Buddhist Teachings About Creation, Stewardship and the Environment
• There are no specific Buddhist teachings about creation. The Buddha never tried to explain the origins of the earth or of human and animal life because he felt that any answer he gave would be mere speculation.
• Buddhists do not regard themselves as God's stewards because Buddhism does not include belief in a creator God. However, the teachings of Buddhism do encourage care and respect for the environment.
• The belief in conditionality (paticcasamupada) means that Buddhists do not see human beings as somehow separate from the environment; all life is interdependent. They recognise that the actions of each being affect other beings and that all sentient beings should be treated with respect.
• The Buddha taught that greed and ignorance are two of the Three Poisons which keep us tied to the wheel of samsara. Many of the current problems facing the environment have also been caused by human greed and ignorance. Human beings need to become aware of this in the way they treat the environment. The law of kamma states that our actions have consequences. Buddhists should be mindful of the consequences of their actions on the environment and on future generations.
• Buddhists believe that we have lived many lives already and are likely to be reborn many more times. This is also likely to encourage Buddhists to consider the long-term effects of their actions on the planet.
• The negative form of the First Precept means that Buddhists are likely to try to avoid taking the lives of other living creatures. The positive form of the First Precept encourages Buddhists to show loving kindness (Metta) to all beings. This suggests that Buddhists have a responsibility to care for other creatures too.
• The concept of ahimsa (non-violence) means that Buddhists are likely to try to avoid activities which destroy habitats or pollute the planet.
• In following the Middle Way between a life of luxury and a life of hardship, Buddhists are encouraged to see that the earth’s resources are shared fairly and not exploited. Those who squander resources or keep them for themselves are going against the Second Precept in taking what is not freely given.