If a corporation or individual spent NT$1.3 billion (US$41.2 million) on a vast area of land, but could not develop it, the owner would probably have to wait for an opportunity to gain a return on its investment — for example, when the population in the surrounding area increases or the land is turned into a public project — in the meantime leaving the land idle and letting it undergo ecological succession.
The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation is a humanitarian foundation that has spent NT$1.3 billion on taking possession of a vast green plot of land in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖).
Why not just accept karma for what it is and restore the destroyed habitat?
The land could be used to build ecological ponds and plant trees to create a forest, which could serve as a place to facilitate education about nature and the environment, and as a place for meditation to nurture the body, mind and spirit.
Even though this 16 hectare plot is smaller than Taipei’s Daan Forest Park — which occupies 26 hectares — the land that Tzu Chi purchased is inside a conservation zone, which means that this land holds more advantages than Daan Forest Park.
If Tzu Chi can put together a team of visionary volunteers, academics and experts, they would no doubt be able to build an ecological education park of exquisite beauty that could be used to enrich the body, mind and spirit.
It could be called the Tzu Chi Bodhi Ecological Park.
When the Suao-Hualien Highway Improvement Project was under development, Tzu Chi’s Dharma Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師) urged the government not to overdevelop the land, saying: “Wherever humans go, destruction follows. Non-stop drilling and digging destroys the environment. Taiwan is not a big place; we should protect it.”
It is true that parts of the Neihu conservation zone have been destroyed, but, through ecological engineering, the site could be rebuilt into a place that is both beautiful and natural.
Ponder this possibility: The site could be turned into an ecological education park for the body, mind and spirit, with volunteers taking visitors to the park’s ponds, ditches and paths.
There, they could be taught about the park and learn to appreciate and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the flowers, fish, insects and birds around them.
Visitors could sit on the lush grass and meditate or share in the wisdom of Master Cheng Yen and the Buddha, while listening to the humming of insects, the singing of the birds and the whispering of the wind.
Would such a place for the enjoyment of the body, mind and spirit not be the Buddhist epitome of a peaceful world?
Would it not be the feast for the mind and spirit that the Tzu Chi people have been seeking?
As Buddhists say: “Compassion has no enemies; wisdom breeds no vexation.”
Many Neihu residents and environmental protection groups are protesting against Tzu Chi’s Neihu development project.
If Master Cheng Yen and the Tzu Chi organization would let go of their karma and restore the conservation zone, building instead a Bodhi ecological park for the body, mind and spirit, they would earn more respect and praise from the public.
Perhaps with Tzu Chi taking the lead in ecological restoration, a new trend would begin.
Would this not be a good deed on a grand scale for Taiwanese ecology?
Yang Ping-shih is a professor at, and former president of, National Taiwan University’s College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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