Reading between the lines not easy


Martin Wickramasinghe’s favourite poetic work in Sinhala Literature was the ‘Guttila Kavya’. He called it the ‘Mudun Malkada’ or the most beautiful flower in the bunch.

Ven. Wettewe Thera was a genius. He was chased by his teacher, Ven. Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera, who was jealous of the brilliance of his pupil. Without asking him to go away, he used an occasion where alms were served. The teacher took a spoonful of ‘Mallum’ or what is also referred to as ‘Palaa’. He served the ‘Mallum’ three times on the plate. In other words, it was a coded message, which read ‘Paller, Paller, Paller’ or get out, get out, get out. Then Ven. Wettewe Thera left the temple. This happened during the Kotte period in our history. Perhaps the teacher suspected that Wettewe Thera was going to be his successor as poet laureate to the king.

The ‘Guttila’ story is also one that illustrates the jealousy of the teacher. Musila was the cleverest pupil Guttila ever had. Despite the reluctance of the teacher, Musila learned to play the Veena by offering his services to the blind parents of Guttila. In due course Musila becomes so clever that the king of Benaris shows and interest in him too. In due course Musila also plays the Veena at the king’s palace. However, he was paid very low wages. He tells the king that it would be more correct if he was paid equally. "Silpa eka sariye, Wetup duna menavi eka siriye"

The king could not disregard the request. So he asked Guttila whether to do so. Guttila burst out in anger and tells the king to hold a contest and decide. Guttila also says to the king "Silpa sathveni dawasa dakwami" or "I shall show my skills on the seventh day"

Guttila was a liar. He tells himself "Mata mahalu wayase beriya veena gayana pera se" or "In my old age I cannot pay the Veena like before". Guttila knew he was going to lose. So he goes to the forest to hang himself. ‘Sakra’ the king of heaven who is always seated on a throne that got heated whenever something bad happens to a good man, saw what was going to happen.

He comes in double quick time and tells Guttila to take part in the contest on one condition. He asked Guttila to break one single wire and to continue playing. Heavenly damsels would fly down to the king’s palace and dance to his tunes when he broke the second and the third wire too. Sadly, our pupils are taught that the Sakra’s words should be taken literally or the wires were made of steel.

What our teachers do not know is that the ‘Guttila Kavya’ is a satire and the words of Sakra should be taken satirically. The three wires that had to be broken were Raga, Dvesha & Moha. These are the three impediments that have to be destroyed to reach Nirvana. They are Lust, Hatred and Ignorance. It would be wicked of me if I were to think of the English idiomatic expression "Casting Pearls ...."




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