Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors



First Advisor

Sin yee Chan


chan, buddhism, environmental ethics, awakening


When Buddhism took root in China and integrated with the nation’s Taoist intellectual climate, the tradition retained the orthodox central objective of overcoming suffering. While conserving this principal aspiration, the rise of Zen is associated with deviation from the orthodox practice of monasticism and toward the practical embodiment of emptiness while integrated in society, which can be likened to the practice of unwavering compassion. This piece offers a Zen approach to environmental ethics such that it is an attempt to explicate how and why an individual practicing Zen should compassionately engage with the earth. With respect to the Buddhist employment of skillful means, different approaches are offered as tailored ethical frameworks to appeal to individuals at different stages in their path to awakening. Furthermore, the environmental ethic appealed to by the awakened individual is explicated as spontaneous harmonization with the flow of emptiness, that which the Buddhists regard to be the driving force of the phenomenal realm. The awakened individual is considered to non-deliberately take on a lifestyle that provides perpetual intimacy with the rhythms of wild emptiness