Recycling : Dharma Books

Below is some traditional Vajrayana advice on how to dispose Dharma books that have become too old or damaged for re-circulation. (Yes, ideally, such books should be ‘recycled’ for reuse by others as much a possible – before being disposed.) – ‘If it is necessary to dispose of written Dharma materials, they should be burned rather than thrown in the trash. When burning Dharma texts, it is taught to first recite a prayer or mantra, such as OM, AH, HUM. Then, you can visualise the letters of the texts (to be burned) absorbing into the AH and the AH absorbing into you, transmitting their wisdom to your mindstream. After that, as you continue to recite OM, AH, HUM, you can burn the text.’

Here is an alternative take on how to ‘better dispose’ Dharma books. I think they should be recycled properly instead of burnt – so as to reuse the paper and to reduce pollution (that arises from burning). Some Buddhists might find this sacrilegious, but I think it allows the Dharma books to be exposed as fully as possible in their lifespan. Imagine a book on its trip to the recycling plant – doesn’t this whole process increases its chances of being spotted and treasured? Burning, however, cuts its lifespan abruptly. (One can still visualise the mantra above without burning, before sending the books for recycling? Om Ah Hum! Re-Cy-Cle!)

There will be Buddhists too, who feel that it is disrespectful to have sacred images in the books being tossed around. However, no good Buddhist would have the intention to be disrepectful when they place the books mindfully in a recycling bin. Likewise, the workers at the recycling plant are just doing their job properly, without disrespect – even if they have to toss some items around. In the light of the climate crisis, I think the Buddha would endorse recycling instead of burning – because it benefits more and harms none. However, Buddhists who adhere to the traditional ritual above firmly might become upset when they come across Dharma materials being recycled? I hope not.

Here is perhaps the way more acceptable to most… Use, resuse and share the books as much as possible until they are truly beyond repair, before wrapping the books with unwanted paper for recycling – so that it will not appear disrespectful, while ‘ridding’ the books via an environmentally friendly way. If you have no intention to use the books any more, while they are still in okay condition, you can call temples to check if they do collect them for re-circulation. May the Dharma last a long time!

4 thoughts on “Recycling : Dharma Books

  1. Thanks and Agreed 🙂

    My thought is that Dharma Books are holy, when it been recycled the “power” can be spread to whatever things it being produced into. Just like the holy water, pour into the big ocean or at sprinkle at anywhere … Can I associate in this way?

  2. Would like to think this is so too, though I’m not sure what the ‘orthodox’ (or traditional) take is. :straight: Then again, there was no urgency to recycle in the past. Times have changed.

  3. Sounds like an interesting problem to think about. Pardon my shallow knowledge in buddhism, is burning of the dharma books just a practise?

  4. It’s a traditional practice to burn Dharma books to dispose them ‘properly’, so that they are not treated like usual trash. But the above discusses if there is a better way to ‘dispose’ them – by destroying them only at the very last second (to maximise their exposure)… at the recycling plant.

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