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Aversion to Nibbana in enlightened UK



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 


My email: 

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Ampitiya That I Knew



Ampitiya is a village just two miles from Kandy. The road to Talatuoya, Marassana, Galaha and turning left from Talatuoya to Tennekumbura and Hanguranketha and beyond goes through Ampitiya.My family moved there in 1949 when our paternal grandfather bequeathed the ancestral home to our father to be effective after our grandfather’s demise. Until then the eldest sister of our father’s family with her family and the two bachelor brothers lived in the house. After living in various places our father was transferred to on duty, we had come to our final abode there.

The house was situated about 100 yards before the second mile post. There were paddy fields both in front of the house and behind it with a mountain further away. These were salubrious surroundings to live in. There was no hustle and bustle as in a town and the only noise would have been the occasional tooting of horns and the call of vendors selling various household needs.

The Ampitiya village extended from near the entrance to the Seminary and the school situated a short climb away along Rajapihilla Mawatha (now Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha) on the road from Kandy ending at the gate to the Seminary, and running up to the Diurum Bodiya temple.

Ampitiya was well known thanks to the Seminary of our Lady of Lanka located there. Newly ordained Catholic priests took theology classes here. The Seminary with its majestic building commanded a fine view of the Dumbara valley. The student priests lived in the hostel called Montefano St. Sylvester’s Monastery situated just above the sloping rice fields coming down to the Kandy-Talatuoya Road. There was a volleyball court within the Montefano premises and we used to see the young priests enjoying themselves playing a game in the evenings as the court was quite visible from our house.

We, as schoolboys of the neighbourhood, used to get together during many weekends and play cricket on the roadway to the Montefano which was just past the second milepost as there was no vehicular traffic then on that road.

Ampitiya had a school started by the Catholic Church and known as Berrewaerts College which later became the Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya. At the time our family became residents of Ampitiya this was the only school. Later the Catholic Church established a girls’ school named Carmel Hill Convent. This school enabled most girls who had to go all the way to Kandy or Talatuoya by bus to walk to school.

People who follow sports, especially athletics, would have heard the names of Linus Dias, Sellappuliyage Lucien Benedict Rosa (best known in Sri Lanka as SLB Rosa) and Ranatunga Karunananda, all Ampitiya products who participated in the Olympics as long distance runners competing in the 10,000 metres event. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lankan contingent in the Rome Olympics in 1960.Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White they took part.

Karunananda became a hero in Sri Lanka as well as in Japan when at the Tokyo Olympics of October 1964 he completed the 10,000 metre course running the last four laps all alone. The crowd cheered him all the way to the finish appreciating his courage in not abandoning the already completed race. Later he said he was living up to the Olympic motto which said the main thing is to take part and not to win.

Rosa captained the Sri Lankan team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He switched to long distance running while still a student thanks to the Principal of Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya, Mr. Tissa Weerasinghe (a hall mate of mine one year senior to me at Peradeniya) who had noted his stamina and asked him to switch to long distance events. I must mention that Tissa was responsible for bringing this school to a high standard from where it was when he took over.

Coincidentally, during our Ampitiya days, all the houses from Uduwela junction for about half a mile towards Talatuoya were occupied by our relatives! They included the Warakaulles, Koswattes, Pussegodas, Sangakkaras, Godamunnes, Thalgodapitiyas and Wijekoons. Now most of these houses are occupied by others.

Ampitiya area had two Buddhist temples. One was the Dalukgolla Rajamaha Viharaya on the Ratemulla Road and the other, Ampitiya Diurum Bodiya, near the third mile post. From the latter temple a famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Ampitye Rahula Thero later joined the Vajirarama temple in Colombo and was highly recognized by Buddhists just like Ven. Narada and Ven.Piyadassi Theros.

The Uduwela temple had a water spout emerging out of a granite rock where the temple priests and neighbours used to bathe and wash their clothes. This spout never ran dry.

At present the landscape of Ampitiya has changed hugely. Most of the sloping paddy fields have been filled and dwelling houses have come up. The majestic view, except for faraway mountains, is no longer present. A five-star hotel has been built just beyond the second mile post and the area has lost its previous tranquility. A person of my vintage who once lived there visiting Ampitiya now wouldn’t be able to recognize the place given the changes.



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Expert advice on tax regime



The Government’s new tax regime has led to protests not only by high income earning professionals but also by Trade Unions.In my view the problem is not with the rate of taxation which is 6% – 36%, but with the tax exemption threshold. Due to hyper-inflation and the high cost of electricity, water, essential food items etc, the Exemption Threshold of 1.2 million per year is far too low.

If the Exemption Threshold is increased to at least 1.8 million per year, the Trade Unions are likely to accept this. It will also lessen the burden of taxation on high income professionals. And it should not impact on the IMF agreement.

The time has now come for a compromise between the Government and the protesters.

(The writer is a retired Commissioner General of Inland Revenue)

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This refers to the superlatively interesting and provocative piece on the above subject by Dr Upul Wijewardene{UW) appearing in The Island of 21/3/23 wherein, as he states, he had been a victim himself at the hands of a well-known Professor of Medicine turned health administrator. He makes it a point to castigate the leaders of the Buddhist clergy for their deviation from the sublime doctrine of this religion.

My first thought on this subject is that it is a cultural problem of exploitation by the privileged of the less fortunate fellow beings. The cultural aspect has its origin in the religion of the majority in India, Hinduism. There is no such discrimination in Islam.

The first recorded case was that of a Sinhala member of the Dutch army fighting against the Portuguese (or the army of the Kandiyan kingdom) being prevented by the members of the higher ranks from wearing sandals due to his low status in the caste hierarchy. The Dutch commander permitted the Sinhala solder to wear sandals as recorded by Paul Pieris in “Ceylon the Portuguese era”

There is also the instance of a monk getting up to meet the King when it was not the customary way of greeting the King by monks.

In an article by Dr Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian published in a local journal, it is said that members of the majority caste (approximately 40% of the Sinhala population) were not permitting lower ranking public officials serving the British government wear vestments studded with brass buttons. The second tier of the hierarchy who had become rich through means other than agriculture like sale of alcohol in the early British times took their revenge by lighting crackers in front of houses of their caste rivals when a British Duke was marching along in a procession in Colombo.

It is not uncommon for members of minority castes numerically low in numbers to help their own kind due to the discriminatory practices of the higher tiers of the hierarchy.

Dr Leo Fernando
Talahena, Negombo

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