Volume 45, Issue 3, Fall 2023
Colin H. Simonds
The Trouble of Rocks and Waters
On the (Im)Possibility of a Buddhist Environmental Ethic
This article considers the possibility of constructing an authentic environmental ethic from Buddhist sources. It first outlines the major critiques of historical Buddhist approaches to the natural world and parses some of the philological and linguistic barriers to such a construction. It then considers some of the recent philosophical critiques of such a project and reviews the major points of tension between the Buddhist philosophical tradition and the kinds of environmental ethics found in the land ethic and deep ecology. Ultimately, this article asserts that such tension is relieved if we begin from Buddhist philosophical principles and construct an environmental ethic from the ground up. It argues a Buddhist environmental ethic emerges from the combination of the goal of liberating all sentient beings from duḥkha, an understanding of duḥkha as dependently arising, and a novel recognition of the environment as a major cause of this duḥkha.