I had purchased some land as an investment and then planned to clear all trees on the land to do some business, but now feeling bad about cutting down the trees.

Is cutting trees really a sin? I am ready to sow new trees for every tree cut at some other place - will this work as atonement?

  • 2
    Does this answer your question : What does Hinduism say about protection of nature? ?
    – Pandya
    Jul 27 '20 at 17:16
  • pretty much everything we do every day involves hurting another living being. there is a pancha-maha-yagna (5 sacrifices) that a householder has to do daily - One of these is called Bhuta Yagna - helping animals. Why ? When we cook food to eat, many beings, including microscopic ones get killed in the process. Does that mean we should starve ourselves to death ? No. We can eat, but we must eat with a feeling of guilt, and do necessary prayaschitta (repentance) for it - One way is to offer food to God. Similarly, when you do business/tree-cutting - you can repent for it
    – mar
    Jul 28 '20 at 4:47
  • How ? By checking if any birds have made nests in those trees, and relocating them before cutting down the tree. Take some seeds of that tree and plant it elsewhere. Plant more trees in a different are to compensate for cutting this one.
    – mar
    Jul 28 '20 at 4:48

When you destroy life-forms, whether plants or animals, for entirely your own needs, then then that is regarded as a sin or bad karma in Hinduism.

Manu Smriti also asks the ruler (or King) to impose fines when some trees are destroyed or even injured, based on their usefulness.

8.285. According to the usefulness of the several (kinds of) trees a fine must be inflicted for injuring them; that is the settled rule.

When we destroy life-forms, for the sake of Deva or Pitru Yajnas, only then there is no bad karma involved in it because scriptures say that those life-forms will reach higher states of existence.

5.40. Herbs, trees, cattle, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences.

But in every other circumstance, when we kill animals or plants for our own needs, outside scripture-approved rites, then some amount of bad karma is always involved in it.

That's why Lord Shiva says the following:

Trinam vApya-vidhAnena chedayenna kadAchana |
VidhinA gvAm dvijam vApi hatvA pApair na lipyate ||

One must not tear even a piece of grass if that is contrary to scriptural injunctions; But if a cow or a Dvija is killed, in accordance with scriptural injunctions, then there is no sin involved.

KulArnava Tantram 2.137

The purport of this verse is, that even a seemingly insignificant act like tearing a grass, is a bad karma, if done outside Deva or Pitru Yajnas.


There is also one verse that provides a slightly different opinion in this matter. It is found among Dharma Sutras Of Vashishta 19.11-12:

11 He should not damage trees that produce flowers and fruits, 12 but may cut them down to facilitate cultivation or for household needs.

And, on the verse 19.12 there is a commentary available and is given below:

or for household needs: Führer’s edition of Va joins this phrase with sutra 13. I follow Laksmidhara, Krtyakalpataru, Vyavaharakanda , 504, and Candesvara, Vivadaratnakara, 284, in joining the phrase with sutra 12. Their reading clearly makes better sense. I also adopt their reading garhastyange (or amse) in place of this edition’s garhastyanangam. Candesvara explains this phrase as grihastakarma (‘householder’s activities’) or grihastaopakarana (‘householder’s implements’). The meaning appears to be that trees may be cut down to provide wood for household needs. Given the first provision allowing trees to be cut down for cultivation, the meaning also may be that they can be cut down to build houses.

From this commentary it appears that it is okay to cut trees in order to clear grounds where houses are to be built. But it is apparently contradictory with what other scriptures (generally) have to say on cutting trees.

[The commentary is taken from the book "Dharmasutras -- The Law Codes of Apasthambha, Gautama, Baudhayana and Vashishta (translated by Patrick Olivelle).]

  • 1
    I wasn't expecting there would be so much information for this case i.e. cutting trees. Good findings!
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Jul 28 '20 at 12:29
  • 1
    Trees have life (according to Hindu scriptures) .. more over by cutting trees we disturb the balance of nature or eco-system. So, we can expect scriptures to treat the issue with seriousness @TheLittleNaruto
    – Rickross
    Jul 28 '20 at 13:04

Manusmṛti considers cutting down trees a minor offense and prescribes a simple prāyaścitta (expiation):

When one cuts fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, creepers, branches of trees or flowering plants, he should recite one hundred Ṛk verses.—(11.142)

If one needlessly cuts plants grown by cultivation, or those that spontaneously grow in the forest, he shall attend on the cow for one day, subsisting on milk only.—(11.144)

  • What is "Ṛk verses" ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Jul 28 '20 at 7:28
  • 1
    Vedas are comprised of three types of mantras --- Rk (Rik or Richa), Yajus and Saman. You can see wiki on this or other sources on this @TheLittleNaruto So, Rk or Rik is one type of Vedic mantra
    – Rickross
    Jul 28 '20 at 7:43
  • Thanks @Rickross
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Jul 28 '20 at 8:01

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