At present, the trend the country is largely to ask and take, but not to give. We should not ask for everything from the Government but should rise up on our own. To get or grab and not to give has been our way of life. Some are good at giving; others are not so. [...]


Going beyond the Dansala Concept


At present, the trend the country is largely to ask and take, but not to give. We should not ask for everything from the Government but should rise up on our own. To get or grab and not to give has been our way of life. Some are good at giving; others are not so. We are, of course, good at giving alms. This may be because we are influenced by the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

Let us start our topic with a story about a dansala. The concept of dansal has grown in history. Earlier, eating from a dansala was looked down upon. Today it is not so. We see people coming even in luxury vehicles, queuing up and having meals at a dansala. We see equality among people in this instance. We have narrowed the gap between the rich and the poor. If someone is giving freely we should accept it. This is the message of the dansala, the message of equality.

Whatever it is, for the act of giving to be complete certain conditions need to be fulfilled. As Buddhists, we need to observe the precepts, and the virtue of giving with a proper attitude. We must have the strength to give and those who are accepting the gifts must be grateful to the giver.

One of the biggest dansal held throughout the year is at Urumittha Village in the premises of Rajjurubandara Devale. This place contains historical rock carvings and to reach the site, we need to climb 800 steps. If we are going by jeep, the Devale could be reached by road in a few minutes. There is a large statue of the god Rajjurubandara and the statue of a “Yakshaya” who ministers to this god. Devotees seeking solace for misfortunes, losses and answers to injustice trek to this place daily. While on Poya day there are around 25,000 devotees, there are two to three thousand people on other days. There are groups who organise meals for these devotees daily. Such good people claim to have been blessed by the deity of the temple, others are businessmen and benefactors. In any case this is a good example of the concept of dansala. The number of baskets of gifts and fruits received daily is in the thousands. There was a time when the fruits offered here were made into drinks and given to devotees. It was stopped sometime back, but was started again recently.

This is a good practice if fruits offered at temples and devales are made into juice and given to devotees and passersby. It is a meritorious deed and provides nutrition to people. This will avoid the wastage of fruits. But in some temples, tractor-loads of spoilt fruits are thrown away.

At my request, former President J.R. Jayewardene gave a subsidy of thousands of rupees to fruit farmers. I am not sure whether this is still being given. But a huge amount is being given as subsidies for seeds, fertilizer and cultivation. Some have forgotten this. A portion of what is earned must be given to others, and a portion to the government. This giving must be done with the same dedication and with a pure mind as in the case of giving a dansala.

It is important to formulate a system where the taxes to the Inland Revenue Department and local authorities are paid voluntarily and not under compulsion. The Government must train the people and arrange for the taxes to be received at a collecting center in a voluntary way with the correct mentality. We voluntarily contribute our donations to a temple. The till does not ‘talk’ and ask us to do so. Recently our country was in debt. It is because we borrowed in excess. All countries borrow and are in debt to a certain extent. We made a mistake recently of borrowing at a higher interest rate when we could have done otherwise. We must not do this in the future. The President, the Prime Minister or a Minister when borrowing must think about the people and the country and have their interest at heart.

In Japan, interest is not paid for deposits. So is it in Singapore. In developed countries this is the custom. In our country the interest rates are 10%, 12% and 15%. At personal level, there are interest sharks who sometimes charge 100%. If someone is sick and borrows 1,000 rupees the interest for a day is 10%. What would the monthly or annual interest be? We need an urgent solution to this injustice. If the major banks devise a system to grant concessionary loans we could avoid pitfalls.

If a producer puts to the market goods and they are sold the same day, the producer gets his money only after a couple of months. The consumer has to pay for the interest charged for this period. The producer must protect the consumer just like protecting a spring of water. He must not cheat the consumer. Today our insurance companies are not doing well. When a boat is getting old, some owners willfully sink it to get insurance. Even in the case of vehicles it is the same. Insurance is there for everyone’s benefit. Because some have started to cheat the insurance sector, others are suffering. New laws regarding insurance are being enacted.
Take the case of the judges. We cannot blame the judges for the time taken to conclude cases. Often lawyers are responsible for this. They are earning money unjustly, neglecting their duty and getting the cases postponed as and when they want. Take, for example, land disputes.

They drag on for 20 to 30 years; sometimes the affected parties have died by the time the cases are finalised. If the present judges come to the Bench at the allotted time and demand from lawyers that they move swiftly to finalise their arguments, no cases need be dragged on. Many people complain about the law’s delays.

This is not only my view, but the view of most people who sometimes seek divine help because of this accursed practice.  The authorities must immediately look into this and find out where we have gone wrong.

Many paddy farmers are complaining that they cannot sell their paddy. The consumer is complaining that the price of rice is too high. There are protests around us. We must address these immediately. If the new Government gets down to business and looks into these problems, the people will bless it. Before we fall into a pit it is the duty of the learned, the expert and those who govern us to arrange our path properly so that our way would be successful. That is my earnest appeal and wish.

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