Forest Man

payeng forest manThe unhappiness index keeps increasing for wealthy countries, but don’t ask Forest Man about it. He figured out happiness almost 40 years ago.

William Douglas McMaster’s “Forest Man” is about Jadav Payeng, an Indian man who has worked since 1979 to turn a wasteland into a forest, now home to Bengal tigers and rhinos.

Payeng has put in 40 years of meaningful work…for free. He doesn’t care that the tigers in his forest have eaten some of his cows. He puts dharma over dollars, which makes him great…and provides health benefits.

So many see the environment and health as “out there”, disconnected from their mind and body. Forest man sees our deep connection to the planet; to the universe. He would risk his life to stop a poacher, all while the animals he saves eat his cows by night. In contrast, the rest of men give arrows and poison to nature to stop a 10% financial loss. Forest man would say, “What will you do with your barren wasteland and your 10%?”

Payeng’s work puts him in the highest class of men. There are doctors and businessman who will make more money tomorrow than Payeng will in 20 years, but Payeng is the more educated and richer. The average civilized man with average paycheck would likely share some average laughs about Payeng’s stupid little effort, over drinks. I mean, the sum total of Payeng’s 40 years to plant 1,360 acres of forest and protect 115 elephants, Bengal tigers, and countless birds adds zero value to the country’s GDP. To civilized man, Payeng’s effort is worthless.

Don’t fret, Payeng. It is the dharma of a scorpion to sting, and the dharma of a saint to save. To civilized man, benelles are worthless too. He doesn’t know he’s made from benelles, or that your Molai is worth more than 20 factories.

Let’s extrapolate about this yogi’s family from the documentary’s images. His wife and daughter appear to be disciplined workers, but not visionaries. If their path opened to America, I bet they’d be happy to follow into processed food, TV, diabetes, etc. The son looks eager for the latest iPhone and xBox. Only Payeng seems impervious to the empty calories and flashing lights.

Essentially, Payeng appears to be surrounded by the same folks we are: shorter path first people. But Payeng does not let easy or short set his course. He would have become great even if he were born on the wrong side of Detroit.

From a business perspective, he seems to have had a great career. He got to be his own boss, he got to see the results, and he got plenty of fresh air. He never had to worry about whether he would get a raise at the end of the year, or what his retirement age is.

From a health perspective, Payeng’s set. Sunshine and fresh air all day. Constant physical work. Lack of access to corporate healthcare. All natural foods. The mental boost of being his own boss and serving God all day long. The components of his life point to good health.

Anyone could be a forest man, but few are. To connect with the world in a non-harmful way. To work for free. To believe in your dharma such that risk of death is no big thing. To have boundless gratitude for each day’s work. To do all this for 40 years. It’s Christlike.

Want to know why today’s overcrowded, polluted, money-starved capitalistopia is making poor people around the world richer, sicker, and unhappier? Forest man has the door open to the answers, but don’t expect your friends or family to join you. Even a yogi’s closest followers are sure to misunderstand him.

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