Dear all,
Sekuntum teratai untuk anda semua, para calon Buddha.
Artikel ini merupakan satu manifestasi dari Engaged Buddhism, yang mana kita 
bukan hanya diajak untuk menyadari apa yang sesungguhnya sedang terjadi saat 
ini di dalam diri kita, tapi juga yang sedang terjadi di luar diri kita. 
Mayoritas umat Buddha, baik yang praktik maupun yang tidak praktik, terlalu 
asyik dengan dirinya sendiri sehingga lupa bahwa diri kita yang kecil dan 
kerdil ini, muncul dan dapat bertahan hidup karena ditunjang oleh perpaduan 
segala unsur yang ada di dalam maupun di luar diri kita. 
Kondisi ini mirip dengan analogi orang yang sedang asyik-masyuk tidur-tiduran 
di atas ranjang empuk dalam kamar mewahnya yang luas, harum, berpendingin, dan 
bersih sambil nonton TV, sementara rumah tempat kamar itu berada sedang 
Dapatkah kita mengabaikan apa yang sesungguhnya sedang terjadi di luar diri 
kita saat ini?
Dapatkah kita dengan khusuk bermeditasi samatha ataupun vipassana dalam 
ruangan, sementara polusi di luar ruangan sedang menebar udara beracun?  
Apakah Buddha mengajarkan agar kita hanya asyik-masyuk dengan diri kita sendiri?
Phra Phaisan Visalo adalah salah satu dari segelintir biku yang aktif 
memperjuangkan dan mempraktikkan Engaged Buddhism.
Semoga ada di antara Bro or Sis yang tergerak untuk menerjemahkan artikel ini 
agar dapat dibaca oleh lebih banyak orang.
Mohon kesediaan Bro/Sis untuk mengirimkan terjemahan anda ke [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
untuk  disebarluaskan.
Let us try to be mindful
Salam Perjuangan

THE DHAMMA TIMES (10 July 2005)

Buddhism and spiritual ecology
By Karnjariya Sukrung

To explore how Buddhism relates to nature, conservation and sustainable 
development, a group of US teachers recently travelled to the North to engage 
in an uplifting exercise in 'spiritual ecology'

The course only lasted a week but this is a school with ample resources for 
year-round classes. Sometimes the day's activities took place in a watershed 
forest, sometimes on the ridge of a steep limestone cliff, sometimes in a 
remote hilltop village.

Doi Chiang Dao, a mountain Chiang Mai people regard as sacred, was a most 
fitting backdrop for an unusual programme called "Buddhism and Community-based 
Conservation". An innovative joint venture between US and Thai educators, it 
was an effort to bridge East and West, wherein the ultimate teacher was none 
other than Mother Nature herself.

For those seven days, 20 secondary-school teachers from the US reverted to 
being students. They went trekking, did walking and sitting meditation, 
listened to talks on dharma by a Buddhist monk, devoured tales from 
ethnic-Karen villagers, or simply sat still and watched the clouds floating by. 
And, judging from the feedback, each one of them seemed to have discovered a 
rich mine of wisdom from lessons readily provided by the forest.

"I really liked the day we went into the woods where we were asked to 
contemplate on nature," said Maria Schwartz, who hails from Ohio. "I realise 
that in order to live well, we need to be like big trees in the forest. For 
them to grow strong and tall, their roots have to dig deeper into the ground to 
tap the underground water so that, no matter what happens outside, they'll 
always have fountains of life from underneath. I look back at myself. I need a 
good and strong foundation of life and it is deep inside my mind."

"For me, it was the day we had to climb up that rocky, muddy hill to reach the 
Karen village," said Page Prescott from New Mexico. "It was such a soulful 
experience and I still feel connected to the Karens and their rice-farming way 
of life."

Randy Merker, from Nevada, chipped in: "It's a great irony that Americans 
rarely feel connected with the rest of the world despite all the high 
technology. Most of us don't travel outside our country and we tend to believe 
what the media say, which sometimes leads to prejudice and conflicts.

"But here I have established a personal connection with Thai and Karen people 
and I'm sure no one can tell me otherwise what they are." This last he 
delivered with a gentle smile.

Such shrewd and honest insights seemed to please Chris Myers, director of Earth 
Expedition, the US partner in this course.

"Thailand is rich and unique in its natural resources, wildlife and its 
people," he said. "I'm impressed with the community-based work that has been 
happening here, especially in the area of conservation and education. I think 
such work [provides] good examples for us to develop work in similar veins.

"Buddhist philosophy and values not only provide a good model for individual 
development, but also serve as a great example for how it can be applied to and 
benefit community-based education and conservation tasks."

Every year, a group of graduate students in Miami University's Project 
Dragonfly get the chance to spend some time overseas. And this year it was 
Thailand's turn.

To enable his charges to really explore the spirit of the Kingdom, Myers 
enlisted the help of Thai friends of his. They included academics and activists 
from the Green World Foundation in Bangkok and the Chiang Rai-based Kwan Muang 

Everybody agreed that one of the highlights of the week was a one-day trek 
through the woods with Phra Phaisan Visalo, the conservationist monk. But why 
take this forest-and-Buddhism slant?

"What is unique about Thailand is Buddhism and its people," Myers explained. 
"An understanding of conservation in Thailand would be incomplete without 
understanding how Buddhism relates to nature. Buddhism provides approaches to 
promote self-reflection and a healthy relationship between oneself and others, 
including nature."

His Thai colleagues agree: The human element is a must.

"For the idea of conservation to work, to be sustainable, we need a shift of 
human consciousness. On their own, scientific knowledge and technological 
developments cannot help us conserve nature," said Sorrayut Ratanapojnard, 
director of the Thai Spiritual Health Programme, an offshoot of the Thai Health 
Promotion Office.

"Learning at the intellectual level, that is to read, think and remember, is 
still very limited and far from enough. We need to create a new consciousness, 
one that can be cultivated from inward or spiritual learning."

In its broadest sense, Sorrayut continued, the term "spiritual ecology" 
encompasses how humans find meaning and value in their environment. It is, 
indeed, one of the earliest forms of learning and in some cultures is still 
passed down from generation to generation. Take the Karen, for example. Every 
Karen child has to learn where exactly the 32 kwan (spirits of life) reside in 
the forest; some live in trees, they believe, some in animals and some in 
rocks. And each child is taught that the destruction of the abodes of these 
kwan will lead to the end of his or her own life.

"Spiritual ecology is experiential, contemplative and participatory learning," 
Sorrayut said. "It has to be first-person education, by which one uses one's 
body and mind as tools to learn about the world and the truth.

"Each individual must have direct experience or contact with the subject of 
learning, must contemplate deeply on the subject and be able to relate it to 
him or herself. From there, we will develop a deeper understanding, the right 
consciousness of how we should utilise and conserve nature."

When the connection between spiritual wisdom and wilderness was first mooted, 
many of these teachers must surely have thought of their compatriot, Henry 
Thoreau, the transcendentalist who led a reclusive two-year existence in Walden 
Woods and later wrote about the deep insights he gained from his experiences 

And although it only lasted a single day, that trek through the forest covering 
Chiang Dao must surely have given the US visitors a taste of the transformative 
power of nature.

"Truth is expressing itself to us all the time and everywhere. It is we who 
need to clear our hearts in order to see it," said Phra Phaisan Visalo, the 
monk, writer and conservationist who led the party to the top of the mountain 
to visit Wat Pa Pang Ma-o. "There have been cases of monks who reached sudden 
enlightenment at the very moment that they saw leaves falling, or clouds in the 

To Phra Phaisan, falling leaves reveal the impermanent nature of all things. As 
do the constantly shifting clouds, everyday demonstrations of the 
interconnectedness and ceaseless transformation of all beings.

To reach this level of understanding requires some training, of course. But 
this training does not depend at all on the religious beliefs to which one 
subscribes. Nor is it particularly esoteric. Any newcomer to Buddhist 
philosophy can learn simple ways to cultivate awareness.

As part of their "Mindfulness in Nature" lesson, the teachers were asked to 
walk slowly behind Phra Phaisan and try to be mindful of every single step they 

"Spend time in a natural environment for a while and your mind will absorb the 
peaceful nature of its surroundings and you will feel calm," he told them. "To 
realise the benevolence of nature, we need to listen to her sound and respect 
it. A lot of tourists go into the woods but unfortunately they bring along all 
their electronic gear to occupy themselves. Or they keep talking or singing or 
playing music."

After a while the monk called a halt and told everyone to find a spot to sit 
alone. "Keep the silence for a while," he said. "After that, contemplate on 
your current situation or your state of mind."

Except for the rustling of leaves and the humming of insects in the background, 
all is quiet for a time. Then Phra Phaisan spoke up: "Choose one natural thing 
around you; whatever attracts your attention the most. Contemplate on it. Try 
to see if it has some truth or message for you."

At the end of that al fresco session the revelations of what the party had 
discovered were both varied and remarkable.

"I used to see myself as a rock immovable, strong and in control," said one. 
"Not any more, though. I realise now that rocks can crumble into pieces. They 
can be moved by wind and water. I don't think I'm in control any more. In fact, 
I'm subject to change and impermanence."

"While I was sitting in silence," another member of the group said, "I heard 
leaves moving. Then I realised that it was the work of the wind. The wind can 
move leaves, branches and plants without being seen. Sometimes, things can be 
done without having to be seen."

Several others in the group related themselves to climbing plants, noting that 
for life to progress, both people and vines need to be flexible, make gradual 
but steady movements and depend on strong foundations roots or community in 
order to grow up and some day reach the sunlight at the top of the forest.

At this point Phra Phaisan began speaking about the benefits that nature has to 
offer us. "Nature is the source of wisdom and ethics. When you are in despair, 
for example, look at the bees. These small creatures never lose heart. When 
someone takes away their hive, they don't drop dead or stop [moving]. What do 
they do? They go on and build a new one.

"If one goes out to find empowerment or moral support from nature, it always 
works," he added. "What we should do is open our hearts in order to see the 
wisdom and the lessons.

"Forests are considered sacred. Many Buddhist monks, from the Buddha's time up 
to the present day, became enlightened during pilgrimages in the forest," he 

One such example was Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera (1870-1949), a highly 
revered forest monk who, as it happens, is believed to have attained 
enlightenment during a sojourn on this very same mountain.

But then, as Phra Phaisan noted, Buddhism is all about nature.

"The Buddha's life, from birth to Nirvana, was spent close to nature. He was 
born under a tree, attained enlightenment under a bodhi [pipal] tree and 
throughout his 45 years of teaching, he resided and preached in the forest. And 
even when he was dying, he lay down under a tree.

"Thus Buddha advised his disciples to practise and learn from nature. He often 
said that dharma was nature."

So, conserving nature could be seen as the duty of both Buddhist monks and 
laity, a fulfilment of their responsibility to cherish the source of wisdom. 
Which is why there is a long-standing Buddhist tradition of monks making 
pilgrimages into the forest and establishing monasteries there.

"Nature has a more powerful wisdom than any building or artificial material can 
offer," Phra Phaisan said.

On a more mundane level, he continued, nature provides us with the basic 
requisites for survival, from food, clothing, shelter, medicine and, most 
crucially, oxygen and water. "The quality of nature will define the quality of 
our lives."

Above and beyond the purely physical benefits, the beauty of nature entices us 
and gives us sensual pleasure a quality which, more and more these days, is 
being commoditised for "consumption" by tourists.

"For us to see the all-encompassing benevolence of nature, we need to respect 
it as our teacher and not [regard it as] material for economic growth, 
senseless consumption and exploitation," Phra Phaisan said.

"[If we possess] this right view, it will be hard, even impossible, for us to 
abuse nature, our teacher and life-giver."


Regardless of whether you're in the heart of the city or out in the 
countryside, you can always re-establish a connection with nature and learn 
from it. The sky, wind, stars and moon; flowers, rocks, grass, trees, animals 
and human beings; they all carry some pearls of wisdom inside. Here are some 
tips on how to enhance your sensitivity to "natural truth".

Seek a location, preferably in natural surroundings, where you can sit 
undisturbed and contemplate. It could be your own garden, a park, a beach or 
some wild place in the middle of nowhere. But it could equally be a city street 
choked by rush-hour traffic.

Sit still and be silent for a while, at least five minutes until you start to 
feel calm and peaceful.

Then take a few minutes to reflect on your current situation or your state of 

Next, look at whatever nature is around you and choose the thing that most 
attracts your attention. It could be a bush, a bunch of weeds, a bird, a patch 
of sand, some seashells whatever. Even if you're stuck in the middle of a 
ferocious traffic jam, you can always look up at the sky, at the clouds or 
focus on a roadside tree, at the insect on your windscreen, even. Pick 
something and concentrate on it for a while.

Contemplate on its meanings, and the wisdom it brings to your mind. The first 
time you try this you may have difficulty concentrating but after repeated 
practice, insights from nature will reveal themselves faster and more clearly.

And, every now and then, do make the time to get out into real wilderness. For, 
according to Phra Phaisan Visalo, deep in the forest is where the power of 
wisdom, and the insights it brings, is most intense. [BANGKOK POST]

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