We take green living seriously.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Help Protect The Environment By Burning Less



NEA (National Environment Agency) togther with KMSPKS (Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery) have a campaign to urge the public to "Help Protect The Environment By Burning Less". Yearly during the seventh lunar month without fail, many Chinese buy paper-made replicas of 'material' stuff to burn for their beloved deceased ones, thinking that they will be able to 'receive' them in the nether world. As much as it's a token of filial piety or even love for some, we should rethink about carrying on this custom. Or at least, come out with an alternative that won't harm the environment that much.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

With Green Power Comes Green Responsibilities



Just finished reading a great post by a fellow Buddhist at Moonpointer.com as quoted below:

... As such, environmentalism and vegetarianism are aspects of Right Action in the Noble Eightfold Path (especially on the Bodhsattva path) - to not harm sentient life, and thus naturally, by extension, to protect their living environment. Is this not the practice of compassion and wisdom? It is definitely not all of the practice of the duo, but it is undeniably part of it - to the extent that if you neglect environmentalism and vegetarianism, your Dharma practice is definitely incomplete. With room for improvement, why not be more green - by being more animal and Earth-friendly? No one is demanding those uncomfortable to be green overnight. But practice makes perfect. (For full article, click here)

Too many are giving lame excuses to not do the right thing due to lack of understanding on Buddhist teachings. It's bizarre how people can be selective on what they wish to do and not do by missing the essence of the teachings. When Buddha taught love and compassion, did he refer only to humans and not the animals that we eat on our dinning tables? When the Buddha taught Right Action, did he mean only not to do the ten unwholesome actions? Does it mean it is okay to destroy or neglect the Earth with our ignorance?

Religion aside, how can anyone in the right state of mind not save the environment and its animals if they have the power to? If you can ignore all the signs of global warming and the sufferings of the animals, you are, sad to say, living in your own deluded world.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Chopsticks = Choptrees



Today's (Saturday, August 11 2007) Straits Times, WORLD section page 40, under the Slice of Life section:
Beijing announced the end of use of disposable chopsticks in China as part of the campaign for a 2008 "green" Olympics.

"Restaurants should (permanently) abandon the use of disposable chopsticks for the good of their health and environment," the China Daily paraphrased China Cuisine Association secretary-general Bian Jiang as saying.
In other words, it will not be a temporary gimmick for the Olympics, it's for real!


Quoting from New Internationalist:
China is severely short of trees only – 13.9 per cent of its 9.6 million square kilometres is covered by forest. Its amount of forest land per capita is ranked 121st in the world. Now 12 of the 40 state-owned logging companies have nothing left to fell. 'The remaining 80 million hectares of natural forests will disappear in a decade if this felling continues,' says Professor Shen Guofang, of Beijing Forestry University.

Thank goodness, finally a big country like China realised the danger of deforestation and the importance to cease unnecessary abuse of natural resources. I only wish Singapore will take up such measure to help the environment soon. We need to be as earnest as we can be in protecting the environment. Using disposable chopsticks is less about personal hygienic issue, and more about a global crisis now.

I have started to bring my own stainless steel chopsticks, fork and spoon along with me for use when food stalls or restaurants provide only disposable ones. You could also make a difference too – do consider it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Relevance of Vipassana for the Environmental Crisis



Environmental pollution is a great threat to the survival of humankind on this planet. If effective measures are not taken immediately, a catastrophe which is similar in destructive capacity to that caused by nuclear war is imminent as a result of environmental pollution and increased exposure to U.V. radiation through ozone depletion. The rate of pollution caused by human beings far exceeds nature's ability to purify and rejuvenate its life-sustaining air and water. We understand the problem that we now face, hence the search for development with sustainability. But it is our contention that a radical solution has not yet been looked for, let alone found, and that man is only trying to grapple with this enormous global problem with patchwork technological remedies.

From the point of view of the Buddha's teaching, environmental pollution is but the external manifestation of man's internal moral pollution, which has assumed alarming proportions and reached a crisis. A number of suttas in the Pali Canon such as the Agga~n~na (Digha. III. 80), Cakkavattisiihanaada (Digha III 58) and some in the A"nguttaranikaaya (I. 160; II. 75) express that when moral degeneration becomes rampant in society, it causes adverse changes in the human body and in our environment. The legend in the Agga~n~naSutta states that moral degeneration causes the loss of beauty in the human personality and depletion of natural food resources in the external world. These adverse repercussions are proportionate to the extent of moral degradation.

Crime also increases in society and, grappling with these problems, people try to organize appropriate social institutions to make life more tolerable, peaceful and comfortable for one and all, to the best of their ability.

Thus Buddhism believes that moral consciousness/the human mind, the human body, the external world consisting of fauna and flora, and society are intricately interconnected through an all-embracing network of cause and effect, to make one whole psychologically sensitive and responsive ecosystem. It is this fact that the Buddha succinctly summarizes in the stanza:

Cittena niyyati loko cittena parikissatiCittassa ekadhammassa sabbeva vasa"m anvaguu ti.
The world is led by the mind, it is dragged hither and thither by the mind.


The mind is one reality under the power of which everything goes।(Sa"myutta-nikaaya, I. 39),

If we loosely translate the phrase cittena niyyati loko as "the world operates through human ideas," we can see at a practical level how the face of the earth has been changed with advancing human ideas/knowledge during the course of history. At the dawn of civilization when man was hunting and gathering food, nature remained almost undisturbed. During the age of settled agricultural life, irrigation schemes were developed and the face of nature was modified to a certain extent. The industrial revolution brought about further changes with excessive exploitation of natural resources and mass production. The twentieth century, which boasts of 90% of the scientists the world has ever produced, has ushered in the Nuclear Age and the Space Age.

Thus we see how human ideas have brought about vast changes in nature, to such an extent that Nature's purifying, rejuvenating and replenishing capacities have been outstripped by man's activity of exploitation, causing unprecedented pollution and impoverishment. According to Buddhist interpretation, the root cause that is responsible for this crisis is man's greed for luxury, wealth and power. The human brain has developed without keeping pace with the human heart and moral responsibility. Intellectually, modem man may be a giant, but emotionally he is a dwarf suffering with spiritual bankruptcy. One sociologist observes that modem man has one leg strapped to a jet plane and the other leg tied to a bullock cart.

Thus man is torn apart with conflicting desires and practical realities. Further, man's intellect is limited; he lacks the vision to see how far-reaching his behaviour and activities are, and how they affect negatively or positively his own well-being, and unsuspected aspects of the physical activities of Nature.

The Buddha's theory of pa.ticcasamuppaada too maintains the same principle, that mind and matter, man and nature are interconnected and interdependent. Man depends on nature for sustenance, for, it is said: Sabbe sataa aahaara.t.tthitikaa. In search of food and also clothing, shelter and medicine, humans change their environments according to their technological skills. For example, modem men use chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides in agriculture for better harvests. These destroy the natural bacterial balance, which gives rise to adverse chain reactions, which in turn affect human health and well-being.

Further, the same truth of dependence of man and Nature is reiterated in the commentaries through the theory of the five cosmic laws, pa"nca niyaama dhamma. The five are as follows: physical laws (utuniyaama, lit. season law), biological laws (biijaniyaama, lit. seed law), psychological laws (cittaniyaama, lit. mind law), moral laws (kammaniyaama, lit. action law) and causal laws (dhammaniyaama, lit. reality law). (Sa"mlyuttanikaaya 1125 states as synonyms dhamma.t.thitataa dhammaniyaamataa idappaccayataa). Causal laws operate within the first four spheres as well as among them.

Thus all cosmic laws, physical, biological, psychological and moral, interact with one another, and man experiences weal or woe, happiness or unhappiness according to the nature of moral energy he generates. If wholesome moral energy is widespread, there is peace in society and life is comparatively happy and comfortable. If unwholesome moral energy is widespread, strife in society is similarly rampant and life becomes more and more troublesome.

The sixth and fifth Centuries B.C. can be cited as an exceptionally fortunate era when morally wholesome energy was poured out through the teachings of spiritual giants such as the Buddha, Jina Mahavira, Zoroastra, Confucius and Socrates, from different quarters of the world. The twentieth century seems to be the direct opposite of that era. Crime, terrorism and war reign supreme in the world today. Famine, starvation and malnutrition have engulfed many of the third world countries. AIDS and other luxury related deadly diseases are rampant in affluent countries. This state of affairs reminds us of a commentarial statement regarding the fate of mankind in a morally bankrupt world. According to that, when mankind comes under the grip of greed, hatred and delusion, its downfall is brought about by famine, fire/weapons, and disease respectively (Diighanikaaya A.t.thakathaa III. 854). The situation in the modern world is such that all three morally unwholesome motivational roots seem to be active and man is receiving three-pronged retribution for his own immoral actions.

Another important point raised in the Agga~n~na Sutta is that man is a creature with a strong tendency for imitation (di.t.thaanugati"m aapajjamaanaa). Therefore new ideas, actions and behaviour on the part of a few, quickly become new trends in society, especially when they are pleasure-oriented and economically attractive. Aided by modem mass media and commercial propaganda, sensualism, aggressiveness, hunger for wealth, status and power have become social trends in the modern world. According to our thinking, this imitative tendency is not the only cause responsible for these current trends, as they seem to be aided by the collective consciousness of mankind (called dhammadhaatu in Pali) which envelops the whole world. We therefore tend to argue that terra firma is covered over by a biosphere and an atmosphere into which is absorbed what we prefer to be called the psychosphere. Our argument for putting forward this idea is as follows:

The Saama~n~naphalasutta (Diigha,nikaaya I.76) states that the mind is interwoven with the body, and that it can be seen to be so by one who has developed the fourth jhaana, like a coloured thread that passes through a transparent gem. It can be surmised that the mind is associated with the air element in the body because the breathing pattern changes with emotional changes, e.g., we sigh when we are sad, we yawn when we are lazy, we snort when angry and gasp in pain. These changes can be accepted as conclusive proof that the mind and breath are fused together. It is scientifically known that the carbon dioxide level of the exhaled breath increases under negative emotional stress. This may be because the breath has absorbed from the bloodstream toxic chemical properties added to the blood from the endocrine glandular secretions when the mind is charged with negative emotions such as anger and fear. When large masses of people pour out such psychogenic venom with each exhalation, the atmosphere gets polluted in a subtle way, and it is very probable that sentient beings and even vegetation are sensitive to this type of pollution. It is experimentally known that plants thrive much better in an environment of peace and love, but they tend to get stunted or they wither away when harshly treated with violent abusive words even though both groups are equally well provided with water, manure, sunlight and horticultural care.

According to scientific thinking air pollution with increased carbon dioxide is due to fossil fuel burning which in the long run would contribute to global warming with catastrophic effects on human well-being. It is now conjectured that the disappearance of the dinosaurs from the face of the earth is due to reduction of oxygen level and increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The present situation of environmental pollution is far more grave than that which caused the extinction of those enormous beasts, as carbon dioxide is produced by machines unknown during the dinosaur age. While metal machines physically pollute the atmosphere, billions of human machines also add psychogenic toxins to the carbon dioxide they breathe out. Therefore we venture to argue that pollution in the psychosphere is a crucial factor in the environmental crisis man is faced with today. Even the physical pollution caused by emissions from machinery and over-exploitation of natural resources is the result of man's greed for luxury, wealth and power. It is therefore possible to conclude that the environmental pollution is really the external manifestation of the internal moral pollution of modern man.

As man's moral disposition has a direct deep-rooted relationship with the environmental crisis Vipassana meditation offers a relevant practical method to effect a wholesome attitudinal change in man to give him a sense of direction and goal in life, and also help him restore the sustainability of nature.

Taking a phrase from Erich Fromm we can say that man has to change his attitude from the 'having mode' to the 'being mode' of life. Man motivated by the 'having mode' tries to satisfy his greed extracting as much as possible from nature, thus leading to excessive exploitation bringing in its wake all the ills of pollution and depletion. Man inspired by the being mode on the other hand utilizes nature's resources to satisfy his needs and this attitude leads to conservation and sustainability of nature. It is interesting to note that ancient Indian Languages such as Sanskrit and Pali do not even have a verbal root 'to have'. The idea of having has to be expressed periphrastically. If one wishes to say 'I have sons and wealth' in Pali one must say Puttaa me atthi dhana"m atthi, which literally means 'to me there are sons, there is wealth'. Thus the being mode had been so ingrained in the human heart of ancient Indian culture even language lacked a verbal root 'to have'.

Vipassana meditation teaches man to lead a simple life satisfying his needs. Appicchataa, the ability to be satisfied with little is methodically cultivated as a virtue of great value. If it is cultivated collectively by mankind, giving up the present trend of consumerism, much of the sting of the eco-crisis can be mitigated. All the ills of large-scale deforestation such as soil erosion, landslides, changes in weather-pattern, drought, etc. are fundamentally related to consumerism. Without changing to a simple life style an effective solution to these life threatening problems cannot be worked out.

Mettaa forms a part and parcel of the meditative life. If one practises mattaa one would refrain from over-exploitation and over consumption out of sympathy for future generations too as non-renewable natural resources are fast diminishing due to demands made by the present consumerist life style. Practising mettaa man would also have sympathy for other species and forms of life which are threatened by extinction today. It is strategically important to remember that natural bio-diversity is extremely valuable for a healthy balanced eco-system.

Vipassana meditation cleanses man of his psychological impurities. Nature can cope with the biological impurities produced by man, but nature cannot help nor cope with the psychological pollution produced by man. Hence the spread of crime, terrorism and war like an epidemic in society, pollution related diseases threatening human life, and the imminence of large scale destruction through ecological imbalance and pollution.

Let us come back to the Buddha's statement: cittena niyyati loko, that the world operates through the human mind. So long as the human mind is motivated by morally wholesome intentions, man can lead a comparatively happy life and nature would be manageably hospitable. When the motivational roots are evil, man experiences misery as is maintained by the first two verses in the Dhammapada. Now it appears that evil is so widespread that even nature has been adversely affected, rendering it more inhospitable. The environmental crisis has to be treated as the result of a moral crisis. Man has to cultivate a morally wholesome attitude and lifestyle for a change for the better and this has to be accepted as a survival imperative.

Thanking Phramaha Witoon Thacha for his retyping this article.

The Inner Ecology: Buddhist Ethics And Practice



By Ronald Epstein

AN ANALOGY: THE MIND AND ENVIRONMENTAL ECOLOGY

If ignorance, particularly ignorance of the illusory nature of the self, is the basic cause of our lack of enlightenment, why can't we just do a little introspection and see clearly who we really are and become enlightened?

In theory we can, but when most of us do look within, we cannot fathom the depths of our own minds, because our minds are not clear and still. Instead we find them to be turbid and in constant flux; they are terribly polluted. It is our own mental pollution that keeps us from enlightenment. We try to plumb our minds, but it is more like trying to see to the bottom of a badly polluted pond used as a factory sewer than gazing to the bottom of a clean, clear, still mountain pool.

The analogy of environmental pollution is very helpful. By exploring it, we can understand clearly the nature of our own inner mental pollution. By reviewing the principles of environmental ecology, we can see how mental ecological action can restore our minds to their natural condition, their original pristine nature: clear, pure, and wonderfully bright and enlightened.

What do we mean by environmental pollution? Poisons, pollutants, have been introduced into the environment, upsetting the environmental balances, so the holistic ecosystem no longer functions normally, naturally. Why? A part has been favored at the expense of the whole. Because of greed for profit, because of impatience in getting some things done, because of just plain foolishness, some product is manufactured, something is built, grown or refined, completely disregarding the side-effects of that activity.

What do we mean by mental pollution? Mental poisons, such as greed, desire, and anger, have entered the mind. They stir it up and make it turbid. Why? A little part of the mind, the selfish ego of the individual, has been favored at the expense of the whole. The sense of ‘me and mine’ blinds us to the feelings of others and covers over our true nature, that is all-encompassing, that lies beyond the petty distortions of the view that divides the world of experience into self and other.

In cleaning up our environment it is not enough to sweep up the garbage. We must get at the source of the pollution, though it may take us a while to find out where it is actually coming from. When we do find the source, we regulate it through legislation and surveillance, while trying to convince the perpetrators, the selfish special interests, to take a look at the big picture. If we can get them to enlarge their viewpoint and see that in the long run the pollution is beneficial to no one, they will cease polluting of themselves.

Cleaning up our mental pollution begins with recognizing that our greed, desire, and anger are poisoning us, and then moving to ban their coarse manifestations from our every day actions. But that by itself is not enough. We have to trace the pollution back to where it arises in our minds and find out why it is generated in the first place. At its source we find ‘me and mine’--basic selfishness and disregard for others that pollutes and distorts our every thought and action.

BUDDHIST ETHICS AND PRACTICE

What the Buddha taught were practices which enable us to eliminate mental pollution permanently. Simply put, these practices have three aspects: moral precepts, meditational concentration, and wisdom. The three aspects have been compared to the legs of a tripod, which support a vessel. Remove any one of the three and the vessel collapses. Likewise, cease to follow the precepts and your practice collapses; let concentration lapse or become muddled about what is happening, and your practice becomes ineffective.

Why is following the moral precepts essential to successful Buddhist practice? To answer this question, let us first take a look at the most fundamental moral guidelines taught by the Buddha: abstention from 1) the taking of life; 2) stealing; 3) sexual misconduct; 4) false speech, and 5) intoxicants. Why do people kill? Why do people take what is not freely given? Why do people commit rape and adultery? Why do they wallow in mindless affairs, blinded by the passions in the name of “love”? Why do they lie, speak harshly and deceptively, and take so much pleasure in gossip? Why do they smoke, drink, take pot, snort cocaine, shoot heroin, and pop no end of pills to go on this “trip” or that?

All these activities can be traced back to fundamental insecurity and fear generated by the self. Why? The self is always trying to establish the reality of its own illusory nature; it is always trying to make itself seem permanent when it is basically impermanent. To counteract the basic insecurity and fear generated by this impossible situation, the self tries to establish defenses - veils and diversions – to direct attention away from the basic difficulty. Our negative emotions - greed, desire, and anger –” become the vehicles of the quest for wealth, for sexual gratification, for fame and power, for myriad pleasures and pamperings of the body. The real purpose of it all is to erect a tremendous mind-polluting smokescreen that functions as an ego-defense by veiling the fundamentally illusory nature of the self. The more the ego can direct our attention outwardly and involve our energies in external gratification, the safer it feels; the less chance there is that its true nature will be discovered.

The moral precepts are designed as basic guidelines for counteracting the pollution of the ego-defenses. By following the guidelines the pollution is naturally removed and the mind cleared. Just as anti-pollution laws must be closely monitored to insure compliance, so too the precept-guidelines for our own mental and physical actions must be closely monitored by our own mindfulness. If we conscientiously do so, we will quickly be able to identify the sources of our turbid energies so that we can restructure and redirect them. As the inner ecological balance is restored, they will no longer function as pollution which screens and protects the illusion of self, but the transformed and redirected energies will become the vehicle for locating and eliminating the source of the pollution - the same illusion of self that it formerly screened.

The precepts are the guidelines for transformation. They show us how to restructure our energies into the original and natural patterns of attunement with the entire universe, so that our sense of alienation is dissolved. When we naturally experience and act out of the fundamental equality of our identity with all living beings, we will have restored the ecological harmony to our minds. Our mental ecosystem will function naturally and holistically, and it will generate the wisdom of clear seeing and compassion for all life. That is the basic teaching of the Buddha.

One final point. According to Buddhist teachings, when we reach this stage of understanding, we see clearly that all outer pollution is merely a reflection of the pollution within our own minds. Our shared environment is the karmic result of the sum total of the thoughts and intentions that every single individual projects outwardly in his or her own actions. Again, self-image is the crux of the problem. From individual selves are generated the self-images of corporations, of political constituencies, and of nations. In each case there is sacrifice of the whole for the part, of the limitless for the limited. Our ego-directed intentions and motivations create the problems. When the ego direction, basic selfishness, is removed, clear intentions and clear motivations lead the way to a new attunment that is also at-one-ment.

* A revised and expanded version of “Cleaning Up the Pollution in Our Minds,” Proper Dharma Seal, No. 7, Oct. 1985.

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Buddhism & Environmental Protection







By Ven. Sheng-yen

Buddhism is a religion that places great emphasis on environmental protection. Sakyamuni Buddha was born at Lumbini Garden. He engaged in spiritual practice in the forest, attained Buddhahood under a tree, and first began preaching at Deer Park. The major monasteries where he taught his disciples were all gardens or woods, such as Jeta Grove, Bamboo Grove, Amravana Garden, and he passed into pari-nirvana between two Sal trees near Kusinagara. He exhorted his monastic disciples, when spending the night under a tree, to regard that place as his home and take loving care of it.

The Buddha told us in the sutras and precepts that we should take loving care of animals, and that we should not harm the grass and trees, but regard them as the home where sentient beings lead their lives. In the stories of the Buddha's past lives, when he was following the Bodhisattva path, he was once reborn as a bird. During a forest fire, he tried fearlessly to put out the fire, disregarding his own safety by bringing water with his feathers. In the Avatamsaka Sutra it is said that mountains, waters, grass, and trees are all the manifestation of the great bodhisattvas. So, Buddhists believe that both sentient beings and non-sentient things are all the Dharma-body of the buddhas. Not only do the yellow flowers and green bamboo preach Buddhist teachings, but rocks can also understand Buddhist doctrines. Therefore, Buddhists regard our living environment as their own bodies. The Buddhists' life of spiritual practice is by all means very simple, frugal, and pure.

Unfortunately, the immoderate development and the excessive use of chemicals in the world have led to the rapid consumption of natural resources, the speedy deterioration of the natural environment, and the extinction of a variety of species. The collective result speeds the earth towards doomsday. Although no human being hopes for the early arrival of doomsday, few are willing to strive together to take action to salvage the destiny of the earth, despite the fact that most are conscious of the crisis. Day in and day out everyone still consumes even larger amounts of natural resources, produces more refuse to pollute the earth, the air, and rivers and oceans. The remaining tracts of tropical rain forest become smaller and smaller; the number of species likewise decreases, and desertification of the land expands at a faster rate. If this situation is not placed in check and reversed, then humankind will have become extinct even before the earth is destroyed.

In the modern world, everybody knows that we should protect our living environment, reduce the amount of garbage we produce, classify our refuse, and recycle as much as possible. Nevertheless, we are still consuming substantial amounts of energy resources every day, and producing tremendous amounts of refuse and pollution. In the former agricultural and pastoral ages, garbage could become the fertilizer and soil, returning to nature; in contrast, the natural resources consumed by the modern industrial and commercial sector are non-renewable. Contemporary civilization produces a huge amount of pollution, and this act is as horrible as generating a tremendous quantity of cancer cells in the body of Nature.

We do not curse modern industry and commerce; neither do we denounce the rapid development of technological production. Therefore, we are forced to appeal to the religious and spiritual leaders of the world to advise all humankind that it must take responsibility to protect the environment while engaged in industrial, commercial, and technological activities. Human beings should not, just because of their curiosity for technological innovations and the competition of industrial and commercial wealth, keep on destroying the environment on which we rely for our survival; otherwise, humankind's history will not endure another thousand years!

The wasteful consumption of natural resources and destruction of ecology are caused by humankind's psychological craving for convenience and wealth. If we can practice the Buddha's teaching of “leading a contented life with few desires” and “being satisfied and therefore always happy”, and if we are willing to use our intelligence to deal with problems and engage diligently in productive work, then, without having to contend with one another or fight with nature, we can lead very happy lives. Therefore, the members of our organization use the following four sentences to encourage one another:
Our needs are little;
Our wants are great.
Pursue only what we really need;
What we want is unimportant.
If, for the sake of satisfying our wants, humankind consumes natural resources and devastates the ecological environment, then we repeatedly borrow to repay what we already owe. By borrowing to cover old debts, one's debts will grow increasingly heavy; by cutting out one's flesh to appease one's hunger, one is slowly committing suicide. Unfortunately, humankind loses its head for the sake of temporary convenience and selfish gains. Some say that future technology will be able to rectify the errors caused by modern people. Supposedly, this future technology will be able to solve the problems resulting from contemporary technology. Further, they say if one group of people causes problems, another group of people will manage to deal with them. They imply that the act of destruction should come first before humankind achieves more advanced insight. These are extremely irresponsible concepts. While engaging in various kinds of production and manufacturing, if modern people do not at the same time pay close attention to measures for protecting the environment and cherishing their resources, this amounts to burying mines everywhere in the environment to menace future generations of humankind. So, we have to appeal to the religious and spiritual leaders of the whole world not only to pray for the success of environmental work, but also to get involved personally in the all-encompassing movement of environmental protection.

As I said, the environmental protection movement should be all-encompassing. In addition to cherishing natural resources, protecting the ecological environment, and lifestyle choices such as reducing the amount of garbage, recycling, living a pure, simple, and, frugal life, and minimizing the pollution we produce, we should further learn to respect lives and others, always reminding ourselves of this thought: apart from ourselves, there are innumerable other people; apart from our one generation, there are our innumerable descendants in future generations.

Therefore, Dharma Drum Mountain, our small Buddhist community of only about one million members, has in the last ten years promoted four major principles of environmental protection:
1) The cherishing of natural resources and the protection of the ecological environment;
2) Maintaining cleanliness in family life and using daily necessities simply and frugally;
3) Improving interpersonal politeness and social etiquette; and,
4) Instead of considering everything from the standpoint of one person, one race, one time-period, and one place, we should consider it from the standpoint that all humankind of all time and space should be protected in their existence, possess the right to live, and feel the dignity of life.
In brief, the above-mentioned four kinds of environmentalism can be restated as natural environmentalism, lifestyle environmentalism, social etiquette environmentalism, and spiritual environmentalism. The environmental tasks of general people are mostly restricted to the material aspects, namely, the first and second items. The environmental tasks we carry out have to go deeper from the material level to the spiritual level of society and thinking. Environmental protection must be combined with our respective religious beliefs and philosophical thinking into an earnest mission, so that environmentalism will not become mere slogans. So, strictly speaking, the purification of humankind's mind and heart is more important than the purification of the environment. If our mind is free from evil intentions and is not polluted by the surroundings, our living environment will also not be spoilt and polluted by us. However, for ordinary people, it is advisable to set out by cultivating the habit of protecting the material environment, and go deeper step by step until at last they can cultivate environmentalism on the spiritual level.

08/31/2000 working session on environmental protection at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

To read more on Environmental issue by Ven.Sheng-yen, please click here.

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