Illness knoweth no boundaries; robed men spendeth time in prison

Cassandra Cry: A Woman’s Jaundiced View of the Past Week


A good friend and more important, critic, asked Cassandra why she is so sharp toothed and scathing in her comments on the week gone by. She replied she is living up to her name which is associated with her cry – Cassandra cry of seeing blood. Cassandra, in Homer’s Greek epic Odyssey is the daughter of Priam - the last king of Troy, and his wife Hecuba. She was brought captive to Mycenea by Agamemnon who was one of the heroes who sacked Troy with their wooden horse leading to the opening of the doors of the city and bringing back Helen who had been frisked away by the Trojan prince Paris. Cassandra wailed when she foresaw Agamemnon’s death at the hands of his faithless wife’s paramour. Apollo loved her and promised her the power of prophecy if she complied with his desires. Hence the cries of ‘I see blood’ and castigation frequently on her lips.

I liked the following quote I came across. Its list of tragedies quite befits this column.

The three touchstones that woke Buddha up - sickness, old age, and death - are a pretty good place to start when crafting a tragic tale. And if we need to get more specific: heartbreak, destruction, miscomprehension, natural disasters, betrayal, and the waste of human potential. I add corruption, lies, political backstabbing and political evil games to the list that Paul Di Filippo compiled.Sickness

We heard only recently of the US First Lady's mysterious illness which has fuelled endless rumour and conspiracy theories in recent weeks - and President Donald Trump's latest comments have just deepened the mystery. Melania Trump, 48, had all but disappeared from public view after an announcement made by her staff on May 14 that she had undergone an embolisation procedure to treat a kidney condition, which was described as benign. The mother of one remained in a military hospital for five nights before returning to the White House on May 19 to recover.

Mr Trump spoke with the media as he departed the White House for the G7 meeting in Quebec, Canada - an event his wife was originally planning to accompany him to - by saying she had undergone "a big operation lasting four hours." Of course the first and last nasty tweet would be that she was leaving the Prez, unable to bear being First Lady any longer. A qualifier is needed therein. It should read ‘unable to be First Lady to President D Trump any longer.’ It is said she will accompany the President on his forthcoming visit to the UK. Let’s watch and see whether HRH the Queen removes her gloves as she shakes the Trump hand. Jokes floated around that the boast was she removed her top undergarment to shake hands with someone else. (Cassandra dare not mention names as her cry says she sees blood but does not want her own spilled).

Poor thing! Even the richest, most beautiful, apparently full-of-motherly-love woman is subject to illness as the slum dweller or the famine ridden child is. Illness and disease favour not the rich and powerful. All can be mowed down by Sickness’s scythe. As happened some time ago, when the Powerful Lady of India mysteriously sojourned in the US of America. Later it was reported she underwent major surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, in August 2011. The most recent cry is for Rahul to assume the mantle of Congress Leader because it seems to be taking a toll on his mother. On March 23, Sonia Gandhi was hospitalized in Simla with breathing problems and transferred to New Delhi hospital. We truly feel for this noble woman, who turned herself Indian for the sake of her husband Rajiv and was very close to the formidable Indira Gandhi. In fact when the PM was shot by her Sikh guard, she was taken to hospital in New Delhi by Sonia with her head resting on her daughter-in-law’s lap. Such the fate of some unfortunate powerful persons.

The last week’s Local News

Controversy brewed and continues to brew over the incarceration of BBS Secretary Galagodaathe Gananasara Thera (I affix here the honour of being a member of the Buddhist Sangha with grave reluctance) for six months rigorous imprisonment on account of threatening Sandya Ekneligoda in no less a place than within the premises of a court of law. Yes, controversial reactions to the very justified punishment meted to the man in insincere robes. Cassandra for one is glad; this man had to get his desserts, actually a severer punishment for all the mayhem and racial hate he has generated. Conversely there are monks, and recognized ones at that, who are voicing sharp dissent that he should not have been imprisoned. On 19 June a news conference was convened at Abhayarama Temple, Narahenpita, (which has fast been converted to a political platform) when members of the Pevidi Handa (Voice of the Bhikkhus) protested and urged Government to pardon the said Galagodaatte Gnanasara. Two voices heard were those of controversial Murutthetuwe Ananda Thera (wasn’t he the monk who often led our local Nightingales and the government a dance as head of the nurses’ union?) and Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera, silent for some time now. We do not agree with them one jot!

Then ensued a discussion of treatment of clergy within prisons walls. The Centre for Human Rights said there are 18 clergymen of all four religions incarcerated for crimes ranging from plotting to kill Chandrika B K (Hindu pusari) to shocking rape and murder. Eighteen of our men in religion – only them caught; how many remain free? The talk on-going is whether these persons, with Gnanasara in the lead, be given special treatment starting with them not having to don prison clothes. Of course they must and if the punishment is of a rigorous nature, they must be made to do chores other prisoners do. Their crimes are extra heinous as they are men of religion and so need to be above ordinary men in every way. Remember how the Head of the ancient Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya, built on a spot the Buddha is supposed to have set foot in, was working in the prison laundry, incarcerated for masterminding the then prime minister SWRDB’s assassination. The man who shot him – Somarama in yellow robes – converted to Christianity under the infamous Father Matthew of midnight mass fame with young women in nighties! So prison terms for men in robes is not an entirely new phenomenon in this country that boasts of being the foremost Buddhist country of the purest Theravada tradition. Misdemenours and crime by monks must be stopped by the Mahanayakes taking a firmer stand on monks observing the vinaya rules or made to depart from being within the Sangha.

Cassandra will make one hoot of joy before she closes her look back on the week past. She applauds and gloats on the Health Minister’s newest move: to scrap VAT from private hospital bills on consultation and test fees. Room charges remain unchanged. It is hoped nursing homes will not find a loophole to make good what is lost on VAT. Healing sickness and death both cost astronomical amounts but at least in sickness, a government hospital can be gone to, where no charge is made, unless short of necessary drugs. The Minister of Health deserves kudos for this and reducing the cost of drugs which greatly benefit the pensioner particularly.




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