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22nd August 1999

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Good and bad of Hindu fundamentalism

By Kumbakarana

The Indian elections will be held as scheduled though they were expected to be postponed because of the Kashmir problem. The Indian Army was able to break the back of the separatists after a 66 day war. The manner in which the government, the opposition, the business community and ordinary people behaved should be applauded. No one demanded negotiations with the separatists. No one pulled the army back by its legs. Both Vajpayee and Sonia were of one mind - that the separatist terrorists should be given no quarter.

Unitedly the people thwarted any international and NGO attempts at negotiations. All Indians, whether they were politicians, businessmen, lay people, cricket lovers or film makers stood up as one people. Sri Lankans should take the behaviour of Indians as an example. It is a lesson for those who maintain that the terrorists cannot be defeated.

The political and military interference by India in Sri Lanka between 1984 and 1990 saw a tragic end. With the surge of the BJP and the rise in Hindu fundamentalism, certain political changes occurred not only in India but also in the whole world. Even if the BJP had to sacrifice some element of Hindu fundamentalism to come to power and hold on to it, it influenced fundamentalism beyond the borders of India.

The two countries that have recently come under its impact are Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Throughout the history of Tamil racism in Sri Lanka there have been fluctuations in its connections with Hinduism. Under western imperialism, an eminent class of Tamils, influential, rich and educated sprang up in Sri Lanka. As a result there was a revival of Hinduism in Sri Lanka and India. The Hindu philosopher Arumugar Navalar then had a strong impact on Sri Lankan Tamils both socially and philosophically.

The self/Soul/Athman concept developed into a one race concept. According to Hinduism the soul does not die. Life is only a new set of clothes worn by the athman. The unchanging entity of the soul/Athman transmigrates through samsara.

So, to fight, to kill others or oneself brings neither merit nor sin. Because the soul /athman does not die, there is no importance attached to the killing of others.

With Hindu revival, Hindu philosophy offered moral support to the idea of the Tamil race. The social impact was the emergence of a caste culture. Though there is no Brahman caste in Sri Lanka, there is a rich, professionally qualified, influential Vellala caste. The dominance of the Vellalas was evident in the early phases of Tamil racism. Politicians like Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Ponnambalam Arunachalam looked down on other communities because the Tamils themselves were subservient to the Vellialas. In such a situation they though that they could dominate other communities as well.

In the face of Hindu revivalism Christian opposition rose. But the Christian answer was to become more supportive of Tamil racism. The second phase of Tamil racism was led by Tamil Christians. Father Gnanapragasam who wrote the history of Jaffna, Father Peter Pillai and S.J.V. Chelvanayakam were Christians.

Some commentators have concluded that Tamil racism was a creation of Christian forces. They say it was Chelvanayakam's Christians and Sinhala Christians who extended support to Tamil racism. But even if trailing behind, Hinduism also contributed to Tamil racism. In its initial phase Tamil terrorism emerged from within Hindu culture.

Now there are contradictory forces within the Tamil racist movement - the clash between pro-Indian and pro-western forces. The loss to Tamil racism after India withdrew its support in 1990 is incalculable. Now there are appeals for Indian intervention on the strength of Hindu fundamentalism.

But the Tamils face a small problem. In the 1920s the fundamentalists, disillusioned with the multi-religious, secular principles of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel coined an excellent slogan - Hindi (language), Hinduism (religion) and Hindustan (state). Rama became their noble hero. But by 1930 the cry changed to Dravida Dravidastan, and Ravana became their hero. The LTTE uses the Rama/Ravana legend to boost their claims on Sri Lanka. So Ravana becomes the Dravidian king who fought Aryan domination. But this is an obstacle to the association of Tamil racism with northern Indian Hindu fundamentalism.

This is the ancient Aryan/Dravidian clash. But the impact of Hindu fundamentalism on Tamil society has to be taken note of.

No more ignorance anger and desire

by Ven.Soma

Sri Lanka is one of the countries in which pure Theravada Buddhism exists. This does not refer to the Buddhism practised by Buddhists in Sri Lanka today. What the Buddhists in Sri Lanka practise is a mixture, a concoction containing elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

Due to this the world has lost the serenity inherent in Buddhism. This is because Buddhists and people the world over are hugging greed and no attempt towards self-discipline is being made in this journey.

The Enlightened One was a teacher undefiled by desire, anger and ignorance. He was free of these defilements because he was free from all attachments and craving. Such a person would never go astray. Therefore the Doctrine of the Enlightened One cannot be doubted.

The Buddha preached that Buddhism brings to people both worldly happiness and spiritual happiness. Many of us who live in the modern world wish only for worldly happiness.

If so, the correct path to obtaining this worldly happiness is inherent in the Buddhist Doctrine. Lord Buddha preached the dhamma, comprehending the fact that all people cannot at once erase craving. That is why he did not prohibit physical pleasures for the layman. But he stressed that one's physical pleasure should not in any way harm another person nor be the cause of one's own downfall.

One does not need a Buddha to emphasise this. Any intelligent human being can understand this. Therefore even before a Buddha spoke the world understood the concept of living without being a trouble to others, in a way that was not demeaning to oneself.

That is why, one must not kill, one must not take that which is not one's own, nor given to one, one must not behave with a woman in any way that would hinder her independence or lower her self respect, one must not utter words that would deceive another, one should desist from consuming alcohol which leads to economic and intellectual downfall, damage the personality, and cause degeneration of bodily health. Such a system of social principles already existed.

Lord Buddha said that a follower of the Doctrine must observe these five precepts. A fact we must all understand is that a Buddha is not born to teach people how to safeguard human principles. There are enough intelligent people in the world for this purpose. A Buddha is born to show human beings the way out of the endless sorrow which is sansara. This path is known as the Noble Eight Fold Path.

The Noble Eight Fold Path is on a higher plane than basic human values. Without even basic human principles, how can people aspire to higher principles. This involves getting a person used to lay comforts, to aspire to live according to the five precepts. Living according to the five precepts is known as good conduct. If you live without exceeding the parameters of humaneness this is good conduct. If you are living in a way unsuited to a human being, this is bad conduct.

Lord Buddha preached that good conduct creates prosperity. Prosperity means not only money but all that is necessary to gain comfort. To gain good repute, retain an alert mind upto one's death., to be reborn in a good life, are the results achieved by behaving with humanity. These results are not only achievable to Buddhists. Accordingly a person of any religion, any nationality can reap these benefits.

How these results are achieved would remain a mystery to one who does not analyse further. That is due to looking superficially at these five principles. The person who penetrates the five principles will have no such doubts. Because, he is 'ehi passika' or 'has come and seen' the dhamma and comprehends the five precepts.

By abiding by the five precepts what occurs is that bad qualities are chased from the mind. Through Buddhism it is shown that by the mind being purified the intellect is developed - Yoga We Jayathi Bhuri.

One might ask how does the intellect develop through adhering to the five precepts. If one looks at a great intellect of the modern world, scientists have proved that at maximum only 20 percent of the cells in his brain are functioning. By this it is understood that 80 percent of the cells are inactive. The 20 percent which have developed are those which have developed through education and society. Nourishment is also a factor. In order to develop the remaining 80 percent it is necessary to do exercises of the mind to purify it. Meditation is this exercise of purifying the mind.

While speaking or engaging in an activity, if evil thoughts leave the mind and good thoughts enter, that is what is known as purification. While the mind becomes serene the cells of the brain which have been inactive develop. This development is a scientific process.

Manasa che paduttena, bhasathiva karothiva

Thatho nan dukkha man vethi, chakkan va vahatho padan

(If one, with defiled mind, speaks or acts, on account of that does suffering follow one as the wheel follows the foot of the wagon-bearer) -Dhammapada.

If one speaks with an evil mind it was preached that from that point sorrow will follow. The evil mind directly affects the glands which secrete the hormones, and the hormones which are secreted by these glands have a tainted quality. These tainted hormones mix with the blood which circulates around the body, and travels to all parts of the body affecting every organ and every cell. Especially the effect on the brain is considerable. The tainted blood supply which reaches the brain cells through the surface membrane of the brain causes pressure on the cells. The pressurised cells cause a cycle of emotions, the behaviour of the individual also changes and addictions occur.

Due to following the five precepts a man's daily existence becomes happy, and due to this the contented mind causes the hormones secreted by the glands to be purified. These pure soothing hormones will affect the cells of the brain. They will cause the mind to become alert. Due to this the person will become happy and energetic. Due to the cells of the brain becoming active, the memory, intelligence, ability to grasp information quickly, concentration, all gradually improve. The cause for this development is not only abstaining from wrong conduct but because one follows the precepts all their positive aspects are also strengthened.

As well as abstaining from killing, pity for the suffering of animals, 'maithri' - loving kindness, and 'karuna' (compassion), must be developed. A person with these qualities would not be envious of another's fortunes. He will live contented with what he has earned and not be predatory. Such a person will be helpful to others.

Just as due to loving kindness and compassion one will not corrupt the children of others, and will refrain from harming the marital lives of others by adultery, for the sake of subduing one's mind one should, at least once a week, practice celibacy.

Because of this compassion and loving kindness he will not think to deceive another nor cause sorrow to another, and will not lie to mislead another. While only speaking truth, he will also take care to ensure that what he says will not cause pain to another. One who has loving kindness towards one's parents, wife and children, could never consume alcohol. This is because the consumption of alcohol will distress these people.

Due to the brain cells being destroyed it will pose an obstacle to the functioning of the brain. His wealth will vanish before his eyes, he will be subject to various diseases, and also become one who has lost all sense of shame. Such a person is a criminal who has aimed a death blow to the economy and also caused the destruction of his own kind.

Thus when one analyses these five precepts, no matter of what religion nor of what nationality one is, all human beings could follow them. We will next see how these will help make our daily lives satisfactory.

(Continued next week)

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