Abstract—Buddhism and Deep Ecology have many similarities, including their ecocentric approach and concern for all living beings. They contribute to the protection of spiritual and cultural values associated with natural tropical forests in Asian Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Sri Lanka, and both have a spiritual basis and present a holistic, value-oriented approach for protection of tropical forests. After a preliminary discussion of tropical forests and spirituality, Buddhism, and Deep Ecology, including their integrations and mutual contributions, this paper describes selected spiritual and cultural values within the above framework.
Tropical Forests and Spirituality
Without unforeseen drastic changes in the next decade, protected areas such as national parks and wildlife refuges may well be the only feasible and permanent way of saving some of the remaining Asian tropical forests and their rich biodiversity. However, most of the protected areas in Asia are already under severe depredation due to illegal logging, agricultural encroachments, poaching, and pithing (burn- ing inside of trees). Such destructive practices occur in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist countries in Asia. In Buddhist countries, much of this depredation is associated with vil- lages, even where Buddhist monasteries (or wats, temples, or pagodas) are often nearby. Current efforts, such as through foreign aid, government programs, legislation, non- governmental organizations, science and technology, refor- estation, and law enforcement, are simply not working to halt this irreversible destruction and degradation (legal and illegal) of Asian tropical forests and their protected areas. Obviously, something much more is needed, along with new ways of relating to forests, particularly protected forests.
Today there is greater recognition being given to the interrelationships between spiritual beliefs, practices of a
In: Watson, Alan E.; Aplet, Greg H.; Hendee, John C., comps. 1998. Personal, societal, and ecological values of wilderness: Sixth World Wil- derness Congress proceedings on research, management, and allocation, volume I; 1997 October; Bangalore, India. Proc. RMRS-P-4. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Daniel H. Henning is Professor Emeritus of Public Administration and Environmental Affairs, Montana State University, Billings, MT U.S.A. He is an Environmental Consultant and Trainer, 1512 Hwy 93 E, Polson, MT 59860. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and is the Author of Buddhism and Deep Ecology, Gibbs-Smith Publisher, Layton, UT, 1998.
community, and how that community relates to the en- vironment and to the world. As a result, more people are looking at the potential for finding spiritually based solu- tions to problems that get at the basic causes and values, including ignorance and greed (as noted in Buddhism). These spiritual solutions can include changing values and ways of thinking and behaving from anthropocentric or “people centered” to ecocentered where all living beings are considered to be of value.
Buddhism presents a perception and awareness of na- ture through interrelatedness, “Oneness,” loving kindness, and compassion for “all living beings.” Buddhism is often summarized as the extinguishing of suffering. The Dhamma or Dharma (laws and teachings of nature) or nature orienta- tion of Buddhism has numerous values and principles that are correlated with Deep Ecology.
Buddhism is based on impermanence, that everything is changing, that everything is constantly rising and falling away. It also acknowledges that everything that hap- pens (human) depends upon the mind and conditioning. Buddhism focuses on the extinguishing of suffering, which is caused by attachment to anything through ignorance or greed. Buddhism recognizes impermanence in nature, or that everything is changing, or in process of changing, so that nothing is really worthwhile to attach to in the first place (such as illusions). Thus, by detaching, ignorance, greed, and suffering are extinguished.
To stop attachments, Buddhism provides the eight-fold noble path of right understanding: right motives or thoughts, right speech, right action, right means of livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Buddhism is basically Dhamma or Dharma (same) that has two interrelated areas: (1) the teachings of Buddha, and (2) nature that includes everything, including the laws of nature that apply to all life. An example of the teachings is the compassion and loving kindness that were taught by Buddha. Thus Buddhism has a respect for all beings and approaches them with compassion and loving kindness, such as a reverence for all life. The blessings of Buddhists often state, “May all beings be happy,” and, “May all beings be peaceful.”
On the Dhamma or Dharma in nature, it basically means that we (humans) are simply a part of life along with other living beings and that we are included in nature as just another species or living being among other living beings. It also means that there are laws in nature, like imperma- nence, that operate and apply to nature. Many of these values and laws from Dhamma or Dharma can be correlated with Deep Ecology.
As a highly respected religion or philosophy in many Asian countries, Buddhism has great potential for influenc- ing people and their thinking, values, and behavior toward tropical forests under Deep Ecology orientations. However, much of this potential has not been developed, nor have many Monks, Nuns, and lay people actually been exposed to Deep Ecology orientations per se. With increasing pressures on tropical forests, many Buddhist leaders are bringing forth more deep ecological orientations on an intuitive basis from their Buddhist backgrounds as well as through train- ing experiences.