Tristan Lecomte: the ecologist and the monk of the forest

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Philosophical walk in the heart of the links between nature and Buddhism.

One day, I received a phone call from someone offering to meet a monk from the forest. My job being to develop reforestation and forest conservation projects, I immediately accepted. I was very surprised and curious to learn more. So there were forest monks?

When I met this Master, I was struck by the clarity of his words, there was nothing to add or take away from his speech. He offered nothing esoteric, no gri-gri, no catechism or sacred principles, no images to bow down to. He simply recommended observing the laws of nature, and to conform to it in order to be happy. "It's all in nature, why would you want to add something superfluous? », he told me in substance… A teaching without teaching in a way, the heart of Buddhism. I found there the wisdom of the Buddha, who, after achieving enlightenment in the forest, did not wish to teach at first. He thought that it was up to everyone to make their own way by going to contemplate nature and its laws, and that enlightenment could not be learned.

See beyond the canopy

I travel all over the world and work with populations, some of which are animists and others whose spirituality is directly inspired by nature. Whether it is the Shintos of Japan, the Indians of the Amazonian forest or the Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea, I have been able to observe a very strong bond between them, based on their sacred and universal way of living in relation to everyday nature. I also observed a convergence with the principles of the Buddhism of the monks of the forest: impermanence, non-self, suffering, the cyclic character of life. The forms that these spiritualities take sometimes differ, but their vision converges. Becoming aware of this encouraged me to commit myself even more to the forest and to question a large number of beliefs.

To speak of nature is to speak of spirituality and vice versa.

At this stage of my life, it seems to me that all talk about nature and spirituality is reductive. For me, talking about nature is talking about spirituality and vice versa. In this context, formalizing rites leads to moving away from reality. To become aware that we suffer, to know the origin of this suffering and the way which leads to its cessation, isn't all this enough? I like this very refined character of Buddhism, which comes close to the strong demands of thinkers like Jidu Krishnamurti for example, which invites us to deconstruct the self and free ourselves from all forms of attachment, including spiritual ones. What if that was Buddhism too?

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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