Trips

4×4 and Buddhism. Do they have anything at all in common?

Hello and welcome to another post,

Most of Sin Rumbo’s posts and photos are related to the truck and our off-road adventures with it. How would Buddhism fit in this picture, if at all? 4×4 and Buddhism seem almost contrary to each other. 4×4 evokes a smoking/smelly diesel-powered vehicle that goes outside paved roads and pollutes nature. Buddhism on the other hand evokes images of peace and harmony with nature, respectful of all lives, etc. One dictionary defines Buddhism as “a religion founded by the Buddha that emphasizes physical and spiritual discipline as a means of liberation from the physical world”. Even though there is no arguing that some off-roaders do use nature as their playground for mechanical recreation and disregard all sense of ecology, they are (hopefully) a fairly small number. More and more people, mostly in the overlanding category, use their vehicle to get away from city life for a varying length of time, and to get into nature, peace and silence. While that is entirely possible on foot, horseback, or bicycle, an off-road vehicle gives its owner access to more remote areas with a level of basic comfort not accessible otherwise. You probably would not travel from Alaska to the southern tip of South America on horseback. It is commonly done with overlanding vehicles. Now let me tell you about my last trip with Sin Rumbo and the connection between 4×4 and Buddhism will become apparent.

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Hike to an unnamed mountain outside Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

On a Tuesday afternoon I drove from home to the mountain town of Uspallata in the province of Mendoza, Argentina, about 120 km from home. Then I drove another 20 km or so into the desert to the northeast to a camping spot I had scouted before at an elevation of 2800 m. I stayed there three nights, two full days, without moving the truck at all. The camping spot is in a dry gully just off the track. Those tracks are mining roads that are no longer used except by off-road enthusiasts, motorcycles and 4x4s, and then only a few of them on weekends. Some people go to mountain retreats, yoga retreats, Zen retreats, etc. But to me leaving one society to go in another does not seems as beneficial as really being alone for a while. For two days I could not talk to anyone. I did not even bring a book to read. The goal was to see what it feels like to really be alone for a few days. I like to go alone explore the desert and mountains, so this wasn’t entirely new for me. But usually I drive during the day, so I keep myself busy that way. This time staying in one spot meant that I had no “distractions” from my self-imposed solitude. I did go hiking for about two hours each morning, and again in the late afternoon for shorter hikes. The first day I kept myself busy with the truck, some minor things I took the opportunity to do. That passed some time. But by the second afternoon I ran out of things “to do”. And then I felt a change in me. With nothing to do I sat on a rock and sort of meditated, because it felt like the only option left at the moment. What I realized is that there is nothing “to do”. The universe is already done and happens without any need for human intervention. The sun rises in the morning, plants grow, animals go about, rocks are where they belong. At night the stars come out, all by themselves, after the sun has disappeared, never before. I had the sense that for us humans really there isn’t anything to do. The universe and life happen. All we can do is in fact disturb the balance. All the things we feel we need to do, we have to do, we should do, are purely human activities, not at all necessary for the proper functioning of the planet and the universe. I will not get deeper into the subject but this sort of realizations are useful in normal life. They certainly bring at least a temporary peace to the mind, a certain distance from the craziness of modern life.

To answer the question in the title of this post, if “Buddhism emphasizes physical and spiritual discipline as a means of liberation from the physical world” then the truck definitely allows me to practice physical and spiritual discipline in order to separate myself, at least temporarily, from the physical world. It allows me to go spend as much time as I need in remote places, in solitude, breathing fresh air, and, even though I do not consider myself a Buddhist, I like reflecting on what life means. And when I leave, no trace remains of my passage.

In the photo below my campsite is visible from this nearby mountain-top. The truck is the white dot inside the yellow circle near the middle. Thank you for reading this post!

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Wild camp outside Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

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