September 14, 2009

Prayer flags a problem in Bhutan

Prayer Flags TiagoPereira

The Bhutanese government is facing an unexpected threat to its country's natural environment: prayer flags. Each year, Bhutan's citizens cut down thousands of trees to use a poles for Buddhist prayer flags, according to a Reuters report posted on the Buddhist Channel.

This is making for a legal conundrum. Bhutan's famed Gross National Happiness index requires that forest-cover make up at least 60 percent of the Himalayan kingdom's landscape—but Buddhism, a guiding philosophy of the policy, is now contributing to the gradual deforestation of the region.

Fortunately, it seems that a solution is in the works. The government is growing bamboo plants, with the hope that these will make for an acceptable substitute.

[Image: TiagoPereira]

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Guru Padsambhava's picture

While following our Dharma, it is also important to save our environment. Bhutan has a very reach forest reserve, which is getting vanished at other places. Even the high rises are restricted and taditional kind of buildings are only allowed. This is a concious effort His Highness Government to protect environment.

As far as prayer flags are concerned, we may think of other alternative like rope flags and even re use of old poles. I don't beleive the theory of benefit diminishing in the process. Your mind is your Buddha, hence if you put even a single flag with pure mind it equals 108 flags.

Let's ponder seriously over the issue.

Vikinggrl's picture

In addition, you can EAT bamboo! Sounds like a good plan.

Nate's picture

I agree David, it was seem counteractive to kill a new tree rather than reuse one that has already been destroyed. I like the idea the Bhutanese government has with the bamboo though, that stuff is not only stable but once planted it will take over an area and there will be plenty for prayer flags to be hung upon! :)

David Nowak's picture

From the Reuters article:

""If you re-use an old flagpole, you aren't putting in effort, which means the merit earned is compromised," explained Lopon Gyem Tshering, a monk who teaches at a religious school."

"Right effort" is ensuring that your actions are as beneficial as possible to the most number of living being. Can the merit gained for hanging a prayer flag on a newly cut-down tree equal that of killing the beings that were living on that tree or those who benefit from it's shade or CO2-O2 converting ability?

Granted only a Buddha can comprehend the complexities of karmic right action, but a simple human has the responsibility to take the time to consider as many of the consequences of one's actions as one is aware of.

Even monks can get tunnel vision.

Peace & Mindfulness