Buddhism more than planting trees

by MICHAEL SETTER, Bangkok Post, Aug 29, 2007

With due respect, Phra Paisan Visala does a disservice to Buddhism in his article "The Happiness You Can Grow".

He states "real happiness" is "to have a chance to grow trees, to take care of the environment and to become a part of nature". While it is certainly fine for a monk to advocate environmental and social responsibility, it is simply misleading to equate them with authentic spiritual practice.

Buddhism is about realisation of unconditional happiness, truth or reality - this is not achieved by planting trees. If it were, my father, who was responsible for planting countless trees, would have been a saint. And though I loved him dearly, he was an ordinary man.

Phra Paisan Visalo confuses unconditional happiness with conditional pleasure when he tries to sell landscaping work as "spirituality".

Planting trees is planting trees. Yes, you can make it pleasurable. But pleasurable thoughts, actions, emotions, perceptions and conceptions are temporary, dependent upon the body-mind and never the equivalent of perfect happiness.

Unconditional happiness is not contained within body or mind. Rather we are "within" happiness, reality or truth.

This is what Buddhism teaches. The realisation of truth or happiness is not accomplished by wearing amulets made of clay or planting trees. It is realised through the conscious transcendence of ego-self in every present moment. This is spirituality, nothing less.