Upali Salgado has come out with the 26th issue of Vesak Lipi, an annual that he has been publishing consisting of an eclectic collection of work on Buddhism. Among others, there are excerpts from the sermons of the Buddha, short essays by learned professors, some by laymen in various fields, excerpts from the Jataka stories, some tales from the Buddha’s wanderings and His meetings with people, pictures of sculptures and paintings, life stories of eminent exponents of the Dhamma in Sri Lanka and other short notes, which are of interest to the general reader.
This volume includes among others, an article by the eminent scholar Prof. K.N. Jayatilaka on Why Buddhism is a Religion, an article on Sanchi with photographs which is full of interesting information one of which is that the Mahavamsa refers to Sanchi as Chetiyagiri - the hill that is covered with chetiyas and stupas. An article on Sparkling Gems of Buddhist Literature in India, refers to many works of which the general reader would like to know more, among them in Sanskrit, Asvagosa’s Buddhacharita, and works of a poet from Kashmir Kappanabhyirdava. The article also mentions Buddhist literature in Oriya, Telegu and Tamil and of the great Tamil Buddhist epic - Manimekalai and the lost Buddhist epic Kundalakesi of which only 19 stray stanzas remain.
There is also an article on the Sri Maha Bodhi by the Venerable Piyadassi Nayake Thera that brings to our attention the importance attached to trees and their preservation in the ancient world and in the Buddhist civilization that arose in Anuradhapura. The Ven Piyadassi tells us of the important role played by women in the rise and spread of Buddhism and that Sinhala Bhikkunis sailed to far away China and assisted in establishing the Bhikkuni order there in the 5th century.
There is also a little note, By Offering A Katina Robe Merit Gained is Unshakable, which refers to an annual event in every temple the “Vas Pinkama”. Originating from the time of the Buddha this pinkama is still observed religiously in Sri Lanka in every temple at the end of the “rains retreats”. The pinkama gives an opportunity for the Bhikkhus and the laity to interact in the process enabling the laity to care for the needs of the monks and the temple, including tending to sick monks, attending to repairs of the temple etc. The pinkama ends with the offering of the Katina Robe which is not an ordinary robe but one specially prepared and dyed for the event. After the Robe is offered to the Maha Sangha it is in turn offered by unanimous decision of the Sangha to the bhikkhu who during the Vas season observed his vows with piety at the temple.
Vesak Lipi also has a short note on the brilliant lawyer H. Sri Nissanka who with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike formed the SLFP in 1951. At Sri Nissankka’s residence Yamuna, a famous conference took place after the 1947 election when no party had a majority. Several MPs opposed to the UNP attempted to cobble together a majority by bringing together several small parties and independents, which if it had succeeded would have stopped D.S. Senanayake and the UNP from forming the Government in 1947. However, D.S. adroitly lured several independents to his fold forming a government that provided stability to the country in those formative years.
This famous house, a landmark in Havelock Town was donated by Sri Nissanka’s daughter to the Maha Sangha in memory of her father and is now a Buddhist temple- Sri Yamuna Saddaham Aramaya. Vesak Lipi also has an article Concepts of Healing which brings together many ideas from the Buddhist texts on this subject including advice from the Buddha. Among them is his most practical and famous injunction - the need to guard against gluttony – one of the greatest hindrances to a healthy life. The Buddhist tradition has always regarded healing as one of the most compassionate of deeds and there have been Buddhist monks over the centuries who have been expert physicians.
Upali has written on Ways of Gotama Buddha-The Perfect One, and he relates many interesting incidents from the life of the Buddha. One relates to the Brahmin Wangisa who made his living by tapping human skulls to discover the facts pertaining to the rebirth of their owners. The Buddha to test him gave him an Arahant’s skull and Vangisa was bewildered, for an Arahant is not reborn. These are just a handful of the gleanings from this delectable collection of odds and ends that will surely stimulate the reader to look a little more deeper into the subject. Upali publishes Vesak Lipi and gives it free to those who request it. He covers his costs through donations given by those who yearly subscribe to this annual. I have chided him for not releasing the book to the general reader through bookshops for a small fee, for, several readers do not know of the existence of Vesak Lipi and are surely being deprived of a good book, however, Upali remains obstinately wedded to the idea - no sales. From the surplus left after covering the costs of publishing the book Upali has been able to equip an entire ward in Kandy General Hospital reserved for kidney patients.
Vesak Lipi and its Editor have done much in the Buddhist tradition to bring understanding, wisdom and knowledge to readers. We must join in wishing him long life to continue this good work.