By Malinda Seneviratne –
Shame is not a feeling that is wholesome. It refers after all to a sense of humiliation caused by being conscious of having done wrong or having been foolish. Fear is not a wholesome attribute. It is after all associated with timidity and cowardice. Shamelessness is about lacking shame, about being barefaced and brazen. That’s not necessarily applauded. Fearlessness on the other hand is positive; the connotations are of bravery, courage and daring. Fearlessness, then, is admired; shamelessness ridiculed.
That said, the notions of shame (lajja) and fear (baya) in Sinhala culture have additional connotations of the moral kind, derived clearly from Buddhist philosophy. The commentary on lajja are drawn for the most part from the Kanha Sutta, Sukka Sutta and the Hiri Ottappa or Care Sutta, all from the Book of Twos of the Anguttara Nikaya. The Abhidhamma defines the notion as ‘to be ashamed of what one ought to be ashamed of, to be ashamed of performing evil and unwholesome deeds.’
Moral shame is often paired with moral fear, the scriptures explain. The two are the preconditions for a functional and wholesome society, they elaborate. So those who are wary of unwholesome bodily and verbal conduct have lajja or moral shame and baya or moral fear is about being wary of such misconduct. Moral shame persuades the rejection of wrongdoing on account of value placed on dignity; it arises, then, of self-respect. Moral fear arises from being concerned about social consequences.
It’s all explained in the Devadharma Jathaka thus:
හිරිඔත්තප්ප සම්පන්නා – සුක්කධම්මසමාහිතා
සන්තෝ සප්පුරිසා ලෝකේ – දේවධම්මාති වුච්චරේ”ති.
[hiriotappa sampanna – sukkadhammasamahita; sunto sappura loke – devadhammati vuccareti]
“The wise and good consider as the godly nature the condition of being true to the doctrine of goodness and being fearful of wrongdoing.”
All of the above have come to the fore of political discussion following claims that appearance at a Commission of Inquiry is itself an act of fearlessness. The reasoning is that those who came before shied away from such encounters using all manner of political subterfuge to do so. All questions were answered and this too is praised.
A witness cannot answer questions that have not been asked. It is not the witness’ fault if the questions were veritable full tosses asking to be smacked out of the park. Such eventualities can only be attributed to the incompetence or the shamelessness of the individual tasked to inquire.
When the witness says ‘I inquired and was assured all was above board,’ it is a legitimate response. When the witness is not asked why the witness in effect applauded by rewarding those either suspected or guilty of wrongdoing thereafter, it is not the witnesses’ fault. Perhaps the silence is obtained from fear, i.e. general and not moral fear as per the Abhidhamma, but incompetence if not shamelessness is evidenced.
What is disturbing is that this lajja-less and baya-less phenomenon is not the preserve of the protagonists referred to above. It is part and parcel of the political culture of this country. In other words, social consequences do not worry people enough and therefore they can be ‘fearless.’ Dignity is seen as something that is guaranteed by power and office and therefore its possible loss is calculated in terms of political fortunes.
How else could a newly elected president indulge in nepotism even before the euphoria of election has died down? How else could the basic tenets of good governance so much a part of pre-election rhetoric be thrown to the winds and those rejected at the polls be brought into Parliament through the national lists, a facility illegally wrought by a former president with the connivance of the then Chief Justice, and maintained thereafter by subsequent judges as so clearly pointed out by public interest lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku?
How else, can we also ask, can a Member of Parliament who was also a member of the Committee on Public Enterprises investigating the bond scam explain phone calls with the primary suspect as a means to obtain information for a book’ when the said book was published long before the phone calls? How else can a COPE member representing someone accused of wrongdoing investigated by COPE raise issues of ‘conflict of interest’? How else can those in the Opposition take issue with conduct by the Government that mimicks their own conduct while in power?
If there was lajja and baya none of this would have come to pass. If lajja and baya were remembered at any point even late in the day we would now be witnessing a spew of resignations, not just politicians but those in the Attorney General’s Department, other officials and judges as well.
What we have is wrongdoing sanctioned by a political culture of which the people, i.e. the voters, are participants on account of electing and re-electing known wrongdoers. The people have given the license to do wrong and therefore the people cannot complain when the wrongdoers they’ve elected operate without lajja or baya. The moral authority to do so, in other words, has been conferred upon them by the people themselves.
If we are in fact for the most part a lajja-less and a baya-less nation, then were are a sorry nation indeed. However, if we are to pull ourselves out of the rut that corrupt, incompetent and deceitful politicians have with our permission got us into, then we need to recover first and foremost some semblance of lajja and baya. Until such time the people begin to place some value on dignity and therefore persuaded by ‘moral shame’ to eschew wrongdoing, and until such time the people become concerned about social consequences, they cannot expect the kind of lajja and baya that makes for true yahapalanaya.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. email@example.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com
Sunil Dahanayake / November 23, 2017
Lajja and Baya nathi Ekka destroys the country
nimal fernando / November 23, 2017
Glad to see that at least there’s one journalist who hasn’t succumbed to the usual partisan SL politics.
You showed the same vigour to expose Rajapakses’ plunder, murder and corruption.
So, all kudos to you. Don’t be so bashful and Lajja just soak it up. This is your finest hour. ……. You are the authority on Lajja.
Like you, I’m too, disappointed that Ranil didn’t go and confess his sins, ask for forgiveness, and fall down on his sword; like all of us great paragons of virtue, expected.
There is this movie ……. “A Fish Called Wanda” …….. where Kevin Kline cracks open a safe expecting a pile of cash …. and there’s nothing in there ……………. He goes “DISSAPOINTED” – That’s how I feel today ……….I’m sure you too …… and many others.
A wee bit disappointed. Well, there’s always the next time.
Oh boy! That Ranil’s a smart cookie. What a trick he played on us Amerasiri’s IQ79s!
Still scratching my head how he pulled this one. …………..We have our very own Lankan Houdini, Copperfield, Dynamo rolled into one ………..Now you see……… now you don’t ….
Oh man! That boy ……. Ranil!
S.Modaya / November 23, 2017
Laja baya will save the nation while Buddhist monks sans either, also known as Saffron Thugs, dance in the streets with corrupt politicians.
What a load of Tosh from MS! Sri Lanka needs honest and educated leaders and civic organizations to hold corrupt politicians accountable.
Lajja Baya is no solution – indeed, it is part of the problem that keeps good people silent when high crimes and murder takes place in the miracle of modayas!
Sri lanka needs educated and honest leaders, not recourse to bullshit like MS’s lajja baya stories..
Amarasiri / November 23, 2017
Dear Malinda Seneviratna,
Lajja nethi Parayo.. in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.
Malinda, you had no Shame, Lajja and Bayar, fear, when you licked Mahinda Rajapaksas ass, got laptops and honors.
It all started, no Lajja, with the Para-Monk, Mahanama of Mahawamsa, who without Lajja, introduced his lies and imaginations to the Mahawamsa.
Ever since, the Paras, including the saffron robed monks, politicians and the populace has been brainwashed in the lies, and they keep repeating these lies, with no Lajja, shame, and no Bayar, fear. It has been deduced that the Mahawamsa is an Insult to the Buddha, and that Sinhala “Buddhism” is an insult to Buddhism, and the Paras in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, including the Para-monks, have no shame, Lajja..
In this wonderland occupied by the illegal Paras from India, Bharat, Damba-Diva, Bengal, Orissa, Binar South India etc,…..
Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people
Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.
Even Prof. Ediriweera Sarathchandra had no Lajja, shame, to produce the drama, Sinha Bahu.
Len Dora Arala, Pacha Kata Arala, Lajja nethi, Para-Para Parayo, Vedi Rate
Cave door open, lying mouth open, shameless Para-foreigners, in the land of Native Veddah Aethho.
max / November 23, 2017
You reveal the “Baya nethi Agamethi” like you crushing a Head Lice Malinda. Super piece of writing!
Native Vedda / November 25, 2017
It proves that you haven’t had the opportunity read, learn, identify and appreciate good writing.
Not all typing are writing and not all writings make it to the top.
You ought to spend some time looking for and accessing good writings.
Rohan Gunaratna / November 23, 2017
What bloody nonsense are you talking and where were you during mara days and what did you write at that time critical of the medamulana maniacs.
It seems that you are writing this on behalf of Killi maharaja as he is all out to over throw the UNP.
Unbiased reporting is necessary in any
Rienzie Fernando / November 23, 2017
Can somebody enlighten me on these facts please since it’s difficult to understand (since this is supposed to be the biggest scandal that has happened in this country?
1) How can the Govt (Ranil / Ravi …)be assured that the said Bond will be awarded to “Perpetual” through a public auction
2)What was the bond amount awarded to him (according to my knowledge it was 5.5B)
3)If a loan of 5.5B was taken by the Govt (due to lack of funds in the Treasury since it was very well managed by MR with Lajja , Baya being prioritized) How come as Lakshman Yapa (Minister) says the Loss is 1 Trillion
4) What was the loss from Hedging and Greek Bonds (Not Rocket Science)
Beg for an answer, please.
Taraki / November 23, 2017
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Native Vedda / November 24, 2017
Keep up the good work.
Gema / November 23, 2017
Baya nethi agamathi! (Fearless premier)
Lajja nethi agamathi!! (Shameless premier)
Lajja baya nethi Agamathi!!! (Premier who has no fear to commit shameless acts)!!!
UNP communication strategists have no clue about the words they use in posters! They think in English and try to write in Sinhala! They don’t understand the fact that certain words and expressions in Sinhalese can be swiftly converted to hilarious, damaging and destructive slogans. The above is a good case in point.
There are about 15 million Buddhist Sinhalese in SL and most of them have no time to read articles or watch TV news. But they are the decision makers at elections. They know what lajja and baya are (two powerful words in Buddhist ethics). The above slogans are more powerful than 1000 articles and 1000 news programs. The UNP that chose ‘baya’ in the first poster did not think about the twin expression ‘lajja-baya’. See the damage done!
Native Vedda / November 24, 2017
“They know what lajja and baya are (two powerful words in Buddhist ethics)”
Yet they vote for the same crooks, thieves, war criminals, …………….murderers, free rice from the moon, …………… in every successive elections by being lajja nethi and baya nethi.
douglas / November 23, 2017
I cannot understand why in a country campaigned on “Poster Display” posted another poster with the wordings “HORA KAMATA LAJJA BAYA NETHI AGAMATHI” or paste on that same poster a short strip with the words “HORAKAMATA”. That would have saved money plus time. The international community of wheeler dealers who got disturbed with the results of 2015 January Presidential Election have now fallen in love with this PM and soon he (PM) will be named “THE BEST PM” in the Universe, because no other world leader has ever ROBBED the Central Bank in this manner. I don’t think even Robert Mugabe has done that. He is now on a “Mission” to sell off Mattala Airport and he will not have any type of “Lajja and Baya” to do business of these types. Aren’t we BLESSED to have a PM of this type?. Even our President acts like that and in our village terms both are like “JAADIYATA MOODIYA”.
K.Pillai / November 23, 2017
Mallinda weaves a yarn out of ‘shame’ and ‘fear’ clearly from the Sinhala-Buddhist world of his own.
Lankan minorities have lived in ‘fear’ since independence in 1948. In spite of living in ‘fear’, the Gintota incident looked out of the blue. Yet none have shown any ‘shame’.
Malinda treads into “The Commission” and moans and condescends about the absence of robust questioning by prosecution. This was caused by a ‘fear’ of the type the minorities allow for in their lives. Will there be any ‘shame’? Certainly not – the skin has gotten very thick.
An Observer / November 24, 2017
According to your account from 1948 till 1978, for 30 years the minority Tamils lived in fear. After killing the Mr. Durraiappa, the Mayor of Jaffna by your minority LTTE from 1977 to 2010 (33 years) the majority Srilankans (Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burgers, etc.) Lived in fear. Please do not advocate one-sided story to stir the racial tension between communities for cheap political gains!
Jim softy / November 23, 2017
First Ranil should explain what was that emergency to repair roads withing the 100 day govt with One, 15, and 75 billion road repairing funds. Is it Because “home problems”. I mean UNP needed funds in a hurry. There was washing away of roads just before the 100 day govt. It was planned robbery. I think the Treasury and the Central bank was empty. They swindled IMF funds.
Jim softy / November 23, 2017
I am pointing finger at the school they were taught. Probably, that school does not teach any buddhist precepts, Christian values anything to these students I heard the prison is mostly who did not go to DAHAM PASALA. these people never learned anything like that. Just cheap tie -coat wearing thieves cheaper than people living in Welikada.
Native Vedda / November 25, 2017
Jim softy the dimwit
What are the Buddhist precepts? What are the Christian values? Tell us all what you know about Buddhism, it will take no more than two lines.
douglas / November 24, 2017
Rienzi Fernando: I have one simple answer picked up from the evidence before the Commission. The Treasury representative in his evidence said that the CB was informed “It was not necessary to raise funds because there were sufficient funds to meet the needs of the coming months”. Then the AG produced a an “UNDATED” letter from the Minister Finance addressed to the Governor of CB in which an amount of Rs.70 billion was required. The Treasury representative in evidence DENIED any knowledge of such a letter. The next question to him was: “Who informs the fund requirements of the Government to the CB?”. The reply was: “Only the Treasury informs the CB of the fund requirement”. Next the two Ministers “ATTENDED” a meeting at the CB and informed of the requirement of Rs. 15 billion to pay the contractors. Why they did not go through the legal channel of the Treasury for such a requirement? After that, the entire “Bond Issue” became the subject matter of PM; CB Governor; FM; the two Ministers Cabir Hasshim & Samarawickrama. From there onwards the “Bond Issue” became a “BOND SCAM” and Perpetual Trust was the “Fund Provider” and most importantly “Fund Raiser” because it did not have sufficient funds to bid. Later the Bank of Ceylon; EPF were “MILKED” with intervention of the major players of the “Bond Scam” I hope the Commission will be reporting on this basic facts that led to the “Bond Scam”. It would be interesting to find the payments made by Cabir Hasshim & Samarawickrama out of that Rs 15 billion and WHO RECEIVED such payments. Hope you got some understanding.
Jim softy / November 24, 2017
Malinda [Edited out]Central Bank robbery is clear cut FRAUD. It was pre planned, most probably Ranil has done this earlier. What I heard, CBK also suggested this saying Mahinda Rajapakse did this. so, you also do it. On other hand, this Central Bank frauds are nothing new. Remember, Paskaralingam, now Ranil baba’s Adviser to the ministry. PAskaralingam is said to do the same thing and bought houses. Probably, Pemadasa may have got some money. Anyway, it had happened as far back as 1994 and after that. My question is why you journalists fight for reducing the Politician in take. We need politicians only to take political decisions. I wrote earlier that every federal state of Trumphisthan has two federal politicians. Each state far bigger than Sri lanka. Why Sri lanka needs 225 out of which 94 could not get through O/L ?
Percy / November 25, 2017
At the time Paskaralingam was Head of the Treasury he was asked to hand over to Prabakaran something like half a billion rupees in cash as the Govts contribution to the Tigers to fight the IPKF. That amount of money is not shown anywhere in the Public Accounts and it is possible that Paskaralingam together with Premadasa robbed the Treasury without anyone knowing. How did they do it.?Well, when Paskaralingam took over the treasury he had about 6 deputies each in charge of a major function such as currency,audit, establishment, accounts etc. Each deputy in turn had about 3 Asst Directors. Soon after Paskaralingam came in he got rid of the 6 deputies and the 20 odd Asst Directors had to report to him.These Asst Directors had only a small part of the Treasury function under their control and never had any access to the total picture.Consequently Paskaralingam could do as he wanted. When Premadasa died there were bags of currency in his home and these would have been part of the loot jointly extracted from the Treasury.So all you Premadasa worshippers can now see how your hero robbed in addition to getting his opponents tortured and killed by his police thugs led by Ronnie Gunasinghe who too was blown up with his boss,
Ravin Daniel / November 25, 2017