Sustainability and the Notion of Engaged Buddhism

“Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity”.

– Dalai Lama XIV



Recently I have been reading a fantastic book called The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation by Lodro Rinzler which is about how we can apply basic Buddhist techniques’ such as mindfulness and compassion to our daily tasks and relationships.

From my understanding, Buddhism is about remaining present within a situation and seeking a state of mindfulness and clarity.

We can practice this notion of mindfulness whilst undertaking tasks such as doing the laundry and washing our hair and dealing with difficult co-workers.

Although highly sceptical of organised religious institutions, the Buddhist principles of compassion, personal development, enquiry and truth appeal to me deeply.

I have also been considering connection between Buddhism and the pursuit of sustainability.

In essence, Buddhist teachings highlight the interconnectedness of all beings and the sacred nature of life itself.

I believe that many of the principles of Buddhism are in harmony with the concept of sustainability which posits the ability of a population to cater for its needs without taking away from future generations or the environments ability to replenish itself.

However, many Buddhist traditions tend to gravitate towards personal enlightenment and escapism rather than helping to address the social and environmental issues that are prevalent in society.

This is where the notion of ‘Engaged Buddhism’ comes into play.

The concept of Engaged Buddhism emerged in the second half of the 20th century in an attempt to revitalise the practice and nest it within a contemporary context in which social agency, citizenship and social change are critical aspects of modern life.

Engaged Buddhism actively seeks to create a more loving, compassionate, equitable, non-violent and sustainable word. In doing this, the faith transcends the individual centred pursuit of happiness and promotes social action across all elements of life.

This form of social action could include activities such as voting, volunteering, and participating in community groups, clubs and organisations.

Fundamental to Buddhist teachings is the notion that humanity is embedded in the environment and that all things are connected.

If we continue to pollute the environment and treat nature as our dumping ground, inevitably, we will suffer the consequences of metaphorically ‘biting the hand that feeds us’ and destroying what nourishes us.

Essentially, we must be mindful and self-aware but not to the point that we switch off and ignore what is happening around us. For if our environment is polluted, so too is our mind.


Rinzler, L. (2012) The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation, Shambhala Publications, The United States of America

Sherwood, P. The Green Buddha: Buddhism and Sustainability,



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