In Thailand several monks from the forest tradition have been more socially engaged and saw it necessary to get the laypeople from big cities to come out into nature, so they organize various environmental activities like tree planting, etc. and also lead groups of laypeople on walks through the wilderness or national parks.
One of the leading environmentalist monks is Ajahn Paisal Visalo from Wat Pah Sugato:
The close relationship between Buddhist teachings and nature is very special to me – not just as a Buddhist monk, but also as a social activist. I’m involved with many social activities concerning human rights, peace, non-violence and forest conservation. I find that to sustain those activities, we need a solid foundation. We need strong and deep roots. It’s like a tree. A tree can grow tall and spread its branches only when its roots are deep enough, or expansive enough.
We can all learn from plants, even small shrubs. Last year, I organised a spiritual green walk-athon called ``Dharma-yatra'', which involved trekking through several hillside communities in the Phu Khong area of Chaiyaphum province in northeastern Thailand. For seven full days we had to trudge along under a scorching sun. Everyone was feeling hot and tired and our party was close to total disarray.
At one point we walked by a small shrub. Diminutive and fragile-looking, it had sprouted up right by the side of the road. The intriguing thing about it was its bright red flowers. Despite the sweltering heat, the flowers had turned to dire
ctly face the sun, their petals fully open, almost as if they were greeting it with a smile. Seeing that, we all felt suddenly refreshed. If those dainty blooms weren't afraid of the sun, how should we be?
Plants have the ability to transform sunlight into shade. And they are great teachers, too; there are so many things to be learned from them. When we humans have problems, we should try to emulate plants -- to turn hurdles into lessons, suffering into happiness.
http://www.visalo.org/DhammaWalk/article005.htmhttp://www.suanmokkh.org/ds/dy/index.htmhttp://www.visalo.org/englishArticles/B ... arming.htmhttp://www.visalo.org/englishArticles/B ... ngaged.htm
Phu Long is the rain catchment forest of the Lampathao River, the lifeblood of countless communities downstream. It used to be one of the most fertile rainforests in the region, but the government's logging concessions and its policy to expand farmland on the frontiers have caused massive forest destruction here and elsewhere.
Over the past few decades, the Phu Long forest has recovered significantly, thanks to a strong Phu Long forest conservation movement led by Buddhist monks and nuns. For the past decade, Phra Paisal Visalo, a reformist monk and abbot of the Phu Long forest monastery, has been organising Dharmayatra, a religious pilgrimage to cultivate forest conservation awareness, leading to a community network to safeguard Phu Long.
The forest guards need help. They need sneakers to do their forest patrol because combat shoes are too heavy and make too much noise on dry leaves, which alerts the poachers.
They also need binoculars and digital cameras. It helps to be able spot poachers from afar, and since the forest guards often cannot get close to them, it helps to have their pictures so they can be arrested in the future.
True happiness cannot be bought. It is something we have to cultivate ourselves. There is a Chinese saying that "if you want three hours of ecstasy, try gambling. For three weeks of rapture, go traveling. For three months of bliss, get married. Build a new house, and you will enjoy three years of heaven. But if you want a true and lasting happiness, grow and live with trees." Growing trees make us happy not only when we see them blossom and give us fruits and shades. We already experience the feeling of joy the moment we put the seeds into the soil, pour the water over it, till and take care of the land constantly. As the seeds grow into saplings, and eventually bigger trees, so does our sense of happiness. Those who have spent time living in the midst of nature know how what seems to be a life of monotony is indeed a blessed one, brought about by innate peace and tranquility.
To have a chance to grow trees, to take care of the environment, to become a part of nature, that is, to me, real happiness. And we should not be just the beneficiaries; we should also take an active role in the nurturing of our surrounding. Nowadays, such opportunity has become few and far between: the wild woods have been continuously shrinking. We need thus to join hands in bringing them back. That is the beginning of growing happiness by our own hands.
At the same time, what is no less important is to take care of "a tree" in our own heart. When that flourishes, so will our peace of mind. The question is: how is the tree faring? Is it growing healthily? Or has it been withering away? How much are we attending to this tree in our own mind? Most may not realise that there is ?a tree? inside each of us that needs looking after. We may not be aware at all if it is still alive, or is it wilting away? This is because we often spend little time with ourselves. Much of the time, we keep ourselves busy with things from the outside: friends, work, TVs, shopping, and so on. We think they are indispensable. We look outward to avoid the problems inside. The tree in our mind has been neglected. It becomes vulnerable to pest, weeds, and drought. But now is the time to go back and nurture our own tree.
That is not difficult at all. When we do something good, when we give something away or make someone happy, we are watering the tree inside us. We have been taught to believe that the more we possess, the happier we will be. Thus a number of people think happiness can be purchased; they run after things to fulfill their craving all the time. Few realise that the happiness gained from giving away is more profound, more refined; it waters the tree inside our mind. And when that grows, prospers, it will give the flowers, fruits, and shades _ an unsurpassable peace _ to us.
The Jit Arsa volunteer programmes have drawn a number of people [who volunteer on various projects]. Incidentally, many participants talked about the discovery of happiness in the process. At the end of a two-day tree-planting project, a lady confessed that she initially felt overwhelmed at the sight of the barren hills in front of the temple. She felt like she was just a clump of lowly grass. Having planted numerous trees, her spirit soared. She no longer felt like the grass. She now feels like the trees. The trees in their minds have grown. Just two days of working on something meaningful with other people has given her the energy. From the grass, she suddenly becomes the trees. It is so instant. It is up to us how we will grow, take care and nourish it.
Another well-known monk who has been organizing walks in nature both in Thailand and in Canada combined with teaching meditation to large groups of laypeople and especially the young ones is Luang Por Viriyang:http://www.willpowerinstitute.com/conte ... ation-2010http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcDnGBMrmIIhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JO6JIuhtzhkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1h5UY2NqDs
And here is a group of laywomen (Savika) doing a similar tudong walk led by an monk:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp17FMYP7fE
And this is a monastery in Chiang Mai in natural surroundings with mountains where people can go to meditate:http://vimuttidhamma.org/khunwang-2-january-2011