Buddhist Approche

Significance of water in Buddhism

Esteemed Colleagues and Honored Guests

Thank you so very much for inviting me here today.
To me, this gathering may be compared with a bouquet of variegated flowers.
A gathering to be supported and encouraged just as flowers need water to grow.
A gathering where we, as brothers and sisters, can share a stream of spiritual knowledge and an ocean of acquired wisdom to bring positive messages and inspiration to our society.

Now, if someone would ask me to point out a Buddhist person who sincerely cared for our natural environment, I would not hesitate to name Buddha Shakyamuni, the Buddha of our time.

Throughout His life, the Buddha lived very close to nature. He was born in a royal park situated in Lumbini. Upon leaving His home to seek enlightenment, He meditated under the sacred Bodhi tree near the banks of the Niranjana River. After attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, Buddha gave His first teaching in Deer Park, a forest where deer could graze peacefully. The Buddha was always travelling on foot and frequently gave teachings in natural settings. Retreats often took place in peaceful and supportive environments, such as in forests or near pristine lakes and rivers. Buddha passed away beneath a canopy of pipal trees in Kushinagar.

The Buddha not only lived very close to nature, He experienced it, depended on it, but also observed and analyzed it. He understood that all life depends on the presence of five key elements: space, earth, fire, air, and water. Buddha’s teachings were frequently illustrated with examples drawn from nature. For instance, to explain the notion of Interdependence, He used the example of a seed which, in order to sprout, needs space, earth, air, sunlight, and water. The clarity and purity of mind was often compared with crystal clear water.
We all know that water has a spiritual significance as well. The water that is offered by Buddhists at shrines symbolizes purification of body, speech, and mind, so as to free ourselves of attachment, aversion, and ignorance.
There is no doubt that we all are interconnected with the elements. Therefore, the Buddha taught us to respect, preserve, and protect our natural environment in all its forms not just for ourselves, but for our children and our future generations as well.

Indeed, now that we adults are getting older, we must think for the generations to come. We must leave them a cleaner planet! H.H. the Dalai Lama who is a great advocate for Environmental Ethics, advises us to foster a rational and ethical approach to environmental protection. We should treat our planet kindly with love, compassion, and responsibility for all who depend on our environment, that is to say, all living beings.

Finally, allow me to end by paraphrasing a verse from Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara:
Just like space
And the great elements: earth, fire, air, and water,
May I always support the life
Of all countless beings.

Presentation addressed to the Belgian Council of Religious Leaders
Date: September 20, 2012Subject: Significance of Water in Buddhism-

Speaker/Author: the Venerable Lama Karta, Yeunten Ling Institute, Huy, Belgium - Notes: http://:www.BCRL.be/water

Current sources date the birth of the Buddha at around 485 BCE or, about 2500 years ago. For more detailed information on the Buddha’s life, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha.
Lumbini – along with Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar (see endnotes below) – is one of the four major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. While the other three sites are situated in India, Lumbini is located in southern Nepal. It is said that Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya, gave birth to the Buddha under a sal tree there.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha.
The bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) is a large pipal tree not far from the banks of the Niranjana river.
The bodhi tree is located in Bodh Gaya, India. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi_Tree.
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilajan_River ; See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodh_Gaya.
Buddha’s first teaching is called The Four Noble Truths. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths.
Deer Park is located in Sarnath, India. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarnath.
Kushinagar is another major Buddhist pilgrimage site in India. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushinagar.
Most Buddhist texts refer to four basic elements, i.e., earth, fire, air, and water. However, some classical texts (see endnote 9 below) mention the fifth element, i.e., space, which is to be understood as containing the other four basic elements. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_element#B.C3.B6n_elements.
See also: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/environment/buddhist-concept-of-nature.
For an example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s approach to Environmental Ethics, see: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/environment/an-ethical-approach.
For further reading, see also H.H. the Dalai Lama’s Speeches and Messages on the Environment: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/environment.
See Chapter III, Verse 21 In: http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/A%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism/Authors/Shantideva/A%20Guide%20to%20the%20Bodhisattva's%20Way%20of%20Life%20-%20%20Stephen%20Bachelor%20tra/A%20Guide%20to%20the%20Bodhisattva's%20Way%20of%20Life.pdf.
See also: http://www.samadhicushions.com/Guide_to_Bodhisattva_Way_of_Life_by_Shantideva_p/s-279.htm.