Buddhism Resources on Climate Justice

Overview of Teachings/Beliefs on Climate Justice

Today, we must renounce our culture of materialism marked by overconsumption and unlimited growth. This renunciation is at the core of our Buddhist faith and practice. Our sense of selflessness, modesty, equality, compassion, and the sacredness of all of life demands it.

A prayer for our earth is not enough. Calling for healing is not enough. Our spiritualities demand we seek peace with each other and with the planet. But it also demands that we work to end suffering and violence. This crisis affecting our very survival is perhaps the greatest violence humanity has ever committed. The suffering it will unleash is unprecedented. Many already suffer the effects of extreme climate events.

Buddhism teaches us that there is a path to the end of suffering. It teaches us that on that path lies right action – the imperative to act with moral clarity in the face of injustice; right speech – the imperative to speak truth; and right livelihood – the imperative to live simply, within the capacity of the earth. It teaches us that all living things are connected and that how we treat other living things has a profound effect not only on our personal karma and path to enlightenment, but also on the enlightenment of our nations and our national and global karma.

If we are to take seriously our path as Buddhists, we must take seriously our responsibility to first do no harm, which means reducing our consumption and waste, and second, to help others do the same. We need to learn to live simply, within the carrying capacity of the earth. Since we have already gone beyond that capacity, it will be necessary also to do what we can to restore the earth and all life to health – clean air and water, enriched soils, reforestation and regeneration. We must hold fossil fuel companies, banks, and governments responsible for their direct contributions to this crisis. We must resist the easy choice to detach from these concerns and instead must speak and act for the preservation of our planet and a more just society.

That is why we—as Buddhists, as seekers of peace and compassion—must demand an immediate end to any new oil, coal or gas projects, a phase out of existing fossil fuel projects, and a broad commitment to energy conservation at all levels of society supported by a rapid and just transition to a clean energy future. No bridge fuels, no temporary expansions of drilling, no delays. The end of fossil fuels and our addiction to consumerism and growth must begin now. We must understand how our consumption keeps the fossil fuel industry in business and our teachings make it clear that true peace and happiness can only be found within, not in more things.

To do less is to fall short to our responsibility to alleviate the suffering of our neighbors, children, and future generations.


 Commonly Used Sacred Texts Related to Climate Justice

The one who dwells in compassion would not have a conflictual volition;
The one who dwells in loving-kindness would always act most appropriately
Dhammapada, Taisho 4: 210

“If daughters and sons of good families wish to give rise to the highest, most fulfilled, awakened mind, what should they rely on and what should they do to master their thinking?” The Buddha answers, “We have to do our best to help every living being cross the ocean of suffering. But after all beings have arrived at the shore of liberation, no being at all has been carried to the other shore. If you are caught in the idea of a self, a person, a living being, or a life span, you are not an authentic bodhisattva.
Diamond Sutra

O noble-minded people, if you can help all sentient beings equally without discrimination, you will then consummate the full and perfect compassion, with which, if you accommodate sentient beings, you can then make all Tathagatas happy and satisfied. In this manner a Bodhisattva should accommodate and embrace all sentient beings.
Hua-yen Sutra

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world,
Spreading upward to the skies,
And downward to the depths,
Outward and unbounded.
Metta Sutta, “Loving-Kindness”

“We, enjoying the savory earth, feeding on it, nourished by it, continued so for a long while. But since evil and immoral customs became rife among us, the savory earth disappeared.”
Aggañña-Suttanta, Digha Nikaya 27.

When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising (uppada) of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation (nirodha) of this, that ceases.
Samyutta Nikaya 12.61

As we are together praying for Peace, let us be truly with each other.
Let us pay attention to our breathing.
Let us be relaxed in our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
Let us be aware of the Source of Being common to us all and to all that is.
Evoking the presence of the Great Companion, let us fill our hearts with our own compassion—towards ourselves and toward all living beings.
Let us pray that all living beings realize that they are all nourished from the same Source of Life.
Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be the cause of needless suffering.
Let us pray that we may live in a way which will not needlessly deprive other living beings of air, water, food, shelter, or the chance to live in health.

To study the Buddha way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.
When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

With reverence for Life and with awareness of the sufferings that are going on around us, let us pray for the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Protect the earth. Live simply. Act with compassion. Our future depends on it.
His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa

Resources and Examples

Buddhist Sacred Texts
(from The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology)

These sacred Buddhists texts, which span centuries and Buddhist societies across the globe, give a glimpse into Buddhist teachings on the environment and human-nature relations.

The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change
(One Earth Sangha)

David Loy, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, and John Stanley co-authored this call to action in 2009 and updated it in 2015 in preparation for the COP21 climate negotiations, where leaders presented it to negotiators. Hundreds of Buddhist leaders have signed it, making it “the first time so many Buddhist luminaries came together on any global issue to speak with one voice.”

Buddhist Faith Statement on the Environment

Buddhist leaders from Europe, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Vietnam penned this statement about the environment.

Buddhist Prayer for Planet: Right Mindfulness
(by Martin Palmer)

In this Buddhist prayer, prayed during COP26 in November 2021, FaithInvest founder Martin Palmer addresses the theme of humans not simply being managers but instead an active part of the world around them.

Manzanita Village Precepts
(submitted by Michael Richardson, from Manzanita Village)

These Five Householder Precepts encourage awareness and harmony in our interactions with one another and the earth.

Michael is a core organizer with the Rivers & Mountains GreenFaith Circle in the Upper Hudson Valley and practices engaged buddhism in the Zen Peacemaker Order.

Dedication of Merit
(submitted by Irene Woodard)

These resources speak to various Buddhist teachings that can inspire our environmental action. Whatever the occasion, we conclude with a dedication of merit in order that whatever is accomplished is dedicated for the benefit of all beings.

Irene Woodard is Vice Chair of the GreenFaith Board. She is the owner of TrueBlooms—a floral business which uses seasonal, fresh, local flowers—and one of the founders of The Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective, the Shambhala Buddhist environmental initiative.

Zen Verses for Environmental Practice
(by Robert Aitken Rōshi)

In celebration of Earth Day, One Earth Sangha offers this pure blessing of contemplation, gratitude and intention from the late Zen teacher Robert Aitken Rōshi. May it offer inspiration for your own responsive relationship with our magnificent home.


for Leading Worship/Liturgy
  • Alliance of Religions and Conservation information on ecology and Buddhism website capture. This information can also be found in Faith in Conservation by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay, published by the World Bank in 2003.

  • An article, “An Assessment of Climate Engineering from a Buddhist Perspective”

  • Article “Spirituality and Ecology from a Buddhist Perspective Engaged Buddhist actions across Asia” by Somboon Chungprampree (Edited by Jane Rasbash and Fletcher Harper)

  • Mission Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change

for Prayers
  • A Sampling of Prayers and Religious/Spiritual Statements for #LightForLima

  • Multifaith document of prayers for #LightforLima

  • World Healing website capture of prayers

for Rituals
  • Breathing meditation/prayer document from OurVoices