Rhythm & Tempo of Sri Lankan Youths Should Never Be Disturbed! Seeking Peace, In the Interests of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Majority
(Text - print version - of the Sermon given by Bhikkhu Saranapala* of the West End Buddhist Monastery, Mississauga, Ontario at the Sri Lankan Day Celebration Mass organized by the Sinhala Catholic Community in Ontario held at the Holy Family Church, Hanover, Ontario on Sunday 31st August 2008 – Fr. Mervin Perera, a senior priest in the Hamilton Diocese is the Parish Priest of Hanover, of Sri Lankan descent was ordained in Canada twenty six years ago. He is Spiritual Director to the Sri Lankan Catholic Community Association of Ontario)
Father Mervin, and my friends,
I bring greetings and fraternal blessings from the monks of the Monastery of the Mississauga Buddhist Vihara to all of you as you celebrate yet another historic Sri Lankan Day celebration so eloquently expressing your deep devotion to your religion, and your unwavering love for the country of your ancestors; doing so in a familiar idiom that everyone having roots in Sri Lanka understands. I am impressed by the richness of your ritual and Sinhala hymns sung so beautifully by a well trained choir all of which contribute in no small way to uplift ones spirit this wonderful summer morning Nature has given us.
As the ritual proceeded I tried to pick up threads of common elements in your uplifting ritual that we as Buddhists share with you in our own system of worship of Lord Buddha which point to a unity of the human family of which we are all members.
Reference in your ritual to God as father emanates from the concept of fatherhood of God, or Jehovah call him Allah or Buddha it does not really matter. That makes all of us children of God or Buddha, as in my case. At this highest level all differences of caste, creed and nationality disappear! There’s no differentiation of gender…. During my university days at the U of T, I once attended a Christian interfaith service in which the famous Lord’s Prayer was intoned by a Christian priest… It began like this: "Our father, Our Mother, who art in Heaven….." etc. I was truly impressed with this new thinking and vision of the modern day Christians
But to me, a Buddhist Monk, it was not surprising at all! Long before things became politically correct Sinhalese Buddhists in their local idiom have always addressed their innermost feelings in terms of "Budu Piya" or "Budu Meniyo" - Buddha, the father, Buddha, the mother!" - , or recall, for instance, the expression you are familiar with,, "Budu Amme" or "Budu Ammo" or even "Budu Appe". Buddha is referred to in Buddhist Scriptures as "Ama Maha Meniyo" or "the Great Mother of Immortality or Nirvana….." We teach our Buddhist devotees and the 350 children in our Sunday School to consider the entire humanity, Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, or Hindu, Sinhalese, Tamil, Malay or Burgher as members of one family and the interconnectedness of all living beings! So my friends, we stand here today as brothers and sisters, as children of God or Buddha, celebrating a common heritage. This is the first unavoidable and essential unity that we have to be aware of…. A unity that’s celebrated in the daily Buddha Vandana , just like what I witnessed today in the ritual of the Mass of your Church……
Sri Lanka is a blessed nation – blessed by the liberating Dhamma of Lord Buddha that has shaped its culture and genius and spurred-on its stupendous development in the past! A cultural heritage that all Sri Lankans with diverse cultures can legitimately look back with pride and admiration!
Although Sri Lanka had from time to time faced the ravages of foreign invasions and had suffered heavily as a nation, the resilience of its different cultures and the genius of its people over the years have created a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious environment ideal for growth and development as a great nation for the modern times against which no dams can be built! It is in the interest of the majority Sinhala Buddhists to come to terms with this glaring reality……
Friends, we’ve got to understand that Religion is such a personal thing that it is best expressed in the native language and the idiom of a people. Just as Buddhism and Hinduism took roots in the non-Buddhist, non Hindu Sri Lanka in the distant past – our ancestors had other beliefs of their own then -, Christian religion also took roots among a segment of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples giving birth to innovative and indigenous cultures of their own; for an example, a recognizable Sinhala Catholic/Christian Culture and a recognizable Tamil Catholic/Christian Culture that serve to enrich the greater Sri Lankan Cultural expression.
True, that Christianity came to the shores of Sri Lanka through the hands of greedy empire builders with violence with a sword in one hand and a bible in the other. But it did not take long for the genius of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples in Sri Lanka to renounce violence and glean out the innervating spiritual message of Peace and brotherhood of humanity of Jesus Christ giving impetus to developing distinct Christian/Catholic cultural entities that have come to stay in the Sri Lankan Society side by side with the majority Sinhala Buddhist Community.
Their contribution to the greater national culture, languages, literature, music and other art forms of Sri Lanka must be recognized for the sake of better understanding, harmony and peace in modern Sri Lanka and for the survival of Sri Lanka as nation.
The late Professor Saracchandra in his, Evolution of Sinhala Drama candidly speaks about it….Contributions made by Catholic writers to Sinhala Language and Literature such as Reverend Father Jaocome Gonsalves in the 17th /18th century and of Reverend Father, John Pahamune ( a brother of a Venerable Maha Nayaka Thera of Malwatte or Asgiriya?…) in the forties and not very long ago, the singular contribution of the late Reverend Father Marcelline Jayekody, Sri Lanka’s Sinhala poet laureate and one of the foremost writers of modern Sri Lanka - stand out as examples for the presence of a distinct Sinhala Catholic Culture in Sri Lanka.
The presence of extremists, of people with warped views and myopic vision preaching a dangerous logic of war and hate need not worry us. They’ll always be there and usually and happily for us, they are a minority…
Today, you have put your best foot forward and are celebrating the Sri Lankan Day in a spirit of unmatched patriotism and pride and love for your fellow Sri Lankans whom in your search for a better life in Canada you had left behind. Friends, there are dark clouds of disunity, disharmony and dissension, of fear and strife that envelope our beloved motherland, Sri Lanka today. But as Buddhists and Christians, who claim to profess the religions of two of the greatest saintly, peace loving and peaceful men who transcended human frailty and walked the earth as Teachers, there is a duty cast on each one of us to work diligently towards Peace… First, Peace within our selves as Lord Buddha admonished his disciples, in Sutta Nipatha, "Look for PEACE within your selves and NOT in any other place! "Blessed are the Peace-Makers"! said Jesus Christ, "For they shall be Called Sons of God!" In the book of Isaiah of the Bible of the great Judeo-Christian tradition, the Prophet talks of the results of a healthy attitude of Peace and Unity…"They shall beat their swords into Ploughshares Their spears into pruning hooks! Nation shall not lift up sword against a nation! Neither shall they Learn War Any More!
Sadly, in Sri Lanka, WAR has devalued the value of life! Loss of life of innocents due to terrorist bombs or raids by armed services or mafia gangs and thugs is treated with crass disregard and the nation is fast slipping into a culture of violence and conflict.
Buddhism and Christianity never advocate war. No justfication whatsoever, howsoever, can be given as a rationale for going to war!
War can make no solutions! Wars can never make Lasting Peace! As Lord Buddha said, “Victory breeds hatred, for the defeated live in pain! Happily live the peaceful, giving up both victory and defeat!”- but embracing peace!
Let the Sinhala Catholic community become an example by getting involved in activities such as today’s event that foster peace and amity among different peoples and communities! The rhythm and the tempo and the exquisite harmony of movement of the beautiful dancers and the flower of our youth that accompanied us to the Alter here moments ago, - your children dressed in traditional Sinhala and Tamil costumes, indeed, a joyful experience, should never be lost on us! Our precious children, the flower of our Sinhala and Tamil youths in Sri Lanka must never lose their Rhythm or the tempo…the way it is happening there today. Most of all, they should not be robbed of their precious lives just because our misguided adults believe in war games…. Value of life and Peace are not commodities open to negotiation…, or for bargaining. Value of Life and Peace are for the embracing – grasping and grabbing - here and now! When we have embraced Peace in earnest every thing else, negotiations, bargaining etc. will surely fall into place.
We pray the Buddhist way, that is, we invoke blessings on a daily basis, on our legitimate rulers in Sri Lanka, that they may always uphold the Law, keep the law and protect all of its citizens without any discrimination; that they may become just, righteous and compassionate and the country becomes prosperous. “Devo vassatu -kalena; sassa sampatti hetu ca; pito bhavatu loko ca - raja bhvatu dhammiko!” “May the rains come in good season for a rich harvest; may the world be prosperous! May our rulers be righteous! – This is the one and only Buddhist way! None other! Certainly, Not War!
Friends, I leave These Thoughts with You and Thank You and Father Mervin for Inviting Me! Thank You! May You Have A Wonderful Celebration! Now, I Shall Give Yoy My Blessing In The Name Of The Holy Triple Gem, Buddha Dhamma And Sangha! MAY All Beings Be Happy And Free From Fear ! –(Bhikkhu Saranapala:*
*Rajakiya Pandita Bhikkhu Saranapala, B.A. Hons., M.A. U of T and Doctoral Candidate, Buddhist Chaplain to the University of Toronto, presently a resident monk at the Mississauga Buddhist Monastery in Ontario, Canada is a Bangaladeshi Buddhist monk who has had his monastic training in Sri Lanka. He is an Oriental Scholar in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, Buddhist Philosophy and Contemporary Religion. He is also the Principal of the West End Buddhist (Dhamma) School of the Mississauga Monastery. Well known in Canada for his skills as a meditation teacher, he is a much sought after speaker in Canadian professional and academic circles and had addressed both houses of Parliament of Canada in Ottawa as it honored Lord Buddha observing a historic Vesak Day celebration a few years ago.
- Asian Tribune -