Journal article Open Access

The Analytical Study of Belief in Isan Community Forest Conservation

Jaras Leeka; Phramaha Jaroon Ritthithit; Phrakhrubhavanabodhikun (Somchai Phangmuenwai); Phrakhu Baidika Narint Sachaiyan; Phra Sombat Sukprasert; Niraj Ruangsan

This research aimed 1) to study the problem status of community forest conservation of Isan people, 2) to study Isan people's beliefs in community forest conservation, and 3) to analyze Isan people's thoughts in community forest conservation. The study was conducted using a qualitative approach. Data were collected from documents, research papers, and in-depth interviews with 30 participants (monks/laypersons). Data were described using an inductive approach. The study results found that 1) problem status of community forest conservation of Isan people occurred since people in communities did not feel fear of sacred power of community forests. They invaded forests and cut down trees, contributing to deforestation and deterioration caused by 1) population growth, 2) expansion of communities, 3) the use of new technologies, and 4) construction of buildings; 2) Isan people’s beliefs in community forest conservation have been practiced for such a long time based on a belief in sacred figures living in forests, i.e., tree guardian angels and tree spirits. Worship is organized to express gratitude and thankfulness, becoming excellent traditions in which philosophy conceptual framework is hidden behind and accumulated with local wisdom and passed down as a body of knowledge with a method of folk philosophers, which has stayed together with Isan people’s way of life until today; 3) In metaphysical dimension, belief gave rise to best practices through appropriate rites.
Meanwhile, those rites have been adapted to meet a current way of life. Concerning the epistemological dimension, a body of knowledge has been accumulated in the form of local wisdom and hidden in rites and traditions. Folk philosophers revealed it by interpreting to make the natural body of knowledge known, leading to revenue generation and encouraging communities to become self-reliant in no-life communities in a sustainable manner. In terms of Buddhist ethics, people in communities brought disclosed concepts and beliefs to self-practice, for example, to express gratitude or appreciation to forests that generate the practice of tree ordination, the building of treebanks, and the building of rice banks. Support has been given and shaped to be communities of dependency by having such beliefs as a paradigm.

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