Connect with us

News

A dhamma daana of a different kind

Published

on

Four-decades of writings by Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne, eminent scholar of Buddhist Studies and the one time Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Colombo, featured in eight volumes will be launched on August 27 at the BMICH.

by Randima Attygalle

Cataloguing the work of a reputed scholar spanning over four decades, elicited from numerous sources, both local and foreign, into a collection of eight meticulously compiled journals is a colossal task. In a labour of love, this has been realized by a team of Buddhist and Pali scholars guided by Ven. (Prof) Raluwe Padmasiri Thera in a manner true to the words of the Buddha, “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”

The eight volumes, five in English and three in Sinhala are a tribute to the eminent scholar Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne credited not only for his fine literature of a wide canvas of Buddhism related themes but also for his work as a teacher moulding a generation of young scholars in Buddhist and Pali studies. He has drawn inspiration from celebrated modern interpreters of Buddhism such as K.N. Jayatilleke and David J. Kalupahana in his scholarly pursuits.

The writings of Prof. Tilakaratne, the founder Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Colombo, are classified under several key themes including Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Ethics, Theravada Studies, Buddhism and Modernity, Inter-religious understanding and Buddhist Literature and Culture. The soon-to-be-launched collection will bring the painstakingly researched papers of the reputed scholar closer to the student, researcher and the intellectual reader.

The idea of compiling Prof. Tilakaratne’s academic papers was first mooted as a casual discussion among a group of scholars at the occasion of his retirement from the University of Colombo in 2018 as the Senior Chair Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies. “Initially neither they nor I had any inkling that the project will run into many volumes! All papers compiled under eight different banners are what I have written for four decades. Although I have been teaching full time for the last 30 years, I did not stop my research and writing because teaching and writing go together. If the teacher is not delivering new themes and fresh raw materials, he is not doing justice to his students,” says Prof. Tilakaratne.

He applauds the editorial board of ‘emerging Buddhist scholars’ comprising his friends, junior colleagues and students for embarking on this uphill task. The panel which represents the four-fold group in Buddhist society (Bhikku-Bhikkuni, Upasaka-Upasika) truly represents the future of Buddhist Studies in the country, says Tilakaratne who notes that they have the “potential to take contemporary Theravada Buddhist scholarship to the world”.

Prof. AsangaTilakaratne

Comprehensive scholarly introductions by renowned Buddhist scholars- both local and foreign add to the substance of the volumes. Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Mahanayaka Thera, Jayadeva Uyangoda- Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Colombo and G. A. Somaratne, Professor of Buddhist Studies, Centre for Buddhism, University of Hong Kong, are credited for the introductions of the three Sinhala publications. Scholars like Dr. Surakkulame Pemaratana Thera, emerging monastic Buddhist scholar who holds a doctorate from Pittsburg University and works at Pennsylvania University, USA, Anne M. Blackburn of Cornell, Damien Keown of Goldsmiths College, University of London, Rupert Gethin, President of Pali Text Society, London and Professor of Bristol University, UK, and Abraham Velez of Kentucky University, USA complements the English volumes.

The demand for Buddhist books continues to escalate but this, however, needs to have a mechanism of checks and balances, remarks Prof. Tilakaratne. “With the demand, there is now a tendency to publish practically anything in the name of Buddhism for this ready market,” says the author who urges publishers to have the manuscripts reviwed by a qualified panel of scholars. In the USA and the UK the average time between handing over the manuscript to the publisher and its publication is two years or more.

“But in a situation where a good number of books published in this country are author’s own publications, with no guarantee of accuracy or value whatsoever, means that anyone can publish virtually anything provided they have resources. there must be a broader mechanism in place in order to assure that what is given to readers is of good quality.”

In this backdrop, the collection authored and edited by qualified professionals bear the intellectual responsibility for the content. The panel of editors had also taken considerable efforts to adhere to sound academic traditions.

The two volumes ‘Inter-religious understanding’ and ‘Buddhism and Modernity’ featured in the collection are particularly topical in the contemporary setting bidding the Buddhist intelligentsia of Sri Lanka to create a dialogue on these topics, notably on religious understanding so that communal reconciliation becomes a reality. “History reflects that Buddhism has faced challenges with courage and survived. Since 1815 the challenges posed by modernity in a Sri Lankan setting have been diverse and serious, so much so at a certain point, during this early period of the island’s British colonial history even some local scholars seemed to have thought that Buddhism will definitely lose the battle. Some papers in the collection discuss issues related to this aspect of modernism,” explains Prof. Tilakaratne.

What is significant in the collection is that it addresses issues related to how Buddhism as an organization adapted to new situations and adopted certain aspects of modernity while preserving the core of its philosophy. One of the key aspects of the author’s academic writings, which is reflected even in his formative years of academic and intellectual development is his effort to interpret the teachings of Buddha in the context of problems arising from modern scientific and technological developments. His first book Minis Getalu Pilibanda Bauddha Vigrahaya (Buddhist Analysis of Human Problems), published in 1979, belongs to this genre and won the State Literary award for that year.

Inter-religious understanding deliberates on theoretical and doctrinal issues as well as issues arising from historical and social contexts. “Doctrinally and philosophically the challenge for any religion is to accommodate other religions while preserving one’s own uniqueness. Where multiplicity of religion is a fact in one’s daily life, stressful situations among religious followers is inevitable. The challenge for each religion is to find out its own resources to cope with such situations. In my writings I have tried to develop a position which to my understanding is fair by Buddhism as well as other religions,” observes the author.

While lauding everyone who supported to make this initiative a reality, Prof. Tilakaratne makes special mention of Ven. Bellanwila Dhammaratana Nayaka Thera, Chief incumbent of Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya and the publisher of the collection- Sarasavi Publishers.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

Published

on

Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

Continue Reading

News

Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

Published

on

Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

Continue Reading

News

British national to be deported

Published

on

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

Continue Reading

Trending