A forest is as an organism that has specific functions, which contribute to it as a whole. It is also a process, dynamic and constantly moving across landscapes through time. It is not just one level or stage, but a series of stages that moves from one to another. It consists of the grassland or farm, the first stage, to the next stages of small trees and shrubs, growing and evolving to the mature stages that consist of large trees with big canopies, smaller trees and shrubs, vines and many other layers that fill it with diversity. Many people see the forest as being a tree-dominated ecosystem, but actually trees only make up 1% of the forest diversity. The other 99% are all the other species, including animals and other plant species.
Forests are our life support system on this planet. They provide so many free services that we don’t put any value to, yet we take them for granted. Without the forests, we wouldn’t have clean air, fresh water, food, shelter, building materials, and soil. Forests take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, which without, we would not be able to live even for a few minutes. They clean polluted water, through the water cycle, and they produce rain. Forests provide us with so much, yet we are yet to see their value and appreciate them.
“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axe-man who destroys it.”
Buddha describes the forest in the most appropriate way, as he recognized what it is and what it gives to us. The forest, like all organisms also have hearts, souls and spirits. It feels in the same way we do, and it responds to changes in the same way we do. If we were still enough to be able to learn and listen to it, we would be able to get many lessons. With having such insight and understanding, we would be able to develop a deep respect for all living and non-living things. And from this we will be able to be tolerant and respectful of all beings, no matter how different they are from us.
We can gain many insights from the forest if we see it as our teacher. We can learn how to problem solve and to understand situations clearly so we are better able to see solutions. We can learn how to change perspectives and see from a different view, in order to find solutions. And in seeing through different lenses, we learn how to see problems as opportunities, and as areas where we can expand and get further insight and knowledge. By mimicking the forest structure and functions, and creating our own purpose and intention for our garden, we can learn how to apply the same principles to our daily life so we can be flexible and adapt to changes when needed. This deep insight comes from the wisdom of our ancient friends, who have learned this through their evolution on this planet.
By Trudy Juriansz, inspired by Belipola, Dr. Ranil and all the beings