21 November, 2018

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Most Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero; An Icon Of Excellence Is No More

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Most Rev. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero , a national charismatic Icon and the fatherly figure behind the democratic changes which put Sri Lanka back into the map of civilized nations, is no more. Whether the changes ensued in the expected dose was a different matter; but there is general consensus around that today the nation is breathing the air of emancipation and freedom , having being delivered from the dictatorial, aristocratic and the racist rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa who took Sri Lanka into a limbo-land and made it into a pariah state, in the eyes of the world. For this constructive change , both the country as well as the world should credit this great man in robes, who inspired and initiated the process of socio-political change and the courageous silent revolution which Sri Lanka witnessed in very recent times. When the Ven. Thero breathed his last, the nation was undoubtedly thrown into a state of utter confusion; not knowing who can take his place to ensure that the ‘Yahapalanaya’ will in-fact be a reality in Sri Lanka. How do we start and end the eulogy of a great personality who is widely regarded as the ‘Desmond Tutu’ of Sri Lanka?

Well ! When a panic-stricken MR announced in November 2014 that he would call the presidential election two years earlier than he needed to, seeking a third term in office as the President, and as Maithripala Sirisena’s candidacy sent ripples of disbelief, hope and elation around the Sri Lankan nation, the world did not seriously expect the many changes which came about subsequently, to occur. A Constitutional Dictator he was, MR virtually closed off the last remaining paths to Democracy, set up a rule run by his family and aides, and changed the laws of the land to best secure this situation. Extremist Sinhala Buddhist hate groups emerged and grew under his rule, acting without fear or sanction, which raised majoritarian cries and instilled mortal fear into the minds of the minorities- Tamils, Muslims and even the Sinhala Christians. BBS and Sinhala Ravaya became the ‘unofficial Police’ and Gnanasara attempted to become a ’reborn Anagarika’ and not very many Buddhist monks and intellectuals were able to raise their voice of resent due to fear , as it was an open secret that it was MR’s brother Gota who was widely known to be their patron saint.

SobithaAs always happens when the world faces such calamities, in my view, Divine Providence intervenes and gives credence to the saying; ‘ the taller a bamboo tree grows, the lower it bends’. In history, Pharaohs have fallen and the bullies have been brought to ultimate justice . In recent history, we have seen the likes of Pol Pot, Marcos, Hitler, Mussolini, who fell or thrown out of power in disgrace and in our country too, Prabakaran too fell and suffered a gory death. MR was the most recent example of falling into disgrace at two elections, after being a Winston Churchill winning the War in 2009. The tide thus turned in latter part of 2014 and the Joint Opposition which rallied round Maithri at that time was able to harness an unanticipated reach and depth of popularity. That such a surge of inspiration would carry them forward is something that probably even the opposition leadership didn’t anticipate. It was in this context that the pivotal role played by Most Ven. Sobitha Thero becomes relevant.He become the ‘Desmond Tutu’ of Sri Lanka’ –the voice of the millions of voiceless lost people ,and a rallying cry to action.

Tutu is widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience” and has been described by Nelson Mandela as “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless”. Since his retirement, Tutu has worked to critique the new South African government. Tutu has been vocal in condemnation of corruption, the ineffectiveness of the ANC-led government to deal with poverty, and the later outbreaks of xenophobic violence in some townships in South Africa. Ven Sobitha Thero played a similar role and was certainly the rallying force behind the recent silent revolution to restore democracy in Sri Lanka .

When Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was brutally killed, he was among the few who bravely raised voices to protest against a haughty and a dictatorial regime. He said:’ the assassination of a prominent journalist has rung the death knell of democracy . Sri Lanka is no more a Dharmadweepa (land of Dhamma); it has turned into a state of murderers. Although we have seen continuous attacks on journalists over the past few years , the brutal assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge in broad daylight is the severest blow the country has ever witnessed. Those behind this cowardly act have not gunned down Wickrematunge, but the country’s democracy’.

Back then, Thero said that if necessary, he was prepared to contest the presidential elections as the common candidate in order to abolish the Executive Presidency. As the Head of the Movement to restore Social Justice, he even drafted a constitution to restore democracy and to instil national reconciliation. When the powers of the day did not heed his call to abolish the Executive Presidency , he took the initiative to bring the warring political factions together on a common front and program of action, to bring about ‘Yahapalanaya’ (Good Governance) , when there were not even glim hopes of changing a strong MR regime, in the horizon. Maithri/Ranil combination wouldn’t have been successful, if not for the sagacious leadership provided by the Most Ven. Thero. He was the inspiration behind other Ven. Theros like Ven. Dambara Amila Thero and Ven. Rathana Thero and also civil forces like ‘Purawesi Peramuna (Citizen’s Front’ ) to take to the streets.

Ven Sobitha Thero performed a similar role even after the regime change in Sri Lanka. We should also not forget the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of the Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero in his unstinted support of the 19th amendment to be successful. He emphasised just after the January 8th Elections that the electoral system needs to be changed before the next elections. ‘The most important change expected in this political transformation is the change in the electoral system. This has to change. We impress upon the government that the next election needs to be conducted in a newly identified electoral system’. He insisted that the new regime fulfil promises to end corruption and bring about the required political changes. Ven Thero said ‘that the government and President Maithripala Sirisena have made a commitment that an end to the Executive Presidency will be done and that the 17th Amendment to the Constitution will be done. They have made a commitment to change the electoral system and that the Commission to Investigation Allegations of Bribery or Corruption will be properly implemented and perpetrators will be penalised. However, if the commitment are not fulfilled, everything will be over. The Gods will be raged’

In his campaign to cleanse politics, he echoed before the August Elections, that the people need to take steps to ensure that corrupt persons are not re-elected to Parliament. He added that there is no need to make individuals victorious, but instead it must be ensured that policies are victorious to cleanse the country – and there is a need for clean politics. He further noted that persons who are not worth should not be elected, to Parliament as it is the people who have to pay their wages and provide the facilities. And in addition to that, after five years as an MP, they have to be given a pension too. He further stated that it is sad to see some when they retire as they wasted public money and never spoke a word on behalf of people in Parliament. He went on to add that ballots must not be cast for the corrupt, persons with racing interests, book-keepers, ethanol dealers and owners of taverns and that it must be reiterated that suitable persons must be elected to parliament. The Ven. Thero urged the political parties to appoint suitable persons. Unfortunately for the country, neither the political parties nor the country heeded his call to appoint or elect representatives with clean records. August Elections therefore saw the culture that was rejected by the people to re-emerge in the country. Be it as it may as regards to those ideal results, Ven. Thero was indeed a great man with a great mind and vision for the country of his birth and we will remember him always as such.

Thus, as the nation mourns the sad loss of this charismatic and inspiring leader, it is nothing but right that we commit ourselves to work towards creating a country which can once again boast of a clean and credible political culture sans corruption, and devoid of racial and religious hatred and xenophobia. Late Ven. Thero will be pleased even in death if the people of Sri Lanka commit themselves to hold their politicians to account and ensure that the country will never return to those dark days of fear, anxiety and lack of transparency. May his soul rest in peace.

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Latest comments

  • 30
    2

    I am very saddened by this news. Did not expect him to leave us so quickly.

    This unfortunate nation still needs Sobitha Thero very badly. Though he has already done more than his bit for us.

    Let us not burden his memory with our problems anymore. Time has come to relieve Sobitha Thero of his duties.

    He was one of Sri Lanka’s most beloved sons. He was a shining diamond this country was blessed with.

    May you rest in peace.

    • 12
      1

      A great loss to the people and country at this crucial hour.

      A good and brave monk who fought against injustice and corruption. There is no other monk of his caliber and Buddhism is Sri Lanka is worse off now.

      Let us all rally to carry out Sobitha THero’s struggle against corruption and injustice – this will be the greatest tribute to him.

    • 14
      1

      Lukman Harees ,

      This is past midnight where I live , got up after hearing this icon’s death.

      We should make Ven. Sobitha dreams a reality , it’s incumbent upon leaders of Govt, he brought in

      I await more & more writers of CT to say good bye to this iconic son of Lanka

      May Ven. Sobitha attain Nibbana

    • 11
      1

      Yes Ben, We are all saddened by this news. Never expect that he would leave us so early.
      He is the most respectable monk who did everything to chase away Rajapakshe men – an another GOLDEN son of the nation no doubt.

    • 7
      1

      I am curious to know who this [Edited out] is, who thumbed down this beautiful comment

      • 12
        0

        Abu Mukarram,

        Do not waste your energy on that troubled individual’s twisted mind.

        Sri Lanka may not has not reached the target we envisaged for ourselves on 8th January. But, we have set sail in that direction. In a very cruel, shark infested sea.

        Sobitha Thero in his humble capacity, during his lifetime helped us. To at least get the sail up. Rest is up to us now.

        I expect a very long journey with endless dangers, ups and downs. But, I also believe we will get there.

        Optimism is a free stimulus. We have no option, but use it.

        May God bless our beautiful country.

  • 28
    0

    What a beautiful and coherent tribute on the Most Venerable Thero. It is due to the existence of Theros of the calibre of Ven Sobhitha, the dignity of Buddhists and Buddhism got saved in the sight of non Buddhists when few bastards in the guise of monks attempted to pawn the very same with hidden agendas. We the Muslims respect him a lot and mourn his demise and we consider his loss an irreparable one. The government seems to have done many for this Leader par excellence materialistically such as bearing the hospitalization cost and honoring with state funeral. However the best honour the government and this nation can accord him is to establish the just society that he was yearning for, that he was striving for specially by abolishing the executive presidency totally.

    • 15
      0

      Excellent tribute. I too join the rest of my countrymen and Buddhist friends to share the grief on the loss of a truly great son of the soil.

      As for my own tribute, Most Ven. Thero, You don’t know me, but I can truly say that you inspired us not lose hope when the chips were down. You touched our hearts through your leadership risking life and limb by speaking out against the racist regime courageously. I am in awe of what you were able to achieve in your entire life span leaving the best to your end. You will be truly missed. Thanks for providing the leadership when it mattered the most, and leaving our country Sri Lanka and its people much better off. No mean effort.

  • 12
    0

    Truly, A patriotic son of our motherland, a great loss to the entire nation

  • 13
    0

    May the most Ven. Sobitha Thro attain whatever good things a good human being can attain after demise. To my mind he is the only monk who fearlessly but intelligently and carefully intervened on behalf of the people against Rajapaksha Juggernaut while almost all other monks had personal political ambitions. May you attain Nirvana!

    • 9
      0

      Now is the time for the Sirisena, Wickremesinghe Government to invite The Dalai Lama to visit.

      In order to Honour the Memory of this Great Thero Ven Sobitha, and also rekindle in the people of Sri Lanka, the Idea, that there are Great People in this World who have no Racial Bias.

      We need Inspiring Leaders like the Dalai Lama, whom all Races look up to.

      We forget that the Gautama Buddha was a Nepalese from the Indian Sub-Continent, not a Sinhala Buddhist!

  • 13
    0

    He left when we need him the most. He stood tall as tall as a Buddha when others ran like mad dogs.

  • 10
    0

    May the Ven Sobitha’s Death inspire our Political Leaders to accomplish His Vision, of a Truly Democratic Nation devoid of Bribery, Corruption and Nepotism!

  • 19
    0

    An impressive and towering personality, who listened more than he spoke. I had the opportunity to meet him at the Naga Vihara, Kotte, just before the general elections. He seemed very disappointed at how things were happening under Yahapalanaya. I hope this disappointment did not hasten his demise.

    The news of his death, this morning , addened me. He aroused our concience and paved the way for the change in government. His mission in life is over. Like Gandhi, he did not live to see the results of the change he catalysed,

    My heartfelt condolences to every citizen with a concience in this country. He did his best for us.

    May he attain Ninbana.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

    • 2
      0

      Dr R N:-
      “An impressive and towering personality, who listened more than he spoke”

      The trouble with most of our Politicians, is that, unlike Ven Sobitha, they Love the Sound of their Own Voices.

      They do not Listen to the Voices of the People who Elected them to Parliament. They do not Listen, or look after the Needs of those Same People, whom they were Elected to Serve!

      The Role of the Politician has to be Rewritten. The concept of ‘Self’, before the ‘People’, has become so ingrained in the Sri Lankan Political Mind, that it will take a long while before it can be changed!

  • 12
    0

    Why you left us so early Reverent
    Are we so errant, and intolerant
    We are in need of you inherently
    Even You leaving us cannot be inerrant
    May you rest in peace, Reverent.

  • 16
    0

    Country has never had a Buddhist priest who was a non racist. Our Rev Sobitha only wanted yahapalanaya not benz cars and luxurious life. He never wanted positions. He is far above Anagarika Dharmapala and rev Soma hamaduruwa. They cannot hold a candle to this great man. Both raised Sinhala Buddhist consciousness but preached communalism whereas our beloved Rev Sobitha Thero had one aim which can be described as ” Yahapalanaya”

    Rev Sobitha- you left us when we needed you most. You could have corrected this regime back on the right track. You are the only one who can do it. Now we are going backwards.
    May you attain Nirvana

  • 14
    0

    Every once in a while comes a human being who comes and shows mankind that it is possible to be gracious and humane, while adhearing to one’s own set of beliefs.To think of the other does not necessarily diminish ones own faith.The Venerable Sobitha Thero was one such beloved figure.For him there was no diffrence between Sinhala. Tamil ,Muslim,Burgher or any difference in caste or creed.For him only mankind mattered.The Thero was indeed a true Buddhist and in my opinion one of the greatest if not the greatest. Sri Lankan of all time .He stood firm in his convictions .

    That the article above has been penned by a non Sinhala Buddhist, in these times of religious upheaval in the country, shows the spontaneity of the love and understanding the Venerable Thero enjoyed amongst all communities and that it is possible for all of us to live as Sri Lankans.May a million like a the respected Thero bloom in Sri Lanka is our only hope and prayer.We could honor him best by standing up for the principles he stood and fought for.

    May the venerable Monk be granted the eternal and supreme bliss of Nirvana.

  • 9
    0

    Thank you god you let him go in peace! He may not have a capacity to see what has come out of his good hearted work to reform the government.

    He started to feel disappointed for the New Royals conduct.

    This is what “PIllaiyar Piddika Kurankana kathai”. When Thero tried to make a Ganapathi Statue it came out as a monkey.

    The Reindeers is chased out of the prairie, but the man is sitting on the horse back. Anyway it was warned about the CC and the cost of removing from the before it fully ripen. This action is, Thero removed a Lion Hero and appointed a Fox, in the view of the Sinhala Intellectuals.

    Lankawe will take time to cure… So

    May you rest in peace.

  • 12
    0

    He played his role to unseat Mahinda Rajapakse from the office of the President. Like him so many right-thinking people expected MS and RW to respect what they promised to the people and that they would commit themselves to restore the Rule of Law in the country. But Sobitha thero and so many felt that they were absolutely betrayed. I am sure that finally the pain of mind caused by the so-called Yahapalanaya administration made him mortally sick, realising that his sacrifices had been in vain.

  • 6
    0

    Good Heart!

  • 9
    0

    As we pay tribute to a rare honest son of Sri Lanka and servant of the Dhamma, do not allow those who used him to attain power to ignore his legacy, as they did him, during his life.
    This is the test for us Sri Lankans, as this wonderful man continues on his journey.

  • 7
    0

    Anicca vata sankhara – “Impermanent, alas, are all formations!”

    Uppada vaya dhammino – “They arise and pass away”

    Uppajjitva nirujjanti – “Having arisen they come to end”

    Tesam vupa samo sukho – “Their coming to peace is bliss”

    You taught us pristine dhamma, You attempted open our eyes. You tried to heal our minds. Venerable Sir, I hope you will experience Nibbana the ‘vupasama sukka’

    Ariya

  • 6
    0

    The FREE nation mourns the death of a unique personage. His life service was dedicated to serve the masses unconditionally. He was a person of great intellect , integrity and compassion. When there was religious hatred campaign by state sponsored thugs , burning Muslim owned shops and properties, he was one of first to condemn . He was one the main architects to iunseat the previous autocratic regime. and made the country FREE. He was a fearless lion. The nation is poorer at the loss of this pariot.
    I salute this great soul along with the millions

  • 7
    0

    Rev. Sobitha gave everyone a glimpse what actual Buddhism is all about.
    He showed that if you are a good Buddhist you can be detached from worldly ways and do what is moral. What is fair and what is correct.

    He must have been quite enlightened to be able to do what he did, Without expecting anything in return. Just wearing saffron robes and reciting pali gathas doesn’t make you a true Buddhist monk. A true Buddhist monk has to have a very high level of intelligence and mental development to even comprehend what Buddhism is all about.

    Finding another Rev. Sobitha won’t be an easy task, most Buddhist monks of today are fighting for the same worldly things like the rest of us.

    You made us proud. You made our country a better place. May find enlightenment. You can’t be too far from it anyway.

    Thank you for showing us the way. You truly are a Hero. Our Hero.

  • 5
    0

    His was of that higher plane
    Earthly implements,
    Too different a scale
    Yet, will we try.
    May he R.I. P. May he attain Nirvana!

  • 3
    0

    Grate lost for our mother land ..

  • 2
    0

    We are in still shock from this sad news• ven•Sobitha thero is a monk who bring the Budhisum into pratice• Real icon, real hero, real mankind• great loss for the nation• I wonder who will fulfill this mahathma bauddha character in future• we worship Sobitha thero forever•
    May he rest in peace• may he attain Nirvana•

  • 2
    0

    I admire him most for the fact that he always preached for religious unity. He never condemned or ran down other religions.

    May he attain Nibbana.

  • 1
    0

    Na attahetu Na parasai hetu – Na puttamichche na dhanam na ratthan

    Na iccheyya adhammena samiddhimattano – Sa silava pannava dhammiko siya

    Neither for one’s own sake – Nor on behalf of another

    Wise person does not do harm – Nor for the sake of family, fortune or fame

    Such a one is rightly called – Just, virtuous and wise. (Dhammapadaya verse 84)

    Venerable Sir, your life and deeds did truly reflect the above verse.
    Your selfless service is missed today by every citizen of your motherland, irrespective of their race, cast, social status or religion. You were a great Sri Lankan and a proud Sri Lankan. It would be splendid if religious leaders, politicians and all other citizens in our motherland would take a lesson from your illustrious life. Then not only my country will be the wonder of Asia, it will truly become a ‘Dhammadeepa’. May you attain Nibbana!

    • 1
      0

      Charming tribute, Dr. de Silva. You are indeed a cultured man of learning, peace and all that is good in the human spirit.

      Kettikaran

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