By Surya Vishwa/DailyFT-Harmony Page
Colombo, January 2: We are now at yet another fresh start. A new year has dawned. This new year has emerged amidst a very bleak scenario for the world.
It would be depressing to state here that we may have to face even worse predicaments than the coronavirus in the year 2021 judging by reports that there is yet another more virulent strain going around originated from Britain.
We also hear of a brain eating amoeba rapidly spreading through water in the US which poses deadlier threats to mankind.
Last year we carried a series of writings on an ancient secluded mountain tribe called the Kogi who warned the world twice in the past 25 years of what would happen if a ‘modern’ man carried on the way he is doing, torturing Mother Nature at every turn.
These indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in northern Colombia take seriously the duty they have inherited from thousands of generations to protect the mother we have all forgotten about, this earth. We featured their two warnings to the world, made in 1989 and 2012, and conveyed in two documentaries made by BBC film maker Alan Ereira.
The warnings sounded by the Kogi tribe (meaning the sun in Kogi language) was for modern man, described by them as ‘Younger Brother’ not to destroy Mother Earth. We mentioned last week that we would be featuring more about the Kogi, based on their belief in ‘Aluna’ or the consciousness or the mind of the ‘Great Mother,’ who they consider the force behind all of creation and sustenance.
Today, we are educated in a manner that we do not understand, the link between us and mother earth. It would be correct to say that the modern education system ushered in the world as part of the industrialisation revolution was to create human machines who will not question but cater a particular viewpoint that will promote wants and greed.
These values, or rather lack of values are promoted by a certain segment of the world; who capitalised on their seafaring ability to capture lands of ancient people and who taught these people that all that they believed in was inferior and false. Thereby they were duly converted to thinking of everything introduced by those who took over their lands as the most superior knowledge. It could be argued that ancient cultures had mastered the empiricist system long before the west incorporated it into the Western ‘scientific method.’
Destroying instead of healing
The question today is that we are using this scientific method to destroy rather than heal. Healing was the direct or indirect objective of every ancient science; whether it is the science of ancient construction, science of ancient medicine, arts, crafts and even skills such as martial arts.
In ancient martial arts, the skill to be able to maim or kill is used only as an absolute last resort as a form of combat and the training for it is a form of disciplining the mind and such a skill was never imparted to persons who did not show calm and compassionate deposition.
In ancient cultures as found in countries such as Sri Lanka all the specific skills taught to students were done in a manner that first encouraged introspection of the student, mindfulness and the purpose why they are studying such a skill and how it would serve humanity.
In the pre-colonial order of things in many ancient civilisations such as ours, the use of any skill for the ruination of the earth or trees was not encouraged. In our traditional medicine there is a way of peeling the bark of a tree or cutting a branch in a manner that will induce the least amount of pain to the tree which was considered a living being.
Even in hunting that we carried out there were ethics where the hunter and the hunted were caught in the cycle of karma and no arrow was aimed at a pregnant animal or an animal standing still. It is said that when we went and tried to introduce factory farming of chicken to the aborigines of Sri Lanka’ the Veddha community that they replied that they cannot feed and rare animals like a pet only to kill them in the end.
But amazingly we call these aborigines ‘backward’ or ‘primitive’ while we purportedly ‘progressively’ engage in every conceivable crime against the planet and humanity but at the same bring in multifarious rules and regulations pertaining to ‘human rights.’
Protect the earth and all its creatures
The fundamental human right of man as our ancestors discovered from ages ago was to protect the earth and all its creatures. If we carefully look at all the current day religious scripture, all including Islam are for the protection of living beings.
The Harmony page dedicated to delve beneath the surface of things in order to illuminate the mind with the actual core of knowledge, especially ancient knowledge that is lost on us, and to bring it to the surface in order to protect both humans and nature in a backdrop where such initiatives being rare, carried a story in the Harmony page initial pages on how the core of Islam was about protecting animals and the killing of animals for the sustenance of man was as a last resort given the geographical limitations where aridity of land prevented crops as found in verdant land such as near the Indus valley where the very ancient spiritual tradition of Hinduism grew. (http://www.ft.lk/other-sectors/Islamic-perspective-on-living-beings/57-681872)
The crux of the matter therefore is that we have to examine every kind of social vehicle that we have today, from education to religion (whatever the religion), to see how we can get to the pure root of goodness embedded in how these structures were understood in ancient times, in order to solve our current problems.
At the outset of this article we mentioned about the threat of the new deadly brain eating amoeba found in water. Our modern scientists are saying that the reason for the emergence of these kinds of vicious organisms is due to the destruction of natural habitat and the ensuing climate change.
There are those who argue that climate change has been happening ever since the beginning of this earth; yes indeed but we are now the architects and engineers of climate destruction through our so-called modern superiority and technology. Our inventions that we have used our so-called superior Western originated knowledge to create have moved away from nature and we have created products that threaten our planet and our very existence. We have created the wants for a vast amount of things we do not need and which are encased in and are integrated in substances that are not only harmful to us but also the plant.
Sustainable consumption and production
This writer took part in a conference two year ago on sustainable consumption and production organised primarily by Western nations and we were told that we have ruined this planet to such an extent that we have resources only for less than 50 more years.
In one of the lectures presented by a university academic and scientist, the harm to our groundwater and the soil structure by the chemicals present to our toothpaste was pointed out. Except for one academic whose aunt manufactures a rustic type of toothpaste from herbal flowers of Sri Lanka, none of us, including myself, had stopped to think of the harm we are doing by our basic existence in the ‘modern way’ to our planet.
Soon after this conference amongst likeminded friends we were discussing how we used anguru (charcoal) and kohomba (neem) twigs for cleaning of teeth. Soon after I met an 83-year-old Sri Lankan from Jaffna who had perfect teeth and when I inquired into his secret he said he uses the many natural elements of the earth for oral hygiene and then went onto tell about a person in his nineties who has pearly white teeth; apparently the secret is a kohomba twig.
But do we teach these in our classrooms; how we can be effortlessly grounded to the earth, protecting it and ourselves by using its bounties in our everyday life; not in the current arrogant and mercenary manner that we do now but in a gentle and respectful manner as we did centuries ago?
We are on lease on this earth
Therefore as we embark on yet another new year let us clearly understand that we are on lease on this earth; neither the earth nor this body belongs to us. Both are homes we occupy. We then have to leave them and depart. That is death. But we should not make this temporary life of man a permanent death for all creatures.
This is what we have done by modernity and development which has only tread the path of the ideology of industrialisation. We have machinised everything. But we cannot machinise life. Our modern science is today helpless in the face of a disease such as COVID-19 the same way it is helpless against many other diseases including dengue.
We have allowed the shameless greed and avarice that has gripped every sector of our so-called developed life to even invade our health sector which thrives by keeping people sick. This is totally opposite to the ancient philosophy of medicine, especially systems such Deshiya Chikitsa (Sinhala Wedakama), Ayurvedha, Siddha and Unani. All these systems were not obsessed with transforming everything to synthetics but rather the opposite.
At a recent discussion on traditional medicine that I attended, the physician proudly claimed, “Yes we are gas weddhu (physicians of the trees)”. He was referring to a term that is currently derogatorily used by doctors who think that few years of training in buildings give then a certain stature and air to hold their piece of paper over the thousands of years of knowledge gathered by physicians who learn cures that were directly part of nature with no synthetic manoeuvres.
Unfortunately our industrialised modern education system does nothing for the mind. We learn a whole lot of theories that we copy onto an exam paper and then we go about parroting it and then we embark on life and are so busy earning ‘a living’ that we do not realise that we are in fact not earning a living but actually earning a ‘speedy death’.
This is what the West has been doing for the past three five centuries; teaching themselves and others around the world that there is only one culture and one science; and now we can see that it has culminated into teaching all of us the culture of death.
We are killing our ecosystem
We are killing our ecosystem through chemical agriculture discovered through the green revolution and we long ago slaughtered our minds when cultures such as ours which prior to colonisation held non-violence highly, took lock stock and barrel the whole idea that we needed chemicals to produce food. We then dispensed with our age old tradition of protecting the soil and eco system.
We stopped putting dried leaves and twigs on our soil for fertilisation. We started importing artificial fertiliser. We saw fellow creatures of this plant who are also struggling to survive, just like us as pests. And then we, using that imported ideology started killing them off and today we can hardly see a wee kurulla who comes to feast on the insects of the paddy fields. We cannot see these birds because they are all dead. Killed from chemical agriculture.
But using the same scientific theory of the modern world we watch while thousands die of kidney ailments and insist that it is ‘unidentifiable,’ because we manage to use our theories to protect those who we should not. But yet, we have traditional physicians asked to construct buildings to make their medicines for permission to be given to treat them on patients because there might be ‘contamination’.
It would be indeed a wondrous anthropological study if we interviewed those between the ages of 80 and 90 and ask them if they or their parents had ever fallen ill after consuming the herbal treatments of the traditional physicians of this country. Thus is the paradoxical calamity of our modern reasoning.
Hence, let us this new year, set foot to a simpler, nature connected way of life and thinking. We could probably begin on a long-absconded task of totally stopping the use of plastic for everyday one time use such as food wrapping. Instead we should all lobby for the commencement of inventions that will go with nature and not against nature. In 2021 let us put these kinds of words into action. Our life and the life of our planet depends on this.