By Mass L. Usuf –
Anicca vata sankhara – All conditioned things are impermanent
Uppada vaya dhammino – Their nature is to arise and pass away
Uppajjitva nirujjhanti – To live in harmony with this truth
Tesang vupasamo sukho – Brings the highest happiness.
(Maha Pari Nibbana-sutta, Digha-nikaya)
“Sri Lanka is a small island in which live the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays and Burghers. We all must think how to live together and not how to live divided. Each time we were divided, the result was defeat. In the 30 year war, no one was victorious. We were all losers”. These words of the Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero reverberate in the ears of many and shall continue to do so for a very long time. The intonation characteristic of a matured, experienced and insightful personality; the composure and the aura of confidence all pointed to the sincerity of the words he spoke at that time. There was not an iota of doubt in his statement.
This great son, The Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, The Chief Incumbent of the Naaga Viharaya in Kotte, departed from this mundane life leaving mother Lanka weeping, weeping and weeping. His demise is a loss to humanity, a loss to democracy, a loss to civil society and a loss to all Sri Lankans. Venerable Sir, you have made all of us ‘orphans’ in the sphere of clean politics and good governance.
Staunch in justice, fearless in opposition and lion-hearted in approach he has been a beacon of guidance, a tower of assurance and an expanse of sensibility. During the past period of terror not by terrorists but, by the then establishment and its agencies many looked up to Sobitha thero for support, comfort and to show the way forward. There are today several in the Sangha who are in the helm of affairs but, unfortunately, not many to fill in the vacuum created by this noble personality. Is not this a tragedy upon tragedy?
Prior to the January 2015 Presidential election, the Thero counselled the then incumbent President against contesting for re-election but the over-confident Mahinda Rajapaksa did not take the Thero seriously. It is no secret that the Venerable Thero contributed immensely to pave the way for the common candidate for Presidency. He was, in fact, even willing to stick his neck out as the common candidate if there was no brave person to come forward. Not in greed of power but in order to abolish the executive presidency which had plagued the nation for a long time. He was a selfless warrior. A true patriot who lived up to the word.
Post election, he did not rest with the inauguration of the Yahapalana President. He was unabatedly continuing his advocacy. This time ensuring the implementation of the promises made by the new President, Maithripala Sirisena. A brave man indeed, who stood up to the test of bravery and passed it victoriously. The Thero said that if the promises are not kept everything will be over. The constitutional amendments and several other proactive measures that followed were the fruits of his indefatigable efforts.
As the Convener of the National Movement for a Just Society, The Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero never mixed his words nor was his message vague or compromising. During the last general election, he clearly guided the nation stating that the people need to take steps to ensure that corrupt persons are not re-elected to Parliament. His resounding words were that there is no need to make individuals victorious, but instead it must be ensured that policies of the country are victorious.
He was a strong advocate of clean politics. He cautioned the nation in the run up to the election not to vote for the corrupt, persons with racing interests, ethanol dealers and owners of taverns etc. His campaign to put pressure on the political parties not to provide nominations to unsuitable candidates saw the absence of many infamous and notorious actors thrown out of the election arena. We thank you, Venerable Sir, for this great contribution.
True National Hero
Today, in Sri Lanka if people are breathing the air of freedom and liberty, walking about with peace of mind and dignity and striving for peaceful co-existence let us give credit to this great Thero. There have been many in the past who are hailed as national heroes but they were heroes of the Sinhala people only. It is a misnomer to call such people national heroes. They were heroes who worked on the basis of raciality and many a times contributed to the division of the society. A sample of a true national hero is seen in Sobitha Thero. A hero par excellence who has earned the respect, reverence, approbation and admiration of not only the Sinhala people but also of the Tamils, Muslims, Malays and Burghers. For those in the Sangha community be proud of this great Thero and learn his ways. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, Venerable Sir, you are a manifestation of a true Sinhala Buddhist son of our mother Lanka. The government must declare him a National Hero.
Venerable Sir, in this nation where humans dwell, you have proved to be a great human being. In this nation where Buddhists live, you have proven that you are a true Buddhist. As a person who renounced pleasure to take the path of the Teacher, you have been a devout Sangha. To the Sasana you have been exemplary and a model worthy of emulation. For the Buddhist layman and the Sangha you have left behind the legacy of metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity) not confined to words but practiced in its true and exemplary perspective.
It would be the greatest tragedy of contemporary Sri Lanka if there is no other Sobitha Thero who will rise up from among the Sangha, to take his place.
Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, our hearts are weeping for you, Venerable Sir.
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial. to Us must you return”. (Chapter 21: Verse 35, Holy Quran)