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Buddhist Monks Wearing Orange Robes Made from Plastic Bottles

Thailand throws 150,000 to 410,000 billion tonnes of plastic into the oceans every year out of a world total

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Buddhist, Monks, Orange Robes
Thailand was the world's sixth biggest contributor to plastic waste in the oceans behind China, Indonesia.

The monks of the Wat Jak Daeng temple on Bangkok’s Bang Kachao island have been wearing orange robes made from plastic bottles and other recycled materials.

“There is not a big difference between the robes (…) I myself wear a recycled plastic robe and they are very similar to the traditional ones,” monk Thipakorn of Wat Jak Daeng, who is also one of the driving forces behind this initiative in a country addicted to plastic, told Efe news.

A commune-level association, which has the financial support of big companies and the patronage of the Royal Palace of Thailand, began to make the seven-piece robes for the monks this year.

According to a 2015 article in Science magazine, Thailand was the world’s sixth biggest contributor to plastic waste in the oceans behind China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka — countries where rapid economic growth has bolstered consumption and waste.

Buddhist, Monks, Orange Robes
The monks of the Wat Jak Daeng temple on Bangkok’s Bang Kachao island have been wearing orange robes made from plastic bottles. Pixabay

The study, led by Professor Jenna R. Jambeck, estimated that Thailand throws 150,000 to 410,000 billion tonnes of plastic into the oceans every year out of a world total of somewhere between 4.8 to 12.7 tonnes annually.

Since the past few months, the Thai authorities have initiated a series of measures and launched environmental policies to try and reduce the non-recyclable plastic consumption in the country.

Plastic bottles are collected for recycling in the Wat Jak Daeng temple, on the southern part of the man-made island, and is surrounded by lush vegetation as the result of environmental measures in place to protect the surroundings.

Some 30 plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) litre-and-a-half bottles are needed to make each set of robes, made up of 30 or 35 per cent recycled materials, while the rest is cotton and other materials, said monk Thipakorn.

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The selected waste is sent to a recycling plant, which in turn sends back fabric made of plastic.

Workers and volunteers in the temple then cut and mend the patterns to make robes.

“Until now, we have made some 200 robes,” Thipakorn added.

Buddhist, Monks, Orange Robes
A commune-level association, which has the financial support of big companies and the patronage of the Royal Palace of Thailand, began to make the seven-piece robes. PIxabay

Some of the garments are given to the monks in the temple, while others are put on sale for worshipers who visit the sanctuary, who can buy them and donate to the monastery.

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Apart from clothing, Wat Jak Daeng also reuses bottle caps and labels to make chairs and other products, setting an example in the fight against the excessive consumption of plastic. (IANS)

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)