gentle and extraordinary Buddhaputra
In my younger days, both as a student at the University in the early forties and as a teacher at the University thereafter, I have very closely known his impeccable religiousness and his very deep sense of national consciousness. It is true to say that he rose much above the expectations of his erudite teacher, the very renowned Pelene Siri Vajiranana Mahanayaka Thera who had built up the then well sought-after edifice of the Vajiraramaya at Bambalapitiya. As a young student at the then known University College, I did myself benefit a great deal through my close associations with him. We need no historians, from within the universities or outside, to tell us that some of the well-groomed statesmen of the day, no matter to whatever degree they perfected themselves, like Dudley Senanayake, J. R. Jayewardene, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike grew to stature under the tutelage of that great mentor, Pelene Siri Vajiranana. They do not appear to have learned everything they needed. These great men of the day, we recollect with great lament as we look around today, always felt they had something more to learn from such sources of religious inspiration than what they knew.
Placed in the midst of that holy of holies at Vajiraramaya, the young Pannasiha Thera was growing up to be a sharp and brilliant student of Buddhism. He was also becoming an expert on the statistics of every area of his interests, changes in demographic patterns, utilization of human resources, land development and the economy of the land etc. etc.
To this brilliant young Pannasiha Thera Buddhism was well and truly the national and cultural heritage, which Sri Lanka had inherited from its large-hearted good neighbour of North India. Buddhism had immensely enriched nearly the whole of Asia, more than two thousand years ago, including Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq in the west, the whole of Mongolia in the north, China, Korea and Japan in the Far East and many regions of South Asia, to name only a few. I respect him highly as a thorough student of the history of this area. He has had and maintained more than Professorial standing in the subject, I assure you.
It has been a national tragedy, caused often by ill informed political theorists of mushroom-like origin that the Mahanayaka Thera has been branded at times a racist. The greater tragedy in his own life had been that he had stepped in to play the role of the indispensable Defender of the Faith for Buddhism when the current rulers of Sri Lanka failed time and again to possess the necessary vim and vigour for that task. It is indeed a stupid usage of the neo-social-scientists to use the scandalous word Chauvinism in association with him. We forgive them, for they know not what they do, not even what they say.
But his genuine interest in the social and cultural well-being of the people of this land is evident in many areas of the life activities of our Nayaka Thera. As a serious student of Buddhism, he firmly believed in the dictum as laid down in Buddhism that alcohol, served to humans as an accompaniment to social elitism in five star hotels in the city on days of festivity or in the ‘magul maduva’ in the village , or served to gods with a religious sanction to win special favours from them were equally despicable and equally degrading. From very early years of his life he joined one of the country’s foremost temperance workers, namely the Most Venerable Kalukondayave Pannasekera Nayaka Thera. In the more recent years, I do remember going with him to the Mahaweli Development zones, like the Dehiattakandiya, and visiting individual homes and advising village farmers not to wastefully spend their hard earned money on the very high class popular alcohol which are being continually produced locally and generously supplied on a weekly basis by the ingenious metropolitan business tycoons.
Even in these urgently needed reformist moves, government after government, the Mahanayaka Thera was extremely gentle, even to a point of erring in the eyes of many veteran social reformists. Undeniably, that was his right to be what he was. We must necessarily bow down before him and leave it at that. We guess that it was due this inborn gentleness that was of his that he never wished to push his reforms to any convincing end, resulting in conflict or violence. I have sat with him on many occasions when he has silently accepted the defence positions put forward by eminent State personalities on many vital state issues, himself knowing fully well the lack of honesty within them and the evils of their defences. Unfortunately, being a monk full of self-awareness from his very young days, he never exhibited the force and firmness, which a meaningful opposition needs to possess. This directly implies, as we think in Buddhist terms, non-employment of force or ‘avyapada’, which immediately shuts out violence or ‘avihimsa’. This immediately clarifies why he did not choose, as a Buddhist monk, to take directly to politics.
Besides, he would have well and truly known the unmistakable position assigned in the religion to the true and self-developing Buddhist monk in the arena of statecraft, within our own religious framework, for the correction and guidance of erring rulers. It occurs in the Digha Nikaya in the Cakkavattisihanada Suttanta [DN. III. P. 61]. Both among rulers and the ruled, the monks and laymen, those who have not set their eyes on it yet, do need to read it. This current need in the world today to blend a little bit of religious thinking into the machinery of statecraft is witnessed in the production of a book like ‘Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft’ by the Oxford University Press in 1994. This is the crying need of sensible good government in the world today. Not the right of believed-to-be one mighty government to blast up another, looking out for plausible reasons.
Establish justice in the land is the first requirement: ma te tata vijite adhammakaro pavattittha. Neither the rulers nor the ruled shall be perpetrators of crime and injustice in the land. As for guidance in this direction, the rulers are called upon to recognize the cultural propensity of the land. This is where the demographic pattern seriously matters. The political leaders are required to go the religious men of depth and honest understanding of their religiousness, not mere hereditary title-holders. These religious men themselves must be bent on self reform [ ekam attanam damenti ekam attanam samenti...]. Thereupon the rulers must do as the religious men bid them to do. This is the healthy combination of Religion and the State, which Buddhism anticipates. In Sri Lanka today, neither the Universities nor Monastic Institutions of Higher Learning ever teach about these areas of study. Not even the so-called ‘Graduate Schools’, which are rapidly increasing in number.
The late Mahanayaka Thera has set blazing many such trails. The number of monks, both old and young, to handle these with success is the urgent need of the day. The Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy needs to be welded together on these vital national issues. The Mahanayaka Thera is no longer with us. He is now in the world of the dead. Please, I request you, do not pray for his return, He does not wish us to keep flowers at his clay feet with unfailing regularity as a part of religious ritual. Let those of us who are yet living, and those who are to be born in this country after us, remember what he strove for — for the restoration and consolidation of our more than twenty three century old culture of this land which is unassailably high by all international standards. Let the living awaken to life from their slumber and keeping this in their forefront, march forward for victory in their unmistaken battle, if there is anything worth saving in this land.
Roaring your Lion’s Roar of Wisdom, O hero
May you soon reach your blissful goal of Nibbana.
Bahunnam vata atthaya mata janayi uttamam imam
Abhikkama mahapanna siho’va padam accutam
|NEWS | POLITICS | DEFENCE | OPINION | BUSINESS | LEISURE | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS|