Dependent Origination & Environmental Preservation

Speaker: Ven. Miao Tan

Fo Guang Shan Hsing Ma Temple, Malaysia

I. Introduction

Auspicious greetings, welcome to FGS English Dharma Services. I am Miao Tan from Hsingma Temple in Malaysia. Today I would like to share the topic on Dependent Origination and its interconnection with the environment and how we can preserve our environment thru this teaching.

Looking at our world today, we are facing an unprecedented level of extreme events impacting people and nature. This is the evidence in the increasing frequency of server weather, epidemic, and human-made disasters. We take these as tragic. But if we look at the cause of this tragedy, we realize that many of them are interconnected. When events occurred, we only focus on putting out the fire and rebuilding, public never looks deep into the root.

So, tonight I would like to speak on the interconnection between dependent origination and our behavior.

II. What is Dependent Origination?

First of all what is Dependent Origination?

Dependent origination means that all phenomena do not rise from nothing, they cannot exist by themselves, and the right conditions must come together before these phenomena can arise and come into existence. The Buddha said, “All phenomena arise from causes and conditions. All phenomena disappear due to causes and conditions.”

So, from the teaching of Dependent Origination we understand that nothing has an independent existence of its own. Since all phenomena are interdependent, if the causes and conditions that produce a phenomenon and that phenomenon are removed, that phenomenon will cease to exist.

Story: –

The Buddha has said the flame in an oil lamp burns dependent upon the oil and the wick. When the oil and the wick are present, the flame in an oil lamp burns. If either of these is absent, the flame will cease to burn. This example illustrates the principle of dependent origination with respect to a flame in an oil lamp. this is the principle of dependent origination.

Every event that happened, there must be a cause, one event we can see is climate change. It was due to the rising of greenhouse gas level in the atmosphere, and it effects the heat in the earth’s climate system.

Disasters may cause by:

  • Man-made (waterways blocked by rubbish)
  • Groundwater contamination (using toxic chemicals)
  • Climate crisis (greenhouse gas emission)

Look at the recent flood in Malaysia, it was caused by the public disposing their garbage in the river. It causes the river water to backflow, because the drain was blocked with disposed plastics and bottles. It takes the government weeks to clear the rubbish in the river.

Next, look at the groundwater contamination, factories pour chemical liquid into the ocean, if it continues to pollute the ocean, it will cause immediate effects to sentient beings, which means we will not have clean and safe water to drink, aquatic plants and animals will be affected too. Furthermore, too much groundwater discharge to streams can also lead to erosion and alter the balance of species.

Some of our actions directly contribute to the problem, so by adjusting our behavior, we can become part of the solutions to these problems. All these disasters can be avoided if everyone understands the interconnected relationship between human beings and nature.

III. Dependent Origination & Cause and Effect

The law of cause and effect is the fundamental principle that underlies all phenomena. Every phenomenon is caused by other phenomena and every phenomenon also produces effects.

Dependent origination first depends on the presence of a cause and then on the right conditions, before the result or effect can manifest.

If there is no cause, then there will be no effect, If there is a cause, but conditions are not right, then there will also be no effect.

The cause is the primary and the effect depends on arising of phenomena and the direct force for producing the effect.

Now, lets talk about how to apply this understanding of Dependent Origination to save and preserve our environment.

IV. Environmental Preservation

What and how to save the earth and environmental preservation?

1. Practice 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)

To Reduce the waste of resources and Reuse to further the lifespan of an object. Most important of all is to Recycle. 

2. Eat sustainable food

Eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and less red meats and processed foods too.

How good is sustainable food for the environment?

First, they use less fossil fuel, produce fewer greenhouse gases, and often depend on human labor rather than chemicals and energy-intensive technology.

According to a report, to produce 1 kilogram of meat, 100,000 liters of water is required. Cattle-rearing is a major source of water pollution, land degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, and increases the loss of biodiversity.

We encourage our young generation to grow their own fruits and vegetables. So do you, you can grow your own garden too.

3. Give up plastics

Reducing the use of plastic is important because plastic production requires an enormous amount of energy and resources. This causes carbon emissions and contributes to global warming.

Instead of using plastic bags, we can take reusable cloth bags with us to carry things.

4. Plant a Tree

Tree planting helps to control environmental pollution, promote the coordinated development of human beings and the environment, improve the quality of human life, most important is to protect ecosystem for our next generations.

Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe. Trees reduce the amount of stormwater runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding.

Environmental Benefits of Planting a Tree:

  • Reducing Climate Change
  • Preventing Water Pollution
  • Reinforcing Soil
  • Erosion Control

Environmental protection starts with us. We need to look at our own behavior to consider how we can support a healthy environment for this century and beyond. To start, we can increase our awareness of this topic and starts to recycle and clean up waste material instead of dumping into the earth or waterways.

After we gain a deeper understanding of dependent origination, causes and conditions, we will live more harmoniously with others and with our environment.

V. Conclusion

I would encourage everyone to apply the three good acts in our daily life

  1. Do Good Deed: Practice 3 Rs, Eat sustainable food, Give up plastics and plant a tree.

2. Speak Good Words: spread the importance of environmental preservation

3. Think Good Thoughts: By thinking all phenomena arise with causes and conditions and ceased when the cause and condition ceased.

It is important to develop an understanding of the interdependence between nature and sentient beings. We depend totally on the kindness of others. We need to remember the interconnection between dependent origination and our behavior.

With mindfulness practice, we will develop a right view of our existence and develop strong compassion and loving-kindness.

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