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Sunday, 15 May 2011

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Buddhism, the panacea for all ills

Buddhists around the world celebrate the 2600th Sambuddhatva Jayanthi on Tuesday. The 2600th anniversary of the Enlightenment of the Buddha is a memorable occasion for millions of Buddhists the world over. Moreover, it is of added significance to Sri Lanka; the country which has protected and preserved the noble teachings of the Buddha over the years.

What is unique in Buddhism is that the Buddha never imposed restrictions on one's understanding of the Dhamma. He offered guidance saying that the Buddha was only a tower of strength. He expounded that practising the Dhamma and following His footsteps lies purely on oneself.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will open the newly constructed Buddhist Cultural Centre at Thunmulla Junction, Colombo 7 today to coincide with the 2600th Sambuddhatva Jayanthi week. The Centre will help spread the message of Buddhism throughout the world. The Centre would also promote valuable publications on the Dhamma and Buddhist literature which contain the noble teachings of the Buddha.

It is indeed heartening to see the Buddhist Cultural Centre taking the initiative of building the world's largest Buddhist publication and information centre which will also have a separate wing on research and propagating Buddhism abroad. President Rajapaksa who has rendered an immense service to promote Buddhism, donated a State owned-land in the heart of the city for the purpose.

Sri Lanka could be proud of its centuries-old role in fostering Theravada Buddhism and spreading the message of the Buddha all over the world. For countless years, the Bodhisatva strove to achieve Dana (generosity), Sila (virtue), Nekkhamma (renunciation), Pangnga (wisdom), Viriya (effort), Kshanthi (tolerance), Satya (truthfulness), Adishtana (determination), Metta (compassion) and Upekkha (imperturbability).

These 10 perfections enabled Him in the realisation of the four Noble Truths. When Mara, the Lord of Death appeared to distract the meditating ascetic under the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, He was determined to realise the Truth that showed the way to the cessation of all kinds of suffering. It was these perfections that supported the Bodhisatva to vanquish Mara. More importantly, the Buddha realised the Truth without any extraneous help and became Samma Sambuddha - the Supreme Being.

What is unique in the Buddha is that His teachings were based on His authentic experiences which are applicable even today, and moreover, have been proved right despite the intricacies of a fast developing world. He showed the path to freedom, unity and peace.

At a time the world is celebrating the 2600th anniversary of the Enlightenment of the Buddha, it behoves us to think in broader terms and lead our lives in keeping with the teachings of the world's greatest philosopher. We must dispel malice and revenge. Our thoughts should be filled with Ahimsa to be in a position to live in harmony with our opponents.

At the same time, we should sow the seeds of goodwill, peace and solidarity to bring all human beings under one umbrella as brothers and sisters of one family. The teachings of the Buddha and the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi provide a unique opportunity to think in universal terms and make a lavish contribution to Sri Lanka's reconciliation process. Buddhists across the length and breadth of the country should set an example as true followers of the Buddha - in that their exemplary acts would be a shining light to their fellow citizens.

This would undoubtedly pave the way to iron out the social and cultural differences and join hands, respecting each other's views. As Buddhists account for almost three-fourths of the country's population, the followers of the great teachings of the Buddha should play an active role in Sri Lanka's reconciliation process. Their conduct and exemplary acts would help foster a better understanding among all Sri Lankans belonging to different faiths.

Sri Lankans could also set an example and demonstrate to the world the virtues of Buddhist philosophy that could bring people of different communities together. The Buddha did not confine the Truth He discovered to a particular ethnic group. Hence, Buddhists should adhere to the true teachings of the Buddha.

This praiseworthy conduct was evident even during the Security Forces' battle against terrorism. They even provided food to the enemy as they considered all human lives equal. Those who were injured were also offered medical treatment. These acts may sound strange for conventional armies in the West, but certainly not for Sri Lanka's Security Forces who conducted themselves in an exemplary manner at all times.

The soldiers even risked their lives and took calculated risks as human lives were supreme to them. The President, the Commander-in-Chief, issued strict orders to maintain a zero civilian casualty rate, giving utmost priority to the lives of civilians who were held forcibly by LTTE terrorists as a human shield. The soldiers were even prepared to starve by foregoing a couple of meals as they were only too happy to offer their meals to those Tamil civilians who had been rescued from the jaws of LTTE terror.

The West need not pontificate to us on human rights since Sri Lankans are imbued with a rich culture and extend their hospitality even to strangers who call on them. These commendable practices may be alien to the West or perhaps to certain officials in the UN but they are inherited values that have been associated with the country's Buddhist culture from time immemorial.

These traditions and values will go from strength to strength and help Sri Lankans to live as members of one family and show the world that we need no outside help as far as human rights and reconciliation are concerned.

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