The atheist Janatha Vimukthi Party, which for years heaped scorn on Buddhist worship of the Bodhi and scoffed the practice as primitive tree worship, have now turned to pray before a  tree of their very own: a giant mahogany tree growing in the middle of a private estate in Horana. And this communist party, whose [...]


Che’s Mahogany tree is JVP’s sacred Bodhi


The atheist Janatha Vimukthi Party, which for years heaped scorn on Buddhist worship of the Bodhi and scoffed the practice as primitive tree worship, have now turned to pray before a  tree of their very own: a giant mahogany tree growing in the middle of a private estate in Horana.

And this communist party, whose political ideology is based on Lenin’s maxim that religion is the opium of the masses, is now stoned on protecting it and according special status to it as the inspiring tree of political thought.

The root of this mahogany’s importance lies in the legend that it was planted by Che Guevara – the iconic Argentinean born revolutionary who became the hero of the Cuban revolution – when he was sent by Castro in July, 1959 on a three month tour of 14 countries, including Lanka, and visited the island in August to spread the gospel of the Cuban revolution to the natives.

The existence of this JVP hallowed tree only became known to millions of Lankans last month, when police cracked down on a group of illicit timber fellers who were attempting to cut down the JVP’s holy oak of a tree. The police had received a tip off from a mysterious source and was miraculously able save the tree on time and thus save it from the fate that, 2300 years ago,  befell the sacred Bodhi under which Gautama the Buddha, a revolutionary of enlightened thought, attained Buddhahood. That sacred tree, according to the Mahawamsa, was first poisoned by Emperor Asoka’s Queen Tishya Rakshitha or Tissarakkha who, jealous of her king paying so much homage to the tree, caused poisonous mandu thorns to be thrust into it which resulted in its demise.

But if the Emperor of all India could not save the Buddha’s Buddha Gaya Bodhi from wanton destruction, the JVP is determined to save Che’s Horana Mahogany at all cost. And it has moved mountains to ensure it is saved.  It has demanded the Government to take all the necessary steps to protect this mahogany tree which for the JVP has now become what the Bo tree has been for Buddhists for the last two thousand three hundred years.

The JVP’s Kalutara District Parliamentarian Dr Nalinda Herath said last month that the JVP has asked the government to provide protection for this 58 year old tree. What? Does this mean police protection round the clock, inside a private Horana estate? Touching, isn’t it? Especially when they have never expressed the slightest concern over the sacred Jayasiri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura, the sapling from the original Bo Tree at Buddha Gaya before it was destroyed, when it faced danger in the days of drought.

But then the JVP were never tree worshippers, now, were they?  Or at least in public. For it now transpires they had been secretively asking for protection for this particular mahogany from the government even before. As Dr Nalinda Herath said, “Previously too, the Party had requested protection for the tree.”

The Buddha’s Bodhi is not a wishing tree, though many misguided Buddhists seem to hold it so. As the Buddha declared when pressed by his disciple Ananda for an icon to worship in his absence, “The great Bodhi Tree used by the Buddha, whether he is dead or alive, is an object of reverence.” It is a symbol of enlightenment and thus is worthy of reverence.

And why is it worthy of reverence? Is it also not because of the Buddha’s doctrine of ahimsa? Zero violence and total tolerance, which never condoned war in any form for any reason whatsoever but always, condemned the resort to arms as a means to an end? Isn’t that the reason why the world has been enlightened of the folly of violence and blessed with Gautama’s presence on earth 2500 years ago? That’s what the Buddha symbolises.

But what does Che symbolise? Blood, violence and mass murder.

For all the romantic notions that the misguided may hold him and paint him in a blood red hue  as an iconic long haired, bearded, gun toting revolutionary, he is nothing more than a failed medical doctor who roamed from his birthplace Argentina, looking out for troubled spots to sate his blood lust until he finally found Cuba ripe and ready, like its plantains, to smoke his cigars of revolution.

But shortly after the 1959 triumph, Che Guevara became Havana’s Doctor of Death, the Doctor of Vengeance. His death list soon saw kangaroo trials held against all whom he perceived as a threat after which they were all summarily executed on his orders. His excesses were such, that he even became an embarrassment to Fidel; and soon went a roving again to other hot spots in the South American region to foment revolution until he ended up in a small hut in the jungles of Bolivia where he was surrounded by Bolivian army troops and killed.

And it is in that blood soaked, gory sordid life of his, the JVP found profound inspiration to launch their insurrection in 1971 and repeat it again with a wave of terror in 1988 to topple democratically elected governments and establish their kangaroo courts and their dictatorship upon this thrice blessed land. With Che Guevara as their role model, his demonic icon as their inspirational god, thousands of Sinhala youths were killed at his altar as a result of their campaigns of terror.

And today, even 46 years after the JVP’s leader Rohana Wijeweera launched his infantile insurrection to topple the one year old Sirima Bandaranaike government in 1971 and repeated it again in 1988 through the JVP militarized wing the DJV, while he remained incognito in some tea estate in Ulapane, posing as a planter  and breeding like a rabbit,  in relative safety, it is clear that the present JVP leadership – for so strong is their blind faith in blood and violence as the means to gain power – remains hooked on Che and secretly worships some long forgotten mahogany tree in Horana and asks for it to be given government protection for its dubious blood stained value.

But all trees – vital to the ecology of the land and to its human and animal inhabitants – must be protected. If the Bo tree, the Ficus religiosa, became indispensable to Siddhartha in his quest to attain enlightenment, perhaps this Horana Mahogany may too serve some useful purpose to deserve protection from the woodcutter’s axe if it helps the JVP see the light.

Perhaps special protection can be justified if JVP cadres seek its shelter and meditate upon the folly of violence; and soul search why, though they now profess to have entered mainstream politics, they are still haunted by old ghosts which they cannot exorcise and neither repent for harbouring; and  why they have been repeatedly been rejected at the polls by peace loving Lankans?

Perhaps they will gain some sap of good from it, if they only achieved some sort of enlightenment as to why they are eternally condemned to Lanka’s political dustbin.  At least then it would have earned for this tainted Mahogany the right to state protection as being the JVP’s Tree of political enlightenment which led them from darkness to light.

Or else it should be left to face the vicissitudes of life on its own, and wither and die like Lenin’s Marxist philosophy which has gone out of style in the Kremlin, and is doomed to meet the same fate in Cuba, now that Castro has gone; rather than be an idolized tree to be worshipped by revolutionaries of the present and the future as the sacred tree Che planted, who lust to sip its sap of blood and, so imbibed, intend to unleash a new terror wave if they can.

Let it not be forgotten that Lanka’s descent to a brutish state where men took recourse to violence to achieve their political demands began not with the Tamil Tigers but with the JVP in 1971 with their leader  long haired bearded Rohana Wijeweera trying to emulate the iconic Che.

Why should the government provide protection at public expense for some long forgotten  tree planted by some foreign revolutionary, a mass murderer to boot, merely to satisfy a politically radical  organization that has embraced his violent creed and scoffed, ridiculed and shunned the philosophy that has given this nation its dynamic impetus for over two thousand years?


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