A new interpretation of the core ethical tenets of Buddhism has been proposed in order to meet the challenges of the global environmental crisis. The first of the five pañcaśīla – the five precepts (rules of training) that constitute the basic code of ethics to be undertaken by Buddhist laymen – relates to the concept of ahimsa, the idea of “do no harm”: “I undertake the training-precept to abstain from onslaught on breathing beings.” In environmental terms, this concept has been translated into practices of harmonious relationships with nature, through respect of all life forms. The second pañcaśīla – “I undertake the training-precept to abstain from taking what is not given” – has also been interpreted as a mandate to ensure the protection of the environment against its destruction and exploitation. This chapter aims to identify how Buddhist ethics can productively inform Environmental Constitutionalism, shedding some light on the possible interrelations between Buddhism, law and environmental matters in South Asian constitutional texts and contexts, through the lens of comparative analysis.
Crossing three Tibetan bridges – between Monastic and Secular Buddhist Law; between Buddhist Law and Buddhist Environmental Ethics; between Buddhist Constitutionalism and Environmental Constitutionalism – this chapter presents some fundamental ideas underlying Buddhist Environmentalism and its relationship with Buddhist Law, through their common grounding in the same virtue ethics.
Its final section will try to establish a basic theoretical framework for further studies of Buddhist Environmental Constitutionalism, presenting a quantitative and textual analysis of six South Asian constitutions: the constitutions of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and – in broader detail – Bhutan.