ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY AND ETHICS IN BUDDHISM

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1 ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY AND ETHICS IN BUDDHISM

2 Also by Padmasiri de Silva AN INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY BUDDHIST AND FREUDIAN PSYCHOLOGY TANGLES AND WEBS TWIN PEAKS: Compassion and Insight

3 Environm.ental Philosophy and Ethics in Buddhism. Padmasiri de Silva Research Fellow Philosophy Department Monash University Australia Foreword by Alastair s. Gunn

4 First published iii Great Britain 1998 by MACMILLAN PRESS LTD Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and London Companies and representatives throughout the world A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / First published in the United States of America 1998 by ST. MARTIN'S PRESS, INC., Scholarly and Reference Division, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y ISBN Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data de Silva, Padmasiri, Environmental philosophy and ethics in Buddhism I Padmasiri de Silva ; foreword by Alastair S. Gunn. p. em. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN (cloth) I. Human ecology-religious aspects-buddhism. 2. Buddhism -Social aspects. 3. Buddhist ethics. 4. Environmental ethics. I. Title. BQ4570.E23D ' dc CIP Padmasiri de Silva 1998 Foreword Alastair S. Gunn 1998 Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London WIP 9HE. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act Tnis book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources I

5 To the cherished memories of my beloved wife, Kalyani

6 Contents Author's Preface Foreword, by Alastair S. Gunn Abbreviations: Pali Texts and Translations ix xiii xvii 1 Introduction 1 2 Environmental Philosophy of Buddhism 29 3 Buddhist Ethics 55 4 Moral Dilemmas, Moral Weakness and Deception 91 5 Buddhist Environmental Ethics Ecological Sensibility and Pedagogy Green Economics and Buddhist Economics Putting the Threads Together 179 References 185 Index 193 vii

7 Author's Preface The early beginnings of this work go back to 1989, as a UNESCO project for the preparation of a manuscript on Buddhist environmental ethics. The research that was planned in Sri Lanka for this project was pursued at the National University of Singapore during my tenure as a Senior Teaching Fellow. After completing a three-year assignment at the university in Singapore, I worked as the coordinator of the "Environment, Ethics and Education" project of the Information and Resource Centre in Singapore for nearly two years. This project, which was implemented with the assistance of the Director of the IRC, Mr M. Rajaretnam, was a creation of my imagination and enthusiasm. But it was a pleasure to see this idea taking root in the IRC and transforming itself into a programme of five international conferences. With the assistance of such organisations as the Canada-ASEAN Fund, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Hanns-Seidal Foundation, UNESCO, and IKD (Malaysia), it was possible to invite renowned environmental philosophers as active participants of these conferences. The programme had three central objectives: to develop and disseminate, through education, a practical and durable environmental ethic in the Southeast Asia region; to enhance this environmental ethic through dialogue across cultures and religious traditions, respecting their diversity and distinctiveness; to extend this programme to the appreciation of nature, technology and sustainable lifestyles. The East-West dialogues that emerged during the conferences attracted some renowned environmental philosophers, such as Andrew Brennan, Baird Callieot, Alastair Cunn, Patsy Hellen and Peter Singer. Representatives from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka made very tangible contributions to the conferences. ix

8 x Author's Preface Working in a little corner at the IRC, I discovered for myself that there was a great potential in this project. This background has nourished and nurtured my presentation of Buddhist environmental ethics in the present work. In March 1994 I joined Monash University as a Research Fellow. It was at Monash University and a tranquil home in Clayton that an additional phase of research was completed. Then all the material that had accumulated over the years was put together and transformed into this work on the environmental philosophy and ethics of Buddhism. But below the surface of these academic ventures stands out a personal crisis, a crisis that brought me close to nature, in the most intimate and experiential dimensions. The death of my beloved wife Kalyani on the eve of our planned departure to Australia will remain a crisis which can only be fathomed by those near and dear to me. The healing process was long. But nature with its myriad of images and metaphors always had a focus - that nature embodies both great beauty and the seeds of decay and impermanence. To grasp this point, as embodied in nature in the deepest experiential way, is to grasp the enchantment of a paradox, a paradox that lies at the heart of the Buddhist enlightenment experience. The kindred patterns of beauty and impermanence that arahant Talaputta Thera discerned give more form and content to this point. My son Maneesh and his wife Harini, my son Adeesh and his wife Ananga, and my son Chandeesh and his friend Fiona have helped me to re-build a new universe and enriched a process of healing. They join me in dedicating this book to the memory of my beloved wife Kalyani. Kalyani had been a tower of strength in my academic activities. But beyond that, she had a very humane sensibility attuned to the joy and sorrow of others. lowe a debt of gratitude to Dr Ian Mabbet and Dr Karen Green of Monash University, as well as to my friend from Sri Lanka, Dr Douglas Walatara, for reading through the original manuscript and making many useful comments. I

9 Author's Preface xi am also thankful to Dr Robyn Eckersley for introducing me to some of the recent works in green politics and green economics. I greatly appreciate the encouragement I received from Professor Peter Singer to work on this project at Monash University. Dr Alastair Gunn has written a very timely preface to this work and placed it within the wider dimensions of international environmental ethics. I had recognised his ability to empathise with non-western voices in environmental ethics when he assisted me to develop the environment and culture project at the IRe in Singapore. I hope that this need to recognise different but converging voices in the search for an ethic of sustainability will find greater resonance among environmental ethicists in the future. I am deeply grateful to Alastair for writting the preface. Finally, I express my debt to the editorial staff of Macmillan Press, who in numerous ways suggested improvements to the text. Needless to say, I accept responsibility for any shortcomings. I would also wish to place on record my thanks to Monash University, and its philosophy Department, for providing me with the ideal facilities for research. PADMASIRI DE SILVA

10 Foreword Alastair S. Gunn I was flattered when Padmasiri de Silva asked me to write the foreword to Environmental Philosophy and Ethics in Buddhism. But maybe a foreword to a book by an Australian from Sri Lanka written by a New Zealander from Britain is an appropriate reminder of the international dimensions of environmental ethics. Everyone, from the starving refugee in Central Africa to the Director of the Worldwatch Institute, knows that we face environmental problems on a scale that was previously unknown. We each see the problem in different ways, but we share a common need for a sustainable society. Such a society will provide for everyone's needs, including future generations, and protect the natural systems and biodiversity on which we all depend. To achieve a sustainable society, we need the specialized skills of many people: environmental scientists, planners, economists and educators. But skills on their own are not enough. We need a shared vision, though not a rigid, inflexible vision - an environmental ethic. Western environmental philosophers have attempted to produce such an ethic, mostly from a secular perspective. Western thought has also increasingly been influenced by the many varieties of eastern thought. More and more, we are recognizing that our environmental problems are also, in a broad sense, spiritual problems. Among the world religions, Buddhism has great promise as a basis for an environmental ethic, because it teaches a concern for the other animals and nature as well as our fellow humans. The Buddhist world view is holistic. As Padmasiri points out, it seeks a harmony at all levels: within each person, among persons in society, and within xiii

11 xiv Foreword the universe, of which humans are but a part. Buddhist personal, social and environmental ethics are contained in one unified world view. As Padmasiri writes, the transformation of the self and the transformation of nature go together. In the Western view, different metaethical positions are regarded as competitors. Buddhist ethics is, in Western terms, eclectic. It includes the traditional deontological, consequentialist and virtue ethics approaches as well as alternative perspectives such as feminist ethics. It enjoins us to avoid doing evil acts and to do good and to become better people and to care for and identify with others. It is not "foundationalist" but it is not crudely relativist. While being very contextual and pragmatic about rules and what is right and wrong for his followers, laypersons and monks, the Buddha respected the ethics of other systems and admitted degrees of spiritual growth, outside his own system. Humanity is often described as confronted with an "environmental crisis", which suggests a massive problem to which we had better find a quick solution, lest we perish. This is not the Buddhist approach, which is gradualist. Buddhism seeks to change our ways by changing ourselves, and this can best be achieved by education - the Buddha was one of the greatest educators, both by his teachings and by his example of a life well lived. Padmasiri hopes that we can develop an "ecological sensibility" through education in the broadest sense, drawing from many sources including culture stories that embody ancient knowledge. He rejects an unbalanced educational philosophy based on narrow epistemological models and "technocratic rationality". He recognizes that we need to draw on rational and scientific enquiry as well as the insights of deep ecology, ecofeminism and other philosophies that are critical of the received paradigm. He calls for a wide variety of educational strategies, 1/ a multidimensional pedagogy", like that of the Buddha himself, to bring environmental ethics into everyone's personal, professional and social lives.

12 Foreword xv In his conclusion, Padmasiri writes that "Ethics which is not relevant to the practical exigencies of life becomes mere rhetoric." This book is certainly an impressive display of scholarship in environmental ethics, and it is also eminently practical. I hope that it will enjoy the widest possible readership. Department of Philosophy University of Waikato

13 Abbreviations: Pali Texts and Translations A Anguttara Nikiiya, eds H. Morris and H. Hardy, vols I-V, London, Pall Text Society, A Tr. Gradual Sayings, vols I, II, V trans. E L. Woodward, vols III, IV trans. E.H. Hare, London, Pall Text Society, Atth. Tr. Expositor [trans. of Atthasalini], trans. C.AE Rhys Davids, London, Pall Text Society, 1920-l. D Dlgha Nikiiya, eds T.W Rhys Davids and J.E. Carpenter, vols I-III, London, Pall Text Society, D Tr. Dialogues of the Buddha, Part I trans. T.W Rhys Davids, Parts II, III trans. T.W and C.AE Rhys Davids, London, Pall Text Society, Dh. Dhammapada, ed. S. Sumangala, London, Pall Text Society, J Tr. Jiitaka Stories, ed. E.B. Cowell, vols I-VI, London, Pall Text Society, M Majjhima Nikiiya, eds R. Chalmers Trekner and C.AE Rhys Davids, vols I-IV, London, Pali Text Society, M Tr. Middle Length Sayings, trans. I.B. Horner, London, Pall Text Society, S Sarrzyutta Nikiiya, ed. L. Freer, London, Pall Text Society, S Tr. Kindred Sayings, Parts I, II trans. C.AE Rhys Davids, Parts III, IV, V trans. EL. Woodward, London, Pall Text Society, Sn. Suttanipiita, eds D. Anderson and H. Smith, London, Pall Text Society, Th. Thera-theri-giithii, eds H. Oldenberg and R. Pischel, London, Pall Text Society, xvii

14 xviii Th. Tr. Yin. Yin. Tr. Abbreviations: Pali Texts and Translations Psalms of the Early Buddhists, trans. CA.R Rhys Davids, London, Pall Text Society, Vinaya Pitaka, ed. H. Oldenberg, vols I-V, London, Pali Text Society, The Book of Discipline, trans. I.B. Horner, London, Pall Text Society,

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