In the Pali suttas, time and time again the Buddha speaks of the importance of right livelihood, right action and the necessity of community. He challenges authority—the priesthood and the royal families—and he denounces exploitation in any form. The Buddha was definitely engaged. And the underpinning of his engagement was his insight into dependent arising, the fact that all things are interconnected and interdependent. Environmentalism is at the core of the Buddha’s teaching. If we simply inquire into the nature of dependent arising, the insight will inevitably lead us to right action.
— Christopher Titmuss
A certain priest had been killed by the bite of a snake, and when they announced the matter to the Blessed One, he said, “Surely now, O priests, that priest never suffused the four royal families of snakes with his friendliness. For if that priest had suffused the four royal families of the snakes with his friendliness, that priest would not have been killed by the bite of a snake…
Creatures without feet have my love,
And likewise those that have two feet,
And those that have four feet I love,
And those, too, that have many feet.
May those without feet harm me not,
And those with two feet cause no hurt.
May those with four feet harm me not,
Nor those who many feet possess.
Let creatures all, all things that live,
All beings of whatever kind,
See nothing that will bode them ill!
May naught of evil come to them!
—Vinaya Pitaka, Cullavagga v.6
Come back, O Tigers!, to the woods again,
and let it not be leveled with the plain.
For without you, the axe will lay it low.
You, without it, forever homeless go.
Protecting oneself one protects others; protecting others one protects oneself. And how does one, in protecting oneself, protect others? By the repeated and frequent practice of meditation. And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a nonviolent and harmless life, by loving kindness and compassion. “I shall protect myself,” in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. “I shall protect others,” in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. Protecting oneself, one protects others; protecting others, one protects oneself.
—Samyutta Nikaya, Vol. V, page 168
The wise who are trained and disciplined
Shine out like beacon-lights.
They earn money just as a bee
Gathers honey without harming the flowers,
And they let it grow as an ant-hill slowly gains in height.
With wealth wisely gained
They use it for the benefit of all.
—Adapted from Digha Nikaya by Gil Fronsdal
The king’s country, sire, is harassed and harried. There are dacoits abroad who pillage the villages and townships and who make the roads unsafe. Were the king, so long as that is so, to levy a fresh tax, verily his majesty would be acting wrongly. But perchance his majesty might think, “I’ll soon put a stop to these scoundrels’ game by punishments and banishment, fines and bonds and death!” But their license cannot be satisfactorily put a stop to by such a course. The remnant left unpunished would still go on harassing the realm. Now there is one method to adopt to put a thorough end to this disorder. Whosoever there be in the king’s realm who devote themselves to keeping cattle and the farm, to them let his majesty give food and seed corn. Whosoever there be in the king’s realm who devote themselves to trade, to them let his majesty give capital. Whosoever there be in the king’s realm who devote themselves to government service, to them let his majesty give wages and food. Then those men, following each his own business, will no longer harass the realm; the king’s revenue will go up; the country will be quiet and at peace; and the populace, pleased with one another and happy, dancing their children in their arms, will dwell with open doors.
—Digha Nikaya i.135, Kutadanta Sutta