Coming back to blogging here I had to rethink what exactly am I trying to achieve here. Why do I want to write about ecology and Buddhism? Are they compatible or is this just one person’s argument?
Let me start by asking then ‘was Buddha an environmentalist’? An easy question with an easy answer. No, not in the conventional sense. In Buddha’s time and place conservation or environmentalism as a concept simply did not exist. It has been pointed out that he was one against the some of the dominant contemporary ideas of the time, especially within Hinduism. But there is much more to Buddha and his thought than that.
Would he have been an environmentalist if it had existed in his time? I think asking such questions really is irrelevant. He may have been but this is only idyll thought, a game that even Buddha would have rejected as a waste of time.
So then is ecology and Buddhism compatible, and should these two words be said in the same breath? Buddhism, as a lifestyle, has many similarities to ecological conservation or ecology, and is perhaps one of the gentlest lifestyles without going to extremes. It most certainly was influenced by the other popular then contemporary philosophy, Jainism, which tries to not affect the environment by wearing masks and carrying brooms so as not to harm other life.
Clearly Buddhism respects all life in a way similar to ecology, but that does not mean all Buddhists are ecologists. The question of whether there is such a thing as Ecological Buddhism (or Buddhist Ecology) is only a matter of names. It just so happens that I like both ecology and Buddhism, but I don’t think it is possible or even necessary to consciously combine the two, just as there is not a need to combine Buddhism and ethics to create a philosophy of Buddhist Ethics.
Buddha would probably not deal with these questions. More than likely he would have thought them unnecessary. So let’s stop here and get on with the important issues.