The Sunday Times Editorial

28th April 1996

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A meditative Vesak

Vesak this year may not have much of an external show because of security and other reasons. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise. Buddhism is essentially an inner experience. It would be prudent this year for Buddhists to reflect on the inner light and the inner strength that should come from the example of the life of Lord Buddha and the liberative dhamma that he left behind for all to follow.

As Buddhists meditate on the significance of this thrice-blessed and holiest day of the year let us reflect on what the inner experience of Gautama the Buddha would have been especially at the moment when the process of enlightenment began. What is the inner liberation he began to experience? The dhamma is clear. It was essentially a liberation from selfishness, from self- centredness or self-interest. What all Buddhists need to ask themselves today is the extent to which they are following the Lord Buddha and inwardly experiencing liberation from self-interest.

Most of the time most of us are governed by what is known as the 'I, my and mine' syndrome. Personal gain or personal glory is often the subtle motive behind what we do and say. Even if we are not trying to get something materially for ourselves from events and situations, we may be trying to get a good name, improve our image or cut a nice figure as a good person. It is all self-interest.

The light of Vesak and the liberative power of the dhamma challenges Buddhists today to do something for others with no strings attached, to do a kindness and just forget about it, to give something without expecting anything in return - not even gratitude. That is the liberation the dhamma gives from self-interest.

It is self-interest that creates greed, anger, hatred, dissension and a competitive spirit or a rat-race to always get more or do better than the other person. While self-interest stimulates to some extent economic progress it breeds evil corruption and cut throatism. When inwardly we are freed from self- interest, greed and all its other consequences, then and only then will we be at peace with ourselves. That is the deep inner peace of Vesak. It does not depend on external factors. The power and strength that flow from such an inner experience of a meditative Vesak could be far greater than all the external shows.

Then not only on Vesak day but every day and in all events and situations of our lives, the values of the Buddha Dhamma will give us meaning, direction and dynamism in every dimension of our personal and community lives. That is our sincere wish for Vesak Poya which falls on the coming Friday.

Bombs for Hajj

Till the ceasefire yesterday, Israel carried out brutal attacks on innocent civilians in South Lebanon while Muslims the world over are celebrating the solemn festival of Haj tomorrow. It would be an appropriate time to consider what is happening in that vital part of the world and Sri Lanka's response to it.

Recently in an editorial we urged the government to condemn the suicide bombings in Israel by suspected Hamas guerrillas. We said the Sri Lanka government could not and must not maintain a convenient silence over those massacres merely because of its affiliations or dependence on the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress for survival in Parliament. Again we said that we could not condemn terrorism in Sri Lanka while being blind to terrorism elsewhere.

In last week's editorial, we asked countries like France, the United States, Germany and Britain to practise what they preach about eradicating international terrorism by pressurising the LTTE to give up violence.

We are glad that Sri Lanka has voted together with the SAARC member states to condemn Israel's air foray into South Lebanon. But the UN vote, 64 condemning Israel, 2 supporting (Israel and USA) and as many as 65 abstentions show how divided the international community is in combating terrorism.

Here is a case of Israel justifying the attacks as being retaliatory for the Hizbollah guerrilla attacks on North Israel.

With Haj and Vesak falling next week, bloody tit for tat skirmishes in West Asia and here in Sri Lanka, it seems that war - and not peace - is the by-product of different religions.

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