As the world entered the era of the late 20th century, rapid development of civilization brought with it the competition between human beings and nature. This, in turn, resulted in the accelerating deterioration of the earth's environment, the rapid consumption of energy, and magnification of natural disasters throughout the world. To ensure the sustainable survival of humanity, there has been a global outcry for urgent action to protect our environment.
Master Sheng Yen, a venerable spiritual leader with open-mindedness and a grand vision, believed that many people have ignored the quality of spiritual life since they are putting too much emphasis on the material comforts of life. If we want to improve the earth's environment and reduce the destruction of human beings, we must fundamentally change our view. Environmental protection can't be truly achieved without people expanding their focus from individual to human society, from the present to the permanent. It is in this spirit that Master Sheng Yen initiated the idea of Spiritual Environmental Protection in 1992 and led Dharma Drum Mountain to promote this concept both domestically and worldwide, striving towards the goal of "uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on earth".
What Is Spiritual Environmental Protection?
It is mentioned in Buddha's Land, the first chapter of the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa Sutra, that "If a bodhisattva wishes to attain the Pure Land, he must purify his mind. As the mind is purified, a pure Buddha Land is realized". Inspired by this verse, Master Sheng Yen believed that once our mind is purified, the world we see will be the Buddha's Land; as long as we are at peace, the environment we inhabit is at peace; as long as we have a moment of purity and peace in mind, purity and peace shall prevail around us.
Therefore, Spiritual Environmental Protection means mental purification. We can start from changing our views and beliefs, and then cultivate the mindset of helping both ourselves and others. When performing these acts with a healthy, secure, and happy mind, we can not only take care of ourselves but also the environment around us. Only in this way can we live a healthy, peaceful, and happy life. With a pure mind, we'll be more spiritually rich as we possess more material wealth.
In other words, Spiritual Environmental Protection is the wellbeing of mental health. Master Sheng Yen emphasized that people's mind often fluctuates due to the temptation and stimulation of the environment. Those who are slightly sensitive to the environment may feel distressed, while those strongly influenced by their surroundings may lose the ability to control themselves. If we know how to protect the spiritual environment, when we encounter such situations, we can first stay calm and stable, and further, be our own master and be at ease. Therefore, Spiritual Environmental Protection focuses on maintaining mental balance and stable personality, so as to attain spiritual purification.