Lessons from a simple event

The above captioned letters from Mr. Quintus Silva in recent issues of The Sunday Times and The Island, spotlighting the simplistic feature of the unadorned coffin used for the funeral of His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II, deserve thoughtful reflection and appreciation of those of us who perused the letters under reference.

In this context I would like to reproduce a similar letter of mine carried in the Daily News of 16th July 1997 - by way of some further elucidation in relation to certain aspects of down to earth simple funeral rites.

"A lesson in funeral rites"

The obsequies of the late venerable — Rerukane Chandawimala spotlighted recently in the television and print media, should serve as an eye-opener to all of us — both the clergy and laity — in relation to the observance of funeral rites.

The late prelate, acclaimed as a highly erudite scholarly monk, well versed in the Dhamma especially in the Vinaya, (discipline) Bhavana (meditation) and Abhidhamma (higher metaphysics) led a simple saintly life diffusing his great knowledge devoid of pomp or pageantry. He was the author of a number of Dhamma treatises, shunned publicity and exhibitionist displays of his great learning.

Ven. Chandawimala was a monk who genuinely observed the Buddha’s exhortation to lead a saintly life, not only by disseminating the dhamma ethics but by truly practising them as well in an exemplary manner. He had used a rough wooden bed to sleep on and his bodily remains was carried on an equally rough wooden structure and cremated in a rough wood pyre, bereft of any decoration.

The late monk who - reportedly just short of a couple of days to complete a century of human existence - had earned the highest respect and reverence of all concerned. It is therefore no wonder that he had willed a simple rustic form of funeral be performed on his demise as practised by our clergy in ancient times.

Our prelates and chief incumbent monks of temples could take a cue from this unique event to shun ostentatious funeral practices, by advising and persuading their colleagues and pupilary charges and lay patrons to emulate at least on a lesser scale, the striking feature of that simplistically great funeral event, from now onwards.

A good deal of money and time could then be saved for better purposes, such as amelioration of poverty and sickness amongst the down-trodden in our midst. This method of funeral rites is not an innovation, but a neglected relegated ancient practice. The seeming crudity of its practice could be refined a bit and easily re-adopted in respect of both the clergy and the laity.

In our great neighbouring country, India, too it is this form of funeral rite that is practised among the highest and the lowliest with the least possible ostentation.

This sensible disposal method of human remains in the simplest and shortest possible manner and duration is followed by our Muslim brethren who are generally considered very sensible and pragmatic people in the observance of some social aspects."

R. M. A. B. Dassanayake




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