Nature / Landsacpes

The Neverending Change

Modern man in his search for pleasure and affluence has exploited nature without any moral restraint to such an extent that nature has been rendered almost incapable of sustaining healthy life. Invaluable gifts of nature, such as air and water, have been polluted with severely disastrous consequences. Man is now searching for ways and means of overcoming the pollution problem as his health too is alarmingly threatened. He also feels that it is irresponsible and morally wrong on his part to commit the future generations to a polluted planet

If man is to act with a sense of responsibility to the natural world, to his fellow human beings and to unborn future generations, he has to find an appropriate environmental ethic today to prevent further aggravation of the present pollution problem. Hence his search for wisdom and attitudes in a hitherto neglected area of knowledge, namely, religion.

Buddhism strictly limits itself to the delineation of a way of life designed to eradicate human suffering.The Buddha refused to answer questions which did not directly or indirectly bear on the central problem of human suffering and its ending. Furthermore, environmental pollution is a problem of the modern age, unheard of and unsuspected during the time of the Buddha. Therefore it is difficult to find any specific discourse which deals with the topic we are interested in here. Nevertheless, as Buddhism is a full-fledged philosophy of life reflecting all aspects of experience, it is possible to find enough material in the Pali canon to delineate the Buddhist attitude towards nature.

A silent sound
Running waters

Nature as Dynamic


According to Buddhism changeability is one of the perennial principles of nature. Everything changes in nature and nothing remains static. This concept is expressed by the Pali term anicca. Everything formed is in a constant process of change (sabbe sankhara anicca). The world is therefore defined as that which disintegrates (lujjati ti loko); the world is so called because it is dynamic and kinetic, it is constantly in a process of undergoing change.

In nature there are no static and stable «things»; there are only ever-changing, ever-moving processes. Rain is a good example to illustrate this point. Though we use a noun called «rain» which appears to denote a «thing,» rain is nothing but the process of drops of water falling from the skies.

Apart from this process, the activity of raining, there is no rain as such which could be expressed by a seemingly static nominal concept. The very elements of solidity (pathavi), liquidity (apo), heat (tejo) and mobility (vayo), recognized as the building material of nature, are all ever-changing phenomena.

Even the most solid looking mountains and the very earth that supports everything on it are not beyond this inexorable law of change.One sutta explains how the massive king of mountains — Mount Sineru, which is rooted in the great ocean to a depth of 84,000 leagues and which rises above sea level to another great height of 84,000 leagues and which is very classical symbol of stability and steadfastness — also gets destroyed by heat, without leaving even ashes, with the appearance of multiple suns. Thus change is the very essence of nature.

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