Wanniyal-aeto activist Unapanawaruge Bandiya
The modern world is based on consumption and insatiable hunger – bigger, better, faster and glossier - this is the war cry of the new generation.
The ancient concept of “humors” which govern the body's well being diagnoses excessive Fire as the foremost ailment of modern society. Fire is the eternal hunger that consumes all before it, and must keep consuming in order to survive. Today, people are “burning out”, “stressed”, “manic depressive” and “anxious”. These are the new dis-eases of modern living and a product of the lifestyle that we live and perpetuate.
The same consumerism that created the diseases that plague modern-day city-dwellers has also spawned a plethora of “cures” and buzzwords for its exhausted elite. “Tradition” is now becoming trendy, with Bio-diversity conservation being linked to traditional lifestyles.
Marketing is packaging and producing age-old remedies to make people feel better about themselves and the “organic-ness” of their lives. Companies are selling us the idea of “protecting rural cultures” and of “conserving traditional plants and essences”, while at the same time buying these same essences at rock-bottom prices and packaging them in plastic wrapping that is not only more expensive than the “traditional” product but also detrimental to the cultural values that they are claiming to preserve. Two drops of pure essential oil extract in an alcohol-based perfume do not an indigenous culture-preserving product make!
You have an oil burner with scented oil to “de-stress” you, make you “romantic” and “stimulate” you all at the same time! You find a yoga teacher who gets rid of the tension in your shoulders, an aura reader who will tell you that you need your chakras cleaned and an ayurvedic doctor who will give you herbal gullis (pills) to keep you thin. You do all this to remind yourself that you are still “in touch” with the spiritual, with nature. It was William Blake who said “When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree.”
The marketing of “traditional knowledge” and “culture” is creating a dilution of the sacred truths that formed the basis of civilization. With mass marketing, the authenticity of cultures, herbs, remedies and treatments that were designed to be efficacious for the individual psyche have been corrupted into what would appeal to the target market. The essence of the traditional way of life was to maintain the customs associated with the ritual of living. The ancient civilizations of the world proclaim the harmony of the elements in their architecture, food and as a basis for ritual cleansing and purification of the body. Without the proper balance, setting and spirit, the cure loses its efficacy. Magic and mystery were the key to traditional living. Spirit and sacred knowledge cannot be sold in plastic packaging.
The search for the balance, the insight is found in the oral story-telling tradition and documented in native languages. In fact Lanka was known as the 'island of balance' – Dhammadeepa. An intelligent elite throughout history has, when confronted with the decay and decadence of civilization, perceived the need for retreats, or sanctuaries where regeneration, contemplation and purification created an oasis in the desert. Strict rules have always governed the establishment of these forest-garden retreats (Aranyas). Every building was located in an auspicious space, aligned in the correct direction and constructed according to prescribed methods based on astrology and traditional architecture.
© 2012 Living Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka |