Many practising Buddhists that I know also have strong ecological concerns. Is this concern for 'green' issues part of Buddhism or do the two things just attract the same kind of people i.e. people that like Buddhism also like green issues. Specifically does concern for the environment have any basis in canonical texts or commentaries or is it a modern development?

  • 17th Karmapa is very vocal about ecological concerns, perhaps more than any other major Buddhist figurehead so far
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 0:09
  • Here I just want to know, does Buddha given any specific teachings to save about environmental issues. Its true that, environment need to be taken care.
    – g savan
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:24

10 Answers 10


AFAIK there aren't any explicit references in the scriptures to ecological concerns and sustainability. I guess that in the days of the Buddha, there weren't many problems in that area. The ideas behind sustainability aren't new, but it wasn't until the second half of the 20th century (the energy crises in the 70s) that they became more prominent and that the growth of the entire human population and increased resource consumption were seen as a potential major problem for mankind.

I think what makes environmentalism and sustainability so interesting for Buddhists (or the other way around?) is that several main ideas are rather similar, or at least in line with each other. For example, the Buddha taught that everything, all life, is connected (dependent origination). Also there is no self, the self only exists in dependence upon causes and conditions (anatman). This means that if you damage the Earth then you indirectly are also damaging a part of yourself.

Buddhism also teaches us that we should take the middle way, lead a simple life, don't engage in addictive behavior or excessive consumption, be kind to others. These ideas are also prominent in sustainability. We shouldn't waste resources and should try to improve the living conditions for everyone, not just the rich people living in the Western world.

So to answer your question; I think Buddhism and environmentalism/sustainability just attract the same kind of people. People that really care for the well-being of others.

BTW, being a protem moderator of the Sustainable Living SE site, I can't resist making at least one reference to that site here. ;-)

  • Sorry - I've foubd some direct quotes from the Pali canon that I think so speak to ecological concerns. So I'm going to give that the answer for now - unless anyone can improve on it. Thank you for the answer though - I appreciate it. Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:26

One of the basic and profound teachings in Buddhism is about the 'precious human body'. Practitioners contemplate on how rare it is to be reborn as a human and how easy it is to lose life. Some may also know 18 qualities of human life (8 freedoms and 10 endowments). A well-functioning body is a great tool that will help us to reach progressive stages of realisation and once we deeply realise that, we will naturally be taking care of our body. Nowadays going 'green' is one of the ways to lead a healthier lifestyle and I suppose that is why many Buddhists choose to do so.

The difference is that some of the ecology-loving people treat the green issues as a goal rather than a tool. Buddhists should strive to have clean environment not because it is nice to have it but because such conditions are beneficial on their way to enlightenment. The teachings on emptiness tell us that on the absolute level everything is pure and beyond 'good' or 'bad' so even during the nuclear winter we can still reach enlightenment.


Notice that back then, humans were yet to possess the kind of technologies capable of screwing up the environment at such stupendous pace and scale as in the 21st century. Everything was bio-degradable. There was no plastic, nuclear wastes, fracking, oil drilling, massive fossil fuel burning, etc. So the problem didn't exist to require a specific teaching about it. Obviously if the Buddha was around today, He would've given teaching about the importance of keeping a safe and clean environment.

  • According to Dhammapada 44 & 45, Buddha doesn't encourage to about concerning about earth tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=044
    – g savan
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 1:45
  • 1
    The Buddha taught Dhp verses 44/45 in a very specific context: He saw those Bhikkhus engaging in iddle chatter and hence the need to focus attention back to subject of meditation. It's completely wrong to use verses 44/45 as an excuse to ignore the earth and all the ongoing environmental issues humans are creating.
    – santa100
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 2:50

The Buddha made remarks (for lay people) about conserving wealth; for example, the Sigalovada Sutta warns against squandering wealth.

That sutta doesn't mention the environment, but modern environmentalists or economists say that degrading the environment (and other activities including the exploitation of fossil fuels, deforestation, mining, any "unsustainable" levels of fishing, etc.) is equivalent to spending capital rather than spending income ... and that we ought to be living sustainably, consuming renewable income rather than unrenewable capital.

The Buddha also made remarks about being harmless, not killing, allowing other being to live free from fear.

Again I'm not aware of his saying that in an "environmental" context, but according to environmentalists, there is such a thing as being "harmful to the environment" which isn't the same as being "harmless" or "saving the environment"; and that destruction of natural habitat and indigenous wildlife is "killing".

Lastly, there are many comments from monks (not, as far as I know, from the Buddha himself, but from monks) about some environment or other being pleasant: of enjoying the smell of a forest at night, and so on.


I've found some quotes from the Pali Canon that do seem to address ecological concerns directly.


There is a story from a Dhammapada commentary about Ananda receiving 500 robes and his recycling plans - to quote a part of it

What will you do with the old garments

We will make bed covers out of them

What will you do with the old bed covers

We will make pillow cases with them

What will you do with the old pillow cases

We will make floor covers out of them

[and so on]

Source for the quote is Puja Readings and Other Texts as used in the Triratna Buddhist Community pp 121. Unfortunately the quote doesn't appear to be on Access to Insight (well I can't find it) however this link gives details of the Dhamapada commentorial account as well as related stories in the Jataka and Vinaya.


There is also a reference in the vinaya in the Living Plant chapter which may speak to environmental concerns

Should any bhikkhunī knowingly pour water containing living beings — or have it poured — on grass or on clay, it is to be confessed.

According to the same Triratna book (pp 117) the commentary says that because of the Pali syntax the rule can be read both ways - so that pouring grass or clay into water is also to be confessed - i.e. water should not be polluted.

This interpretation comes from Thanissaro in The Buddhist Monastic Code however it has been commented on another question that Thanissaro's translations can be particular

  • I've awarded myself the answer here (controversial maybe). But I encourage anyone to improve on this or correct me on this one - I'm no Pali canon expert. I'm very happy to give the answer elsewhere. Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:27

The path of all Buddhas is summarised as: (1) do not do evil; (2) do good; & (3) purify the mind. Purifying the mind means giving up attachment to the world. But this does not stop one from doing good. When the mind is free from attachment, it has few needs & even less wants. Therefore, the Buddhist path by nature looks after the environment & the planet as best as possible.

The Buddha taught it is right view to regard everything received as a 'gift' or 'benefaction' (MN 117), which gives rise to a reciprocal obligation in return. This includes the natural environment as a benefactor. In Pali, the word for gratitude means: "what is received; what must be done in return".

In the Vinaya (page 446) of the monks, there are rules about not polluting crops, water & other natural things that are required to support life.

Based in the Puttamansa Sutta, each day monks & some lay people reflect they use food, clothing, shelter & medicine merely to support the spiritual path & not for play, not for intoxication & not for beautification.

  • Sorry for additional questions but I'm not sure I understand your 2nd paragraph. When you mention MN 117, were you thinking of the sentence which here is translated, "There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed"? I think I've read of monks wanting to be worthy of the gifts they receive from laypeople ... are you saying there's something somewhere, which should be understood as laypeople being grateful for and repaying "gifts" which they receive from the environment? What is the Pali word for "gratitude"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 11:52
  • MN 117. Yes. There is no direct teaching I know regarding the environment but it is a general principle. This is a common teaching for lay people (eg MN 60). From "there is what is given" comes the next part: "There is mother & father" (benefactors; the givers; which can include mother earth) & "there is good & bad karma" ( reciprocal obligations, per DN 31, six directions). Gratitude = katannukatavedi = One who is grateful and repays the done favour from AN 2.31-32 Kataññu Suttas . Pali is kataññutā kataveditā: accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an02/an02.031.than.html Commented May 25, 2016 at 19:50

Buddhism attracts those that are keenly aware and concerned for the welfare of all sentient beings. With half the species extinct and more to follow, how can a Buddhist ignore environmental issues. By all the environmental affects including climate change, the suffering of billions of people will increase. Avoiding harm is a major precept of Buddhism.


No buddhism didn't teach it.

But by the path it self are conserve enough.

Industries happen by greediness of people. If you look carefully you'll see it's the starting point of every environmental problems.


there is this verse:

The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality, not the beautiful sensual pleasures found in the world. The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality. The beauties remain as they are in the world, while the wise, in this regard, subdue their desire.

it's not explicit but it can be inferred rather easily


Yes.. In some places Buddha has taught his followers to not to pollute the environment.

  • 2
    Can you identify or reference some of those places?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:23
  • Vinaya: Four: The 3 Miscellaneous Rules: page 446: accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1.pdf Commented May 25, 2016 at 19:54
  • In the five precepts, the rule to abstain from stealing implies honesty, respect for the possessions of others, and concern for the natural environment. Also filling selves with loving kindness means a concern for the welfare and happiness of all living beings as well as for the protection of our natural environment. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 1:10
  • Also a concern for the environment is shown, if you read in the 'Vinaya' - the section,"A PUPIL'S DUTIES AS ATTENDANT TO HIS MENTOR." This is still practiced to the letter, in places like the 'Mahamevnawa' in Sri Lanka. Also Thai Bhikkus of the Forest Tradition is a good example. Ex. Ajaan Mun was extremely meticulous, very clean about everything. Even living out in the forest in the dry season when there was a lot of dust, his hut and everything around it was very neat, very clean. Everything was in its right place. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 1:30

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