Eastern Religions and the Importance of Nature

Through out the many religions of the world there seems to be a common element of nature. Through the course of this paper we will seek out this element with in specific Eastern religions.

There are many degrees of commitment within each of the religions discussed from the extreme of Taoism, Shinto and Confucianism, these being the religions we will further discuss. A religion to which nature contributes a substantial amount of influence is Taoism. Considerably argued that Laozi even existed, he is thought to be the founder of Taoism in the sixth century.The Ying- Yang and the Daode Jing are two important elements, which illustrate how they embrace and view nature. The Ying Yang symbol is described as two elements joined together to form one; it represents perfect balance.

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The black and white parts represent feminine and masculine energies. In this theory it is believed that one cannot exist without the other. The two dots in this symbol signify opposites; none being stronger than the other, in other words, to be equal. Night and day, summer and winter, life and death are all phenomena that point to nature.Yin is related to femininity, the moon, cold temperatures, darkness and the Earth while Yang is related to masculinity, the sun, warm temperatures, brightness, creation and the sky in the constant order of nature (Toropov & Hansen p. 60). The Daode Jing, which is known to be their guide or manual, makes several references to nature and harmony. “Humanity follows the earth.

Earth follows nature. Nature follows the Tao. Tao follows what is so. ” (Daode Jing, chapter 25 Hansen Translation).This excerpt is a clear example of its constant order of nature and nature’s relation to the Daode Jing. The Daode Jing uses images such as water, women and children, valleys and darkness.

All of these objects hold a symbolic meaning. Taoism beliefs are closely linked with nature. The concept of ying yang and the Daode Jing both indicate that nature plays a major part in the every day life of Taoism. Whether it is sitting on a riverbank listening to the water being pulled by the current or participating in-group Tai Chi, it all reverts back to nature.Like Taoism, another religion that compares in relations to nature is Buddhism. Buddhism originated as a move away from Hinduism, it has a very divine relationship to nature in how it is perceived and what the role of nature is. It is also extraordinarily compassionate for every aspect of nature including the beautiful and suffering.

Nature plays a major role in understanding Buddhists and their basic philosophy. “The Buddha and his disciples regarded natural beauty as a source of great joy and aesthetic satisfaction. ” (De Silva, 2007).It is through nature that man can find peace and understanding. In Buddhism, man does not hold the most important place in nature, but is considered a part of it, equivalent to any animal. There is no difference; no hierarchy.

Man is as important as a flower or a bird. Living creatures and objects are all part of a whole; they are interconnected. When Buddhist pray or meditate, they identify with their surroundings, they become joyful upon seeing fish swimming free in the lake and the calm of the lotus flower bathed in sunshine.

When nature is calm and unspoiled by man, it is pleasing to Buddhist. Compassion for all that live and suffer is a big role in the teachings of Buddha. Man is part of nature and nature is part of Buddha and his wish is for all living things to be in peace and secure His goal is to respect all essentials of nature, as well as hold respect for it. The Buddhist take great care of Nature, getting only what is needed at the time it is needed. As we have learned, Buddhist belief is very close to all nature.The belief that Buddhist are not above any part of nature, they merely take part in a small role in a huge process. A finding that we have discovered is the belief system that states the followers of Buddha will show such respect for all living creates and compassion for the suffering. This finding is one we can safely suppose has the closest relation to nature.

A religion that although may not have as much involvement with nature as Buddhism as it does social achievement is Confucianism.Confucianism, a religion that primarily focuses on social fulfillment and wisdom has very few ties to nature in comparison with other Eastern religions, but within the dialogs of Confucius you find the relationship with nature is central to his teachings. Confucianism’s focal point is on earthly relations and duty, not deities or the divine (Tillman, and Cason 79-85). In Confucian perceptive, nature is naturally valuable and ethically good. The constant change and productivity of nature is very important.

Various manuscripts in Confucian tradition stress on the intrinsic whole of humanity and the natural world.In these texts, the importance of the idea that humankind is understood to be set in nature and not dominant or more important than nature is well established. The significant worldview of Confucianism promotes harmony amidst change and this outlook is essential for seeing nature as fundamentally valuable.

According to Confucianism this worldview is illustrated by four main rudiments; the first being anthropocosmic perspective or the great triad of heaven (a guiding force), nature and humans rather than an anthropocentric perspective or the belief that humans are most important in the world.The second of these key points is an organic holism of the continuity of being otherwise known as the universe seen as unified, interconnected, and interpenetrating. All action influences changes and condition. Which is why microcosm and macrocosm is so vital to Chinese cosmology. The third point is the dynamic vitalism best interpreted as the fundamentals of the core unity of reality, which is constituted of ch’i, the material force of the universe. Ch’i is the substance of life that is the source for the ongoing method of change and revolution in the universe.The final element is comprehensive ethics embracing both humans and nature.

Confucian ethics in its most inclusive form relies on a cosmological framework of the complete triad of heaven, earth and humans. With this being said human actions complete this triad and are embarked on in relation to the natural world and its seasonal patterns and cosmic changes (Tucker). Confucians stress the importance of preservation and care of the environment and they believe that they have an obligation to hold respect toward the environmental well being of future generations.Confucians underline on ancestry and that it may be raised to a different moral standpoint, namely, intergenerational responsibilities toward sustaining a healthy atmosphere. These are the “values” under which Confucians live by in relation to nature, our universe and preservation (Tucker).

Almost contrary to Confucianism, a religion incredibly devoted to nature is Shinto. Shinto an ancient religion that is still widely practiced today has a very strong tie with nature.The tie is so strong that it is believed the Kami or gods of Shinto control and explains all forces of nature. Shinto believes that everything in nature has a spirit in the natural environment. We will focus on the kami of Shinto and describe how Shinto is connected to nature. Kami are everywhere and almost anything in creation may be a kami (Hartz 8). This is evidently strong statement about how the people who practice Shinto believe they are joined in with the universe; that all parts of nature may be a godly creature.It was made apparent that through research the Shinto believed these gods were responsible for the very creation of Japan, and it was from the first set of gods, a male and a female, that they spawned off more Kami that were responsible for other parts of nature such as the sun and rain.

The creation of the eclipses and darkness are explained by the story of the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu. It is said that she expelled herself to a cave; thus, the creations of these elements.According to Shinto beliefs, Kami were responsible for the force of nature, such as a large storm that protected Japan from an invasion; however, not all Kami held this same principle. These kami believed to be responsible for harvest (Littleton 30).

They to link together in such as the rice god who has a messenger known to be a fox. Nature is everything to the people of this religion from Mt. Fuji to the Sea of Japan in one way or another a deity in their religion is responsible. It is very important to understand that the Kami are nature and the beginning of Japan.This is just a brief summary of how Shinto is so deeply tied to nature.

With eight million separate kami in the Shinto religion the ties between them could be endless. Yet the people of Shinto believe that these gods created the island Japan and control everything in nature on the island. The insight of a few Eastern Religions and their relation to nature is relatively concise. We could analyze each religion and find much more information about each of them. The essential reality is that each religion has a tie to nature some more, and some less than others.



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