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Filial piety in Buddhism

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By Dr. Justice Chandradasa Nanayakkara

Society consists of network of relationships which are mutually interdependent and interrelated. According to Sigalavoda Sutta the society is sustained by a network of interlocking relationships such as the relationship of parents and child, teacher and pupil, employer and employee and husband and wife etc. Members in these relationships are expected to fulfill their reciprocal duties and responsibilities in a spirit of kindness and sympathy. In the strong web of relationships, parents and child relationship is considered the most fundamental as it nurtures the physical emotional and social development of the child. Moreover, filial piety displayed by children towards their parents in the context of parents and child relationship is seen as the basis for an orderly harmonious society.

Filial piety and providing care for aging parents is not only considered a central virtue in many religions it was also deeply rooted and ingrained in many Asian cultures including Lankan. Traditional filial piety emphasises compliance, courtesy, manners and support to one’s parents and

Children are deeply indebted to their parents. When a child is born it is unable to live even for a few days unassisted. It is the parents who look after and nurse him by providing him all the necessary care and attention until the child is grown up and is in a position to live without the help of others. The love and affection of parents towards their children is indescribable and boundless. Parents do everything within their power in the interests of their children. They spend sleepless nights and keep vigil at the bedside of their ailing children when they are afflicted with illnesses. Parents are even prepared to spend their entire wealth by forgoing their own comfort for the sake of their children. They wish to see their children prosper and live happily. When children are worried and sad, parents too are distressed and sad. Parents never stop worrying about their children even when they are all grown up have children of their own. Such is the parental love towards their children. It is self-sacrificing and selfless. No superior can equal parents not even any devas. They can be likened to God in human form. Their unconditional love cannot be found anywhere else in the universe.

Children learn various lessons under various teachers during their formative years, but the most important lessons such as how to talk, how to eat, how to clean themselves and how conduct themselves learn from their parents, for this reason, parents are known as first teachers (Braham and Pubbachariya).

In bringing up children parents apply essential meditation practices of Four Immeasurable minds (Brahma Vihara). Four immeasurables are Loving Kindness (Metta). Compassion (Karuna). Sympathetic Joy (Muditha), and Equanimity (Uppekka). Parents maintain these four excellent qualities towards their children at all times from the moment a child is conceived. Lord Buddha advised his adherents to honour their parents as Brahma Supreme God as parents have done much for their children.

The Buddha explained the greatness of parents thus. “Monks, Brahma is a term for mother and father. “worthy of offerings”. Because mother and father do much for their children, they bring them up, nourish them and introduce them to the world.”

When the Buddha was questioned as to who could be considered as the God. Buddha replied, “let your father and your mother be your Gods.”In the Katannu Suttas of Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha said there were two persons whom men could not easily repay. They are your parents, even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder and your father on the other shoulder for hundred years, and were to minister to them in every possible way by anointing, massaging, bathing, rubbing their limbs cleaning them of their urine and excrement or even one was to establish parents in absolute sovereignty as universal monarch (chakka catti raja).you cannot repay them.” From this it is clear, parents are the most amazing people children can find around the world for all the sacrifices they have made for them.

The practice of filial piety is good karma in the moral teaching of buddhism. It teaches its followers to pay their debts to parents by supporting and respecting them, actions that are considered to be great meritorious deeds or wholesome kamma in Buddhist moral teachings. Sigalovada Sutta which deals with the code of conduct for laity while enumerating five duties that should be performed by parents towards their children sets out following five duties that should be done by children towards their parents as a form of filial love. 1. Children should support their parents as they have been supported by them. It is one of the paramount duties of children. They should obey them and not displease, ill-treat disrespect them in any manner. They should attend to their needs when they are sick. 2. Children should do necessary duties by the parents. Children should understand what are the requirements and necessities of their parents. 3. Children should uphold the family tradition and lineage. It is important duty of children to continue the good work started by the parents. 4. Children should act in such a way as to be worthy of their inheritance. Whatever legacy or property they receive from their parents should be protected. 5. Children should offer alms in honour of their departed relatives. It is a noble duty and custom to remember and revere parents after their death. According to Buddhist teaching matricide and patricide are considered two of the five gravest karma the consequence of which could rebound in this very life.

When the Buddha on one occasion bowed respectfully at a pile of bones, which was lying on his path Bhikku Ananda questioned him as to why he bowed at the pile of bones. Lord Buddha replying said “from an inscrutable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating and wandering on. A being who had not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find, a being who had not been your father, your sister brother, your son and your daughter one time in the past is not easy to find. That is the reason why I bowed down.”

According to the Maha Mangala sutta, when deity from the celestial world requested the Lord Buddha to enumerate the great blessings that would lead to one’s success and welfare in the world, the Buddha while describing thirty-eight such blessings referred to support extended to one’s parents as a great blessing in following terms. Mata pittu Upatthanametam Mangalam uttam (supporting the mother and father is a great blessing).

In Dhammapada to the Buddha has disclosed being dutiful to one’s mother and father would bring happiness in this world (Sukka matteyya loke atho petteyyata suka). Which means “respect for one’s mother and father brings happiness.”

In Anguttara nikaya Buddha mentioned the ways how to repay love, kindness, and gratitude to one’s parents thus “Oh, Bhikkhus, whoever encourages their faithless parents and settles and establishes them in morality, or whoever encourages their stingy parents and settle and establishes them in generosity, or whoever encourages their foolish parents, and settles and establishes them in wisdom such a person, in this way repays, more than repays what is due to their parents.

Three types of children have been identified in the Buddhist scriptures, they are children who are inferior to their parents in every respect (avajatha). Children who are on the same level with their parents (anujatha) and lastly children who excel their parents in every way (atijatha). Parents would be happy if the children would surpass them and would be unhappy if they fall below their expected standard.

It is a matter of immense regret and grief that with the western influence, urbanisation and fragmentation of family life more and more adult children are becoming insensitive to their moral obligations and evading them. Even the adult children who are capable of caring and looking after their feeble aging parents are leaving them in old age homes and run away from their moral obligations. Many elderly parents suffer violence, neglect, isolation on a daily basis at the hands of their children. A large number of elderly parents live all alone. While some who live alone have taken a conscious decision to do so, many others do this because of lack of option. They have been isolated, neglected, hounded out of the houses built by them at their own expense and housed in old age homes, because they are victims of fast eroding social values at the hands of their own children and society at large. Traditional Sri Lankan society cared and respected the old age and the wisdom, abilities and confidence that came with it.

Along with the growing number of elderly citizens in the country abuse and neglect of aged parents is bound to become a widespread issue in our society. Most children do not realise the amount of affection and care their parents have extended to them. They must realise parental love far greater than filial love.

Old parents should not feel abandoned by adult children they raise. Children could see how the relentless and inevitable change of time has taken its toll on their parents and it should serve as a lesson for them right before their own eyes. We must treat our aging parents just as we hope to be treated in the future, and care giving should living example to their own children and grandchildren. In the past adult children with their life partners used to take care of their parents out of goodness of their heart, as abdication of care giving responsibility, unlike the western societies was considered culturally and morally unacceptable.

Time was when ageing parents were taken care of by their adult children. There was a moral obligation to make sure their aging parents were cared for. It was considered a tenet of filial piety.

Ageing parents usually undergo pangs of loneliness and boredom, and, therefore, need companionship. There is always a tendency for aging parents to develop a pessimistic approach to life, which can be avoided if the adult children provide them with abundant love, care and empathy. They expect their children to sit with and talk to them about the happenings of their life in calm in a cordial manner in their twilight years.

Parents consider children are a great comfort in their old age. Therefore, we must treat our old parents with loving care. It should be remembered that parents gave every moment of their happiness for our comfort and joy. They have cared for us ever since we were infants. We never know the sacrifices they went through for us. We should not despise or repulse and we should not look at them as a burden but speak to them humbly and graciously. It is regrettable today children forget that the foundation of their life was built by parents.

Our parents showed us the world and in return we should not show them old aged homes. We will only realise their value when they are gone and see their empty chairs. When our parents are old and cannot take care of themselves it is our duty to pay back their love, efforts by serving them in every possible way, even at the cost of personal sacrifice.

Adult children should realise that ageing is a continuous and irreversible process. Everyone undergoes this phase of life at his own time and pace.

We should bear in mind that life is a cycle and one day roles will be switched, ageing parents may need you now, but day will come when you need your children as you grow old. Old age has been referred to as the most delicate period of life, and it is the time parent’s health problems become more obvious. It is also the time they need loving care and affection as they become, physically, emotionally weak at this time. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that children should be mindful of heir filial duties and take care of their frail and aging parents.



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Religious nationalism suffers notable setback in India

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People casting their votes in the recent Lok Sabha poll in India

Democratic opinion the world over could take heart from the fact that secularism is alive and well in India; the South Asian region’s most successful democracy. While it is indeed remarkable for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win a third consecutive term as head of government in India’s recent Lok Sabha election, what is of greater significance is the fact that the polls featured a resounding defeat for religious nationalism.

Consequently, India’s secular credentials remain intact. Secularism, which eschews identity politics of all kinds, including religious nationalism is, after all, a cornerstone of democracy and secularism has been a chief strength of India. The defeat of religious nationalism, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, is a triumph for not only the democratic forces of India but for their counterparts the world over.

It was plain to see that the Bharathiya Janata Party under P.M. Modi was going the extra mile to placate Hindu nationalist opinion in Uttar Pradesh and outside through the construction of an eye-catching Ram temple in the state, for example, but the vote-catching strategy has visible failed as the polls results in the state indicate. For, the number of seats won by the BJP in the state has shrunk dramatically. In fact, the BJP was resoundingly defeated in the very constituency where the temple was constructed.

Constructive criticism of religious nationalism should not be considered an indictment of the religions concerned. Hinduism is one of the world’s most profound religions and it would sustain itself and thrive regardless of whether vote-hungry political parties champion its cause or otherwise. However, the deployment of any religion in the acquiring and aggrandizement of power by political forces calls for criticism since it amounts to a gross abuse of religion. Religious nationalism is an example of such abuse and warrants decrying in democratic states.

Unfortunately, religious nationalism is rampant in South Asia and it is most alive and well in Sri Lanka. And to the degree to which religious nationalism thrives in Sri Lanka, to the same extent could Sri Lanka be considered as deviating from the cardinal principles and values of democratic governance. It is obligatory on the part of those posing as Sri Lanka’s national leaders to reject religious nationalism and take the country along the path of secularism, which essentially denotes the separation of politics and religion. Thus far, Sri Lanka’s political class has fought shy of taking up this challenge and by doing so they have exposed the country as a ‘facade democracy’.

Religion per se, though, is not to be rejected, for, all great religions preach personal and societal goodness and progress. However, when religious identities are abused by political actors and forces for the acquiring and consolidation of power, religious nationalism comes to the fore and the latter is more destructive than constructive in its impact on societies. It is for these reasons that it is best to constitutionally separate religion from politics. Accordingly, secularism emerges as essential for the practise of democracy, correctly conceived.

The recent Indian Lok Sabha poll was also notable for the role economic factors played in the determining of its final results. Once again, Uttar Pradesh was instructive. It is reported that the high cost of living and unemployment, for instance, were working to the detriment of the ruling BJP. That is, ‘Bread’ or economic forces were proving decisive in voter preferences. In other words, economics was driving politics. Appeals to religion were proving futile.

Besides, it was reported that the opposition alliance hit on the shrewd strategy of projecting a bleaker future for depressed communities if the BJP ‘juggernaut’ was allowed to bulldoze its way onward without being checked. For, in the event of it being allowed to do so, the concessions and benefits of positive discrimination, for instance, being enjoyed by the weak would be rolled back in favour of the majority community. Thus, was the popular vote swung in the direction of the opposition alliance.

Accordingly, the position could be taken that economic forces are the principal shaping influences of polities. Likewise, if social stability is to be arrived at redistributive justice needs to be ushered in by governments to the extent possible. Religious nationalism and other species of identity politics could help populist political parties in particular to come to power but what would ensure any government’s staying power is re-distributive justice; that is, the even distribution of ‘Bread’ and land. In the absence of the latter factors, even populism’s influence would be short lived.

The recent Indian Lok Sabha elections could be said to have underscored India’s standing as a principal democracy. Democracy in India should be seen as having emerged stronger than ever as a result of the poll because if there were apprehensions in any quarter that BJP rule would go unchallenged indefinitely those fears have been proved to be baseless.

‘One party rule’ of any kind is most injurious to democracy and democratic forces in India and outside now have the assurance that India would continue to be a commodious and accommodative democracy that could keep democratic institutions and values ticking soundly.

Besides the above considerations, by assuring the region that it would continue with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India has underscored her ‘Swing State’ status. That is, she would take on a leadership role in South Asia and endeavor to be an inspirational guide in the region, particularly in respect of democratic development.

As for Sri Lanka, she has no choice but to be on the best of terms with India. Going forward, Sri Lanka would need to take deeply into consideration India’s foreign policy sensitivities. If there is to be an ‘all weather friend’ for Sri Lanka it has to be India because besides being Sri Lanka’s closest neighour it is India that has come to Sri Lanka’s assistance most swiftly in the region in the latter’s hour of need. History also establishes that there are least conflicts and points of friction among democracies.

However, identity politics are bound to continually cast their long shadow over South Asia. For smaller states this would prove a vexatious problem. It is to the extent to which democratic development is seen by countries of the South as the best means of defusing intra-state conflicts born of identity politics that the threat of identity politics could be defused and managed best.

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AKD’s Speech on Rule of Law: Merits and Demerits?

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Anura Kumara

by Dr Laksiri Fernando

Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s (AKD) speech as the Leader of the National People’s Power (NPP) at the National Convention organised by the Retired Police Officers Collective on 9 June 2024 is quite promising in terms of establishing or reestablishing rule of law in the country. They have been talking about a ‘system change’ now for some time, and various independent critics and observers were asking the details of this promise, without merely depending on the slogan.

I was fortunate to listen to this speech online and live, through Horawa News, and one weakness or wrong that I immediately observed was its leading phrase ‘Malimawa shows its police power.’ I have no idea about who runs the Horawa but that was not what AKD was quite obviously advocating. “Power’ is not a good word to use in democracy, worst still is the ‘police power.’

State of the State

After an introduction, AKD ventured to explain the ‘state of the State,’ particularly during the last two three years, characterising it as a failed state with inability to pay back loans, to supply necessary medicine to hospitals, and failing to give children a proper education, and when they grow up, proper employment. He strongly characterised the State as in the grips of crooks and criminals (dushithayan saha aparadakaruwan), and the whole society being affected by this situation. He said, “this must be changed, and this to be changed like in all other changes. Sri Lanka should be a State based on rule of law.” Thereafter his speech focused, in detail, on the questions of rule of law. There were several principles that he enunciated.

First, equality before the law. All citizens in the country should be equal before the law. All citizens in the country should be able to go before the law against any discrimination by the implementation of law. He asked, “are we all equal before the law? No. Rich people have one law, and people who have political power have another law. At present, the Department of Police, the Attorney General’s Department and even the Judiciary have become a laughing stock. Let me ask you a question that I have asked once before. “

“Who knew best that Diana Gamage didn’t have citizenship? First, Diana. She knew that she came to the country on a tourist visa and even that visa had expired. Knowing all that, she came to Parliament. Knowing that, she also acted as a state minister. How did she do that? She knew that because of her political power that the law would not apply to her. An ordinary person even will not ride a bicycle without a license. Where is our law?”

“The second person who knew well was Ranil. But he protected her. This type of country cannot go forward. We need a state system which is entirely based on rule of law. I will give you an assurance. I personally or our movement do not have any financial fraudsters or criminals to protect. No underworld, no drug dealers, no rapists, no financial fraudsters, and no criminals to protect. If the existing powers given to the police to curtail these crimes are not enough, under our government, we will create circumstances to strengthen the police.”

Political Interference

AKD outlined some of the crimes and murders which were investigated, and the perpetrators were properly punished within the system. Those included the murder of the Manager of Noori Estate, Hokandara family killing, Killing of Sarath Ambepitiya, etc.

On the other hand, he emphasised the cases like Lasantha Wickrematunge, Eknaligoda murder, assault of journalists like Keith Noyar, Poddalla Jayantha and others that dragged on without a conclusion. Why? His correct answer was political interference. He praised the police but emphasised political interferences that hamper their tasks.

One of the aspects that he neglected was the ethnic bias in criminal investigations and other police matters. Will this be addressed by the NPP? That is my question. For example, I have known J. S. Tissanayagam as a student at Peradeniya who later became a prominent Tamil Journalist. He was abducted, beaten up and charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There are so many similar cases that were neglected by AKD, and I hope he will rectify his neglect in the coming future. I also failed to identify any Tamil participation in the crowd.

AKD was correct in emphasising that the police have a major role in maintaining stability in society. “If there were no police, no one would be able to pass the Borella junction peacefully” he said. He emphasised correctly, that these premises were established after a long struggle in building up rule of law in society internationally. “These were not there in tribal societies,’ he pointed out. “The leader of the tribe (Rehe nayakeya) did all together,” he said. ‘It was through struggles that separation of powers was established between Parliament to legislate, elected Presidents to execute, and the Judiciary to rule on justice,’ he continued.

“What we can see today is a tendency to go back to tribal society. We need a civilised society. Especially the department of police, criminal investigation and the attorney genera’s department should work independently, efficiently and correctly. It is our task under an NPP government to create these civilised conditions. Today the police department is in a mess due to political interferences.” He gave examples.

“Do we have a proper procedure in recruiting and promoting police officers? No. I know that there are some officers who are constables at recruitment, and also when they retire. We will establish a proper procedure in recruitment and promotions. At present, when change of governments occur, the police officers are punished or promoted. The main task of the police officers is people’s security. However, what they are supposed to do today is patrician (prabhu) security.” He mentioned that he has been an MP since the year 2000 and never sought any police security. He emotionally mentioned the difficulties that police security undergoes with so many difficulties.

Vision for Future?

“Under our government, people’s security is the primary task of the police, and not politician or patrician security. During the last 24 years as an MP, I have never called the police for any assistance. But this is not the case with other MPs. However, I have to say that to eliminate criminals and fraudsters, we will give the police the necessary leadership and encouragement. Today, the MPs consider the police as their servants. I have heard some saying ‘my OIC’ (mage OIC). This is not our attitude. We will preserve the dignity of police officers. They are well trained and educated. They should not be the tools of politicians. Their task is to punish criminality, present and past. There are people who believe their past offenses will be forgotten. But we will not forget.” AKD related a story.

“During the election campaign in 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga accused the UNP stealing people’s money and property under their government. Vijayapala Mendis has obtained 75 acres of coconut land for two rupees per acre, altogether for Rs. 150. She promised that these crooks would be brought to the Galle Face Green and would be ‘skinned’. People rejoiced and clapped. However, within 7 years, the same Vijayapala Mendis became a Minister in Chandrika’s Cabinet. There are so many examples like that. Perhaps she had forgotten and even the people had forgotten. Ranil Wickremasinghe who accused [Gotabaya Rajapaksa] as the ‘Mastermind of the Easter Sunday attack’ also became the President based on the same Gotabaya mandate.”

There were several other points connected with the above that AKD ventured into taking about 20 more minutes. All are worth reflecting on and even in my case I have not heard them before from politicians. One of his newest arguments was to consider the rule of law, law and order, and equality before the law as the necessary basis of economic development. However, given the necessary word limitations for this article those may be discussed in a future occasion.

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Raffealla Fernando Face of Sri Lanka for Prerna Gupta

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It’s not only her name that is famous but her face, too, and I’m referring, of course, to Raffealla Fernando – Founder and CEO at Raffealla Fernando Photography, and Fashion Designer and Stylist at Raffealla – who excels in what she does and shines bright wherever she goes.

Raffealla was in India recently and, I’m told, her face did bright up the fashion scene over there. And, guess what! Raffealla is now the face of Sri Lanka for Prerna Gupta as she expands her unique fashion label to take in Sri Lanka, as well.

Prerna Gupta couture is an award-winning Indian fashion house, from Nagpur, and she creates beautiful sustainable outfits and textiles made out of milk, aloe vera and orange peel, and what Raffealla is wearing in the photographs, on this page, are clothes made out of orange peel, aloe vera and milk.

Prerna Gupta has launched and showcased at reputed fashion shows where celebrities like Vicky Kaushal, Rani Mukherjee, Raj Kumar Arao, Evelyn Sharma, Sana Khan, Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan and Bhapi Leheri have visited and adorned her label.

Says Raffealla: “I feel truly honoured and privileged to be working with a brand like this.”

Sri Lanka’s celebrity was also featured in the leading Bangladesh fashion magazine ‘Fashion People’.

“I’m super hyped because it’s the first time FELLA got featured in an international magazine.”

And FELLA is the brand name for Raffealla’s fashion designs.

Talking about her recent trip to India, she said one of the interesting and colourful fashion projects she did in Mumbai (photography and conceptualization) was connected with Kutch – a district of Gujarat state.

Raffealla went on to say that costumes of Kutch are exquisitely stylized and intricately embroidered.

Dazzling with vibrant colours, flooded with striking mirror work and stunning jewellery, it’s one of the most alluring custumes in India, she said.

“The mirror work and embroidery work forms an integral part of Kutch. Although handicrafts, irrespective of the community or ethnic group to which they belong, remain the same, the workmanship differs.

“In fact, the various communities can be identified by the pattern of handicrafts and dress, or costumes, they are in. For instance, the Garacia Jat women wear only red or black chunis, while Rabari women wear black open blouses, or cholis, with odhnis to cover their heads.

“In the rural areas, the women wear Chaniya choli the whole year, Chaniya choli’s are of many designs and fashion. A typical Kutch costume is incomplete without ‘Abha’ or ‘Kanjari’. ‘Abha’ is the name of the typical choli worn by women folk and ‘Kanjari’ is a long blouse, beautifully embroidered and with mirror work.

“Most men in Kutch wear loose trousers, a long-sleeved under-jacket, and a short coat, a plain or silk-bordered cloth. Normally men prefer white clothes except the Muslims who prefer coloured clothes.”

Raffealla is now ready, and excited, to do it for Prerna Gupta.

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