According to him, the plants which sustain all life grow because they draw a nourishing ‘essence’ (paṭhavīojā or paṭhavīrasa) from the earth (A.V,213; S.I,134). He also pointed to the interdependence of the Earth and life when he observed that ‘Cattle depend on the rain clouds and humans depend on cattle.’
(Ja.IV,253). Although put in simple undeveloped terms these ideas are precursors to the biologist James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis which holds that the Earth should be regarded as an interconnected whole to the degree that it can be considered a living entity. If this is so, then caring behaviour towards nature and the environment would be in harmony with the first Precept.
But for the Buddha, the Earth was not just life-sustaining, it even had certain spiritual qualities worthy of our emulation. He asked us to be ‘clear like a pool without mud,’ ‘unshakable like a pillar set in the ground’ and ‘free from hostility like the great Earth’ (paṭhavā samo novirujjati, Dhp.95).
‘Just as people throw clean or dirty things ... on the Earth and yet it never gets annoyed, humiliated or disgusted, in the same way, develop meditation like the Earth, and then pleasant and unpleasant impressions will not enter your mind and remain there.’
(M.I,423). Of course, although we should endeavour to be unmoved by the various impressions we encounter, this does not mean we should behave towards others in ways that might make them ‘annoyed, humiliated or disgusted.’ And as we treat others, so should we treat the Earth. See World.
Buddhist Perspectives on the Ecocrisis, Klaus Sandell,1987.