The amount of waste produced during religious activities has become a noticeable problem, according to Buddhist monks.
Could the amount of waste produced during religious festivals be reduced?
Buddhists in Laos love to make merit by practicing almsgiving and making offerings during various traditional festivals, however, the volume of waste, particularly plastic waste, produced during religious offerings is increasing.
Abbot of Dong Mieng temple, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane Capital, Ven. Bounthavy Komphaphan, told Laotian Times today that Lao many people continue to believe in certain animist practices, such as the upcoming Hor Khao Padap Din.
This belief includes the idea of spirits in the ground, trees, or termite mounds. Believers offer snacks including rice, water, and other items after almsgiving is complete, according to the abbot.
“While this belief is not really a part of Buddhism, it is an ancient practice continued to this day,” said Ven. Bounthavy.
“Before plastic was invented, people used banana leaves or lotus leaves to wrap food items to make merit, but now everything has changed,” he says.
“Monks in temples have also advised people not to offer food on the ground or under trees because of the increased amount of litter and waste, but most people do not follow our advice”, Ven. Bounthavy Komphaphan added.
A resident of Vientiane Capital, Miss Jilljaliya Singhalath, says she believes in spirits in the ground or trees, but she doesn’t understand why people would leave food wrapped in plastic or single-use plastic bottles as offerings to the spirits.
“I disagree with these ideas because it is littering, and we can use bottles of water from home and be more environmentally conscious,” Jilljaliya added.
In the past, villagers used to go to temples for almsgiving with handcrafted products, especially bottles of water, snacks, and rice without plastic bags, according to an elder in Vientiane Capital, Douangdala, and people generally used banana leaves for wrapping food.
“Feeding food to spirits on the ground or under trees has been a Lao belief for hundreds of years, and we will continue to practice our traditions. But we should at least clean it up or remove food from plastic bags to protect the environment,” Douangdala added.