Armageddon, Apocalypse and US
Realisation is dawning globally that extermination of our World, as we know it, and extinction of humankind is a real possibility. Scarcities of the three basic requisites of life – air, water and space are beginning to pinch. It is not only a quantitative diminution, but also a qualitative decline that threatens. Unbridled increase in population and the simultaneous rise of ambitions and expectations, characterized by unchecked demands for finite resources, and reckless pollution of what remains, loom menacingly. A redefinition of progress, presently measured by consumption, seems necessary. Global discourse on development often includes words like “limits”, “sustainability”, “equity,” and “millennium goals”. What would have been condemned as irrational, doomsday fears, and alarmism yesterday, looks like reality today. Even a decade or so ago, who would have imagined that the Coronavirus or similar widespread viral pandemics could ever occur and spread so rapidly? Can it show up again in an even more virulent form?
It seems quite plausible that Nature is fighting back. Its benevolence and bounty have lulled us into (ungrateful) complacency. All comfort and sensual satisfaction too, are fleeting and impermanent. We have been warned. The occurrence of disturbances such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and forest fires have now become more frequent and severe. And then comes Covid-19. Perhaps Spanish Flu, EBOLA, SARS and MERS were pre-warnings, which we loftily ignored. After all, are not humans we thought, the ultimate in Evolution and Viruses the most rudimentary? David has emphatically subdued Goliath. Worse, any triumph may last only until more and more violent forces are unleashed.
Global Warming, melting of Arctic Glaciers, Sea Level Rise are there for all (except Trump), to see. There seems little that the World could do in response to the pitiful and desperate calls from the Maldives and other inhabited Low Elevation Islands. How much longer before we and many others too are flooded out?
Only about 3% of the water on Planet Earth is potable, the balance 97% is locked up in the Oceans. Of the 3% too, the bulk is in groundwater, much of it inaccessible. It has been remarked that World War III will be for water – not for oil. Solar might be the sole option for Energy. Coal and oil are projected to also be exhausted. Disasters like Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents, show that the costs and duration of recovery times that can be decades or even centuries, illustrate the ever present perils of nuclear power.
Solar Power as presently conceived, is a virtually inexhaustible source. Photovoltaic cells which are presently based on highly purified silicon – the second most abundant element on earth. Batteries of such PV cells, suitably connected, make up the familiar solar assemblies (panels). Theoretically, the energy locked into the sun’s rays received on a single sunny day, if captured, amounts to several thousand times the annual requirements of our earth. Hence, this seems a virtually inexhaustible resource. The major problem is to develop appropriate methods for the storage of energy harnessed during sunlight hours, for use during the night. This is achieved by using appropriate storage batteries or by arranging to feed into the national grid.
The natural mechanism for entrapping (a small part) of incoming Solar Energy, is plant life. The steps are most elegant. The molecule of chlorophyll in green leaves, has as its nucleus, the element Magnesium. Its Atomic structure is such that an electron in an outer orbit is displaced to an even more outer orbit. At the first available opportunity, it leaps back to join its former partners. In this process, the energy entrapped in its displacement is released, in a form (chemically entrapped) usable for the process of building its body mass. This in essence is similar to the functioning of hemoglobin in blood – (only here the function of Magnesium in chlorophyll is performed by Iron in blood). As we know, green chlorophyll in leaves absorbs Carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, while hemoglobin absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. Destroy plants and you destroy Man by asphyxiation. It is often not appreciated that a very large part of photosynthesis is in the Oceans, trapped by the millions of microscopic organisms and by Green Seaweeds. Thus, preventing Ocean Pollution is no less important than controlling deforestation.
We are in Sri Lanka, very much in default in managing our Forests and Mangroves. We also display a callous disregard towards the perils of ocean pollution. The persecution and harassment (reported), of the commendable schoolgirl who courageously exposed the criminal devastation of part of Singharaja, as seen from her home, is deplorable. The young Pakistani girl Yousafzai Malala, was the recipient of The Nobel Peace Award (2014) – the youngest ever recipient – for her role in pressing for educational opportunities for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban shot her in the head and nearly killed her for her brashness! The young Scandinavian girl, Greta Thunberg, drew World-wide acclaim for her efforts in highlighting environmental issues.
In sharp contrast, our young nineteen-year old Bhagya Abeyratna, is being subjected to menacing visitations by those officers whose neglect, (or worse), has led to the present catastrophe! This is an utter disgrace. To cap it all, a Senior Minister who should know better, discloses that two reservoirs are being built within Singharaja to provide water to Hambantota! My gosh, what a toxic brew when political opportunism amalgamates with environmental unconcern!
Armageddon in Greek mythology is a mountain range where in the final battle, the forces of God engaged the demonic forces of evil. An apocalypse (also a biblical term), is a catastrophic disaster heralding the end of the World.
As I witness the heroic and laudable efforts of tree planting, Mangrove rejuvenation and cleansing beaches, (and growing damaged coral reefs), a thought crosses my mind. Years ago, Mr Sam Popham, a retired tea planter, bought some 18 acres of degraded Dry Zone land (not far from Kandalama) and conducted a novel experiment in restoring the land to natural forest, from the unsightly coarse shrub land that he had acquired. He worked on the simple proposition that “Nature knows how best to grow forest if allowed to, than Government Agencies could”. First, he identified four hazards. These were fire, choking weeds, grazing cattle and humans. He strategically located fire-gaps, used labour only to regularly uproot invading and choking weeds, fencing to exclude cattle and minimizing the entry of humans. There was no irrigation of seedlings and importantly, not a single tree was “imported” or planted. The results (although seemingly slow) were spectacular. Dried up riverbeds began to flow, fish, birds and small animals returned, the water level in his well rose and an altogether cool ambience, akin to a Temperate meadow developed. (Interestingly, the local monk was initially unfriendly towards this “White Imposter”, but when he saw the results, enmity disappeared to such an extent, that he even set aside a plot within the temple premises for a grave, if Popham were to die in Sri Lanka!). Popham made a precise record of his observations and wrote a most readable book titled “Dambulla – a Sanctuary of Tropical Trees” (He held an MA, (Cambridge) degree) and retired to the UK some years ago. The “Popham Principle” that he bequeathed to his Foster Home is a classic tribute to simplicity and perseverance.
Soil Conservation Acts specify that lands above an elevation of 4,000 (?) feet should not be cultivated. Tea was the major offender, going up to over 6,000 ft ! In this instance, the Law has to be respected and the tea left unplucked, and allowed to grow to its normal height of 6-10 metres. The natural forest will re-establish and Wildlife will return. In fact, Rohan Pethiyagoda showed this in practice, on a tea land at Agrapatana, for which he won the prestigious “Rolex Award”.
The past century has been one of unbelievable advancement. We can launch spacecraft on interplanetary journeys spanning years, sending back to land thousands of pictures of remarkable clarity. Digital Technology has wiped out traditional photography (where now are Kodak or Agfa?). Hand-held Smart phones or wrist-watches can perform the tasks of bulky Computers. Telecommunications permit us to speak to one another across the globe with an intimacy as if they are just across the table – with cameras which also give the visual content. Driverless cars, Auto-pilots on Aircraft and robots doing household chores and many other developments would tend to make us humans ‘redundant.’ Short of answering questions such as “When did time begin? Where does space end? “Man has to be pardoned for knowing it all. As usual for know-alls, we may have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no escape. Mankind may have out-smarted itself.
A hopeful feature of current environmental concerns, is that the youth generation is increasingly involved.
As one worthy is reported to have remarked “You cannot eat oxygen”. He was dead right, but we need to breathe it! Asphyxiation would act faster than hunger could!
Jerome Fernando and his profane gimmicks – II
By Rohana R. Wasala
(Continued from yesterday May 24, 2023)
Some well-meaning, erudite, but very naive and innocent, young bhikkhus are challenging Paster Jerome Fernando to a debate over his deprecatory remarks about Buddhism; that, I think, is ridiculously ingenuous and unnecessary, because that is giving that man a measure of dignity that he doesn’t deserve, and also because he cannot be credited with a decent understanding even of Christianity, let alone anything additional outside that domain. These young monks are being eclipsed in their calm but determined attempt to react to Jerome’s disinformation and deception without any ill will. By whom? They are getting overshadowed by a few yellow-robed imposters who are themselves Buddhist versions of pastor Jerome Fernando. Actually, those few false monks and the fake prophet are birds of a feather probably fed by the same hands, as some say.
It has also been observed that certain discredited politicians are exploiting the opportunity that came their way through this obviously well-rehearsed Jerome Fernando episode to take a dig at each other for the heck of it, without utilising it to repair the damage it is causing to reconciliation. Last but not least, where are the Ven Mahanayake theras? Their silence in crisis situations has often aggravated issues affecting the Buddha Sasana. The online media I normally consult have nothing in this regard. However, one can’t blame the Ven Mahanayakes because they avoid politics, as they have done down the centuries. They used to advise the monarch only in spiritual matters, and the monarch took responsibility for looking after the Shashanaya. The most senior monk or monks, close to the royalty, offered their opinion in succession matters on rare occasions, and also when the ruler failed in his duties or when there were foreign threats to the nation. The Sangha never took part in ruling, but remained above the ruler. The Buddhist Sangha is a very democratic community, where one monk has no control over another. Times have changed. It is urgent that the Mahanayakes do more to save the Buddha Shasanaya including the Fourfold Assembly of Followers (Sivvanak Pirisa) of male and female lay Buddhists and bhikkhus and bhikshunis.
Back to the topic. Meanwhile, a complaint was lodged with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) by the propaganda secretary of the political party, Pivituru Hela Urumaya (PHU), Iranga Vidvath Mendis, in connection with the relevant offensive statements made by Jerome Fernando who calls himself a prophet, which are derogatory to the Buddha, Buddhism, and other religions. This is the only meaningful reaction I have seen so far to Jerome Fernando’s outrage (up to the time of writing). The complainant demands that the law be applied to the (suspect) offender in this case in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007.
The aforementioned petition to the CID was published in a news report in the online lanka c news. It quoted the following fromJerome Fernando’s importunate harangue:
“This is what separates Christianity from Buddhism. Because for a Buddhist in their mind, it’s like, okay, අනුන්ට කලදේ තමන්ට පලදේ in a sense, it’s true, especially if you do something to a prophet. Anyways. Now, but in the Buddhist mind, they never hear the love of Buddha. Are you hearing this? Their focus is enlightenment. But to be enlightened, you need light. The Buddha himself, the name Buddha means enlightened one. Ladies and gentlemen, what is greater, light or enlightened? Jesus said, I’m the light of the world. so i tell you now, jesus didn’t said I’m the enlightened one, No, no, no, no. Jesus came from a different wavelength. Jesus said I’m the light. So, I submit to you, the Buddha was looking for light. He was actually looking for Jesus. This is why every Buddhist needs Jesus.”
I came across a YouTube video clip of the relevant part of Jerome Fernando’s coercive religious rant against the Buddha, Buddhism and Buddhists that contained more. There was a singing part to it too, that ridicules such traditional curative and protective magical remedies as tying charmed threads, anointing charmed oil, etc., usually found among rural folk, as superstitious practices based on Buddhist teachings. Those are cultural things and should not be confused with Buddhism. Buddha did not advocate such things. He himself visited a physician called Jeevaka when he fell ill, according to the known life of the Buddha. He preached no religion, and never prescribed blind-faith based devotional practices or mindless rituals. Even the most ignorant Buddhists know that magical cures like charmed threads, oils, and chants are not part of the doctrine they actually follow. Instead, those ritual performances are part and parcel of the established holistic native healing culture which maintains the vital balance between the physical and mental aspects of the patients’ health. These ancient healing arts have survived, particularly among villagers, into modern times. Jerome also staged some faith healing episodes, not different from them. Such magical fake cures are daily performed in many hundreds of devales dedicated to local deities found across the country which are patronised not only by gullible villagers, but by superstitious city dwellers including politicians and businessmen among others of the same ilk seeking divine assistance with their nefarious projects. Why should a ‘prophet’ demean his god by descending to the level of a village kapurala unless he was a genuine fake?
In the letter to the CID referred to above, Mendis has left out (probably, as irrelevant to the point of his plaint) Fernando’s disparaging references to Hinduism and Islam and relevant sacred figures, which are equally outrageous, such as that Hindus venerate animals. A common allegation he raised against the leaders of all three non-Christian religions did not preach Love! But this fake prophet’s real target is the Buddha, his teaching and the Buddhists, his followers, whom he demeans, by implication, as a spiritually misguided lot. Though it is evident that Jerome is proficient enough in Sinhala for preaching to them, he speaks only in English and has himself interpreted in Sinhala. That, I think, is just an act he puts on to further impress his apparently mesmerised audience, whose awed gazes were fixed on his constantly beaming beatific smile.
What is Jerome Fernando saying in the snatch of speech quoted above? Simply, nonsense. He appears to be ignorant of his own religion of Christianity and its truly great founder Jesus Christ. Christianity came five or six hundred years after Buddhism. The latter is definitely beyond pastor Fernando’s power of understanding. What did Buddhists do to him (if he means himself by ‘prophet’) for him to say “anunta kala de tamanta pala de” (which would be equivalent to the English proverb ‘Curses come home to roost’)? (When he said this, though, he seemed to be mocking his own ‘prophet’ act!) This idea of ‘retaliatory justice’ is not part of the Buddhist concept of karmic causation. People from different cultural backgrounds accept the idea that bad deeds earn you bad results and that good deeds bring you good results, as a self-evident truth. The Karma concept taught in Buddhism is much more profound and complex than ‘Curses come home to roost’.
A word about the idea of love that Jerome finds missing in Buddhism. Buddhism is nothing if it is not about wisdom and compassion. The Buddha does uphold love as a positive emotion, but says that it is ultimately based on selfishness/the illusion of ‘self’. The Buddha’s teaching recognises a difference between love (that you feel for a person) and unconditional universal compassion or loving-kindness (maitri, friendliness) towards all sentient beings, something that is completely selfless. I think Christian love is also very close to or identical with the Buddhist concept of loving-kindness. To me it looks like the highly intelligent Jerome Fernando has not so far cared to grasp at least a faint idea of the Buddha’s profound dhamma. He has no sense of history, for he doesn’t know that the Buddha lived five to six centuries before Jesus was born. Otherwise, if he is in his right senses at least temporarily, how can he say that the Buddha was looking for Jesus? What do you know about the Enlightenment concept taught in Buddhism, Jerome? Obviously, NOTHING! You equate enlightenment to lighting up or illuminating something. That is stupid. An Australian YouTuber of Sri Lankan origin says that he had some slight acquaintance with Jerome as a young Burgher with a different name doing modelling work for commercial firms about twenty years back. It’s plausible information. He uses both Sinhala and English equally fluently. Oops! I almost forgot. At the end or thereabouts of his Buddha bashing, quite paradoxically, like a true Christian preacher or a genuine Buddhist monk for that matter, he admonishes his congregation: “Never persecute anybody, never shame another person’s faith”.
I will wind up with a reference to the Buddha’s famous Kalama Sutta discourse. The Buddha advised his disciples to question and examine even the Tathagata (Buddha) himself to find the trustworthiness, the authenticity, of the teacher they chose to follow. A group of young men called the Kalamas came to the Buddha with a question. They wanted to learn from him how they could separate truths from falsehoods uttered by the various venerable recluses and brahmanas who visited their village of Kesaputta from time to time and preached their different doctrines that disagreed with each other. Obviously, the young men had heard of the fame of the Buddha who himself had studied under the most famous teachers of the time and exhaustively analysed their teachings, and dissatisfied, had embarked on his own long and assiduous search for the Truth and eventually attained Enlightenment. The Buddha’s advice to them was: “Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic and inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But…when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up… and when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them”. (I am quoting here from Ven Walpola Rahula thera’s classic dhamma compendium ‘What the Buddha Taught’ first published in London in 1959, and reprinted many times since, which Jerome Fernando may profitably read and still remain, or learn to be, a pious and virtuous Christian, which, I am afraid, he is not at present.)
I can easily answer your criticisms of Hinduism and Islam, but it is better for you to learn by yourself their moral essence that is as noble and as ennobling as Christianity.
Pastor Jerome Saga: Buddhist perspective
A statement made by a Christian pastor, Pastor Jerome Fernando, has taken the print and electronic media by storm. Buddhist monks, politicians and media men cry foul and sanctimoniously demand immediate action to be taken against him for his heinous crime of insulting the Buddha. I have watched their antics with a certain amount of amusement and disgust. Do these self-proclaimed protectors of the Buddha Sasana have an inkling of how the Compassionate One reacted to abuse and blame?
In the Akkosa Sutta [Samyuththa Nikaya 7.2], it is stated that on one occasion a brahmin of the Baradvaja clan went up to the Buddha and abused and insulted him.The Buddha listened silently and said,” Brahmin, If you offer food to guests who come to visit you and they do not accept it, to whom does it belong? The brahmin replied: ‘”It belongs to me”. Then the Buddha stated,” In the same way when you abuse and attack us who do not abuse and attack you, and we do not accept it; then it’s all yours brahmin, it’s all yours.” The brahmin was deeply ashamed and begged for forgiveness and became a follower of the Buddha.
There were many ascetics living in India during the Buddha’s time whose views differed from the Buddha. Nigantanathaputta, Makkaligosala and Sanjaya were some of them. On several occasions these ascetics openly criticized the Buddha but the Buddha never reacted with anger. Once they orchestrated the murder of a courtesan, named Sirima, and buried her body in the premises of the Buddha’s abode, falsely accusing him of sexual misconduct and murder. Even then the Buddha did not retaliate in anger but patiently bid his time till the truth surfaced and the actual culprits were exposed.
The suttas quote many instances where the Buddha had friendly and amiable discussions with followers of other sects.
We, as Buddhists, should follow our Teacher’s example in situations such as the Pastor Jerome episode. The so-called protectors of the Buddha Sasana, namely the militant politically inclined monks and the pseudo upasaka politicians, should realize that by reacting hysterically to such statements will cause religious and communal disharmony. This in turn will develop into hatred and anger thus resulting in racism raising its ugly head as what happened in the past.
These individuals should take a leaf out of the Buddha’s book and stop behaving in a manner which is completely contrary to his teachings. By doing so they only disrespect to the Great Teacher, who enlightened the world by his boundless compassion and wisdom.
Doctrine of Anatta
This refers to the piece by Dr C Ratnatunga, a Consultant, published in the Sunday island recently. Among the important concepts enunciated by the Buddha, in his doctrine/philosophy as being universally valid, are dukka, anicca and anatta. The first two, state of unsatisfactoriness/sorrow and impermanence, are easy to understand, while the third ingredient of “no self” or the absence of a never changing soul or a stream of consciousness, defies comprehension to a non-Buddhist. Of course, it is a logical step arising from impermanence.
In biology/evolution we know that the rare beneficial effects of random mutations get accumulated in the genes and get passed down to the progeny. This is how evolution is supposed to operate. But this process operates with respect to matter though the theory of “memes” advocated by Richard Dawkins, a sort of cultural trait, implies that it operates in the non-material sphere, too. The evolution of the mammalian and human brain retaining the reptilian part deals with the material plane.
There is also the case where the effects of good and bad actions cause changes in the changing or evolving soul or the stream of consciousness in an individual when he “re-becomes” another individual at death. This matter is raised as a question put to the Buddha by a Ven. Monk as recorded in “What the Buddha taught” by the Rev Walpola Rahula (page 66 of the 1990 Reprint). The question posed by the monk is “… if there is no self or Atman who gets the results of the kamma?” The answer of the Master was “I have taught conditionality everywhere in all things”.
What then happens at the stage of rebirth? Is it that at the time of death the “atman” becomes permanent for an instant for the net balance of kamma to take effect in the new being?
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