Spring term 2013

REL 310 Buddhism and Environmentalism [5 units]

Instructor: David Komito, Ph.D.

Prerequisites: None.

Recommended: REL 321 Buddhism

Format: Online and onsite all day May 11 in Portland

Course Description: Buddhist views on the sources of environmental degradation and possible paths to environmental harmony and sustainability.

This hybrid course includes required attendance at the May 11 “Environmental Summit” with the Dalai Lama in Portland, as well as asynchronous online readings, video recordings and discussions among students and faculty which will extend over the full term. Video recorded guest speakers will include EOU Professors Donald Wolff (on Buddhist environmental poetry and literature) and Steven Clements (on sustainable business practices).

The course will be an online seminar oriented toward Buddhist ideas on environmentalism and the sources of our environmental problems as well as the individual actions that can be taken to address environmental problems  -- both internal (mental) and external (physical) actions. Part of the course will be devoted to the roles of business and corporations in creating or resolving environmental problems. Because there are more problems and questions than there are solutions and answers, coursework will include collective student attempts to articulate some answers.

A partial schedule of assignments is below. Additional assignments will be found on the course Blackboard site and will need to be completed on a week by week basis.

Readings and Video Recordings will include, but will not be limited to, works by Thich Nhat Hanh, Stephanie Kaza, Joanna Macy, Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Gregory Bateson, David Komito, Donald Wolff, and of course, the Dalai Lama.

Note: Enrollment in the course will require a $26.25 fee for a reserved seat at the May 11 “Environmental Summit” at the Portland Memorial Coliseum. Checks in that amount will be collected by mail to the instructor (send to David Komito, 202E Ackerman Hall, EOU, 1 University Blvd., La Grande, OR 97850). The instructor mail tickets to students in advance of the May 11 event. Students and Prof. Komito will have a meeting in Portland on the afternoon of the 11th after the "Summit" concludes. Details for this meeting will be arranged during the first week of the course. ALSO, if you are not living in the Portland area, plan on spending the evening of the 10th in Portland as it will take several hours to park and clear security before the morning opener. The instructor will post a sign up for those traveling to Portland those who wish to carpool.

Enrollment cap: 16

Grading and Assessment: Grading will be dependent upon the final project, which is to be submitted at the end of the 8th week of the course. Refer to the Schedule, below, for details. Class participation is required but not formally graded. However, if students find themselves on a borderline between grades, quality and frequency of participation on the course discussion board will determine whether or not their grade is raised to the next level. Lack of discussion board participation will not lower a grade.

For more information, write to



Week 1 (April 1 - 6) Context:

The 1990 Religion and Ecology Interfaith Meeting at Middlebury College (Vermont), which included the Dalai Lama.

David’s coments and recording on the goals and process of the class and fundamentals of the Buddhist view of the environment. Additional readings on the course Bb site.

Articles by David Komito

  1. Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Attitudes Toward Nature
  2. Interdependence Day at Cambridge University, July 4, 1992 (in honor of Gregory Bateson)
  3. Eco-bodhicitta and Artful Conduct

Week 2 (April 7 - 13) The Ancestors and Elders

Don Wolff video recording: Buddhist Representations of Nature in Contemporary American Poetry

Gary Snyder


Additional readings on the course Bb site.

Week 3  (April 14 - 27) The Ancestors and Elders (continues)

Alan Watts:

David Komito, audio lecture introducing Alan Watts on the course Bb site.

Watts on Ecology and Religion; In this lecture from the 1960s, we have a western Buddhist ancestor’s view of the looming environmental problem and its relation to the Judeo-Christian world view.

Stephanie Kaza:

David Komito, audio lecture on Stephanie Kaza's Mindfully Green

Kaza on The world in which we live.  What science is telling us today; sure to launch the powerpoint presentation that goes along with the audio on Youtube, in which Kaza describes what we are facing. Additional readings on the course Bb site.

Joanna Macy:

David Komito, audio lecture introducing Joanna Macy's work on deep time.

Macy at Naropa University:


For Macy, crisis is an opportunity for the development of wisdom and positive change. She articulates this view in these readings:

  1. The Ecological Self
  2. Dependent Co-Arising
  3. The Mother of all Buddhas
  4. The Third Turning of the Wheel
  5. How Life Self-Organizes
  6. Positive Disintegration

But change requires taking action:

The Work that Reconnects

Week 4 (April 21 - 27) Business and the Environment

The Corporation:

Macy’s comments on corporate dysfunction are elaborated in detail above.

Steve Clements has a complete section on Sustainable Business on the course Bb site.

Week 5 (April 28 - 4) The Dalai Lama, Mind and Life XXIII: Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence

Some of the Dalai Lama's written statements on evironmentalism.


Week 6 (April 5 - 11)

This week will be taken up with the Buddhism and Ecology meetings in Portland on May 11

Weeks 7 - 8 (May 12 - 25) More Views on Environmentalism and
Development ot Student Projects on the general topic of Contemporary Buddhist Views on the Environment

Climate Change Does Not Have to Mean the End of the World

Additional readings on the course Bb site.

Student Projects: Contemporary Buddhist Views on the Environment

  1. Student projects will be prepared during these two weeks. Project topics will require the approval of the instructor.
  2. This project will be a reaction and interpretation paper in response to the May 11 conference but will need to extrapolate from what was learned at the conference into new territory. More details are available on the course Bb site.

Weeks 9 - 10 (May 26 - June 8) Final projects will be presented

    1. Students will submit projects to the course Bb discussion board at the end of week 8 so fellow students can read the project in advance of the presentation.
    2. The format of the project presentation will be a conference call using a phone bridge. This will give students an opportunity to discuss the project with its author.

End of course