Ven. Walpola Piyananda: “Heaven or Hell?”
The Sri Lankan community in the Greater Los Angeles area celebrated the 65th anniversary of our independence last night at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The two-part evening, sponsored by the Consul General Dr. Hector Weerasinghe and the Consulate staff, started with traditional and religious presentations and observances, and ended with cultural performances by several local Sri Lankan youth groups.
Ven. Piyananda’s address was particularly relevant to our times, and I think worthy of sharing with Sri Lankans everywhere.
“Today we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from the British, a monumental event that has shaped our modern history as a nation.
“Our President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a leader that cultivates peace in our country so we can all reap the benefits of this independence. However, this peace cannot flourish if weeds of discontent and jealousy spring up to choke its flowering. Whenever we focus on our ethnic and religious differences – rather than on what we all have in common – the process of peace will be thwarted. What we all have in common is love for our beautiful country, and for our families, friends, and rich culture. This great love and respect can grow beyond our small, personal circles to include all of our citizens.
“The Sri Lankan people are generally very gifted, and are able to excel at just about anything, anywhere, on the individual level. For our country to truly reach its potential, however, we will have to develop the ability to work successfully with each other, and not just as individuals. Our lack of an ability to function as a team has cost us a great deal; therefore, we must develop this valuable character trait if we are to thrive as a people and as a nation.
“As an example, I’d like to share one of my favorite stories. Once there was a teacher who always spoke of Heaven and Hell. His students wanted to see proof of the existence of these two places, and demanded that their teacher show them their reality. Instantly, a large banquet table appeared before them. It was laden with the most magnificent display of food that any of the students could have imagined. It was then that the students saw a group of starving people enter the room and surround the sumptuous table. These starving people were sad because they had no elbows, and couldn’t bend their arms to enable their hands to reach their mouths with the rich food. The starving people started picking up the food with their hands, and attempted to throw it into their open mouths. All they succeeded in doing was making a big mess and wasting the food. The teacher said, “This is Hell.” The starving people walked away from the table hungry and frustrated.
“Then the students saw another banquet table appear, very similar to the first – filled with delicious-looking food. Smiling, happy people walked into the banquet hall and surrounded the table. The students saw that these people also had no elbows; their arms were stiff and could not be bent. The students were puzzled. The people surrounding the table started to pick up the food with their hands. Instead of trying to throw it into their own mouths, however, they began to feed the person across the table from them. In this way, everyone was fed, no one went hungry, and a sense of happiness prevailed. The teacher looked at his students and said, “This is Heaven.”
“We cannot let our differences, or our programmed self-centered responses, stand in the way of our progress toward better lives. We can begin to heal ourselves as a nation by thinking and speaking and acting as Sri Lankans – not as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, or any of the other groups that inhabit our country. By being willing to feed the person on the other side of the table our cooperation will benefit both ourselves and others, making Sri Lanka a Heaven on Earth. If this takes place, a new day will dawn where all Sri Lankans will live in peace.
“I urge you all to work together with your fellow Sri Lankans to bring forth the best in each other and our beloved country.
“I wish all of you the Blessings of the Triple Gem. May you be well and happy.”
- Asian Tribune -