Asuka Sango to speak on ‘Buddhism and Ecology: Is Buddhism Really Ecofriendly?’ April 8

March 24, 2010

Asuka Sango, assistant professor of religion at Carleton College, will lecture Thursday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life recital hall. Sango’s lecture, “Buddhism and Ecology: Is Buddhism Really Ecofriendly?,” is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Since the historian Lynn White (1907-87) pointed out in 1967 that the “historical roots of our ecological crisis” lie in religious belief, both environmental scholars and activists have been vigorously discussing the role that religion plays in shaping our attitudes towards the environment.

In her lecture, Sango will discuss this conversation through a unique vantage point: Buddhism.

Western environmentalists often assume Buddhism to be an essentially “ecofriendly” religion. Many of them believe Buddhism can be an alternative to the Judeo-Christian tradition which some regard as the “root of our ecological crisis.”

Sango’s presentation does not celebrate Buddhism as a greener religion, but critically examines this benign image, exploring both the parallels and the divergences between Buddhism and ecological practice, and both the problems and the prospects of Buddhist environmentalism.

She will explore the questions: Is Buddhism really ecofriendly? Who started saying this? When, where and why? She will use examples from Buddhist philosophy as well as case studies from contemporary Buddhist societies to answer these questions.

Sango will approach Buddhist teaching not as an abstract history of the intellect but as a “lived” history of applying the resources of Buddhist traditions to address contemporary social problems, such as the destruction of the environment.

Sango holds the bachelor of arts degree from Wittenberg University, the master of arts degree from the University of Illinois  and the doctoral degree from Princeton University.

Her research examines Buddhist debates in pre-modern Japan and analyzes how such ritual performance offered a unique site for producing political power and doctrinal knowledge.

She teaches courses in religions of East Asia. Her interests include Buddhist rituals, religion and society in Japan, food and religion, and Buddhist activism in contemporary societies.