Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Our clan does not have a knowledge that goes beyond the law of nature

A speech by Dambane Gunawardane summarized by R Meepitiye Seelarathane thero

Picture of a veddha from the panaramio.com. The original is available at www.panaramio.com/photos/original/1477242.jpg

Associated with the green vegetation and wild animals, the life style of veddhas was an independent one. Traditional wealth of knowledge and culture of Veddahs, who were born, bred and dead in jungles were built on the shaping of the nature. However, with the time being, as a result of so called development, progress and deforestation, homelands and cultural practices of indigenous people have been subject to drastic changes. Very recently, the academic staff and students of the department of language and cultural education of the Sri Jayewardenepura University visited Dambana with a view to studying the nature of the current veddha tribe and their association with the nature. This is a summary of the speech of Dambane Gunawardane. The original article in sinhala was prepared by Rev. Meepitiye Seelarathane thero. This appeared in the newspaper “Lanka” on 10 May 2009. We translate this to English and republish for the benefit of non sinhala speaking readers to enhance their wisdom from that of the indigenous communities such as veddha tribe,

I have returned to Dambana having gone to Colombo from Dambana as a university student. Why did I return to Dambana after being graduated? Dambana is a very remote village. The word Dambana reflects our primary status, rustic nature and undeveloped status. Then why do we return in search of this undeveloped status? This is incomprehensible as development means moving forward rather than taking steps back. Why we returned is itself an issue for us. Why do people return in this manner? Why do the majority think so?

The word “Veddha” itself is derogatory. Because of the derogatory nature of the word “Veddha”, since of late, people have been using the word “Indigenous” in place of Veddha. .This alien word is being used because of this perceived derogatory nature. The word “Veddha” entails three reasons to be perceived as derogatory: Being dirty, not being literate (not knowing anything) and killing animals.

When we remember veddhas, it reminds us that they are people who kill animals and eat. They are very dirty and they do not know anything. These three things come to the fore front. On surface, we do se these three reasons. When we look at these superficially, being derogatory is transpired to be reasonable since only when we penetrate deep into, we see what reality is. They are apparently dirty, apparently not knowledgeable. They do not know what big shots do. True, the current crop of children knows certain things. Cellular phones and kind of things are used. They use even computers .But our elders do not know these things. Truly enough, they apparently do not know anything.

They kill animals for flesh, though it is rare today. Earlier our fathers used to kill animals everyday. That is true and not a lie. From that point of view, there is nothing in it. First issue is killing animals which is a bad act. It is not worth for anyone, a human in particular, to kill an animal. Animals cannot think too much. Therefore, when they are hungry, they kill another animal to appease hunger. But in contrast to animal, humans are an emotional lot. A collective that can think to a great deal. As such, when an animal is killed, when an animal cries, humans feel it. They are supposed to feel the sorrow. An animal does not die at once. It cries, struggles, shouts, attempts to flee. Blood is shed, skin is severed. A man cannot be senseless when he sees all these. Lets say that an indigenous people do not understand this phenomenon. But can a developed man say so as developed means he has developed his senses further. But, if you ask a developed man what he ate, he will respond “ Oh I have not eaten flesh, I have eaten rice “Just leave the whole plate of rice a side and take one grain of rice. Think how many animals have been killed to produce this one grain of rice, first when clearing the ground, then setting fire to weeds, ploughing the earth, applying and due to the toxic effect of agrochemicals and fertilizers. So when calculated in this way, millions of animals have been killed to produce a grain of rice. These animals are not large ,visible animals. They may be unapparent, tiny animals. A heap of such grains we call rice. So, can you calculate the number of animals killed by humans who are more developed than a veddha ? Veddha kills one animal for one meal. Sometimes, it is not for his but for the meal of the entire village. They had a methodology to share the kill. A cave was inhabited by several families. One clever chap goes hunting and kills after contemplation. Say two go into the jungle and if they intend to come tomorrow, they will not kill a deer or sambhur even they collide on to hunters since they cannot finish eating the flesh of the animal. So they track until a fitting animal to their need is found. That is the veddha’s method. Only when they return home, do they kill an animal adequate for the need of family members. For one meal, never do they kill two animals. This is the act of said , undeveloped, unknowledgeable and dirty humans. But developed , trekking on the moon, humans kill millions of animals for one meal. Who is morally more developed ? more humane ? more important man ? These are unapparent phenomena . Those phenomena are not seen by the naked eye. A person who studies needs to study these. It will show whether those humans who are derogated have inhumanness or they bring destruction. If we destroy millions of animals for a meal, what will be the outcome if we live 100 years. These things continue without being seen by us. They add a piece of meat of a killed animal to the heap of rice. Then add a boiled egg without letting the embryo a chance to develop. Who did this? The one who is sensible and overflowing with love, affection and compassion. Why are not those feelings generated ? Feelings are there to be generated. May be as said sometimes, they may be compassionate about humans, not compassionate about animal though. But how does one believe when he sees what happens in the society or the way wars are fought. Let alone others, are there qualities such as feeling equality, unity, sorrow of the others at home and giving a hand at least to those at home. There is an enthusiasm with the word “ Humans”. Though enthused, the real truth is that humans are the least developed animals in the world.

We are great destroyers of the world. Without us , this world is enormously beautiful. We humans have greatly destroyed the world. The acceleration of the destruction is development. Earlier one tree was felled with an axe per a day
Whereas now with the development, a machine will need five minutes to fell a tree. We think our world is developed in terms of technology. So what did we do? We have accelerated the destruction. We do so by what we learned . The degree to which I destroy is inadequate. I need to expand it. Acquiring more resources means a great destruction. My home means a place with accumulated great destructions. The plate of rice that I eat is a small fruit of a great bio destruction. When we compare what we collect and destroy to collect the same, we are satisfied with the small grain of our gains and the mountain of destruction. This is the kind of situation which the world is in today. This is the perspective which you should come to Dambana from. Dmbana is not all about that village but about ancient world, being rustic and rural.

What is this that I am doing as a human ? What is the outcome of this? If the destruction continues in this manner, what will happen to the destroyer ? He will be cursed. If you approach secretly to any developed man and ask “are you contented ?”, or say that he is transpired to be so, his answer will be “ What content, I live with great difficulty “.

The self inflicted destruction returns to trouble once again, worries and irritates the sub consciousness of the destroyer. You live not for your self . You get the feeling that to make you live , it is prudent to deprive many animals of their right to living. That makes you feel uncomfortable. Under a shade of a tree, one of our kinds chewing a betel is smiling. He hardly has areca nut or betel leaves. But he doesn’t feel dejected. His mind is trouble free. He has not been involved in a great mess to anybody. Nor has he taken someone else’s property. Free. That is life. What one gets by doing the destruction and by being a part of the nature under the tree is the same.

What we obtain from birth to death is satisfaction. When one reaches the moon , he is satisfied. The same satisfaction is obtained when one of our kind digs a large root or tuber . So both have done the same. This is the reality of the world and that is why you need to return to Dambana, being rustic or rural. Inside those, you need to have your studies. Inside the study, you need to find things of your life. The difference in your life is the certificate or awards that you receive and not the paper that testifies that you have a BA,MA or PhD. That is only a piece of paper.

Within all these studies, you understand the nature of your life, contradictions of your life, how your life should be, if your life is subject to any transformation. Getting through an exam or not is not a big deal. It is just a matter of a profession or job which is irrelevant to life as we are able to initiate a physical transformation with all these. To make an inner change , none of these things is relevant.

The other reason is the fact that we do not know anything. Being knowledgeable means the knowledge to deprive somebody of his rights. According to the law of the nature, any given animal has no rights other than the right to take food till stomach is full, right to protect the life, and right to reproduce. Though there is the right to take food till stomach is full, the right to rob and possess someone else’s property, and depriving someone else’s right has not been provided. Every animal has preserved that right. This has been violated only by humans. A bird picking berries on a tree does not claim the right for the tree. It lets other birds to pick berries. Humans have only defined borders for their possessions. Who gave this right to us ? It has been formulated by us and not the nature.

The right that was accorded to me by the nature is that I am free to live anywhere. It will be mine till I continue to live. Once I leave, it is no longer mine. This right has been formulated by humans. With the time being, humans have formulated rules and regulations, possessed things belonging to others, generated their own power and made attempts to get all factors under their ownership. Knowledge means this effort to possess every thing by humans through rules and regulations and powers that enable them to possess properties of others. Our own kind doesn’t have this knowledge. But, the knowledge essential for living is possessed by our own kind. That is the knowledge to dig a root, to find a honeycomb or to protect themselves from scorching sunlight, rain or animals. We don’t have the knowledge of possessing something belonging to others or that is beyond the nature. Had we acquired the other type of knowledge , then we would have inflicted a huge destruction. I am the first graduate from the veddha tribe. By having obtained the degree, I have committed something that leads to destruction. My degree has helped me to distance myself from the nature and not to be with it. Degree provided me an opportunity to dissociate from the nature. It gave me impetus to do so. Nothing else.

The other reason is the purity. How beautiful are wild animals? The deer here is pure. But never has it used soap. To the extent that you are exposed to the nature, there is nothing called being dirty. Being dirty emanated from being hidden from the nature. When in unison with the nature, there is nothing called being dirty. No need to cleanse in particular. The cycle of cleansing is engrained in the nature itself. We are not a group of people just fell down from the sky. This earth, water, wind are in us too. We derive energy from earth, wind, trees, sun and moon. We hide from all these. Having a roof over our head prevents us from being exposed to sunlight. Clothes make sunlight fall on them and not on the body. That causes diseases, this and that, in humans.

Do wild animals get sick ? Do they have hospitals ? Do they seek care of midwives in delivery ? No. We too had this energy. We live refusing and having shielded ourselves from all these. But what was our objective? Living in comfort. This is the biggest joke. We built air conditioned rooms having shielded ourselves from the nature to live in comfort. Didn’t we? Did we live in comfort? No.

We had to be in hospitals. But animals in the wild did not do any effort and to date live in comfort. If we are searching comfort, then this is the wrong track. If we are in search of joy, satisfaction or humanness, then this is the wrong track. This does not mean that we as veddhas too live as it was before. We are too moving with mistakes. Indigenous tribes, veddha tribes mean not the tribes that used to be earlier. We are also a lot that has to follow the destructive world. But that minute beauty is visible to us. With the existing situation, that is also enough. Seeing that beauty is seeing Dambana.

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