By Any Means Necessary
Tengboche Monastery resides at the lofty altitude of 3,867 metres above sea level.
Surrounding the Monastery is some of the most inexplicably beautiful scenery on Earth. Each mountain has an air of undefinable grace, as though each has been individually crafted and meticulously placed into position for the sole purpose of leaving humanity humbled. Understanding that their creation was born, not of individual creation, but as the result of trillions of tons of rock slamming together, propelling the summit toward the heavens does nothing to minimise this aura. Indeed, you ascend the Khumbu region constantly grateful that the Earth has managed to construct the Himalayan region, effortlessly colliding two continents together to form a region of unadulterated beauty.
It is from this throne of Earth that the Monastery rests. With a view to the highest point of the world, Mount Everest, the Monastery has further stood to encourage people to reach the height of their humanity. The Monastery has, for nearly fourth centuries, been an important element of Sherpa culture in the region. The Monastery is the largest Gompa in the region, representing an opportunity for people to study and practice their Buddhist beliefs. At the heart of Buddhism is the belief that, through self control and the removal of craving for the material world, humans may achieve liberation of the spirit and the mind. Such lofty ambitions could hardly be more appropriately placed.
As breathless and spectacular as the scenery may be, travellers’ souls leave touched moreover by the Nepalese people.
“Namaste,” accompanied by a beaming smile, – a greeting bestowed upon all travellers by countless smiling strangers, merely a symbol of the beauty of these people. Residing in unimaginable conditions, within houses barely larger than many Westerners bedrooms, these people greet you with the warmth of a raging fire, meeting your gaze with respect and friendship.
I couldn’t help but compare these encounters with those of strangers in my home city – where people would be more comfortable staring at the shoes of a stranger than their eyes.
The Monastery housed me for probably no longer than an hour. I had slipped my shoes off at the entrance, bid farewell to the view, and entered the strange building not knowing what to expect. I had endured religious encounters previously – essentially listening with a mixture of constant cynicism and boredom. Perhaps it was the novelty, perhaps it was the language barrier, but I was enthralled in the proceedings. I watched as men I would never meet engaged in a ritual that I assumed had been practiced for years. Centuries. Walking, chanting, kneeling, humming, lighting candles and praying, I garnered a respect for these men. For the passion that they embraced their religion, bestowing credit borrowed from the countless beautiful strangers I had met upon these men. They assumed a graceful, content aura. Each movement was precise, dignified, purposeful. As though they were each pre-ordained. There were about 40 Westerners in the room, but we may as well have been extra nails in the floor – this ritual would take place inside or outside. Rain or shine. Through good times and bad.
This was 4 days before my 16th birthday.
The Sherpa people entered the East of Nepal 600 years ago – possibly under military duress. Their souls seemed untarnished, learning only wisdom from the past and living with peace, hope, focus for the future. With a positive mindset and a pure attitude toward other humans, that their lives would be beneficial – internally and externally.
We had been relatively free of news from home for the duration of our trip. So isolated from anything we knew, any news would seem superfluous anyway. The only familiarity was the haven of your mind, though this is not always such a positive thing.
The news of the fall of Baghdad hit me as I expected it would. The war on a verb had raged for several years, only a few weeks before we left home shifting its focus to the ex-home of the great Babylon Empire.
Utter helplessness. Frustration. Confusion. Through misty eyes in a foreign land I considered the situation in another foreign land I’d never been to. Contrasting the wonderful people we had met, and the many friends in the trekking group, with the idea that powerful men would send young men across the globe to commit murder was, is, unconscionable.
Unsatisfied with the invasion of Afghanistan, troops would enter Iraq and defeat “terror” under the instruction to succeed by “any means necessary.”
By any means necessary.
In reflection, I can put my uneasiness at the situation to those four, calculated, cold words.
It was “sexy” news. It served to bolster the ego of many leaders. I suppose the West felt it needed to maintain the auspices that the democratic world was so far advanced of their Middle Eastern counterparts, that the right thing must be done – by any means necessary. Not that the “right thing” was available for conversation. Least of all the means of achieving it. What it meant, and what it entailed, was designed by few. Men, largely, who would refuse to strive for higher achievement. Who would rather reach for a weapon than a telephone.
Of course, by any means necessary meant the completely unnecessary slaughter of millions. Tragically; innocent men, women, children and soldiers have lost their lives in the name of war. War. A horrible, terrible plight for any civilization to endure.
However, the Western world has managed to exist parallel to the realities of war. Whilst our countries have been engaged in war for many years, the average citizen remains largely personally unaffected. As long as A Current Affair can remind us how scared we should be of Middle Eastern people, the larger public will believe that war is necessary to defend our rights.
War should strike fear and despair into the soul upon hearing it. It should be the very last resort of a detailed campaign for peace. Many, however, choose to analyse and rationalise this state of being. Potentially to make sense of the insensible. Perhaps to feel somewhat in control of the situation.
The fact is that a situation where one man is sent to kill another, for whatever reason, is community-destroying. For too long we have lived with it in the background.
For the first time in my conscious life, the West had declared war. 9 years ago and I can still barely come to terms with it.
Some loved it, some hated it, some couldn’t care less. Many Nepalese would simply shake their head at the concept.
In the future, I would become a teacher. In part, I think I wanted to teach right from wrong. In hindsight, I would learn more from a child than I could impart.
A child does not stand for justification of the wrong. An unaffected child will not agree with the murder of another human. A child would not accept the “shades of grey” that are required to explain to a population that war should be undertaken, murder achieved “by any mean necessary.”
A man may claim that they never loved a past lover. A problem gambler may ignore the lost $100 if there is a $15 to finish off. These are symptoms of man’s justification for failure, for not reaching our own potential. Adulthood brings about the realisation of such failure. That we are not as good as we had once hoped to be.
We should not settle for the destruction of another society as necessary. Ever.
I would hope that, in the future, the children I teach aspire to reach for great heights. In the mould of their Nepalese counterparts, to see positive human interaction as a requirement for fulfilment. To believe that suffering should be avoided, and that does not end with not suffering yourself.
To aim for something perhaps unattainable. To reach for the height of humanity – be that through scholarly endeavour, religion, sport, human interaction or by any other means.
To struggle for what is right for all people.
By any means necessary.