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17th May 1998

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Meditations on life and death

The body loathsome and unclean
Is carious like, resembles dung
Despised by those eyes can see
Though fools find in it, their delight.

This monstrous wound that outlets nine,
A damp wet skin doth clothe it over:
At every point the fitting thing
Exudeth nasty, stinking smells.

If now this body stood revealed,
Were it but once turned inside out
We sure should need to use a stick
To keep away the dogs and crows.

This stanza from Vissuddhi Magga is quoted in a research presentation titled “Your pampered body, Death and Rebirth” in this year’s Vesak Lipi, the bilingual Buddhist digest which has appeared for the 14th year.

There is a lot of food for thought in this presentation where Buddha’s sayings found in the text have been quoted in describing the body, which is introduced as “ a lot of fuss, a lot of nonsense, a stinking ulcer like a puppet which deceives us all.” All of these little bloated bodies sons remember, grandsons, little ones too, and after them the dead are forgotten, stones and bones remaining so. Is it not a lot of nonsense?”, questions Bhikkhu Kanthipala.

A tale which appears in the great Tamil Buddhist epic "Manimekhali", which glorifies Buddhism is used to illustrate what Death is . Case studies are presented to illustrate Rebirth.

The publication of over 160 pages is a pick of many interesting articles from various sources in addition to articles contributed by reputed writers. Among the Sinhala articles is a timely one posing the oft asked question “is it correct for Buddhists to pay homage to Sai Baba”? by Venerable Gangodawila Soma. He analyses Buddha’s teaching clearly and convincingly proves that there is no place for Sai Baba in a Buddhist’s home.

Ven Heentiyana, Nanda Tissa Anu Nayake Thero looks at certain contemporary issues which bother people. Why are handicapped children born to certain parents? Should birthdays be celebrated with Parties? What is death? Should one be sad when a dear one departs? Shouldn’t funerals be held on Tuesdays and Fridays? The article explains these from a Buddhist point of view.

The illustrated article ( with colour photographs) on the simple funeral rites of the Most Venerable Rerukane Chandawimala Nayake Thero by Divakara Mohotti reminds the reader how the great scholar monk was cremated with no fuss, not even a coffin, in keeping with the monk’s wishes. No handbills were printed and distributed announcing his death. No white flags were hoisted nor any kind of decorations and other outward trappings that usually mark the death of a chief monk. Funeral rites were conducted without any ostentation. As requested, the body was wrapped in a new saffron robe and placed on a wooden plank, instead of a casket, and placed on the funeral pyre for cremation. The entire proceedings took 35 minutes and the last rites were performed within 24 hours of his death.

Compiler/Editor Upali Salgado takes great pains every year to make Vesak Lipi a worthwhile publication, which can be of interest to any reader - Buddhist or non- Buddhist. His attempt is a great success judging from what has been presented this year too. He has selected certain features, which can be continued over the years. Introducing a prominent Buddhist personality ( this year it’s Walisinghe Harischandra), renowned Buddhist painters (Soliyas Mendis is featured this year) and a supplement on the lines of ‘Beautiful gateways and Viharas’ can turn out to be such regular features.

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