Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 6 March 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Ushering in a state of righteousness through Buddhism

When the author Herath M. Goonetilleke referred to me his publication The Buddhist Attitude to Terrorism for my comments, I set him a poser as to what motivated him to write this book. He responded as follows:

Firstly, sorrow, pain and scare he experienced on different occasions of his life through violence, terror and ferocious effects of war.

Secondly, the most terrifying terrorist attack on New York city and the Pentagon in Washington, USA on September 11, 2001 which the author witnessed.

Thirdly, two questions, Prof. Bart Kosko of the University of Southern California has asked the author about a feature article which appeared in The New York Times in 2006, on the conflict in Sri Lanka.

* Why the Tamil minority in your country are being harassed by the Sinhala Buddhists, the major community, betraying Buddhism, a universally acknowledged religion?

* Can Buddhism offer a solution to rid the humanity of world terrorism?

The Buddhist Attitude to Terrorism
Author : Herath M. Gunatillake

The author convinced me that this publication is a response to those two inquiries and to the frightening experiences the author countenanced personally in his life as mentioned above. Thematically, the author explores from a Buddhistic perspective the causes that can lead to the phenomenon of terrorism in some countries. The opinions expressed in this book are not prejudicial to religious, political and social ideologies and facts are presented objectively.

Nightmarish ordeal

The entire book comprises 10 chapters. The first two chapters are preoccupied with the nightmarish ordeal the author personally encountered consequent upon the frightening evils of terrorism and with the bringing forth of the conviction that practices of Buddhism can be adopted for a peaceful world sans terrorism and war. Chapter 3, pinpoints the Buddhistic point of view about the relationship of the causes that form the basis for any such crisis as terrorism and counter terrorism because of socio-economic, political and military implications. The fourth one he has allocated for a discussion on human rights and it is provided with a fine synopsis at the end of the chapter.

The author underscores how human rights are violated in the face of trials and tribulations the world community has to face because of terrorism and conversely how the people in the respective countries are deprived of their human rights in counter terrorism strategies resorted to, by the governments of the countries concerned. He stresses the fact that it is through Buddhism that a fundamental charter on human rights or an ethical code on human rights was promulgated for the advancement of humanity, for the first time on human rights.

As mentioned in Buddhism, two leading factors for the evolution of society are, (i) economic backdrop of the society and (ii) human thinking. Accordingly, terrorism which is considered as the meanest evil in the world today is occasioned by the variety of opinions man himself has built up. Among these opinions, fundamentalist religious beliefs, communalism, racism and separatism take pride of place. Chapter five makes an insight to the good and bad and correctness or otherwise of such opinions.

Chapter six is a discussion on the basis of Buddhism and modern Freudian psycho-analysis as to how the people's psychology operates. This chapter also presents a philosophical overview of the behavioural pattern of the man's mindset in the operation of suicide terrorism, a fierce strategy of terror tactics. An analysis in terms of Buddhist ethics about the truth or otherwise of the fundamentalist religious beliefs linked with world terrorism is presented in chapter seven.

The author in chapter eight sumps up the theme of the primacy of good. In chapter nine, the longest in the publication, the author specially focus on the socio-economic and political factors that triggered a terrorist moment which plagued Sri Lanka for over three decades and the emergence of the world's most ferocious suicide terrorism. The chapter also deals with the author's serious concern for a methodology to find a long-term political solution through the principle of equanimity in the political and the social philosophy of Buddhism. Chapter ten is a brief about the path to follow towards the end of global terrorism in accordance with Buddhistic attitudes.


As enunciated by the Buddha, humanity can only be saved from such a disaster only by doing away with racial, communal, religion, caste, language and colour discriminations prevailing among the people and sans man alienating another, a country alienating another country and exploitation of one country by another. The study convincingly puts across the message that human society can be brought to a state of righteousness only by understanding, observing and activating the noblest democratic, republic and socialist teaching and theories of equality, equanimity and co-existence first introduced to the human civilisation by the Buddha.

It is not an easy task to translate a book from one language to another. The translator has to use the appropriate words to convey the original meanings. The task is made harder when the translation is from Sinhala to English. The idioms of the two languages are also different. With all these difficulties and limitations H. A. Siriwardena has done his best.

This book is complete with an index relevant to the subject matter.

Prem Dissanayake, Head of the Fast Publishing (Pvt.) Ltd., Colombo 10, deserves encomium for a fine job of printing done with a very attractive cover page to suit the contents and index of the book.

A universal theme in a universal language

When I was invited by the author to do this review I felt totally inadequate. The mighty name of not only the producer of the play but the very name of the play simply awed me. And frankly, I was aware of Dr. Lakshmi De Silva's translation of this play but was not aware of Namel's..

Author: Namel Weeramuni
Sarasavi Publishers, Nugegoda

Does the author's identity pale against these famous names? No. He too is big.Very BIG. Extremely versatile. Poet, actor, playwright, author, educationalist, bulldozing entrepreneur. Entrepreneur? Yes. He and his devoted wife Malini were the adventurous pioneers of the venture of converting a humdrum "cityscape " thronged with garbage and smelly shacks into the environs of a unique styled theatre. This brainchild of his, the Punchi Theatre looming against Borella skies in the intriguing shape of a massive Humbaha (ant -hill), is not Punchi at all. It is again massive in the context of its present role in the rejuvenation of the world of aesthetics in the island. But this is not a review of the author's feats but of the book.

"Sinhabahu is a tale which like Oedipus Rex or Hamlet is based on a primal human situation... A drama of the relationship in the complex web of emotions intertwined... an ambivalence of love and hatred, the mother tragically divided between emotional loyalties". So wrote Regi Siriwadena, an eminent critic. That Sinhabahu, the legend, the book and the play, all in one, carry a universal theme woven around conflicting emotions of humans when placed in particular situations is evident. It is also evident that such books call for translation into a universal language. Lakshmi did it. Why not Namel, with an alacrity to venture into new arenas?

Ambitious as Namel is, I gathered from the introductory pages that the author has produced the book as a pre -production stage to the famous play being staged in the USA, more specifically at the Little Theatre , University of Northridge, California. It has been staged there for the first time from February 7 to 9, 1997. The cast seems to be mainly American with a few Sri Lankans thrown in. The Pothe gura's role had been played by Richard Edward de Vere! Such is the pickled world we are getting into.

Of course, the Pothe Gura is called the Narrator, fragrance of the local term just lost cruelly.

"The cave is shattered, The door is opened-forced open (correction given) It's Sinhaba, Sinhaba, Sinhaba." Wants to cry? I wanted to. But not so much at the pathos of the impending drama about to unfold, with the wife and children of the Lion fleeing after the cave doors are open but at the complete erasing of the original lines so forceful.

"Gal dora bindala, len dora arala, Sinhaba, Sinhaba, Sinhaba!" On these lines followed by further lines of hauntingly lyrical quality seems to rest the whole vibrancy of the original play by Sarachchandra. I am a naive traveller in the wilderness of the sophisticated theatre world but I could not entertain this line of thinking, that may sound odd to many.

"Cannot the original flavour be preserved by letting forceful lines like this remain in the script? If cast in a foreign country with foreign actors who cannot use the native medium, a tape that emits the lines accompanying the gestures of the actor could be a substitute.

The book has another fragrance anyway. It is a token of love. An emblem of devotion by a student to a Guru. Namel Weeramuni's devotion to this iconic figure just cries out loud. Lalitha Sarachchandra has this to say in her preface.

"There can be no restraints on a student's devotion to his teacher". And certainly this is one instance. The English used is elegant and of a very high standard.

Pages 66 to 122 carry a very significant and academic-oriented gamut of information on these categories: 1. Background of the play 2. Type of the play 3. The style of the play 4. Emphatic elements of the play 5. Personal emotional reactions 6. The theme 7. Description of the main characters 8. Dramatic structure 9. Productive approach 10. Production scheme 11. Pronunciations, definitions and Translations 12. History of production/ reviews etc.

This section would be of immense value to students of the contemporary theatre world of Sri Lanka, though it naturally plays second fiddle to the drama script in its English version. We see the author, man of many parts and roles turning educationalist in this section. Guidance of the young, is at the back of his mind emerging almost parallel to enriching the aesthetic sensitivity of the country's citizens.

The story of Sinhala newspapers

Research is an exacting discipline. Exploring a given subject-area, with all the thoroughness one could muster, becomes an all-important pursuit, for a researcher. The relevant detail has to be anxiously sought. Sources have to be meticulously lined up.

And, above all, the piece of research must enlighten the user, promoting his wisdom.

Sinhala puvathpath prakashanaye
arambhaya ha vikashanaya
Author: Nihal Ranjit Jayatilaka

In the field of Sri Lanka's Sinhala literature, writer Nihal Ranjit Jayatilaka has emerged as a researcher of impressive stature.

In his latest work, Researcher Jayatilaka immerses himself in the origin and the evolution of the Sinhala newspaper. In terms of the spirit pervading this research product, one could very well say, that the present publication is the twin of his 2008 work on advertising in Sinhala newspapers, over a period of 56 years (1860-1916). The book under review, covers the same period of time as his previous research work.


The initial chapter of the work, takes a brief look at the recorded origin of newspapers in human history. "Acta Diurna", which could be rendered as "Daily News", is generally regarded as the first-ever newspaper in history. Published on a directive by Julius Caesar in 59 A.D., it was hand-written and was displayed at public places. The principal content of this newspaper was a chronicle of events of the far-flung Roman Empire of the day.

The first-ever printed newspaper, originated (according to currently available information) in China.

The ubiquitous writing material-paper-universally consumed in all theatres of human culture, is a Chinese invention. The Chinese adorned human culture by presenting the art and technique of printing to mankind. Movable type devised by the Chinese, is among the handful of artefacts, that profoundly transformed the cultural progress of the totality of human society.

Given such a background it is not surprising that the Chinese are credited as the publishers of the first-ever printed newspaper of mankind. This appeared in 748 A.D.


The technique of printing was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Dutch Governor Van Imhof around 1736. The first printed book in Sinhala, appeared in 1737 and was a Christian Prayer book.

It is interesting to note that the first Sinhala printing types were produced by a foreman (baas) of the Dutch Armoury - Gabriel Schade.

The writer of the present work dwells extensively on the printing activities that occurred in the wake of the introduction of printing by the Dutch.

The early works had a marked religious character. As a detailed chronicle of the controversies, debates, arguments and polemical exchanges that raged between Buddhist and Christians of that era, the present work is an extremely useful source book.


One primary reason for publishing the first Sinhala newspaper, was the felt need to counter anti-Buddhist propaganda. But, the author makes it quite clear, that, when a group of Buddhist got together in Galle in 1860, their foremost pre-occupation was not the safeguarding of Buddhism.

They recognised the need of a printing press, that would be available to the Buddhists. Historically, 'Lanka Lokaya', is the first Sinhala newspaper. But, twenty-eight years prior to its publication.

The first Sinhala magazine had appeared, once again as part of the on-going inter-religious dispute.

The Buddhist printing press was established supported by a fund amounting to 181 pounds, collected through contributions.

The appearance of "Lanka Lokaya" in 1860. led to the publication of a whole range of magazines and newspapers. Between 1860 and 1916 - the fifty-year-period focused upon by this book, 109 Sinhala newspapers appeared. But, most of these folded after very brief existence.

'Lanka Lokaya' was not registered duly by the Government. But, the first registered Sinhala newspaper was 'Lakminipahana' which appeared on 1862-09-11.


The oldest extant copy of 'Lankalokaya', gives it publication date as the 10th of September 1860 and was printed at its own press at No. 2 Church Street, Galle Fort.

This way it is established beyond doubt, that 'Lankalokaya' is authentically the first ever Sinhala newspaper.

The quotations from the early Sinhala newspapers exude an archaic flavour. Moderns cannot help but we amused by the language level, sentence - structure and the style of writing. That one comes upon in these newspapers. Sustained publication of the early newspapers in Sinhala, was thwarted by financial difficulties.

'Lakmini pahana' published in 1862, was printed in Colombo. Declaring the purpose of publication this newspaper had this to say:

Our total intention in publishing this newspaper, to convert thousands of Sinhala people to well-informed persons, although they are now in a state of childish helplessness."


The book is eloquent testimony to the assiduous commitment of its author. The intriguing detail he enshrines in his work is the triumph of patience.

Of the Sinhala newspapers, that came into being within the period under focus, 'Dinamina' continues to thrive uninterrupted. Inaugurated on the 17th of December 1909, "Dinamina" became the first national Sinhala newspaper.

One will, no doubt be intrigued by the news-item published by Dinamina, about the sinking of 'Titanic' during its maiden voyage, on April 18 1912.

The author pays a handsome tribute to 'Dinamina' for the multi-faceted service it rendered and continuous to render.

Writer Nihal Ranjit Jayatileka's work is a rich source book to scholars and students alike. Although the work is a profound study what will surprise a reader is its absorbing readability.

The book reproduces the pages of some newspapers of the era, to enable the moderns to imbibe the 'feel' of the pioneering Sinhala newspapers.

While in this mood, I am sure the writer will turn his attention to many more works of deep research.


Buddhi Sishyathwa Athwela-2011


Heras Fernando

Buddhi Publishers, Nugegoda.

Buddhi Sishyathwa Athwela - 2011, written by Heras Fernando for Year-5 scholarship examination was launched recently.

The author, who is a former Deputy Principal of Royal College, Colombo has used his long experience in the field of primary education to publish the book.

The book contains a number of probable questions.


Sirilaka Siri Visithuru

Newton Gunasekara's latest book "Sirilaka Siri Visithuru" will be launched at Dayawansa Jayakody Bookshop, Colombo 10 on March 8 at 10 a.m.

The book is useful for tour guides.

It is a Dayawansa Jayakody publication.



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