Oct. 21, 2017

Ecology Monks

Bun Saluth is Cambodia’s pioneer of the Buddhist environmental movement. In 2002 he succeeded, despite having his life threatened, in being able to legally protect 18,261 hectares of evergreen forest now called the Monks Community Forest. Under his leadership, six villages came together to protect this primary forest in the Oddar Meanchey Province, Cambodia’s largest community-managed forest conservation site. Bun taught the locals how to manage it in a more sustainable way, using it as a regular source of additional income with the mushrooms, bamboo, tree resin, and wild potato found in forest. Consequently, there is very little deforestation since. Bun’s unwavering commitment and dedication have inspired monks across Cambodia to follow his example – an achievement for which he has been awarded a UN environmental award by the United Nations Development Program.  

Source: The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Ecology Movement in Thailand. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272584947_The_Ordination_of_a_Tree_The_Buddhist_Ecology_Movement_in_Thailand [accessed Oct 21 2017].

A Buddhist ecology movement, developing in Buddhist nations, addresses local and national problems of deforestation and ecological destruction. The monks’ priorities are to preserve vanishing forests, watersheds and wildlife. Deforestation rates are very high in many Buddhist nations such as Thailand, Borneo and Nepal (recently occupied and exploited by the Chinese). Deforestation contributes to watershed degradation and loss of habitat for wildlife.

The Buddhists involved in this movement see their religion as critical for providing practical as well as moral guidelines for ecological conservation. Caring for creation is a common teaching in most world religions. The monks see this as part of their calling because compassion and relieving suffering are among the aims of Buddhism. The root causes of suffering are greed/selfishness and ignorance. Environmental degradation is motivated by greed for economic gains. The monks are concerned with the suffering and quality of conditions of environmental impacts of economic endeavors on the rural people who live in these impacted areas.