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Aversion to Nibbana in enlightened UK

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Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancients Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”

Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.

However, differently sons and daughters may describe their mothers, there is bound to be common ground forming the bedrock of a totally selfless unique human being who Lord Buddha had described as the living Buddha in every home! The apt description is even more poignant at the bottom end of the socioeconomic spectrum to observe how mothers in poverty-stricken homes would even go hungry just to ensure her children are fed adequately! She derives all her pleasures and satisfaction in the sacrifices she makes! One has to be careful not to lose sight of the role both the parents played in bringing up the family in different ways and to varying degrees! Really speaking, responsible and caring motherhood is universal including the animal kingdom! However, devoting this write up to the mother, let us reflect on our past how we all came to be where we are now, the pivotal role she, the most wonderful and important person played throughout, the unsung heroine with an unparalleled loving personality who would sacrifice her life for you ! She would portray herself as being happy and contented always knowing well that the trials and tribulations she goes through day in day out are best hidden lest it would affect the children’s emotions!  A true omnipresent stoic in every family. 

Be that as it may, we can take a lot of pride and comfort in the knowledge that our Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist culture we grew up recognises all these virtues without the need for a reminder in order to remember and celebrate the goddess who brought us into our world.

If one assumes Christianity and the Church play a pivotal role in upholding traditions associated with Mothering Sunday, you could not be further from the truth! Yes, in the hierarchy from the top, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby down to the dioceses headed by Bishops overseeing the clergy, the Anglican Church plays a completely different ball game! As a mark of respect in my beloved mother’s cherished memories, I wish to share with your wide international readership our experience of blatant religious discrimination! How can this be the case in a western democracy? Here in U.K., we have the unparalleled freedom of speech to recognise nobody is above the law, every facet of public life amongst the Royalty, the Prime Minister, his government comes under the sharp scrutiny of the media. Do not be fooled! 

My beloved mother died back home in Sri Lanka on 08 March 2006 attended by her only surviving son (myself), my Welsh wife and youngest sister from the UK to join the rest of the families. She was cremated and some of her ashes put in an urn was brought over to the U.K. where we are permanently domiciled. It was in turn put in a hermetically sealed factory-made casket and kept in a pergola in our back garden as a shrine to pay homage in Wokingham, Berkshire for a number of years. It then dawned on me that as the years go by, where could it end up when we are no more, pointing to the need for its internment in a cemetery. Enquiries with St Paul’s Church nearby revealed my Buddhist background was no barrier as there was a section dedicated to people from all religious denominations. Her ashes were officially buried after paying the fees involved and following the protocols, conducted by Farther Richard Lamey on 27 July 2014. Our enquiries with him revealed there were no barriers to laying a fitting memorial in due course.  Later on, it was time to consider laying such a memorial and efforts to make contact with St Paul’s Church administration as regards any stipulations proved difficult with messages left on the answerphone remaining unanswered. Finally, my wife and I drove to look around where mother’s ashes were buried. It was patently clear seeing monuments of varying shades of black, grey and different sizes, there was flexibility. So, we ordered a ledger stone measuring considerably smaller than most in situ through a stone mason in West Wales who previously supplied a lovely gravestone where my father-in-law was buried in West Wales. 

Coincidentally, we had driven from Berkshire to collect it, when the clerk at St Paul’s Church rang me on my mobile in response to the messages I had left. I explained clearly what had happened since to which her short reply was “Oh, I don’t know. You’d better meet up with Fr Richard Lamey on your return”. My arranged meeting with him was most upsetting as he was unrelenting and unreasonable in his outright dismissal of our case to place the ledger stone we had at a cost of £450.00 (possibly considerably more in Berkshire), citing its size, colour, inscription and carefully avoiding the mention of our wish, “May she attain Nibbana!” All my pleading to show mercy and compassion fell on deaf ears. When questioned why there were no such rigid standards or stipulations in respect of several other gravestones, in the same section of the cemetery, his stock excuse was that they were already in place when he took office! But it was patently obvious that he did not like the wish ‘May she attain Nibbana!”  

I made an earnest appeal to the Bishop of Berkshire & Oxfordshire, Olivia Graham to no avail. Further appeal was made in desperation to Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury only to receive a negative response from his office, citing that the Archbishop did not get involved and had no jurisdiction over individual dioceses!  It was Hobson’s choice for us: we had a wooden post with a small engraved plaque made by a carpenter stuck into the ground where my mothers’ ashes were interned.  Any recourse to an exhumation of her ashes to be interned elsewhere was fraught with costly Anglican Church redtape (some £2000) with no guarantee of success either! My wife and I (both retired from NHS) were driven to sheer desperation, having to keep the ledger stone in our garage and finally, decided to sell our house and move to Wales in 2017. Rightly or wrongly, we discreetly replaced the wooden post with the ledger stone the day before moving house in the fervent hope that common sense would prevail amongst the Anglican Church authorities to let it be! Moving house first to Builth Wells in Powys, the wooden memorial post was erected in our garden to enable us to pay homage knowing full well that trips to Berkshire to lay flowers on the grave would be few and far between. We were wrong! It did not last long before I received a shocking email giving an ultimatum from Olivia Graham to remove the ledger stone or risk having it removed from St Paul’s Church cemetery with all its attendant costs to us and prosecution, etc. The dice was up, our daughter kindly agreed to drive down to bring the “offending ledger stone” to our new home, knowing Dad was visibly too upset. This tragic chain of events unsettled us again, forcing another house move and another to our final destination. In short, three house moves in under three years! The ledger stone was proving to be an unbearable source of sheer anguish and despair, eventually we had it refurbished by the same stone mason with an inscription to be placed alongside my father in law’s gravestone forever. My youngest sister who lives in Hayes, Middlesex and her husband kindly liaised with an “approved” stone mason in Berkshire to have a miniature memorial within the strict stipulated measurements at further additional costs placed over my mother’s grave on 30 June 2020. (Her birth anniversary). The whole harrowing saga is an indictment of the unspeakable insensitivity, callousness and ruthlessness of the Anglican Church’s arbitration in dealing such a devastating blow to a Buddhist family and it clearly demonstrates the yawning gap in what they preach and practise. This merits full journalistic investigation and verification for exposure in the media! Ironically, it will not be possible here in the U.K.

Legislation in the U.K. government has kept pace with changing circumstances and times under the leadership of successive Prime Ministers, e.g. discrimination against race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc., are all against the law. However, the Anglican Church remains buried in antiquated and archaic regulations and practices while still continuing to preach from the pulpit borrowing ostentatiously chapter and verse from Buddhism when it extols the virtues of compassion, tolerance, diversity, mindfulness, reflection, etc., to give itself a semblance of adaptation to modern life! 

It would therefore be a comforting outcome to share our deep emotions with the rest of the world through your esteemed journal!

 

Sunil Dharmabandhu 

U.K. 

My email: sunilrajdharm@yahoo.co.uk 



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Opinion

An island of Pain and Destruction?

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When there are several ‘tivus’ in the North, why was Iranativu selected for Muslim Covid burials? Why select an island with people living there, with Catholic priests, too? Why not an island with no humans at all: Is that so difficult for the Burial Experts in the Covid management?

Looks like the disposal of dead bodies, if they happen to be of Covid-infected Muslims, is the biggest problem Sri Lanka is facing  today. This is bigger than any economic issue, or any other aspects of development the country and people may be facing. It looks like there is no possibility for a “Saubhagye Dekma” or Vision of Prosperity & Splendour if any Covid Muslims are buried in this Sinhala Bauddha Dupatha.

We tried to send these bodies all the way to the Maldives, on an official request. But failed. This time it is Iranativu – and once again a failure.  So why not keep trying at Neduntivu, Sampaltivu, Vidataltivu or any other ‘tivu’ in the North or East; and till a suitable place is found, keep the dead bodies frozen at taxpayer expenditure? 

Now that the US has decided to take some un-Trump moves about Saudi Arabia, why does not the former and present US citizens  that rule Sri Lanka, think of sending all Covid Muslim corpses to Saudi Arabia, for sacred burials? With the Saudi leaders thinking of new plans for investment, Sri Lanka could become a new target of Saudi funds pouring in. But will this lead to the Sri Lankan Muslims getting any stronger than they are now?

Or, will we wait till we discover or develop a new “Gotativu or Nandasenativu” off Sri Lanka, an Isle of Saubhagya?

Are the Indian Aircraft flying in the special  70-year celebrations of the Sri Lanka Air Force an assurance of new Indian warmth  in Sri Lanka-India relations?  Did the power of the Indian Air Force, displayed over Galle Face Green, make the government take a quick pro-Indian decision on the West Container Terminal (WCT) in the Port of Colombo? 

Can President Gotabaya or PM Mahinda give any explanation why handing over the development of the WCT to the same Indian company, involved in the ECT, could be any better for Sri Lanka? Apart from the Port Trade Unions  that are likely to launch a new protest, will the Weerawansa-Gammanpila-Vasudeva team also carry out protests about the WCT? Or, will they be silenced by the realities of pro-Gotabaya Politics? 

Has Gotabaya Team’s new position that the Provincial Council elections will be held under the new Constitution, an assurance given to India  that the 13h Amendment will remain part of the structure of governance in Sri Lanka? What happened to all those voices of the Pohottuva political players who had virtually written off the 13A? Have they been silenced by the flight of Indian aircraft in the Air Force celebrations?

The Nandasena Gotabaya Team of the Rajavasala had better think of how the yellow robes of sections of the Maha Sangha would react to the WCT deal with India? 

The problems of Iranativu and the WCT or Muslim burials  and the Port of Colombo are certainly pushed back by the realities of Geneva. The Sri Lankan TV stations that have been very strong in their criticism of Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, about her handling of Human Rights, have given big coverage to her statements critical of the Myanmar coup and its military leaders. Will Michelle Bachelet have a big score against Sri Lanka? Keep guessing.

The issues facing Sri Lanka in Geneva are more about the policies of the present Gotabaya-Mahinda Rajavasala, than issues involving the defeat of the LTTE and matters of responsibility and accountability in the post-war period. 

The Easter Carnage that took place, long after the end of the war against LTTE terror, and under the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Yahapalana regime, is certainly at the height of the Rajavasala problems today. Having promised the people that the truth about this carnage will be found and revealed, and the planners and manipulators identified and punished, the Rajavasala is trying to escape its promises and responsibilities. 

This is certainly no easy task as it involves the hopes and expectations of many thousands who voted for the Gotabaya and the Pohottuva at the last Presidential and General Elections. Just look at the thousands in the Wattala-Negombo area who turned away from the UNP, did not support the Sajith Premadasa – Telephone, – and voted for the Pohottuva. It was the biggest Catholic turn away from the UNP, as took place in votes for the left in 1956.

We are now moving to a Black Sunday, when Catholics have been asked to wear black in protest at church services, seeking divine intervention to reveal and punish the Easter Sunday killers nearly two years ago. The response that divinity will provide remains to be seen, but with the voice of the Catholic Cardinal echoing the pain of hundreds who have suffered in this carnage, we are certainly moving to a period of much sorrow and even disaster.

Black Sunday may come and go, but by April this year, when black flags are to fly over houses, mainly Catholic, throughout the country, we certainly face a new rise of a major Majority/Minority conflict. Do we have to think of the possible revival of all the pains of the war against the LTTE terror, or think more in terms of peace and cooperation among people, with or without divine intervention.

This will certainly not be easy in the coming months, as we see so much of nature destroyed, forests cut down, sand mined and transported without permits, the greenery of the country rapidly vanishing and only hearing the call of a painful Saubhagya! 

Will the call for Divine Help bring us to be an Isle of Peace and Understanding, and not a large Isle of Pain and Destruction?

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Opinion

Go forth boldly against global enemies

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At the UNHRC meeting the true friends of Sri Lanka emerged to speak and defend the country battered mercilessly for defeating the world most brutal terrorist organization, i.e., Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, who held 20 million Sri Lankans to ransom for well over 25 years.

Leading the Sri Lanka bashing were the UK. Germany. Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands. Belgium and the USA, all of them having a chequered history in violating human rights at different times. India, our friendly neighbour, while thankfully taking a fair distance from the punitive stance of others, opted to emphasize on “the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and their ‘aspirations’ insisting on the FULL implementation of the 13 A”. India should be requested to point out whether any Tamil person in Sri Lanka is deprived from enjoying a basic right because he or she is being purely a Tamil. On the 13th A, which was thrust on Sri Lanka along with the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, most Sri Lankans are of the view that it was a faulty restructuring effort of Sri Lanka’s government by India, and the Police and Land powers under the 13 A are a direct threat to the sovereign Sri Lanka. Further, the Provincial government system has not benefited Sri Lanka in any measurable manner, and has been an exercise in colossal wastage of hard-earned funds of the central government.

As regards aspirations, we are amazed how we can consider ONLY the aspirations of Tamils, as all other ethnic groups and the individuals too have aspirations, and it will be impossible to walk that talk. We need further training in the recognition of aspirations of different groups from India, and we pray for further comments from the HR specialists in India how they have reconciled the aspirations of other than Hindu religious groups — Sheiks, Kashmiris and other minority groups in Northernmost India.

But, many nations at UNHCR rejected the proposition of the Sri Lanka bashers who directly and indirectly were supportive of the LTTE armed insurrection and the separatism, threatening the unitary Sri Lanka. They also rejected the ‘the preventive prescription’ of the Secretary General Bachelet. The nations who supported Sri Lanka stood for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a democratic country. Any weaknesses in Sri Lankan affairs should be allowed to be rectified domestically, in keeping with the constitutional provisions of the country, rather than to be dictated and decided upon by the holier than thou sloganeers. Most of the nations who attempt to foist their plan on Sri Lanka are from the Western bloc who killed and maimed millions of persons living in the colonized countries and subsequently destroyed other nations as pawns of the world power games. Their “adherence”to human rights are completely at variance with their practices on the ground.

Now, Sri Lanka should re-examine their directions and resolve to work with the friendly nations who supported her to extricate from the trap laid out by the countries who desire an unstable Sri Lanka. The Government and the people should resolve to reduce our dependence on Sri Lanka bashers, and re-design our imports to suit the geo-political reality and to avoid any plot to impose sanctions by the wounded nations. Time has arrived to consider the nation’s priorities by curtailing the luxuries even for a given period. We should try to get our requirements from the friendly nations, and try to improve our trading relationship with our friends.

This the ONLY way to extend our hand to REBUILD a new world order, to be less dependent on the predatory countries who always insist on their pound of flesh from the developing nations. While we thank the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Government for having rejected co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 at UNHRC, we urge the Government to plan to reshape our trade and foreign relations, to play our role as an independent member of the international community.

 

RANJITH SOYSA

 

 

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Opinion

Gama Samaga Pilisandara  Round 2

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Gotabaya Rajapakse’s election manifesto “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” says on its page 4, “This policy document tilted ‘A Vision for a Resurgent, Prosperous Country’ is the result of a series of discourses, ‘interaction with the village’, conducted in 25,000 villages throughout our country during the past one year. We have identified the requirements of housing, electricity, drinking water, access roads, and irrigation facilities in every village”. That is about 65 villages per day and as we have only about 14,000 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions, coverage would have been about 100 GN divisions in a day. Whatever it is, why did the President decide to repeat this discourse? Is it because he does not accept what was given in his Manifesto as true or is he trying to restore the trust people had in him which is fast dwindling? President may also be thinking that as most of the masses in urban areas who voted for him have become disillusioned with his government’s performance, it would be more prudent to resolve some minor issues in the villages and keep them still faithful to him.

 Rohana Wijayawardhana

 

 

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