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There are many things in the world that change and pass quickly. Time, fleeting moments with people in life, the promises of election candidates and the depreciation of the rupee reminds one of the unpredictable speed that moments come and go. But then again, there are things that change very slowly; slow enough to escape the notice of the discerning observer. Among such slow changes in life such as the aging of the sun, the wrinkling of the skin, and the incessant irritation caused by in-laws (and their side of the family), one thing stands out as being a critical feature in the history of humankind. And that is the timeless complacence, stupidity, and fear that have accompanied our species throughout its history.

The argument would arise that humans are intelligent, discerning, and compassionate. And denying the validity of it would be akin to standing still in the face of a cricket ball hurling towards one’s nose. But how true is it and can that logic be applied to the whole of our species? If inspected thoroughly, it becomes clear that these lofty qualities we ascribe to ourselves are only demonstrated by a precious few in the grand collective. Of the billions of people that live and have lived, it has only been the defiant, dissatisfied, and discerning beings that have emulated the qualities of courage, curiosity, and intelligence that the rest of the species has hijacked to ascribe to themselves. Think about it. How can all of us compare with the likes of the Gandhis, Mandelas, Einsteins, Magellans, Beethovens, Galileos, Jesus’ and Buddhas that have changed the world of our species? How can a species of promptly consenting, doubtless and materialistic consumers discover that knowledge, peace, and progress of humankind has always had a resolute opponent in the form of our own deluded views of the world? Unfortunately society, even in this time of technological and philosophical sophistication, experiences war, poverty, corruption, pollution, exploitation, rape, and politics in Kelaniya. The existence of these maladies only occur when there are problems. And if that reasoning is true, then humanity has had an incurable disorder throughout the echoes of time.

Complacence? What is it? “Self satisfied and unaware of possible dangers,” as defined by the Encarta dictionary, the quality of complacency is omnipresent in the annals of human history. The attachment to a prevailing view with the close minded refusal to accept changes to redundant and outdated ethics have always obstructed the emergence of more holistic, harmonious systems of human solidarity and progress. The world was flat until someone thought that it couldn’t be so, and the famous refusal of the powers that be in the time of Galileo played a crucial role in stifling the observation that the earth revolved around the sun (and not the other way around); now common knowledge to the world at large. If humans are bent on progress, material and spiritual, then we should accept the infinity of possibilities we can devise using our creativity, understanding, and compassion. But we live in a world where open mindedness, free thinking, and constructive criticism; tools essential for holistic development, are constantly leered at by the majority who cannot open their minds up to the possibilities of harmony and mutual understanding. Speaking of democracy, Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and former President of the United States, stated “eternal vigilance is the price of democracy.” But are we vigilant? Or has our awareness been blunted by those who don’t wish to see a mindful public? In a time where politicians make their living by terrorizing, misleading, and eating off the fat of the land, war and hatred prevailing over peace and love, and a radically partisan media that hoodwinks people and nations, the reeking smell of complacence seems to have developed greater potency than the scent of vigilance.

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Public Servant brawls: Entertainment for discerning (sic) voters.

What of stupidity and fear then? If people are fearful of the unknown, how will we ever get to know the peace and spiritual progress that we still do not know? If people don’t question, then where will the answers come from? The fear of the unknown is fertile ground for stupidity to take root, and stupidity keeps us fearful and satisfied with false notions of fulfillment. It is a vicious cycle that keeps alive the wars of the world, the conflicts of views, and public servants (sic) lashing the public onto trees and other ridiculously blatant offences to decency, humility, and intelligence; qualities that we humans think we possess in abundance! How will we ever see the good in someone or something when we approach it with a mind to disprove and denounce? Could decency arise at a shouting match? How will peace arise when we idiotically try to achieve it through violence and the fear of the ‘other?’ Will humility be born in a world where greed and power go hand in hand? And how in the world can a nation achieve progress and security when it keeps electing gangsters, crooks, entertainers, and charlatans into government instead of statesmen, humanitarians, philosophers, and scientists? Is it intelligent to keep bowing to intimidation and consenting without resisting injustice and corruption? The problem is that there have always been those people who have smelled something fishy in the air throughout human history, but too many have been told to believe that the stink smells good.

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Does it stop or does it go on?

The reality is that our so called “intelligent” species live in a world where we have to pay to live, even in a time of technological and humanitarian revolution. How can we consider ourselves free of anything as long as we all have a price on our lives? As history has proved over and over again in the personalities of the great movers and shakers of the world, it is the people who question the norm and authority, the fearless and compassionate, the learners and listeners, who have contributed to the greatest progressive changes in the world. Once denounced as a heretic, Galileo’s defiant fearlessness has helped us place ourselves in a remote corner in the universe, unveiling a humbling yet powerful insight into reality. 27 years in jail and resolute compassion towards his oppressors helped Nelson Mandela change a world from the ignoble stupidity of racism. And a relentless refusal to accept the norm and the radical courage to question oneself helped a human become a fully enlightened being 2600 years ago to spread the knowledge of developing intelligence, unity, and peace in a reality of change, conflict, and collapse.

Who am I and who are you? Do we want to lead lives of silent resentment and guilty pleasure or be the agents of change by arming ourselves with vigilance, knowledge, and compassion? It is a time of monumental importance for mankind as we look towards an uncertain future in search of answers and contentment. But no intelligence will manifest with complacence and stupidity, and no contentment will arise with fear. It is time to ask ourselves the tough questions and listen with humility. Progress has always been tedious and slow, but in spirit and unity its torpid pace may finally be overcome. Let’s stop waiting and start changing!

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Light and Truth; a flame begins with one spark.

Among the many unusual and complicated questions in the world that are seemingly absent of comprehensible answers, there is one question that lies within everyone I know, and most likely everyone you know. It starts with me; and you, and connects us with a great multitude of beings that are silently and gradually entertaining this question, whenever the conditions afford them to think of it.

That question is: “Who am I?

I mean, really. Who am I? Who are you? As far as my knowledge of myself goes, I did not have any say in the matter of being born as a human being. Growing up with the amazing gift of infinite imagination, the questions I must have asked of my mind during those years, where the colors were brighter and the shapes were more abstract and less defined, would have qualified me, or any other child for that matter, as an astute philosopher of the highest esteem. Unfortunately, the adults would later stop me asking those questions; something I now realize was because they didn’t have the answers themselves. And before you know it, here we are, tiny cogs in an impersonal scheme we call a global economy, robbed of our primal courage to keep asking those questions; looking for an answer to that sweet old perpetual riddle; Who am I?

One thing I figured out fast was that I wasn’t a bird. I wasn’t a butterfly, neither was I an elephant. I wasn’t my mother or my father, and I turned out not to be my siblings either. I was just ‘I’ and all I could relate myself to being was a human. Not a bird, not a bug, not a bull; a human. And growing up, the world of humans was a world of magic, wonder, and excitement. I rejoiced in being human. Here, in this human world, I grew up to learn that there were musicians, storytellers, artists, scientists, philosophers, adventurers, naturalists, and cooks. I am also, now, bitterly aware that there are also profiteers, politicians, pyromaniacs, psychopaths, pop-stars, and philanderers among the other entertainingly demeaning things that begin with the letter ‘P’ (Police, anyone?). What was more disturbing was that it was this group of people who I wasn’t very fond of that seemed to be in control of everything, asking me to become something I, frankly, didn’t like very much. As a result, I don’t really rejoice anymore. I am only very aware of what I don’t want to be, and that is to be sub-human. Being given a birthright to intelligence, thought, compassion, and imagination, why would anyone want to compromise it to make square shaped, colorful, numbered paper currency unless they were conned into it by some ingenious plot?  Unfortunately for those who still entertain that childlike curiosity, the tables have turned and the rules have been set.

“Don’t think. Don’t imagine. Don’t feel. Go to work. Get paid. Watch TV. Vote. Failure to do so will make you liable to spend your time in a cage until you agree to our rules. Sincerely, the People’s Government.”

Something isn’t right here.

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Here we are; human beings that have been dealt a solid hand in a game that could make better sense if we knew the rules. The collective intelligence of our being has brought us to the world of the internet, art, philosophy, and quantum physics, but somehow these things that seem to illuminate us have been stifled and hijacked by our own kind. Instead of learning more about ourselves, our place on the earth, in the universe, and the great mysterious scheme of existence, we have been convinced to watch 500 channels of TV and vote for crooks. Today, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of our forgotten ancestors of Bellan Bandi Palessa, the vast plains of Africa, and the jungles of South America to imagine the helplessness we evolved from. Today, we have the time and space to imagine what it might have been like 2,600 years ago in a world vastly different from our own, in the times of great beings such as the Buddha, Plato, Jesus, and Mohammed. Today we have the opportunity to see ourselves in others, complete with our musical tastes and affinity for curiosities like saving dolphins in Japan, from all corners of the world, regardless of their color or creed. Today, we have more answers than we ever had, so why aren’t we asking questions better?

We have to admit to ourselves that we want to ask those questions without being judged or harassed. We need to ignore these farcical laws and rules and agree to disagree. No more kicking people in the face or going to jail. No more silly arguments about what to wear, what to believe, or what to say. We need to understand and discover our deep seated capacity for boundless tolerance, compassion, and intelligence. And this need is only as strong and as provocative as You and I want it to be. No answers will come, no peace will prevail, no unity will come if we stop and wait for it to happen. The change starts with ‘I.’ Be the change you want to see in the world, said Gandhi (another guy who was killed for speaking sense). What we need to change is our fear of feeling genuinely human. The fear only persists when we are afraid of ourselves. The sincere, truthful, imaginative, and independent exploration of this ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ or ‘Us’ is what gives the world meaning and will continue to bring us more music, laughter, knowledge, and happiness.

And if you excuse me now, I’m going to play my guitar.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – Buddha

We humans have all lived through the moment where we are coerced to decide what kind of “work” we are going to do when we “grow up.” Personally, I wanted to be many things. I wanted to be a traveler, a reader, a conversationalist, a person who knew first-aid (I just couldn’t feel a doctor inside me), or a mahout (those interesting people who train and domesticate elephants), among countless other things. Society eventually confines all of us into walls filled with miscellaneous gadgetries, artificial lighting, and comfortable, luxurious, crisp, cold air on a sweltering summer day. Society convinced me to stop following all the things I wanted to become, but I held onto those some of those childish dreams because I still remember how much juvenile fun it was to be naughty and rebellious. While most people seem to forget the unrestricted pleasures of the outdoors because of their paychecks and evolution into the walls, I have got by chance a delightful opportunity, working at the Saint John’s Pottery studio, to be outside, do some simple and sometimes heavy work, and remember the things I’ve forgotten from my childhood.

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When I found out that the job I got hired for in January almost entirely involved splitting and stacking wood to be used at the annual firing of the Johanna Kiln, the famous brick maiden known for its unique appearance and striking size, I was rather curious to see how I’d adjust from being used to office work to working hours sitting outside negotiating the different personalities of spruce, oak, pine, and maple with my trusty friend, the wood splitter. The work is rather simple and straightforward. It also requires a certain kind of tolerance; splitting wood for long hours CAN be slow, monotonous torture for fast paced folk. People might ask what a student of sociology, philosophy, and political science would be doing splitting wood. Shouldn’t I rather be doing something challenging for work, something that will get me a nod from those hardly impressed grad school admissions types? Shouldn’t I be doing something that would give me experience for my job, my work for the future? Wouldn’t going for meetings, sending emails, and negotiating with people be more useful for a successful professional career? Wouldn’t you rather be doing something else?

No.

I don’t think so.

I like my job. In fact, I like it a lot! I even stopped listening to my ipod while I split wood. That’s how good this work is for me. I don’t even need the music. I remember having a pretty exciting and adventurous childhood but I don’t remember having an ipod in my ears when I was out crawling and rejoicing childishly in the mud years ago. Why listen to the music you listen to all the time when you can entertain yourself listening to the peculiar melodies and curious vibrations of wood? Not many people would think trees had voices, noises, or sounds. Being so overexposed to wood so much, now I know that they are like those silent ascetics we never hear about or hear from. Wood has voice! It has soul! It’s rather twisted that the noise of wood becomes more apparent when you split them; but I’m glad it’s not cows or chickens that I’m hearing when I’m working. Big cross sections of oak have a crack that makes me picture a wise old man who wakes up early in the morning and stretches after a good night’s rest. Smaller cross sections of spruce are stringy, twisted, and irregular, and remind me of a lady who lowers her obnoxious guffaws to a whimper after suddenly noticing how loud she was at the cocktail party. Spruce also smells like fresh, minty joy. The different sounds and smells of split wood fascinate me. It shows me that even wood too has a voice, a soul. Just because someone decided not to talk doesn’t make that person speech impaired. It only means he decides not to talk. Trees are like that. How could man possibly hear them when we are too lost in our own self indulgent chatter, humanly conceived sounds, and assorted entertainments? But once the talk becomes too tiring, the music becomes too monotonous, and the thoughts become stale and stagnant, 3 hours of splitting and stacking wood sucks out the humdrum like a sponge of the finest quality that cleans a filthy plate with nonchalance. When the splitting is done, the woods around Stumpf Lake, a hop away, calls my name.

I sit every day after work listening to the conversation between the wind and the trees, participating in their discussions with my silence. The thoughts their conversation inspire you to think are only limited to the beautiful and the deep. The carefree zips of small red winged black birds from tree to tree, the piercing melody of a grackle’s cry, and the curious livelihood of the occasional woodpecker are amusements that have always kept me endlessly fascinated after work. A little dock that extends to Stumpf Lake is the doorstep leading to the graces of the great elder woman of the community in these parts. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in her inner circle. Some, like the loons, ducks, muskrats, crappies, and sunfish, are luckier than most. Everyone has surrounded her for her wise ways and quirky personality, and I don’t see why she should treat me any differently. So I sit on the dock and listen to her counsel which leaves me refreshed and energized every time I stand up to leave. Every day I see Stumpf Lake, she is always accommodating, just like she assumes the personality of whoever visits to see her. When the windier wind visits, she too becomes the windier wind. When it’s the breeze that stops over, it’s the breeze she becomes. When there’s no one around though, old Stumpf Lake becomes me when I look into it. She doesn’t care how old you are or how old she is, she’ll listen to you and you will listen to her. Explorations after work have introduced me to new friends. They are very old, usually ignored, and inept at entertaining the tech-savvy modern man, but they are young at heart, willing to listen, and eager to illuminate the minds of their new, young friends.

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Vision is the realm of infinity

I understand that people have different priorities and those lead them to different outlooks and pastimes. I don’t think I am the only person who has discovered the endless adventures nature has in store for your mind and body. If humans want to be happy, I imagine they’d like to do it in the simplest way possible. Long hours of being paled by fluorescent lights, cooled by A/C’s, and entertained by canned music seems interesting, if you’re that kind of person I suppose. Now that I’ve been exposed to doing rather straightforward and simple functions outdoors, I’m starting to question the effectiveness of “challenging work” in an office in giving someone happiness and insight. I don’t make that much money, I sure as hell don’t make any professional connections, and I don’t look very sharp and clean when I’m working. But I’ve got to say that I’d be damned if I said my work didn’t make me happy. After working multiple jobs inside walls and under bulbs, I have to say that the outdoors has a much more vibrant and interesting personality for a workspace. Nothing is monotonous. Nothing is lifeless. Everything has voices, soul, beauty and infinity. Nature’s been spinning the same old tricks in infinitely different ways, using her wily wit and welcoming warmth (or cold) to perpetually entertain slow paced, childish folk like me.

Marijuana Sucks

Marijuana Sucks.

I knew I wouldn’t get any applause for that.

Marijuana sucks. You wanna know why? Cos it’s illegal.

Why do you want to smoke weed? Why do you want so much to get stoned? What’s so precious about this CRIME you’re committing? DRINK! It’s legal! It’s good for you! Look around! Everyone’s doing it! Why do you want to be so DIFFERENT?

I don’t know why you want to smoke weed when you can totally have a ton of fun legally. I mean alcohol tastes real good, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought when I first tasted it. Just think about all the fun you can have and all the mistakes you can do when you’re drunk! It’s your doorway to complete freedom! All you have to say next morning is “Man am I hung over! I hope I didn’t do anything stupid!” And lo and behold you can get away with robbing a museum or taking a dump in the kitchen sink! When it’s legal to be irresponsible, fucking make as much use of it I say! Alcohol is wonderful! I don’t see why you have to smoke weed and start THINKING or enjoying conversation or looking at colorful things or enjoying the taste of food or laughing till it hurts. I don’t know why you want to stop and wonder about so many deep things and reflect on the beauty of existence when you can get WASSTTEEEEED TONIGHT! Yeah!

I mean, think about it. I can drink as much as I want, pick a fight with anyone I want, be indifferent, insensitive, obnoxious, thoughtless, and numb to reality; while driving (of course), and no one’s gonna judge me like they judge you. I feel much better the next morning when I remember who I made out with at the bar. Did I really eat that guy’s hair? How is my ankle so sore? Did someone really piss on the pizza guy? How come I don’t remember any of this? What the fuck is this headache? Oh yeah. I remember! I was having a fucking RAGER! Why can’t you stoners just learn how to have a good time? Look at me! Look at how much fun I’m having! See how society wants me to have all this fun! It’s great!

I don’t know how you could spend a Friday night smoking weed when you can go to the bars or hit up a club to and bounce to the rhythm of the bass every weekend. Damn I wish that bass went on forever! Why do you guys just want to sit and talk? Why do you wanna jam and play music yourselves when you can have someone else do that for you? Why do you wanna sit around and write poetry or enjoy nature or philosophize or laugh about silly things like alpacas and butt plugs? Don’t you know how to have a good time? Do you think what you’re doing is healthy for you? Do you think it’s responsible to be breaking the law? Your weed will ruin you I say.

Be an upstanding citizen man. Don’t do illegal shit. It’s illegal cos it’s bad! Drink! It’s legal and it tastes great! 

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Look at this chick having a good, LEGAL time! Hells yeah!

The Secret

An excerpt from Prayer 1 of Eli Wiesel’s The Town Beyond the Wall, where Micheal finally meets the old man, Varady, a mysterious old person of the stories in the streets.

“Who are you?” asked the old man, impassive.

Micheal spoke his name and added, “I’m your neighbor.”

“What do you want here?”

Embarrassed, the boy stammered.

“I didn’t understand,” the old man said. “Repeat. Repeat what you just said.”

Micheal, who was already regretting his disobedience, made a great effort: “I wanted to see you.”

“Why?”

The boy was silent.

“Why did you want to see me? Come, come, answer!”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“You force entry to my garden, you stare at me, you observe me, perhaps you judge me — and you don’t know why?”

“No sir, I don’t know why.”

The old man thought it over briefly and then leaned forward: “Tell me, little boy; what do they say about me outside? What are the people saying about me?”

“They say you don’t exist.”

The old man laughed. The muscles of his face rippled, and Micheal thought he had heard a crackle. “So that’s what they say,” the old man murmured, as if to himself.

“Yes,” Micheal repeated. “They say you don’t exist.”

“And what else?”

“That’s all. They say there’s nothing to say about a man who doesn’t exist.” Micheal felt his voice fall back to normal. Of all the emotions Varady had roused in him, only curiosity remained.

“Do your parents know you’re here?”

“No.”

“You’ll tell them you’ve seen me? And that I exist?”

“Maybe.”

The old man’s voice dropped: “Don’t do it. They’ll punish you.”

He paused and then repeated, “Don’t do it. Keep the secret for yourself. What would life be worth without our little secrets?”

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A Wish, a Prayer

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Whether you are a believer, an agnostic or an atheist, what prayer would you compose to share your soul? 

Wishes are things that come naturally to humans. We are creatures that feel, and long for comforts in such great ways that span the spectrums of morality, spirituality, and justice. Since the earliest phase of life, the infant child, fascinated with the world, begins to learn from it and name it. Once knowledge manifests, the child begins becoming “human” and begins to express the amazing creativity of our species and our imaginations in a private world of longing.

We wish for everything. And all our wishes are prayers to what we believe in. From the beginning of life, to the very end, our ceaseless longing expresses itself from the momentary to the profound wishes we make. From the longing for good life, love, peace, and wisdom, we long for revenge, harm, and hollow riches, making every wishing human an actor in the chain of causality that results in the good, the bad, and the ugly that we witness in the world. Like fire, human intelligence is potent in many ways. From the uncontrollable ferocity of wildfire that consumes everything in its path to the hearth that warms and protects, the degrees in which the flame manifests resembles the ranges that human intelligence can demonstrate itself. We hide in us the capacity for tremendous good, love, and knowledge, but the greed and power of a mistaken few has cast invisible bonds that cloud judgment for the innocent, in other words, the great majority of us.

It is the love, the care, and meaning we share with our family, friends, and community that make life worth living amidst the bills, the work, the wars, and the atrocities. If we lived in a world of mutual support, care, and empathy instead of the world of competition, differences, and indifference we have inherited, we would wish for far less things than we are used to and could live better than we could ever wish for.

How can this wish for a better world, the silent dream of countless dreamers, come to be? I believe that people have been counting on God for thousands of years to do what we are ultimately responsible for. In a society of nurture, love, care, and unity, people can personify the divine qualities we imagine in heavenly beings and live to be humble, wise, and powerful creatures. But as Confucius say: society begins from the individual. And it is ultimately the innate power that we have within ourselves that, when open to empathy and curiosity, becomes the power to change the world.

I’ve been hoping for some time now that humans would change their understanding of intelligence to include and give more weight to our capacities to mutually love, care, and learn. But I found out that happened only when I became the virtues I wished for, and saw what Ghandi’s timeless reflection, be the change you want to see in the world, really meant. So, I pray that all humans would one day see their infinite power of love and wisdom within us, and change their world by changing themselves.

Amen.

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Being, in Nature

The following is a cursory reflection of nature as I saw it during my break from college, where I devoted a significant, and memorable, amount of time learning meditation and delving into Buddhist philosophy. Originally a paper written for my Environmental Perspectives class, I decided to put it up on this rarely used blog because I felt the urge to share some glimpses into my experience that I couldn’t possibly write about and explain in words, if not for the requirement to write this paper. 

Nature. What is nature? What is this puzzling, but amazing thing we are a part of? My understanding is that nature is the stage in which all life is played out on. If not for that stage, there would be no platform for a story to be enacted. We come from nature and return to it. It is an energy that creates all and consumes all with somber indifference. As for all our mundane, worldly lifestyles, they are all tiny, insignificant microcosms of activity taking place within this great impersonal and mighty scheme. What is our place in this giant universe in which we are but insignificant specks of transient dust? What implications does this vast reality hold for us, the isolated intelligence that has lived, in very conspicuous subservience, fear, and wonder, of this almighty system for millennia? What does being human have to do with comprehending nature and understanding our meaning in it? This is the question I attempted to engage by traveling to the lush wilderness of tropical homeland, Sri Lanka, to meditate and learn under the subtle and incisive wisdom of Buddhist forest monks during my semester off from college in the fall and winter of 2011.

Since I was a kid, I thought much about things like what the meaning of everything was and noticed my place in the whole scheme of humans, animals, and all the other things out there; a reality that makes you feel much smaller than you would like to believe. But it was only when I was 22 that I felt the confidence of physical and mental strength to gauge this timeless philosophical inquiry of what is nature? Having had a keen interest in learning of the world and learning from the world at a very young age, the pursuit of knowledge was something I took to like a child’s fascination with the colors of the world. After delving into many avenues of knowledge and inquiry, my intellectual pursuits encountered the mysteriously alluring manners of Buddhist philosophy. Learning from it over the last 3-4 years and finding answers that I could verify through experience and science, I began, with great curiosity, to attempt an engagement with the very core of being and the mysteries and origins of nature through the introspection of Buddhist meditation. Sensing that the time was ripe and the opportunity to put all my knowledge through a very unfamiliar and alien challenge was at hand, I decided to take a break from college to go back to my homeland and explore and experience life in a few of Sri Lanka’s multitudinous Buddhist forest monasteries.

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Kaludiya Pokuna Tapovanaya, Mihinthale

Surprisingly, the popularity of my path of exploration was a very uncommon phenomenon, even in a country that is traditionally Buddhist. I still wonder why people would put themselves through the unceasing activity of modern life when the tranquility of the cool green shade, the drama of rain drenched forest paths, the cold, still, wisdom of ancient ponds, and the wondrous excitement of the earth waking up at sunrise, and all and more of these vivid experiences lie virtually at their doorstep. It is a peculiar question that led environmentalists, minimalists, philosophers, and thinkers in general, to the ironies of the unsolvable riddle of human nature. At least I am happy that I decided to embark on a personal journey, possibly, implicitly, a gesture of defiance to the senseless indulgences of modern life inspired by people like Thoreau, Krishnamurty, and the Buddha himself. To explore the very depths of being under the shady calm of the wise old ironwood trees and the melodious cacophony of the smaller, more musically inclined, citizens of the tropical wilderness was an experience that gave me much more perspective that I expected I would gain. Knowing one’s place in nature follows the personal exploration of one’s limits, understanding his or her innate capabilities, and losing the fear to question the norm and oneself. Nature is a treasure, hidden out in the open for all to see, that is really discovered when the individual decides to inquire about his part in the great scheme of parts that create the greatest scheme of all.

Being in nature is unfortunately an unfamiliar thing for most people. It is probably explained best by the sounds of the silent forest. The fact that the musical vibrations of the flowing brooks, rustling leaves, and the distant, melodious dissonance of cicadas flow through the passive silence of the trees, through my ears and into my heart to give me enjoyment and understanding, makes me wonder why people have resorted to living in the midst of bellowing horns, ceaseless chatter, surrounded by the constant mechanical hum of human contrivances. The randomness of nature, the lack of uniform structure, is best understood when one sees the same qualities reflected in oneself. Once removed from the conventions of society and culture, a person sees that the uniformity that we conform to is a quality we have learned to live with, just as a smoker lives with pleasure in indulging in a poison he sees no harm in. When removed from the busy, sweaty rush of urban haste, one discovers the slow, pondering demeanor of the earth and the universe, and begins to question why there needs to be such toxic complexities to our lives when a gentle meandering of space in time is what has always been and will continue to be. Humans seem to be competing and living in their own rationally justified concepts of money, culture, tradition, politics, war, entertainment, ad infinitum, while only conveniently returning to nature’s soothing care and unconditional generosity to rejuvenate oneself to work and dream and compete and live harder all over again.

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A cave kuti deep in the Na Uyana Aranya Senasanaya, Pansiyagama, Melsiripura

Why have we forgotten to see ourselves as the representation of nature we really are? What are these eyes? Skin? What are these blood, muscle, thought, and emotion, but a different representation of a flowing spring of crystal clear water running under a canopy of banyans, ironwood, and ebony? The beauty of this moment in time and space is only possible because the earth, the sky, the water, and the trees had long ago agreed to just “be” and let be. So have our bodies, with its fleshly components, repulsive though they may seem to most, create in their harmonious unity, a precious human vehicle. Why cannot we humans see the same harmony in nature and in ourselves, among all of us regardless of race, religion, or opinion? Has our “intelligence” judged this timeless unity to be incompatible with our perspective? Why does our insatiable desire for money, power, and pleasure, our inability to let go of our addiction to our selves, cloud the clear and enlightening reality of us being the small particles we are in an ancient scheme of mass, space, time, and thought?

Nature reflects herself within the human being with her intimidating array of personalities. The terrifying claps of thunder and shocking streaks of lightning express themselves in the various turbulent afflictions we encounter in our experiences in time, both physically and mentally. Likewise, for someone engaged in reflection, it would not be a burden to notice the fires, the floods, and the earthquakes, whose mercies we are bound to, manifest themselves in their characteristic fearsomeness within all of us, even the smartest and strongest.  The comforting warmth of a tropical sun, the soothing sensation of diving in a crisp, cool, water filled rock pool, and the blissful cool of a forest breeze; gems of moments that seem to pass by too quickly, express themselves from the moving episodes of joy, love, and insight that well up from the depths of our hearts. But how does one absorb and know the feeling of the refreshing reality of nature’s gifts when the reality is quite different to that? How does one know this when she is too busy making annual plans for 4 years in the future, slouched under a light and surrounded by walls and blinds? How does one know the unpredictable moods of the wind, its sweetness, its empathy, its rage, when one is stuck inside a refrigerated (work) cell? Do people experience real joy, love, and insight when they are bound to the numbing inconsistencies of conventional reality? Do they experience the pure contentment of insight, the delight of unconditional joy or see the devastation and turbulence that we are all subject to, when they are submerged in their fluorescent lights, computer screens, and TV shows?

My observation is that people, when they fail to experience and acknowledge this incredible and amazing scheme we are fortunate to experience, they simply become empty nodes created by human “intelligence,” spokes in the components of the machine called society, instead of using this amazing human being to experience, witness, and make meaning out of this thing we call life. But aren’t we too busy taken up with such important and very intelligent activities like killing zombies on TV screens and forever imagining the best possible scenarios to fill our lives up with more shiny, curvy things and sophisticated, expensive habits of culture?

The path leading deeper into the Na Uyana Aranya Senasanaya, Pansiyagama, Melsiripura

Although we are a part of nature, (fortunately) nature is not entirely human. Therefore she doesn’t share our tendencies for hatred, vengefulness, achievement, or prosperity. She passively waits, for her infinite wisdom has known all too well the benefits of her unhurried approach since the birth of time. For those humbled by the terrifying storms and beams of mercurial light skimming the treetops, nature has much to teach. And it is only to those who are sensitive and humble enough that nature begins revealing her secrets to. For the last twenty six hundred years, the Buddhist tradition has understood this. Although most “Buddhists” nowadays seem to understand more of TV, politics, and drama, the tradition has never ceased to continue being with nature. There is a robust presence of committed, humble, gifted, and intelligent human beings, from the youngest I’ve seen in my semester off at around 15, and the oldest well over 90, living, not only in the jungles of Sri Lanka, but in forests all over the world. They are inspired by the timeless qualities of nature as they strive for enlightenment; nirvana; the terminal knowledge of existence, the eradication of all suffering, and uniting with the timeless essence of this random reality we call nature. I was inspired by their knowledge, courage, and contentment. I still follow that inspiration in the hopes that I too, could one day, come to understand this scheme and dwell in the contentment of knowledge and peace.

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