lessons from nature| ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಯ ಪಾಠ

The leading story in this morning’s newspaper is quite strange. Considering that it happened in what used to be a relatively peaceful city of Bangalore, the story is quite surprising…

Yesterday, a BMTC bus driver jumped a traffic signal. He was stopped by a traffic inspector and given a ticket. The driver refused to accept the ticket. The inspector refused to let him get away (instead of allowing him to get on and take legal action on him later). Other BMTC bus drivers were stopped (by stopping their buses, blocking the road) and traffic came to a standstill. Eventually – maybe just to help the situation get resolved faster – the waiting passengers of the buses lost patience and started stoning and burning the buses, and since they had gotten into the mood anyway they targeted other vehicles as well. The police had to resort to grenades to restore some semblance of peace.

This being my hometown, I would’ve hardly believed it had I not seen the photographs (not shown in the online article though):
BMTC driver jumps signal, mob rampages

We know about the increase in all kinds of negative incidents including crime rates in Bangalore, some of them very grotesque. Maybe that can be explained away (not justified) that it’s the natural consequence of the development of the city.

Mob violence and riots due to religious reasons can be explained as due to people’s strong attachment to their ideas and concepts to the extent that in a moments of thoughtlessness they would even be willing to kill others to defend them.

But wrt this morning’s incident, I would really like to hear any rationalist’s explanation of it, where there was no politics, no religion, no language issue, no inflammable issue at all that it should end in such violent consequences!

One explanation could lie in a quote by Henry David Thoreau:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

It is well know that a lot of violence happens not because of the actual reason itself but simply because it provides a temporary release for people who had been tired of totally unrelated but gradually accumulating problems that they had rarely, if ever, even acknowledged
to themselves. (Of course only *later* do they sometimes get to realise the consequences of their thoughtlessness and rage that only multiplied misery).

Nature teaches us a lot of things, but we might not be heeding it as much as we need to. One example is the recent Tsunami. This morning’s incident reminded me of a mail describing a Tsunami survivor’s escape.

He (Lokesh) was in Pondicherry on a holiday when the Tsunami came. He saved himself by climbing a coconut tree. He saw many,many people swept away infront of his eyes. Physically, he did not suffer much. He got hurt on his legs and knees but not too much. however, he is still in a state of mental shock.

There is no doubt that the Tsunami was one incident where the dangerous situation exposed uncensored the fragility of human existence. But what is much more subtle is the same danger in normal every day situations, though we refuse to admit it and like to pretend that everything is under control and say “that’s life, with its ups and downs” – of course more often said when life is up rather than down (or down for someone else).

When I read the incident about the Tsunami, one thing came to my mind. That the torrent of water really represented the danger we are in, which mercilessly sweeps away everything we manage to accumulate. The tree represented Dharma. And one who climbs the tree to save himself can only be a mute witness to all his fellow men being swept away, hoping that
they too find such a tree and save themselves somehow.

Of course the analogy is limited, there are infinite possibilities to actually help (only useful if done by a person with a firm grip on a tree, else he might pull down a person who would’ve survived otherwise!) Still the point is that its really the choice of each person to acknowledge honestly that there is room for improvement in his or her own life. And then choose to consider (atleast for a start) Dharma – just like Neo in the movie the matrix chooses to take the red pill.

In computer software terminology, we have software at different levels such as device driver level, system level software to application software level. All beautiful modes of self-expression that humans have evolved over the centuries such as science, technology, religion, philosophy, art represent different kinds of software at different levels. Dharma is as universal, elementary and fundamental as the 1s and 0s that all software works on.

Dictionary.com defines dharma as:

The principle or law that orders the universe.

We may have Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, etc world-views of the Universe. We can argue that one is right, the other is wrong, how they agree with each other or contradict each other, etc. Dharma is beyond world views. One of my teachers gave me an analogy – he said “view a diamond from one angle and one sees the color red, and from another angle one sees blue, etc. But for one who is actually holding the diamond, all these contradictions can coexist, they don’t matter anymore!”

As for me, I’ve been extremely lucky to get acquainted with such concepts at a relatively early point in my life. I’ve learnt many things, that I feel might’ve otherwise taken me decades and many mistakes and misery to learn the same things. Its like an agnipath – the path of fire – definitely not easy, and yet over time, I’d say that though life goes on in all its ordinariness, there’s a difference. There’s a certain intensity to it – a gradual replacement of shallowness and self-deception with a greater depth of realism. There’s a great deal more of an aliveness than ever before, which I’ve come to believe based on my own experiences, as the only way of life worth living.

Nevertheless there’s a mere hairline – yet infinitely deep – chasm, between knowing the path and walking on it! There’s no doubt that I am a mere beginner – a novice still finding his way around. I find encouragement in the words of one of my key teachers:

People will progress slowly — they may take two steps
and then fall down, and get up again; then again take
two steps, and again fall down. Later they will reach
the stage where they are so strong they can’t fall
down. It takes time.

And in my case, certainly as Robert Frost would’ve said I have miles to go before I sleep, but dosen’t matter – I’m enjoying the walk 🙂


Was edited on Oct 8 2005

5 Responses to “lessons from nature| ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಯ ಪಾಠ”

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