Spare a thought for the Dalai Lama
This thrice blessed Dharmadveepa
will celebrate its holiest of holy events this week. The advent
of the full moon in the lunar calendar in the Vesak month, is for
the majority of the people of this island nation, a day to celebrate
the birth-enlightenment and passing of Gauthama the Buddha.
has plans to celebrate by emulating, nay even surpassing, the Buddha
Jayanthi commemoration which marked the 2500 years of the birth
of the Buddha. On that occasion the newly independent people of
Sri Lanka made a conspicuous splash of a celebration, no doubt fittingly
after 450 years of religious persecution, both subtle, and not so
In the coming
week, there will be a state-sponsored jazzing up of Vesak, which
will probably have traditionalists complaining that Vesak, like
Christmas, has been commercialised. Buddhism is not all about Pragna
(learning and wisdom) but also about Shraddha (faith.)
doctrinaire aspects of the Dhamma go hand in hand with the many
rituals of going to temple, offering flowers, lighting oil lamps
and ringing of temple bells.Dansalas, stage theatre, pandals and
of course the thousands of milling crowds and sight-seeing all form
a part of the joyous festivities connected with Vesak, despite some
modern day excesses.
It is a happy
occasion for celebration but also a time to reflect on what the
Buddha's message was for our times. This year we also celebrate
250 years of the Buddhist resurgence (see the cover story of the
Feature section PLUS this week.)
The Prime Minister
of Thailand will be here with us to mark the event - Buddhism being
saved in Sri Lanka by the Thai monks belonging to the Siam nikaya.
Buddhism however lost its hold in the country of its origin India,
and Sri Lankan monks are sent on Dhammadutha work there in this
day to teach the Dhamma. That is the way Buddhist countries and
the Buddhist clergy have banded together to foster and protect Buddha's
There is one
issue however that we as a nation cannot be proud of. Not all the
pandals, nor the lights, the flags, tinsel and dansals could compensate
for the fact that the governments of Sri Lanka, both past and present,
have been reluctant to offer the Dalai Lama of Tibet a chance to
visit this island.
is Theravada, Mahayana or Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the
single most revered living Buddhist icon in the world today. He
is for instance the best known face representing Buddhism in the
Western world, which treats him with great veneration.
But this Dhammadveepa
of ours doesn't give him a Visa. Why? Because our friend China does
not want us to do so. China has been our friend in good times and
in bad, particularly in providing military hardware to protect the
sovereignty of our nation from terrorist, secessionist threat.
But for a nation
that prides itself in according foremost place to Buddhism, the
fact that the Dalai Lama cannot suitably be allowed to visit us,
and pay obeisance by offering flowers at the Dalada Maligawa which
he wants to do so eagerly is a great shame - if not a tragedy.
be done in the name of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha to
rectify this anomaly? This is our thought for this Vesak.