Friday, May 20, 2011

The Environmental Impact of Vesak 2011

Floats, displays, Buckets, lanterns, “pandols,” flags, posters, cutouts, banners and swathes of bulb vines were festooned in a bewildering, dizzying display of colour, this Vesak in Colombo.

Loudspeakers were placed every few hundred yard, food outlets feeding not necessarily the hungry with offerings in little polythene bags, Halloween masks, music and disco lights expending copious amounts of electricity, polythene and plastic reminded any absentminded Buddhist who was unaware of it that we should be forcefully and effectively, and merrily and COMPULSORILY celebrating the birth of the Buddha. The UN has declared it a world wide national day, so we had kind of won in making other less civilized nations recognize us.

No half hearted, quiet displays of contemplation were allowed, each home, each street each institution, competed raucously to put more orange and yellow polythene and more electricity out in the name of the Buddha. Apart from the sheer tonnage of colored polythene and now, garish completely untraditional lanterns imported from China, (a country known in the civilized world for horrifying animal abuse) there was the incredible weight of evidence of carnival like feeding frenzies of mobs of citizens and their offsprings – ice cream wrappers, biscuit wrappers, food wrapping polythene and soft drink bottles and what not, thrown all over the city by people who clearly thought that Vesak was an excellent an excuse to litter compulsively.

Road sweepers were spotted dazedly trying to manage the damage the next day. It was as though a small religious cyclone had hit the country. So much sheer CELEBRATION! 2600 years of SAFEGUARDING Buddhism , we DID it! its all because of US that Buddhism is still around here!! The PURE SORT!! NO one else even knows what Buddhism is like, so much as we do! Sri Lanka is the one place in the world where pure Buddhism is safeguarded. Says who? Well, says us of course. Its true its pure and its safe here, if the noise is anything to go by, if the carnival atmosphere of jubilation is anything to judge by- we succeeded!!

I wonder if the Buddha would have agreed.

I fantasize and picture Him coming down and walking among us, dressed in normal clothes so as not to arouse suspicion.

He would probably be thinking “these poor people, I told them about suffering about impermanence and about being at one with the universe about being kind to animals and to this earth we share. I told them to live good lives and be kind to people and try and find a way out of samsara; What in the WORLD are they doing with all these blinking lights ? They are missing the whole POINT!! Jesus!

Child abuse, suicide and alcoholism rates are the highest in the civilized world,according to the WHO and UN but according to us we have the "purest" Buddhism. We measured it, on a kind of authenticity scale... Traffic accidents caused by the negligence of regular civilians who could not care less for the life of their fellow man are some of the highest in the world. Women throw babies in rivers, grandfathers rape baby girls, people eat the meat off cows legs while they are still alive, hakka patas traps kill wildlife slowly over weeks, corruption, lies and thuggery are all so normal we simply live with it all and ignore it like the mosquitoes, unaware that there are other non Buddhist countries where these things don’t happen. Countries where perhaps there is not so much noise and light and polythene for Vesak. Where, you know, the Buddhism is less pure.

What am I complainng about you wonder ? Who is this fancy author to tell people how they should celebrate the birth of the Buddha ??? what a party pooper!! Vesak balanna giye nadda?
Well- Im not that religious. I prefer to sit and do silly, lazy things like meditate in my little rented annex . And read old Dhamma books. And plot for a way of going as far away as possible from this madness the next time it comes around.