Kala Korner - by Dee Cee

'Facts you should know'
With the debate on a national resurgence gathering momentum, a timely publication hit the bookstores recently. It was a collection of articles contributed by Anagarika Dharmapala to 'Sinhala Bauddhaya', the journal he founded in 1906. He wrote under the title 'Denagatha yuthu karunu' (Facts you should know). The book, a Visidunu publication, retains the title.

"The 'sudda' does everything through knowledge. Anyone can acquire this knowledge. The 'Sinhalayas' spend a lot of money on mere pleasures. The money spent on such pleasures should be used to improve your knowledge. I make such an effort because of my deep concern for the Sinhala nation and Buddhism. I appeal to the Sinhalese to be united and work towards improving knowledge." This is a typical quote from one of the articles where he sets out his objective - to guide the Sinhalese on the correct path.

The collection comprises 107 articles written between 1911 and 1912. Some of them are fairly long while some are quite short, limited to just a paragraph or two.

The topics he selected were varied and not restricted to local subjects alone. With the objective of enhancing the knowledge of the reader, he has touched on many international issues as well. But the thrust was on advising the Sinhalese on how to improve their lot both spiritually and materially. Often he linked the Buddha's teaching to the subject he handled.

"It takes about seven years for a coconut tree to grow. The planters tend them during this period. The Sinhalese misconduct themselves in the name of seeking knowledge. The youth spend time drinking or gambling. Hundreds of youth in Pettah, Slave Island, Maradana and Kollupitiya waste their time playing billiards.

“See the effort put in by the Englishmen, Germans, Parsis, Indians, Moors and Afghans who come here. Does a single Moor work as a cook or a waiter or as a clerk? They are involved in trading. The Sinhalese prefer to do any slavery and then waste the money they earn on unnecessary things. The wealthy Sinhalese are not interested in developing local industries.

“What do the Sinhalese students who go to England for studies come back and do? They become lawyers and grab money from the poor, lead a comfortable life and die. What benefit is it? A nation with a slavish mentality will never prosper,” is another of his quotes.

Among many foreign topics he discussed were the British Parliament, agitation for Home Rule in Ireland, the birth of Christ, Turkish-Russian war and developments in European countries. He did not spare the missionaries who promoted conversions and dealt with anti-nationals severely.

A reprint
The Visidunu publication is a reprint of the original version published by the Mahabodhi Society in 1930. A publisher's note (original) summed up the mission of Anagarika Dharmapala. From 1891 he led the movement of national resurgence. He urged women to wear the 'osariya' following tradition rather than European dress. He talked about the ill effects of liquor. He canvassed for the use of Sinhala names in place of European ones.

He was the first to agitate for constitutional reform. He created an interest in local handicrafts and indigenous medicine among other things. His first visit to India in 1891 paved the way for the resurgence of Buddhism in the land of the Buddha.

He established a Dhamma hall and a school in Madras, opened the Dharmarajika Vihara in Calcutta, built the Mahabodhi Dhamma halls in Buddhagaya and Gaya, and established the Mulagandhikuta Vihara and a school in Isipathanaramaya. The publisher has appealed to the readers to make the best of the Anagarika's thoughts.

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