In recent times there has been a call made by a certain group, a minority no doubt, but sadly, led by a few yellow-robed persons – a group bearing a name which connotes force, power and regimentation- a call for the formation of a force with the express aim of saving Buddhism from its enemies. [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Saving Buddhism: Travel along the true path


In recent times there has been a call made by a certain group, a minority no doubt, but sadly, led by a few yellow-robed persons – a group bearing a name which connotes force, power and regimentation- a call for the formation of a force with the express aim of saving Buddhism from its enemies. The words, force, power and regimentation, appear nowhere in the Words of the Buddha, except in the sense of Mind Power.

This is a strange (to say the least), unfortunate and highly dangerous call, particularly when it is couched in inflammatory, virulent terms pitched against a group of non-Buddhists. There is no historical evidence of there ever having been Buddhist ‘Crusades’ and ‘Crusaders’; of battles fought or even contemplated to save Buddhism!

In fact, the religion has survived peacefully for over 2500 years, not because of the use of force or threats, but because of the vital, inherent strength of the wisdom of the Buddha Word. At the present time and for some years now, Buddhism has increasingly attracted war -weary peoples in war-ravaged lands outside our shores, in the West in particular. Thanks to the teachings of dedicated and truly pious monks who have patiently explained this doctrine of peace, metta, love and tolerance of non-Buddhist viewpoints to these peoples.

There is ample evidence in the vast Buddhist literature (both in Pali and Sanskrit as well as translations in English, French and German) of the over-riding emphasis on the recognition of the spirit of tolerance that needs to be shown towards the adherents of other religions.

I shall quote just two examples of the fostering of this spirit of calm and tolerance, as they are presented in that small (just 150 pages), yet excellent exposition of the essence of the Buddha Dhamma by the internationally recognized scholar monk, the venerable Prof Walpola Rahula:”What the Buddha taught”.

The first example comes directly from the Buddha himself, as detailed in the Upali- sutta. I quote from Reverend Walpola Rahula’s reference to this event.

‘Not only the freedom of thought, but also the tolerance allowed by the Buddha is astonishing to the student of the history of religions’.
‘Once in Nalanda a prominent and wealthy householder named Upali, a well-known lay disciple of Nigantha Nataputta (Jina Mahavira) was expressly sent by Mahavira himself to meet the Buddha and defeat him in argument on certain points… Upali, at the end of the discussion, was convinced that the views of the Buddha were right and those of his master were wrong. So he begged the Buddha to accept him as one of his lay disciples (Upasaka). But the Buddha asked him to reconsider it, and not to be in a hurry, for “considering carefully is good for well-known men like you.” When Upali expressed his desire again, the Buddha requested him to respect and support his old religious teachers as he used to,’

The second example is from one of the third century B.C.’s great Buddhist Emperors Asoka’s rock edicts, (the original of which one may read, in India even today) wherein he declared:’

“One should not honour only one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others for this or that reason, but one should honour others’ religions. So doing, one helps one’s own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one’s own religion and also does harm to others’ religions. Whosoever honours his own religion and condemns other religions does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking ‘I will glorify my own religion’. But on the contrary, in so doing he injures his own religion more gravely.

So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others.”  ‘This spirit of tolerance and understanding has been from the beginning one of the most cherished ideals of Buddhist culture and civilization… Violence in any form, under any pretext whatsoever, is absolutely against the teaching of the Buddha’.

The grave danger of the above call to ‘save Buddhism’ is that unthinking people, emotionally aroused, could resort to violence, verbal and physical, forgetting completely the teaching of the Buddha. Apart from being a grave disservice to the religion, it poses a real threat to all the peoples of this land, of inflaming another outcrop of warlike sentiments and actions, just when everyone is trying to recoup after thirty years, of bloody ethnic conflict, with needless loss of life of innocent people.

Let us all, right thinking Buddhists who cherish the ideals expressed by the Buddha and that quoted Asokan Edict, and I am confident that the majority of Buddhists do cherish these ideals of tolerance and understanding, collectively ensure that the flames of religious conflict are not allowed to flare up and consume this now peaceful and war- weary land by patiently explaining to that small minority that has strayed from the path as described by the Buddha and redirecting them, to help them, once more, to travel along the true path.

Apart from avoiding the above mentioned worst case scenario that could follow religious discord, true national unity of all the peoples of our land, regardless of race or religion, at this moment, is an absolute must.

Fortunately, the majority of genuine Buddhist monks share the ideals as expressed in the Words of the Buddha, while a few of them , at least, have courageously come out strongly against this desecration of True Buddhism, by creating religious ill-feeling and disharmony.

May All Beings Be Well and Happy and share the Blessings of the Triple Gem!

Dr.Mark Amerasinghe, Kandy

Museums: Importance of keeping one day for maintenance

We learnt from the local newspapers of the tragic incident caused by the collapse of the main staircase of the Colombo National Museum. Some of the causes for the collapse given in the newspapers were (i) the planks (steps) becoming dislodged from the wall (ii), nails becoming loose and (iii) extensive damage caused by termites.

Scene of the collapsed staircase at the Museum

Since the opening of the Museum in January 1877 it was closed by regulations published in the Government Gazette every Friday. This practice continued until last year. The provincial national museums which were incorporated subsequently followed the above practice until last year too. However, since last year the authorities decided to keep the national museums open to the public on all days of the week.

The idea of having a day in the week closed to the public was to attend to many vital matters pertaining to the maintenance of these institutions. It was the only day in the week when the museums were properly cleaned, floors polished, cobwebs, if any, removed, the inside of showcases cleaned including the inside of the glass of the showcases, preservatives replenished, exhibits rearranged, needed repairs attended to, servicing of the burglar alarm attended to and above all a thorough search for any outbreak of termites, both inside the museum and inside of the showcases. On this day the sectional heads had to give their full attention to these tasks.

With thousands of visitors to these museums including hundreds of schoolchildren it is essential to have a day in the week to attend to these onerous tasks. With the recent decision all these tasks have been laid by.

Apart from the collections both exhibited and in storage, the Colombo Museum library houses the best natural history collection of books and journals in the island, over 3000 palm-leaf manuscripts and nearly all the books on Ceylon published in this country. The library needs constant vigilance to prevent theft, damage by termites and fire caused by electric faults. Here, the damage could be disastrous.

My predecessor, Dr. P.E.P. Deraniyagala had entered into an annual contract with a leading blue-chip company for the control of termites in the Colombo Museum which I too scrupulously followed extending the annual contracts to cover all national museums. This company gave us an excellent service.

As a protection from a possible fire due to an electric fault I got the entire Colombo Museum rewired. This is another matter which the National Museum authorities should keep uppermost in their minds as a fire could cause irreparable loss. I installed a burglar alarm through this company to a section of the Colombo Museum including the Regalia gallery and it was functioning efficiently at the time of my retirement in December 1981. On Fridays the burglar alarm was tested/serviced/repaired by them.

As the Director I made it a point among other duties to personally look into museum security, functioning of the burglar alarm and possible outbreak of termites.

It is my considered opinion the National Museums’ regulations have been framed with much fore-thought and by adhering to them we have kept the national museums in prime condition all these years. Ad hoc decisions to change the regulations of such institutions could be disastrous.

In conclusion I urge the National Museum authorities to:

i. Keep a day in the week closed to the public to enable the museum staff to attend to the many tasks outlined which are vital for the well being of these National institutions;
ii. If not done yet, immediately renew the annual contracts with the company mentioned earlier for termite control;
iii. Immediately install at least to the Regalia gallery a burglar alarm;
iv. Obtain a report on the present condition of wiring from the Ceylon Electricity Board and act accordingly and
v. Do not take any ad hoc decisions at any level which will do more harm than good to institutions such as national museums.
If the practice of closing one day in the week was continued to attend to the tasks outlined, the faults could have been detected in time and remedied.

Dr. P.H.D.H. De Silva (Retired Director of National Museums)

Dog lovers, keep an eye on your pets on Mount beach

I have been a regular visitor for the past five years to the Mount Lavinia Beach along with my two pet dogs, one of whom is a 5 ˝ year old female Doberman. Since the dogs are extremely tame, they are let loose without a leash.

On Sunday April 7, I parked my vehicle down Samudra Mawatha and went down to the beach. As usual I started jogging and turning back near the Windsurf Hotel I realised that both dogs were not to be seen. After a while one dog appeared in front of the Golden Mile restaurant. Quite certain that my other pet too was on the beach I ran up to Beach Road along the sea shore but she was nowhere to be seen. I then started inquiring about the dog from other beach goers some of whom I knew.

To my dismay everyone said that a Doberman did not come that way. Tracing my way back I got varying reports from vendors and beach boys that they had seen my dog being chased by a young boy along College Avenue. This was confirmed by the threewheel drivers along College Avenue. Following the trail I found out that the dog was last seen on Galle Road opposite a Service Station next to the Odeon Cinema.

Despite my going down every road up to Aponso Avenue in Dehiwela my dog appeared to have vanished into thin air. I made repeated pleas to threewheel stand drivers help me find my pet offering a substantial reward. I came back in the evening and checked but, to no avail. In fact, in the evening I visited all Veterinary Clinics from Ratmalana to Dehiwela, Nugegoda and further.

On Monday evening I made a complaint at the Mount Lavinia Police Station and requested them to radio a message to the Dehiwela Police station as I had this strong belief that my dog was being held in that area. This was after I had placed a newspaper notice in the Tuesday “Lankadeepa” offering a reward for any information. The Daily News was to carry one on Wednesday. This was later withdrawn consequent to getting the dog back.

However, by Tuesday morning a Police message had not been radioed to Dehiwela. It was on the same morning that I went with photographs of my dog and confronted the DMMC garbage collectors at Dehiwela before they went on their rounds. I offered a large reward. Barely four hours later I got a call from one of the many garbage collectors that my pet dog was found. The down side was that the caller demanded more than what I had offered.

The dog had been kept at the “Janajaya Uthsawa Shalawa”, a property belonging to the DMMC. It is located next to the Zoo. The money was collected by the security personnel on duty. Later, in the afternoon I had another caller from the Municipality inquiring about my dog. I showed my displeasure for being blackmailed into paying more money.

I reported the incident and gave the two mobile numbers of the callers to the Mount Lavinia Police and two Municipal Councillors as I had by then come to realise that this was an organised racket and that having collected a big sum of money this would only embolden them to cause more misery to more pet owners and pets alike.

Finally, I wish to make a fervent plea to all dog lovers who take their pets to the Mount Lavinia beach. Please do not let your dog loose. If you do so make sure that it is in front of you or beside you at all times because, for sure you are being watched by unscrupulous elements wanting to cash in on your misery.

Nalin Perera, Mount lavinia

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