The first grave precept is Affirm life—do not kill. What does it mean to kill the environment? It's the worst kind of killing. We are decimating many species. There is no way that these life-forms can ever return to the earth. The vacuum their absence creates cannot be filled in any other way, and such a vacuum affects everything else in the ecosystem, no matter how infinitesimally small it is. We are losing species by the thousands every year—the last of their kind on the face of this great earth. And because someone in South America is doing it, that doesn't mean we're not responsible. We're as responsible as if we are the one who clubs an infant seal or burns a hectare of tropical forest. It is as if we were squeezing the life out of ourselves. Killing the lakes with acid rain. Dumping chemicals into the rivers so that they cannot support any life. Polluting our skies so our children choke on the air they breathe. Life is nonkilling. The seed of the Buddha grows continuously. Maintain the wisdom life of Buddha and do not kill life.

The second grave precept is Be giving—do not steal. Do not steal means not to rape the earth. To take away from the insentient is stealing. The mountain suffers when you clear-cut it. Clear-cutting is stealing the habitat of the animals that live on the mountain. When we overcut, streams become congested with the sediments that wash off the mountain slopes. This is stealing the life of the fish that live in the river, of the birds that come to feed on the fish, of the mammals that come to feed on the birds. Be giving, do not steal. The mind and externals are just thus; the gate of liberation is open.