26 October, 2021

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We Are Nothing If We Are Not All

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Api venuwen api (all of us for all of us) was a defining slogan as the entire nation stood with the President, the Government and the security forces in the last years of the struggle to rid the country of the terrorist menace. Today, almost four years later, the country faces another test, this time from external sources. A few days from now the UNHRC will take up a US sponsored resolution on (read ‘against’) Sri Lanka. Given realities of global power balance (and imbalance) in all likelihood, the resolution will pass. There is very little that Sri Lanka can do about international busybodies with pernicious agendas backed by bucks and guns, not even if Sri Lanka had the finest diplomats on earth.

As is mentioned in the Dhammapada (Verse 11, Sariputta Thera Vattu), ‘those take untruth for truth; they take truth for untruth, persons can never arrive at the truth, for they hold wrong views’.

The silver lining, paradoxically, in these trying circumstances is the opportunity to separate friend from friend-claimant. India, for example, is said to be negotiating another ‘watered down’ resolution, but this should not fool anyone. India would love to come off as ‘friend’ even as it wrangles a resolution that will keep Tamil Nadu happy and its interests in Sri Lanka safe from usurpation by China (for example).

Come next Sunday, we will know.

Whatever happens, Sri Lankans must reconcile to the fact that in the face of adversity and in times of celebration we are best when we are united, i.e. when we are in api venuven api mode.

Now absolute unity in any polity is a myth. We can only speak of degrees of unity. We can be united against a common enemy, even if we are at odds with one another. Sometimes adversity prompts blaming. When faced with storms beyond our strength we take our frustrations out on lesser ‘enemies’. Sometimes we even conjure enemies where there are none.

It is not possible of course to explain animosities between followers of different faith in terms of what’s happening in Geneva right now. However, regardless of Geneva, it is prudent to reflect on the notion of unity and the attendant virtues of tolerance, compassion and wisdom as we struggle to obtain and experience the full meaning of the term ‘citizenry’ in a post-terrorism Sri Lanka.

There is reality and there is perception. Human beings are frail and this frailty cuts across all identity markers, all faiths, all ethnic groups, all classes, castes and age groups. No community can claim it is blameless in taunting, causing grievous hurt and insulting another. It is this very fact that is used by those persuaded by less than religious motives to make point, exaggerate, raise anxiety level and in these and other ways mobilize the lowest human sentiments for political projects that have nothing to do with the teachings they profess to abide by.

Religious fervor is an easily sharpened sword. Those who use that instrument have an edge over those who are probably closer adherents to fundamental tenets. All the more reason for those who would hesitate to be swayed by religious-politics to stand up and be counted, stand up and stand between executor and would-be executed, literally and metaphorically.

A good Buddhist is a good human being. So too a good Hindu, a good Muslim and a good Christian. All religious texts are made for interpretation and therefore for pernicious misinterpretation. That’s politics. But all texts contain notions of tolerance, compassion, giving and wisdom.

People say we cannot afford another ‘July 1983’. The reasons, it is claims, is the flak Sri Lanka will receive internationally. This is not true. We cannot afford another ‘July 1983’ not because of the exaggerations it will spawn, the distortions and the political instability, but that it will leave us impoverished in terms of how we relate to each other, individually and as collectives.

Extremism is not always produced by extremists. The TULF was ‘moderate’, the LTTE was not. But malice, exaggeration of grievance, inflation of aspiration, provocation, planting of mistrust etc., unleash forces that are beyond the control of the unleashing entity.

A ‘Good Buddhist’ would be a failure if he let anyone in his/her name or the name of ‘Buddhism’ harm anyone of any other faith, whatever wrong he/she may have done. ‘Revenge’ has no place in Buddhism. Neither is it resident in Hinduism, Islam or Christianity. Infringement of the law has to be taken care of law enforcement authorities, not private citizens. If laws are deficient or law enforcement authorities errant, then these flaws have to be corrected. We cannot have unauthorized entities interpreting the law and enforcing it.

Api (us) is not an ethnic-specific term. It is an inclusive one and moreover one that finds resonance in all faiths. If a Muslim does not recognize the humanity of a non-Muslim then he is a lesser Muslim. The same holds for a Buddhist. If a Buddhist sees a lesser creature in a Christian then he/she diminishes him/herself and his/her fellow Buddhists.

We are nothing if we are not all.

*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
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    WE HAD DIPLOMATS, DECADE AGO.

    BUT NOW WE HAVE Morons, SIMILAR TO YOU.

    IT IS VERY NICE OF YOU QUOTED THIS FROM HOLY DHAMMAPADA.

    “As is mentioned in the Dhammapada (Verse 11, Sariputta Thera Vattu), ‘those take untruth for truth; they take truth for untruth, persons can never arrive at the truth, for they hold wrong views’”.

    these advises are for you people and your bosses.
    Read every day and memorize them and send this everyday to your bosses in the governance , advice them to adhere to these golden words.
    [I think you have Laptop from Naked king, to email ].

    there are so many Buddhists,
    now Sinhala Buddhist too.
    We have to find out who are the buddhism followers are?.
    You say;
    “Infringement of the law has to be taken care of law enforcement authorities, not private citizens. If laws are deficient or law enforcement authorities errant, then these flaws have to be corrected. We cannot have unauthorized entities interpreting the law and enforcing it.”
    Are you referring this to The BODU BALA SENA? with out mentioning their name?..

    are you afraid to mention that, because Ministry of defence of White van.

    further more,
    [ but no use to Weeera wangsha, kudu group,education big mouths,kehel mals types].

    REMEMBER;
    “IN GOVERNANCE AND,
    JOURNALISM TRUTH IS A PROCESS.”

    “truth but nothing but the truth.”

    PS, Malinda Seneviratne,

    I have not been to a university, even when it is raining time to have a shelter,
    just a O/L passed villager.
    Why the Harvard educated you cannot understand.?
    why cant you?.

    • 0
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      The RajaPassas’ have given a whole new meaning to the phrase “Api wenuwen api.” Everything they do today is with the intention of forming a thousand year RajaPassa Reich. You would be better off if you posted your ramblings in government websites. 98% of those who follow CT are not RajaPassa fans or sycophants. So I doubt that you will ever get any favourable responses by posting your ramblings on CT.

  • 0
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    Tell your leader Rajapaksa that he has done more than any leader before him to polarise and divide the nation along religious and racial lines. The situation is getting worse by the day and Rajapaksa is doing nothing to arrest it. You want the all the people to unite in defence of this terrible regime? Sri Lanka is not in the dock but it is this terrible Rajapaksa regime that is in the dock in Geneva. The people of Sri Lanka should unite not to save the Rajapaksa regime but to get rid of it.

  • 0
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    I think the unifier is democracy and justice. Both were ruined by Rajapaksa nepotism and greed. According to Buddhism, everything is compounded by a set of causes and conditions. Once the causes and conditions of peace and unity are removed, peace and unity just dissolve.

  • 0
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    Malinda writes:

    “Whatever happens, Sri Lankans must reconcile to the fact that in the face of adversity and in times of celebration we are best when we are united, i.e. when we are in api venuven api mode.”

    There will be no unity in Sri Lanka so long as racial and religious extremisms dominate Sri Lankan landscape. Sinhala Buddhist racial extremism manifested in the form of Sinhala only language policy and Buddhism being enshrined in the constiution as the foremost religion of Sri Lanka created a permanent divide and led to the dissent of Tamils. This in turn created Tamil extremisim expressed in the idea of Tamil Eelam.

    Now Buddhist extremists like BBS are creating a further divide by alienating the Muslims who hitherto hitched their fortunes by aligning with the Sinhalese.

    In this scenario, how can there be unity in Sri Lanka.

  • 0
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    Api Wenuven Api is a good phrase which can be interpreted to be all inclusive. However in the context it is being used it is being applied in a very limited format, mainly to help the war heroes. The phrase was coined by the regime just as other catchy slogans such as divineguma, uthura wasantha etc But what is missing is the all inclusive policy envelope of all races, religons and people.

    How can we say ‘Api Wenuven Api’ when elections have not been held in the North for several years and it is under military control. The Governer is a military man and not a tamil whereas the population is tamil. Then ‘Api Wenuvan Api’ derives a different connotation altogether.

    Nevertheless I appreciate the message the author is trying to put across. Hope this will strike a chord with those on the streets.

  • 0
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    JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA –
    Don’t ask this mealy-mouthed pandankaraya about “understanding” anything. He is now waxing philosophical when all else has failed him in his pursuit of “legitimacy” which in fact is simply pursuit of the buck in, literally, the employ of our Great and Glorious Ruler!
    CT should subtitle every one of his contributions as part of a series constituting blatant hypocrisy in Sri Lankan journalism.
    As for Harvard producing him, don’t forget that George Bush Jr. was an alumni of that Uni, too!

  • 0
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    Malinda, There is no Sariputta Vattu in Dhammapada.The verse you quote should be this one which is found in Yamaka Vagga:” Asaare saaramatino – Saare ca saara dassino; Te saaram naadhigacchanti – micchaasamkappa gocharaa”.Meaning: In the unessential they imagine the essential, in the essential they see the unessential- they who entertain (such) wrong thoughts never realize the essence. If you do not have a good knowledge of Buddhism (like most of our Pure Buddhists) please abstain from misquoting the Dhamma.

  • 0
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    I simply cannot understand how you could quote from the Dhammapada, you insult it so much, I am truly sad. You are so incredibly flawed in your belief that it is foreigners who are bent on punishing us. That is merely an afterthought by them as we have already been punished by our leadership, we don’t need any more from outside.

    It is us who have ruined ourselves, fine “api wenuwen api” you try to preach like most slogans of the government are just slogans. The reality is the reverse. So don’t even go offshore to look into the disastrous state of our country, created solely by a very un Buddhist Kleptocracy bent on subjugation.

    The Government has just thrown away the peace dividend with such disdain, that we do not deserve a second chance. A future administration will just have to pick up the pieces and try and rebuild our nation as a NATION, that has been so cynically torn to shreds by a pompous, arrogant and totally wasteful and corrupt administration.

    Too bad you cannot see it, but that is no surprise, as you blinded by the Rajapakse curse. Tragic waste of an intelligent mind!

  • 0
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    Basically your attention goes outwards – and when a nation is made up of intellectuals like you who are totally incapable of seeing your own mistakes – we end up like this

    quite simple really.

  • 0
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    Malinda, the most hypocritical racist masquerading as a journalist, is once again showing his true colours.

    Being patronising and posing off as a holier-than-though commentator does not fool anyone.

    The fact is that the Geneva Resolution has now been revised to include religious discrimination as another charge against SL! And this worries poor Malinda.

    If the Muslim countries in Geneva council react to what is happening in SL, the final result would be absolutely disastrous.

    So Malinda, your Sermon on the Mount to tread softly and backing off from bigotry is a good first step, but clearly there is a very long and and arduous road ahead, which you have to traverse.

    True reconciliation and adherence to basic human rights in SL at the moment is an absolute joke. Can we please hear your jaundiced views on these urgent and unresolved issues.

  • 0
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    Is “Api” Sinhala Buddhist or a composite of Sinhala, Tamil, Moor, Burghers and others? If you believe it is the latter why does BBS/SR,
    with which you are reportedly connected with emotionally and in other ways – found publicly ill-treating smaller communities in ways entirely un-buddhistic?

    Senguttuvan

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