Published on June 1st, 2016 | by Robyn Purchia0
Buddhist Holiday in Sri Lanka Honors Buddha With Trees
According to Buddhist tradition, just before Buddha died he saw his faithful attendant Ananda weeping. Buddha advised him not to weep over the natural disintegration of his physical body, but follow his teachings and pass them on because only truth is eternal. Buddhists remember this advice on Vesak, their lord’s birthday, by refocusing on his teachings and their practice to lead noble lives. While some donate to charities and others decorate temples, one group of Buddhists celebrated with trees.
As part of the Vesak celebrations, which took place on May 21 and 22 this year, the Piyawara (or “step”) Buddhist volunteer group in Sri Lanka planted hundreds of fruit trees in the country’s commercial capital of Colombo. Jude Samantha, chairman of the group, called Buddha “the greatest environmentalist” and highlighted the “chemical-free” nature of the trees.
Sri Lanka has historically taken a progressive approach to toxic pesticides and herbicides. In 2014, years before international health organizations took action, the country partially banned glyphosate, the chemical found in Monsanto’s Round-Up. Rice contaminated with heavy metals has also been a huge issue in the country. Piyawara’s new, chemical-free fruit trees are not only consistent with Buddha’s teaching of natural disintegration, but they’re also important to the people of the country who care about health.
Piyawara’s event also united the city’s diverse Buddhist, Muslim, and Catholic groups. Members from the various religions donated the fruit trees. The Catholic Home Gardeners Association used the opportunity to advocate for small home gardens in order to have a toxic-free nation. This is something Pope Francis encouraged in his environmental encyclical.
The Buddha would have been very happy by the work of the volunteers. Not only did their hard work promote organic environmentalism, but they also fostered interconnection between religions — two very important Buddhist teachings.
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