13 November, 2018

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Cultural Harmony & Middle Path

By Kapila Abhayawansa

Prof Kapila Abhayawansa

Prof Kapila Abhayawansa

The article  “Cultural invasion – in the wake of the Abaya” that appeared in the Colombo Telegraph attempts to justify make out that the phenomenon of  the Black Abaya accords with the Middle Path in Buddhism. The Buddhist Middle Path  constitutes  a rejection of  two mutual opposite extremist positions. Buddhism praises the middle way when it is practiced in human behaviour; it does not exclude even the acts of dressing and eating. ‘Black Abaya’ mentioned by the writer, Mass L. Usuf , if it wants to be to comply with Middle Path, should be a moderate dressing acceptable to all. However, people in Sri Lanka would perceive such a dress – form as extremist by itself since it goes overboard in covering  the modesty and simplicity of a woman. The Sri Lankan social context is different.

The writer correctly says that man in Buddhism is analyzed into five groups of aggregates known as Pañcupadanakkhandha one of which is the aggregate of perception (saññaā). Perception arises from form (rāpa). This explanation right. However, the intention of the writer by presenting this Buddhist principle appears to be to justify the Black Abaya by suggesting that it prevents the occurrence of inappropriate perceptions  (sanna) relating to the woman’s form (rupa). In this regard I have a doubt the that the writer has correctly understand the Buddhist analysis of Rūpa.

In Buddhism Rūpa does not mean only the outer form or shape, of a person, but it includes all the five sensory objects namely, rūpa (Form), sadda (sound), gandha (smell), rasa (taste) and poṭṭhabba (tangibles). Perception arises on all the five kinds of sensory object. If the writer accepts that the black Abaya can stop the perception arising from form, then how can one stop the other kind of perception arising from woman’s sound, smell, taste and tangibles. That is something like keeping close one avenue while opening out four other avenues.

According to Buddhism perceptions based on sensory objects cannot be avoided. as long as sensory objects come into the path of  sensory organs, namely eye ear, nose tongue, body and mind. Perception is a recognition, without recognitions people cannot maintain communication with each other. Perception itself is  not regarded as a “sin” in Buddhism. If the perception is leads to further proliferative activities, then only will that become harmful to the spiritual purity  recognized by middle path.

Buddhism never tries to turn the whole world into a meditation centre where people can have only the meditative objects. Instead, Buddhism shows how a man should look at the things while avoiding greed or hate. That is why the Buddha said: “Whatever beautiful things there are in the world, they are not, in themselves lustful things (kāma). It is the greedy thoughts of man (sankappa-rāgo) which makes them lustful. The beautiful things in the world remain as they are, while the wise men restrain their desires.”

Every object in the world can generate greedy or hatred thought depending on how man looks at it. Because of this reason we cannot cover the whole world in order to prevent the people from lustful or hateful thoughts. There is a Buddhist saying: “The entire world is full of thorns where nobody can walk on it. Seeing this, one man thought that I cannot remove all those thorns in the world . If I wear a pair of shoes then I can walk everywhere in the world”. Therefore, what we should do is not to change the environment but to make change ourselves according to the environment.

Writer says that, I have noticed people curious about the prevalence of the Black Abaya – clad women in our streets. Really people would have been curious at it is strange to Sri Lankan culture. In a country there can be many cultures. But among them there should be a cultural harmony. If one culture tries to impose totally new traits into the broader society then the equilibrium of the multicultural society would be broken. Besides,such a thing would cause to disturb  cultural harmony and in turn lead to ethnic squabbles which may result in devastating harm to the whole society.

On the other hand, a patterns of dress is mainly determined by the geographical conditions. In the middle east desert countries, people cannot live without fully covered bodies mainly because of the dusty storms. But to a country like Sri Lanka, it is not appropriate at all. We have to live in the world in the way that other people can recognize us. Otherwise, it would be a cause for many unnecessary problems.

We must accept the truth. Nobody would entertain lustful thoughts while looking at a well-dressed and well cultured woman.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    All muslims satisfy their lust by looking at women from other cultures.

    In Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Arabian gulf the top most form of entertainment is Bollywood videos smuggled out of India.

    I have a better suggestion than curtailing the freedom of women. We can make it compulsory for men to wear dark glasses at all times in the public.

    Soma

    • 6
      1

      somass

      “We can make it compulsory for men to wear dark glasses at all times in the public.”

      Alternative suggestion, all men should be fitted with chastity belt.

      • 1
        0

        If you are focusing on the lower part of the anatomy there is an obvious, permanent solution at the circumcision stage.

    • 2
      2

      One day, I got isolated in an elevator with some Arabic women all of whom were covering their full face with the garment they were wearing. I mas inside the Elevator, nothing else to do, I just looked at them straight. I saw all of them hiding behind the face mask and were watching me.

      What I understood that they were also human even though their religion force them to cover their face.

      • 5
        2

        Jim softy

        “What I understood that they were also human even though their religion force them to cover their face.”

        Probably you are the very reason they are wearing Burka. Next time around take time to explain to them you too are evolving into human specie albeit at a slow pace.

        No need to mention which alien tribe you belong to.

  • 2
    3

    I see Usuf’s intensions were to build harmony among two cultures and uses Buddhist principles to explain it. . But it looks like this Prof. Kapila got irritated because a person with Muslim name talked about Buddhism.. Prof. Usuf uses one sensory form to explain his kind intentions and this Prof Kapila decided and openly declare that Prof Usuf does not know about other four sensory forms…. who is the fool?

    Prof Kapila says (like a fact) that dress is determined by geographic conditions. (how foolish is this??) Until 60s, 70s, lot of SL people work in fields, wore “Amude”, and “Sarron” was very common too. Now a days, we see so many people wear long pants while working outside at 35C, (and very humid too)…. why? So many office workers put their neck buttons and wear ties..in very hot and humid weather conditions in SL?? . Are these dresses determined by geographical conditions or something else ???

    Intelligent Prof Usuf pointed out that Abaya wasn’t used in 60s and 70s in SL, it got popular later, after SL housemaids started working in ME. SL Muslim women/men trying to follow ME/Saudi Muslim dress customs. Isn’t it similar to SB following dress customs of Christian West? Or is it Geographical conditions as Prof Kapila thinks??

  • 5
    0

    This is brilliant stuff! Thank you Professor Kapila.
    USUF has been misinterpreting Buddhism for his advantage. I have no personal objection for anybody wearing any dress. People are free to go about in loin cloth if they wish. It is a different matter to try to get support from a superior and rational philosophy to defend a custom that may seem all right in the Middle East but , as Professor says, jarring in Sri Lankan society.
    The problem with Muslims is that they will forcefully plant their dress forms in foreign societies but do not tolerate foreigners doing the same in Arab countries. Why not learn to live and let live,Mr USUF?

    If the Black Abhaya is described by USUF as falling within the Middle Path I wonder what the extreme is! Going about totally closed from head to foot -eyes included?

    The woman’s body is something beautiful. Why close it and do all the villainy in privacy?

    • 1
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      Shyamon Jayasinghe

      “This is brilliant stuff! Thank you Professor Kapila.” Yes. The Wahhabis do not have the Intellect to comprehend it.

      “The problem with Muslims is that they will forcefully plant their dress forms in foreign societies but do not tolerate foreigners doing the same in Arab countries. Why not learn to live and let live,Mr USUF?”

      The above statement need to be revised and corrected.

      The problem with Muslims is that they, blindly accept the interpretations given by a certain set of Ulamas and other “Religious” “Scholars”, will forcefully plant their ideologies and dress forms, that originate from cultural roots, not religious roots, in foreign societies but do not tolerate foreigners doing the same in Arab countries. Why not learn to live and let live,Mr USUF?

      References: Abaya and Head Covering
      [Edited out]

    • 3
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      Shyamon Jayasinghe

      “The problem with Muslims is that they will forcefully plant their dress forms in foreign societies but do not tolerate foreigners doing the same in Arab countries.”

      Is it not Arabisation through back door?

    • 2
      0

      I am not a promoter of Abhaya ……. but somewhat concerned by the tone of language here, ” The woman’s body is something beautiful. Why close it and do all the villainy in privacy?” Would a respectable man say the same thing about his mom, wife, sister or daughter, or any other female relative of their family? It is always a comment towards someone else’s women folk but not their own.

      • 2
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        thrishu

        It seems Shyamon Jayasinghe is highlighting the hypocrisy of men who want to cover their women folks but not question their own behaviour.

  • 1
    1

    Prof Kapila Abhayawansa

    RE: Cultural Harmony & Middle Path

    1. “The article “Cultural invasion – in the wake of the Abaya” that appeared in the Colombo Telegraph attempts to justify make out that the phenomenon of the Black Abaya accords with the Middle Path in Buddhism. The Buddhist Middle Path constitutes a rejection of two mutual opposite extremist positions. Buddhism praises the middle way when it is practiced in human behaviour; it does not exclude even the acts of dressing and eating. ‘Black Abaya’ mentioned by the writer, Mass L. Usuf , if it wants to be to comply with Middle Path, should be a moderate dressing acceptable to all. However, people in Sri Lanka would perceive such a dress- form as extremist by itself since it goes overboard in covering the modesty and simplicity of a woman. The Sri Lankan social context is different.”

    Thank you, Prof. you succinctly described the problem from the Buddhist perspective of the Middle Path.

    2. “However, the intention of the writer by presenting this Buddhist principle appears to be to justify the Black Abaya by suggesting that it prevents the occurrence of inappropriate perceptions (sanna) relating to the woman’s form (rupa). In this regard I have a doubt the that the writer has correctly understand the Buddhist analysis of Rūpa.”

    “Buddhism never tries to turn the whole world into a meditation centre where people can have only the meditative objects. Instead, Buddhism shows how a man should look at the things while avoiding greed or hate. That is why the Buddha said: “Whatever beautiful things there are in the world, they are not, in themselves lustful things (kāma). It is the greedy thoughts of man (sankappa-rāgo) which makes them lustful. The beautiful things in the world remain as they are, while the wise men restrain their desires.”

    What these Wahhabies and their Clones are claiming is that the Wahhabi men CANNOT restrain their desires, and therefore, we are going to shut women completely. That is not what Islam wanted. It wanted modesty, the middle path, and wanted the bosom to be covered.

    The Manipulation of Quran Verse 24:31 [Edited out]

  • 2
    1

    Well, at least with the Dhamma, its the intention behind the thinking that matters.

    A Moslem woman covers head to toe in black intending to be modest. If that was the intention then that should be OK.

    Honesty in conviction is required. It will only come later to bite ones own arse if there isn’t there.

    Its not the Abhya the ultimate leveler. Ask the conscience what the intention behind the Abhaya. Its ones own unsolicited conscience the supreme leveler.

  • 1
    3

    these trash bags should be banned

    • 4
      0

      baludeen

      “these trash bags should be banned”

      Why?

      In case of emergency those garments can be used as straitjacket to retrain you.

  • 0
    0

    Why is this Black sack portraying the extremist desert Arab Wahhabi/Salafist fundamentalist Islam, that was suited to their desert climate now being worn and adapted by these Dravidian Tamil Muslim converts in Sri Lanka?
    For around 1000 years they have never worn this dress or followed this barbaric fundamentalist Wahhabi Arab desert culture but had been following the more enlightened and tolerant Tamil Sufi Islam/culture and wore the sari just covering their head, that suited the culture of India and Sri Lanka. Now everything related to their Dravidian Tamil heritage is discarded and disowned and this barbaric desert culture and this awful intolerant form of Islam is embraced.

  • 1
    1

    Muslims are like vatican.

    they hide as much as they can. It will burst one day.

    Muslims wants to hide their women. but, According to the quran, muslims can rape the women servants working for them.

    that is their funny religion.

    Even in Sri lanka, muslim men can go behind prostitutes, Muslim women have to cover up hide inside the house.

    How many wives Mohammad had, how many wives rich Arabs have. They have hundreds of children, wive 40 or 50 lik enumbers.

    Any man can have four wives if he can feed them.

    but, the woman can not do that. that is against the quran.

    Buddhism does not have that kind of crappy rules.

    • 0
      0

      Jim softy

      “Muslims wants to hide their women. but, According to the quran, muslims can rape the women servants working for them. “
      “Buddhism does not have that kind of crappy rules.”
      “Any man can have four wives if he can feed them.”

      What do Politicians do and think?

      If You can’t beat them, join them.

      You can convert to be a Muslim. Then you too can have all the perks.

      Even atheists convert to be Muslims for the perks, even though they are supposed to convert because they truly believe in God.

  • 0
    0

    Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. – Christopher Hitchens

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