Buddhist tradition meets eco-friendly innovation

Photo courtesy Thai PBS World

As Visakha Bucha Day approaches tomorrow, Buddhists worldwide prepare to honour the birth, enlightenment, and attainment of complete Nibbana of the Lord Buddha according to tradition.

This sacred day, steeped in tradition, sees millions making merit, observing religious precepts, and performing the evening ceremony of wian tian, where devotees walk around temple chapels in a candlelit procession, commemorating the Buddha’s purity, wisdom, and compassion.

But this year, there’s a green twist. May 22 is also Thailand National Arbor Day, and in an inspiring fusion of faith and environmentalism, the Tree for Dhamma Foundation, alongside the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and its partners, is promoting the Wian Tian Using Tree Seedlings initiative.

Instead of the traditional lit incense sticks and candles, participants will carry tree seedlings during the wian tian ceremony. These seedlings, placed in eco-friendly paper bags, will later be planted across Bangkok to boost green spaces and combat the city’s air pollution. The bags come with beginner-friendly plant-growing advice, ensuring that even novices can contribute to this green revolution.

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Deputy Bangkok Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon explained the event.

“This activity not only helps in making merit but also addresses urgent environmental concerns. By planting trees, we’re improving air quality and increasing urban green spaces.”

The Wian Tian Using Tree Seedlings initiative is a collaborative project involving various governmental and non-governmental bodies, including the BMA’s Department of Environment, the Royal Forest Department, and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth). Phra Pisan Visalo, the abbot of Wat Pa Sukato and president of the Tree for Dhamma Foundation, emphasized the significance of this project during his dharma sermon at Benjakitti Park on May 18.

“Growing trees to create green spaces improves physical and mental health. This new way of making merit can solve today’s pressing problems, benefiting humans and the environment.”

Planting trees

Participants in the wian tian ceremony can collect seedlings from over 100 participating temples in Bangkok. After the ceremony, they can plant the seedlings at home, on temple grounds, or in public parks. The BMA encourages participants to register their planted trees on the city’s official website to track progress towards the ambitious goal of one million new trees in four years.

The initiative supports the BMA’s 15-Minute Pocket Parks policy, transforming unused urban land into green spaces within a 15-minute walk for all residents. Sanon expects more than 20,000 trees to be planted through this event, significantly contributing to the city’s green goals, reported Thai PBS World.

Using seedlings instead of incense and candles not only adds greenery but also reduces air pollution and garbage. Incense smoke, a major source of PM2.5 pollutants, can significantly harm health. Studies have shown that incense burning can increase PM2.5 concentrations by two to 10 times, posing risks comparable to cigarette smoke.

“Join us in this meaningful activity. Let’s make merit and create a greener city together. Everyone is welcome.”

For more details and to see a list of participating temples, visit https://bit.ly/visaka.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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