Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Ode to a Child in Repose

I saw her in the Floating Market.  Nothing seemed to disturb her sweet sleep.  Neither the noisy and curious passersby, nor the high volume of the music her parents played could win over the peace that has veiled her and left out all the rest.  How strong was innocence against the troubles of life!  To many, it could be referred to merely as lack of experience if not ignorance.  Yet, to me the little girl reminded the awareness of the Four Noble Truths represented in the Reclining Buddha.  Accordingly, “the First Truth identifies the presence of suffering.  The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering.”  Yet, ignorance prevents people from seeing the world as it actually is and desire for things, which can never be satisfied.  Thus people suffer.  What a little girl may desire?  How big the wish she makes can be?  As far as I saw or could make of the scene I was recording into my camera, she had a happy family and peace at home.  Caring hands had folded a piece of cloth for her head to rest on and covered half of her body with a shawl.  She was sleeping at the feet of an elderly woman, probably her grandmother.  Familiar songs sang by familiar mouths were lullabies to her.  So, I spent only a few seconds taking her picture little anxious to wake her up, but most of my time enjoying the moment.  How precious her sleep was.  Could vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger whirling around us to pull their teeth into our soul and flesh penetrate her world one day?  However, it is unfair to describe vices as if they have an existence of their own or outside us.  Indeed, they are within us.  Why is that opening wars against the evils outside our house, rather than beginning with what is the nearest to us, that is ourselves.

“The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, has dual meaning, suggesting either the end of suffering in this life, on earth, or in the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana.  The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

Buddhism emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and insight.  Hence, it advises the individual to concentrate onto his/her attitudes and behaviours.  If we were to recite Johan Galtung’s triangle here, we would have to complete the triangle with the conflict itself.  That’s it!  A Child in Repose: it is the simplest state of peace.  Each and every individual has to develop an insight of his/her attitudes and behave in an attentive manner to preserve the already existing peace in a child’s dreams.  If it sounds too simplistic, maybe I should better give the floor to Yunus Emre, a Turkish poet and Sufi mystic (1240?–1321?):

Knowledge should mean a full grasp of knowledge:
Knowledge means to know yourself, heart and soul.
If you have failed to understand yourself,
Then all of your reading has missed its call.

What is the purpose of reading those books?
So that Man can know the All-Powerful.
If you have read, but failed to understand,
Then your efforts are just a barren toil.

Don’t boast of reading, mastering science
Or of all your prayers and obeisance.
If you don’t identify Man as God,
All your learning is of no use at all.

The true meaning of the four holy books
Is found in the alphabet’s first letter.
You talk about that first letter, preacher;
What is the meaning of that-could you tell?

Yunus Emre says to you, pharisee,
Make the holy pilgrimage if need be
A hundred times-but if you ask me,
The visit to a heart is best of all.


God permeates the whole wide world.
Yet His truth is revealed to none.
You better seek Him in yourself,
You and He aren’t apart-you’re one.

The other world lies beyond sight.
Here on earth we must live upright.
Exile is torment, pain, and blight.
No one comes back once he is gone.

Come, let us all be friends for once,
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lovers and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to no one.

To you, what Yunus says is clear,
Its meaning is in your heart’s ear:
We should all live the good life here,
Because nobody will live on.


Sanem Ozer, Turkey
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session

Reference: Halman, Talat Sait. 1993. Yunus Emre: Selected Poems Translated by Talat Sait Halman


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