Environmental Philosophy and Buddhism

Praves Intongpan


In the pre-historic age, human beings lived in harmonious co-existence with nature. They dwelled in forests, caves and places endowed with natural water sources. They drew on their environment for their basic needs in food, clothing, shelter and medicine.  Most of their tools were made roughly and simply from stone or wood. They did not have machinery and modern equipment to ease their day-to-day living.  Therefore natural resources were, by and large, left to prosper and flourish, as men had not yet learned to capitalize on them. Later, men gradually discovered the uses of fire, stone and metals.  They started to raise cattle and engaged in farming.  They began to build living quarters and gathered in small communities. They invent multifarious tools to serve them.  The more men seek for comfort, the more they turn to natural resources to satisfy their innate desire. Therefore the more science and technology advances, the more natural resources are tapped and often exploited.  It has been historically observed during the seventeen century B.C. that man proclaimed his full dominance over nature and its properties.  Man thought  he is  the sole master over nature, and had full authority and right to misuse this  wonderful  gift of nature  for his  survival.  This very unwise behaviour resulted in environmental  hazards of every type,  soil, water, weather etc. 

This threat will infinitely increase so long as we donot find the way out.  There are many concepts in environmental philosophy but in this article I would like to mention on three concepts in Western namely, Anthropocentric view,  Biocentric view,  Ecocentric view  and Buddhism. When we look at the emergence of  Buddhism on the horizon of the world some 2,500 years ago, there was not yet an  awareness of the  need for environmental conservation but the knowledge about an environment of the world was clearly articulated in Buddhism. The Buddha was known as Lokavithu, meaning one who realizes the world. However, this article concerning with environment was analyzed in both the concepts of  environmental philosophy in Western and Buddhism. Thus I would like to examine how each concepts have perspectives to environmental views.

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