Ashin Suriya (Thegon)
All over the world we are encountering undesired environmental catastrophes almost every day such as flooding, earthquakes, heat-wave, and the like. These are believed to be happening due to deforestations, etc. This article was penned based on my different attitudes to trees, some of my experiences, scholars’ test on environment.
Our village is situated in the western part of Thegon town, Pyay District of West Bago Division. Our monastery is about fifteen minutes’ walk from our village. So it can be named Forest Monastery. Accordingly, it is encompassed by lots of trees, especially mango trees, which have been grown as the fence of the monastery instead of brick wall and there are a lot of mango trees in the compound as well. In the back of the monastery compound are several types of bamboo trees, a grove of ‘Thiho thayet’ (cashew) trees of around two hundreds and the woods of ‘In’ trees of about three hundreds. The wide wood of ‘In’ trees has been preserved by successive abbots of our monastery since over one hundred years ago. Around the monastery compound and its groves there are paddy fields and ground nut fields.
Over twenty five years ago, there were about 30 monastic students such as novices and lay boys and even some girls in the monastery under our influential abbot. State schools had not been as popular yet in our region then as in the present day. Our abbot taught us Myanmarsar (Myanmar Thin Pon Gyi), Mangala Sutta, Lokaniti, other Paritta suttas, basic Abhidhamma (Abhidhammatthasangaha), Basic English, basic Mathematics and basic astrology.
Before teaching in the morning, all students had to clean the whole monastery compound: some elder students had to sweep the fallen mango leaves into heaps on the ground while other students had to put them in bamboo baskets. Some other younger students like us had to collect the fallen leaves with our hands. Sometimes in the early summers, we were asked to clean the ‘In’ tree leaves and other kinds of leaves fallen down in the ‘In’ tree grove to be prevented from wildfire.
As a child, I was such a playful boy that I was sometimes too lazy to pick up the leaves. While picking up them, I, in a disappointed voice, used to say to some of my friends in the absence of our abbot and elder students, “Why doesn’t the abbot cut down the mango trees.”
As times went by, my childish view on the trees and the leaves totally changed. When I went back to my monastery from learning centres in the summer vacations, I had experience of the cool shades well that the trees give. I began to love the trees from then on. They are always green and have been providing their simple and natural shades for us all the time, noticeably in summers. On special Uposatha (Sabbath) days, precepts-observers gather and converse leisurely under the cool shades of the mango trees in our monastery. The mango trees in it yield fruits in abundance almost every year and let a variety of birds sit on their branches to sing songs, which relax the listeners in a natural way.
It is believed that flooding is caused by loss of trees or deforestation. The forests and the mountainous hills lying on the west of our villages stand about many miles, stretching to Shwetaung town and Pyay town. The areas that were thickly covered with a variety of trees have become bald and deforested day by day.
In spite of many other reasons for such deforestation (in our region), there may be three main reasons, in my opinion, lack of electricity, unprincipled cutting of trees as building materials for home-use and extension of fields for growing crops, especially ground nuts and sesame, in the forest. To them, another reason to be added is commercial purpose of exporting wood abroad, both legal and illegal across the country. Of them, the lack of electricity leads people to cutting trees for fuel, and to making charcoal for selling. The second act of making charcoal is worse than the first in making the forest bald. Those who make charcoal are furious-bull-like people. Just as a furious bull attacks everything it sees ahead, charcoal-makers also cut down every tree they found in the forest and made them charcoal. Besides, they did not give a chance to roots of the trees either, to remain undug in the ground and seem to look on the trees as their enemies because they dug out all the roots of them, too. It happened as a Myanmar saying goes, ‘Leave even no stumps of reed if cut down’. In the long run, our country will suffer worse and worse situations and disasters like intense heat-wave, flooding, river-bank encroachment, storms like Nargis, etc., unless we make effective protection and take some measurements against all acts driving to deforestation.
Therefore, I would like to give humble suggestions of the incumbent government. The following should be prioritized for protection against deforestation:
1. Give light to your entire beloved country by sufficient electricity as quickly as possible;
2. Conduct public educative efficient talks on value of trees and forest to the people nationwide;
3. Take upright and effective actions against those violating rules prescribed pertaining to trees and forest;
4. Organize events of growing trees nationwide, especially in tropical areas.
Let me conclude my article by sharing an environmental experiment made by scientists many years ago. The experiment was about how much animate beings require relation or connection with trees and forests or natural environments. Scientists used two glass-containers. In a glass-container was a mouse together with a rose with its stalk while in another one was a mouse with no rose. Each was kept therein the same amount of periods. Wonderfully, the mouse placed along with the rose in the container kept alive but the other was found dead.
Trees are lifeless. Trees are not our enemies. Trees do not attack beings. They do provide us with whatever they possess, fruits, flowers, leaves, branches, covers and eventually their body of trunks. They bring fresh air to us through their leaves. Being present of the trees on earth is much beneficial to human beings as well as animals. Therefore, it is time for all of us to keep trees alive for the prevention of terrible disasters and for the protection of our incomparably priceless human lives as well.