19th March 2000

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Today is Medin full moon poya

Netting in Lankan Buddhist scholarship

By Senaka Weeraratne

One of Sri Lanka's claims to interna-tional attention has been its leadership of the Buddhist world since the introduction of the Buddha Dhamma to the island over 2,300 years ago.

Though small in size and limited by a modest population, Lanka was nevertheless able to gain the esteem and respect of larger countries, both in the east and the west, for its distinct contributions to the learning of Buddhism. The preservation of the Theravada tradition in its pristine form over a long period of time is another feather in the cap for Lanka.

However can we still assert these leadership claims internationally?

The answer would depend on the yardstick used. If the production of contemporary Buddhist literature and the depth of intellectual inquiry over a wide range of topics related to Buddhism constitute the test, then the answer has to be in the negative. The centre of gravity of scholarly discussions on Buddhism has or is now gradually shifting from the east to the west. Buddhist studies are beginning to be offered as part of an increasing number of university courses, and the volume of Buddhist books currently being produced in the west, both original works and translations, has reached the proportions of a sizeable industry in western countries. Further, the number of Internet websites on Buddhism continue to proliferate.These websites mostly based in the west, cover almost every known school of Buddhism ranging from Theravada to Mahayana to Tantric.

One of the important scholarly discussions on Buddhist issues is the on-line Journal of Buddhist Ethics. It is based in England and has a distinguished cast of scholars (pre-dominantly western) on its editorial board. Another popular Buddhist website is the Buddha Net. It is a non-sectarian Buddhist information network based in Sydney, Australia. The Web Master is Ven. Pannayavaro, an Australian Buddhist monk. This website includes an on-line Buddhist magazine - BuddhaZine - an on-line instructional meditation section: 'Insight Meditation On-line' and a section on Buddhist studies. There are about 9,000 visitors a day to this website and a plethora of e-mail inquiries.

An interesting newcomer to the Buddhist scene on the Internet is 'The Dhamma Journal' published by the Burmese Buddhists and most likely sponsored by the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Myanmar. The main attraction of this Journal is that the content comprises a select collection of articles written over the last 70 years by leading Burmese and western scholars on a variety of topics as seen from a Theravada perspective. The contributors include U Nu (former Prime Minister of Burma), the internationally renowned monk U Thittala, Ven. Dr. Revata Dharma, Mahasi Sayadaw and Francis Story (also known as Anagarika Sugathananda).

Sri Lanka Buddhist Journal on the Internet

In the pre and immediate post-independence period of the last century, Sri Lanka had a host of eminent Buddhist writers of international renown such as Professor G. P. Malalasekera, Dr. K.N. Jayatilaka, Ven. Walpola Rahula, Dr. A. P. De Soysa, Ven. Narada and foreign resident monks such as Ven. Nyanatiloka, Nyanaponika and Nyanamoli. Their analysis of contemporary issues from a Buddhist perspective was well regarded both within and outside the country. Their writings lie buried in reputed journals and books of yesteryear, which are mostly inaccessible to the large majority interested in developing their understanding of Buddhism. Nevertheless some of their views are as relevant today as they were then.

The Internet is increasingly becoming the main medium of dissemination of information and knowledge worldwide.

Buddhism on the Internet will become a powerful communication tool. If Sri Lanka wishes to re-assert its claims as a source of Buddhist scholarship on the rapidly expanding Internet, then the writings of Sri Lankan Buddhist scholars must be published on the Internet.

We too feel pain and fear death

From then our lives were full of fear
Caught in the grip of a monstrous man,
Who beat us and worked us all he can.
Weak and feeble we soon become,
My brother he limped, for he was lame.
All we wanted-our sole aim,
Was to die in peace without pain.
But when death came,
'Twas horror upon horror
Blood and tears and absolute terror,
Legs tied to legs, tails torn apart
Sold for slaughter our future was dark.
I heard my brother groan aloud
His tears fell one by one,
I saw him dragged along the ground,
His pleading eyes shunned.
I looked away in despair,
I felt the world was so unfair,
Dumb when born and till I die,
A harmless, helpless being am I.
My kith and kin, by me they drooped,
Listless and lifeless, they knew they were doomed,
Many haggard with age, a few pregnant too,
Some had been beaten black and blue.
Blood-shot eyes and empty bellies,
Throbbing heads and battered bodies,
Dazed with fear, no strength to fight,
Condemned to die, no help in sight.
My limbs did tremble, my heart did burn,
I waited in terror, for next was my turn,
Friendless and helpless I lay there in tears,
'Twas the end of the road for me and my peers.
I asked myself, don't they understand?
We too feel pain, just like man,
We too fear death, as humans do,
And we love those who love us too.
But we are dumb and cannot say, the thoughts which in
our hearts hold sway,
So pity us, dear humankind, We look upon you as divine.
Our mother's milk we shared with thee,
You have a culture proud and rare,
Despite its glory oft acclaimed,
This brutal killing, it's a nation's shame!
It's said that ours is a hallowed isle,
Blessed by Dhamma serene and mild, If that be so, why
are we damned?.
Dear Buddhist friends, pray come and see,
The fear, the pain, the misery,
All good people of other faiths,
Do pay heed to my dying wails,
When the evil within these walls you see,
You'll think you have lost your sanity,
Next time you sit to eat a steak,
Think of the way it comes to your plate,
Think of my brethren lined up in a row,
Waiting in terror for the final blow.
Please take not a life you cannot give,
But if the meat on our bones you so relish,
Do be humane and kill us quick!

-The animal Welfare Society

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