Vesak calm needed more than ever


With the goons brought to Colombo in 25 buses and going berserk after their meeting, at Temple Trees, with Mahinda Rajapaksa still clinging to his Prime Ministerial seat, encouraging them, aided and abetted by Johnston Fernando, the country changed completely. Peaceful protesters were attacked mercilessly by the SLPP goons and the country erupted in five minutes, with destruction, mayhem and probably looting occurring.

And now we are in the weekend of Vesak when what we have to remember and rejoice over is the birth of Prince Siddhartha and at the age of  39, after years of extreme asceticism, realising the Truth of samsaric existence and ready to go forth to peach the Dhamma. We also commemorate on this Vesak poya that the Buddha, at 80 years of age, died in Kusinara. Commemoration should be without sadness as it is a fact that old age and death follow birth Even on his deathbed he preached, proclaiming: “Behold, O Monks, this is my advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

As I write this on Wednesday 11 May, I do hope peace will descend on turmoil-torn Sri Lanka and people can devote their minds and time to reflecting on the Buddha’s life and remembering or listening to the dhamma he preached. 

Character faults exposed

The character traits most obviously shown on Monday 9 May were greed, anger, foolishness followed by ferocity to the point of killing. Who showed greed?  Mahinda Rajapaksa; greed to stay on in power. Realising it could not be, he felt lust for destruction. He was aided by bad friends. Then there was misleading and in anger, ordering destruction. Greed is lobha and anger is dwesha.  Two of the worst qualities a living being could harbour.

The   goons who went on the rampage also showed greed (to destroy, blood thirstiness), and foolishness – (moha) in following evil instructions.

The anti-government protesters had shown many good qualities. There was love for country which is national mindedness. They showed metta and  karuna – loving kindness and compassion or sympathy in the way they were all together, sharing food and shelter when it rained. They were one with the Muslims and facilitated their breaking the fast during the days of fasting. Most of them did not take the goon attack lying down; they attacked in return, but it was not through greed or lust for cruelty. They defended themselves and the tents they had erected.

Most important

Now what is needed is that people must be calm and cultivate the quality of ahimsa – non harming of any living being, least of all fellow humans. The Buddha was the all Compassionate One. What mercy he showed the running-in-distress demented Patachara, whose entire family died. How patiently and wisely he got Kisa Gotami to accept the fact that death is inevitable and comes to all humans, including her infant whom she was desperate to get a cure for. “Bring mustard seed from a house where no death has occurred,” advised the Buddha to her.  The Buddha one early morning discerned that Angulimala was planning to kill his mother to obtain the thousandth thumb he needed to complete the chain of thumbs he wore round his neck. The Buddha went to Angulimala, spoke to him and drew him into the Sangha. Because he had been wronged and turned criminal and had good karma from past births, Angulimala attained arahatship and reached Nibbana at death.

The anti-government protesters showed us that the races living in Sri Lanka and following different religions can live in peace and harmony. That was one of the greatest achievements of those who suffered much and bore it all with joy at GotaGoGama. Isn‘t that what the Buddha advocated? Conduct yourself well and contribute to a peaceful society that could achieve prosperity. One has to cultivate sila. – perfect behaviour. To do this a very important aid is mindfulness, sathi. If one is mindful and follows the five precepts and is full of metha, karuna and is joyful at other’s wellbeing and never jealous – muditha – then one acquires uppekka – steadiness; unshaken by whatever comes to one. Thus if the individual is good, society too will benefit. We could then live in peace in this wonderful island of ours.

May every one this weekend consider the life of the Buddha and from that alone, develop fellow feeling, calmness and serenity. It is also beneficial to remember that nothing lasts, everything is forever changing and impermanent. Thus, the turmoil of the last couple of days will also die down and peace descend. And if good people come forward to lead the land, our country can surely rise from the dire straits it is sunk in and improve. Sri Lanka cannot be otherwise.