17 April, 2024


The Muslim In Me

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

One of the greatest lessons that Buddhism has taught me is that the idea or concept of ‘self’ is untenable. Paṭikkūlamanasikāra or “reflections on repulsiveness”, where body parts are contemplated in a variety of ways teaches us not just about impermanence but makes us question ‘I’. It helps diminish ego. Similarly if one contemplated sensations and thoughts deep enough immediately one begins to understand that ‘I’ is made of innumerable ‘externalities’. This too makes a composite, name-related ‘self’ a meaningless proposition.

A simple illustration might help. A human body is made mostly of water. Where was this water 2 weeks ago and where will it be 2 weeks from now? Could it not have been in the body of an ‘enemy’ and might it not be in the body of the animal whose limb we are about to devour with relish? Indeed, that water that was part of the dead chicken whose wings, spiced and sauced, that we suck on greedily, could very well have been part of one’s own mother or child.

Take ‘thought’. We say ‘I think’ as though an idea was birthed by ourselves and no one else contributed to the birthing. The truth is that our thoughts are a blend of thoughts that came our way from innumerable sources: the books we read, the people we’ve encountered, the music we hear and everything that has grazed or lacerated our senses. ‘I’ is a composite of all these encounters in their multiplicity of form and source.

There are four books that my father recommended that I read at a very young age. One was ‘Bobby Fischer teaches chess’ which made me fall in love with the game. The second was ‘Mother’, by Maxim Gorky, which was to me an introduction to Socialism. The third was Gorky’s ‘Literary Portraits,’ which created a thirst for Russian literature. The fourth was a collection of poems by Jalal ad-Din Rumi, which introduced me to the Sufi Mystics, Sufi poetry and Sufism.

Rumi made me look for other Sufi poets. I frequently return to my precious volumes of Rumi and Hafiz of Shiraz. I have collected books containing the poetry of other ‘Muslim’ poets such as Ghalib and Iqbal. I’ve enjoyed the ghazals of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I return to them as frequently as I revisit the Buddha Dhamma. They are part of me.

There are conversations I’ve had with amazing human beings who adhere to the tenets of Islam. The Chief Subeditor of the Sunday Island, Mansur, a Marxist (and atheist) who returned to the Quran and became a devout Muslim is one of the most learned people I’ve met in my journalistic journey so far. Mr. Ilias, who taught Logic at Royal College and doubled up as Scout Master, is someone I still have interesting conversations with when I run into him near Ladies’ College. He taught me Tamil at school and took pains to teach us Grade Niners lines from the Thirukkural. This is why, twenty years later I sought him out and persuaded him to teach me Tamil, an exercise which unfortunately didn’t go beyond half a dozen classes.

Most importantly, I firmly believe that if the ‘I’ that is ‘me’ is made of anything it is made of free education. Who gave me free education? Who paid for free consultancy in state-run hospitals? Sinhalese? Buddhists? Yes, but not just them. There were Tamils and Muslims, Christians and Hindus, men and women from all parts of the country, of all faiths, all castes, all political persuasions who directly or indirectly paid for my education. Some observe sil, some pray to Allah, some make the mark of the cross, some pray to Vishnu or Shiva. Some are found in kovils, some in churches, some in mosques. Some wear short skirts, some wear the hijab.

I am a Sinhalese. A Buddhist by conviction. But this ‘I’ is also made of water-parts and thought-parts that have sojourned in non-Buddhist corporality. More than this, men and women of all communities have made me who I am in ways that I cannot count to a finish. If I raise my hand against a community or a faith that would not only be inconsistent with the truths I subscribe to and defend, but it would be a self-slap. If I do not defend someone who is attacked on account of his/her faith, I would be abandoning a blood-brother and a blood-sister. I cannot recognize myself if I don’t see ‘me’ in someone who subscribes to a different system of belief, speak a different language or has different preferences in clothing.

Buddhism teaches me to do my best to treat things with equanimity, to appreciate the transient nature of things, to exercise compassion and err on the side of reason (over emotion). The Buddha gave me the Kalama Sutra (The Buddhist Charter on Free Thinking). All of this has opened me to other faith-worlds, people of different persuasions.
I am a Buddhist in whose mind, heart and body there resides Muslims. I cannot evict them and have no reason to do so either. I am richer for their residency.

Just saying…

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Prince, your spelling skills are both admired and envied. I am however, not constructing a thesis. I have indicated clearly the audience that I am addressing by stating ” Get down from the trees please “. Given the sensitivities of the soft hearted racist – I hope you appreciate that I am trying my best to be polite.

    I have included the word “please” while I request for a climb down.

    Mansoor, could kindly provide a reference for : “‘All men above 18 should be killed. All houses pulled down and burnt. ” Did this come from the Queen or a moronic officer in her majesties service ? If you have access to similar communications issued for the massacre of civilians and Muslims in recent times- please share it.

    Malainda may be want to write another article on the finer literary differences between such murderous edicts.

  • 0

    Is Islam a religion of Peace? Based on Facts – resounding NO. Mohammed, founder of Islam was a worrier who fought 80 some wars and won all of them. Islam is an intollerante, violent religion.

  • 0

    I am still wondering why Malinda has written such a meaning less (or rather dumb) article at this juncture. What is he trying to achieve from this? Some kind of sympathy from the Muslim community just because he enjoys Sifi poems and music?

    What I can understand from this article is, Malinda is trying to show off that he knows many things other than Buddhism. I wasted my time reading this crap. Is this the standard of a chief editor of a News paper in SL? Shame!

  • 0

    Malinda who is the monarch of all what he surveys
    is confused. Bad enough, he is confusing others.
    He talks about the ‘Muslim in me.. Before talking
    about that, he should go through an anatomical
    trans location. What hypocrisy this man who has
    turned out to be the Coca Cola and Super Market
    specialist in journalism has turned into. Get your
    head examined.

  • 0

    Malinda’s credential as a rabid Sinhalese Buddhist Racist Nationalist is documented in is Wiki Page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malinda_Seneviratne

    The only organization that he has not been officially part of is the “Markaddya Maramu” organization.

    But I must admit, that his editorials are increasingly civilized. Perhaps that is his key value that he provides for his clan, like what Anton did for the Tamils – Justify rabid Tamil Racism borne out of the trauma caused by Singhala racism.

    My only concern for Malinda is that he should be given part of the loot for the services he is now rendering. But since he is doing such an unconvincing job, I am not sure if he will be rewarded.

    • 0

      I don’t know anything about Malinda’s previous Avatars. However he is stating here, his point of view on a current situation that seems to be arising in Sri Lanka. We should comment about this Post, not what he has written before or what he will write after.

  • 0

    What is this blistering idiot Prince Remijius spewing here? Where have
    I made any comments in this page? Change your dope asap, you clueless crank. You are on outdated stuff. I notice two other depraved germs here exposing their obsession as usual and with no reason. I simply ignore this floating muck as usually – with contempt.


  • 0

    Rohana,The real truth is now all Buddhist monk realized they cant keep the religion due to their own people not willing to follow.And also Truth only will alive until end of the world.One day people will realize what is true? what is fake?This good opportunity to learn the real fact. Please don’t missed it.Rohana,you are telling Muslims like to kill each other.But they does not.In Islam even cant hurt by thinking.because God know each and everything.Now you see in Burma who killing people? Buddhist monks only leading to kill people.Is it the way Buddha show to you?never. Please click the videos and understand the real truth…Please dont give any comments without knowing any knowledge….


  • 0

    The comments feature is supposedly to discuss what the PRO’s and CON’s of the subject matter. The background knowledge of the writer would allow us to ascertain whether he is being factual or tainting issues as per the reputation that the MEDIA has – Internationally.
    As for most of the comments available here … It is the Pot calling the Kettle black;
    Mr. Moderator… you should keep out all comments that do not address the subject matter of the article and/or the writer.

    The Dumb Blonde!

  • 0

    Many commentators appear to be prejudiced against Malinda. Why can’t they contest his ideas, views without insulting him? There is originality in his ideas, originality in his style of writing. Malinda is already a great poet. I think he is also a great thinker in the making.

  • 0

    Ok, there is a point here. Lets give Malinda a break.

    His past is his past. But is also our past. His writings are no longer rabid. I must admit, that they are so un-rabid that we begin to question his intentions.

    The important lesson here – that is obvious to any foreigner reading this – is that we are all racist. The less sophisticated ones expressing it openly and the more sophisticated ones couching it intellectually.

    Sri Lanka will get out of the shit hole, when we realize “The racist in us”.

  • 0

    Im not ashamed to profess that I am in love with Malinda. Ive been following his writings and interviews closely and to me he seems a nice guy. I could relate easily with his perception of things and I truly believe him to be a great humanist, whatever the religion he was born into. I still remember reading his plea in the Daily News (I think), about saving Rizana Nafeek that hapless victim of injustice. Yes that was long , long before before our own so-called muslim political and religious leaders even lifted a finger to stir their own conscience (if ever they had one). Malinda vociferously called upon everyone concerned to stop the idle talk and get down to brass tacks in saving her. Alas, his words were simply ignored. Great guy he is and I truly admire him.

  • 0

    There is no God but Allah and Prophet Mohamed is the messenger Of God.
    Instead of reading rumi , read the translation of the Quran. it will benefit you here and the here after.

    The problem with buddhism is its a phylosphy, there is no good or bad, every thing is relative. the basic is dukka and sukka. sadness & happiness. which in life doesnt give any meaning. just endless self. ending up in non entity. nirvana.
    also distorted by idol worshipping and monk worshipping. which was not buddah intended. its basically a mix masala of all hindu/jain/animist/practices.

    Islam gives Allahs message to man how to live, what is the purpose in life, where you will be ending up, and its certain.

    all mad made isms will perish- thats certain.

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