Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Intermingling of Men and Animals in the Northeast’s Rugged Terrain Helps Man Retain its Innate Loving Human Nature

The elephant corridor that runs through the Kaziranga highway is a long and winding thickly wooded road. As we slowed down to the permitted speed limits we came across a baby elephant which was being helped across the side of the road into the forest by the trumpeting elephants. Up ahead was a short man walking alone through the animal corridor with the wild elephants we saw only nearby? If you wonder how he was to cross you may also start wondering which human response is closer to human – to know danger or death could be caused by the elephants who could accost you, or to make friends with the same possibility of death in a most accommodative exchange of understanding between man and animal. Also or else to make a deal, like travelling in a vehicle through the territory or riding safari from a vantage position and losing that relation with the elephant where the elephant can understand the man and let go territory and the man too can understand the sense of fear on both sides and allow space to the elephant to live its life by not suspecting the elephant of being intent on causing harm though capable of it.
Similarly, maybe if man and woman have to love each other they have to be human. Like the man who was carrying baskets hung on a bamboo slung across on his shoulder. The man wouldn’t have any inclination to argue or have any differences at all left with his wife; and neither would his wife find any fault with a husband who is forced by circumstances to accomplish such a walk across a jungle track full of elephants and wild animals. I guess love is somewhere deep within us and all we need is to be ourselves to see it vibrating. This is an important energy for survival of this whole planet and its beings, not just humans but anything with life that moves. And we find just about everything that moves in this sphere of existence in which we survive are intrinsic parts of this planet. Why, I don’t think there will be any reason for anything to fall apart out of tune if we were to understand this binding force. As we say in India about the creative force being a female principle that works in different degrees of female qualities. The beauty of a celebrity woman may attract a lot of men and that is a binding force. That’s a more kind of crude example, but the fact is that it is a binding force. In this sense the more our human qualities form us, whether it’s man or woman, or simply put just a human, like a child is, this force in its more heightened form transforms these elements of nature into more cohesive parts, so that nothing is separate from other else. The point is that the perception has to change. Like we discard responsibilities one by one as we start growing in age, till a time we find ourselves old enough to want some peace and quiet and feeling, and time to do all this. A time has a welcome occurrence in life whenever this energy is ready to exclude conflict from the whole system of living.
Then the dogs barked at me as I went in the dark to see if the Tawang monastery was open in the evening. It gets dark there fast and I was just curious and also needed a walk in the fresh air after the whole day inside a moving vehicle. Like in Kaziranga animal corridor where I learnt something from the elephants marching across the road and the local man who was walking bare feet and alone through that jungle, here in Tawang I learnt that the dog cannot leave its natural instinct of barking at strangers, but if you understand them you also understand the love they try to convey to you at such places. Actually the dogs were barking because it was dark and if you miss the road you may fall off a cliff. I stopped for them as they came barking at me but also telling me in their own way the right path. And when I told them, okay I’m going that way, they said okay we’ll also stop barking and instantly did so. Lovely dogs and so much to learn from them. It was certainly an experience seeing the animals lead the way in some of these remote far away land in the northeast of India. And it’s good to know they have some space for them in the wild or other of these lands. Otherwise there’s concern where they will go.
And to confirm what I felt about them was right, the same ferocious looking monastery dogs were friendly with us when we went to visit the monastery in the morning. One of them whom I remembered from the previous evening was especially friendly with me and the rich man who was in our group. The dog could spot out that this man was rich and was following the rich man all the way on the monastery path using its sharp teeth to hold on to his hand. Later when we came out I asked the rich man to buy the dogs some biscuits and fed them with my own hands for being so concerned for my safety the night before.
Another spectacle was the Rhomang monastery we visited at the Tawang Chu river banks 20 kilometres from Tawang where the dead are taken to for the final rites. An interesting tale also related to animals is that the great Buddhist reformer Guru Padmasambhava, who was the forerunner of Buddhism from India to Tibet, meditated at this riverside of Tawang Chu and it was he who brought change in the barbaric and tantric ritual of cannibalistic human sacrifice in this region. While Guru Padmasambhava is credited with spreading love and bringing about transformation away from cannibalistic rites, one rite which exists till today is that of chopping the dead bodies into small pieces at a funeral rite practiced by some groups and putting them in the Tawang Chu river as an act of feeding the fish in the river. According to locals, just a night before our visit such a rite was performed at the site, which is only fifty feet away from the cave where the great Guru Padmasambhava attained bodhisattva. The cave itself is a genuine instance and one has to crawl under the huge 30 feet high boulder to find that inside is a hollow shaped roomy roof which becomes further narrow on the top like the head of a rubber stamp where you hold it. The only way these formations could have come about so perfectly is that the bodhisattva emanated such love and enlightenment that the insides of the boulder melted into that shape, looking like a Buddhist crown with a flower bud like top you see sometimes on the Buddha statues. That is a plausible explanation. However, the terrible rite that takes place there in the name of feeding the river fish is quite debatable in today’s age. Obviously there’s opposition to these rites and it would be good for those practicing this rite to know that it’s better to feed the fish something else if at all.
Man and animal are bound by destiny and we, especially the government, is doing so little to keep this relation intact. We have encroached so much into animal territory that the boundaries of human habitation and that of animals is indistinct today. Whether it be agriculture, hunting or just pet animals, the distinctions are to be understood as inclusive. No relation, whether human, family or animals on this planet is exclusive. Man or animals, we are characterised by our ability to recognise this. The rigour of love and togetherness that is natural to terrain and circumstances define our boundaries of existence and is the hope we have in a deeply divided world.

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