Buddhism and nature

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Buddhism and nature

Postby tk_leaf » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:02 pm

Hello everyone,

I am curious about the value of nature and proper relation to in in the context of Buddhism. II know that in East Asia Buddhism historically coexisted with Taoism, Shinto etc., in which untainted nature, nature spirits/gods and such are very important. There are also some ideas that everything, even trees grass and rocks have Buddha-nature. But so far I haven't been able to find any similar ideas in Tibetan Buddhism. From the books I have, I got an impression that nature basically does not matter - you can spend your life meditating in some stone room without any contact with nature, and you won't miss anything important. And spirits of forests/mountains/etc are just hungry ghosts. Is my impression correct, or did I miss something?

I am also curious about relation between Buddhism and ecology/green ideas (well, apart from the idea that we should feel compassion for animals and try to reduce their suffering).

Thanks.
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby ground » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:35 pm

tk_leaf wrote:I am also curious about relation between Buddhism and ecology/green ideas (well, apart from the idea that we should feel compassion for animals and try to reduce their suffering). Thanks.

Not only "reduce their suffering" but not cause suffering that they did not have before (i.e "harm") through e.g. destroying their natural environment or put them into cages or eating meat which supports industrially caused harm and suffering.

Kind regards
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:40 pm

tk_leaf wrote:Hello everyone,

I am curious about the value of nature and proper relation to in in the context of Buddhism. II know that in East Asia Buddhism historically coexisted with Taoism, Shinto etc., in which untainted nature, nature spirits/gods and such are very important. There are also some ideas that everything, even trees grass and rocks have Buddha-nature. But so far I haven't been able to find any similar ideas in Tibetan Buddhism. From the books I have, I got an impression that nature basically does not matter - you can spend your life meditating in some stone room without any contact with nature, and you won't miss anything important. And spirits of forests/mountains/etc are just hungry ghosts. Is my impression correct, or did I miss something?

I am also curious about relation between Buddhism and ecology/green ideas (well, apart from the idea that we should feel compassion for animals and try to reduce their suffering).

Thanks.


Nature matters a lot I would say, the elements are a big aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. They correlate with the prominent colors used in imagery such as prayer flags etc... Though ultimately nature isn't taken to be a truly substantiated and independent extant but a play of ones own energy. There ends up being no border or separation between man and nature. It all manifests as a continuum of sorts. Everything we normally consider to be phenomenal aspects of reality are said to be empty.

The earth outside, the stones, mountains, rocks, plants, trees and forests do not truly exist.
The body inside does not truly exist.
This empty and luminous mind-nature also does not truly exist.
Although it does not truly exist, it cognizes everything.

- Vajrayogini
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby maybay » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:30 pm

tk_leaf wrote:From the books I have, I got an impression that nature basically does not matter - you can spend your life meditating in some stone room without any contact with nature, and you won't miss anything important.

Its conservatism not contempt, if that's what you're suggesting. You could say the same about your government. What control do we really have over it? The archetypal East-Asian would suggest you're wasting your time over something you have no control while the Westerner would say get involved in a big way.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby Mr. G » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:33 pm

tk_leaf wrote:I am also curious about relation between Buddhism and ecology/green ideas (well, apart from the idea that we should feel compassion for animals and try to reduce their suffering).



The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:55 pm

tk_leaf wrote:I am also curious about relation between Buddhism and ecology/green ideas (well, apart from the idea that we should feel compassion for animals and try to reduce their suffering).

Thanks.


Generally speaking environmentalism and present day Buddhism are tied together.

In Taiwan for example living "green" is emphasized as important to modern Buddhism, though their vision of sustainability might still be limited. They might encourage people to not use plastic bags, but they'll still drive SUVs around. Other Buddhist organizations in other countries are aware of ecological problems and commit themselves in various ways, though it might just be token gestures rather than a means of combating ecological destruction. I mean you might tell people to live green, but go build a giant stupa with hundreds of tons of cement and diesel trucks while hacking down the greenery that's in the way.

The Buddha himself encouraged his disciples to go and meditate out in the woods away far enough away that the cry of a cow could not be heard.

It goes without saying that poisoning and making toxic your living environment is not going to be conducive to living a healthy life capable of practice.
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby tk_leaf » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:57 pm

ground wrote:Not only "reduce their suffering" but not cause suffering that they did not have before (i.e "harm") through e.g. destroying their natural environment or put them into cages or eating meat which supports industrially caused harm and suffering.

Well, "not increasing suffering" is included in "reducing suffering" by default, as far as I am concerned :)
asunthatneversets wrote:Nature matters a lot I would say, the elements are a big aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. They correlate with the prominent colors used in imagery such as prayer flags etc...

Could you recommend some book which would explain the basic Tibetan theory of elements and other related topics? I guess it is originally a Bon thing, right?
maybay wrote:Its conservatism not contempt, if that's what you're suggesting. You could say the same about your government. What control do we really have over it? The archetypal East-Asian would suggest you're wasting your time over something you have no control while the Westerner would say get involved in a big way.

No, actually in that sentence I meant that it "does not matter" in a spiritual way. I do not remember any meditation instructions recommending outdoor settings for any particular practices (I am not an expert, obviously). Again, nature spirits are hungry ghosts, so the only way contact with them can be spiritually beneficial is if you are a great yogi and you wish to subdue them and then teach them Dharma. In all other cases they seem to be nothing but trouble.

Thank you, I will check it out.
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby Wesley1982 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:06 pm

I can appreciate beauty in nature.
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby maybay » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:44 am

tk_leaf wrote:I do not remember any meditation instructions recommending outdoor settings for any particular practices (I am not an expert, obviously).

The Buddha said to his monks to meditate at the base of trees and many a yogi has taken to the womb of a cave to pursue his practice. Not out of any sense of environmental romanticism I don't think.

Again, nature spirits are hungry ghosts, so the only way contact with them can be spiritually beneficial is if you are a great yogi and you wish to subdue them and then teach them Dharma. In all other cases they seem to be nothing but trouble.

Where did you hear that: Yakshas are Pretas?

I thought this was excellent. Not as well known as his book on Dream Yoga.
Healing with Form, Energy and Light - Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
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Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
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Re: Buddhism and nature

Postby tk_leaf » Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:40 am

maybay wrote:
Again, nature spirits are hungry ghosts, so the only way contact with them can be spiritually beneficial is if you are a great yogi and you wish to subdue them and then teach them Dharma. In all other cases they seem to be nothing but trouble.

Where did you hear that: Yakshas are Pretas?

That one is from Lamrim Chenmo:
since you should not even hold worldly deities such as Rudra and Vishnu as your ultimate refuge, what need to be said about nagas and the local divinities who are hungry ghosts?

I will check out that book, thank you very much.
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