|Letters to the Editor
3rd October 1999
The editorial, "A CJ is appointed" (The Sunday Times, September 19) states that "only a fool or a knave will say that the Chief Justice of this country should not be a man of exceptional integrity." Absolutely, absolutely. There can be no two words about such an opinion. The matter is made worse when the appointee is, as was said in the editorial, "being currently investigated for disenrolment as an Attorney-at-Law by the Supreme Court."
But then, what if the appointee claims, as reported in another newspaper, in his ceremonial address, after his controversial appointment, "I have acted with a pure mind whatever the odds that confront me" and invokes the support of the stanzas of the Dhammapada to buttress his claim? These remarks have raised in my mind an important issue. Why do people in high places invoke the sayings of the Great Masters like the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed and other sages who have appeared in history at various times, in support of what they have done or intend to do. Why don't they get on with their mundane jobs and leave these prophets alone?
Recently, we had a minister claiming that the Buddha supported nepotism. On other occasions like Vesak Day, we have the President calling upon all of us to follow in the footsteps of the Sakyamuni.
Who is he who has a "pure" mind? From what little I have read and heard of the reported Doctrine of the Buddha, a "pure" mind is a mind that is rid of all defilement (ambition is one of them). Put differently, it is the mind of an individual who has attained a state of "egolessness". At the very least, he should have become a Sotapanna i.e. an individual who has awakened to the falsity of an "I". He has then ceased to be a "Putujjana" — a worldling. Such an individual then lives in this world, but is not of it. It is preposterous for anyone who has not awakened to the falsity of the notion of an "I" to claim that he has a "pure" mind.
What is happening today in this country is that it has become fashionable to invoke the Teachings of the Buddha in support of the mean acts they do. I wonder what it is that the Buddha has done in his Samsaric journey to deserve this fate even after more than 2,500 years have passed since his final passing.
In his ceremonial address, Sarath Silva is also reported to have said that there will be peace and order in this country when a proper system of administration and justice is established here. Law and justice are the instruments which the state makes use of to establish elementary ethical standards i.e. morality in society. Because in the absence of elementary norms of conduct, there will be chaos in any country.
What is basic and fundamental is that ethical standards must be observed by everyone, especially by those to whom power has been entrusted for the purpose of ensuring good governance. Such standards come naturally to people who have seen through, at least intellectually, the falsity of an "I" and thus awakened to its vanities. Such a man can rightly claim to have at least the semblance of a "pure" mind. One can recite the stanzas of the Dhammapada, a thousand, nay a million times, but such an exercise will be a fruitless one. An encounter, however brief, with the stark and naked fact that in the midst of life we are in death, with all its shattering implications will yield enduring results.
I venture to think that this country will be a much better place to live in, if those who are appointed to and accept high office, political, bureaucratic, professional or entrepreneurial are compelled to read the "Meditation on Death."
Such an exercise may make them realise that, in the ultimate analysis, being personally ambitious, dishonourable, perfidious, avaricious and so on, are at the root of all our problems.
Reference Madura Manage's 'Ven. Soma's utterances are a disgrace to Buddhism' (September 19), I must say that I'm not disappointed at his remarks.
I know there are many people in Sri Lanka who think like him. I don't care about his religion, (but I think he's a Buddhist).
As a regular viewer of the Dhamma discussion by Ven. Soma, I know he really wants to lead Buddhists out of the darkness. Many target Ven. Soma for not saying anything about corrupt Buddhists. How dare they say that. Ven. Soma always attacks Buddhists on the slaughter of animals and consumption of alcohol, etc. He takes Muslims as an example of being close to their religion. Every child knows that.
As teenagers we know what a great impact he made among us about alcohol. We should call Ven. Soma, the 'Mihindu Thero' of our generation.
No insults were hurled at Ven. Soma when he appeared on I.T.N. All this nonsense has come about only after I.T.N. cancelled the programme in a disgraceful manner. Some people have even called Ven. Soma, a racist! As he always asks, "Is it a sin to talk about what had happened to Buddhists, because of power hungry politicians?" Politics was what he attacked. After the T.N.L. discussion with Mr. M.H.M. Ashraff, it was clear who wanted Ven. Soma out of sight.
The government and their supporters often attack Ven. Soma and spread rumours about him. A well planned conspiracy against Buddhism is going on. We, Buddhists don't want to hate or attack Muslims or Tamils. We just want to uplift Buddhism. And that's what Ven. Soma is doing. But some people can't understand even that.
Each time the Buddhists cry for justice, the government doesn't hesitate to call them a 'threat' to national unity.
Buddhists aren't racists. But we want justice. We must beware of rotten politicians. All Sri Lankans should not get trapped in dirty politics. We have to be respectful to every religion, while we walk together as one nation.
Little Saroja lying on a hospital bed
Sixteen years of conflict, yet judging from the reactions of some to recent racist statements, it seems we have not learnt any lessons, and are destined to repeat history.
When we are born, we are free of religion, race, caste and nationality.
When we die, the ashes of a Christian or Muslim would be no different to that of a Buddhist or Tamil. Therefore, religion, race, caste and even nationality are like the clothes we wear, only the labels are different. Like clothes they may serve a specific purpose in our lives. Yet, rarely do we see people fight over clothes, and when we do witness such an event, we regard it as an absurdity and the individuals involved as fools! Therefore, how different are the people who fight and try to suppress others' rights over religion, race, etc?
Generally, those who have been able to make a contribution to society through their own skills and efforts never use religion or race to suppress. It is always those who are unable to make a mark in society through their own skills who resort to religion and race to suppress another and come into the limelight.
Not even one person, of the billions of people who live or have lived in this world can claim to have determined the circumstances to which or the time at which he was born. Neither do we know when we will depart. During our short stay should it not be our paramount duty to make this world a better place to live in?
Extremists spawned by previous misdeeds will one day perish by their own sword. But it is left to the rest of the peace loving citizens of Sri Lanka to work as one. Let us forge a common Sri Lankan identity and work as one, before it is too late.
Dinesh de Alwis
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