Since the global spread of COVID-19 took off in March 2020, many of the network’s sharing and study activities have come to a complete halt, including the planned international gather in Myanamr scheduled for November 2020. However, the core sangha of the project have remained in close contact, and in the second half of 2020 held a number of intensive Zoom sessions to re-envision the strategic integration of the network’s activities with the support of the INEB Secretariat and the Good Market project. At the end of this process, the network was able to develop this following layered system of integrated activities.
Small Sphere: Local Ecology through Food Security and Waste Management for Home & Community
In response to the dislocations of COVID19, especially the loss of cash income, it is vital for individuals, communities, and regions to develop greater food security. Eco-temple projects, such as Phra Sangkom’s Land Restoration & Integrated Farming system (Kok Nong Naa – KNN) in Thailand as well as Kanchana Weerakoon’s Metta Garden project in Sri Lanka, can be leaders in showing how this is done. Metta Garden, based in the practice of mandala gardens, weds spiritual and natural energy leading towards Conscious Consumerism and good waste management. This can be an especially important model for temples to adopt for their own sustenance (much like the traditional Zen monastery) and for supporting the community. In 2020, Metta Garden developed a project at a temple outside New Delhi. In 2020, Sanat Kumar Barua in Bangladesh established an interfaith group that is putting priority on food security and eco-products.
Medium Sphere: Community & Regional Ecology through Land Restoration and Integrated Farming – Kok Nong Naa (KNN)
Phra Sangkom’s application of Sufficiency Economy, in which people develop their lands for 30% water, 30% agriculture, 30% forest cover, 10% housing, is now being implemented in Northeast Thailand and other parts of Thailand. Its popularity is rising quickly and it is now being supported by government and royal family. There is also a new program with the government that prisoners before being let out of jail will do a two week KNN training to help them develop livelihoods in returning to society. This work is also starting to expand to neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia.
Large Sphere: Regional & Trans-National Ecology: Wildlife Corridors, Forest Preservation, & Biodiversity
In the past few years, one of the leading monks of the Sekiyathamma engaged Buddhist monks network in Thailand, Phra Win Mektripop, has been working to preserve sensitive forest areas in Northeast Thailand that are being threatened by government and business interests. In 2020, Phra Win faced criminal charges for his work and the network has been trying to support him by making this situation more widely known. The vision he has developed with INEB Secretariat is to link with monks and temples in sensitive and important ecological areas to connect protected lands in wider trans-regional and trans-national forested wildlife corridors throughout SE Asia and South Asia. In early 2021, they held a workshop with monks on not using animal products like ivory and tiger tooth for Buddhists amulets.
Cross Sector Technology I: Clean, Sustainable Energy
Based on Rev. Hidehito Okochi’s individual temple model and Rev. Ryogo Takemoto’s new Buddhist energy company in Japan, this works plans to build networks of Buddhist temples that help the development of clean energy technologies in their communities while linking them together across regions. In 2020, Rev. Okochi’s off-grid house to support children-at-risk in Tokyo won a prize from the Japanese government. Rev. Takemoto’s Tera Energy company, established in 2018, will achieve profitability by mid-late 2021. In the meantime, it is already working with many groups as partners to support social activities from the profits of the company.
Cross Sector Technology II: Ecological Architecture through Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB) & Bamboo technology
Gautham Prabhu in Southern India has been working with innovators in the alternative town of Auroville in Tamil Nadhu to learn how to make CSEB and to procure the special machines needed to make them for the purpose of not only building his eco-temple but also providing an income generating business of CSEB makers among his Dalit communities. In March 2021, they were able to secure a two year grant from a German foundation to procure such machines. Gautham’s organization will own the machines but proceeds will go to brick makers directly, especially to help with bonded labor which is common among brick makers. Further, pregnant women and children also get caught in this kind of work. By creating clusters of workers around a single machine that is bought from Auroville, 700-800 bricks per day. As the standard brick industry creates a large amount of CO2 emissions, CSEBs offer an important alternative. The Socially Engaged Monastic School (SENS) project in Myanmar has been developing architectural building design and also furniture products using indigenous bamboo. The activities at Shwenadi temple under Ven. Yuzana near Bagan making furniture and accessories continue. The temple is also distributing bamboo through its nursery system. Since the military coup d’etat on February 1, 2021, all work has been severely compromised.
Cross Sector Social Enterprise I: Eco-Products
With the development of regional food security above, eco-products can be a natural secondary economic activity beyond self-sufficiency. In fact, all of the projects above can offer tangible (electricity) and intangible (systems development skills) products that can support its members economically. Phra Sangkom’s centers in Thailand already market such products. Sanat Kumar Barua in Bangladesh has formed an interfaith organization which hopes to develop such products. Eco-Temple webinars will be developed to market these skills and resources.
Cross Sector Social Enterprise II: Community Tourism & Working Holiday
This work focuses on creating not only eco-tourism but “working holidays” in sites and regions in our eco-temple network. Participants will learn not only of local and regional issues but also various technologies and schemes for developing such work in their own region. Sites under consideration when the Covid situation allows are Phra Win’s wildlife corridors & Phra Sangkom’s KNN sites travelling through NE Thailand and a land rehabilitation site in Hawaii.