Buddhism and a Sustainable World: Some reflections

Professor Geoffrey Samuel, Cardiff University and 2010 Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Sydney
20 September, 2010

1:15 minutes Download video (mp4, 216.4Mb)


There is no doubt that Buddhist thought, above all through its stress on the mutual dependence of all phenomena, contains resources that have been important for those working towards a more ecologically aware and sustainable way of life.The works of Buddhist-inspired writers such as Joanna Macy and Gary Snyder have helped create and shape the new ecological consciousness.

But these thinkers are essentially engaged in creating a new and contemporary Buddhism. Historically, Buddhist literature had relatively little explicit concern with environmental awareness, protection or sustainability.

In this address, Professor Samuel examines some of the writing in this area, but suggests that the actual practice of Buddhist societies, particularly in Tibet and the Himalayas, often did engage quite deeply, if at a less explicit level, with environmental and ecological issues, and that these societies have useful lessons for us today in the search for a sustainable world

Geoffrey Samuel is Professor in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of religion in Tibetan societies, the historical development and contemporary practice of technologies of consciousness, the relationship between consciousness, body and materiality, particularly in relation to healing, as well as the history of meditation, yoga and tantra in India and Tibet and other Asian medical, health and yogic practices. Professor Samuel also has interests in Religion and modernity, including Buddhism in contemporary societies, gender, sexuality and masculinity in Asian cultures and also Shamanism and ‘nature religions’. His most recent work published is The Origins of Yoga and Tantra: Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century, and recently he also produced Tantric Revisionings: New Understandings of Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Religion. He is particularly well-known for his highly influential Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies. He is joint editor of the journal Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity and he has also recently established the Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR) International Research Network.

Professor Samuel is the second holder of the University Buddhist Education Foundation (UBEF) Visiting Professorship in Buddhist Studies. This Professorship was established at the University of Sydney in 2009 through the generosity of the UBEF (www.buddhistfoundation.org) for the purpose of sponsoring an extended visit to Sydney of a distinguished international scholar in any field of Buddhist Studies in order to expose students and academics to current trends in research and to raise the profile of Buddhist Studies in Australia. It is administered by the Department of Indian Sub-continental Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures.