Nature and the Environment in Early Buddhism


In 2000 I spent a week in the forest around Jamui in Bihar. Although badly degraded in parts and unsafe in others because of bandits, the forest and its wildlife are still relatively intact. This short sojourn offered a rare glimpse of India’s natural environment that would have been familiar to the Buddha but which has now almost completely disappeared. I saw nilghi, troops of languar, the quills of a porcupine, the glorious Butea superba in full bloom, a peacock and his mates and numerous other birds. At nearly every turn I was reminded of the Buddha’s descriptions of the forest and of some of the bucolic poetry in the Jātaka. It was during these few pleasant days that I conceived the idea of writing something about nature and the environment as depicted in the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka.

I would like to thank Prof. P. D. Premasiri, Prof. K. R. Norman and Dr. Alexander Wynne, all of who helped me in various ways with this book. I must also thank Anandajoti Bhikkhu who read through several drafts of the book making numerous corrections and suggestions and bringing my attention to things I had missed. This book would probably not have seen the light of day without his help. Finally I must also express my gratitude to Dr. S. K. Jain, former Director of the Botanical Survey of India, who took a great interest in my research and offered me much encouragement.

Preface to the Second Edition

I am delighted that the Buddhist Publication Society is bringing out a second edition of my Nature and the Environment in Early Buddhism. In preparing it Bhikkhu Nyanatusita has been exceptionally helpful in correcting the mistakes in my Pali, providing me with additional information I was unaware of, and making numerous helpful suggestions concerning the identification of some plants and animals. I express my thanks to him.