While our group has been enjoying their time exploring historical landmarks and ancient temples in the northern reaches of this vibrant country, today provided a particularly special opportunity. As a part of the efforts at the Monk’s Community Forest near Anlong Veng, Cambodia, our Dragons family and the head monk of the community set out into the forest with an important, honorable mission: to ordain trees as monks.
With the same Buddhist chanting we learned on retreat at the Buddhist monastery a week prior, our group placed their hands on four newly saffron-robed trees dispersed throughout the forest and assisted in blessing them. These efforts have been sustained locally by the monks for years with the intention of protecting the forests from illegal logging and hunting, educating the public on deforestation, and providing natural habitat for both wildlife and environmental research. Buddhist monks are amongst the most respected beings in Cambodia. Ordaining the trees as monks marks them as sacred spiritual leaders of the forest, a deed that leaves few wanting to destroy them. The head monk of the community shared with us his philosophy of the surrounding forests and lands: they do not just belong to Cambodians, but also to all of us, to everyone.
This ordination practice resonates with the concept of spiritual ecology, a call for spiritual practice and awareness as a response to our current environmental crisis. Recognizing that earthly imbalance has arisen from the disharmony of humans with the natural world, it summons humanity to reexamine our underlying attitudes and beliefs about the earth and our spiritual as well as physical responsibilities towards the planet.
After bidding farewell to the sacred forest grounds, we ventured back to our trusty guesthouse to learn more about deforestation in Cambodia, humanity’s relationship with nature, and ways of implementing these lessons and intentions in our lives once returning home. The themes of this Cambodia program are peace-building and conservation. By taking environmental action to a spiritual level, today more than ever those themes were merged.