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A dhamma daana of a different kind

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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.

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Udaya questions why CPC prevented from entering LPG market

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Minister Gammanpila at the abandoned Sapugaskanda facility

…reveals Rs 37 mn loss suffered during Asantha’s tenure as Chairman

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila recently alleged that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had suffered Rs 37 mn loss due to an abortive bid made by the state enterprise to enter the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) in 2008.

Lawmaker Gammanpila, who is also the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, said that the CPC had made the attempt in violation of an agreement with Shell and Laugfs Gas to supply its entire output of LPG from the Sapugaskanda refinery to the above mentioned companies.

The Minister said so after inspecting an abandoned gas filling facility at the CPC facility at Sapugaskanda. The visit took place, on Thursday (24), after a three-member committee headed by the Energy Ministry’s head of Internal Audit D. P. S. J. Kumara inquired into the failed operation.

The CPC undertook the project during former national cricketer Ashantha de Mel’s tenure as the CPC Chairman. A. H. M. Fowzie had been the minister in charge of the subject.

The Minister called for a report when the media revealed that the facility had been abandoned a decade back.

Gammanpila vowed to reveal the person who had caused losses to the CPC, having misled its Board of Directors as regards the viability of the project.

The PHU leader requested state enterprise Litro Gas to explore the possibility of accommodating the facility in its current production setup. The minister described the facility installed at Sapugaskanda as technologically outdated even at the time 2008 administration acquired it.

When the CPC made an attempt to enter the LPG market, Laugfs successfully moved the Supreme Court against it. The CPC abandoned the facility following the Supreme Court directive.

The Energy Minister questioned how the CPC had been prevented from entering the gas market. Underscoring the importance of market competition, the lawmaker said that the Energy Ministry intended to inquire into how the CPC reached an understanding with competitors that prevented the state enterprise from entering the LPG market. The minister said that he would examine the obstacles placed before the CPC in entering the market without undermining Litro.

Declaring that Sri Lanka had substantial natural gas deposits in the Mannar basin, the Energy Minister said that the government intended to enter the gas market. Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that a new enterprise would be established under the CPC to provide healthy competition.

Addressing the post-Cabinet media briefing on Sept. 10, co-Cabinet spokesperson Gammanpila said that Surath Ovitigama had been named the Director-General of the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat and Saliya Wickramasuriya had been appointed advisor.

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Saumya Liyanage removed from posts of Dean and Professor 

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From M.A. Kaleel, Kalmunai Corr. 

Professor Saumya Liyanage of the University of Visual and Performing Arts has been summarily removed from the posts of Professor and Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies he was holding at the university. 

 The decision was taken by the University Council chaired by the Competent Authority of the University Professor Abayaratne Bandara. 

 According to the Council, the decision for his removal is that he had not obtained a postgraduate degree by research (Master or PhD) within the probationary period of eight years. When a lecturer is appointed on probationary basis, he is given eight years to complete postgraduate degree––a master’s or a PhD.  

Liyanage holds a PhD from La Trobe University, Australia and he claims he submitted his PhD thesis within the stipulated period of 8 years, and the university has recommended him for the award of PhD with minor corrections. The effective date of PhD could be the date of submission of corrected thesis or the date of annual convocation. It differs from university to university. 

Liyanage, who joined the university in 2007, was supposed to obtain his PhD before 2015, but the university has taken 5 years to detect that he has not completed his PhD within the probationary period. He was promoted as a Professor and the Dean of Graduate Studies.  

 Professor Abayaratne Bandara also served as the Director General of National Institute of Education.  When Bandula Gunawardena became the Education Minister, he removed Dr. Upali S. Sedera from the post of DG only a few months after his appointment and appointed Professor Abayaratne Bandara to the post.

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SF under delusion that he is still Army Chief – SLPP MP

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‘Even Vasu is capable of flooring him’

By Saman Indrajith

Badulla District SLPP MP Chamara Sampath Dassanayake told Parliament, yesterday, that the SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was under the delusion that he was still commanding the army.

“He should realise that he is in Parliament. Yesterday, he threatened to take on the entire front row of government ranks single-handedly. We do not need an entire row of members to match him. We could send a single person that is our minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

MP Fonseka thinks all those here have passed only Grade Eight. What is wrong with a person with that kind of educational qualification becoming an MP? What about the late Mr. D. S. Senanayake? He was the first prime minister of the country.  He had passed only the fifth standard. We have had leaders who had not studied beyond Grade Eight. Didn’t they govern this country well? On the contrary, where is UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was considered educated and intelligent? What has he done? He is not even in this Parliament today. Was he able to govern this country successfully?”

“We know a lot about him and his ways of conduct. When he was the commander of the Army he sent a helicopter to Colombo to fetch two loaves of bread, while denying so many wounded soldiers the chance to be flown to Colombo. He also brought water from the Iyakkachi well in Vettailaikerni to Colombo because that was his favourite drinking water. We know all this”.

MP Dassanayake said that they had come to Parliament with great trust in it. Yet, he said that there were no thugs in the parliament and no room would be spared to turn the Ninth parliament into the same situation as the Eighth parliament.

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