Thai Buddhist Monk “Ordains” Trees To Protect Them
Would you damage or deface an item that you knew had received a blessing of some kind? What if someone had placed a religious symbol on it: a cross, or a star of David? What if there were a priest’s collar wrapped around it? Signs and symbols of faith generally provide protection; most of us won’t harm something we know has been singled out in such a manner. For 25 years, Buddhist monk Phrakru Pitak Nanthakthun has counted on his fellow Thai citizens’ respect for things that have been blessed as a way of protecting trees and forests in his home province of Nan. Specifically, Phrakru holds ceremonies that “ordain” trees: they even receive their own traditional orange robe.
The Thai monk discusses the motivation for his unique ministry in a video produced by the BBC News magazine. The trees in Nan are a valuable resource sought out by both legitimate business people, as well as illegal loggers. After consulting the holy scripture to determine a proper course of action, Phrakru began his practice of ordaining the trees to create community forests around villages that can’t protect them from wealthy business interests. He’s created over 100 of these forests in Nan, and the practice has caught on in other parts of Asia: tree ordinations have taken place in Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.
Phrakru’s explanation of his call and his practice is fascinating. If you watch the video and want to learn more, I’ve also discovered a book on the topic from SUNY Press – The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement.
Know more about the Buddhist theology underlying such practices? Witnessed one of these ceremonies? Read the book? Share your thoughts and experience with us…