Pratitya Samutpada: the foundation for a Buddhist environmentalism

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Pratitya Samutpada: the foundation for a Buddhist environmentalism


As Buddhists, we are committed to transforming all aspects of our lives in accordance with our ideals. We aspire that all aspects of our lives may come to embody our commitment to the path of Buddhism and to the many qualities of Enlightenment: among others, love, wisdom, contentment, creativity, and a living experience of non-duality. We are therefore committed to the relief of suffering wherever we may find it and to encouraging the spiritual efforts of all others who also wish to make them. To ignore the sufferings and aspirations of others around us is to fail to see that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are in fact indivisible, or at least profoundly interconnected, and therefore to cut ourselves off from the very ideals we profess to pursue. To be a Buddhist is to be responsive to the world around us and to the issues it faces. We seek to apply the timeless principles of the Dharma to the ever-changing complexity of the world we and so many other beings inhabit.

These days, few would argue that the environment is not in crisis. It has become clearer and clearer that human activity is having profound consequences for many aspects of the planet, from climate change to the extinction of species. Because everything is inter-connected, like it or not, we are caught up in this process, and we therefore play our part in it for good or ill. Both for our sake and the sake of the all beings, it is therefore necessary that we take a long hard and clear look at our place in the environment and the consequences of our actions upon it. Therefore, we need a Buddhist environmentalism.

In the Buddha’s time, care for the environment was not really an issue. Human civilisation existed in fragile pockets dotted amidst vast tracts of jungle. Today the situation is reversed, and the jungle exists, if at all, in fragile pockets dotted amidst vast tracts of human civilisation. There is therefore little explicit guidance in the Buddhist scriptures that help us formulate a Buddhist response to the environmental crisis we are participating in. This can lead either to a feeling that Buddhism is not really interested in the environment - after all, there are so many other recommended practices - or to confusion and uncertainty about what we as Buddhists should be doing.

It is certainly not the case that Buddhism is indifferent to the state of the environment: there is no doubt that great suffering is being caused as a direct consequence of environmental damage, and Buddhism seeks to alleviate all suffering and all causes of suffering. Furthermore, Buddhism has always been a dynamic tradition, responding creatively to whatever new circumstances it finds itself in. What we therefore need to do is to return to the underlying and invariant principles behind the Dharma and from them begin to articulate a response to today’s unprecedented circumstances. This response will be both theoretical and practical, shaping both our views and our actions so they are more effective and better express the insights of Buddhism.

The Buddha’s Enlightenment and Insight

When the Buddha-to-be sat under the Bodhi Tree and uttered his great Vow to attain Enlightenment "Flesh may wither away, blood may dry up, but until I gain Enlightenment I shall not move from this seat" he did not know what he was going to discover, if anything, about reality. His insight, when it came, was all-encompassing and profound, indeed, beyond conceptual formulation at all. As he himself said, at first inclined not to teach:

`Then, monks, I thought, "Now I have gained the Dharma, profound, hard to perceive, hard to know, tranquil, transcendent, beyond the sphere of reasoning, subtle, to be known only by the wise. Mankind is intent on its attachments, and takes delight and pleasure in them. For mankind intent on its attachments it is hard to see this principle, namely conditionedness, origination by way of cause, Paticca-Samuppada."’

[Ariyapariesana Sutta, Majjhima-Nikaya 26]

Nonetheless he did decide to communicate what he had discovered to beings who had "but little dust on their eyes", and the central and most distinctive formulation of his Insight became known as Pratitya Samutpada (Sanskrit) or Paticca-Samuppada (Pali), the ‘principle of conditioned co-production’. To quote from the ‘Survey of Buddhism’ by Sangharakshita,

‘We may state that the knowledge and insight attained by the Buddha beneath the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya consisted in what, by way of an accommodation to the `normal' conceptual mode of human thought, he described as the truth that all phenomena arise in dependence on conditions. In the original Pali, all dhamma are paticca-samuppanna. This is the great Buddhist doctrine of paticca-samuppada (Sanskrit pratitya-samutpada), a term variously rendered by scholars. Conze translates it as conditioned co-production, an equivalent more accurate and euphonious than many others. As the primary formulation of the Buddha's Enlightenment on the intellectual plane, it is the historical and logical basis of all later developments in Buddhist philosophy. ... It has been equated with the Dharma itself.

The general formula of the doctrine occurs a number of times in the Pali Canon, where it is repeated in a set form of words that appears to have been recognised from the earliest times as a standard expression of the Buddha's insight. We quote this formula in Pali not only because of its intrinsic sacredness, but also in order that the reader may be afforded an opportunity of acquiring merit by reading and reciting it in the original language:

imasmim sati, idamhoti; imass' uppada, idam uppajjati; imasmim asati, idam na hoti; imassa nirodha, idam nirujjhati.

(This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises; this not being, that does not become; from the ceasing of this, that ceases.)

[Majjhima-Nikaya ii.32; Samyutta-Nikaya ii.28; etc.]

Like all universal and as it were abstract formulae, the implications will not all immediately apparent to the casual reader. In particular it may not be apparent that this is indeed the appropriate starting-point for a modern Buddhist response to the environmental issues of our time. We therefore need to draw out some of its many ramifications.

The image of a vast tree may be helpful here: the roots, mysterious, hidden beneath the surface, but supporting and nourishing all above, is the Buddha’s actual experience of Enlightenment, beyond our reach until we realise it for ourselves. The trunk is his core insight into Pratitya Samutpada, the foundation for all his teaching and the basis for all future developments in the Buddhist tradition. The many spreading branches represent the different branches of Buddhist thought and practice as it spread throughout the world and responded in many different ways to different circumstances. And finally the leaves, fluttering in the winds, are ourselves, living our lives exposed to the harsh realities of the world yet connected to the whole Buddhist tradition beneath us.

The laws of Pratitya Samutpada

The first point is that Pratitya Samutpada applies to ALL phenomena whatsoever. As Sangharakshita says,

"...when you really think about the principle of pratitya-samutpada - in whatever form it is put - when you meditate on it, when you really follow through its implications, you begin to understand the extraordinary impact it has had on the world. Whatever comes into existence on whatever level, does so in dependence on conditions, and in the absence of those conditions, ceases to exist. This is all it says. But if anything is Buddhism, this is Buddhism.

"What it is saying is that, from the viewpoint of the Enlightened mind, the outstanding feature of all phenomena, whether physical or psychical, is that they are conditioned. The unceasing flux of things, both material events and states of mind, is a process of interdependent stages, each of which comes about through the presence of conditions and, in its turn, conditions the stages succeeding it. Rainfall, sunshine, and the nourishing earth are the conditions from which arises the oak tree, whose fallen leaves rot and form the rich humus from which the bluebell grows. A jealous attachment will have consequences which may lead to murder. Nothing phenomenal is spontaneously produced without preceding conditions, or itself fails to have consequences. And it is the process of becoming aware of this law of conditionality that gradually liberates us from all conditions, leading to the freely functioning, spontaneous creativity of Enlightenment."

[Sangharakshita, ‘What is the Dharma’]

This means that the implications of Pratitya Samutpada can be confidently applied in any situation, in that all phenomena fall under its sweep. In different spheres of life this principle of Pratitya Samutpada will be played out according to different natural laws, known in Buddhism as the ‘Five Niyamas. Quoting Sangharakshita again,

"These five niyamas are a very useful formulation because… they draw together strands which are otherwise rather loose and disconnected as we find them in the original suttas. The word niyama is a term common to Pali and Sanskrit meaning a natural law, a cosmic order. According to this teaching there are five of them, showing the law of cause and effect at work on five different levels. The first three are straightforward enough, as they can be related to Western sciences.

Firstly, there's utu-niyama. Utu means non-living matter. Nowadays people are beginning to doubt whether there is any such thing as non-living matter, but let's call it that for the time being. In other words, this is the physical, inorganic order of existence. Utu-niyama is therefore the law of cause and effect as operative on the level of inorganic matter. It very roughly embraces the laws of physics and chemistry and associated disciplines.

The second niyama is bija-niyama. Bija means `seed', so bija-niyama deals with the world of living matter, the physical organic order whose laws constitute the science of biology.

Then there is chitta-niyama. Chitta is `mind', so chitta-niyama is conditionality as operative in the world of mind. The existence of this third niyama, therefore, implies that mental activity and development are not haphazard, but governed by laws. And it is important that we understand what this means. We are used to the idea of laws operating on the level of physics, chemistry, and biology, but we are not so used to the idea that similar laws might govern mental events. We are more inclined, in the West, to the view that mental events just happen, without any particular causation. To some extent and in some quarters, the influence of Freud has begun to shift this assumption, but the idea that mental phenomena arise in dependence on conditions is not one that has yet penetrated deeply into popular thinking. It is there in Buddhism, however, in this teaching of chitta-niyama, the law of cause and effect as operative in the world of mind - and we may say that it is a concept which corresponds to the modern science of psychology.

Fourthly: kamma-niyama. Kamma (Pali) is of course more popularly known in its Sanskrit form, karma, and it means `action', but in the sense of deliberately willed action. So it is traditionally, and paradoxically, said sometimes that karma is equivalent to chetana (volitional consciousness), that is that action equals volition: `for as soon as volition arises, one does the action, whether by body, speech, or mind.' Kamma-niyama therefore pertains to the world of ethical responsibility; it is the principle of conditionality operative on the moral plane.

…In Buddhism there is a [moral] law but no lawgiver, and no one who administers the law. I have heard Christian missionaries arguing with Buddhists and insisting that if you believe in a law, there must be a lawgiver - but of course this is quite specious. After all, there is a law of gravity, but there isn't a god of gravity pushing and pulling things. The law of gravity is just a generalised description of what happens when objects fall. In the same way we don't have a god of heredity, or a god of sexual selection. These things just happen; they work themselves.

It is much the same on the moral plane, according to Buddhism. The law administers itself, so to speak. Good karma naturally results in happiness, and bad karma naturally results in misery. There is no need for anybody else to come along, look at what you've done, and then fit the punishment or the reward to the deed. It happens of its own accord. `Good' and `bad' are built into the structure of the universe. This might sound dreadfully anthropomorphic - and we are putting it rather crudely here - but what it really means is that from the Buddhist point of view the universe is an ethical universe. Putting it more precisely, the universe functions according to conditionality, and this operates at the karmic level in a way which we could describe as ethical, in that it conserves ethical values. This is kamma-niyama.

The fifth and last niyama is dhamma-niyama. Dhamma (dharma in Sanskrit), which is a word with a number of different possible applications, here means simply spiritual or transcendental as opposed to mundane. So the principle of conditionality operates on this level too… The first four niyamas, including kamma-niyama, are all types of conditionality in the cyclical sense, in the sense of action and reaction between pairs of opposites. But dhamma-niyama corresponds to the spiral type of conditionality. As such it constitutes the sum total of the spiritual laws which govern progress through the stages of the Buddhist path.

What happens to us may be a result of physical, biological, psychological, ethical, or spiritual factors. In all likelihood, it will involve a complex combination of factors, bringing several of the niyamas into play.

[Sangharakshita, ‘Who is the Buddha?’]

Buddhist teachings deriving from Pratitya Samutpada

Thus we can begin to see the far-reaching application of the Buddha’s insight into Pratitya Samutpada. But before we go on to consider how it may be applied to the environmental issues of our time, we must see how many of the better-known teachings of Buddhism are directly derived from it.

Impermanence, insubstantiality, and emptiness – and unsatisfactoriness

Because all things arise in dependence upon conditions, they exist only so long as the conditions which support them exist. When the conditions change, they change. Thus all things are impermanent. Further, we may ask "what - actually - IS a ‘thing’ anyway?" and quickly realise that in truth, because of Pratitya Samutpada, nothing exists which we may call a solid, stable, and unchanging ‘thing’. What may look solid, stable, and unchanging is simply a temporary nexus of conditions, fluid and ephemeral, a phenomena rather than an object. Thus we are led to the great Buddhist teaching of the insubstantiality of all phenomena. Later Buddhist traditions spoke of the emptiness of all phenomena, likening them to such things as a dream. As the Diamond Sutra declares:

As stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp
A mock show, dew drops, or a bubble,
A dream, a lightening flash, or a cloud,
So we should view what is conditioned.

This is the perspective of Sunyata, or emptiness. Although things certainly do exist in some sense, and their interactions certainly produce tangible consequences in the world around us, it is a grave mistake to see things as solid, stable, and unchanging. Thus they cannot be reliable and lasting sources of support or pleasure for us: everything is, at least in the deepest sense, unsatisfactory. These three qualities – impermanence, insubstantiality, and unsatisfactoriness – are known as the Three Laksanas, or the Three Marks of conditioned existence. Thus all the central and best-known teachings of Buddhism emerge directly from Pratitya Samutpada. Pratitya Samutpada can be seen as the most concise and penetrating description possible of the way things actually are: this is how the universe and everything in it actually works: everything arises in dependence upon conditions, and ceases when the conditions that support it cease to be.

The above insights have been taken by some as constituting a pessimistic perspective on the world. Indeed in its early years in the West Buddhism acquired something of a reputation for being world-denying. In fact they are deeply liberating. After all, if nothing truly exists, what is there to be afraid of? If one truly knows that all things are impermanent and subject to change, one is free - as Blake says, to "kiss the joy as it flies" yet not suffer the pains of attachment. Knowledge of our own mortality frees us to live life to the full, in the precious moment of the present, free from fear, free from greed, and free from hate. Pratitya Samutpada is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, it is simply true, ‘that which is the case’. Buddhism’s true perspective is one of engaging whole-heartedly with the world and with all living beings.

The ‘Middle Way’ of Buddhism

Philosophically, Pratitya Samutpada enables Buddhism to steer its famous ‘middle way between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. It is not that things exist, nor that they do not: it is simply that all phenomena are perpetually in a process of becoming. A traditional analogy for this is the form that appears from the water at the top of a fountain.

Because ALL phenomena whatsoever fall under the sway of Pratitya Samutpada, the spiritual path does not consist in seeking some escape from the world around us into some divine and eternal heaven-world. In a very real sense there is nowhere else to go; true happiness, or Enlightenment, if it is to be found anywhere, must be sought and found in the here and now. Chinese and Japanese Buddhist-inspired poetry makes this point again and again. As the Zenrin says:

Nothing whatever is hidden;
From of old, all is clear as daylight.
The old pine tree speaks divine wisdom;
The secret bird manifests eternal truth.

Mountains and rivers, the whole earth, -
All manifest forth the essence of being.
The voice of the mountain torrent is from one great tongue;
The lines of the hills, are they not the Pure Body of Buddha?

For Buddhism, the world with all its impermanence and unsatisfactoriness is called the ocean of Samsara, and it is sometimes said that Samsara is Nirvana; the difference between the two being essentially in the quality and accuracy of our perceptions rather than any physical location. If our minds are clouded by greed, hate, and delusion, we are caught in Samsara and suffer, if we are not, and instead are full of love, generosity, and wisdom, we may inhabit the same physical universe and yet be blissfully free.

Everything around us manifests Pratitya Samutpada; everything can become our teacher. Quoting the Zenrin again,

Taking up one blade of grass,
Use it as a sixteen-foot golden Buddha.

Especially, we can take our experiences of unsatisfactoriness as teachings: they are sure signs that we are in some way out of harmony with the truth of Pratitya Samutpada.

Interconnectedness and compassion

Because all phenomena arise in dependence upon conditions, in other words upon influences ‘outside’ of them, and they in turn upon other conditions, we can see that all things are inextricably interconnected. Our lives and those of all beings are connected as in a giant web spread right across the planet and indeed beyond. Not only that, it is impossible to have a notion of us as being ultimately ‘different’ or separate from anything else. We are all made of the same stuff, all subject to the same natural processes, all in the same ‘existential boat’, and realising this, we will naturally feel compassion towards all other life and forms of life. As the Buddha sings in the Karaniya Metta Sutta:

May everything that lives be well!
weak or strong, large or small,
seen or unseen, here or elsewhere,
present or to come, in heights or depths,
may all be well!
Have that mind for all the world,
get rid of lies and pride,
a mother's mind for her baby,
her love, but now unbounded.

It may be relatively easy to assent intellectually to this, but it is really SEEING it that gives birth to compassion and a realisation that one cannot live for oneself alone. The Buddha sought enlightenment for the sake of all beings - as do we. The spiritual life is not an escape, but a deeper and deeper connectedness with others. This process culminates in the vow of the Bodhisattva to pursue the spiritual path and attain enlightenment "for the sake of all beings".

Just as earth and the other elements
Are profitable in many ways
To the immeasurable beings throughout space,
So may I
Be sustenance of many kinds
For the realm of beings throughout space,
Until all have attained release.

[Shantideva, ‘Bodhicaryavatara’]

Ethics, faith, and the spiritual path

Buddhism’s perspective is a deeply optimistic one. Because nothing whatever is ultimately fixed, change is possible. Everything is open, unbounded, within our grasp – and within the grasp of anyone who chooses to make the necessary efforts. If the appropriate conditions are put in place, anything can happen. Looked at from one point of view, the truth of impermanence spells the end of all we love: looked at from another, the possible fulfilment of our highest ideals and deepest dreams. The responsibility is ours alone. In particular, there is no God, no supreme being above us and immune to this law. We are so to speak alone and fully responsible for our destiny. There is no-one up there to save us or to damn us. We save or damn ourselves.

Furthermore, things do not arise at random: the universe obeys certain specific natural laws, familiar to us from the disciplines of physics, astronomy, biology, psychology, and so on - and, of course, the spiritual life itself. These have already been described as the Niyamas. If we want good to come of our actions we need as far as possible to educate ourselves in the details of these laws. There is no place in Buddhism for sentimental but misguided good intentions. Buddhism speaks of skilful action rather than good intentions. The spiritual and ethical life is underpinned because things do not arise at random: faith in the spiritual path comes from faith in Pratitya Samutpada and from our personal observation and experience of this. The Buddha taught that "actions have consequences" and more specifically, that "skilful actions have skilful consequences, unskilful actions, unskilful consequences". Thus it can be said that we live in an ethical universe, in that the eventual efficacy of ethical action is guaranteed by Pratitya Samutpada. The consequences of actions are inescapable, and hence there is no room in Buddhism for inaction: non-action is itself an action, and consequences will flow from it as much as from an action. Buddhism therefore invites us to reflect upon the urgency of our situation and to generate great energy for our practice. Actions have consequences, and appropriate consequences at that. If we wish to live well we have to learn how to act well. Our actions must be skilful actions: actions born of mastery and competence, and Buddhism teaches that rather than attempt to follow commandments of right and wrong we should become skilled, whereupon we will be able to make our own wise decisions in the complex affairs of life. This applies in all spheres of life: ethical, psychological, scientific, medical. Buddhism is about becoming more conscious, becoming clearer and clearer about WHAT actions will have WHAT consequences: and having the strength to choose the Good. It is a path of discipline and practice with no room for superstition or mumbo-jumbo.

First we do this by consciously acquiring new good habits - then, slowly, trusting them as they come more and more naturally, more easily. Like a dancer, we are awkward and self-conscious at first, painfully applying what seem unnatural discipline to our unruly natures, but ultimately, after the years of training are over and we have mastered our art, free, spontaneous, and beautiful.

Buddhism recognises that the world is so complex that we cannot possibly predict the precise outcomes of our actions in any quasi-scientific way: we cannot foresee the future. The Buddha therefore recommended a set of basic ethical precepts for his followers, the foremost of these being the principle of non-violence or ahimsa. Violence is, after all, the ultimate denial of our interconnectedness, the furthest remove from acting in harmony with reality. These give us as it were our best chance for our actions to have good consequences given the infinite complexity of the real world. In environmental discourse they could be extended to such notions as the precautionary principle. They are not rules or commandments but guiding principles, and we retain the responsibility for deciding how best to put them into practice in the many dilemmas of everyday life. However without awareness we will have no chance of acting skilfully, and Buddhism asks us again and again to be aware at all times. Many Buddhist meditations, such as the Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati) are directly designed to train us in constant awareness. At the same time our awareness must be motivated by a friendly interest and concern for ours and others well-being; this is the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness, perhaps a prefiguration of compassion and more immediately within our grasp.

Thus Buddhism properly teaches an engagement with the everyday world. Through our actions we create the world in which we live, through our actions we may purify ourselves, free ourselves of our delusions and make ourselves able to truly act for the welfare of all beings. Indeed Buddhism speaks of our duty to do so, and of duties in general rather than rights. As Sangharakshita eloquently says,

Buddhism, being based upon the realisation of emptiness, upon egolessness, upon unselfishness, teaches the doctrine of the mutual interpenetration of all things, inculcates the practice of love and compassion, exhorts men and women to perform their duties in every walk of life, and therefore tends naturally towards the ultimate establishment of peace, both in the hearts and minds of men and in the world of events outside us. Western political systems, on the contrary, however different or even antagonistic they may outwardly seem, are all based upon the concept, ultimately of dogmatic Christian origin, of the existence of separate, mutually exclusive ego-entities which are socially, politically, and even spiritually valuable and significant in themselves. All such systems therefore justify hatred and excuse violence, all insist on the intrinsic reasonableness of clamorous agitation for rights, and all therefore, without exception - despite emphatic protestations to the contrary - result in the eventual outbreak of war, both in the individual psyche and in the life of societies and nations. Emptiness, egolessness, the performance of duties, and internal and external peace and harmony, are members of the same Nirvanic series, just as egotism, individualism, the claiming of rights, and external violence and warfare are the indissoluble links of the same Samsaric chain.

[Sangharakshita, 'Crossing the Stream']

Environmental implications of Pratitya Samutpada

We have covered a lot of ground, and are now ready to explore how Pratitya Samutpada might be applied to the environmental issues of our day. We have seen that Pratitya Samutpada constituted the definitive insight of the Buddha and the foundation for all subsequent Buddhist teaching and practice. We have seen that from it come the perspectives of impermanence, insubstantiality, emptiness, unsatisfactoriness, inner freedom and outer engagement, compassion, inter-connectedness, the Middle Way, and faith – among others!; and Buddhism’s practices of awareness, loving-kindness, ethical precepts, and a recognition of the need to consciously train and educate ourselves in skilful action.

Much of the above has immediate value for an environmentalist. If we and others were able to imbibe and embody an insight into Pratitya Samutpada, our lives and works would naturally, even spontaneously, become far more sensitive, far more concerned to act skilfully and to mitigate the suffering of others. We would also become far humbler, more aware of the infinite complexity of the interconnected web of cause and effect that is the biosphere. In everyday life, vegetarianism and the leading of a materially simpler life are two immediate changes that might be expected. We would also see the need to train ourselves to become aware, to know that actions have consequences and specifically to know what actions may have what consequences. In today’s global village so many consequences of our actions are far away and out of sight: but we need to become aware of them nonetheless. Things are not just packets on supermarket shelves: purchasing different brands of coffee, or choosing herbal tea instead, will set off trains of consequences that may spread out in quite different directions across the world, encouraging as they do so in one case benign, in another destructive, patterns of action.

We will also recognise that it is impossible to separate self and other, and therefore, that our work must include work upon ourselves as much as upon the world. If we do not do this we run the danger of ‘burnout’ and relapse into frustration and cynicism, not to mention all the harm we can do while attempting to help from a standpoint of confusion. The Buddhist may leave the world for a while, but only to return to it once purified. Our life and work needs to be based upon personal spiritual insight and practice, and needs to be sustainable, requiring us to judiciously balance the needs of self and other.

It may sound callous, but an awareness of the ultimate impermanence and insubstantiality of all beings brings great equanimity. It is a bigger picture in which we may act whole-heartedly and with great compassion for the sake of all beings, yet remain ultimately unaffected by success or failure, knowing that all that lives will die eventually, including ourselves, knowing that the Wheel of Samsara revolves eternally, that whole universes are perpetually coming into existence and going out of existence – and that in this vast panorama,

Wise Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production,
And yet, while doing so, engender in themselves the great compassion,
Which is however free from any notion of a being.
Thereby they practise wisdom, the highest perfection.
But when the notion of suffering and beings leads them to think:

'Suffering I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall work!'

Beings are then imagined, a self is imagined, -
The practice of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking.


It is sometimes said that the Bodhisattva, the being ‘bent upon Enlightenment’, "vows to save all beings while knowing there are no beings to save". From a common-sense viewpoint this is nonsense, from an Enlightened one, liberation into total activity.


In conclusion, many pointers have been given above as to the attitudes we may adopt in seeking to live in harmony with Pratitya Samutpada. More specifically, perhaps we will want to know how to go about deciding exactly what to do in any situation. This must be a mixture of educating ourselves so that we can make informed choices, purifying ourselves so that we are not swept blindly along by our appetites, and adopting for the time being appropriate and wise precepts, in the absence of our own insight or specific knowledge. Elsewhere in this website we offer five ‘Eco-Precepts’ and many examples of specific environmental initiatives taken by one Buddhist community, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. Difficult decisions will always be there; and painful choices to make: but if we can cultivate awareness, deep loving-kindness, specific knowledge, and the self-discipline to follow a regular path of practice and action, we will surely change this world and ourselves for the better.

December 2001, Bor Dharan retreat centre, Nagpur, India

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