03/09/2012, 00.00
THAILAND
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In a country ravaged by natural disasters, Thai Buddhist monk promotes environmental protection

by Weena Kowitwanij
Phra Phaisal Visalia, 55, attended a Catholic high school and graduated in Fine Arts. Initial curiosity in life as a monk transformed in lifestyle choice. Among the points of his teaching, enhancement of land and disasters prevention. Written over 150 books, some dedicated to illness and dying in “serenity”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - In a Thailand devastated by floods that have bent the national economy and population, it is not unusual to encounter monks who devote part of their mission to protecting the environment and land. Among these is Phra Phaisal Visalia, a 55 year-old abbot of the temple of Mahawan Sukatow, in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, a compound whose Sanskrit name means "land of victory." It is formed mainly by the ethnic Lao population and also the local language, the dialect of Isan, is borrowed from neighbouring Laos. It was within this composite of forests and villages, that monk Visalia promotes the teachings of "the Enlightened".

Over the years as a student, Phra Phaisal Visalia attended Assumption High School under the guidance of the Brothers of St. Gabriel, after graduation he enrolled in college, attending the Faculty of Arts where he graduated. He has always followed the activities of student groups and the meetings of a religious nature, deepening his study of meditation at the Sanamnai temple in Bangkok. And during his first Buddhist Lent, he wanted to experience the state of "peace of mind" and find "a sense of meaning in life."

As happens frequently in Buddhism, Phra Phaisal wanted to assume the role of monk for a limited period of time from one month to one year, then it became three years, and finally the choice that has led to his life mission over the past 28 years. He has met the inhabitants of several villages in the province, to teach them the Dharma, to strengthen the morality in society and seek peace of heart, especially among those living in difficult situations, experiencing illness and those who are called to care for relatives with serious diseases. In this regard he has written several books - over 150 in all - and launched a project entitled "A serene death."

But most of all, Phra Phaisal Visalia has dedicated his life to protect nature and the environment by living in a province, Chaiyaphum, where there are four national parks and characterized by lush forests. He has collaborated with the Royal Forestry Department for the Protection of the environment, launching numerous projects, the first, entitled "Forest of the Assumption" after the Catholic high school he attended as a youth, which was launched 17 years ago with the help of his own classmates.

This initial project was followed by many others, such as the annual Buddhist festival "Tod Pah Pah" dedicated to raising funds to support campaigns. He stresses that the"unstable" climate and floods are causing the destruction of forests, while a program of sustainable development is needed to facilitate the collection of water and prevent similar devastation. "To understand the nature of our bodies and our minds - he notes - we do not need brains, but the wisdom to detach ourselves." "If we are sad - the monk concludes - it means that we are looking at a past that can not be changed. If we worry too much, it means that we look to a future that never come true. It is best to look at the present, the only way we will reach peace of heart. "

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