14th May 2000
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The ideal Vesak gift Ape Budhu HamuduruwoApe Budhu Hamuduruwo by Damayanthi Jayakody, Dayawansa Jayakody and Company, Colombo. Rs. 200.
Soon it will be Vesak. Many will send Vesak greetings to their friends and relations. Bookshops and makeshift stalls on either side of the road in most towns will be full of Vesak cards. There will also be several Vesak publications - 'annuals' as they are called ideal for reading this season.
'Ape Budhu Hamuduruwo' (Our Buddha) written by Damayanthi Jayakody is a valuable Vesak gift for children, as she presents the virtues of the Buddha in the most absorbing and arresting manner. She analyses the qualities of the Buddha as described in the Salutation to the Buddha - 'Iti pi so Bhagava Araham Samma Sambuddho............in a simple and readable way.
"When we believe in the great qualities of the Buddha, we develop a feeling of devotion in our minds. As we become more pious, we get used to doing more and more meritorious deeds. Just as we make beautiful garlands by gathering flowers, gathering merit is also a beautiful thing. Piety brings us wisdom. Our minds become clean and begin to glitter." The writer creates the initial interest in the mind of the child and proceeds to explain the Buddha's qualities one by one.
She uses short sentences, which help the little reader to grasp the facts with the least possible effort. Her style of writing is simple and clear.
The book is interesting because she cleverly mixes incidents and episodes from the Buddha's life and links them with her main task of discussing the qualities of the Buddha. Well-known tales from the past lives of the Buddha are related.
She convinces the reader of the need to follow the teachings of the Buddha and lead a happy life.
"It's bad to drink intoxicants. In this way, we respect the Buddha, we pay obeisance to Him. He is fit to be worshipped. The 'devas' worship Him. We humans worship him. Because of His quality 'Arahan'."
The book is well illustrated. Full-page colour photographs and drawings fit into the topic discussed. The print quality is excellent and the use of big letters and spacing of sentences are bound to make the young reader happy. It's easy to read.
"The Bodhisatva precepts state that if one kills and eats meat, this dries up the seeds of compassion of our self-nature. Our compassionate sensibilities wither. Then we become callous.
As we become callous, life becomes less and less dear to us. So it has been explained that the reason for much crime and war today is because the energy of killing and the karma of killing has reached horrendous proportions. We have then lost the all important compassionate awareness".
An article on 'Ahimsa' appearing in this year's 'Vesak Lipi', the bilingual Buddhist digest, reminds us not to hurt and not to kill. "Buddhism teaches love for all living beings.
This philosophy of Right Understanding and Right Living revolted against the low and debasing, inhuman and inhumane practice of animal sacrifice to gods which was prevalent in India during the time of Gotama Buddha. Wherever Buddhism spread, mercy and compassion followed, softening the hearts of mankind towards all beings and making them sensitive to pain.
"A noble king, Emperor Asoka of India had hospitals established for the care of sick animals. King Buddhadasa of Sri Lanka showed great mercy and love for animals. He was a skilful physician and was also a skilled veterinary surgeon."
Two pictures of the brutal slaughter of cattle accompanying the article make one sit up and think why such inhuman treatment should be meted out. Today such treatment is not limited to animals, it is also given to human beings.
Year in, year out 'Vesak Lipi' continues to provide valuable reading material during Vesak. Upali Salgado spends virtually the whole year planning, collecting, compiling and editing the articles. He ensures it's a worthwhile publication - a collector's item. This year is no exception.
The topics are timely and apt. The collection of English articles begins with an explanation of the Ten Perfections of the Bodhisatva quoting several Jataka stories to illustrate them. Discussing 'Buddha, the incomparable physician', Alec Robertson shows that "the Buddha is the peerless physician, the Supreme Dhamma is the medicine and the Sangha comprises those great and mighty beings who have completely uprooted the poisonous defilement of the mind and are the perfectly healed ones".
Well-known writers who are no more, get a place in 'Vesak Lipi'. Among them are Venerable Narada Maha Thera ( 'What is Kamma'), Piyadassi Nayaka Thera ('Buddhist Reflections on Death') and V. F. Gunaratne ('Four Noble Truths'). A host of other writers explain different aspects of Buddhism. Reba Lewis takes us on a conducted tour of 'a world wonder' magnificent Borobudur.
The Sinhala section of 'Vesak Lipi' contains a good selection of topics. Medagama Dhammananda Thera has compiled sayings by Anagarika Dharmapala to illustrate the plight of the Sinhalese in the early part of the 20th century. So apt in the current context.
In a message to the youth in 1922, the Anagarika had said: "Two options are open to us. Either we should accept being slaves and allow our nation to be swept away. Or else we should launch a struggle to save the nation by protecting our values which are fast eroding.
"The Christians and Buddhists should unite and take steps to protect the Sinhala nation. Religion should not be a hindrance to patriotic deeds. What we need today is a band of dedicated men who can wake the Lankan people now in a slumber leading a half-dead life. We should regain the lost position in world history."
Photographs of some Buddhist patriots of the century remind us of the great service they have rendered for the upliftment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
The publication is well illustrated. The cover carries the Buddha image at the Sri Dalada Maligawa.
Putting together a publication of this nature, meant for free distribution,
is indeed a meritorious deed. Many support the publication in numerous
ways including small monetary contributions. - DCR
Class, campus and the cushy life
By Rajpal Abeynayake
Self Published, Ceylon Printers.
The Vague Poetess, a novel by Shavindra Fernando, has either had bouquets thrown at it, or been mercilessly panned. Ergo, thisreview, which hopefully would do neither.
Life in Peradeniya campus is romanticized in this novel, whichever way one looks at it, but that's not exactly a literary misdemeanor.
In part , it's a nostalgic rendition of the Sri Lankan undergraduate condition. In part and in shadow it indubitably contains autobiographical elements. On the one hand, Vague Poetess, though definitely needing to be edited, is not as unreadable as some of the Gratiaen award winning novels of recent times, though this book itself didn't make the Gratiaen shortlist of 1999.
To an extent the book is a prism on the author's own interpretation of certain campus practices such as ragging, electioneering, tavern-hopping etc., ( There are the authourisms that are thrown around liberally such as this gem: " The academics also towed the line that the revolution will eventually come, and some of them believed it ought to propel them to greater comforts and positions.'')
There is crudity for crudity's sake , (..the first time she raised her frock to him..) which is the author's way of saying be shocked out of your wits. Instead, one hopes for a less contrived page. But, though the writing is clichétic, its again not unreadable which is a merit considering the amount of Gratiaen goose eggs that have been laid over the years. At least Fernando calls a spade a spade. Itself a cliché, of course; one at least Fernando would have liked.
"It was believed by many that at least tonight they would fall in love.'' This writing is so queer, that even at its most unedited, it is still not run of the mill, which means that at least there is some freshness in this badness. Content-wise, there is one overarching statement that is made in this novel which is that the author certainly enjoyed his campus years.
Arcane rituals on the university fringe about which he often goes into raptures shows these things have a special place in the heart of an undergraduate now leading the life of "greater comforts and positions.''
The profundity of detail is quite baffling, really. Some write to remember, some write to forget, but we haven't had this spirit in a campus book, since 1969.
The class struggle depicted here is through the eye of the beholder, and is suitably embellished and therefore seen to be utterly and almost ruthlessly romantic.
It may not be the real thing, but then the last thing that's needed these days is a real novel.
This campus life is staccato and episodic, and tribulations are all part of the Peradeniya scenic ambience. "Rohitha had to drop her by the gate without the home people seeing that she was coming with a different boy everyday.''
O the times, o the troubles
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