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|Buddhism and temple culture
|The immortal message of Gautama Buddha sans dogma, ritual
practices and ceremony has been propagated for centuries by the
Bhikkhus living in temples but now with new practices being
introduced looses the self-reliance and mental development
perspective inherent in the Dhamma and observances. Perhaps with the
intention of propagating and not through ignorance that some temples
and new ashramas have introduced new ritual practices that do not
covey to persons unaware of the Dhhama the true principles of
The Buddhists appear before the image of the Buddha to pay homage
to the ideals and ides the image of Buddha represents and not as a
ritual worshiping practice before an image and the dhamma has never
being imposed by force as numerically increasing followers is not
the intention. For similar reasons the former Indian Prime Minister
Nehru, German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur and many foreigners had
images of Buddha in their homes. During the Great World War General
Hamilton had found an image of Buddha in ruins of a temple in some
country and given it to Sir Winston Churchill with the remark, “When
you are worried just look at his reposeful attitude and smile at
your worries.” It is for similar reasons that Nehru during his
visits to Ceylon visited Anuradhapura to pay homage to the Samadhi
Buddha Statue. The philosopher and former President of India S.
Radhakrishanan of India had said, “The Buddha does not speak of
codes and conventions, laws and rites. The way to be happy is to
have a good heart and mind which will show itself in good deeds.
Simple goodness in spirit and deed is the basis of his religion. He
detaches the perfect life from all connection with a deity or
outside forces, and teaches man that the best and the worst that can
With such perceptions expressed by illustrious persons, we in our
country are inclined to adopt new ritual practices to impress the
Buddhist masses and to those who are not Buddhists and worst of all,
to foreigners. Two of the many recent innovations practised by some
of the temples are the placing of a Siura on the branch of a Bo-tree
and placing a statue of Buddha or a relic casket on the head of a
person, an uncompromising ritual practice not in keeping with the
basic principle in Buddhism. In most instances, the honour to place
the Siura on the Branch of a Bo-tree is entrusted to a politician
while the devoted dayakayas of the temple, some very knowledgeable
Buddhists are onlookers. Recently the relic casket was placed on the
head of a distinguished foreign lady who is a recent visitor and
perhaps not a Buddhist with blessing narrations piously uttered by
the Nayake Thero. The distinguished lady according to the newspaper
is a vegetarian because of the love and attachment she possesses for
animals. Such a person would have been dumbfounded at the ceremonial
demonstration displayed in a Buddhist temple and more so if she was
aware of the basic principles of Buddhism.
H. Fielding Hall in his book ‘In the Soul of the People’
published in 1898, had written of Buddhism, “ Surely this is a
simple faith, the only belie that the world has known that is free
from mystery and dogma, from ceremony and priestcraft; and to know
that it is a beautiful faith you have but to look at its believers
and be sure.” Nehru the former Indian Prime Minister in his book’
The Discovery of India, had expressed the view that with the
introduction of Buddhism in India, “Much of the ritualism and
ceremony associated with the Vedic, as well as more popular forms of
religion, disappeared, particularly animal sacrifices.”
But for some recent innovations introduced by temples the lay
dayakayas should be blamed more than the Bhikkhus as they are
accustomed to say ahi hamuduruwone; without preventing such new
ritual and ceremonial innovations being introduced and being unable
to explain its significance to the Buddhist public and depicting a
false outlook of Buddhism. Such lay dayakayas are not strictly loyal
to the religion but blindly loyal to the temples. Temples and
ashramas that are not even fifty years in existence are mainly
responsible for introduction of ritual and ceremonial practices and
for their publicity TV and newspaper services are obtained and
closely associate influential and powerful politicians and highly
The thovil ceremonies conducted in villages and the using of
talismans are also linked to Buddhism by some of our people. Tourist
hotels conduct thovil demonstrations and claim a link to our culture
and Buddhism and the tourists are made to believe that the
ceremonies are local Buddhist practices. Thus, though the Buddhist
public does not agitate and find fault, the temple authorities
should not indulge in conducting of ritual and ceremonial practices
to publicise the religion. “Buddhism is free from compulsion and
coercion and does not demand of the follower blind faith. At the
very outset the sceptic will be pleased to hear of its call for
investigation. Buddhism from beginning to end is open to all those
who have eyes to see and a mind to understand.” Bhikkhu Piyadasi of
|US and NATO sinking in Afghanistan
|It is now very clear that the US and NATO have achieved nothing
of substance in their adventure into Afghanistan and are sinking in
the quagmire deeper everyday.
The US now desperately needs an exit
strategy that looks like a win for two reasons: First, its
reputation as a mighty military power that can’t be beaten, and
especially by tribal clansmen. Second, if it withdraws empty-handed,
how does it explain the rising number of troop deaths and the
billions that are still being poured into a narco-state that is
corrupt, in the middle of an economic downturn at home.
The insurgency in Afghanistan is spreading rapidly as the latest
survey conducted by the International Council of Security and
Development (ICOS) shows. Its latest research indicates that 80% of
the country has a permanent Taliban presence up from 72% in 2008,
and that 97% of the country has “substantial Taliban activity.” The
organisation has tracked Taliban movement throughout Afghanistan
since 2007. Even with such alarming figures the organisation’s
president, MS Norine Mc Donald QC, told the internet web-site
Huffington Post that she believed the figure was “conservative.”
“Its bad numbers and bad news” she said. “They (the Taliban) have
the momentum, their strategies and tactics are working and ours are
not….. it’s not a question of where they are operating, its more a
question of where they are not.”
Increased resistance activity has led to more occupation soldiers
dying and an alarming escalation in air-strikes that have caused
massive civilian causalities. On September 4, an air strike on two
fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban who were dispensing fuel to
locals in Kunduz resulted in more than 90 civilian deaths. Villagers
were able to retrieve only fragments of their loved ones’ body parts
after the Americans deployed one of their favourite strategies of
winning hearts and minds by dropping 1,000 pound bombs from the air.
Combined with instability arising from the recent presidential
election in which allegations of wide spread electoral fraud were
made and the country even more divided between the majority Pashtuns
and the minority Tajiks, this is a sure recipe for disaster.
Hitherto, northern Afghanistan was relatively calm and there was
little resistance activity there but as the Kunduz episode shows,
this has now spread much further.
What has the US and the NATO achieved in Afghanistan? They failed
to get Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omer. They failed to secure the
country. They failed to introduce Western democracy. They failed to
better the lot of women and girls. They failed to halt the poppy
trade, they failed in their reconstruction efforts and they failed
to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. All in all
both the US and NATO have failed miserably. The only way out is to
adopt an exit strategy to look like a win. This experience should
teach the powerful nations not to, in future, invade countries and
force their ideologies and culture on the indigenous people and
exploit their natural resources. Afghanistan has historically been
the graveyard of empires. In modern times both Britain and Russia
were compelled to withdraw burying thousands of their soldiers in
If Obama is smart, he will take a page from the approach adopted
by Alexander the Great more than 2000 years ago. His generals told
him the Afghans were such ferocious fighters that they will maul his
forces. It was best to leave them alone. Alexander bypassed
Afghanistan to take on the much easier prey in the Indus plains.
Whether Obama suffers the fate of the Russians or achieve
Alexander’s greatness will depend on what he decides to do next.
Current thinking in Washington does not allow for such optimism. The
US and NATO must continue to bleed before they realise to withdraw
from Afghanistan with a nasty and bloodied nose. It’s only a matter
of time before this occurs.
|Iran defiant and unstoppable!
|The saga of Iran’s nuclear programme despite long-term
negotiations with the world powers of the US, Britain, France,
Germany, Russia and China has once again ended in a stalemate with
the western powers calling for crippling sanctions.
In the latest
development, the UN watchdog’s governing body has passed a
resolution condemning Iran for developing a uranium enrichment site
in secret. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also
demanded that Iran freeze the project immediately.
The resolution, the first against Iran in nearly four years, was
passed by a 25-3 margin with 6 abstentions. Iran says its nuclear
programme is for peaceful purpose, but the US claims that Iran is
seeking nuclear weapons.
In September, it emerged that in addition to its uranium enrichment
facility in Nantanz Iran has a second such facility near the holy
city of Qum. This revelation deepened Western fears about Iran’s
This latest resolution against Iran by IAEA will certainly be used
by the Western powers to impose crippling sanctions on Iran. In
addition, the US and Israel have made veiled threats of a military
attack on Iran. They also claim that unless Iran is pliant to their
wishes, it will be treated as a pariah state and be isolated in the
world community of nations.
All these views of the western powers are treated with contempt
by the Iranian regime. The Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki in
response to these threats said sanctions were effective in 1960s and
1970s, presently sanctions will not be effective. He added Iran
knows how to get over sanctions. As to military attack, a spokesman
of the Foreign Ministry in Iran said that the US and Israel do not
have the moral courage to stage an attack on Iran. In the latest
move to demonstrate its defiance, Iran announced that it was going
to construct 10 more nuclear enrichment plants.
On the subject of Iran being a pariah state and in isolation in
the world community, this is not true. On the contrary, Iran has
expanded relations with the Non-Aligned countries and with other
Muslim countries, signing several bi-lateral relations for trade and
President Ahamadinejad’s foray into Latin America last November was
a huge success and he won support for his country’s nuclear
programme and expanded Iran’s reach in Latin America in a three
country good-will tour of Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.
Chavez’s enthusiastic embrace of Iran, which shares his hostility
towards the US and Israel, has made Venezuela a gateway for the
Iranian government to make diplomatic in roads into Latin America.
In Bolivia, Ahamadinejad signed an agreement with President Evo
Morales committing Iran to help his country do research on
exploiting lithium, the light weight metal used in electric cars and
other batteries. Bolivia possesses half the world’s known lithium
Ahamadinejad also built on ties with Bolivia by overseeing the
results of Iranian aid to the poor Andean country watching the
inauguration of a hospital and two milk processing and pasteurising
equipment for the plants. Iran donated funding for the seven storey
Red Crescent hospital.
In Venezuela, Iran has already helped set up factories that
assembled cars, tractors and bicycles and Iranian businesses have
sent crews to build public housing under contract with Chavez’s
government. Both Chavez and Morales offer support for Iran’s nuclear
programme, saying it is peaceful and not aimed at developing nuclear
weapons as the US and European nations fear.
In Brazil, during talks on November 30, President Luiz Inacio
Lula de Silva urged western nations to drop threats of punishment
over the nuclear programme and negotiate a fair solution with Iran.
Ahamadinejad’s visit to Latin American nations, especially the first
stop in politically moderate Brazil, appeared designed to provide a
new measure of international legitimacy for his nation as it engages
in large scale war games and refuses to back down from developing
its nuclear programme.
In addition, Iran has expanded economic ties with several other
countries among them Russia, China, Pakistan, Lebanon, Palestine,
the Persian Gulf countries and even Sri Lanka. Iran has also got the
unstinted support of the Non-aligned Movement and Islamic
Organisation Conference. So, the claim of isolation is not true. All
these challenges that Iran is facing from the Western Powers only
makes Iran stronger and more steadfast. In fact, the Iranian
progress is unstoppable and it was a wise move of President
Rajapaksa to strengthen relations with Iran which brought Sri Lanka
aid to develop the Sapugaskande Oil Refinery, the Uma Oya project,
the rural electrification scheme and also obtain petroleum at
|A priceless asset in plantation industry
|As the curtain comes down on a truly illustrious career spanning
44 eventful years, memories of a wonderful friendship flooded my
thoughts. Sri, as an energetic young schoolboy was not inclined to
the desk-bound pursuits in education at Royal College as his other
three brothers were (the youngest, Skanda retired not long ago as
Chairman of George Steuarts). His strengths lay in outdoor
activities which were reinforced by his love for rugby.
Consequently, he secured an appointment with the prestigious company
of Whittalls Estates and Agencies as a Trainee Planter at the
relatively young age of 18, and with that began a career from which
he never looked back. His talents combined with his commitment and
integrity, not to mention his disarming smile and infectious sense
of humour, made him a gem of a choice for the industry. Soon he was
climbing the ladder of success to the extent that he was probably
the youngest Planter in the history of estates coming within the
management of Whittalls, to be given the Acting Superintendent’s
responsibilities, which he was entrusted with on Gonapitiya Estate
in Kandapola at the very young age of 24.
For all of his
exceptional qualities, the most valuable of which was his integrity,
Sri was a priceless asset to his employers and superiors, whilst his
inter-personal relationships and man management skills made him a
godsend to his colleagues, subordinates, Plantation Workers Unions
and labour forces that came within his purview on numerous estates
he managed. Following the nationalisation of plantations in 1975,
Sri served as Director on the State’s Regional Boards in both Hatton
and Nuwara Eliya making an impact on the industry and the powerful
labour unions with his administrative skills. His fair-minded
approach combined with a flair for negotiations made him the logical
choice as a mediator in difficult situations, and it did not come as
a surprise when unions seeking the ear of the management for the
redress of their grievances specifically requested the presence of
Sri at those discussions - an expression of trust and confidence
that one can really be proud of.
In the early 80’s, he did a stint in Malaysia in the state of
Sabah with the prestigious Sime Derby Plantations where he acquired
extensive expertise in the field of oil palms. That expertise was
swiftly recognised by the then Minister of Plantation Industries,
the late Ranjan Wijeratne who appointed Sri, Consultant to the
island’s oil palm industry while he was still serving in Sabah.
Upon his return, he re-associated himself with the plantation
industry which had by then undergone a drastic transformation.
He was head-hunted by Watawala Plantations, one of the more
prestigious privatised plantation companies, where he delivered
exceptionally in all related fields as a Director. At a time when
the industry can continue to benefit from men of integrity,
experience, proven ability and commitment, Sri’s decision to retire
did come as a surprise to many.
Having said that, to retire as he has with his impeccable
reputation fully intact, Sri can look back on his career with the
kind of satisfaction that only those blessed by the Almighty can
Congratulations, Srikumar. A blessed retirement awaits you.
Wickrema De Alwis
|Dr Vere Edrisinghe
|His healing hands were legendary
the advances in medical science, few medical specialists would
venture to give a guarantee of health. To do so, would be to lay
their reputations and indeed the profession on the line.
But, this is exactly what Dr F.V. Edrisinghe did on one of my last
visits to him shortly before he passed away three years ago. Having
checked some lab reports, he said, “You don’t have anything to worry
for the next five years.”
His comments were not some casually made
remarks. They reflected the confidence born of his knowledge and
expertise over a lifetime of service in the medical profession.
It was nearly twenty five years ago that I met him for the first
time. In those days, as I accompanied my wife as she took her mother
to consult him, the wait was painful. It was easily two hours before
they came out of the surgery while I sat in the car trying to keep
myself occupied and not feel resentful. Only when I started
consulting him I realised that here was a man who first took great
pains to listen to his patient whatever time it took. Then came the
careful examination and probing with pointed questions. But the best
was when he quietly reassured his patients in a gentle yet matter of
fact voice of what the ailment was, what the treatment would be and
how long it would take to cure. If it couldn’t be cured, he was sure
to say so.
Despite my growing fondness for him and our warm and friendly
discussions from dogs to politics and anything in between, there
were some facts that I learnt only after his demise.
Dr Edrisinghe studied at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and was a
keen boxer during his undergraduate days. He was the first
Consultant Physician to work at the Matara General Hospital and he
also served in Kalutara, Kandy and at the General Hospital, Colombo.
He retired in 1975 and went to Nigeria as a Consultant Physician in
1976. Following his return to Sri Lanka, he worked as Consultant
Physician at the Central Transport Board (CTB) till he passed away
on November 30, 2006.
His professionalism earned for him a reputation among many in
Colombo and the suburbs. It was quite common to see foreign
nationals waiting to consult him. His healing hands were legendary.
There are many who would still testify to his demonstrated
capability to detect cancers without sophisticated examinations.
Dr Edrisinghe loved dogs and would often enquire about our own dogs.
His service though was to his patients and especially to his son
Prineeth, who passed away a few years ago. Many would not have known
that he conducted a free Medical Clinic at the Calvary Church for a
It is an honour to pay tribute to a man who lived a simple yet
exemplary Christian life as a medical specialist. To his wife Manel,
daughter Mala, son-in-law Chrys and his grand son Rehan his death
would no doubt have been a void hard to fill. I hope these words
from a grateful patient would ease their pain even temporarily. May
his soul rest in peace!
100th Birth Anniversary
J. Willie Aiyadurai Sportsman
it has been a hundred years
But in our hearts you did not die,
the explosion you have been, has set alight
your name among the stars shining bright.
The bat in your hand stroking the ball
shooting runs forever into our minds,
the pen in your hand, writing words forever
and forever into our memories --
about your love, your wit, your life.
In the midst of remembering there is laughter
The light of your star helps us soldier on,
to tread our course in life.
And we shall become, in the dawn of days
Resilient, Renewed, Purposeful and always Thankful.
Jeremy Aiyadurai (grandson)
Victoria BC. Canada