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First Tree Ordination Ceremony in Sri Lanka - Solution for widespread and rapid deforestation

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Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) in collaboration with local communities and other environmental associations organized a Tree Ordination Ceremony in the Nilgala Forest on January 11, 2014. Over 50 Buddhist monks participated in the ceremony from different parts of the world.

On request of the local communities and environmental groups, the Buddhist monks have initiated the Tree Ordination Ceremony with the intention to protect The Nilgala Forest. Accordingly, 1,000 trees were successfully ordained from Dimbuldena and Akkara 90 to symbolize the occasion.
Badullgammana Sumanasara Thera, Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Thalangalle Sudhamma Thera took the lead in the Tree Ordination. Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka Environmental Congress, Engaged Buddhist Solidarity for Nature, Future in Our Hands, Ruk Rekaganno are some of the environmental organizations participated in this endeavor.

Nilgala forest is rich with very high biodiversity and famous medicinal plants. It is one of the earliest forest gardens in Sri Lanka which has been declared as a conservation area since 1953.
The Nilgala Forest is under a threat due to the illegal land grabbing, proposed sugar cane cultivation and forest fires. Villagers fear that the destruction will have negative effect on the Senanayaka Samudraya, and ultimately end up creating human-elephant conflict. Villagers complain that though the Forest Department is responsible for the saving of this forest, they are not taking any action against this destruction.

“Nilgala Forest which gives shade water, coolness and air with no benefit will offer to the ‘Buddha Sasana’ to be protected as long as the sun and moon prevail.
Let the trees remain standing and serve the nature because they are ordained now. Thou shall not cut these trees.

Tree ordination is a ceremony initiated by Ecology Monks (Phra Nak Anuraksa), a group of Thai Buddhist Monks which has also practice by the Cambodian, Vietnam and Burmese Buddhist monks three decades ago.
The original idea behind the tradition is to use the widely respected symbol of monastic robes to make loggers hesitate to cut down trees. It is a combination of bringing the pre-Buddhist values of spirit worshiping and the Buddhist values of respecting the nature and the political messaging of saving the forests and trees from destructive development.

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks and environmentalist ordained the giant “Dun” tree in Baduraliya-Kukulegama road in 1997 and Red sandalwood tree in 2008 which were under threat of cutting down for road expansion. Both trees still remain untouched as people believe it as wrong to cut down ordained trees.

It provides a solution for widespread and rapid deforestation. “Ordaining” a tree is known as a provocative ritual which is a symbolic yet an influential monastic movement aimed at reversing environmental degradation and unsustainable economic development and consumerism that fuel it.

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