It was about a year back, May 7th 2019 to be exact, that I had written my last blog post. I am among those who start writing blogs with lots of enthusiasm but then kind of loose steam midway. So over last year I found many reasons not getting time to write a new article. Now suddenly this COVID-19 pandemic and the very necessary lock down to slow down it’s spread has provided me with enough free time to write my next blog.
The title of the article may sound very cryptic. I will request my readers to bear with me and read thru these few paragraphs to connect the dots and let me explain this cryptic, rather philosophical link, between MANDALA, NATURE AQUARIUM, BALANCE OF NATURE and a virus attack like that of COVID-19.
So WHAT IS A MANDALA?
The word MANDALA in Sanskrit means circle. In Buddhism a MANDALA (1) is a sand art form which re-creates the path of life, the cosmos and the enlightenment of Buddha. After painstakingly completing a MANDALA, the monks every time sweep the sand in a jar and then empty it into a nearby water body. This action also symbolizes the impermanence and ever changing nature of life.
This eternal circle of life is playing constantly in and around us. Whether it is a fallen tree trunk in a forest giving life to whole generation of animals, fungi ,microbes or galaxies colliding in the cosmos, the MANDALA and the impermanence it symbolizes is everywhere.
Many of us fail to understand this very important lesson that Mother Nature tries to teach us and spend the entire life too fixated in gathering worldly possessions even at the cost of destroying the fragile ecology of Earth.
At current rates 1.5 acres destruction per second, in100 years there will be no rainforests. It’s alarming just considering the fact that Amazon rainforest itself contributes to 20% of our oxygen (2).
WHAT IS A NATURE AQUARIUM?
For my readers who are aquarists, Nature Aquarium is a familiar concept. But for others who are not into aquariums or fish keeping let me explain what a Nature Aquarium is. As ADA Japan website (3) mentions, a NATURE AQUARIUM is like creating your own version of NATURE in an aquarium. The other way of looking at NATURE AQUARIUM is creating a vista inside an aquarium inspired by Nature.
Sometime back, I first came across the word MANDALA while reading the book, “The Forest Unseen” by David George Haskell. And suddenly it struck me, isn’t NATURE AQUARIUM also an example of a MANDALA. One can see the interplay between aquatic life form and plants in a Nature Aquarium. Fish waste gets converted into food for plant who in turn gives life giving oxygen – this is a continuous cycle, a MANDALA.
In fact like MANDALA a Nature Aquarium is an art form and at the same time it is a vehicle to understand the balance of Nature.
WHAT IS BALANCE OF NATURE?
Legendary aquarist, nature photographer and to my mind a philosopher too, Mr. Takashi Amano (4), introduced the concept of Nature Aquarium. Amano felt – “ To know Mother Nature is to love her smallest creations”. He wanted to recreate natural eco system in an aquarium, which leads to a better understanding of the global environment. Amano felt “Balance of Nature” and the inherent fragility can well be understood by studying a Nature Aquarium.
I am into Nature Aquarium for many years now and I often come across a common question from aquarists – how to control Algae? Frankly, I feel algae comes in a Nature Aquarium when the balance in the aquarium is lost. I will try to elaborate the concept in a future blog post. For now I leave the readers with this thought.
Why only aquariums, agricultural fertilizer run-off results in balance being lost in natural water bodies too resulting in bad algal blooms. There are many articles in Internet on this topic (5,6)
While one might want to have a Nature Aquarium like in the picture above, will anyone like to have an aquarium like the one shown in the left? This is an aquarium with “Green Water” caused by a particular type of algae. The picture is taken from a very informative article on algae in aquarium titled “Aquarium Algae 101” by Adam Edmond (7).
Frankly algae is a very important aspect of entire natural eco-system. It’s present everywhere irrespective of a Natural Waterbody or a Nature Aquarium. 70 to 80% of Earth’s oxygen comes from algae. But in the context of Nature Aquarium or many natural water bodiesalgae is an unwelcome guest if it grows in an uncontrolled fashion.
Aquarists spend many many hours to have a control over the algae. Many use chemicals to control it, but I have always tried to control algae by trying to restore the lost balance in an aquarium.
So WHAT IS THE CONNECTION OF BALANCE OF NATURE WITH COVID-19?
MANDALA is a symbolic representation of eternal cycle of life. The ecosystem that plays within a NATURE AQUARIUM can be considered as an example of a MANDALA. When balance in such MANDALA is lost, unwanted outbreak of algae takes place. So while one might argue with me, but I strongly believe, that the COVID 19 pandemic and many similar incidents is closely related to natural balance getting lost in Earth’sEcosystem. The nice article by Shanon Osaka, titled “‘A common germ pool’: The frightening origins of the coronavirus”(8) summarises the reason behind my belief. I am thankful to my friend Mr. Biswajit De of Wildroots, Guwahati for sharing this article and indirectly encouraging me to write this blog.
The article explains that 60% of new diseases that crop up around the globe are zoonotic in nature – meaning that they come from domesticated animals or wild life. “We swim in a common germ pool with other life forms,” Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Healthsaid.
SARS and MERS both originated from Bats and then passed on to humans thru Civet Cats and Camels respectively. There are reasons to believe that COVID-19 also originated from Bats and then transmitted to humans via pangolins. Increasing population is leading to increasing need of agriculture or industries which in turn is making us encroach into forests. Species like bats previously had enough forested land to roam about but then this encroaching urbanization is giving opportunity to disease causing pathogens to easily make cross-species jump. Shanon Osaka rightly observes that the issue of cross-species jump becomes easier in wildlife markets like in Wuhan, China.
As in a Nature Aquarium, algae comes when balance in Nature Aquarium ecosystem is lost or compromised. Similarly, we humans will be more and more vulnerable to diseases like SARS, MERS, AIDS, COVID as the balance of Mother Earth is lost due to uncontrolled human greed.
Tibetan Monks destroy a beautifully designed, painstakingly created MANDALA in order to explain the constant cycle of creation and destruction. We humans have already done enough damage to Nature around us, a fantastically beautiful MANDALA painstakingly created by Mother Earth over many millennia. Like we control algae in Nature Aquarium by restoring balance, a thought crosses my mind, is Mother Earth trying to resist the destruction by unleashing forces like COVID-19 to wipe us out.
Shanon Osaka quotes in the article (8) a warning by Bernstein that the coronavirus is not the worst pandemic possible. “We’ve gotten a few shots over the bow here,” he said. “We’ve had SARS, MERS, COVID, HIV. We need to see what nature is trying to tell us here. We need to recognize that we’re playing with fire”