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Global warming vs dharma cooling

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Phra Paisal Visalo


        ‘‘Dharma is indispensable during this time. Nature and dharma are inseparable. Before restoring nature, we should restore dharma in our mind first.’’

        The natural environment around us has plunged into a catastrophic state. But have we ever noticed that the natural environment inside our body, which includes our peace of mind, is also entering the same situation, due to our boundless greed and over consumption?

        As the world's temperature steadily soars, the temperature inside our mind is also heating up rapidly.

        Consequently, global and mental warming situations are not so different, since both phenomena are equally crucial. And they need to be cured simultaneously, since internal heat can affect the external environment. We all should bear in mind that we can survive only if nature survives.


Virulent threats

        According to the revered monk Phra Paisal Visalo, the abbot of Wat Pa Sukhato in Chaiyaphum province, the major cause of global warming and other environmental problems stems from humans' detrimental attitudes towards nature.

        ''Humans fail to realise that they're part of nature. They can survive and maintain their race throughout the passage of time, simply because of nature's mercy and hospitality. Humans should be grateful to nature,'' suggested the monk who has devoted his life to protecting the forest in Chaiyaphum.

        ''Humans think that they're the master. What we commonly see in this technological-driven era is humans trying to control nature and overly, irresponsibly, and unmindfully exploit it,'' Phra Paisal added.

        According to the monk, the incessant exploitation of nature happens because humans think that real happiness comes from the ability to possess a large number of material things, but they are still not gratified.


        ''They think that the more they have, the happier they are.

        Their success in life can be measured from the number and kind of cars they own and the price of the house, land, and other possessions they have, including money in their bank account.

        "With this attitude, people highly compete to consume and possess more, with consumerism as the stimulator and the capitalism as the supporter," he said.


Is our greed unquenchable?

        Human greed has never been fulfilled because people still want more and more, resulting in the ceaseless destruction of nature in order to pamper their luxurious and wasteful life.

        Yet, their happiness has never increased in line with their material wealth, which can be seen in the high rate of suicides and patients with mental disorders and neurosis.

        "Such attitudes and consequent behaviours make people ignore and estrange themselves from nature. They are even estranged from themselves. They immerse themselves in many unnecessary activities like talking on the phone almost all the time, shopping, and surfing the net. Everything they do contributes to the ruin of nature," said the monk.

        It's no exaggeration to say that our natural environment is in crisis because our interior nature is out of balance. Deep down inside people feel alone, depressed and hopeless. That is why they are trying to indulge themselves with material things.

        "No matter how they succeed in transforming nature into a wide variety of consumer goods, assets, and money, humans can't be full and their soul is still empty," stressed the monk.


A cure for our mental imbalance

        The monk pointed out that the natural environment can't be restored to its healthy state as long as humans' internal nature is still unstable. The elixir that can bring a balanced mind back to all souls during this crisis is "dharma medicine", specially concocted by Lord Buddha. "Dharma is indispensable during this time. In fact, nature and dharma are inseparable. Before restoring nature, we should restore dharma back to our mind first. People must be aware of the fact that we're a part of nature. Our survival totally depends on the survival of nature," Phra Paisal said.

        Apart from curing our soul's sickness, dharma also provides us with many precious lessons on sustainability, self-sufficiency, loving compassion and spiritual happiness, he added.

        "Nature teaches humans to enjoy a simple life and encourages them to embrace happiness, which derives from peace of mind, making merit, helping others, and being at one with nature."

        The monk went on to say that any souls that seek mental tranquility and adopt dharma as their guide will be lighter, calmer, freer and happier. "This type of mind will be ready to wholeheartedly protect and save nature. It's a mind that won't take advantage of nature, people, community and society. It's a mind that can return serenity and peace to the world," said the abbot.


A simple yet noble happiness

        In this era of consumerism, humans greedily hunt for material happiness and along the way they fail to expose themselves to a more noble happiness. When people start controlling and reducing their desires, material happiness becomes less attractive.

        "Happiness occurs easily when humans feel enough. And when that happens it's no longer necessary to exploit nature."

        Everything in nature teaches lessons about dharma and the truth of life, but only if we open our eyes and attentively listen to it.

        ording to Phra Paisal, those with an agitated mind will be calmer when surrounded by nature. Their heart will easily fill with goodwill and when they look deeply into their mind, they can cultivate mindfulness, concentration and spiritual wisdom.

        The open-minded can learn several chapters of dharma from nature, whether it be the impermanence of life or the well-knitted connection of all lives. Nature also teaches us the lessons of morality and dedication, from the generous trees that provide shade and shelter to animals, the ants that are diligent and persevere to build their kingdom, and the birds that fly happily with no material burdens.

        "Nature is the greatest while we're just a tiny life form. Nature teaches us to be humble and understand our real status. We're just a small part of it. When we feel humble, we will not be arrogant and we will get closer to nature."

How grass and a rock teach dharma

        All life is inseparable and nature always can teach us several lessons of dharma if only we open our eyes, pay attention and listen.

        Phra Paisal recalled that someone once asked Luang Pu Mun (one of the most venerable monks) how he learned so much about dharma, since he didn't study much. The senior monk answered that "for those who have wisdom, dharma can be found in every nook and cranny". Meanwhile, a reformist monk named Bhuddhadasa Bhikkhu always suggested that visitors to his forest hermitage Suan Mokka (Garden of Release) learn how to listen to the trees and rocks that teach dharma all the time.

        "Those who hope for mental prosperity should set aside time to be in nature. With our humble mind, we will see both dharma and our inner nature which lead to the understanding of the truth of life.

        "Several revered monks became enlightened because of nature. When they see a falling leaf or a wrinkled lotus, they realise that their time in this world is limited. This is a wisdom derived from exposure to nature."

        Nature has been giving for so long, while humans have been taking. It is now time for all of us to take care of our generous provider. "As nature is in great peril, we should not take advantage of her ... humans should be generous and grateful to nature by fully safeguarding it, whether through reforestation, recycling, protecting wildlife, and raising awareness of environmental problems," Phra Paisal said.


Global warming vs dharma cooling

        Natural conservation work is somewhat time-consuming and it is an uphill battle as long as there are selfish people who show no respect for nature. The monk encouraged everyone, nature lovers in particular, to be patient.

        "We should not be disheartened or feel uncomfortable. If we understand that protecting nature is like practicing dharma, we will feel more peaceful.

        "While the world's temperature is soaring, we should not be frustrated. If we protect nature with our suffering, everything will turn out to be harmful to ourselves. We should not be hotter like our world. With a calm and cool mind, we can create good things for the Earth," the monk emphasized.


Published: 20/08/2009  Bangkok Post Newspaper Writer: CHOMPOO TRAKULLERTSATHIEN
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