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Midweek Review

A common agenda for Opposition sought amidst political chaos

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SJB lawmakers Mujibur Rahman and Asoka Abeysinghe lead a protest opposite the Fort Railway station yesterday (27) to draw the government’s attention to the grievances of the striking teachers and the difficulties experienced by those struggling to make ends meet (pic by Kamal Bogoda)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe recently called for a common agenda for the Opposition. The announcement was made in the wake of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) moving a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the increase in fuel prices and it being comfortably defeated by the government with a 2/3rd majority on July 20.

The NCM received 61 votes in its favour and 152 against with General Secretary of the SLPP Sagara Kariyawasam who declared war on Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Gammanpila, too, standing by the Energy Minister.

Obviously, National List lawmaker Wickremesinghe felt he could take advantage of the situation at the expense of the SJB, a big breakaway group of the UNP, which outperformed the grand old party itself, reducing the latter to a zero in Parliament, if not for the solitary National List seat it won.

The main Opposition party, the SJB, secured 54 seats at the last parliamentary election, in August 2020, against virtual zero by the UNP.

SJB lawmaker, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, on the second day of the debate, on the NCM, questioned the role played by Wickremesinghe in Parliament. Alleging that the SLPP had given Wickremesinghe an opportunity to address Parliament, MP Fonseka accused the UNP leader of trying to undermine the Opposition.

Having sought to cause turmoil in the SLPP, over Kariyawasam’s demand that Minister Gammanpila should resign over the fuel price hike, the SJB ended up with egg on its face. Perhaps, the SLPP’s strategy had been meant to pave the way for Basil Rajapaksa to enter Parliament, through the National List. The SLPP strategy succeeded though Attorney-at-Law Kariyawasam looked quite uncomfortable, defending the decision to vote against the NCM.

The bottom line is that the SLPP, too, agrees that the fuel prices cannot be brought down against the backdrop of a much deteriorated national economy. Former General Secretary of the Communist Party and one-time Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises, Dew Gunasekara, says the situation is so bad the government revenue could be even less than 09 of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Twelve years after Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism, the country is in an unprecedented financial turmoil as a result of the national economy suffering a debilitating setback due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic, as in most countries. Waste, corruption, irregularities, mismanagement and negligence also contributed to the current sorry state of the country. The country that clinched an unbelievable victory against the most ruthless terrorist group in the world, is in a state of flux. Actually, what the public now needs is certainly not a common agenda for the Opposition but consensus among all political parties, represented in Parliament, on how to overcome the daunting economic challenges.

Former Minister Mangala Samaraweera, on Sunday (25), faulted the political party system for the current state of the national economy. Samaraweera explained the difficulty in settling foreign debt, running to billions of USDs, while the country’s foreign reserves are nearing the rock bottom. Having represented the cabinet of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, Samaraweera’s declaration should be examined, taking into account his current political strategy.

During Sunday’s briefing at ‘Freedom Hub’, at T.B. Jayah Mawatha, Samaraweera, one of the fiercest critics of the Rajapaksas, asserted the futility of forming a political alliance, only on the basis of opposition to them. Samaraweera declared that such an opposition alliance should be based on a set of principles. Can Samaraweera’s call also meant to strengthen Wickremesinghe’s call for the Opposition to adopt a common agenda? ‘Freedom Hub’ is situated in the same building that housed Derana, situated in close proximity to the now sort of dilapidated SLFP main office.

It would be pertinent to mention that Samaraweera, having backed Sajith Premadasa at the 2019 presidential election, abandoned him soon after the formation of the SJB. Samaraweera quit the SJB, ahead of the 2020 general election, after having handed over nominations on behalf the newly formed party’s Matara district team.

Wickremesinghe’s strategy

Wickremesinghe is pursuing a dicey political strategy. The Embattled UNP leader has to simultaneously attack the SLPP government, and undermine Premadasa’s leadership as well. Having suffered the worst ever defeat at a parliamentary election, Wickremesinghe is struggling to consolidate his position, both in Parliament and outside.

Facing a legal challenge against entering Parliament, in violation of Section 99 A of the Constitution, Wickremesinghe, during the debate on the NCM, said that both the ruling SLPP government and the SJB qualified to enter the Guinness World Book of Records for incompetency.

Wickremesinghe declared that the incumbent government was the first in the world to mess up its affairs and ruin a country in such a short period of time, whereas the SJB had set a world record by not moving a NCM against the government.

The status of the SLPP government cannot be discussed without taking into consideration the global Covid-19 challenge. If not for the crisis caused by the epidemic, the Opposition would have been in a much weaker position. The Covid crisis has sort of facilitated an Opposition strategy meant to undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government struggling to cope up with drying up of two major revenue sources, namely funds remitted by Sri Lankan workers overseas and from the once bourgeoning tourism sector. Having secured strong mandates at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls, the SLPP could have pushed ahead with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s agenda, comfortably, if not for the Covid-19 menace.

UNP leader Wickremesinghe quite obviously has forgotten the first Treasury bond scam, perpetrated by the then Governor of the Central Bank, Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran, (handpicked by him) within weeks after the 2015 presidential election. The first Treasury bond scam carried out on Feb 27, 2015, less than 50 days after the January 8, 2015 presidential election, messed up the UNP government. Its exposure ruined the UNP as it unsuccessfully tried to dismiss it, with one of its MPs even writing a book denying it ever took place. The crisis caused an irreparable damage to Wickremesinghe’s marriage of convenience with the then President Maithripala Sirisena. The Treasury bond scam rocked the UNP-led government that at the onset had nearly a two-thirds majority. An irate President Sirisena, in spite of the despicable act on the part of the UNP, tried to save the UNP-SLFP partnership. So much so the President who is also the SLFP leader, cunningly dissolved Parliament, in late June 2015, to thwart the then COPE Chairman Dew Gunasekera from tabling an explosive report on the Treasury bond scam, in Parliament. President Sirisena though being the leader of the SLFP delivered a knockout blow to his own party by declaring Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be named Prime Minister in case of their victory. Perhaps that un-called for statement should have earned President Sirisena a place in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Having won the August 2015 parliamentary election, though it couldn’t secure at least a simple majority, the UNP perpetrated the second Treasury bond scam in late March 2016. Between the two Treasury bond scams, the UNP also betrayed the war-winning military, at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. The Oct 2015 Geneva betrayal earned the yahapalana government the wrath of the vast majority of the people of this country.

While alleging the SLPP messed up its affairs in such a short period of time, Wickremesinghe has conveniently forgotten his own record. The emergence of the Joint Opposition, in the aftermath of the shocking defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 2015 Presidential election, and its transformation as the SLPP, thanks to Basil Rajapaksa’s skills as an organiser and the stunning victory the newly registered party achieved, in Feb 2018, at the local government polls, should be studied against the backdrop of the UNP kicking its own goal, repeatedly. Did the top UNP leadership believe that it could create a massive slush fund by way of the Treasury bond scams to undertake consolidation of the party? Those who had backed the then UNP strategy, some of them vociferously, now represent the SJB. The UNP and the breakaway faction, registered under controversial circumstances cannot under any circumstances, absolve themselves of the Treasury bond scams. Despite the two Treasury bond scams, the second far bigger than the first, Wickremesinghe made a desperate bid to retain Mahendran as the Governor. Wickremesinghe failed. The UNP accepted the seriousness of the situation only after it suffered a humiliating defeat at the Feb 2018 Local Government polls. The SLPP emerged as a formidable political force, thanks to the bungling UNP and the SLFP. By the time the Covid-19 epidemic erupted here, in early 2020, that caused the postponement of the general election scheduled for April to August, the SLPP was in control of Local Government authorities (Feb 2018), Office of the President (Nov 2019) and general election (Aug 2020). Today, the main Opposition largely depends on the outcome of the battle between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government and the epidemic.

Stinking Bathiudeen affair

All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, embroiled in a spate of controversies, was elected to Parliament on the SJB ticket. The ACMC is a constituent of the SJB. Bathiudeen is now under investigation over the death of 16-year-old Ishalini, who succumbed to burn injuries she suffered at the Vanni District SJB MP’s Baudhaloka Mawatha residence on July 3. She died at the National Hospital on July 15th. The revelation that Ishalini had been raped repeatedly sent shock waves through the country as various interested parties exploited the situation. Some remained silent. Having first entered Parliament, at the Dec 2001 general election, Bathiudeen switched his allegiance to various political party leaders over the years, ultimately ending up with Sajith Premadasa in the wake of the UNP split. Bathiudeen served as a Cabinet minister under Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena and deserted Wickremesinghe at a crucial phase of the battle between the UNP leader and his deputy. The Supreme Court found him guilty of clearing the Kallaru forest reserve and he has continuously been under the media glare for the wrong reasons. Four days after the death of Ishalini, UNP leader Wickremesinghe, on the first day of the NCM against Minister Gammanpila, questioned the circumstances the police arrested Bathiudeen over the Easter Sunday carnage. Wickremesinghe also questioned the alleged moves to take SJB National List lawmaker Harin Fernando into custody over a statement he made as regards the Easter Sunday carnage. One cannot find fault with Wickremesinghe for speaking on behalf of those elected on the SJB. But, obviously Wickremesinghe didn’t anticipate Ishalini’s death causing such a furor with the Upcountry Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) demanding justice for the girl from there. The TPA’s Deputy Chairman Palani Digambaram led a noisy protest in the Hatton town while Vadivel Suresh, also a member of the SJB parliamentary group declared that those responsible for Ishalini’s death should be punished Saudi Arabia style.

Among those who had been arrested so far in connection with Ishalini’s death, is Bathiudeen’s 46-year –old wife Ayesha, father-in-law, brother-in-law and the broker, who arranged the underage girl to receive employment at the former minister’s residence. How many female domestic workers had been employed by the Bathiudeens, did another one of them commit suicide by jumping before a train and did any of them been sexually harassed during their employment there?

The case took a new turn on Monday (26) in the wake of shocking disclosure made by Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peris before Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya. Peris explained how those at Rishad Bathiudeen’s residence delayed taking Ishalini to the National Hospital in spite of having the vehicles at home and deceived the hospital by giving a Sinhala name to the Tamil girl when she was admitted.

Although Wickremesinghe is on record as having cleared Bathiudeen of involvement in the Easter Sunday carnage, on the basis of a confidential police report he received during his tenure as Prime Minister, the National Catholic Committee for Justice recently named the former minister as a person who assisted terror attacks ‘in different ways.’ In a July 12 dated appeal to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Catholic Church pointed out that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) that inquired into the Easter Sunday carnage recommended that the Attorney General consider criminal proceedings against Bathiudeen under any suitable provision of the Penal Code. The Church also made reference to the MP’s brother, Riyaj, requesting that he be subjected to further investigations by the police as well as the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.

The ACMC is obviously in serious turmoil. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in Oct 2020, at the expense of the 19th Amendment, divided the four-member ACMC group in the Opposition SJB. The Bathiudeens wielded immense power whoever was in power. There cannot be a better example than Riyaj’s sudden release, ahead of the vote on the 20th Amendment. Riyaj taken into custody on April 14th, 2020 was released though police headquarters earlier asserted a direct connection between the suspect and those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage. Although the then Attorney General Dappula de Livera made a highly publicised intervention, Riyaj’s release remains a mystery though he was again taken into custody subsequently amidst an outcry. Actually, the Law and Order Ministry owed an explanation as regards Riyaj’s release, especially because the suspect was arrested again, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Rishad Bathiudeen, too, is held under the PTA.

The ACMC tainted by a series of equally destructive controversies will have to charter a new path as major political parties namely the SLPP and the SJB no longer could accommodate Rishad Bathiudeen’s outfit on their ticket at a future election.

The Catholic Church also questioned the delay in initiating criminal proceedings against SLFP leader, now an SLPP MP, under any suitable provision in the Penal Code, in respect of the Easter Sunday carnage, and also the P CoI’s failure to make any specific recommendation against the UNP leader.

A House in tumult

Parliament seems to be in turmoil with political parties therein unable to comprehend the crisis the country is facing. The Finance Ministry shocked all by opening LCs for the import of Toyota Land Cruisers for all 225 members of Parliament. In addition to them, LCs were opened for three more Toyota Land Cruisers though the identity of the intended recipients remained a mystery. Obviously, the SLPP felt that luxury vehicles should be ordered for all lawmakers representing 15 registered political parties in the current Parliament, though the largest beneficiary would be the SLPP with a 145-member parliamentary group. In addition to the SLPP group, those who voted for the 20th Amendment had to be appeased. The worst post-independence financial crisis didn’t discourage the SLPP from seeking to appease lawmakers at the taxpayers’ expense. Although the government spokesmen claimed the order for the luxury vehicles was put on hold the real issue is for how long?

Parliament remained silent over Attorney-at-Law Nagananda Kodituwakku moving Supreme Court against accommodating members on the National List, contrary to Section 99 A of the 14th Amendment. Kodituwakku sought the annulment of such NL appointments as well as the abolishment of the 14th Amendment itself. In fact, all political parties refrained from commenting on such a controversial issue, now before the Supreme Court. Issues pertaining to Parliament needs to be examined, also taking into consideration Ranjan Ramanayake losing his parliamentary seat (SJB/Gampaha District) after being found guilty in a case of contempt of the Supreme Court, convicted murderer Premalal Jayasekera (SLPP/Ratnapura District) taking oaths as a member of Parliament and the recent dismissal of cases involving one-time Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pilleyan, now an MP and ministers Johnston Fernando, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Basil Rajapaksa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.

The CIABOC also owed an explanation as to how the decision to drop all charges against former lawmaker and Foreign Ministry Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena, pertaining to the Mihin Lanka case, was arrived at. That particular case dealt with misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs 883 mn and another case involving former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris, now Sri Lanka’s top diplomat at UN, in New York, was dismissed. Present Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, the AG during whose tenure legal proceedings had been initiated against those above-mentioned persons, is now the head of the judiciary, in his capacity as the Chief Justice.

Presidential pardon granted to former UPFA MP Duminda Silva, now Chairman of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) should be examined taking into consideration the dismissal of a spate of high profile cases since 2019. Duminda Silva, one-time monitoring MP for the Defence Ministry is the only parliamentarian to receive a presidential pardon so far!

 



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Midweek Review

NADAGAMKARAYO

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By Capt Elmo Jayawardena
elmojay1@gmail.com

Some days ago, a fellow Captain dropped in to see us at home. He was accompanied by his wife. Amidst a light conversation and pleasant chatter, they mentioned NADAGAMKARAYO.  He swore it was a great teledrama and that we should give it a go. I had never watched teledramas because I could not allocate a fixed time for sitting in front of the television. The same goes for my wife, who is ultra-busy with our own dramas in life. Somehow the following day we got a break from a tight schedule and went to YouTube and watched Episode 1 of Nadagamkarayo.

Then we watched Episode 2 and then 3 and 4 and 5.Now after two weeks we are at Episode 184 and well set on Nadagamkarayo to light-up our evenings. I called a dear friend. I know his taste. By profession he is the Head Honcho of a prominent bank.  But he’s still got grass-root vernacular taste, yes, from Spielberg masterpieces to Indika Ferdinando’s ‘Ho Gaana Pokuna’.  The bank boss has not been a tele-drama man. The next day he texted me, “Thank you for the gift my friend, the programme is great, I am hooked on Nadagamkarayo.” A few days later, he emailed me that he was on Episode 58. I called another friend, a leading corporate lawyer married to an ultra-busy surgeon. They have three young children, and the lawyer is a multi-tasker from the ‘A’ Team. She too has taken the Nadagamkarayo drug and was watching the teledrama at 8.00 in the morning, the only interval in her roller-coaster daily road map.   So, what is all this hype about Nadagamkarayo? It certainly is no quick fix for lockdown blues. It is much more. Pure Sri Lankan simple story with excellent creativity.

The cast bar none is acting at Sarasavi or Sumathi level.  Kawadiya, who has traces of Dustin Hoffman, gets the Oscar nomination, and Kukul Bada, the young domestic, deserves an honourable mention purely for his varying facial expressions. The totality created by director Sivagurunathan is amazingly watchable.  The insatiable appetite of the TV audience to watch Nadagamkarayo stems from the clever way the drama rolls on, keeping all characters alive and active. If this is watched by anyone as a ‘Daily Bread’ at 9.30 in the night, that is fine, so long as you have that half-hour free to sit in front of your TV. But like us, if you are a late starter and going through the episodes to catch up with the current stage, then you are in trouble. Watch one and then go to the next and the next and the next in an unstoppable frenzy and the wake-up call comes when you hear the clock striking midnight. That is how strong the addiction could be. I do not know who the scriptwriter is or the brilliant cinematographer who is responsible for depicting rural scenery of high pastoral quality.

There will be so many others who added their smidgen to make this a first-class entertainment to all and sundry.  They say cocaine, LSD and pure Kerala ganja are addictive?

Try Nadagamkarayo, you get bewildered from episode to episode which is hard to switch off until you watch the entire story.  Kukula Mudalali seems a veteran from either stage or screen. As bald as a doorknob and with a ‘Taras Bulba’ moustache he is the perfect all-round villain for the drama. Not only is he a thug selling moonshine but a failed Romeo with any skirt that swings in the wind. Manamalan driving his red imitation Ferrari is difficult to define from the audience point of view. He is brash and bawdy and is always the ultimate liar. That is his role, and he sure brings a different dimension to the bucolic village setting with his patch-work denims and action-filled behaviour which has the unique distinction of being pleasing and annoying at the same time. This is what we traded for Netflix and HBO.

At the start it was curiosity, but in no time Nadagamkarayo became an addiction. We have not seen the evening television news for weeks. No, we missed nothing. We do not want to know who stole the garlic and created the Sudulunu scandal or who runs the rice mafia and hides the harvest. Pandora’s Box and how Uhuru Kenyatta and Vladimir Putin looked for reliable laundries to clean their money is way above what we need to know. The same goes for those who bid for a Cypriot passport at 1.3 million dollars.

We do not want to know how 600 plus items were blacklisted for importing and then in a flash a new magician came on stage like Gorgiya Pasha and swung his multi-coloured wand and Ooppss – the restrictions vanished into thin air. No more dollar-saving cutbacks. We can be clad in St Michael’s underwear and feast on Cadbury chocolates stocked in a brand new two-door refrigerator imported from Germany. No, I certainly do not need all that twisted jargon camouflaged as current head-lines to crowd my evening by watching local television channels. Maybe, it is not the fault of these stations but the politically- dominated mundane news that is available or ‘has to be’ shown by order.

I will gladly trade all that to see Loku Hamuduruwo on Nadagamkarayo screen with his serene behaviour and exemplary attitude to life which soothes our very souls. At all times the soft words of Loku Hamuduruwo are always a simple wisdom-filled lesson in life to all of us. Cap it up with the daily occurrences at the tea kiosk by the paddy field where the shop owner, manager, and tea-maker Mudalali and his golaya Gajaman colour the show.  His customers are the banana-eating and kahata-drinking clan who spice the story with palatable ‘Gamey Talk’.

The champion of this mini-stage is Sirisena the erudite goat-milk-seller who has his own interpretations and anecdotes to anything and everything political that happens in the country.Sudu Chooti comes to the story as a village Juliet. She is the daughter of the Music Master and his comely wife Kusumalatha who is ‘all perfect’ in her role as a village mother. Here the village damsel Sudu Chooti falls in love with the Kassippu-selling Sara, the scourge of the village.  No doubt, Sara carries the show wrapped in a rugged flamboyance which is nothing but raw talent. He sure is the ultimate ‘Village Hampden’ from Gray’s Elegy, a rebel against constant village tyranny. He and his Kassippu boys, Kawadiya, Suddha and Kiri Putha depict clearly to the audience the sadness of the youth of today.

The poverty that plagues their young lives with no answers visible to make a decent living is an unchangeable tragedy. They are outcasts in the village and are branded for life with no avenue for redemption.  That part of Nadagamkarayo is a lesson to us all. The underlying message is clear; It is not the core of the man that is rotting, it is the system that denies him the opportunity. Where and when is the brighter day that would give him a chance to wake up and make attempts to be a decent human being?Rasika is poor, her husband has left her and run off with another woman. Rasika is a single parent taking care of an innocent little daughter. They live in a hovel that is called home. Her father is sick, a heart patient, and the mother is unemployed.

The day that dawns for them is always a struggle.A stranger is kind to her. Gives Rasika a lift to visit her father in hospital and brings her home. She invites him for a cup of tea. He is reluctant and hesitates. Even though we are poor we can afford to give you a cup of tea,” she tells the stranger. That line says it all. It defines the soul of Sri Lanka and what is Sri Lankan.Where would we be without it?

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Midweek Review

Is Buddhism pessimistic teaching?

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By Dr. JUSTICE
CHANDRADASA NANAYAKKARA

Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. Unlike many other religions it does not believe in a god or a creator. It is not only a religion but also a philosophy with a moral discipline. It originated in northern eastern India and was founded by Gautama Buddha. Today, Buddhism has become one of the major religions in the world, with more than 500 million adherents. Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Gautama Buddha, having realised the immense human suffering looked for a way of easing their pain and suffering. He pursued strict spiritual disciplines to become an enlightened being. Having achieved enlightenment he preached a path of salvation to his followers, so that they could escape the samsaric cycle of suffering, rebirth and death. In brief, the entire teaching of the Buddha can be summed up in one stanza from the Dhammapada. “Sabba papassa akaranam kusalassa upasampada sacitta pariyodapanam etan buddhana sasanam” (not to do evil, to cultivate merit, to purify one’s mind, this is the teaching of the Buddhas}.

Criticism of Buddhism has taken many forms. Some incline to the view that Buddhism is overly pessimistic in outlook, and always takes a gloomy and melancholic view of life. While others were of the opinion that Buddhism was unscientific, idealistic and impractical. These misconceptions have prevailed from the time of the Buddha to this day. It should be stated that these beliefs are fallacious and misleading, as Buddhism is neither pessimistic or optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic as it takes a realistic and dispassionate view of life and of the world, and teaches us to look at things as they really are. Buddhism promotes rational and empirical investigation, and invites people to put the teachings of the Buddha to test before accepting it. Buddha does not stop at analysing suffering [dukka], but proceeds to show us the practical way out of it, which is the Noble Eightfold Path.

The erroneous view that Buddhism is pessimistic has come about as a result of many scholars giving a restricted meaning to the word dukkha (Suffering) in the First Noble Truth. They have interpreted dukka (suffering) as nothing but suffering and pain. This has led many to regard Buddhism as a pessimistic religion. But viewed from a Buddhist perspective the word dukkha (suffering) has a deeper and wider connotation and dimension.

It should be noted that other than the ordinary meaning of dukkha (suffering), the word dukkha in the First Noble Truth also connotes such things as ‘’imperfection “, “impermanence” and “insubstantiality”.

Dr. Walpola Rahula Thero in his book “What the Buddha Taught” has stated thus: “First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic or optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and world. It looks at things objectively (yathabhutam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool’s paradise, nor does it frighten and agonise you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness”.

Pessimism is a philosophy of suffering, while Buddhism is a philosophy of the relief of suffering. Had the Buddha in his discourse proclaimed that there was nothing but misery in life, and there was no happiness to be found anywhere, without showing us the way out of it, we would have been justified in characterising Buddhism as pessimistic.

It is true that the Buddha exposed the unhappy part of life. However, while doing so he explained the way to come out of it.

Buddhism does not countenance a melancholic, sorrowful, gloomy attitude to life, and it does not foster an attitude of hopelessness to life. The Buddha didn’t ask his adherents to contemplate only on the gloomy side of life. He did not expect them to brood over misery only, but wanted them to know that both the happy and sad sides of life are equally fleeting and impermanent.

No one can deny the reality of suffering associated with birth, decay, old age, death, association with the unpleasant and disassociation from the pleasant. In reality there is none in the whole world other than the Buddha, who can be described as a preacher of happiness or sukhavadi. A true Buddhist is the happiest of all beings.

Buddhism is a religion of salvation. It is an ethical philosophy which preaches the unsatisfactory nature of the world. Unlike other religions in the world, which talk about an almighty god on whom people depend for salvation. According to Buddhism, one is indeed one’s own lord {attahi attano natho}.

The entire teaching of the Buddha when summed up, amounts simply to insights into “impermanence” [annicca] suffering or unsatisfactoriness” [dukka] and “non-selfhood” [annitta]. These three characteristics were the aspects of teaching, which the Buddhas stressed more than any other. The three characteristics annicca, dukkha and anatta which facts of life can be realized and grasped by everyone. Even the most placid person would admit that dukka is omnipresent and universal. This truth can be easily realized by anyone who can think soberly and dispassionately. It can be seen everywhere around us. Infatuation with transient pleasures prevents us from seeing things as they truly are.

Walpola Rahula Thero in his book states the Buddha does not deny happiness in life when he says there is suffering. On the contrary he admits different forms of happiness, both material and spiritual, for laymen as well as for monks. In the Anguttara-Nikaya, one of the five original collections in Pali containing the Buddha’s discourses, there is a list of happiness (sukhani), such as the happiness of family life and the happiness of the life of a recluse, the happiness of sense pleasures and the happiness of renunciation, the happiness of attachment and the happiness of detachment, physical happiness and mental happiness etc.

Misery arises because of craving and aversion, which in turn arise from tanha. If these causes are eradicated the root cause of misery is eradicated. The Buddha said pain is followed by pleasure, and pleasure is followed by pain. In other words, pleasure and pain follow each other as day follows night.

If you observe the reality around us it is evident it consists of birth, sickness, old age, sorrow, pain, distress, decay, grief, death, lamentation, etc. Empirical observation of human existence makes it clear. Buddha laid emphasis on knowing things as they really are [yatha bhuta nana] if you take a critical look at life and all its concomitants, it is clear to everyone everything is in a state of flux. Life is a succession of fleeting moments of arising and dissolution. And every cell in the body of a being would die and be replaced by a new cell which in turn would die to be replaced by another. From conception to death the process goes on uninterrupted. Buddha’s definition of suffering is clear and empirical to anyone.

The Buddha has preached that the following come into being and pass away. Release from them is bliss—Annicca vata sankara Uppada vaya dhammino Uuppajjitva nirujjhanti Tesam vupa samo sukho).

He also preached “he who sees dukkha sees also the arising of dukkha, sees also cessation of dukkha, and sees also the path leading to the cessation of dukkha“. This does not make the life of a Buddhist melancholy or sorrowful at all.

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Midweek Review

The Runaway Rash

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By Lynn Ockersz

Drained of its nutritional sap,

Thanks to a runaway rash of scams,

The fabled isle sees red on multiple fronts;

On the one hand, it faces an economic slump,

On the other, it’s being greedily milked dry,

By a political class answerable to none,

And on top of it all, people who most matter,

In revered bodies that help build the land,

Are thrusting aside the Voice of their Conscience,

And vitalizing the gangrenous growth of corruption.

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