QUERY> Buddhism and Ecology for undergrads

Daniel Cozort's picture

Dear colleagues,


I would be grateful for any suggestions you might have for pieces relevant to Buddhism and ecology, consumerism, or economics in general that might be good to use for an undergraduate course. I am especially looking for good pieces that have been published since the year 2000 and that are relatively short. These may include chapters in books, articles published in Buddhist journals or on websites, or in academic journals (as long as they would not be over the heads of undergraduates). I will be happy to share your suggestions with our colleagues.


Thanks in advance,



Dear Dan,

there is an interesting passage in the book "A Saint in Seattle" by David Jackson:

As Kangshar’s close disciple Chögyam Trungpa Trulku related in his autobiography, the khenpo traveled up into the mountains and visited the holy snow-crested mountain Doti Gangkar.

According to legend, originally, in the golden age, the whole mountain had been covered with snow and had shone like a diamond; in the following age it became like an onyx (or gzi stone?) in which light and darkness were mixed; and in the final age, it would become blue-black, like iron. Then everything would be dark and the age of religion in Tibet would be over.

When they reached the top of the mountain and saw that the snowfields were melting and great expanses of dark rock were showing, this left a deep impression on the master.

Saint in Seattle, p. 212

I can also recommend the two links below:



I hope this helps.

Best regards,

Achim Bayer
associate professor
Kanazawa Seiryo University
Department of International Culture
Kosaka-machi Minami 559
920 0811 Kanazawa


Dear Dan,

With regard to Buddhism and economics, perhaps Karl-Heinz Brodbeck's work deserves more attention and calling attention to internationally than it is getting. http://www.khbrodbeck.homepage.t-online.de/
That's certainly also due to the fact that his "classic" work in this area, 'Buddhist Economic Ethics' (Buddhistische Wirtschaftsethik. Eine Einführung, überbearbeitete Neuausgabe, Berlin 2011 (edition steinrich); 1. Auflage erschienen unter: Buddhistische Wirtschaftsethik. Eine vergleichende Einführung, Aachen 2002 (Shaker Verlag)), is so far only available in German...
I have never used his work in undergraduate courses, though.

Best regards,


Dear colleagues,

that is the same for me. I am preparing a course on animal ethics and environment in Buddhism, and would be greatful for suggestions too.

Best wishes,


Hi All --

Pasting below the works I used in a related course last winter/spring -- not all Buddhist, but provide points of dialogue with Buddhism. Also used YouTube clip of David Loy lecture, and a great documentary: BBC/CCTV 2016, China: Between Clouds and Dreams.
Books would also recommend: David Graeber, Debt, and Philip Goodchild, The Theology of Money.

Duara, Prasenjit (2015). The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1-288.

Hershock, Peter (2012). Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future. Albany: SUNY Press. 1-293.

Latour, Bruno [2002] (2013). Rejoicing: Or the Torments of Religious Speech. Trans. Julie Rose. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Loy, David (2002). A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack. Albany: SUNY Press. 1-214.

Mauss, Marcel [1925] (1990). The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. W.D Halls. London: Routledge. ix-107.

Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. Kindle, Random House Business. 384 pages.

Weber, Max. [1930] (1992). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. Talcott Parsons. London: Routledge. vii-125

Weiner, Annette B. (1992). Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1-155.

Adamek, Wendi L. (2005). “The Impossibility of the Given: Representations of Merit and Emptiness in Medieval Chinese Buddhism.” History of Religions 45.2: 135-181.

Gethin, Rupert, trans. (2008). “Advice to Sigāla.” In Sayings of the Buddha: A Selection of Suttas from the Pali Nikāyas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 129-138.

Schopen, Gregory (1997). “The Ritual Obligations and Donor Roles of Monks in the Pāli Vinaya.” In Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 72-85.

Walsh, Michael J. (2007). “The Economics of Salvation: Toward a Theory of Exchange in Chinese Buddhism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion: 1-30.

All best,


Hi All,

I teach an undergraduate course on Buddhism and Environment, which looks at the anthropological aspects of how Buddhists perceive and act towards the natural environment. I include a section on economics and consumption, as these are crucial issues related to the environment. I'm happy to share my syllabus with anyone who is interested (and will post it through the syllabus project in H-Buddhism soon). Besides a lot of shorter articles, I ask students to read two books - the first of which addresses Dan's initial query about consumerism:

Payne, Richard K. 2010. How Much Is Enough? Buddhism, Consumerism, and the Human Environment. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Darlington, Susan M. 2012. The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (I have a short article with a similar title published in 1998 in Ethnology - the book is more nuanced and political and, of course, has more details.)

Hope this is helpful.

Sue Darlington
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA

Dear Dan and all,
For courses on Buddhism and ecology or Buddhism and consumerism, there are several great resources by Stephanie Kaza, Professor Emeritus in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont. (Full disclosure: I'm her editor at Shambhala Publications.) Her edited anthology Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume (2005) has many good essays that are accessible to undergrads. Mindfully Green (2008) is a wonderful short monograph (150 pages), looking at Buddhism, systems theory and other Western perspectives, and practical approaches to sustainability.

Her forthcoming essay anthology Green Buddhism (March 2019) will be a fairly comprehensive overview of Buddhism, ecology, and environmental activism. It has essays ranging from short, lyrical pieces she's published across the years to longer, more academic pieces considering Green Buddhism from the vantages of Buddhist schools and history, contemporary activism, unique qualities of American Buddhism, ecofeminism, animals, profiles of prominent Buddhist environmentalists (Gary Snyder, Sulak Sivaraksa, Joanna Macy, John Daido Loori), and more.

A fun basis for an experiential and writing project for undergrads could also be Kaza's The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees (1996), wherein she weaves together scientific and spiritual perspectives with a more personal/phenomenological experience of individual trees. Shambhala is going to reissue this in a 25th anniversary edition as Conversations with Trees: An Intimate Ecology in April 2019.

On climate change in particular, I also recommend David Loy, John Stanley, and Gyurme Dorje's essay anthology from Wisdom Publications, A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency (2009).

Matt Zepelin

Title: Responsible Living: Explorations in Applied Buddhist Ethics
Contact: Joscelyne Kravitz (Eileen Hu, Angela Justice) at BTTS

UKIAH, California, March 15, 2018 - As Earth Day approaches, the Buddhist Text Translation Society and Dharma Realm Buddhist University are delighted to announce a new publication by Dharma Realm Buddhist University’s Chancellor Emeritus, Dr. Ron Epstein, Ph.D. Responsible Living: Explorations in Applied Buddhist Ethics - Animals, Environment, GMOs, Digital Media is a collection of exploratory essays which uses applied Buddhist ethics, with support from passages in classic Buddhist texts, to address a host of modern day issues related to the environment, animal rights, and digital media.

In Responsible Living, Dr. Epstein describes how outer environmental and social problems mirror humanity’s inner struggle with selfishness, greed, and desire. By connecting to Buddhist concepts such as compassion, causation, and moral precepts to these issues, this collection of essays provides guidance to Buddhists for ethical conduct in the modern world. In the early pages of the book, he shares that, “From being inspired by the Venerable Master, the writings contained in this volume also represent my own struggle to broaden my understanding of the Buddhadharma, trying to see how it can be practically applied to very real and concrete problems of contemporary life. The Buddhadharma is not restricted to the confines of Buddhist temples or monasteries, to a particular culture or cultures, or to ancient times, but is a relevant and useful tool for the understanding of our most important current issues and challenges, no matter when and where they occur. The essays contained in this volume and are intended as examples of this kind of use of the Buddhadharma.”

The new book begins with a foreword by Venerable Ajahn Pasanno, Abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, and also one of the senior most Western monastic disciples of the Venerable Ajahn Chah of the Thai Forest tradition. He states that, “The consistent result of those who put the teachings of the Lord Buddha into practice is not indifference but a pro-active compassion that is concerned for the welfare of the world with all its beings. The internal wisdom that is cultivated provides the skill in acting externally in the world with both discernment and kindness...With increasing distance from our natural world and environment, we have to look to spiritual support to establish ourselves in clarity, as it is only clear view that can hold the ecological problems skillfully and respond in an appropriate way. It is my hope that these essays will help people look for and find solutions.”

Dr. Epstein began his study and practice of Buddhism at the age of 24 under the direction of the Venerable Master in the 1960s shortly after the Master arrived in San Francisco. Prior to this collection of essays, Dr. Epstein worked as one of the principal translators of the newly translated Shurangama Sutra in English. He has written extensively on the contemporary application of Buddhism and Buddhist ethics, and also co-sponsored legislation in northern California which banned for the first time the growing of GMO crops on a county-wide basis.

Responsible Living is available in paperback at the CTTB bookstore, and online at www.bttsonline.org, Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1601030991/ref=tmm_other_meta_bi...), Amazon UK, Amazon AU, Amazon BR, Amazon JP, and Amazon MX. Ebook versions are scheduled to be released in July.

People may find these articles of mine useful on this issue:

Harvey, Peter. 2007. ‘Avoiding Unintended Harm to the Environment and the Buddhist Ethic of Intention’, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol.14, pp.1–34: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2010/05/harvey-article1.pdf

Harvey, Peter. 2013. ‘Buddhist Reflections on “Consumer” and “Consumerism”’, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Special 20th Anniversary Issue, vol. 20: 334–256: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2013/09/Harvey-Consumer-final1.pdf

Peter Harvey

Hi Dan,

For a helpful framing of the methodological issues I'd suggest:
1) Eckel, Malcom David. "Is There a Buddhist Philosophy of Nature?" In Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds. Edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryuken Williams, 327-349. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
2) Gross, Rita M. “Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethic.” In Worldviews, Religion, and the Environment: A Global Anthology. Edited by Richard S. Foltz, 163-171. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003.
3) Ives, Christopher. “In Search of a Green Dharma: Philosophical Issues in Buddhist Environmental Ethics.” In Destroying Mara Forever: Buddhist Ethics Essays in Honor of Damien Keown. Edited by John Powers and Charles S. Prebish, 165-186. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Press, 2009.

To give a sense of how Buddhism and local practices play out on the ground:
1) Darlington, Susan M. “The Good Buddha and the Fierce Spirits: Protecting the Northern Thai Forest.” Contemporary Buddhism 8:2 (2007), 169-185.
2) Ng, Zhiru. “Purifying the Mind, Sanctifying the Earth: Visualizing Environmental Protection in Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan.” Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, 2006.

For issues of consumerism, Sue's suggestion of the Payne volume is perfect, especially the chapter by Stephanie Kaza ("How Much is Enough?: Buddhist Perspectives on Consumerism"). Although probably not necessary to assign for class, a nice overview of Buddhism and ecology can be found in Johnston, Lucas. “The ‘Nature’ of Buddhism: A Survey of Relevant Literature and Themes.” Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion 10:1 (2006), 69-99.

Seth Clippard
Hungkuang University Taichung, Taiwan