Simplicity and contentment could bring back the former glory

By Galaboda Sri Gnanissara Nayake Thera (Podi Hamodoruwo)

In the good old days people had only simple needs for an existence and they were content with them. Do we have that today? "No" is the response of the majority.

Consumer items are tempting and attractive, but it is time to review our actual day to day needs more closely. Otherwise we will be lost in a consumer driven society. In the society that existed previously the responsibilities and duties of the child, student, higher education seeker, the worker, businessman, and even the aged, were known and to a great extent observed. For instance, the parents had a knowledge of the food that was good for the child.. Today only a few are aware of this and children are made sick by indulgent parents.

There is no happiness without good health. But the pace of modern life has made the people of many countries dependent on junk food, which has a bearing on their health. Medicines are meant for illnesses. If you are careful not to fall sick you will need little medicine. In the past the people had the sense to add natural herbs in their day to day food.

In the wake of creeping consumerism which is destroying the way of life how many use the clear water from the village well today? File photo

I am informed that the people of the Netherlands, a country at the top of the ladder of western culture, consider it a victory and an honour for their mothers-to-be, to have their confinements at home. Many developed countries of the world now reject the idea of surgery at childbirth. European countries that taught that concept to the world now reject it, but poor countries like ours find it an attraction.

One of our biggest assets is the service of the midwife. Those who were born at home could combine midwifery with modern scientific techniques. But no one ponders on these matters. All eight of us in my family, were born at home. Medical services before childbirth and undergoing surgery at childbirth are very expensive. Those who govern the country must put an end to wastage on childbirth. With a sophisticated small machine all the tests could be done. If midwifery is established at the village level parents could be saved from indebtedness.

In the wake of creeping consumerism which is destroying the way of life, I would like to ask how many use the clear water from the village well today. Instead we drink from plastic bottles the source of some of which are suspect. Is it not time to take stock of our situation? Development work is essential but it must be focused to improve the quality of life of the people. An improvement of that quality must include a citizenry that knows and takes its responsibility seriously, one that respects our traditional culture and good manners.

This task cannot be left to the Government. The time has come for the Buddhist clergy to join with the leaders of other faiths to work for the good of the country. Quoting an example, I would like to point out that the Gangaramaya has launched a programme to provide water supply and toilet facilities to 1300 temples in the country. The temple is a focal point in our society and it must set an example of health and hygiene to its lay disciples.

There are over 30,000 Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and our plan is to eventually provide water for all of these for which we seek the assistance; including the assistance of businessmen who dwell in Colombo now, but still maintain their roots in their villages. Our project aims to assist other places of religious worship too, once our initial programme has been accomplished. We should adopt a philosophy of self help and self sufficiency, without unnecessary waste.

The times ahead could be difficult. We too are affected by the global economy. The people, the clergy and the government must join hands to inculcate a sense of service among ourselves. I recollect watching a cinematic recording of the Government Film Unit of yesteryear. The documentary showed Mr. D.S. Senanayake the then Minister of Agriculture addressing the settlers of the Minneriya Agricultural Scheme. He exhorted them to think of how they could contribute to the well-being of their country, without expecting constant help from the Government.

Long after that President Kennedy voiced a similar sentiment when he asked the people of America to ask not what your country will do for you, but what you can do for our country.

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