Great event for enhancing national solidarity

The hands of a Buddhist monk hold a candle during a peaceful protest over the release of a recent UN report accusing the country of war crimes, in Colombo on May 3, 2011. Sri Lanka's president poured scorn on the United Nations over the report which alleged that his military forces may have been guilty of atrocities during the island's civil war.- Getty Images

by Milinda Rajasekera

(May 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Whatever the extent of political turmoil created by the Darusman Report, the whole country is now getting ready to commemorate the great event of the 2600 Sambuddhatva Jayanthi next week. Various events and programmes have been planned by the Maha Sangha, the government and the general public to mark the event appropriately. As Buddhists play the lead role in these programmes, the leaders of the other three main religions in the country have exhorted their followers to extend their full cooperation and support to achieve the objectives of these programmes. This indeed is an event that is expected to infuse religious thoughts into the minds of followers of all religions.

The appeal for cooperation made by the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka Dr. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, in this respect, is of special significance. Stating that the country’s culture and tradition is based on the teachings of the Buddha, he has urged Catholics to extend their unstinted cooperation by abstaining from consumption of liquor and meat during this period as a mark of respect for their Buddhist brethren. He further pointed out that if Catholics honestly live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is possible for them to live in greater unity with their Buddhist brethren because righteousness is a concept that runs above religion. He has also stated that the present effort to build up a new righteous culture and tradition in this country requires the support of all sections of people.

This gesture of goodwill and cooperation will not only contribute to religious amity but will also lead to enrichment of the spiritual lives of Catholics. Abstinence from meat and liquor, for instance, during this period will bring, though briefly, some degree of temperance to their lives. Some Catholics, no doubt, would find it difficult to deviate from their normal pattern of eating and drinking habits. But, if they resolve to pursue the spirit of sacrifice they observed during Easter and strive to practice neighbourly love as taught in their religion, it will serve the objectives of goodwill, peace and harmony among all communities. The followers of the other two religions also will find this approach beneficial them.

The main obligation, however, rests on Buddhists to derive maximum inspiration from the great event to convert this land to a Dhamma Deepa. Forming, as they do, the majority community in this country, Sinhala Buddhists have a special role to play to achieve this objective. The enthronement of righteous way of life in society is not an ambitious programme of recent origin. The valiant efforts made from ancient times by rulers of this land to protect and promote Buddha Dhamma were aimed at instilling in the people the treasured teachings of the Enlightened One. If the Buddhist majority adheres to these precepts and principles, those belonging to other religions too will be inspired and encouraged to follow them.

Obviously, there is much that is needed to be done to achieve the objective of a Dhamma Deepa. A candid assessment of Sri Lankan society, as it exists today, would show how far it has deviated from the fundamental teachings of their respective religions. The high degree of people’s religious fervour as manifested in their participation in various religious rites and rituals is not reflected in their conduct in society. The society would otherwise have been quite different. There would have been much less crime, corruption and deception in society. What is found instead is a sharp increase in these evils. Every segment of society from the highest to the lowest is today tainted with fraud and corruption.

The field of politics, which should actually consist of leaders who are virtuous and exemplary in their conduct, is today in a state of degeneration. Most of the politicians are ambitious, acquisitive, competitive and jealous. As a result, institutions and organizations that function under their purview and influence have also become sullied with various social evils that militate against the enthronement of moral and ethical values. Selfishness, self-aggrandisement, and power abuse have thus become dominant features in society. It has, therefore, become necessary to begin the present attempts at reforming society at the level of politicians. Minister of Power and Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka’s action to shave his head and spend a hermit’s life, observing ten precepts, for 10 days with his twenty-five Jathika Hela Urumaya party supporters, appears to be a good example to be emulated by other political leaders, if they are really interested in establishing a righteous political and social order in this country.

Essential prerequisite for rebuilding the nation on ethical principles is for the political leaders to have an honest commitment to righteous conduct. Hasn’t Plato’s adage - “ Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and wisdom and political leadership meet in the same man, … cities will never cease from ill, nor the human race,” - been proven correct right through history? 

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