4th November 2001

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Parent-child bonding through Buddhism

By Nedra Wickremasinghe
Bahunnam vata atthaya: for the good indeed of the many - and true to these words Bhikku Dhammavihari is back in Sri Lanka, this time for good, and for a purpose. At the Narada Centre last Poya, a distinguished gathering of learned men and women were observing sil and he had a special message for Buddhists. With a heavy heart, he spoke of the rapidly deteriorating Buddhist family structure. This is the reason he has decided to stay here and dedicate the rest of his life to bringing together parents and children.

Ven. Dhammavihari Thero better known among Buddhist scholars as Professor Jotiya Dhirasekera, was ordained as a member of the Buddhist Sangha on May 18, 1990 at the age of 69. He graduated from the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1945, majoring in Sanskrit. He was thereafter invited to the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies.

In 1949, he was sent to the University of Cambridge, England where he pursued studies in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan to undertake the expansion of the Department of Buddhist Civilization at the new University of Peradeniya in 1952. In 1964, the University of Peradeniya, awarded him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his thesis on Buddhist Monastic Discipline. Shortly after, he left for Canada as Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto.

After he returned from Canada he held many distinguished academic positions such as Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism and Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies. He has also taught in the Graduate Schools of the Universities of Kelaniya and Sri Jayawardenepura. He has travelled extensively, and is also a writer and author of numerous monographs.

Ven. Dhammavihari TheroVen. Dhammavihari Thero

This scholar has begun a much needed, specially designed joint programme for parents and children. He feels there is a wealth of counselling on the rearing of children, especially teenagers that Buddhism could provide, a rich background for correcting some of our social malaise. Stressing the importance of family values, he speaks of the harmony of the home and how the parent-child bond of affection keeps the wheels of a running chariot from flying off the axle ( rathassani va yayato).

"It is the parents, it must be remembered, and not the children, who must commence this forward journey in society. Parents have first to play host to their children, for children should be looked upon as invited honoured guests," Bhikku Dhammavihari, told the first gathering of parents and children last month.

At the Narada Centre at 380/9 Sarana Road, off Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, he has begun monthly get-togethers for parents and children. The meetings will be held every first Sunday of the month at 3.30 p.m. The gathering is limited to about 30 persons in all, both parents and children. Each parent may bring upto three children.

The next gathering is scheduled for today. Any interested parent can telephone 689388 and inform Bhikku Dhammavihari of their desire to join any of the get-togethers. In his absence you may leave your name, address and telephone number.

Ravibandhu in concert for UN project

By Yamini Sequeira
They have a desire to spread a little sunshine into the lives of others. They wish to make a difference. And most importantly, they have a sense of belonging to their adopted land, albeit temporary. These are the members of the Sri Lanka branch of the United Nations (UN) Women's Guild. 

In Sri Lanka, the Guild members are mainly spouses of present and retired UN professionals. Unlike some countries, which, despite having a strong UN fraternity, have weak participation, the Sri Lanka branch of the UN Women's Guild has been proactive for the past 25 years.

Lesley Cruickshank, President, UN Women's Guild in Sri Lanka, explains that the Guild was first established in New York in 1948. "The Guild is a non-profit organisation with the main objectives of fostering friendship, encouraging cross-cultural understanding among its members, and improving the lives of disadvantaged children across the world," she adds. 

The Guild has raised funds to support children's homes in Colombo, Kalutara, and Galle districts. It has also donated vital equipment for a centre for young rape victims, a home for mentally handicapped girls and women, a school for girls, and a home for street children. 

Lesley Cruickshank emphasises that the Guild screens worthy charities carefully before extending support to them. One of the selection criteria is to support causes that are not already well-supported by other organisations, and have little in the way of resources. Having identified a worthy cause and its immediate needs, the members of the Guild brainstorm about fundraising activities that would generate the maximum response. 

For example, five of the Guild members have painted Christmas cards, which will be sold, and the proceeds will be channelled to adopted causes. Recently, a member of the Guild held an exhibition of her paintings at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, and donated the proceeds of the sales to children's homes. Last year, the Guild also held an exhibition of second-hand books at Odel. 

Another fundraising event to benefit the Gotama Boys' Home in Panadura (housing 44 boys aged between 3-7 years), the Visakha Girls' Home in Kalutara (housing 45 girls aged between 6-18 years), and four homes in Trincomalee (housing 85 orphans) is on the cards. 

The event will feature "Ravibandhu and Ensemble Concert - An Evening of Traditional and Contemporary Dance and Music of Sri Lanka" by the renowned dancer, choreographer, musician and present director of the Sri Lanka State Dance Ensemble - Ravibandhu Vidyapathi. His performance will display his artistic prowess in themes ranging from improvisations on traditional royal court music and "ragas" from Carnatic music in his own individualistic style. He will perform a low country mask dance, a dance to an orchestra of drums, and much, much more.

Ravibandhu Vidyapathi, a disciple of the two leading lights in the dance arena in Sri Lanka, Chitrasena and Vajira, has imbibed a fascinating array of dance styles to emerge with his own interpretation. He has carved a niche for himself in experimental choreography. He uses themes from varied sources such as Greek and Shakespearean classics to Indian and Chinese fables. 

Furthermore, his artistic skill extends to his mastery over percussion instruments and his ability to fuse different sounds and styles in a unique fashion. 

"Ravibandhu and Ensemble Concert - An Evening of Traditional and Contemporary Dance and Music of Sri Lanka" will be on November 8 at 7 p.m. at the Trans Asia Hotel Ballroom (styled on the lines of lounge theatre, it includes a Sri Lankan dinner buffet). Tickets are available at the Trans Asia Hotel.

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