Society S Samyutta-nikāya
TCD        - The Connected Discourses of the Buddha




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