Why Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism Protect Biodiversity
The following are excerpts from the paper Religion and Biodiversity Conservation: Not a Mere Analogy (2005). Cover photo, showing Hindu women protecting trees from loggers circa 1974, is from the article Biodiversity and Spirituality. Enjoy this brief overview from the 2005 study.
EXCERPTS & MAIN IDEAS:
Religion can speak with nature; science can only speak about it.
Religion... needs to be reinterpreted to suit the secular premises of social living and thus has to be respected for its role towards the conservation of the vital linkages that sustain the very life on this planet.
Truthfulness is an ethical value, as are protecting life, conserving the environment and sustaining its development within the confines of what God has ordered.
Humans, thus, are not the owners but the maintainers of the due balance and measure.
The concept of Hima (religious legislation towards protection of certain zones) has existed since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Hima involved the ruler or government’s protection of specific unused areas. No one may build upon them or develop them in any way. The concept of Hima can still be seen in many Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, where the government practices it to protect wildlife.
Hindus believe all beings are a manifestation of one essential Being, called Brahman.
The principle of the sanctity of life is clearly ingrained in the Hindu religion. Only God has absolute sovereignty over all creatures
The sacredness of God’s creation means no damage may be inflicted on other species without adequate justification. Therefore, all lives, human and non-human, are of equal value and all have the same right to existence.
The Hindu worship of trees and plants has been based partly on utility, but mostly on religious duty and mythology. Hindu ancestors considered it their duty to save trees and in order to do that they attached to every tree a religious sanctity.
When nature is defiled, people ultimately suffer.
Buddhism teaches that right actions lead to progress toward nirvana while negative actions, such as killing animals, leads to regression from that goal. Committed to the ideal of nonviolence, Buddhism also attaches great importance to wildlife and the protection of biodiversity. Respect for life in the natural world is essential, and by living simply one can be in harmony with other creatures and learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of all that lives. The Buddha taught that all things are interrelated and do not have an autonomous existence, and thus the health of the whole is inseparably linked with the health of the parts and the health of the parts is inseparably linked with the whole.
Jainism teach that no human quality is more subtle than nonviolence and no virtue greater than reverence for life. While people often affect biodiversity negatively, the intention to harm is what makes an action violent, and without violent thought no violent action is recognized. Jain cosmology recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence, with all aspects of nature belonging together and bound in a physical as well as a metaphysical relationship. Jains believe that every living thing is inhabited by an immaterial soul, no less pure and immortal than the human soul.
Hence, Jains take great care to avoid harming other forms of life and resist the fleeting pleasure of material consumption.