Moderation – Buddhism and Sustainability

I wrote in my sustainability introduction page that I believed that sustainability is important now more than ever. We live in an age where human population and consumption is putting too much strain on the nature to sustain us – we are “using up our savings” so to speak. But why should this concern Buddhism? Isn’t Buddhism about enlightenment, and not environmentalism?

I would beg to differ. The Buddha is also known as the Middle Path – where one neither lives too extravagantly nor too frugally. Extravagance implies selfishness and hedonism. And frugality leads to a short and useless life. In other words, Buddhism is about moderation.

Buddhism talks about moderation in our understanding, thought, action, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration. You might look at this list and say “how can we have moderate understanding”? Well, I believe it is important to understand certain things and not others.

The Buddha used an analogy of a man dying from an arrow wound who wanted to know about insignificant details like who shot the arrow and how the arrow was made, etc. In the end, he dies because he does not get the treatment he had needed. In short, some things are necessary and others are not.

Since Buddhism has always been about living within one’s means, it shares much in common with the ideas of sustainability. But it would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that the Buddha was an environmentalist (or label him so). For there is an obvious reason why sustainability didn’t concern him – it wasn’t an issue anywhere back 2,500 years ago. In the Buddha’s lifetime people lived within nature’s regenerative capacity.

But we cannot say the same thing today. We are pushing the environment pretty hard. Which is why moderation is necessary. And whether it is from a Buddhist’s mouth or an environmentalist’s, it should make no difference.

6 thoughts on “Moderation – Buddhism and Sustainability”

  1. Buddhism is great in this sense. Because, though Buddhism is very old religion which is more than 2500 years old, the teachings that Buddha taught are still applicable and can be applied in this modern world.


  2. I don’t remember saying action… but what I am worried about is finger pointing – it won’t get us anywhere. And neither will action.

    What I am suggesting is that one has to learn to “fix” oneself before one can fix others. In other words, passivism. But not not do nothing, but rather do something in order to improve oneself. Only then can one talk.


  3. I appreciate Mr. Lovelock’s vein of thought, for sure.

    Finger pointing has not gotten us far, has it? You’re right, now is the time for action, not for blame-games. As an American, I feel the extra weight of culpability when it comes to things such as this and this is partially what drives me to do my best to make a difference.


  4. Hehe. “‘organism’ of mother nature”. I’ll call you Mr Lovelock from now.

    Well, America with its economic and political power has abused its position because it can. Not very wise leadership exactly. I don’t resepct that. And since everything is linked it the European history as well that needs to be seen as the a root. But finger pointing won’t help. So the Buddha’s teaching of Right Speech is necessary (something I couldn’t practice as I got heated in my next post).

    My blog has some rights reserved. (share allike for non-commercial puroposes”, etc). So please use what you like for all life.


  5. Although I’m not a Buddhist, I’ve always appreciate that very thing about what the Buddha taught. It seems like such common sense, too – but reality shows it’s not common at all.

    I’m saddened to say, I think Americans are almost entirely to blame for this – at least in more recent history. All or nothing, and life owes us complete happiness and freedom. We’ve got to change our mindset if we think we’re ever to survive the changes we’ve pushed on this planet.

    Nature’s regenerative capacity – great term! And perfect verbage for what we should strive to live within. I’m sure I’ll repeat that somewhere if you don’t mind. We live within this earth, not just on it – it’s time we learned to live within the limits of the ‘organism’ of Mother Nature.


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