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Climate Change: Buddhism

Length - 06:08
Published - Apr 2024
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

Climate change is a global pressing issue. It affects everyone, irrespective of their religious beliefs. But in this film we are focusing on the viewpoints on the climate crisis from the Buddhist community. How does Buddhism tackle climate change and what are some of the steps they are taking help alleviate the problems we are facing.

Check out our other Climate Change films from the series:



Climate Change: Buddhism

Sean:       A Zen Buddhist is a tradition of Buddhism where there's a focus predominantly on meditation. The word Zen actually comes from a Sanskrit word, dhyana, and a Chinese word, chan, and it means meditation. So it's practicing Buddhism through meditation. Zen Buddhism Buddhism in general is not particularly a belief system. So Buddhism itself is kind of some guiding principles that are about people discovering their true nature. And the end result of that is to try and end suffering. So Buddha taught that life. Life is suffering. It contains suffering, old age, illness and death, and that there is a path through practice, through meditation, through how we live, whereby we can bring an end to the suffering we might experience. That doesn't mean that we won't die, but it means that we don't need to actually suffer. There is no distinction between it being the suffering of humans, or the suffering of plants, or the suffering of animals. As a practitioner of Zen Buddhism, my aim, as grand as it might seem, is to end the suffering of all beings. So you can't practice that without being concerned about nature.


David:     Basically, from a Buddhist point of view. Humans and nature are completely interdependent, but isn't very much about that. All things are interdependent with each other. So if we if we harm the natural world, we are harming ourselves. If we take care of the natural world, then we're taking care of ourselves. It's very simple. Of course, the Buddha, when he became enlightened, he was meditating underneath a tree. So he had great respect for trees. And actually, in a lot of Buddhist countries, there are Buddhist movements protecting trees and protecting rivers and things. It's always been very important in Buddhism. We follow Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Himalayan Buddhist tradition. It's a very, very fragile ecosystem there. So the people that are extremely environmentally conscious, and that's all part of, you know, the Buddhist practice.


Bell:        What I was saying earlier in my meditation to myself is nothing is anyone's and everyone is each other's. And I think that's a pretty spiritual way of looking at nature, I guess the oneness of it. That's what I'm trying to say. That there's no distinction between nature and you and you and nature and me and you and. Yeah, we've made distinctions and it's not very helpful.


Sean:       Buddhism and activism. There's been a lot written about it, so a term that resonates with me is Engaged Buddhism. So what can be a Buddhist and sit on a cushion and meditate and kind of hope that being a good person influences other people, and that will happen and it will ripple out. But then there is also a practice of saying, is that enough? Do you also need to get off the cushion and be visible and be a voice that stands up? So not taking life is one of the Buddhist precepts, but standing by while other life is taken isn't something that aligns with that either. So many Buddhists. Might struggle a bit. Finding the balance. There's a balance between doing something that is ultimately spiritual and something that's just very practical and worldly. But the two of them can't really be separated. My teacher's teacher describes Zen as a sword that cuts two into one. So this is about bringing the ordinary everyday world and the spiritual together and not seeing them as two separate things. So to be a good Zen Buddhist and a good Zen Buddhist teacher, which is what I try to be. You can't do that on your cushion alone. Do it on the cushion, and you do it out in the street and in the real world where people aren't, and certainly Extinction Rebellion Buddhists. It's a great family of people from all different Buddhist traditions who are aligned in that thinking that we must do more than just meditate at home.


Bell:        The overlap between climate activists and Buddhists. Big Venn diagram, big overlap there. I actually didn't know about the Extinction Rebellion Buddhist group until yesterday, and I have morphed over to it. And I've really enjoyed it. I found it really powerful because I automatically feel a connection to other bidders, even if I don't know them. There's a mutual understanding I feel at home. And to add on top of that, that everyone's here because they care about the climate. A lot of Buddhist ethics are about not doing harm, acting with deeds of loving kindness, being generous, being kind, being acting with integrity and authenticity. All of these things are the kind of things that everyone here is displaying, not just the Buddhists. I think Buddhists can bring something to climate activism that is needed. And I think that's this really beautiful way that we can display how we're channeling rage and anger into a peaceful and calm way of doing it.


David:     I think it's everybody's responsibility to look after the planet. We can't leave it to the government because the government is just a really projection of the mind of all the people. So if people are not being environmentally conscious, we're not going to get an environmentally conscious government. Um, we all depend on each other. We depend on the animals, we depend on the plants, we depend on the whole ecosystem. Um, and we can't there's nobody up there who's going to do it for us. So unless everybody takes responsibility, it's not going to happen.