By C. Wijeyawickrema –
Lankaweb readers need to surf Colombo Telegraph (CT) website to get an idea of the crazy things taking place on the other side of their world. It is full of examples reminding us the Sixteen Dreams of the King Kosol. Recently, I saw two news items on CT. First was by one Sharmini Serasinghe, who on her own words “was Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) under Secretary Generals Jayantha Dhanapala and Dr. John Gooneratne, with over thirty years in journalism in both the print and electronic media” says the late Ven. Piyadassi of the Vajirarama taught her so many things as a child including the habit to sit at the table with him. The second CT story (Jan 8, 2014) reports, “against this background, Wigneswaran referred to an article published in the Colombo Telegraph, titled ‘Mahawamsa- An insult to the Buddha’ by the Sinhalese journalist Sharmini Serasinghe, saying it was an exceptional article that portrays the truth.
CT goes on, reporting “…Speaking at the inauguration, of the SOS Children’s Village in Jaffna last Sunday 5th January, Wigneswaran said that Sinhalese Buddhist propagandists, were claiming that Sri Lanka was a Sinhalese Buddhist country, and therefore other communities must live according to how the majority community wished……He further pointed out, that these propagandists needed to be reminded, that the Tamils were always here, as the majority of the North and East of the country. He said that this was acknowledged in a letter to Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, by illustrious personalities such as E A Samarawickrama, and Sir James Peiris, way back in 1919……He added that, these Sinhalese Buddhist propagandists were using, the 6th Century AD Pali Chronicle- the Mahawamsa, to create ill feeling against Tamils, by portraying them as aliens……Wigneswaran warned that, if the country’s distorted history is continued to be taught in schools, trouble will inevitably ensue. Therefore he suggests, for a panel of Sri Lankan and foreign experts, to be entrusted with the task of re-writing Sri Lankan history impartially, from the earliest times, to that of independence from British rule, in 1948. (The story above is based on the report filed by PK Balachandran‘s to Indian Express).
It was after the second story by Wigneswaran that I decided to read the first story by Sharmini S. I record here what I thought about these two crazy stories.
Sharmini S (SS) says she is a Sinhala Buddhist refined or cleaned by the St. Bridget Convent and trained as a child by the late Ven. Piyadassi, including such new habits like sitting at the same table with monks. One wonders why she lists think kind of habit in public writings (I think, she thinks that she discloses a pure, logical and rational Buddhist (Kovur-Carlo Fonseka type?) living within her by this incident). The only thing I can remember a female sitting at the same table with a monk was between Buddharakkitha and Wimala Wijewardena having dinner together, implicated in killing SWRD in 1959.
Why this SS who says she is pure and genuine SB from her mother’s and father’s side despise all kinds of customs and practices by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and elsewhere? We all know there are Hindu influence in Buddhist worship patterns and living patterns. Is she going to start a crusade against them now in 2014? In the past Buddha was remembered in temples by a rock. But in later years the erection of statutes etc. began, especially after the Greek arrival in the Gandhara Region. Now about one-third of the sacred space of a Buddhist temple is devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses. This influence can be seen so clearly when one considers the custom prevailed with regard to the donation of male infants to the Dalada Maligava by the Kandyans. The infant was placed inside the Relic room and redeemed by making a donation. This custom was not allowed in case of a female infant. But everybody forgot that the Dalada was brought to Sri Lanka by a woman hiding it on her hair on the head!
Those who live in western cold climates know how important it is to have a temple environment full of shrines, Bo trees and Naga trees etc. where intelligent, very intelligent, not so intelligent, average and even foolish devotees felt calmness, cool or hot breeze and rain and sunshine on temple lands, day time or with full moon. This is why SS warns her CT readers in her essay: “… Caution- The following is more suitable for the broad-minded and the wise. Others are kindly advised to pass! ….. Wonder if ours might have been a wiser, and a more ‘humane’ society, had our ‘ancient’ history, been based on Aesop’s Fables, instead of the Mahavamsa. For if not for the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese may not have been endowed, with the reputation, of “Sinhalaya Modaya (The Sinhalese are Fools)”!” Yes, Buddhism can be on a CD rom and in a library so Einstein kind of people can use it. Why temples and customs and habits?
Surely, SS is badmouthing. SS should know that the real purpose of offering flowers is to remind people that life is temporary like the flowers are temporary. Everything in the world is impermanent, like the beauty of a young woman. In anything we think bad there is good. SS suggests that the study of religions should be compulsory for all children. This is a wonderful idea. She should convince Wigneswaran to start this in NP schools. She can even develop a course for university students, titled, “Come and examine, not come and believe.”
Wigneswaran (W) picked up what he wanted from what SS wrote. SS was confused between the Mahavamsa and the Tripitaka. This is why SS says Mahavamsa was an insult to Buddha! Mahavamsa is a history book, and it was never taught in Sunday Temple Schools as part of Buddhism books. The only connection it had with Buddha was that it was written by a Buddhist monk. As a history book it helped British historians in mid 1800s to identify King Asoka in India. There were other history books before Mahavamsa and nobody said Mahavmsa was another Bible. It recorded Tamil invasions, Sinhala kings having matrimonial alliances with South Indian kings, using Tamils as hired army etc., but it does not report a Tamil kingdom established in the island. It even gives an impartial account of the temporary Tamil king Elara. By careful study modern historians saw in it how the king Dutugemunu’s war to oust Elara was so well strategically planned by his father.
Mahavamsa was neutral about W’s claim of two nations. Actually, W’s problem is that he cannot locate any canal, tank or monument to link with his Tamil nation. Yes there were Tamils, but no Tamil nation. They and Muslims lived as Sinhala king’s minority subjects. Not satisfied with this historical reality W began the history of Sri Lanka from 1919, by his famous Thantia talk, which was his debut to TNA politics soon to commence. In a previous essay, Wigneswaran: New Tamil Moses, I discussed this plan of W. “…..Taking a similar stand, Wigneswaran is also cutting out history. His history begins only from 1921 with a James Peiris and a Samarawickrema, not with Elara, Dutugemunu or a Vijayabahu I. This is plain and simple dishonesty on his part. W based his right for a separate country on the agreement two Sinhala Christians made accepting Tamils as a separate nation in the Island!
…….During 1921-23 there was a conspiracy to make the majority Sinhala Buddhists a legislative minority, by making the combined number of Tamil and Muslim representatives equal to the total number of Sinhala representatives. Wigneswaran is referring to this coup promoted by the then British governor, but flatly refused by the London establishment. The coup was between two Sinhala Christians, and Tamil and Muslim agents….”
Tamils in Sri Lanka got all a minority group wants to live as equals in Sri Lanka. But W is not happy with it. May be he wants a situation like Quebec in Canada: two national flags, two national anthems and the like. W has become MahindaR’s albatross. He now wants to distribute gifts to Prabhakaran prisoners in jail on the Thaipongal day! He will have a party after the March 28 Geneva victory. He will then has his group to re-write history of Sri Lanka with foreign editors as he wished.
Folks, two games are going on. W is massaging the Tamil separatist ego with projects like prison foods and re-writing history. This is W’s beggar’s wound. MahindaR has his beggar’s wound in W and Geneva threat. He will use this to win PC elections. The game will go on until Sri Lanka is finished as a Muslim country or an appendage of Tamil Nad. It is time to begin the overland bridge that Ranil W wanted to erect linking Tamil Nad and Mannar!
P.S. By the way CT also has even a few objective-minded readers. See the comment below. When Wigneswaran read the SS essay if he also read this comment just below it, perhaps, he would not have praised her essay.
This (SS essay) is an evangelist-sponsored project. Cant one see that from the language/arguments used -no different from what the Evangelists are teaching children in their Baby classes at Polonnaruwa are asking, as some one remarked – and the popularity rating of near 775 responses received, just like in best sportsman of the year or best website contest. It is all part of the game/the pop. quiz et al. There is nothing new said here except recycling old hat. The missionaries used this language she has spoken/arguments used for over three centuries in this country.The Portuguese Bishop in Goa even pulverized in a crucible, an alleged Tooth Relic of the Buddha when the King of Burma had offered handsomely for its possession. It is not what is said that is important but the cheer crowd. That is the new strategy. Just as the missionaries did in the 19th century Ceylon, buy tapping the rich and the influential,including a few Buddhist Bhikkus like the one who came to be known as David Silva and became a spokesman for the Christian religion, today’s Evangelists know whom to tap. In Africa they first converted the prostitutes and through them their clients. Clients were satisfied:God was honoured! No difference here. They have known whom to tap. Though the writer may not have the academic learning of a David Silva, she has other attractions, notably communication skills, all round. That is far more important today. She [Edited out] That is where the crunch is. Don’t blame the Buddhist extremists. Extemism begets from challenges like this, whether it is in the form of BBs or Ravana Balaya,or Vadamal Thailaya. That is how Arumuka Navalar was produced in the Jaffna society and Anagarika Dhemapala among the Sinhalese Buddhists. it is the “Challenge and Response” as the Historian said. Next time, Why does not she write about the “Immaculate Conception’ of the Christians, or the Hindu women tonguing/or rubbing against stone male stone Linga (penis); or the Gay rights? Will she try to get away saying, No I am no Christian, or stone Linga -grabber, nor Gay. What happened to those within the the Christian fold who questioned the Immaculate Conception. Ex-communicated? or sent to oblivion like one of our own fathers. What about the gay supporting Christain priests? What happened to the popularly exhibited French film “Nun for Christ”? Did the film makers get away easily? Does her claim to some Buddhist connection make her the right choice -the medium -for on going bashing of last vestiges of Buddhism remaining in the form of ritual, belief system etc? the game is clear enough. the writer is playing ball with anyone who pays. A former Director General of SLBC, who was declared Buddhist in his days at lest openly went over as a Christian propagandist and that for money. Why doesn’t she declare herself, likewise?.