LETTERS ON BUDDHISM.
Appeared in Sri Lankan News Papers - PAGE 2
LETTERS INDEX Page-2
L2.01 Dhamma Gathas in Sinhala - The Pali language was the language of the people of Magadha Desa where ...L2.02 Sinhala Buddhists - Ven. Soma Thera preaches the Dhamma in countries other than Sri Lanka...
L2.03 Why slate Ven. Soma Thera? - Ven. Soma, a true patriot and lover of our motherland and indigenous population...L2.04 Empirical knowledge and god - Those who fill newspaper columns arguing that god exists or does not exist...
L2.05 Dhamma gathas in Sinhala for Sinhales - The Dhamma (Doctrine of Deliverance) was preached by the Buddha...L2.06 Rev Soma Thera and the TV discussions - We who live in a democratic country are free to discuss...
L2.07 Vesak - a United Nations Special Day - At the 1998 International Buddhist Conference...L2.08 Caste in the Sangha - Kamalika Pieris’s current series on Buddhism has referred twice to caste restrictions...
L2.09 Einstein Christian or Buddhist? - The eminent scientist Einstein has himself stated...
L2.10 Amoeba and rebirth - What was stated was that the original Amoeba on maturity divides into two...
L2.11 Population explosion and rebirth - The amoeba is capble of rebirth in the Karmic sense...
L2.12 The Karma of an Amoeba - The Free-Thinker from Avissawella has misdirected himself...
L2.13 The myth of humane slaughter - The animal’s head is placed in a restrainer box...
L2.14 Nirvana behind bars - The International News Week Magazine of September 18 carried...
L2.15 Our Urumaya - The one word 'Urumaya' (inheritance, heritage)...
L2.16 Jesus mysteries, Buddha mysteries - a reply - Article on the "Jesus Mysteries, Buddha Mysteries"...L2.17 Buddhism - a reply to critics - Buddhism and the Sangha have been criticised...
L2.18 Vegetarians - say no to cheese - 1 - Cheese is a dairy product...L2.19 Vegetarians - say no to cheese - 2 - he has categorically proved that the...
L2.20 Enjoy vegetarian cheese - The chief enzyme used...L2.21 Is belief in god inconsistent with Buddhism? - It is true that Buddhism originated in India...
L2.22 Establishment of the Siam Nikaya - Kamalika Pieris replies to V. R. De. SilvaL2.23 Vegetarianism - Most Hindus administer Buddhist’ first precept Panathipatha (killing of animals) well rather than...
L2.24 A question of health or compassion - With reference to, "The act of killing and the act of eating ...L2.25 Religious conversion - True and compassionate "conversion" is based on the premise that only "my religion"...
L2.26 Belief in God and the EMV virus - the issue of ordered complexity in the Universe...L2.27 Dhamma Gathas in Sinhala - I forward herewith my observations on the topic discussed...
L2.28 Amoeba and re-birth - Amoeba is a minute Uni-Cellular Organism representing the lowest form...L2.29 Amoebae and rebirth - A reply - Had a child posed the question whether the life cycle...
L2.30 The designing of the Buddhist Flag - History leading to the declaration of Vesak holiday traced...
Dhamma Gathas in Sinhala L2.01
Ref. letter under captioned 'Dhamma Gatha in Sinhala' by Hettige (DN of 8/10/99) I offer few comments.
The Pali language was the language of the people of Magadha Desa where the Buddha was born. It is one of the most beautiful languages of the world. It is called a musical langauge, Dr. G. P. Malalasekera who was proficient in so many languages too expressed the same opinion and confirmed the view.
The Five Precepts, Eight Precepts, Jayamangala Gatha and Pirith recitations, Bodhi Pooja, Vihara Vehera worship etc are in Pali and its music sound has a real soothing effect on the mind. See ho beautiful the Pirith, Jayamangala Gathas etc are. Even though you hear them daily you never get tired of listening to them because of the wonderful music of its tunes.
It is told that these Gathas and so forth are recited in Pali to get the full effect of efficacy and benevolence as they are composed with the effect of the sound having benevolent effects. It is this sound effect of its numerous words, syllables etc that brings benevolent effects. We even name our children consulting astrologers for the construction and sound effects to bring benevolent effects.
The Christians too have copied these sweet tunes of like of Jayamangala Gathas. The Buddhist nations like Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, China, Mongolia etc also recite in the original Pali all these Gathas etc.
The Koran is recited in Arabic in whichever country Islam is practised. Professor Rydes Davis, Mrs. Davis and Turner and after scholars have transcripted the all important Buddhist tripitaka to English with diacritical marks to have them in the original Pali to get the benefit of the sound. Tripitaka is now available in Sinhala as all other buddhist books.
Any Buddhist fully well understand the meaning of these Gathas etc which they recite almost daily.
When Bana is preached the monks utter the Pali version first and explain in detail the bana is Sinhala. Hence there is absolutely no difficulty in apprehending the Dhamma by the Sinhala people.
The Hindus use Sanskrit the original language of the Vedas in their stanzas.
Hence there is no necessity at all to substitute Sinhala for Gathas etc which are in original Pali, at this stage. It has continued for the last 2543 yrs. and let it not be disturbed for the next 2457 yrs.
I wish an erudite Buddhist monk would express further opinion on this for the benefit of all and clear all doubts.
V. K. B. RAMANAYAKE - Colombo 3
Daily News,16 Oct 99
Sinhala Buddhists L2.02
I am a strong admirer of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera. In respect of the above reference to "Sinhala Buddhists" I fully agree with Mr.. Edirisinghe.
Ven. Soma Thera preaches the Dhamma in countries other than Sri Lanka too. He does not convert them or coerce them to become Buddhists in any way. But, if one of those foreign people, on their own free will, accepts the teachings of Lord Buddha and becomes a Buddhist, where does he stand, according to this nomenclature. He is not a Sinhala. According to this nomenclature, he cannot be a Buddhist. Because there are only Sinhala Buddhists and no Australian Buddhists, German Buddhists etc.
Similarly there are also Sinhala Catholics, Sinhala Christians, Anglicans, Baptists or for that matter Sinhala Hindus too. Therefore, I agree with Mr. EMGE that this nomenclature needs a little change, which definitely would bring about better inter religious understanding. I do not take offence, but I strongly feel that this nomenclature has to change and change fast to bring about greater religious harmony and better understanding.
I am a Sinhala Catholic, married to a Sinhala Buddhist. I respect Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera very much. He is a rare celebrity that has been bestowed upon Sri Lanka. He has a vision and a greater mission. And above all he has a very strong backbone, to call a spade a spade.
Let us all rally round him, with a national identity in this tremendous task of saving our nation from the "dowries" that we have been bestowed upon from the west, viz alcohol, drugs, tobacco and the next to nothing attires of the female folk, on which Thera thrashes out vehemently.
Dr. Jupiter Moonemalle - Kurunegala
Daily News, 16 Oct 99
..Why slate Ven. Soma Thera? L2.03
I refer to Mr. Madura Manage’s letter in the Sunday newspaper of 19th instant and would wish to express my dissatisfaction for the most unfair and unbecoming criticism of Ven. Soma Thera, that I suppose is press freedom. Ven. Soma, a true patriot and lover of our motherland and indigenous population, has times without number exposed the sinister and scheming efforts of the microscopic minorities.
He has conducted discussions with great decorum and dignity. His main grouse was that Digawapi Temple lands are being colonised by Ashraff Minister. He admits many points but tries to wriggle out of the situation by making the British colonists a scape-goat. About Muslims he said the plain truth that millions of goats and lambs are being slaughtered after their prayers. The last Haj Festival took a heavy toll of four lakhs of animals. What is incorrect in pin-pointing about a universal truth?
Priests erudite like Ven. Soma Sri Sobhitha, late Gnanaseeha, Labuduwe Siri Dhamma, Wariyapola Sri Sumangala are some of the giants, true patriots who worked hard with their hearts and souls for our nation. So is Ven. Madihe Pagnaseeha and the late Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa.
These and the high priests, the Ven. Maha Nayake Theras were the custodians of Buddhism and protectors of the integrity and sovereignty of the country. Now fifty four innocent civilians in a Sinhalese village have been brutally massacred, men, women and little children. Mr. Manage, why not protest and organise a mammoth rally &emdash; a peace march to appeal for peace and to halt the barbaric and monstrous massacres? It is the valiant and brave Buddhists monks who come forward fearlessly to face any national crisis.
Carl Nanayakkara - Kalutara
The Island, 16 Oct 99
..Empirical knowledge and god L2.04
Professor Carlo Fonseka has written an elegant article recently explaining lucidly the fundamentals of empirical knowledge which is the basis of science. Those who fill newspaper columns arguing that god exists or does not exist, should read it and understand the limitations of proof. The professor says "no matter how many times a generalisation is ‘verified’ it does not thereby logically acquire universal validity. Therefore a scientific law is not conclusively verifiable. But it is possible to prove it false. Many scientific propositions and theories of the earlier centuries have been modified or rejected outright. Physics and Chemistry are sciences based upon statistical laws concerning the behaviour of particles, electrons, atoms and molecules.
The other method of proof; deductive logic is also flawed because it is based on acceptance of a premise from which the conclusion follows. You can’t assert the premise and deny the conclusion without contradicting oneself. So deduction can’t reveal anything not originally built in.
Many people believe it is fundamentally reasonable to believe in god. As the professor says ‘it is epistemologically legitimate to accept a proposition for the purpose of verifying its truth’ provided it is accepted as tentative until verification in the sense of being falsified. So those who ask for proof of god’s existence often don’t appreciate the nature and limitations of any proof.
When looking at the universe what is most striking is the order in it. Many physical bodies observe laws which have been discovered by scientists. The existence of a rational being perhaps explains it better than the alternative that they are due to chance. This is the rational basis for belief in god which many great scientists subscribed to. Copernicus, Kepeler, Galileo, Newton, Leibnitz did not merely believe in god.... their incentive in working at all was a desire to know god."
Several who have written about the history of science say that science developed only in the west because of the belief in god. Of course the existence of god cannot be proved conclusively. But there is nothing in the universe for which absolute conclusive proof is possible. Science can’t give a valid proof that the Sun will rise tomorrow. But nor can any disproof of the existence of god possible.
What about the testimony of other people. This is the issue that professor analyses in examining the Kalama Sutta, ‘One should not accept the statements of anyone as true on the mere ground of authority". But a provisional acceptance is made after ensuring the honesty, unbiased nature and intelligence of the person from whom such a statement is accepted.
Many holy people, not only Christians but Hindus, Muslims and other mystics have talked of their experience with god. Belief in god and communion with him seems to have transformed their lives. Should we be guided by the belief in god that these men have testified to. Can a mere elusion bring about such a change in their lives. Is prayer mere wish fulfilment. Or is there something outside the universe which is interacting with the believers and bringing about changes in their lives.
R. M. B. Senanayake
The Island, 16 Oct 99
..Dhamma gathas in Sinhala for Sinhales L2.05
The far sighted Samma Sambuddha Buddha, Gotama, established the Buddha Sasana in order to ensure that the Mind Program ‘Dhamma’ would endure for a full 5000 years in this World by creating a Human Computer Network which he called the order of the Sangha, who were duty bound to memorize every detail of the Dhamma and pass it on to the next generation network of the Maha Sangha, and so on, in a Language the common people could fully understand.
The Dhamma (Doctrine of Deliverance) was preached by the Buddha for the benefit of all humanity without any Discrimination of Language Religion, Race, Caste, Colour, Status or Wealth. The only stipulated requirement was an Unbiased & Unclouded Intellect. His request to all beings was ‘Ehipassiko’ come & see with your own mind ‘eye’ as there are no secrets in the Dhamma. The point made here is can the Sinhalese people, who do not understand Pali language, ever hope to see the Dhamma with their own mind ‘eye’ if it is presented in the Pali Language by the Sangha at all religious ceremonies. Does this not defeat the very purpose for which the Buddha created the Sasana, as this contravenes some of the basic requirements of the Noble Eightfold Path - RIGHT UNDERSTANDING & RIGHT MINDFULNESS. THEREFORE WHAT IS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION? This apparently insignificant yet ingeniously effective stalemating of the Dhamma has caused the Irreversible Dhamma Chakra tobe an elusive dream for majority of its followers all over the world, since the seemingly innocent repetition of the Pali Gathas without fully comprehending their exact meaning is an unmindful action which causes irreparable damage and impedes a person’s hopes of ever achieving Nibbana during this Buddha Sasana unless he learns Pali.
The Sinhala monks should not find any difficulty in reciting the daily religious Gatha recitations in Sinhala as all the stanzas illustrating the Virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha as well as those for Buddha Puja, Merit Transference, Five Precepts, Bodhi Puja & Jayamangala Gathas etc. are available in Sinhala. The Mindful recitation of these Gathas in Sinhala will ensure clear registration of the exact meaning of what the Buddha wanted them to know and keep in their minds every moment of their lives, even among the children. Also the minds of people reciting these Gathas in Sinhala will not wander away from the subject as is usual when you repeat them without understanding them in the Pali language.
It must be emphasized that less than 2% of the present day followers of the Buddha Dhamma in Sri Lanka understand the Pali language. Thus in order to reap the benefits of our Dhamma Heritage it is the sacred duty of all Sinhala Dayakayas, who realize the grave consequences of this illogical practice to request the members of Sangha resident in the Temples to recite these Gathas in Sinhala at all religious ceremonies so as to be assured that they and their future generations could hope for the attainment of Nibbana during this Buddha Sasana itself. The DHAMMA VIVARANA MOVEMENT is committed to ensure the Mindful Practice of the Buddha Dhamma without Language Discrimination in order to ensure the very continuance of the Buddha Sasana in this World for the next 2457 years as foreseen by the Buddha.
Piyasiri M. L. Hettige (Founder DHAMMA VIVARANA MOVEMENT)
The Island, 14 Oct 99
..Rev. Soma Thera and the TV discussions L2.06
We who live in a democratic country are free to discuss or speak and to express our views and opinion on any matter - religion, politics, sports, education, economy etc etc but should be careful in doing so. Any person who does not agree with such views do have a equal right to express their views etc. This has been the practice where no one has to get unduly excited about.
So it is quite natural that people express their opinion and views re what Rev. Soma Thera speaks over the TV discussions. Most of these replies are to questions put to him. Rev Soma Thera is one individual with much experience as well as knowledge about other religions as well. He is well versed in astrology which he had studied for quite some time. I have still to hear Rev Soma making accusations against other religions.
It is a fact that there are persons who do get about converting others to Christianity and I have had the good luck of several visits from them where discussions have been held for hours and even purchased their religious books etc. We should not get unduly excited about their visits or to what they say, as they state their views. When they tell me that Jesus Christ does not have any other Church to represent Him other than their Church I have openly discussed religion with them without getting excited about what they say, but having discussed details, I do express my views and opinion - which certainly does not agree with their views on many areas.
I have seen an old notice or a board which states that - 'God is coming'. But for over 50 years, nothing has happened. I do not get excited about such statements. Others do state that God created this world - full of animals, reptiles who are dangerous or poisonous, which belief I do not share or agree with? Some are of the view that after death, we go direct to Heaven. Should this be so?
JEOFFREY GUNASEKERA - Colombo 5
Daily News, 14 Oct 99
..Vesak - a United Nations Special Day L2.07
At the 1998 International Buddhist Conference held in Sri Lanka to commemorate Sri Lanka's 50th Anniversary of Independence sixteen resolutions were passed, the first of these was - 'Seek the declaration of Vesak Full Moon day as a Holiday by the United Nations.'
The followers of Buddha Dhamma in Sri Lanka and throughout the world were greatly relieved to find that all their deliberations were not in vain when we were made to understand that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken the most decisive step in order to implement the first of the 1998 Buddhist Conference Resolution. Thus the Buddhists worldwide will be grateful to the Government and its Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for seeking the recognition of the world community to declare Vesak Day as a special day to be observed by the United Nations, during his distinguished address to the UN General Assembly, on the historic day of 23rd September 1999. This great step forward is in accordance with fulfilment of Buddha's vision that the Buddha Sasana will endure on this planet for a full 5000 years in order to preserve the Dhamma for the seekers of truth and deliverance from sansara.
It is hoped that the Sri Lanka Government and the Ministry of Buddha Sasana will try their utmost to implement the remaining resolutions too, with the support of the Buddhist activists worldwide, as these are very valuable resolutions and their implementations would be most beneficial and inspirational for the cause of world peace and human development. Efforts should be made by leading Buddhist organisations and the international network of practising Buddhists to work together with the Government to affect their implementations during the next millennium. The Dhamma Vivarana Movement which is committed to ensure the mindful practice of the Buddha Dhamma without any discrimination of language, religion, creed, colour, status or wealth, wishes to place on record our appreciation of the Government's action and hope that other Buddhist organisations would also record their appreciation of the Foreign Minister's efforts which are praiseworthy.
Kumara Semage- Executive Coordinator, Dhammma Vivarana Movement.
Daily News, 12 Oct 99
..Caste in the Sangha – a reply to Kamalika Pieris L2.08
Kamalika Pieris’s current series on Buddhism has referred twice to caste restrictions in the Sri Lankan Sangha (The Island 01/09/99 and 29/09/99). In the first article she says "The Buddhist sangha consisted exclusively of Govigama monks". This is a totally misleading statement. The practice of restricting higher ordination only to the Govi caste is quite recent and is attributed to the year 1764. It has no further antiquity. Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747 - 1782), the king who is said to have issued the royal decree, was a Hindu South Indian king with limited knowledge of local customs. The Mandaram-pura Puvata, which narrates the above says that many senior monks opposed it as it was contrary to the teachings of the Buddha. Thirty two senior monks had been banished to Jaffna for protesting against this move. The so called royal decree has however never been produced for public examination. However the Siyam Nikaya alone carries on this practice todate, evidently with official sanction.
The caste monopoly so established in 1764 was short lived. During the next few decades Salagama, Durava and Karava monks proceeded to Burma and obtained the higher ordination. By 1810 all castes had regained the higher ordination.
Ms. Pieris immediately follows her above statement with pre-1764 quotations from the Dambadeni Katikavata of the 13th century and Knox and Queyroz of the 17th century which state that Buddhist monks had to be of noble birth. Thereby, she gives the impression that the Govi caste continuously monopolized the Sangha from the mediaeval period onwards and that it was considered a noble caste. However, all local sources without exception and specially those of the mediaeval period, the Pujavaliya, Polonnaruwa inscriptions, Ummagga Jataka etc. show that the Govi caste definitely did not occupy such a position in our culture.
Ms Pieris also says that the Karava, Durava and Salagama castes experienced a rise in numbers, wealth and power during the British period. The increase in numbers is indeed extraordinary and a novel revelation. Possibly Ms. Pieris knows of some fertility ceremonies, selectively performed by the British on these three castes and almost all castes, including the Govigama, Batgama and Vahumpura castes benefited enormously by these opportunities. Saying that the Karava, Durava and Salagama alone rose during this period is the insidious and currently popular method of suggesting that these three castes were previously low in status.
Ms. Pieris appears to have unquestioningly and indiscriminately repeated such an "authority". Had Ms. Pieris researched the subject on her own by examining original sources, rather than basing her articles totally on unreliable secondary material, the above errors probably could have been avoided.
V. R. de Silva - Kotte
The Island, 11 Oct 99
Einstein Christian or Buddhist? L2.09
In his letter Island 24th July 2000, Asoka Devendra of Maharagama states "The eminent scientist Einstein has himself stated that the only doctrine he can accept is the Buddha Dhamma". However has not stated when and where Einstein made this acceptance. I trust Mr. Devendra would make good this shortcoming. It should be noted that the Encyclopedia Britannicaloa 1971 Edition in the Chapter on Einstein inter alia states "He once summed up his general outlook by saying ‘God is subtle but he is not malicious"’
Does not this show that Einstein accepted God?
Amoeba and rebirth L2.10
This is a reply to the letter written by Mr. Asoka Devendra of Maharagama on the above title (The Island July 24 )
Mr. Devendra has completely misunderstood my letter. May I also state that he too, is free to write under a pen name. What was stated was that the original Amoeba on maturity divides into two, to produce two new Amoebae to lead a new life.
If we were to apply this to human beings, it would be like Mr. Asoka Devendra splitting into two and producing two identical Asoka Devendras to lead a new life. These two will not have anything of a dead person in them. I‘m quite aware that human beings produce only human beings.
Could I very clearly state that newly produced human beings are a product of the cells of the two parents. Here too, the newly produced baby has everything that life needs, contributed 100 per cent by the two parents only. I fail to see how a dead man contributes anything to the newly produced baby.
In other words, all births are new births and not re-births. In short, man is born again long before he dies. He is never reborn after death.
He also mentions at the Dhamma does not refer to a process of re-birth, but to a process of re-becoming. If so why has he got involved in a letter dealing with re-birth.
Re-birth is a mere concept. It has never been proved. I’ll be thankful to Mr. Devendra if he could give step by step all details of what happens to a dead man till he is re-born again.
Free thinker, Avissawella
The Island - 3 Aug 00
Population explosion and rebirth L2.11
There has been recently, a number of letters in ‘The Island’ relating to the question whether the amoeba is capable of rebirth in the Karmic sense. The answer was in the negative as the amoeba divides itself, giving rise to new, identical amoebae. Both start on a new life and when they mature, they repeat this same process of multiplying. And so the process goes on and this creature has no chance of getting on to another plane of existence and qualifying finally to enter the human realm.
I wish to bring to the notice of your readers another problematic situation concerning rebirth. From the time European history began in the sixth century up to the year 1800 - that is, through the course of twelve centuries, the European population was fairly static, around 180 million inhabitants. from 1800 to 1914 - in a little more than a century - the population of Europe mounted from 180 to 460 millions! In three generations it produced a gigantic mass of humanity.
A number of questions propose themselves could it be that there was a movement of beings from the animal and insect worlds into the human realm which would explain this sudden influx? But why at this particular point of time? For twelve hundred years the population of Europe was fairly stable and then within three generations all the statisticians were confounded.
How and why this happened needs explanation, if it is within the realm of possibility to find rational answers to such questions.
N. De Silva, Welisara
The Island - 8 Aug 00
The Karma of an Amoeba L2.12
The Free-Thinker from Avissawella has misdirected himself in two ways - (I) On the karmic status of a micro-organism. (II) On the nature of the re-linking process that is vulgarly called rebirth. birth. Let us take up the first issue - on the status of an asexually reproducing micro-organism’ (such as the Amoeba) vis-a-vis the Buddhist doctrine of Karmic Catenation.
There is the prior assumption (on the part of the skeptical Free-Thinker) that we are dealing here with ‘sentient beings’ - defined in Buddhism as the temporal flux of the Five Aggregates. There is no warrant for such an assumption since a key ingredient is lacking in the likes of amoeba- ‘consciousness’ or reflexive awareness (Vinnana) It would be foolhardy indeed to suppose that an amoeba or Paramecium is equipped with this high-level property of complex nervous systems. The same goes for a Sea Urchin or a Green Beetle. To suppose that these humble creatures have pangs of conscience and are caught up in an inexorable karmic succession is an anthropomorphism that has no foundation in authentic Buddhist thinking. Nobody talks of a California Redwood Tree as a sentient being though it is an enormously complex living system. It is excluded because it lacks the architecture of the Five Aggregates.
The issue of asexual multiplication is secondary. When monozygotic Twins or Triplets are delivered by a mammalian parent, there is covert asexual reproduction (polyembryony) and the question of the fissioning’ of karmic lines arises in an acute form. There is no need to drag in the ‘akarmic’ microfauna to settle this matter. As pointed out by the gentleman from Maharagama, the common opinion of non-Buddhists that karmic succession involves a reincarnation of some enduring entity of the deceased (metempsychosis) is taken over from the Folk-Beliefs of the Buddhist masses. It is not part of the Abidharma - where the key issue is that of linkage or catenation of the developing ‘Aggregates’ that are commonly identified as ‘persons’. When a ‘person’ dies here is no hasty exit of a soul or replica to continue business in another body. The connection with the karmic successor is merely an ‘informational’ congruence that sets in sympathy the new-born with a defined karmic past. What Buddhists call the ‘re-linking consciousness’ (pattisandhi-vinnana) is no more than an informational signal that puts the conspectus (fertilized egg) in a special relationship with a deceased predecessor. It does not override the biological link between the new-born and its parents. It follows from this brief review that there is no Law of Conservation of Karmic Lines as Buddhists do not believe in a Book-Keeping God Upstairs that zealously checks out the fate of each line for the degree of infringement of the rules of good behaviour. Lines can split (as in identical twins) or be extinguished when the likeness of a Prabhakaran is ‘reborn’ as a Reticulated Python.
Let me hasten to add that these are my personal views and are at variance with the doctrinal interpretations heard often on Radio and TV. A few words on Einstein and Buddhism. This great scholar was an open admirer of Buddhism though it would be wrong to call him a Buddhist. He found the Judaeo-Christian conception of a personal jealous god an abomination and rejected petitionary prayer as a demeaning and pointless exercise. However, he was a Deist - he believed in a Divine Intelligence that had links with the human mind - especially the mind of the mathematician. In this respect he was close to other great thinkers in the European tradition such as Spinoza and Voltaire. Those who have internet access can view the Einstein Home Page or the Einstein Archive to read all that he has said on these subjects.
R. Chandrasoma, Colombo
The Island -10 Aug 00
The myth of humane slaughter L2.13
The animal’s head is placed in a restrainer box. The bull gets the smell of death from those that went before him and bellows and tugs to get himself free. No freedom comes but instead a compressed-air gun, fires a bolt of steel into its head. Often the bolt does not stun outright but causes excruciating pain and horrible injuries. With eyes rolling and screaming in pain he is shot again and again until a final bolt stuns him. Larry Gallagher a writer who spent a month working in a slaughterhouse writes. "Stunned is the appropriate word to describe the expression on the animal’s face: eyes and mouth frozen open, tongue sticking out, teeth biting into tongue - an expression which, were it human, would be asking ‘How could it all come to this?’ The pathos of that look catches me by surprise. I thought that a few weeks of gut cutting had numbed my feelings, but I still have to bite down on my tongue to keep the tears from welling." Nobody asks the bull whether he feels pain in that stunned state; nobody really cares when he is moved to the man with the knife called the sticker, who slits his throat. Eyes still rolling, stunned and denied even the temporary relief of screaming when in pain he bleeds profusely from the gaping wound in his throat until several minutes have passed and thirty pounds of blood has poured out of his throat. Then he dies.
The stripping of the skin, the gutting and the cutting of the flesh with the aid of conveyer belts happens very quickly thereafter, as this is a modem slaughterhouse a boon to the meat industry. Many humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka today agitate for humane slaughter methods in the mistaken belief that the process by which an animal is put to death in a modern slaughterhouse is more humane than those that are used today in this country. They forget that modernization and mechanization is entirely for the purpose of the growth of the meat and leather industry and not because of any humanitarian considerations or for alleviating the pain and comment of the animal that has to die. If they kill twenty animals a day in one of our slaughterhouses today, under a modern system, in an hour 400 cattle and a 1,000 pigs will undergo the agonizing torture of the restrainer box, the captive bolt, and the sticker’s knife. In India the introduction of mechanized slaughter caused untold agony for animals due to the increased demand that these slaughterhouses created. Even India’s age old traditions were laid aside in the hunger for money, and Shiva’s sacred cows that had been protected from ancient times were transported and marched over hundreds of miles to modern city based slaughterhouses. Those animals reluctant to move due to starvation thirst and fatigue were prodded and induced to march by the use of cruel tortures such as their tails being broken and chili powder being rubbed into their eyes. Others unable to move because of broken legs as a result of being pushed out of lorries and those that are near death were left to die in the blazing heat of the Indian sun. Despite international indignation and protests by humane organizations, and despite the many films and articles depicting this horror, the cruelty goes on as a result of the increased demand created by mechanized slaughter and the hunger for the flesh of living things.
The horrors of a mechanized slaughterhouse do not end with the animals. They have found that slaughterhouse workers have higher rates of job related injuries than any other profession. Slaughterhouse workers in other countries wear protective equipment such as forearm guards, steel aprons and metal gloves, but even all this equipment offers inadequate protection on the rushing slaughterhouse lines. In a country like Sri Lanka where people are often seen doing hazardous jobs with little or no protection it is reasonable to believe that job related injuries in a mechanized slaughterhouse if there were one, would be high. Amputated fingers and severed hands and arms are common injuries in developed countries that have mechanized slaughterhouses. In this country that has long been plagued by a fierce civil conflict and terrorism people are gradually reaching the saturation point of seeing broken bodies and severed limbs. Surely we can do without investing in another Chamber of Horrors for both humans and animals.
The Island - 22 Sep 00
Nirvana behind bars L2.14
The International News Week Magazine of September 18 carried the above captioned story authored by Sudip - Mazumdar in relation to a successful experimentation programme of meditation conducted at Tihar Jail - a major prison house in India. According to Mr. Mazumdar some of the hardened convicts who participated in regular meditation exercises conducted by acknowledged meditation masters had shown a marked improvement and reformed demeanour in their physical and mental behavioural patterns much to the appreciation of their officials.
In advanced countries, their prisons are generally known as Penitentiaries where the prisoners are treated in such a manner as to turn them out to be tractable human beings. In contrast, the space scope and trained staff - availability in our prisons leave much to be desired. However, the innovative and much thought out meditation exercises introduced in the aforesaid Indian prison - prison house deserve approbation as exemplary reformative methods. Mr. Mazumdar has dealt with the steps taken to formulate a regular series of meditation commencing with its elementary stages to advanced Vipassana meditation forms. He has quoted examples of some of the criminally minded convicts who had by regular and committed meditation exercises reformed themselves to be normal human beings sans violence and vindictiveness. Of course, those who had not wilfully cultivated the meditation - practices could not achieve the desired result.
Our own prison welfare authorities too could emulate the good example set by the Indian authorities to conscientiously carry out such meditation programmes at least in the major prison houses and hope for the best in their endeavours.
The term used to identify the News Week story as "Nirvana" is a misnormer. "Regeneration of peaceful conduct behind bars" - or some such suitable epithet could have been used to name the story. By Nirvana what scholars specify is a lofty state of total &emdash; total emancipation from all mental and physical defilements of the human entity where pristine purity of existence is envisaged or as some others believe, it could be a state of non existence of the generally known physical qualities.
Nirvana cannot be achieved behind bars in restricted cells without freedom for indepth - religious realisation. What has been achieved, in this context is the palpable softening of - an earlier violent conduct and the regeneration of a tractable disposition in the behaviour of some of the prison inmates - by means of limited meditation practices.
R. M. A. B. Dassanayake, Matale
The Island - 2 Oct 00
Our Urumaya L2.15
The one word 'Urumaya' (inheritance, heritage) has often fascinated me. I as a follower of Jesus Christ, would claim my inheritance spoken of by the writers of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let me give one such quotation.
"Giving thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the inheritance of the Saints in Light. "
I know experientially the value of this claim. The two words Sihala Urumaya when I first encountered as a name of a political party, my reactions were of a mixed one. Urumaya - a word that had a sacred connotation for me, to be now associated with the muck that is party politics in Sri Lanka was negatively speaking a sacrilege, but the potential for blessing was the positive one that surfaced within me. "Blessing upon blessing" is the Urumaya of this country of over well nigh 2,500 years that should be claimed and not allowed to lie fallow and disappear from the face of this lovely isle.
The word "Sihala" conjured up images of a people whose country bore the name Sinhale once upon a time (not of a particular race). Naturally Urumaya seen in this context would mean the inheritance of all its people, whatever ethnic group they belonged to. However, the image of a people who could boast of a way of life that can be a challenge to any, in any part of the world, appeared stark and clear. Let me share with you an experience of mine.
"I remember the day as a young seminarian in a small group, in the early fifties, walking into a Buddhist village, exhausted after having trekked close on 15 - 2O miles on a hilly terrain. Our request was only for a little water to drink, we were served with the most refreshing king-coconuts. One of my pals, before we parted, offered the poor villager a 'santhosam'. The mildly expressed riposte hit me right on my eyes. A blinding, but an enlightening shot. Let me repeat what he said, in his own words.
"You are our guest, how can we accept this"
It was a death-resurrection experience for me. Buddhism did it. And today! Yes today, it is still valid in spite of all the 'isms' we have and are importing !
I am a Catholic priest. I am happy to be one. I like to say, 'give Buddhism a chance' in this country once again. When I say Buddhism, I mean the liberative core experience shared by the Buddha and not the 'religion' with all the enslaving accretions that selfish man had attached to it."
Buddhism was given a chance in this small island, once upon a time. An experience that me all can be proud of. A lot of it.
- Respect for life, even for the insignificant ant.
- Respect for elders
- Worship of parents
- Simple life style (Alpeichathavaya)
- Tolerance of other ethnic groups and religions
- Seemingly 'patriarchal' but the mother was the 'Buddha' of the home
- Communal life, a challenge to the 'individualism' of today
- And more, and more and more" (1st January 1998 - Daily News)
It was a way of life, for the most part nurtured by (call it aspiration, a wish, a hope, an expectation or blessing).
It was a way of life that was characterised by the four Brahma Viharas - Maithreya, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha.
It was a way of life that was primarily communal, though for economic reasons grouped into what currently carries the tag - caste. It was community life that brought people together in an environment for mutual help, support and cultivation of say, the pancha seela. The caste system of this Urumaya I take it, was not that oppressive or hugely belittling of the supposed to be low castes. Though such like negative aspects did prevail, because of the ordering of its economic and administrative life, but as an overall way of life, that revolved round the Dagoba, the pansala and the Wewa, it did provide a life that was free from want. Food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, were taken care of, while the life of the people was in perfect harmony with the environment according to the locality they lived in. What an Urumaya this, that could be claimed, promoted and made relevant to meet the needs of our people today in the 2000 millennium! It is my contention that a people stuffed into a political and economic system that makes the poor poorer and rich richer and makes close upon 30% live on the verge of destitution, could be liberated by having recourse to this 'Urumaya'. We are getting more and more lost in the glitter of the various types of ideologies that have been ruinously forced upon us. I find myself often amused when I watch the programmes in the electronic media where our great leaders peddle their ideologies to the benefit of none, but themselves or their kith and kin, henchmen and party loyalists. Heretofore I maintain that this Urumaya has had its inspiration from the Buddha Dhamma. I want to posit with all the conviction that I could muster, that I am indeed proud of being an inheritor. I wish that the people of this country whatever race, ethnic group or religious persuasion, claim it as theirs and not of a particular race or group. May this Urumaya be further enriched by the inheritance that may be very very specific to any ethnic group. Then, we have a country and people so blessed that they will not be clamouring for and murdering one another for 'Rights' but for the good life for all.
[ Note: Political comments made by the writer were deleted. -Web Master ]
We repeat to 'Turn around to the Dhamma' is our call, however difficult or foolish the whole enterprise may sound or appear to be. The time, the place, the way we shall deem opportune and proper after prayer and a communal discernment process.
May I, in my fondness for paradoxes, hold both idealism and realism in both my hands together and call on for the establishment of a few Dharmic people, Spiriual Men of stature preferably lay, drawn from the four great Dhamma of Sri Lanka, to be an indispensable advisory council to political parties and politicians.
To be The Dharma Dveepaya is our Urumaya.
by Fr. Siri Oscar Abayaratne
The Island - 10 Dec 00
Jesus mysteries, Buddha mysteries - a reply L2.16
I refer to Mr. Jude Grey's article on the "Jesus Mysteries, Buddha Mysteries" appearing as a 'Point of View' in The Island of November. In particular he has seen to make fun of various events in the Buddha's life. Particularly, he seems to want to belittle the Buddha by magnifying a few events in a long, illustrious life while declaiming Jesus Christ as a very ordinary person, despite a life filled with miracles from beginning to end. I have not followed the original debate but I would like to respond to Mr. Grey's scorn filled remarks at the end.
First of all, Mr. Grey makes fun of the birth of Prince Siddhartha. If Mr. Grey would really like to get technical, the Buddha cannot be born anymore. It is the Bodhisattva who was born as Prince Siddhartha. His first words were, to refresh Mr. Jude Grey's memory were:
"Aggo hammasmi lokassa, Jetto hammasmi lokassa, Setto hammasmi lokassa
Ayamanthi ma jathi natthi thani, punabbhavo"
The events described have at times been argued as being exultation, at other times explained by saying that he was carrying over the knowledge and consciousness of all his previous births. Whatever the events, Prince Siddhartha was born in a very human manner. If Mr. Grey would like to quibble about miraculous births, I don't believe we need go further than the immaculate conception. Now that really was miraculous.
Secondly, if the angels heralded the birth of Christ who was the Son of a God in perpetual struggle with the almighty demon himself, Satan, why could not the Buddha have preached sermons to assemblies of gods and demons? If their existence is not miraculous in the time of Christ, why should it be any less in the time of the Buddha, several hundred years earlier?
The third and fourth events were not miracles. They were the results of compassion, a trait available to all human beings. The elephant and Angulimala were both calmed by the serene aura of the Buddha. He did not exude hate or disgust. Indeed, he showed much more compassion to a psychopathic killer than Jesus Christ showed to the greedy money lenders, who I believe, were chased out with a whip.
Fifthly, Mr. Grey has problems with the Buddha's travel through the air without external means of propulsion. Frankly, I have the same problem with Jesus Christ's walk on water. Whatever was powering him must have been what was powering the Buddha. And surely, Mr. Grey can understand that there was no need for air traffic control at that time several hundred years before Christ. There really was not that much aerial traffic.
On the last point, again, the Buddha was not involved in the "miracle", the Naga King chose of his own accord to pay respect to a great man. Mr. Jude Grey has a problem with the protective hood of a large snake. I have a problem with the promise of a protective wing of a being I can't see.
The Buddha's "miracles" were few and far between. Jesus Christ's list is endless: he was born of a miraculous conception, he raised a man from the dead, he gave sight back to the blind, made the lame walk, walked on water, fed a multitude on a loaf of bread and two fish turned water into wine, and finally after his death, rose up from the dead. All this, yet Mr. Jude Grey says Jesus Christ was not like the Buddha, to whom miracles were a daily occurrence.
Jesus Christ, Mr. Grey says, performed miracles to demonstrate his divine ability. Yet paradox abounds when Mr. Grey says his life's emphasis was on his humanness. The Buddha, on the other hand, forbade the performing of any miracles, precisely because he did not want the people to see either him or his disciples as divine. His emphasis was that a man's salvation, his own heaven or hell was in his own hands, and that any person can attain Nirvana if he follows the right way.
Off the top of my head, I know very little of the miracles of the lives of either, but I do know they both left great teachings, the center of both being compassion. The "miracles", whether they were or were not are incidents, and therefore incidental to the real landmarks - Their philosophies and teachings.
Mr. Jude Grey's almost vitriolic and patronizing attack seems to be a far cry from the words of the Son of God. Does he believe the Son of God's existence is so weak that he needs to resort to insulting other religions and their teachers? Or is he trying to erase the sins of a people (from whose language his name comes) that good Christians despise as having crucified Christ.
To quote from the article that appeared right above Mr. Grey's article, "There is chaos. There is hatred. But there is also hope". Don't destroy that hope, Mr. Grey.
And always remember the Golden Rule: do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
by R. Ariyaratne
The Island - 12 Dec 00
Buddhism - a reply to critics L2.17
Buddhism and the Sangha have been criticised in the recent past. One Mr. R. Buddhadasa also made his contribution criticising Buddhism and the Sangha. The critics need a response.
Buddhism being a kind, tolerant and peace loving philosophy, Buddhists do not rush to defend Buddhism from critics. That is because Buddhism allows criticism and investigation whereas in other faiths scriptures cannot be challenged and criticism of the scriptures is considered as sacrilege.
Buddhism has existed peacefully with other religions for over 2500 years and its spread did not create conflict with other faiths. The spread of Buddhism has not caused violence and bloodshed and did act as ‘the opium of the masses’. There have been no forced or unethical conversions to Buddhism as has been the case in certain religions.
Buddhism being a tolerant and peace loving philosophy, certain non-Buddhists quote that to unarm and silence Buddhists against criticism and unethical conversions. In fact, Buddhism does not debar the defence of the principles of Buddhism and safeguard of the followers of Buddhism. Sadly, it is the lack of organisational power and ‘club rules’ among the Buddhists, that has wiped out Buddhism entirely from certain countries where it flourished previously.
The latest victim is Korea. Buddhism has been out-stripped by Christianity, in that country. After the war, especially the American missionaries, on the pretext of saving the Koreans from communism started the conversion of Buddhists to Christianity. Once a Buddhist country, Korea, now has only a 30 per cent Buddhist population. Sri Lanka has also been targeted. There are a large number of missionary groups functioning in our country spending lavishly on the conversion exercise. The ongoing war has made our country a good fertile ground for conversion of Buddhists and Hindus. Criticism of Buddhism and the Sangha is apparently part and parcel of the conversion programme. The critics may perhaps be in the pay of these groups.
I agree with Mr. Buddhadasa’s contention that Buddhism has no place for a supernatural controlling power and does not accept God as Creator. It is neither monotheism or polytheism, nor a combination of both as some religions are.
It may be correct to say that Buddhism was conspicuously introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahath Mahinda during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa ,but it is also a fact that The Buddha had visited Sri Lanka several times before that and Buddhism had a foothold in the country, though not widespread. Arahath Mahinda who came as a Buddhist Missionary from India, through reasoning and argument convinced King Devanampiyatissa to embrace Buddhism. No gun boats followed this great missionary to help him in his missionary work. Buddhism spread widely thereafter. Thus it is this Arahath Mahinda’s visit that is being celebrated every year in June at Mihintale.
Temples, shrines and worship are not prohibited in Buddhism though contended otherwise by Mr. Buddhadasa. Buddhists, no doubt, could follow the Dhamma without visiting a temple or worshipping at a shrine. However, they have been introduced to help laymen to develop a sense of respect and administration. Why do people pay obeisance to their dead parents lying prostrate before they framed photographs? When one visits a Buddhist temple and worships before a Buddha Shrine, it is not clay or metal that is being worshipped but what it represents - Buddha Dhamma.
Buddhist monks have to reside in the temples to look after them whilst guiding the lay followers in the practice of the Dhamma. Such monks follow a life of less desires. There are other members of the Sangha who stay in seclusion to meditate and reach a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Sakyamuni.
The Vinaya rules to be followed by the Sangha were changed often during the time of the Buddha. Changes have also been made after the passing away of the Buddha, to meet the requirements of the times. ‘Sangatanyas’ or Councils for the Revision of Buddhist Practices have been held for the purpose. There have been such changes in other faiths too. Dropping the belief in rebirth by Christians, change of Testaments from old to new, removal of pork eating prohibition in certain faiths and stopping of the sacrifice of humans and animals at religious rituals, have taken place. Sathi Puja is no more. Devadasi system or temple prostitution is no more accepted. Brahmanical Hinduism resting on caste is on the way out. Bare bodied temple entry is no more a must. Excommunication of those who marry from other faiths is no more in vogue. These are some of the changes that have taken place in the arena of religious practice. In Buddhism too it has not been different.
Monks are expected to live in charity but that is not practiced at present by all clergy due to social and economic changes that have taken place. Monks, as at present, have to meet their own expenses and cannot live on charity alone and as such handling of money has become necessary and that is not prohibited. Then again, for missionary work and other purposes monks have to learn other languages and subjects not connected with Dhamma. That again, is not disallowed in Buddhism.
Drums no doubt are made of animal hide. But the hide of dead animals are used for the purpose. It is absurd extremism to presume that the use of such drums is against Buddhism. No religious leader has sanctified the killing of animals. It is the people who have interpreted otherwise.
No member of the Sangha hold ownership of temple land. The land owned by the Dayaka Sabhas or lay bodies of the temples. Such land income is required for the sustenance of the temples.
Monks growing hair to a reasonable length is permitted. There is nothing wrong in monks being engaged in the teaching of the Dhamma in schools, medical care and social service. There is no bar to that.
In fact, Sakyamuni’s Dhamma has no rules of prohibition. What is good and bad have been laid down. It is for the followers to follow the teachings. The results will be based on their efforts that applies to the monks as well. If you commit sin, in Buddhism, there, is no one, divine or otherwise to cleanse you from that sin at or after death.
The former Buddhas have preached the Buddha Dhamma, but lost in the mist of time. Gautama Buddha is the last who attained Enlightenment and preached the Dhamma. The belief in God creating the universe and man and thereafter sending His Son, 2000 years ago, to revive his Gospel, is something similar. Lord Krishna could also be considered as a revivalist.
Former Buddhas are also venerated. Gautama Buddha received more veneration as it is his teaching that the Buddhists follow now. 0ne pays respect to the parents but not to that level where the great grand parents are concerned.
The Buddhist Clergy, a few of them, do take part in active politics. That is not correct and the Buddhists do not approve of it. That of course is not peculiar to the Buddhist clergy alone.
In Sri Lanka, as in other countries, revivalists - national and religious - have been there from time to time and it will be so in the future too. Ven. Soma Thera is just another. And he is no divine healer but a teacher of ordinary civic and moral conduct.
Mr. Buddhadasa or anyone else, need not get disturbed over the shortcomings of some members of the Sangha. Such shortcomings in the clergy exist in other faiths as well, and in a worse degree in the western world.
Without therefore being concerned about what the Sangha or Ven. Soma Thera do or do not do, I would request Mr. Buddhadasa and other critics to heed the admonition "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam that is the thine own eye".
Upali S. Jayasekera, Colombo 4
Vegetarians - say no to cheese! - 1 L2.18
Cheese is a dairy product which is extremely popular with vegetarians. It’s made entirely of cows milk with its entire goodness in it.
I write this letter with the intention of pointing out a little known fact, in the manufacture of Processed Cheese. A substance called rennet which is found in the lining of the stomach of cows is used to facilitate the coagulation of milk in the production of cheese. Rennet is obtained from the stomach of freshly killed young calves. Incorporation of rennet in cheese makes it utterly unacceptable to vegetarians.
All vegetarians who were not aware of this fact so far please take note and give up eating processed cheese immediately. All importers and manufacturers of processed cheese please comment.
Genuine non-meat eating Buddhists should refrain from eating cheese.
The Island - 11 Jan 00
Vegetarians - say no to cheese - 2 L2.19
I am a daily reader of The Island paper more specially its opinion column. I fully agree with the concerned citizen from Avissawella who very clearly indicated the known facts on the above subject in the opinion column of The Island of 11th January 2000.
In his letter he has categorically proved that the manufacture of processed cheese is with the substance called rennet or a curdled milk from freshly killed young calf’s stomach which helps to change milk from liquid to semi solid.
Cheese is extremely popular among vegetarians, but when taking into consideration the above facts and findings according to the learned concerned citizen from Avissawella who has educated the readers through your opinion column to think logically and meaningfully, I too can stress that the so called vegetarians who consume cheese very eagerly are neither vegetarians nor at least coming under the category of lacto vegetarians who take only fish and milk.
Moreover, he has openly challenged the dairy farmers and all importers and manufacturers of processed cheese to comment on the subject, and also has asked genuine Buddhists to give up consuming cheese which is contrary to vegetarianism. We highly appreciate such opinions with scientific and logical footings.
S. Dematage, Talduwa
Enjoy vegetarian cheese L2.20
This refers to the letter published in The Island of January 11. The chief enzyme used in the Cheese production is Chymosin, used in the form of Rennet. True, Rennet used to be extracted from the fourth stomach of suckling calves. But due to its large scale use, in fact it is the largest used enzyme on an industrial scale, other avenues of manufacturing it was explored. Genetic Modification has come to the rescue.
Now enzymes of vegetable origin have been genetically modified to resemble Chymosin. Cheese made using this artificially prepared enzyme is quite indistinguishable from the original, so much so special labelling regulations are not necessary in the U.K. Thus cheese can now be sold as vegetarian cheese. So cheese lovers (Tyrophiliacs) go on, enjoy it.
D. W. Wijeratne, Borella
The Island - 28 Jan 00
Is belief in god inconsistent with Buddhism? L2.21
I write with reference to some queries raised by a writer which appeared in Sunday Observer of September 12, 1999 captioned "is belief in God inconsistent with Buddhism?
It is true that Buddhism originated in India. It is with the emergence of a Buddha alone that Buddhism comes into view. At that time in India there were plenty of ideologies, especially belief in Brahma and Iswara. As none of these beliefs brought any solace to the mankind the Bodhisatva went in search of the real solace. He realised the real solace is achievable through the realisation of the Four Nobel Truths and revealed the path to the people.
The Hindus in India were said to be having faith in Eshwara and Brahma and later Vishnu was added into the pantheon. At the beginning they had believed in Vishnu instead of Brahma and in the latter not as a separate god, in the fourth century BC alone that they had started to venerate Vishnu as a separate god. If one reads Brahma Purana and Vishnu Purana, it will be clear that the name Vishnu had been given to Brahma alone. It is clearly explained in Devadaha Sutra of Majjima Nikaya that the Buddha strongly refuted faith in Iswara. With the emergence of the lord Buddha people belonging to royal families and Brahma caste too accepted Buddhism and followed the Eightfold Path. By realising the truth of the deliverance preached by the Buddha they rejected other believes and accepted Buddhism. Therefore nobody can say that Buddhism and other religions are the same.
In this particular letter the writer says that out of the four main religions, three religions say that the word was created by a god. The Buddha expounded that the world is made of cause and effect. The other three religions say that god is your refuge. The Buddha stated that "Kamma patisarang, Karma is the refuge." The Buddha explained the nature of existence as Anithya, Dukka and Anathma. "As philosophies they are completely different. Therefore if anybody requests a Buddhist to believe in gods it means that he is trying to convert Buddhists to other religions and detach them from their own religion. What the Buddha had stated was that one cannot gain any good by praying. Who created you in to this world? It was your parents. If god is creating you how can people abort? How can they practice birth controls? Some say that people were created by the Brahma out of his mouth, shoulders, bosom, sole etc. Due to this belief alone that this god-concept has come into existence and it is what the Buddha strongly refuted.
There is no harm in people following their own religions, but why are they trying to attract Buddhists to other religions which the Buddha rejected? Buddhists follow other religions with the belief that personal gains can be obtained. If one doesn't study well can a god make him pass the exam? When a doctor cures the patient they thank the god though the appreciation should really go to the doctor? If the patient dies they would say it is his Karma. This is a world where you devolve your own mind. Although there were many beliefs in Sri Lanka at the time Buddhism was brought to our country after its arrival the other beliefs paled into insignificance. At that time Buddhism was not mixed up with other religions. If Buddhism in its purity did not exist a favourable Buddhist atmosphere enabling the emergence of Arhats would not have prevailed in Sri Lanka. Later Dharmavarnan, Gunavarnana and the other Mahayana pundits came into prominence and they were not Arahats. They later spread Buddhism based on their concepts. It paved the way to the spread of Mahayana.
Gradually Indian Kings like Elara invaded and ruled parts of Sri Lanka and the Vishnu concept. It is in this atmosphere solely that Vishnu concept came into Sri lanka. Before that there was no Vishnu concept in Sri Lanka. Where is it recorded that Buddha handed over the protection of Buddhism to Vishnu? It is not at least mentioned in the National Chronicle of the Mahavamsa. Buddha having explained on Anithya, Dukka and Anathma nature of all things could have never requested the gods to protect Buddhism. "Dammo have Rakkathi Damma Chari". (Righteous conduct protects the doer).
In this letter the writer states that until Ven. Soma Thera create this problem there was no disputes about the practice of religions in Sri Lanka. As the greed of the people was growing religion became a money making business. Dolukande worshipng is a good example to pin point this aspect, cheating people and making money.
Those who try to gain things through miracles are "Upasaka Chandala", these are not the words of Ven. Ven. Soma Thera, but the words of the Buddha. These people don't know how and why they fall sick and how they can be cured? There are some sicknesses for which you may change the atmosphere and find remedies. Those who seek refuge from external forces have no principles. As they don't have principles they try to hunt others and convert them to other religions.
Buddhists can never seek the refuge of Hindu gods. The philosophy of Buddhism explained by the Buddha is perfectly correct. While other religions have not borrowed practices from our religion why should we take from them? The writer says that after some time practices were added to our religion. Then why have not other religions borrowed practices from our religion? Buddhism teaches us to follow the Eight Fold Path. Buddhism is solely based on this principle. The final goal of the Buddhists is the realisation of Nirvana. There is no other way to reach Nirvana, except through the Eighth Fold Path which all Buddhists should follow. They cannot reach Nirvana by the belief in Gods. That is why Buddhists seek refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. They cannot do this by seeking refuge in anyone else.
In other religions there is no Eight Fold Paths so how can the Buddhists follow those religions?
The writer has invited Ven. Soma Thera to visit Sai Baba. Being a follower of the Buddha Ven. Thera does not believe in miracles. What the Buddha stated was not to follow miracles. Ausha, Varna, Yasasa, Sepatha, Panna and Swargaya cannot be gained by praying, (Ayung Kamena Ganapathi Aung Sanwathenika Patipada). A person reaches long life, beauty of form, fame, comfort and birth in divine abodes through his own efforts and not through the effort or the intervention of any other person or god. No one can give you these things through the power of miracles.
The writer says that according to present world trends entry of Hindu influences cannot be prevented. What we cant is not the absorption of world trends, but realisation of the truth. If the world status is a myth and if the truth is something else we as Buddhists should accept the truth and not the world status.
The writer seems to live in a Devala with pictures of gods. He says that separating Hinduism and Buddhism is a much more difficult task. Buddha had stated that mean people who damage Buddhism will appear within the religion itself. If he believes in the doctrines of Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed, Sai Baba, Gods with Super power he cannot call himself a Buddhist, because Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha only.
He says that unity can be developed by following all the other religions. There is no connection of unity with religions, When you try to mix religions with each other there will be obstructions for unity. Even Soma Thera had to talk on this subject continuously as people are trying to mix Buddhism with other religions. If religions are observed separately there will not be any obstruction to unity and also to any of the religions. The philosophies of religions are different with each other. The other three religions are fundamentally equal. But Buddhism is completely different. Although the other three religions are equal in fundamental philosophy they are unequal in the secondary philosophies.
What has Buddha Taught about the status of the gods? the god concept of the Buddha is that by developing the five kinds of wisdom Sahhda, Seela, Sutha, Chaga, panna one is able to be born in Chathu Maha Rajika Heavenly Abodes. There are meditation practices through which one may ponder on these gods.
When people pray to creator gods and seek favours from them their greed and ignorance develop. However, by pondering on the gods in the way propounded by Buddha one can gain wisdom and insight.
Anha Vedan Patilabbathi,
Damma Vedang Patilabbathi,
While the god concept of Buddha leads to Nirvana, the creator god concept leads one to hell, because he is benighted in this Samsaric existence.
When the richness of Buddhism is suppressed, it is the duty of the Buddhaputras to take it up. There is no necessity to bury down Buddhism. If the teachings of Soma Thera are not according to Buddha one may point them out. But the point is that the Truth in Buddhism is eternal. It cannot be changed from time to time.
MANJARI PEIRIS, Maharagama
Sunday Observer - 24 Oct 99
Establishment of the Siam Nikaya - Kamalika Pieris replies to V. R. De. Silva L2.22
‘The Island’ of 11-10-99 carried a letter from V. R. de Silva referring to one paragraph in my article on Buddhism published on 1-9-99. This was a paragraph intended to lead the reader from the establishment of the Siam Nikaya to the establishment of the later Nikayas. Since these Nikayas were caste based and of caste origin, I had no alternative but to include a linking paragraph which said something about the four castes involved. I was aware that direct reference to caste sometimes acted as a trigger for caste obsessed personalities.
In order to avoid such a confrontation, I provided a deliberately disconnected series of observations, where the time periods were also mixed up. I am trying to present the social history of Buddhism, not make a statement about caste. The intermixing of castes in the Sangha is briefly touched on else where in the series.
Since V. R. de Silva has addressed a ‘reply’ to me, I am obliged to respond. Unless am mistaken, this is not the first time that V. R. de Silva has commented on the subject of caste in Sri Lanka. I think that I have seen his name in connection with at least two other communications. He seems to feel it necessary to pounce on caste references appearing in the public domain if he did not like what was said. V. R. de Silva’s own view of caste could be inferred from his letter to me. He wishes to stress that the Govi caste did not hold a high position in the traditional structure. He seems to resent any imputation of superiority to the Govi caste, even if the writer is simply conveying the values of the time, and not his own. He also seems to resent any suggestion that non-Govi castes are inferior. He also appears to have strong objections to current interpretations of the ‘rise’ of the low country castes during British times. (para 5). If it is his contention that the non-Govi castes are superior to the Govi caste, he has only to say so, with supporting references. V. R. de Silva seems to lack the training, discipline and restraint necessary to discuss the issue of caste at a public forum. His terminology is unfortunate.
He refers to ‘fertility ceremonies’ performed on three castes by the British, which I may perhaps know of. (para 5) Not only is this un-academic, but it could also be termed a crude response. Some of his inferences are wholly imaginary. He says that I give the ‘impression’ that the Govi castes continuously ‘monopolised’ the Sangha from medieval times. The word ‘monopolise’, used at least twice in his letter, is V. R. de Silva’s interpretation, not mine. (paras 3,4) Elsewhere he uses the word ‘misleading’. He says that my statement ‘Buddhist Sangha consisted exclusively of Govigama monks’ is ‘totally misleading’. But he states, immediately after, that in 1764 there was a decree aimed at ensuring that the Sangha were exclusively Govigama. He says that it took till 1810 for the other castes to ‘regain’ higher ordination. (paras 1,2) Therefore V. R. de Silva has shown that the Govigama did monopolise the Sangha, at least in the time period under review in my essay.
V. R. de Silva has had the effrontery to dictate to me as to the manner in which I should research my subject. He has advised me to research on my own, looking at original sources. Let us therefore look at the manner in which V. R. de Silva has examined this subject, on his own, looking at original sources. He states that higher ordination was restricted to the Govigama caste on a 1764 decree by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. However, he says that this decree ‘had never been produced for examination’. V. R. de Silva admits that his own source of information is a secondary source, which merely ‘narrates’ the event. Another source is given as ‘Polonnaruwa inscriptions’. He does not say which ones. A third source offered to is the ‘Ummagga Jatakaya’. (paras 2, 3).
V. R. de Silva’s foray into caste research, also illustrates certain important research pitfalls, specially for the amateur researcher. The use of natural language permits the interested amateur to dip into research monographs. V. R. de Silva feels it safer to bypass unreliable secondary material and go for ‘original’ sources. He probably means authentic sources. Not all secondary material is necessarily unreliable. And evaluating ‘authenticity’ is a specialist task. I shall leave the matter there, for the moment.
The Island - 19 Oct 99
Despite the fact that Ven. Soma Thera’s concept of Hinduism, it is apparent that Most Hindus administer Buddhist’ first precept Panathipatha (killing of animals) well rather than that of Buddhists do. Though our religion (Buddhism) is based on compassion for all living beings, most Buddhists are not vegetarians. It is worthwhile learning this particular quality from Hindus.
G. L. A. RANJITH, Ratmalana.
Daily News - 19 Oct 99
A question of health or compassion L2.24
With reference to, "The act of killing and the act of eating (The Sunday Times, September 12), may I say, with due respect to the Ven. Gangodawile Soma that the Thero is lost in his reflections in trying to justify meat eating by Buddhists. He has in fact, failed to prove his point that by eating meat one does not share in the act of killing. His example is a case where an unexpected visitor to a house is offered meat which is expressly not prepared for him. Do we have to cite such a rare occurrence as an example ? What if one buys and eats meat regularly? Doesn't he contribute to the act of killing?
For instance frogs and reptiles are killed for food in some countries. Why aren't they killed in our country? It is because there is no market for them. Is it not Buddhists who constitute the major part of the market which is catered to, by the killing of animals?
It is said that some 50,000 animals are slaughtered every month in Sri Lanka. Isn't it possible to spare the lives of a greater number of these animals, if Buddhist monks set an example by being vegetarian and explain to the Buddhists that the lives of these animals are at the mercy of the Buddhists?
After all, a Buddhist need not depend solely on various interpretations ( whether distorted or not ) of the 'Jeevaka Sutta'. One has to look into this in the light of 'loving kindness' as preached by the Buddha. The Buddha laid great emphasis on compassion for all beings whether small or large, seen or unseen, far or near and so on. 'Life is dear to all. Comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill' (Dhammapada) . We as Buddhists must think twice before we eat the flesh of animals because it certainly causes the killing of animals.
The other example given by Ven. Soma is not a common occurrence too. It is true that the bhikkus who look for alms (pindapatha) are offered food not expressly prepared for them. But a bhikku on 'pindapatha' is a rare sight today.
With all respect to the Thero, I must ask whether, when he says it is a good principle to be a vegetarian, he looks at it from the angle of health or compassion?
Sunday Times - 10 Oct 99
Religious conversion L2.25
Religious conversion has become a subject of growing interest, and being discussed widely in media. In the majority of articles, various sects belonging to Christianity have been the receivers of blame and Buddhists, the blaming denomination. There were also articles that attempted to justify and legitimize conversion.
True and compassionate "conversion" is based on the premise that only "my religion" gives the one and only truth and those who belong to other faiths are infidels. Therefore, I should help others to move into "my religion" as a way of helping them to tread along the one and only true path. This is a very humane way of thinking. However, who is qualified to declare that "my religion" is the only true religion and the rest wrong? How many Christians understand Lord Jesus when He said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you", or, do Buddhists truly realize the words of Lord Buddha, "All of we are Buddha and the Blissful state of Nirvana is within yourself", or, Muslims when Prophet Mohammed said "Lord Buddha is more closer to you than your own jugular veins"? Do Hindus realize that according to Vedas "Brahman resides in the heart of man and reveals Himself when all the worldly desires are shed". If all of us understand what these declarations truly mean, the issue and concern for conversation from one faith to another will be transformed into a concern for transformation within one's own religion.
We face another very serious issue related to "my Master and my religion". Lord Buddha preached a certain path for liberation, which has now been furcated into Mahayana, Heenayana, Zen and a few other sects. Christianity has over twenty sects it is said. Islam too has several sects including the controversial Sufis. Hinduism is divided into Dvaitha, Advaitha and a number of other sects. We all seem to have gone much further than our own Masters, by further refining and diversifying the original path they prescribed. Thus, when we have lamentably defiled our own original religious teachings, by injecting "mundane infections", what authority do we have to rectify other religions? This phenomenon alone shows the fallibility of declaring "my religion" as preaching the one and only truth.
Which religion truly places greater priority to the blooming of Bliss that is very much within the hearts of men and women, than converting a person from one faith to another? Some talk about miracles. Miracles have been witnessed in places of worship belonging to all the major religions. Finally, may I appeal to all humanity to stop religious conversion and attempt to convert yourself into compassionate human beings and help others to become the same so that the inner Bliss adored by all the Masters will be manifested in all beings to make this earth a heaven.
SUNANDA DEGAMBODA, University of Kelaniya
Sunday Observer - 19 Sep 99
Belief in God and the EMV virus L2.26
The arguments (and associated convictions) of your correspondent Mr. R. M. B. Senanayaka do not stand up to close scrutiny. I shall restrict myself to three of the issues raised by him in his apologia for mainstream monotheism. First, the issue of ordered complexity in the Universe that bespeaks a guiding divine intelligence. This argument has been demolished a thousand times, yet has a quality of resilience which is astonishing. Briefly, there is chaos, disharmony and ugliness in the Universe that acts as a counterpoise to its putative goodness and beauty. One has only to glance at the living dynamics of the biosphere of which we are part to realise the inextricable mix of good and evil that holds this system together. The ugliness cannot be separated or fobbed-off as the work of the Devil or of fallen mankind. An intelligent and loving God could do much better than the botched job that passes off as his handiwork. We could do without blood-sucking mosquitoes, the AIDs virus and bipedal monsters (supposedly made in his image) of the kind typified by Hitler, Pol-Pot and Prabhakaran. We must add to this litany of God created evils the natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes that are surprisingly perverse in their action - innocent babes, hard-pressed womenfolk and feckless rural populations are the customary victims of a wrathful and rampaging God.
One looks in vain for the ‘agape’ (non-carnal love) that the God head is supposed to exude. The second issue relates to the diffuseness of the concept of God in lay discourse. On the one hand, there is the orthodox view that this Power (God, Ishvara etc.) stands above and apart from his creation and views with ‘angers the human experiment that has gone awry. Disobedience, sin, petitionary prayer etc. are features of the behavioral system that issues from a belief in this kind of God. The other stance rejects the personal and the deontological vis-a-vis the Godhead. The latter is immanent in the workings of nature - indeed, it is its manifested intelligence. Deists such as Voltaire believed in this immanent (or Spinozan) God and found belief in the fumbling meddling God of Christianity a travesty of the truth. To round off this brief classification one must include the so-called ‘process theologians’ within the Christian fold who believe that the Divine Task is still ‘incomplete’ and that he (that is, God) actively creates in the flow of history. A. N. Whitehead, Tielhard de Chardin and Henri Bergson believed in this species of God. As Buddhists, we reject the ‘Ishvara" of the monotheists as false, delusory and an ideological obstacle in the path that leads to true enlightenment. The ‘Deism’ of Voltaire does not contradict any basic tenet of Buddhism but lies quite outside its humanistic purview and, hence, is otiose in the context of the great task at hand - that of existential release. Plunged in a world that is fluxional in its event-structure, devoid of material or spiritual footholds and sorrowful to boot, the enlightened being thinks first of liberation from the quagmire of karmic catenation. God is irrelevant.
Let us look - this is the third issue - at those saintly beings supposedly in communion with God (or have ecstatically experienced his living presence) who, by their good work, provide the world with a practical proof of God’s Existence and power. The difficulty inherent in this kind of argument was pointed out by David Hume - the famous Scottish Philosopher. There have been saintly men within all creeds and religious traditions. Indeed, even animists and atheists can be saintly - goodness is grounded not in an external God but in human nature. More damaging is the Humean argument that God inspired men can be malevolent just as they can be benevolent. The lesson of history is very clear on this matter. The vast majority of the great killers of mankind have had prayer on their lip before the execution of their gory deeds. The argument that a few exceptionally good men (and women) constitute a pipeline to God is a non sequitur. The sanctimonious scoundrels of the world tell a different story.
It would be foolhardy to believe that arguments of this nature will be graciously received by true believers in the one God. As Prof. Richard Dawkins points out, religious beliefs are picked up at a very early age as a ‘mental virus’ from infected elders. To disabuse such entrenched thought- structures in the adult is a daunting task - especially when the Exclusive Monotheistic Virus (EMV virus) takes hold. A last thought - the EMV-Virus is spreading rapidly in Sri Lanka.
by R. Chandrasoma
The Island - 20 Oct 99
Dhamma Gathas in Sinhala L2.27
I forward herewith my observations on the topic discussed, recently, in the readers columns for your kind consideration as it would be of interest to your readers.
Reference letter of Ramanayake (The island 20/10/99) on the views expressed in the letter of Hettige (The Island 14/l0/99) titled Dhamma Gathas in Sinhala, I am grateful to the worthy reader for voicing the most commonly put forward views in support of this illogical practice of obvious language discrimination in the recitation of Dhamma Gathas at temple ceremonies. There is definitely more benefit to the person who understands the Pali language than to one who does not understand Pali in the daily recitation of these Gathas. Hence one should not be lulled in to a sense of complacency in the enjoyment of the musical sound effects of the Dhamma Gathas only. In that case we could also get the same effects by listening to Bajan Recitals, etc. Furthermore the writer seems to be under the delusion that Dhamma Gathas are recited in Pali so that the person repeating them could get the full efficacy as well as the benevolent sound effects of these Pali Gathas into ones mind and body, in which case they are to be classed on the same lines as Shanthi Karma and nothing more.
If the Buddha wanted the followers of the Dhamma to enjoy only the sound effects of the Dhamma Gathas he would not have taken the trouble to preach the Dhamma and request all intelligent beings to ‘Ehipassiko’, come see the Dhamma with your own mind eye, instead he would have said come and listen to the Dhamma recitals. The Dhamma was never intended for blind following without full comprehension, like some other Faiths, but it has been made into a Blind Faith for the Non-Pali speaking people, after segregating the Dhamma in Pali, by the very people who created Buddhism.
The Buddha never created ‘Buddhism’, he only established the Buddha sasana in order to ensure the 500 year endurance of the Dhamma for the benefit of humanity. Therefore this monopolisation of the Dhamma by the Pali language group, may have been either to preserve the Dhamma for posterity in its pure form, or to maintain the unquestioned superiority for that group, or to subordinate the Non Pali speaking followers of the Dhamma, irrespective of whether they belong to Sinhala, Myanmar, Thai, Japanese, Chinese or any other race.
It is a historical fact that the Dhamma was originally practised in Lanka in Sinhala or ‘Hera Basa’, since the time of Buddha and also after the arrival of Arahant Mahinda for the purpose of establishing the Buddha Sasana, until the reign of King Mahanama (412 - 432 A.D.), for almost 950 years. It was during the latter part of his Kingship that the Dhamma, which was preached, practised and recorded in Sinhala, was translated into Pali by the likes of Mahatheras, Buddhadhatta and Buddhagosha, for the benefit of the Pali speaking people. (Refer the introduction by Bhikkhu Nanamoli in his book the ‘Path of Purification’ - a translation of Visuddhimagga by Rev. Buddhaghosa). This translation of the Dhamma from the Sinhala Oala Books was presumably done in order to rekindle the flame of the Dhamma, extinguished by the Moghul invaders who put to sword all the monks and destroyed temples and places of Dhamma learning in Magadha and elsewhere in India. Thus the credit of the preservation of the Buddha Dhamma should be shared by both Languages, Sinhala and Pali and not Pali only.
The vital question is can the non-Pali speaking followers of the Dhamma, sincerely, state that they, mindfully, understand the Pali Dhamma Gathas which they are made-to repeat daily? We, non-Pali speaking, followers of the Dhamma, with unclouded vision, are interested in developing our wisdom in Elite Sansaras as outlined in the Dhamma Pathways enroute to our Nibbana and do not want to be lulled through Eternal Sansaric Manifestations by the soothing sounds of the Pali Gathas.
Former Vice President, World Fellowship of Buddhists, Sri Lanka Regional Centre.
Executive Co-ordinator, Dhamma Vivarana Movement
The Island - 28 Oct 99
Amoeba and re-birth L2.28
Amoeba is a minute Uni-Cellular Organism representing the lowest form of animal life. It exists in shallow ponds and pools, and is also found in large numbers in the Green Slime of the top layers of water.
These tiny organisms re-produce by a process known as Binary-Fission, It’s a simple process where the existing Amoeba divides right across including its nucleus to give two new identical Amoeba. Both start leading a new life. Once they mature these organisms, repeat the same process of multiplying, giving rise to more of its kind.
My query is: Does the theory of re-birth of Buddhism apply in the case of the Amoeba. As things are, all Amoebae will be re-born as nothing but new Amoeba. Will the Amoeba ever get a chance of being born as a human being?
The re-productive process of the Amoeba seems to disprove the theory of Re-birth of Buddhism. Will experts of Buddhism comment on this phenomenon of the unique method of multiplication of the Amoeba.
Free thinker, Avissawella
The Island - 11 July 00
Amoebae and rebirth - A reply L2.29
A letter appearing in the Island newspaper of July 11 under the above title by a nun-de-plume invited elucidation, hence my response.
Had a child posed the question whether the life cycle of an amoeba is consistent with the principle of rebirth, considered to be a genuine inquiry. But when a person under a pseudonym (a free thinker or a non-thinker) poses such a question one suspects it could be either facetious or is a teaser.
In the Sacca Vibanga Sutta, (MN141) it is stated that there are six ways in which life arises including the coming to being of the myriads of Gods in the various heavens. The Dhamma does not refer to a process of rebirth but to a process of re-becoming (ponobhavika) which is a continuation of the life energy in various forms and realms.
The alleged "free thinker" has made a profound observation that the amoeba produces only amoeba. What did he expect? Even humans produce only humans, not DONKEYS. (Although some behave as such.) Is there such a suggestion that the division process in the amoeba implies that the amoeba is eternal? In which case those who are victims of amoebic dysentery etc. are doomed.
With the new findings on the interconvertibility of mass and energy - this was stated 2500 years ago by the Buddha. The concept of re-becoming is not only scientifically acceptable, but is also logically valid except possibly to those with amoebic minds. The eminent scientist Einstein himself has stated that the only doctrine he can accept is the Buddha Dhamma.
The process of re-becoming had been personally verified by the noble beings who attained Sainthood (not those appointed posthumously) when they reviewed their previous existences.
The Suttas are replete with such examples. The numerous instances of children all over the globe recounting incidents relating to past existences, which have been well authenticated and recorded incontrovertibly establishes the reality of a process of re becoming. These are real life situations, unlike the phantasmagoric illusions often cited as evidence of the existence of a dvine power.
Asoka Devendra, Maharagama
The Island - 24 July 00
The designing of the Buddhist Flag L2.30
I refer to the news report by your Colombo East Group correspondent under the heading 'History leading to the declaration of Vesak holiday traced', published in the Daily News of 27.5.2000.
In that news report, it is said that the Director, National Archives, Dr. K. D. G. Wimalaratne had said, that 'On behalf of the Buddhist Defence Committee, Poojita Gunawardena designed the Buddhist flag.'
I would not have responded to that statement, if it was not attributed to the Director, National Archives. In any country of the world, a statement made by the Archivist of that country, is taken seriously, as it is taken for granted that a person holding such office, will not make a statement unless it is supported by incontrovertible evidence.
As far as I am aware, the only contemporary evidence on the designing of the Buddhist Flag are as follows:
(1) Sarasavi Sandaresa (SS) of 17.4.1885: the first reference: it said the Buddhist residents of Colombo, had agreed to hoist a Buddhist Flag, on the coming 28th, at the Maligakanda Pirivena and at the Dipaduttamaramaya, Kotahena, and at some other temples in the vicinity. The account related to the colour picture of the flag printed therein.
(2) Editorial of SS of 1.5.1885: among other things it said, that the flag suggested by the Colombo Theosophical Society (Paramavignartha Bauddha Samagama) was also seen flying...
(3) Article in the SS of 7.5.1886: that the flag suggested by the BTS, flew in many viharas last year.....
(4) Editorial in the SS of 21.5.1886: referred to the flag ordered (vidhana kala) by the BTS...
(5) H. S. Olcott, 'Old Diary Leaves', Third Series, 1883-1889, p. 363 has that, 'Our Colombo brothers, had hit upon the quite original and unique idea of blending in the flag the six colours alleged to have been exhibited in the aura of the Buddha....'
p. 364: 'As the Colombo Committee had sketched the flag, it was of the inconvenient shape of a ship's long streaming pennant.....My suggestion that it should be made of the usual shape and size of national flags was adopted......and on the Buddha's Birthday of that year (1886) was hoisted on every temple and decent dwelling-house in the island...'
I would add that the Minutes Book of the BTS for the year 1885, which perhaps, could have thrown further light on the subject, was missing in their collection, when I looked into that record group, in the 1980s, I wonder whether, that volume has been located since?
Thus on the available contemporary evidence on the designing of the Buddhist Flag, it is the 'Buddhists of Colombo', and the Paramavignartha Bauddha Samagama, that had been responsible for the flag, and later, Olcott for its present shape. There is no mention of an individual responsible for the design: it had been a collective effort.
The first printed reference to its attribution to an individual, namely, C. P. Gunawardena, came 43 years later in a single paragraph, in the periodical 'Sudana Mina' of May 5, 1928. It gave no reference to any document on which that statement was based. Such a statement carries no historical value.
In recent times, it is perhaps the statement in the 'Sudana Mina' which is being used by parties who wish to attribute its design, to C. P. Gunawardena, also called Pujita Gunawardena.
Thus, at the time I retired from the National Archives in 1990, to the best of my knowledge, the only available contemporary evidence to the designing of the Buddhist Flag were what I have quoted here above. It may be that, more material of the period, have surfaced since then.
Now that a categorical statement made on the designer of the flag, has been attributed to the present Director, National Archives, I would very kindly request him to just name the contemporary source, on which he had based the supposed attribution. That information would help clarify the issue and would be of great interest to readers, here and abroad, who would wish to consult that document. I repeat, my request is only to name the contemporary source, on which the aforesaid attribution was made.
(Interested readers would perhaps recall, that around 1987-1989, if my memory is correct, a series of articles by various individuals, were published in the papers arguing for and against this same issue. Although, I was asked to make a public statement at that time, I did not do so, since my first obligation would have been to report to the government, in case I was asked for an official statement on the subject).
Daily News - 19 June 00