Ecology and Buddhism 2011

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Practicing Eco-Dharma

Montra Leoseng

Ecology and Buddhism 2011

Namtok (Waterfall) Samlan National Part in Saraburi, 50 kms away from MCU Wangnoi

Rapid climate change highly affects the rhythm of all lives, its environment and all circulations. The problem has its source in the passion of modernization, industrialization, and globalization. The local wisdoms to protect natural resources and Buddhism to raise the awareness and compassion for all life have been lost in the midst of development. We live in the midst of ecological crisis, in which the nature of aquatic and terrestrial environments, the pattern of deep-water circulation, nature’s recycling system, rainfall, and soil development to name a few, are changing and degraded. Though we witness economic success, but it is marred by the “tragedy of common” including pollution and mega disasters.  


Rock Ecology found on the walking track, lying beside the stream of waterfall

Dead wood and decomposing logs have been cleared up, few remains

Moss-covered rock

Fast-flowing water supports certain forms of aquatic life awaiting for the study.

Many countries have called for alternative ways to solve the environmental problems. Buddhism and Ecological approach have been the subject of much debate in recent years. Buddhism believe that all beings are composed of 4 elements i.e., earth, air, fire, and water in a variety of physical combinations. Therefore, all living beings and things are linked to each other, one way or another. Losing bonds to the nature brought ignorance and it is impossible to maintain the continuity of all lives.

Pond Ecosystem surrounded by many little houses for the tourists.  

Ecology studies the characteristics that an organism exhibits including physiology, morphology, behavior, synthesis, growth, reproduction, and maintenance. While Buddhism recognizes these characteristics as “Tri-luk”, the process of change, dissatisfaction and non-self; the understanding of Tri-luk will free our mind from suffering. Buddhism highly values the role of humans in nature and to show intense gratitude to the nature in the play of life. Therefore, the promotion of “Buddhism and Deep Ecology” becomes the measure of prosperity.

Part of Namtok Samlan (man-made): a riffle and a pool

Namtok Samlan in Saraburi Province houses numerous species indigenous to the rain forest of the world. There are also different mechanisms that give rise to the diversity of species and ecosystems on earth. Especially its climate and scenery would allow all Buddhism bask in the brilliance of Dharma learning. Practicing Dharma is the fabric of local people’s lives. The morality dominates the local society as seen from Buddhist Arts and monasteries. The combination of experiences in Buddhism and Ecology, in particular forest management, provides some valuable lessons and insights worth sharing to other ASEAN countries.

MCU helps promoting self-sufficiency principle of the King Bhumipol and safeguards the environment. The innovative curriculum involves community-based learning. Ecology, and Buddhism subject,  therefore, aims at promoting ecological movement and awareness to the MCU monk students in support of both physical and spiritual well-beings. The Eco-Dharma (Dharma Nives) is promptly developed to bring ideas from Buddhism and Ecology. A field trip allows students study tropical forest ecology in order to improve an understanding on the role of forest, environmental culture and Buddhism. 

Forest Ecology and evergreen trees surrounding its entrance

Namtok Samlan National Park covers 40 square kilometers, has both terrestial and aquatic ecosystems. The plentiful resources drew Japaness army to build up military camp in the forest during the World War II. As a result, many forest land disappeared, then abondoned. After the promotion of tourism campaign 20 years ago, the artificial waterfall, receiving the supplied water from the reservior above, brought the tropical forest to life. Many part of forest land was regrown.

Field survey focuses on the old-growth forests along 1.4 kms track which is abundance of dead wood and decomposing logs. Ecology sustainability requires awareness of the complex interdependent relationships in ecosystems(theory of Dependent Origination) and the maintenance of biodiversity of species and ecosystems.

Study methodology

  1. Field survey to study the diversity of life in Namtok Samlan tropical forest, hierarchy of ecological system, and soil formation.

  2. Observation plants that exhibit adaptation, sun and shade environments by comparing large-seeded species, water movement, aquatic plants

  3. Interviews forest rangers on environmental issues

  4. Photo-taking and documentation

  5. Knowledge Management (KM)

Study Questions

It is very interesting to study the old-growth forest near the Namtok Samlan waterfall on 5 aspects as follows:

  1. Biodiversity: The diversity of life this tropical forest supports

    • Study the diversity of life both aquatic life (e.g. the diversity of floating aquatic plants) and terrestial life.

    • Identify 7 major differences between aquatic and terrestial plants. What types of trees characterize tropical forest (leaf type)?

    • Select 1 native plant species and 1 animal species as case studies, then

      • draw the life cycle of that plant and animal species, with photo-taking.

      • Study mating systems including sexual reproduction (with photos), sexual selection, habitat selection.

      • What are social behaviors (e.g.competition) that plant/animal show to limit populations.

      • Abiotic factors (environmental condition/physical structure) that influence the survival and reproductive success of individuals.

  2. The hierarchy of ecological system by choosing (one) individual native species of plant and animal then analyze

    • what characteristics allow that individual living being (either plant or animal) to survive, grow and reproduce in the environment of Namtok Samlan National Park of Thailand.

    • Also study about the population of its species which is increasing, decreasing or remaining constant from year to year,  why?

    • Regarding community, how does this species interact with other species of plant and animals in Namtok Samlan Waterfall community?

    • Ecosystem: how do yearly variations in rainfall influence the productivity of plants in Namtok Samlan ecosystem?

    • Landscape: how do variations in topography and soils across the landscape influence patterns of species composition and diversity in the different tropical forest communities?

  3.  Ecosystem Ecology - Soil study

    • What major factors affect soil formation? Analyze soil texture and soil moisture from 5 different areas.

    • Mineralizaton: Identify the mineral availability (area) that affects animal growth and reproduction. Explain the characteristics/spirit of the place (including photos) - plants/animals living in that area.

    • Habitats for (ecto) parasites (with photos) - symbiosis and mutualism condition

    • Decomposition: The system of decomposer (a variety of organisms such as fungi, bacteria, mites, earthworms, millipedes, mollusks and crabs etc) in different areas (e.g. dead logs, the pond bottom) that break down dead matter into inorganic substances - with photo-taking

    • How do chemical fertilizers, such as ammonium and nitrate, differ from natural fertilizers such as manures, ground animal bone, or compost?

  4.  Evolution and food chain 

    • Forms of predation that were found (with photos) i.e., carnivory, parasitoidism, cannibalism and herbivory.

    • Coevolution occur between predator and prey i.e., chemical defense, cryptic coloration, object resemblance, flashing coloration, warning coloration, batesian mimicry, protective armor.

    • The characteristics that plants evolved to deter herbivores.

    • Draw food chain/food web

    • Identify 1)  invasive plant and animal species  2) endangered species found in this area.

  5. Human Ecology - Environmental Issues that threatening Namtok Samlan tropical forest

    • Taking photos that present a view of Namtok Samlan landscape (landscape ecology), identify different types of land cover (natural forest, plantations, fields, water and communities) and restoration ecology (reforestration, revegetation and species introduction) in this area.

    • What would you consider as the most important environmental issue (natural disturbances like forest fire, windstrom, flood, drought, epidemic or human disturbance like clear-cutting, logging, agriculture, and development)? Please explain its causes and impacts.

    • Identify the carrying capacity of the forest (with photo-taking), analyze the situation, and identify factors that influence the carrying capacity of Namtok Samlan National Park. 

    • How might the climate change have changed the diversity of plants and animal life in Namtok Samlan National Park during the past 5 years?

    • What might a population respond to unpredictable variations in essential resources, taking one plant/animal as a case study?

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