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Buddhism and Nature

I have always liked nature. As I left my youth this deepened. I am never happier than when in a wood or on the coast.

My growing love started to be accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction. I wanted something but what? Coming back from a nature trip was like leaving the table feeling hungry. I tried reading about ecology, I considered gardening - all very interesting but not the answer.

After some years I started to explore spirituality and eventually linked this to nature. The yearning sensation went away and a deeper satisfaction has replaced it. I feel now that I owe my continued interest in a spiritual path to nature.

My question is, what is happening? Is this simply a case of 'whatever turns you on' or is there something special about nature that I am sensing? From a Buddhist point of view is a natural landscape significantly different from a shopping mall or industrial estate?

Jeffrey

Comments

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @rocala

    I spend part of each summer expedition ocean kayaking with my partner as far from other folks as possible so I relate to your posting.

    While I do find that nature compliments urban dwelling and vise versa, a meditation practice is more about freeing ourselves from our ego colored perceptions of existence than in thinking that one landscape might be more Buddha bound than another.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I can relate too @rocala.

    Often I find myself irritable when stuck indoors for anything more than half a day or so. I just have to get outside for a bit and always feel better for it.

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    @rocala said: From a Buddhist point of view is a natural landscape significantly different from a shopping mall or industrial estate?

    There isn't really a 'Buddhist point of view', there is just the view :)

    I haven't found 'love of nature' as a subject addressed much in Buddhism as it were, but it's been extensively addressed here and there, mainly in NON Buddhist writings and wisdom teachings. I don't personally attribute wisdom teachings solely to Buddhism, instead it seems clear that this is an artificial 'line'.

    "On Walden Pond" by Thoreau is an example. I can't think of anything specific, having read and heard more than I can easily remember from others, but the gist is we are no more 'separate' from each other as humans than we are our environment, the Earth and all it's landscapes and denizens.

    Joanna Macy wrote a book called "Greening the Self". She is an environmental activist who appears to me anyway, to have pulled together Buddhist ideas and a spiritual relationship with the environment. I've read it through once, and mean to read it again, but it popped into my head when reading your OP.

  • @Hamsaka. It strikes me that you might enjoy reading Landscapes of Wonder by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano. Something like an American Buddhist Thoreau. If such is possible.

    Hamsaka
  • rocalarocala Explorer

    Thank you everyone for your input.

    Earthninja
  • Find right frog. Kiss. Turn into Lotus.
    pagandharma.org/2013/04/zen-druids/
    It be my plan . . .

    Jains are quite green

    Earthninja
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @rocala‌ zen Druids! I love this idea. Thanks @lobster‌.

    Hmmm very cool

  • rocalarocala Explorer

    Hi Lobster, thanks for the link. It is an incredibly interesting website and I have found a few others as a result. Philip Carr-Gomm's weblog to name one, is very informative.
    Lots to read and think about now.

    Earthninja
  • As a dweller in the US desert southwest I've come to a deep and respectful attitude towards the mysticism of the sands and the symphony of silence that is so much a part of the desert. In a place which can appear to be rather absent of life there is an abundant life energy. I commune daily with ravens and am often called to a silencing by the vastness of it all. One of the better places for practice.

    Earthninjalobster
  • I think it has to do with the way we are brought up.

    Since most man made things require considerable energy input (work) to exist, were are thought, this is awesome, and this is awesome etc etc. Growing up, we crave those things.

    Most natural things require no human input. They arise by themselves.

    As we go through life, with the hard earned human-made items breaking on us, letting us down, ceasing to fulfill promises (especially in a culture where marketing is so important), we see there is this other, lightweight, effortless abundance. We crave to get rid of our habits and chains that sprung up while we were getting used to the comfort and luxury that human-made things bring, but often we cannot give it up anymore.

    Craving, however, is at the root of suffering. The human made things are made of the same material as the things made by nature. Our relationship to them though, is deeply conditioned.

    Maybe somewhat less relevant, I read of a Buddhist master, whose main method of action was to "frustrate attempts at comfort" made by his pupils. This way, they could not run away like most of us do (go to a nice, fresh quiet place from a annoying smelly loud place and pretend we are improving in our practice), but they had to actually make a mind shift to enjoy themselves :lol:

    Now enough for the theory, as a child I watched a cartoon which had a song with a line that translated to "Dark spruce trees and grass fields in the shining sun is what you need to be happy". So personally I go with this rather :lol:

  • rocalarocala Explorer

    grackle - I can relate to your desert experiences, spent a little time in one once. I wish I had one near.

    mithril - A great post. I agree that our upbringing is an aspect of this. Your point about 'craving' takes us back to my original question about significant difference. I think your point about conditioning is on the right track.

  • rocalarocala Explorer

    While continuing my research, I came across the following by Al Jillings, at http://www.openbuddha.com/2008/06/03/a-pagan-buddhist/

    "One of things that I really appreciated in Tibetan Buddhism and which I appreciate in Japanese Buddhism moreso is the incorporation of the world around us, especially the landscape and life in it, into their beliefs. I am a child of the Pacific Northwest and my vision of nature is tall evergreen trees, ferns, moss, and fog and rain. To me, that is a peaceful and calm place and one outside the hustle and bustle that we create for ourselves as humans. I saw a lot of these sorts of places, usually with a shrine in them, while visiting Japan last year."

    Could anyone give me some idea as to how the Tibetans and Japanese do this incorporation?

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @rocala , well the zen Buddhists use a lot of Daoism in their way of thinking/practicing Which is the natural way. Have a skimover the Dao te Ching!

    The zen gardens represent natural growth where humans help the environment shape. The plants are shaped but they have their own natural way. Excuse my lack of in depth knowledge! I only know a little.

    Rocala I am getting drawn more and more into nature, I often comment at how beautiful a tree is. Much to the people around me amusement.

    My biggest fear in combining Buddhism/paganism is the clinging.
    If we prefer nature to cars. And are unhappy in nature less cities. That's aversion.
    If your wanting something, be careful your not craving! :) I've got to look at myself closely. '

    Go well bud!

  • mettanandomettanando Veteran
    edited August 2014

    If I ask something please believe me when I say I am not being facetious.

    Could someone define ' nature ' for me ?

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Well, it would probably be more useful to us if you gave us your definition first, and see how in tune we all are with that. Nothing wrong with personal views... just interesting to compare notes....

  • I don't have a definition. I suspect it may be a term that we all assume we know the meaning of, but when we try to grasp it ...

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    OK, I'll bite: nature is something far more wonderful than the sum of its parts, and something we ultimately can only harness, but never assume to control. This goes from the weather to microbes.

  • Are human beings part of nature ?

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Read again@ It goes from 'Weather to Microbes' so yes, of course we are. What may lead you to say, think or believe we are not, if anything?

  • mettanandomettanando Veteran
    edited August 2014

    So if human beings are part of nature, what about the things that humans produce....
    For example , there is a kind of ant that makes compost from chewed leaves. It then grows mushrooms in the resulting compost. i assume that we would all see that as 'natural'. But what about steel produced by humans. Is that part of nature ?

    My point is that natural and unnatural are false distinctions. Therefore ..what is nature ?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    You should strive to be "at home" or at peace, or however you want to say it, wherever you are. If you put nature ahead of everything else, and you live in an urban area, you will always be unhappy when you are in the middle of the city. There is nature everywhere if you know where to look, it's not limited to the trees and land. It's in the clouds and air. It's in the rain. it's in the way that the heat on the pavement interacts with the air around it and creates illusions. It's in the dandelion growing in the crack at the basketball court.

    I grew up and still live in a wilderness area, though I spent about 10 years in a city while in college. There are many things to appreciate about both.

    Nature includes everything. It has to. But we use the term to differentiate between that which we consider man-made and that which the elements and non-humans create. There is a tendency in our world today to remove ourselves (humans) from nature and only consider us a bad aspect, a parasite that does damage to the natural world. We have, of course. But we have also successfully righted our wrongs in some cases (bald eagles for example). Believe me, beavers can be incredibly damaging to the ecological system around them. They strip the trees and fell them, and they cause immense flooding. But we choose to see their beaver houses and the damage they caused as natural, yet we'll shake our fist at a person who buys land and cuts trees down. How is one more natural than the other? Thinking of the human species as a waste of space is no different from thinking of yourself as such. We understand well that it's not healthy or useful to think of yourself as a waste of space. So why do it to your entire species? (not saying anyone here is, I just see it a lot).

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited August 2014

    @mettanando said:
    So if human beings are part of nature, what about the things that humans produce....
    For example , there is a kind of ant that makes compost from chewed leaves. It then grows mushrooms in the resulting compost. i assume that we would all see that as 'natural'. But what about steel produced by humans. Is that part of nature ?

    My point is that natural and unnatural are false distinctions. Therefore ..what is nature ?

    >

    I've already given you my definition. If you want to split hairs and start hyper-analysing everything be my guest. I don't care to start splitting everything up to an nth degree. I have more important things to think about.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @federica said:
    I've already given you my definition. If you want to split hairs and start hyper-analysing everything be my guest. I don't care to start splitting everything up to an nth degree. I have more important things to think about.

    That seems a natural response :nyah: .

    @mettanando being clever is in Buddhist terms, an unnatural proclivity of the monkey mind.

    I am incidentally not being facetious and also have better things to think about. Hopefully you do too? Now let us find out how you respond and how you define/justify your question and natural/unnatural pointing out . . . :wave: .

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    Nature is the path that energy takes in all forms.
    @mettanando‌ is steel nature? Yes. Why? Because what's the difference between that ant and us?

    A bee hive vs an office building? No real difference.

    My only problem with the difference is our construction is done with ignorant minds. We try and control nature, nature doesn't need controlling. It is uncontrollable, impermanent and always changing.

    The feeling that we are something different from nature is the problem. We are nature and nature is us.

    Toraldris
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Kia Ora,

    Language....the nature of the beast !

    Metta Shoshin . :) ..

    Dandelion
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @rocala said:
    I have always liked nature. As I left my youth this deepened. I am never happier than when in a wood or on the coast.

    My growing love started to be accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction. I wanted something but what? Coming back from a nature trip was like leaving the table feeling hungry. I tried reading about ecology, I considered gardening - all very interesting but not the answer.

    After some years I started to explore spirituality and eventually linked this to nature. The yearning sensation went away and a deeper satisfaction has replaced it. I feel now that I owe my continued interest in a spiritual path to nature.

    My question is, what is happening? Is this simply a case of 'whatever turns you on' or is there something special about nature that I am sensing? From a Buddhist point of view is a natural landscape significantly different from a shopping mall or industrial estate?

    I'd say it's a form of conditionality. Things affect us, including our natural surroundings, and there are many things about a natural landscape that can be healthy, inspiring, and conducive to meditation. The Buddha often encouraged his monks and nuns to find secluded spots in the forest to meditate, free from worldly distractions and sensuality, in order to dig deeper into their minds and to gain a stable footing in the Dhamma for good reason. That said, I think one should also be wary of idealizing nature.

    EarthninjaStraight_Man
  • Hey rocola your definitely onto something, & it's yourself yearning to live off the land & become one with nature....Mother nature & god created the world together, & nature is the actual law....It will grow as you get older unless you actually start to become less reliant on money, & more reliant on nature....Is it more fun to do a job you hate to be able to buy watered down food from the shops, or is it more fun & better for your all round health to grow your own food?....We're all aiding & abetting in the destruction of planet earth & we should all break free, & become more self sufficient & start really living life....We was given everything we need, & with a billion different things to do & see....What most people do with their time is waste it watching the T.V, & worshipping celebs & brands, & all those people are breaking the law of nature....That's what your feeling buddy in my opinion, & good for you for feeling it.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @rocala said:
    I have always liked nature. As I left my youth this deepened. I am never happier than when in a wood or on the coast.

    My growing love started to be accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction. I wanted something but what? Coming back from a nature trip was like leaving the table feeling hungry. I tried reading about ecology, I considered gardening - all very interesting but not the answer.

    After some years I started to explore spirituality and eventually linked this to nature. The yearning sensation went away and a deeper satisfaction has replaced it. I feel now that I owe my continued interest in a spiritual path to nature.

    My question is, what is happening? Is this simply a case of 'whatever turns you on' or is there something special about nature that I am sensing? From a Buddhist point of view is a natural landscape significantly different from a shopping mall or industrial estate?

    Kia Ora,

    The following link might be of interest to you, it's not so much 'Buddhist' but what some scientists have discovered about nature and its impact upon us...

    Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). New research is expanding those findings. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

    http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy

    I've been in ecotherapy for around 14 years now, that is, I'm fortunate to live surrounded by nature in its purest form ie, native bush, wild life, bird song, insects, beautiful colours and ocean waves....I see and hear the symphony of nature everyday...

    Metta Shoshin . :) ..

  • @federica said:

    My question was sincere. But clearly it was seen as inappropriate. I can only apologise. I had no intention at all of causing offence.

    lobster
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    There is a member on another forum who lives by the sea. I mean, by the sea. He has a beach-front house. He has a dog, which he regularly walks and he is as close to nature and its ever-changing face, day and night, as anyone possibly could be.
    Never have I come across someone so crotchety, anti-social and who by his own admittance, does not like people because they upset his balance.... So I think one has to be open to the overwhelming benefits of being close to Nature, for it to have any demonstrable beneficial effect. Myself.....

  • I know this has become much quoted online in discussions of this kind, but I think it bears repeating.

    " We sit by a lake on a warm day and feel peaceful. We have left the city behind with its noise and crowds. We are at peace. But under the surface of the lake its a hell state. Everything is hunting everything else or being hunted. Its a place of terror. The peace we feel is not in the lake or its surroundings. Its in our minds. We must find that peace wherever we are. Its always there. "
    Ajahn Mun ( teacher of Ajahn Chah ).

    This will be my last contribution to the forum. My intention was simply to share and to listen. However I have clearly been unskillful and have caused irritation. That was the last thing I wanted.

    So I will withdraw. May all be free from pain and the causes of pain. May all know joy and the causes of joy.

    lobsterJeffrey
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @federica said:
    There is a member on another forum who lives by the sea. I mean, by the sea. He has a beach-front house. He has a dog, which he regularly walks and he is as close to nature and its ever-changing face, day and night, as anyone possibly could be.
    Never have I come across someone so crotchety, anti-social and who by his own admittance, does not like people because they upset his balance.... So I think one has to be open to the overwhelming benefits of being close to Nature, for it to have any demonstrable beneficial effect. Myself.....

    Kia Ora,

    It's interesting that you should mention this... If ones mind becomes polluted with defilements (mentally unstable) it wouldn't really matter where one lived...

    The island where I live is beautiful, beaches, native bush, wild life, ocean sounds, colours etc etc, but sadly we also have one of the highest youth suicide rates...

    I like what Sadhguru has to say about the mind "The mind is like society's garbage bin !"

    Metta Shoshin . :) ..

    Jeffrey
  • This will be my last contribution to the forum. My intention was simply to share and to listen. However I have clearly been unskillful and have caused irritation. That was the last thing I wanted.

    Ah well. You have a lot to offer. Sadly like many we are too sensitive? Everybody is irritating or irritated or misunderstood. This is the nature of Internet communication. Your intention is fine. If you read this please think about sticking around and causing the very slight irritation that is more imagined than real. I for one value your intent. :wave: .

    EarthninjaDavidJeffrey
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @mettanando

    It sounds like what you find to be intolerable here is anyone questioning what you are trying to "share". Without widening ones ability to truly listen to others, what you call sharing, might be more truthfully called proselytizing.

    Having other folks support a particular view only increases the size of our tribe. It might add to the inetia of our human condition's views but does little about the cause of our suffering.

    Exploring if a particular idea we hold onto is an attachment however directs our footfalls towards our freedom from suffering's cause.

    This is what NB offers me when I am open to that possibility..

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @mettanando said:
    I know this has become much quoted online in discussions of this kind, but I think it bears repeating.

    " We sit by a lake on a warm day and feel peaceful. We have left the city behind with its noise and crowds. We are at peace. But under the surface of the lake its a hell state. Everything is hunting everything else or being hunted. Its a place of terror. The peace we feel is not in the lake or its surroundings. Its in our minds. We must find that peace wherever we are. Its always there. "
    Ajahn Mun ( teacher of Ajahn Chah ).

    >

    I may be ignorant, but I have never, ever heard that quotation before. Good of you to share.

    This will be my last contribution to the forum. My intention was simply to share and to listen. However I have clearly been unskillful and have caused irritation. That was the last thing I wanted.

    So I will withdraw. May all be free from pain and the causes of pain. May all know joy and the causes of joy.

    My dear departed Grandmother would say that now, you're just being 'precious'.

    Lighten up. Life's too short to be taken too seriously. ;) .

    Jeffrey
  • @mettanando. Please do stick around. I for one will miss your contributions.

    EarthninjaJeffrey
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