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‘Vegetarianism’ as expounded in Buddhist teachings

The above article by the Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera published in an Eng1ish daily newspaper of Sri Lanka sometime ago critically analyses Vegetarianism as understood and interpreted by the majority of Buddhists which, in my view, need not necessarily be absolutely correct in all that he had stated in his article.
I would like to present my views in this regard, which may not be in unison with the ‘understanding’ of the majority of our Buddhists but may yet be so with devout Buddhists who have imbibed the ‘’teachings’ of the Noble Buddha in the correct spirit of understanding.
I agree with the Venerable Dhammanamda Thera that one should not judge the purity or impurity of man simply by observing what he eats. I agree with the Maha Thera that, “there are kind, humble, polite and religious people amongst non-vegetarians,” but I would rather condone the statement that a pure religious person, inter alia, must practise vegetarianism.
Let’s now discuss some aspects of the Maha Thera’s article. He states that, “there is no strict rule in Buddhism that the followers of the Buddha should not take fish or meat. The only advice given by the Buddha is that they should not be involved in killing intentionally or they should not ask others to kill any living being for them.” However, the Maha Thera accepts that, “those who take vegetable food and abstain from animal flesh are praiseworthy.”
It is often stated that the Buddha did not advocate vegetarianism for the monks but did advise them to avoid taking ten kinds of meat which included humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, etc. I find it just impossible to believe that the Buddha, the Arost1e of ‘Ahimsa’ (Compassion) and ‘Mettha’ (Loving Kindness) would have made the above statements.
Nothing could express the boundless compassion that the Buddha had for living beings than these following words by him on ‘loving kindness.’ In the Ketta Sutta of loving kindness, the Buddha talks about a mother protecting her only child. He instructs us to protect every other being in a similar way. It is the way of Buddhism to demonstrate compassion and loving kindness for everyone regardless of who or what they are or have been. He emphasised his point even further by stating, “As a mother would risk her own life to protect her only child, so should one to all living beings cultivate a boundless heart.”
Let me quote from the Dhammapada: “All tremble at violence; all fear death; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.”
To elaborate further, let us remind ourselves of the first of the five precepts: “I take the precept to abstain from the destruction of living beings.” It seems quite clear that a true Buddhist resolves never to kill, which necessarily implies that one also never to be a party to any deed involving the killing of a living being, regardless of whether the act of killing is done by oneself directly or done indirectly, by another person (such as a butcher or a fisherman), on behalf of oneself. Any Buddhist who eats meat or fish may argue that bad karma only attaches to the person who has actually killed the animal. Can they really free themselves from karmic guilt by participating in killing by proxy? It is obvious that the butcher is slaughtering the animal (cow, pig or goat) because ‘you’ want its flesh/meat to satisfy your appetite.
The first precept has another religious aspect. Buddhism teaches us that there is not a single being in this world that has not been our father, our mother, husband, wife, sister, brother, son, and daughter in the descent of the ladder of cause and effect, through countless rebirths. In other words, the creature that is cow today may in the past birth have been our mother. The roasted chicken you are going to eat for lunch today might have been the flesh of your brother or sister during the last birth.
Those, who frown on vegetarianism, like to quote from the Amaganda Sutta. The word ‘amaganda’ means ‘the stench emanating from fish and meat’. Superficially, the Amagnda Sutta appears to be an attack on vegetarianism in the sense that a pure vegetarian diet will remain unsatisfactory unless there is psychological.
It might be stated here that Devadatta (Buddha’s cousin) confronted the Master, the Buddha, by making demands for the reform of the Order of Monks by insisting upon five reforms, one of which was that monks must abstain from fish and meat.
The Buddha much to Devadatta’s displeasure turned down his proposals as this decision of the Buddha has been frequently misconstrued as a rejection of vegetarianism. But what the Buddha rejected was the “package deal”: It was a case of accepting all the five proposals or rejecting them all.
It is pertinent to point out that during the final phase of his life, the Buddha categorically condemned the consumption of meat, in the Sanskrit version of the Mahaparinirvana the Buddha declared, “I instruct disciples from today onwards they should stop the eating of meat”. This important instruction is mysteriously missing in the Pali version of this sutra.
On the contrary, there is good reason to suspect that this significant saying has been deliberately deleted from the Pali version by non-vegetarians.
The Lankavatara Sutra makes a strong case for vegetarianism, amongst the principal arguments that have been advanced against eating meat, one that very valid seems to be “One must refrain from eating flesh as he, himself originated in flesh and also the killed have to suffer in terror.” The Lankavatara Sutra also eloquently denounces non-vegetarianism in no uncertain terms. In a situation like this should one stick to the letter of the texts or try to enter into the spirit of the teachings? Any thought, word or deed that directly or indirectly results in the destruction of life is surely contrary to the spirit of Buddhism where much emphasis is placed on purity, non-violence, compassion and respect/reverence for life.
The spirit of the Dhamma is heavily weighted in favour of vegetarianism. Though people may be vegetarians for several different reasons it becomes an expression of our spirituality when it is inspired by loving kindness and compassion.
I would be happy and grateful to hear the comments/views of the venerable Mahamyake Theras of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters and Buddhist scholars in this regard and hope they would kindly respond.
Professor M. Sivasuriya
Colombo 8


Doctor’s Rx “On how to cop the cop!”

The above article appearing in last Sunday’s Nation was not only informative but worthwhile reading. Readers should be thankful to Eye Surgeon Dr (Ms) Reffai for dispensing her prescription, without a consultation fee as to how we, as pedestrians and motorists, could deal with the arms of the law, if they do try to infringe on our rights – whilst driving, or even when we are at home. In her 14-point-tips about the law, she has enumerated all the “antidotes and antibiotics” in dealing with cops who try to conduct themselves unaware of the legal enactments.
By the way, as regards the ‘balloon test” referred to in Rule No. 8, as far as I know, it is a misnomer, and that the correct terminology is “breathalyzer test” – which is done to estimate the blood alcohol content from a breath sample.
NB: Rx is used in prescriptions issued by doctors.
Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3



People’s Electronic teller installed on the precinct of Maggona Branch (0282) is not working properly and most of the day it is out of order.
This has caused much inconveniences to the banking consumers of this branch and SET card holders. So any person need fast – cash, they have to go another 10 k.m. distance to the next ATM machine in Aluthgama Town.
This matter had been pointed out and made complaints many times to the relevant bank manager but he has not paid any attention to repair the electronic teller or replaced with a new one, instead.
C. M. Kamburawala


The rush hour

The moment of brutes
The trauma of travel
Brushed, crushed and hushhh
Distress signals......
Humanising breathing space....
Such, will never be too late!
Irene de Silva
Colombo 5


After sales services

Recently my dish antenna gave a problem. I looked up my mobile and found a number under TV and called them and told that the dish antenna they fixed is giving me a problem. They came promptly and fixed it, and charged a very nominal fee, and while leaving they said, “This was not fixed by us but you have been our customer for long, so we came to fix it.” I was absolutely pleased with them and ever since then if anyone asks me for a TV/antenna maintenance people I would recommend them. Needless to say they are thriving.
On the other hand, I bought my pantry cupboards from a PhD Dr who ran a shop and he insisted that I pay the full Rs.100,000 before even the basses came home to fix it. I duly paid since it was a beautiful set but the next day one bottom panel fell off and one whole cupboard came off. Repeated calls did not bring any response from the good doctor and by and by the phone was never picked up when I made calls from my phone but soon picked up when I called from another phone!
Of course, many who come home admire my pantry cupboards but all I can say is, “Do not even go to get a toothpick done from him!” Recently I was driving that way and saw the shop closed, minus the name board, with half made pantry cupboards. I am not surprised.
Many a business fails because people fail to recognise the fact that the thriving of a business rests quite heavily on after sales services.
Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai


Radio Ceylon or Radio Sri Lanka?

Of late, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) has started a new programme titled ‘Namaste India’ which is broadcast from 9.00 to 10.00 pm daily. It is hosted by an Indian lady announcer with an SLBC’s announcer joining on and off. This programme, I presume, targets the Indian audience and hence broadcast mostly Hindi songs. At the commencement of the programme, the announcer goes on the air saying Namaste and identifies the station as Radio Ceylon. I am keen to know why it is going as Radio Ceylon when it was only very recently branded as Radio Sri Lanka. Over to Director, English Service for your comments for the change in branding or should I say dual branding of my favourite radio station SLBC.
Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3


Poson Reminiscences

On silent feet, those hours come back to me -
As we sat to rest on Thuparama’s steps,
The Poson moon reflecting on your eyes -
As spellbound we gazed, in deep surmise.
Pilgrim’s strides, unending softly swept -
Filled with Gathas low, on murmuring lips,
As man and child, with sadus echoing walk;
Enthralled with all around, we scarce could talk,
As that night stood still, hours bereft of care
Held us bewitched - like chiselled lovers mute.
The Moon no doubt, stole her looks on us
To leave the night we did, in solemn trust.
Now o’er the years of long ago, I trace
That Poson day in mellow reminiscence:
The memory fresh, yields not to Time’s decay,
As you remain, the fragrance of Bouquet!
H. Shelton A. T. Peiris


Karu’s forthright and mature response

Karu Jayasuriyas’s statement in response to Wimal Weerawansa’s intemperate outburst to take the UN representatives hostage is not only timely but also demonstrates a very forthright and mature attitude towards the type of politics that seems to be the order of the day.
This comes hard on the heels of a TV interview that he gave a few days ago. It has indeed taken the UNP a long time to present a new face to the people who have completely lost hope in the party proving to be an effective opposition, let alone come into power.
The people not only get the Government they deserve but also the opposition. Sri Lanka is not a monarchy and the tendency to dynastic politics, which seems endemic in our part of the world, must be looked upon with great caution, if not suspicion.
The present government deserves all the credit for bringing the war to an end. There is no question about that. But the time has now come for national reconciliation. Pandering to some sections of the majority community can only lead us to disaster.
Patriotism, it is said, is the refuge of the scoundrel. Patriotism must not be worn on your sleeve like a badge of honour. All actions in the name of patriotism cannot be condoned.
Wimal Weerawansa must be cautioned that the statements he made can only make Sri Lanka look like Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The likely loss of the GSP+ is one such consequence. Will he now say that the European Union in Colombo must be taken hostage for imposing conditions to grant us trade concessions?
Sri Lanka is not the centre of the Universe. The government of the day must be mindful of the realities of real politics. This gung-ho attitude must be roundly denounced. It is the people who will be called upon to pay the price for this blustering bravado.
The UNP must realise that the people of this country are tired of the so called conflicts within the party. Jostling for power within the party will spell doom and despair for this island nation.
Sri Lanka must act like a mature democracy not a hostage taking nation like Iran.
Ranjith Samarasinghe


W. A. U. Wickremasinghe
A devoted government servant

When I heard the sudden demise of W. A. U. Wickremasinghe alias Udayapola Wickremasinghe recently, I was so shocked.
Though, he was an umpire of repute in the field of cricket in our country, I knew him as a Chief Immigration Officer attached to the Ports Works in the Department of Immigration and Emigration. When I joined the Department of Immigration as an Authorised Officer in 1980, he was my senior mentor. In fact, he was very versatile and devoted worker who rendered yeoman service to the public of our country.
He belonged to a famous planter’s family of low country in the Kalutara district and his father was the late David Wickremasinghe at Nagoda, Kalutara South.
Udayapala’s loss made a vast gap not only in the Association of Cricket Umpires, but also in the Ex-Immigration Officers’ Union too.
May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!
C. M. Kamburawala


Clara Sathianathan
A diligent teacher

Clara was married to my paternal grandmother’s youngest brother. Her son who predeceased her was my classmate at Trinity. Hence this appreciation is for a member of the family.
Clara for many years was a teacher at Girls’ High School Kandy. Therefore, she taught many generations of girls. In fact, she also taught my teacher at Peradeniya Dr A. J. Wilson’s daughter at High School Kandy.
My work in the Church was such that from the mid-1960’s until she died on Saturday, June 19, 2010, I was in touch with her not only as family but also a member of the church. My memories of Clara Sathianathan are that of a diligent teacher, a faithful wife and mother and certainly aunty and grand aunty and also a friend.
From the time of her last illness, I was in touch with her not only because she was a member, one of the oldest of our parishioners at Milagiriya recently recognised as a 90+ person but also as family.
I am glad that despite being late for the Tuesday Prayer meeting at her daughter Padmini’s home on June 8, 1 managed to get there for the closing hymn and therefore, to spend a few minutes with her talking and listening. That was the last time I was able to talk and listen to her for when I saw her on the Sunday after her major operation at Nawaloka she was unconscious. And the next thing I heard was that she had gone to her maker.
I am sure on that Saturday at 5 in the evening she would have heard the words “well done my faithful servant”.
Padmini and her family and Hazel can be certain of our love and prayers always. May her soul rest in peace and rise in glory! Amen.
Sydney Knight


Indra Gamini Perera
Stood tall for his professional integrity

Indra Gamini Perera was born and bred in Panadura and had his secondary education at St John’s College, a leading school at the time. His father was a Proctor of the Supreme Court who practised at Kalutara, as there was no District Court in Panadura at the time.
Perera had his further education at Alexandra College, and later joined the Law College. He passed out as a Proctor of the Supreme Court in 1963
He met his future wife, Chinta, at the Panadura Tennis Club. Later, she passed out of Medical College as a doctor. Her father, G.P.D. Kurukulasuriya was an illustrious Advocate, who was my lecturer in Evidence at Law College.
The late Perera joined the Panadura Bar and practiced mainly in the District Courts of Panadura, Kalutara and Horana. He was a member of the Bar Association and held many posts. As President of the Panadura Bar, he represented the Panadura Bar at the Bar Council. He was also a member of the Organisation of Professional Associations. He contributed much to the discussions at these institutions. He was very independent and outspoken. He did not join any political organisations, neither did he curry favour with politicians and attempt to obtain positions in State Corporations. He was very popular with the members of the bar, both Senior and Junior. He never missed a bar association function and attended all the farewell dinners to judges and participated in the other activities of the Association. He was warm and friendly and reached out to people and gave a helping hand when his assistance was required.
One should not judge the success of a lawyer by the amount of briefs he holds or by the amount of money he makes in the profession. Perera was accepted by the Bar and the Bench and the Community for his righteous conduct. He maintained the highest traditions of the Bar. He stands tall amongst Lawyers for his professional integrity. He was a very devoted husband and a caring father to his children. During the last few years of his life when his wife was ill, he looked after her with tender care. I once told him in the presence of our wives that he was a better husband and a better father than myself. His priority was his family. He fulfilled his duties to his family to the fullest. To my mind, he has been the most popular lawyer in the Panadura Bar because of his charm and caring ways. He was never jealous or malicious. He always conducted himself like a gentleman. Having known him for over 50 years and associated with him with closely, I must say that I enjoyed his company. He was knowledgeable and a good conversationalist.
His daughter Aruni is a chartered accountant and presently works as a country manager of an international institution. She is married to Suren Rajakarier, who is also a chartered accountant and a partner of a reputed firm of Auditors. His son, Harinda qualified in London as a banker, and now holds a managerial position in a prestigious bank. His wife Saruchi is also professionally qualified. Perera was a grandfather at the time of his demise. He was very fond of his four grandchildren. His sudden death is a personal loss to me and the members of my family as we were very close. The large number of people present at his funeral speaks of his popularity. His demise is a loss to the Panadura Bar.
His demise was unfortunately caused by medical negligence
May he attain Nibbana.
Anton Fernando













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