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Need to save the Sangha



May I commend S. M. Sumanadasa for the thought-provoking and timely message to articulate Buddhists, now in deep slumber, on the grave crisis knocking at the door which sadly has escaped the attention of all. The dismal truth is that the revered Sasana is getting destroyed from within.

It is evident with the many problems the lay people have to face in these times this all-important fact had escaped their attention. They blindly pay obeisance to all who don robes as tradition made all of us to believe what “DUSSEELAS ” propagated to respect the robe. I must emphatically say that there are exemplary monks and they are helpless since it is the responsibility of the Maha Nayakes to voice their concerns and initiate corrective measures. However, the Mahanayakes other than their meetings with politicians who come with gifts, obviously paid for by the people, nothing of importance had been achieved.

The country should know what advice they gave and also whether they followed the advice proffered. It’s a common sight to see politicians rushing to speak to the media and this is to satisfy their ego.

It’s common knowledge that the present situation is most unacceptable and remedial action needs high priority and this must originate from the Sangha.

The first step in my view, is for the heads of the three Nikayas and a few senior monks comprising about 10 or 15 to get together and address this issue seriously without further delay.

The Buddha never CREATED caste based sects or preached the pristine Dhamma to select groups. Prince Siddartha born to King Suddodana gave up all worldly pleasures and traversed a tortuous path to end suffering and after attaining BUDDHAHOOD proceeded to indicate the path to end suffering and in doing so clearly left with those who listened to him to accept or reject what he preached. While commending SMS, let me start from where he ended by saying that a great responsibility is with SENIOR LAY BUDDHISTS to ensure that the pristine Dhamma does not fade away due to neglect from both the clergy and laity.

For reasons of brevity I will take a few points from his article and comment.

The Buddha Sasana is nourished by those who gave up lay life and donned the sacred robe and the lay people. I quote from the Dhammapada which the late most Venerable Narada personalised and gave me.

“THE PURE ARE WORTHY OF THE ROBE BUT NOT THE IMPURE ” Hence its abundantly clear that the Buddha expected the robe not to be used TO GO PLACES and that those who don the sacred robe must conduct themselves within the vinaya, there is no ambiguity there.

Once a person gives up lay life, it is incumbent on him to devote his full time to enrich his knowledge of the Dhamma and impart such knowledge to the lay people to lead a life within the Dhamma which essentially is free of GREED, POWER INCLUDED.The lay people look up to them for guidance and work towards emancipation and they in turn provide the needs of monks.

A. While acknowledging that majority of the monks live within the teachings of Buddha many have strayed out of their main task and dabble in lay activity. There is no dispute that the ” voice cut of men in robes ” have brought shame and ridicule on all bhikkus. We do not see such conduct coming from the clergy of other faiths.

B. I have to, without reservation agree with the comment of SMS that a person who is much in the news accepted by one ,but cold shouldered by another leads a trade union of nurses. It’s common knowledge that at a time when a pandemic of epic proportions had hit the beleaguered country he influenced the union to strike causing incalculable harm to a badly stretched health system battling to save lives. He would never have resorted to that course if he was within the inner circle like the permanent President of another Health sector union. Such conduct was far from the teachings of the Buddha as COMPASSION AND WISDOM ARE GUIDING PRINCIPLES. I guess most are unaware that this person is accused of invading some others temple with political backing and is now facing litigation where the case appears never to end.This monk unquestionably tarnishes the image of all Buddhaputhras who live within the VINAYA indicated by the Thatthagatha.

I think it is not out of place if I mention that the much maligned man who is the architect of the draconian legislation which exists today refused to meet him as such a position was not meant for a person who wore the sacred robe.

SMS who pioneered this wake up call mentioned what a Katina Pinkama was for and what the Sangha had to do during the VAS SEASON OR THE RAINY SEASON. The lay people know well that most temples do not follow the edicts but await the Pinkama with much fanfare .

He also touched on the Mercedes BMW phobia. My mind raced to a prelate who lived within the vinaya whom I knew closely. He is the late Ven Madihe Pannasiha. He mentioned to me how the politicians of all hues who rush to the hills who await their Mercedes cars had reached him with an offer. He had declined and told him that a dayaka had placed an Austin for him to get about and that he would prefer to get some repairs done since that needed attention.

I must also mention my experience with the late Ven Madulwave Sobitha Thera. The family invited him for a bana preaching and as is customary, a pooja is offered. Without giving him something that he may not require I inquired and his response gladdened me no end. He said I have enough for my needs, however if you can it is expensive please get me a OLA LEAF PIRITH POTH WAHANSE to be given to a rural temple where they do not have this most useful item. To this day I rejoice at the opportunity he gave me to perform that meritorious deed. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana, SMS also touched on yet another disaster, namely the two renowned Pirivenas getting converted as state Universities. I recall how the maverick of Galle rejoiced having performed that task, perhaps with good intentions but the fall out was disastrous.

While thanking SMS for having set the ball rolling I thank the Editor too for providing some space to highlight this all important need where learned monks will give high priority and save the destruction of the SASANA from within.





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Jayantha Dhanapala, a star in a Trinity galaxy



It was about one and a half years ago that I contacted Jayantha Dhanapala to find his Kandy address in order to send him two of my books. On that day he informed me of the death of Mr SML Marikkar, his classmate at Trinity College, Kandy and my student to whom I had taught the classical languages. In an appreciation of Mr. Marikkar I had used the well known Latin dictum, “seniores priores” to indicate that in death too the older should take precedence over the younger as in matters of ordinary life.

As I commenced teaching the classical languages I was more than surprised that I had to teach another subject to the students of the University Entrance class . It so happened that the students learning this subject were an exceedingly outstanding group of Arts and Science students. Among them were Jayantha, Marikkar, Sarath Amunugama, Arjuna Aluvihare, Nihal Perera, Breckenridge and Karaliyadde.

The subject was called General English, a motley combination of general knowledge, language, precis writing and current affairs . In my school by the Beira this subject was taught by the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Peter Pillai, a mathematician turned a teacher of Government to senior students.

Why the Trinity Principal, Mr Norman Walter selected me, a green horn, to teach this subject was a mystery to me. Sometimes I was out of depth. Some of these outstanding students would help me by raising very appropriate questions in class before I got “drowned.” They were Jayantha Dhanapala, SML Marikkar, and Sarath Amunugama. The last two later joined the Civil Service. Sarath even became my boss when I returned to the public service, the SLAS, after premature retirement with full pension rights.

Jayantha won the open Essay prize at Trinity in his final year. The English teacher Rev. Eliott shortlisted the competing essayists selecting two Jayantha’s and JKL Pereira’s as the two best and asked me to be the final arbiter. Though my talents were elsewhere, in the logic of grammar and in figures and less in literature it was clear that Jayantha should be the winner.

JKLP, who came second, like me chose accountancy as a profession. After finishing the English Honours degree with a good second class, Jayantha had a short stint at my old school at Maradana. In the first Administrative Service examination held, after the abolition of the Civil Service, he was placed first. But he chose the diplomatic service.

I heard that he had chosen to learn Mandarin Chinese as one of the foreign languages that young diplomats were required to learn. He later progressed in his career up to the top as an Under Secretary to the Sec. General of the United Nations. I remember reading in the media how President Clinton had paid a tribute to him on his handling of the complex affairs with regard to the nuclear arms proliferation and disarmament.

I had not met Jayantha while he was serving in the UN. It was only when he attended meetings of the Peradeniya Jayatilleke Hall old boys reunions that I came face to face with him after 50 years or so. He would have been surprised to see me at these reunions ,sometimes playing the piano accordion accompanying the ageing old boys of J Hall singing old favourites. Among them were Rev Fr. Derrick Mendis and his cousin Rev Fr. Egerton Perera, both of whom had qualified as Chartered Accountants and had dedicated themselves to a life of poverty as Jesuits. Sadly they are no more.

Jayantha could have reached the top in the UN outfit had the then SL government sponsored his candidacy with greater vigour. Even in the case of his classmate, Sarath Amunugama, had the recommendation of the late Prof. Carlo Fonseka that Aumunugama be the second in command in managing the affairs of the country been realized, the world and our country would have been better places.

May Jayantha Dhanapala’s soul rest in Peace.

Dr Leo Fernando,

Talahena Negombo.

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TImely action must be taken to preserve Buddhism in Sri Lanka



As reported on the first page of Sunday Island (June 4) it is indeed very praiseworthy for the government authorities to have taken timely action to safeguard the most venerated Bo tree in the world. It is both an object of worship and symbol of national sovereignty on the majority Buddhist island of 22 million people. It is a well established fact that a sapling of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi was brought to Ceylon by none other than Indian Emperor Ashoka’s daughter Sangamitta Maha theri, who established the Bhikkuni sasana here.

However it is sad to note that presently the Bhikkuni sasana is not given the due recognition it deserves in our country, though it is common knowledge that our Buddha sasana comprises of Bhikku, Bhikkuni, upasaka and upasika. It is very difficult to fathom why the government authorities are not issuing Bhikkuni Identity cards, while the Bhikkus even though some break the vinaya rules in public from time to time are allowed to continue with their Bhikku identity cards. Why the double standard? Therefore it is of great importance that Buddhists rise up to the occasion and demand that government issue Bhikkuni Identity cards and give them the due recognition they deserve to have in our society.

If timely action is not taken to rectify the situation to protect the Bhikkuni Sasana, it will face the same fate as the Dhamma Chakraya, which symbolizes the Eight Fold Path preached by The Buddha in his first sermon to the Pasvaga mahanunun, after attaining Buddha hood. The ancient Dhamma Chakraya is correctly depicted in all Emperor Ashoka’s pillars which were erected in Buddhist places of worship in India, under his direction and guidance. Needless to say it is in the shape of a cart wheel with eight spokes connecting to the outer circle depicting the Eight Fold Path. It was also accepted as the Buddhist symbol here after Emperor Ashoka’s son Arahat Mahinda Threra introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

However, presently due to unknown reasons the Dhamma Chakraya has taken the form of the helm, (the wheel connected to the rudder to steer a ship), with projections from the outer circle. Presently 90% of the Buddhist establishments, TV channels and print media use this wheel as the symbol of Buddhism which is an incorrect depiction of the original Dhamma Chakraya. Thus it is equally important to take timely action to rectify this to contribute towards stability and continuity of the Buddha Sasana for posterity.

R. W. W.

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Appreciation: Nalini de Lanerolle



Peradeniya with its soaring architecture reminiscent of auspicious traditions melding the grace of the sculptured rock and incredible richness of greenery and extravagant streamers and showers of glowing flowers in the space of 1956 to 1959 merged Nalini de Lanerolle’s (then de Silva’s) stores of reading and imagination to a vision of the past in all its splendor.

She graduated from the University of Peradeniya in 1959 where she majored in Sociology. She married Asoka de Lanerolle in 1960, and became the mother of a girl and two boys. From 1960 to 1972, she was a Librarian in the Ministry of Planning; from 1973 to 1975 she was an Instructor in English at the University of Colombo.

Energetic in temperament, she had many interests. She read extensively from teen-hood: a vast variety of books ranging from the classics to murder mysteries and science fiction to movie magazines and historical novels. In Sinhala, she mentioned having enjoyed W.A. Silva’s Vijayaba Kollaya and Martin Wickramasinghe’s Rohini, at Visakha. She was appointed to the panel which judged the annual Sinhala Drama Festival. She was also a member of the panel appointed to evaluate films and performers regularly. Le Roy Robinson’s “An Interview with Nalini de Lanerolle on Aspects of Culture in Sri Lanka” reveals the scope of her reflections which enriched readers through ‘The Reign of Ten Kings – Sri Lanka – The World 500 B.C. – 1200 A.D.

Alert in judgment, she had had an active mind and capacious imagination which turned mere curiosity to tough questions with firm answers. Why do the Apollo Belvedere and the Gandhara Buddha show distinct traces of similarity? Was there a King Arthur?

Nalini de Lanerolle has not only satisfied her own musings; in her book she has deftly interwoven facts from Lanka’s chronicles and periods of European history to throw light. To quote Manik de Silva “She has done some innovative historical researching and found exciting parallels of kings and epics in the East and West during the same periods.”

According to Sir Arthur C. Clarke ‘The Reign of Ten Kings’ is an “excellent and much neededpiece of research. I hope that her book will bring to the attention of a large audience some of the most remarkable architectural and cultural achievements in history …”.

Nalini in her interview with Le Roy Robins attributes her interest in history to her father, a Government Surveyor who travelled widely in the country and who told stories of Greek Gods to his children pointing out the constellations including Orion striding across the night sky. Her mother too inspired her, reading to her in Sinhala from Milindapanha, which she later discovered was about the questions posed to an Indo-Greek ruler, a contemporary of King Dutugamunu. Parallels always interested her. As she says to Le Roy Robins “I think I was a history addict. It began with the stories of all those kings – King Arthur included.”

Her husband, Asoka de Lanerolle took a keen interest in history as well and to quote her “my husband Asoka has been interested in most of my thinking regarding history, so he has always urged me to write”. I tried out the idea of parallels in history on him and he encouraged me feeling it was “a different way of writing a history of Sri Lanka”.

Asoka having gained his high school education at Royal, graduated from the University of Peradeniya with an Honors degree in Economics and began his career as an Assistant Lecturer in Economics. He then became a Foreign Service diplomat, and later the Marketing Manager at Lever Brothers Ceylon.

In 1972 he was nominated as the Eisenhower Exchange student from Sri Lanka, giving them both the opportunity of living for seven months in the USA and travelling widely soaking in the history of a different continent. When he joined the UN International Trade Center in Geneva, and worked in Somalia, Bangladesh and Nigeria, Nalini travelled extensively enjoying glimpses of history like the sale of frankincense (one of the three gifts to baby Jesus by the kings) in Somalian market places.

She took great pleasure in all her children being avid readers despite the advent of televisions and in the fact that they all strongly supported the publication of her book, helping her by taking photographs, doing line drawings and cross-checking all the years mentioned in the book.

We have lost a historian and an intellectual, one who sought knowledge and thought, for the pleasure it gave – who has left to her country men and visitors to the island and enchanting and enlightening volume.

Dr. Lakshmi de Silva

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