11th June 2000
This is my promise
I worship thee my Lord
Ellen Sooriyarachchi Jayaweera
End this bloodshed
On Poson full moon day
Buddhism and life
"Take from nature, as the bee takes nectar from the flower," was the view of Raja Kuruppu, President of the 'Servants of the Buddha' Society.
Spiced with colourful stories and examples galore, he spoke on 'Buddhism and the protection of the environment' as Chief Guest at the ceremony to commemorate World Environment Day at the Kotelawala Maha Vidyalaya in Kaduwela.
He explained to a gathering of bright-eyed youngsters the connection
between life, the environment and Buddhism and the need for compassion
towards animals and trees alike. He focused on the effects of human activities
on the environment and the importance of protecting the natural world.
Nature and I are one
By Kesara Ratnatunga
"Do not harm, but cherish all life"- is an interpretation of the first of five precepts in Buddhist philosophy, which was introduced to Sri Lanka over 2,300 years ago, by Arahat Mahinda on Mihintale on that first Poson poya.
The intent of this precept is to prevent mankind from killing, which humanity is violating on a scale so great, it threatens the very balance of nature which sustains all life.
Man's intrusion into the delicate cycle of the natural world has wreaked havoc on the environment. The world is just beginning to realise the consequences.
Buddhism, among many other things, attempts to help its disciple become aware of himself. Awareness of one's self leads to awareness of all life, and as a result awareness and understanding of all that is around us. 'The elements flow through us just as they flow through the world around us.' Therefore, people are irrevocably connected to nature, suggesting that the self and the environment are made of the same substance. We are, therefore, part of its matrix. There is no distinction between the two.
Compassion, which is highlighted in Buddhist teachings does not extend
only to men, women and children, but to all forms of life, as is depicted
in the Jataka stories and the life of the Buddha. The wellbeing of life
requires the wellbeing of the environment, and therefore compassion should
encompass nature itself. Without it, all life would ultimately perish.
Smiles plastered all over their faces and chirping in bubbly enthusiasm, the children in the age-group 11 to 15, carefully planted saplings. They were the 'Friends of the Environment', a society formed by the junior students of Kotelawala Maha Vidyalaya, to improve awareness on environmental issues among its members.
The tree-planting campaign in the school was part of the activities organized in connection with World Environment Day, which fell on June 5.
"The students are showing a great deal of interest and initiative towards the protection of the environment," said Year 10 student and society President Chandrani Munasinghe, watching the enthusiasm with which they were going about their 'work'. Initiated under the guidance of lawyer Ranjith Samarasinghe of the Animal Welfare and Protection Association, this is the first of many such societies they are hoping to set up in suburban areas. The objective is to generate awareness on environmental issues and the importance of protecting the environment among schoolchildren.
Mr. Senadheera, the Master-in-Charge of 'Friends of the Environment' says that a number of activities such as essay and poetry competitions have been planned. The children's participation is very encouraging and they hope to access parents through them.
That day however, the children were only too happy to get their hands
dirty, dig around in the schoolyard and lovingly plant trees. A good sign,
perhaps the beginnings of a more 'eco-conscious' community.
Beauty and serenity at the peak
By Carl Muller
At an elevation of 3567 feet, on the summit of Ambuluvava peak that rises just four kilometres from Gampola, a sapling of the sacred Bo Tree of Anuradhapura is carefully, lovingly tended. Acting Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, D.S.A. Wijesundera, has ensured a green shade cloth over and around it and told me that it was already putting out new leaves. I believe it is the only sacred Bo sapling to thrive at such a height.
A fitting place indeed, for as Nandasena Mudiyanse tells us in his book, The Art and Architecture of the Gampola Period (1341-1415 AD ), the foot of this mountain holds the ruins of the Malati-mala-sailays, the dwelling place of Dharmakirtti Sthavira. Only the platform of this ancient edifice now remains in the embrace of a grove of araliya. It was here that Dharmakirtti composed the Pali poem Jananuragacarita. No ordinary monk was he. He was the thera Silavamsa. He also composed the Patami-Maha-Sataka and it was Bhuvanakabahu IV who built for him this Gampola abode. History has it that he was the brother of King Parakrama Bahu.
The Mayura Sandesaya also names Dharmakirtti as the Sangharaja of that period. The 1928 translation edited by W.F. Gunawardhana states: "The hierarch Dharmakirtti who is wise and who hoisted the flag of Dhamma as a symbol of victory over the world."
Ambuluvava ... Ambuluvakanda .. a place of much history, and it is being transformed today under Agriculture and Lands Minister D.M. Jayaratne.
Motorists turning out of Gampola town cannot but notice the huge mountain. What they see is what their eyes insist is true. Down the steep face is a swathe of red-brown and leprous gray. They see the buildings almost clawed into place on the rising rim of another World's End and are quick to accuse. " Look at what is happening," a man said " the whole mountain is being ruined !" Certainly, we are quick to condemn, it was then that Wijesundra and Kandy's most notable artist, Kalabushana Tilak Palliyaguru invited me. "Let us go to Ambuluvava. You'll like it."
It was Minister Jayaratne who mooted the idea of a bio-diversity complex at Ambuluvava in 1997.
The entire area surrounded by little villages is 920 acres - and the complex is all of 311 acres a vast stronghold of forest and rocky terrain, of rolling shoulders of patana and columns of pine. Minister Jayaratne placed the complex in the capable hands of Wijesundera who studied the climbing paths, the serpentine trails, the outcrops that seemed to suspend themselves, and most of all, the breathtaking vistas of green and the girdling ranges cloaked in blue mist. A thorana-like gate was needed and Tilak was the man to design with his particular and sensitive flair. "We started with the gate," he said " and then began the site selection for the many other units that would make up the complex."
"It was toil, sheer toil at first. For the rock and laterite had to be cut, the motorable roads begun. It is this that has given many people the impression that we are destroying the forest. The huge swathe on the rock that you see from Gampola town is no earthslip or anyting that is in the nature of an environmental disaster. It is simply the wash-down with rain of laterite that comes from the cutting of the roads."
This was so evident as we climbed. What is more, the road has been cut through the patana. Not a tree has been destroyed.
It is all part of a heaping dish, actually..... and it is for the people. Even as we made the dizzy climb, I saw many making their way up to the conference hall and also to the summit viewing platform. On the first eminence is a beautifully designed conference hall, all of three levels and with a commanding view of the surrounding country.
Sixteen rooms make up the unit around a hall that can seat 150 and which is equipped with sound systems, multi-media and all the trappings. In fact, I learned that the first big international conference on reptiles will be held here next year and will bring in delegates from 150 countries.
As Wijesundera said, the complex will, at most times, serve as an educational centre. Tilak had prepared the designs for a cafeteria, a special circuit bungalow with its own viewing platform and the manager's bungalow.
It's a nerve-knotting drive to the summit and there, I met the Minister and he told me of his dream.
We stood by the sacred Bo sapling. "I'll tell you the story of this sapling," he said.
"Last year, the government of Burma asked us for a sapling of the Bodhi tree. We carried two saplings to Burma, and the one that was planted did well.
It was decided to bring the second back. On our return, we visited Thailand too. It was then decided to plant this sapling here. So this sapling has already been to Burma and Thailand. The President herself planted it here on March 19, this year."
In line with the Bo sapling, Tilak's most compelling creation is now taking shape. When completed, it would be a beacon to the land - a chaitya which is unique in its fashioning.
The design is a departure from all traditional forms. We toured it - from a winding tunnel upon a 37-ft rock foundation and where subterranean resting places, sculpted in natural rock will allow visitors to relax and also emerge into the open where Sabragamuwa lies at one end and the Central Province at the other. Over this underground chambered way is a 14-ft base of five serrations and then an outward leaning funnel, 56 feet high. Upon this will rest a cupola of 40 feet, a lesser cupola of 17 feet and a 14-ft pinnacle. Together with the tunnel, the chaitya will be 163 feet tall.
The Minister hopes to have the whole complex ready in two years. As we strolled to the viewing platform, there were over 40 sightseers sitting around the rim of the mountain, breathing in the crystal air and losing themselves in the stunning landscape that seemed a sort of wrap-around beauty unparalleled. To the north-east one could even see the Katunayake airport, the Kelani river and the ocean. South of south-east sprawls the Knuckles, Hantane, Bible rock, while Sri Pada and Pidurutalagala raise proud heads.
One problem, however, will be the pollution visitors could cause. It was sad to note that even at this stage, some louts had brought in their arrack and were refreshing themselves at the viewing platform. Wijesundera said that strict controls would be necessary. It is a pity that no sooner something is done for the benefit of all, there are some who say, "Ah! A new spot. Let's make a mess of it!" Anyway, there will be a strict anti-littering law. Visitors will be told to take their litter back with them.
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