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Rest and Heal in the Forest, the Refuge of Body and Mind

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Writer Jogye Date10 Jun 2019 Read7,175 Comment0


Rest and Heal intheForest, the Refuge of Body and Mind

In the forest, innumerable organic life forms and inanimate inorganic substances together have created a close-knit ecosystem where they are inseparably connected.

Therefore, deforestation irreparably damages the habitats of numerous life forms, paving the way for their extinction.

A forest is a precious natural resource which directly affects our own lives.

Forests allow the earth to breathe, in the same way humans breathe through their lungs. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen through photosynthesis, regulating the temperature of the atmosphere. Forests also function as a reservoir for water preservation. The roots of the grasses, bushes and trees in a forest absorb and hold onto the moisture in the soil and release it gradually when rain is scarce, functioning as a sort of “green dam.”

Advanced nations jealously guard their forestry resources, but deforestation is well underway in developing countries. Trees are felled at an alarming rate to produce construction materials, paper and a variety of household goods such as chopsticks. Huge tracks of forests are cleared every year to make way for land development. The most concentrated process of deforestation is occurring in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon Basin to create pasture for livestock and plantations. Humanity will eventually come to bitterly regret such stupidity later, but for now they persist in this act of self-destruction out of sheer disregard for the true value of the forest.

Deforestation is known to have been the reason for the downfall of the Mayan civilization. As the Mayan culture flourished, the population grew and people congregated in big city centers. Trees were cut down to be used for buildings or as fuel. Deforested regions suffered severe soil erosion and frequently degraded into wasteland. As agricultural production declined, the Mayan civilization was greatly weakened and eventually collapsed. Desertification caused by deforestation also devastates colonies of microorganisms, to such a point that simply planting new trees was not enough to fully restore the health of the forest ecosystem.

The Buddhist monastic precepts, which dictate the rules of conduct for ordained monks and nuns, state that if a monastic needlessly harms a plant, they must do penance. One day, a monk tried to cut down a tree to repair his hut. The tree god residing in it appeared in front of him and pleaded, “Please do not destroy my home to repair yours.” Turning a deaf ear to the tree god’s plea, the monk went ahead and chopped it down. The tree god went to Buddha and appealed to him, and the monk ended up being criticized and shunned by the people. Buddha then gathered his disciples together and taught them not to harm trees, after which a precept against it was established.

According to the Pusa benyuanjin, which records the past lives of Buddha, the forest is where “Buddhas and sages rest at ease in silence, and where people can abandon their greed, resentment and ignorance.” A forest is where people, worn down by the fast moving life of the modern world, can finally rest and heal their body and mind. Cutting down trees is no different from cutting off parts of our own bodies.

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