Colombo Telegraph

A Wesak Thought

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

This was not planned before this morning. When I was awaken this morning with no particular feeling, I realized it was Wesak. Then the serene image of the Buddha came to my mind. It was a symbol of peace and harmony. The secret behind that serenity perhaps was the harmony between the mind and body. That harmony is a product of the practice of meditation, without inflicting pain to the body or the mind. I tried to focus on a similar practice, which I first came to know through Dr. E. W. Adikaram’s Sithuvili (Thoughts), a series of publications which were popular during my senior school days (early 1960s).

It was difficult. My mind started wondering. I tried to become neutral or indifferent to good or bad thoughts that came to my mind. They started to fade away, slowly though. My mind was nevertheless disturbed by both inside and outside interferences. Some movements in my abdomen, a tiny pain in the neck, one part of the body being imbalanced with the other, all disturbed my mind. Imperfect health in the body, disturbs our minds.

Then came the noises from outside. Whistling birds passing the window, some movements at the next door, ‘big-bangs,’ near and afar disturbed my mind. There were compulsions for me to get out of the bed. Again I started focusing on the first principles of meditation that I know of, focusing on the way I breath, inhale and exhale. It was only a partial success, but it was worth doing.

Then what came to my mind was Sri Lanka, with a body (politic) and a shaky (governing) mind. I have never been impressed by organic theories on politics. They can produce undesirable conclusions when applied in a strictly organic or a mechanical manner. But the meditative harmony between the ideological side and the material side, or the congruence between the governing bodies and the political economy might be desirable objects.

The May Day events, two days back was a clear reflection of the conflictive nature of the collective mind that Sri Lanka holds. This is very similar to all other countries. That was a larger and a more complicated version of what we usually have in Parliament. Five days back, the Parliament could however achieve a ‘meditative moment’ after the various disturbing thoughts fighting each other on the subject of the constitution of the ‘brain’ itself. By the May Day, that moment of bliss has disappeared, some parts of the mind wondering in one place and the other parts in other places. It is a normal nature of a mind, but not a meditative or a harmonious one.

There are various adverse urges, tendencies or proclivities in our collective mind. One can say that it is not a collective mind at all. Others may say, it should not be a collective mind or one mind at all. The latter is also true and more so in the case of a polity. Even the human mind has different dimensions or different layers of consciousness. A polity is the same. Harmony of mind, which might be achieved through some meditation, does not mean all turning into one dimension. Plurality is important. It can create schizophrenia or other mental illnesses otherwise. One can say that Sri Lanka already suffers from an acute form of schizophrenia when considering the ethnic issue. That is what Adikaram also said. I am not using the word ‘argued.’ Lateral thinking should be allowed in a harmonious manner.

Some forms of mental tendencies are related to ideologies. All these are natural in a human mind as well. However, the question is whether we have too much of attachment to these ideologies whether they be ‘nationalism,’ ‘internationalism,’ ‘socialism,’ ‘liberalism,’ ‘Marxism’ or even Buddhism. The Buddha’s advice for us was to have equanimity or Upekkha.

Like in a human mind, most of the ailments of Sri Lanka’s mind emerges out of imbalances in the body. The body politic in Sri Lanka is composed of over 20 million cells clustered into nearly 5 million muscles or families. Some are rich, but most are poor and heartbreakingly poor. While the whole body is underdeveloped or not healthy; some parts are more so than the others. There are imbalances between the North and the South. There are disparities between the East and the West. The middle of the body is another sad story.

It is a strange phenomenon to observe that some parts of the body eat or exploit the other parts. Some organs of the body depend on the others, almost parasitically. Knowingly or unknowingly this exploitation happens and continues. The political economy does not know how to escape from the existing situation even if it wants to. Exploitation or extraction is the only surest way of existence, if we were not to jeopardizing the health of the whole body, the mind believes. The mind has opted to maintain some parts of the body with assistance, and these parts are lethargic even to the disadvantage of those who are kept out of these benefits.

The whole body is a jumble of contradictions. That is why there is no peace or harmony. Often there are rebellions in the body which affects the mind or the minds. There are volatile body parts, based mainly on new volatile cells. There are valid as well as invalid reasons for these rebellions. There are cancerous cells in the body politic. Communalism, violence and corruption are some of those cancerous elements.

There are influences, pressures or compulsions both on the body and on the mind from outside. These are natural, like in a human person. Some may be good, some may be inimical to the country. There are diverse pressures within and outside, to side with some and against the others. Most of the problems arise without knowing how to properly coordinate these external influences through the mind.

The contemplation on this Wesak Day, or at least one of them, must be on how to harmonize the body and the mind, and to harmonize various contradictions within the body and the mind. The surest way to do so is ‘political meditation’ and finding the middle path as the Buddha taught in all necessary issues without relegating justice, fairness, reason and integrity.

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