Volume 2012, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2218-7480
  • EISSN:


Exploring the presence of environmental ethics in the Buddhist Jātaka stories, from the scriptures of the Theravāda tradition, is not a new idea. The Jātaka stories are a collection of birth-stories, or ‘folklore,’ that communicate appropriate models of comportment in situations associated with environmental concern. The actors of these stories follow the escapades of humans and non-humans (including animals, trees and spirits). Although principally in agreement with this approach, in this paper I would like to explore a different idea that may support the formation of an environmental ethics based on the stories. In so doing the paper focuses on ‘moral tools’ and principles that can be used in practical decision making, related to the environment; the virtues that can be taken from the stories, that serve to attune us to environmental awareness and greater concern; and the innovative application of virtues that could inspire hitherto ‘undefined’ responses to the environment. The paper seeks to highlight the rich potential of the Jātaka stories—and their store of creative forms of morality— to further our understanding of early Buddhism and provide guidelines towards a modern environmental virtue ethic.


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