Aldous Huxley’s Pala Island, a Paradise of Science and Religion
"One in plurality, the Emptiness that is all, the Suchness totally present in every appearance."
The Island of Pala is a fantastical realm which is possibly found in the Indonesian Archipelago, and which takes the best of both worlds: East and West, spiritualism and science, and shows us how this epic dialogue might work. Its inhabitants, the Palanese, are capable of appreciating life by being constantly aware of whom they are in relation to all their experiences. That is, the do not condemn human nature and their desires but observe it in order to understand it. Following this premise they built a society based on humanism and rationality, using science to understand spiritual truths.
One the most agreeable details of the Island of Pala is that the local animals conjure up words that help the inhabitants in their practices; more than 1000 birds fly over the island singing the word “attention”, and some others, like the crows, are shaped like buddhas or Hindu gods to stress that icons do not matter, what does matter is consciousness. That gods are made by men. That if prayers are attended it is because this in this “odd and psychological world, ideas have a tendency if you concentrate your mind on them to get realized”. A magical ecosystem that is the mere representation of the minds of the Palanese.
Huxley’s Utopian model, “shot through and through with Tantra”, is a combination of the Mahayana Buddhism and science. And although Tantra here represents something closer to Taoism (they do not wish to escape the world by achieving Nirvana; they accept the world as it is and everything it entails), their goal is to outdo the belt of suffering and go towards a clear light, beyond the void of every human being, appreciating the plan of everything that happens during a person’s life.
The first principle is based on: “Nobody has to go anywhere. We are all (if only we knew) there already”. A principle that echoes in the Zen rivers, in which happiness resides in stopping the search for happiness.
The second principle is giving a meaning to everything they do: “By being fully aware of what you’re doing, work becomes the yoga of work, play becomes the yoga of play, and everyday living becomes the yoga of everyday living”. The means to become aware of yourself, explains the narrator, is through meditation. For the Palanese, mediation is “Destiny Control” since it opens the mind on an intuitive level to greater understanding.
Life is full of “changes and chances…beauties and horrors and absurdities” he concludes. The control of Destiny cannot remove all the pain and loss, since it would make a human less than human, but through meditation your mind could become –and this description is somewhat appealing–: “Blue, dispossessed and open.”
The Palanese built this society on an island (the islands always carry more possibilities for autonomy) in which light is circumstance and people are seeds.
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