Response to Buddhism in Japan

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Technology is inanimate, and economy is a make-believe rule book that has only been around only for mere moments in the grand scheme of the universe. To say these things have caused a disconnect between the influence of religion and the way the environment is treated is not only irresponsible but also foolish. It would be absurd to say that microwaves are destroying the rain forest, or that the new healthcare bill is responsible for the endangerment of elephants native to Africa. One could definitely find a connection between the each of these cases, but there is definitely not a direct relationship. Instead, man is solely responsible for the disconnect between the influence of religion and the way the environment is treated. Many years ago, before electricity was ever harnessed and before any banks were established, people lived together in much smaller concentrations, ate radically different diets, and were employed at much simpler occupations. Because of these circumstances, it was almost essential for there to be a strong religious presence and a maternal dependence on the land. If a field or forest were to suffer maltreatment, there would a direct negative consequence. If even a single water supply were to become contaminated, entire villages and communities could totally disappear. Today, that is not the case. Population has increased in a manner that is impossible to ignore, and resources are harnessed in a gluttonous manner. Again, this is a result of the greed of man, not the strength of the processing plants we have created. Furthermore, we are able to predict the weather days in advance, have instant access to basic and essential medical treatments, and have made the concept of “harvest” irrelevant to the modern consumer. Religion is simply not practical anymore. It is not essential to a good life, nor does it ensure a long life.

One of my best friends is Chinese graduate student who is working on earning his Master’s Degree here the University of Florida’s Computer Engineering program. According to him, you could ask pretty much anyone on the street what they believe and they will either tell you that they are a follower of Buddha or Confucius. This is not always a perfect indicator though. According to him, “most of them only go to the temple when they have a job interview or exam the next day, and that’s it – maybe for a holiday if their family makes them, but that’s not too common.” Even on the other side of the planet, people still have jobs and responsibilities which have been deemed more important that strict religion and much of the grandeur of Buddha’s teachings have been buried under the rapidly growing skylines and smokestacks of urban China.

It is not always easy to be “environmentally friendly,” but we should be careful about making unnecessary martyrs of ourselves. There is a stark contrast between being “economically stable” and living in excess. It is entirely possible to live a simple life within our means, providing for a small family with a steady income, and still get more in tune with nature. Just as it is absurd to drive a large van across town to buy Lunchables in bulk, it is equally illogical to force your spouse and children to pull a “Thoreau.” Environmentally speaking, a life in thoughtful moderation is a good life.

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One response »

  1. I really like the viewpoint you have with this topic and the examples you gave to support it. I too believe that religion simply isn’t practical or relevant when it comes to the interest of the environment (and many other world issues), and it is no longer impactful enough to encourage people to behave or value certain things. It seems that religion has become something many simply use as a label to define their weakly executed beliefs which they choose to exercise only when necessary. This is exemplified well with the information you got from your friend who’s a grad student, and it can be seen everywhere. This poses new questions: would environmental management efforts be more easily implemented if religion was somehow wiped out completely? What if we simply did not consider it in our decision making (would this ever be allowed)? Would this possibly change our idea of ethics and make us more/less moral in our actions and the way we view the world?

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