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Philosophy for participatory or collaborative culture – A response

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Apropos Panduka Karunanayake’s (PK) article under the above caption (The Island – 28.10.2021) I would like to respond as he has invited readers to do so. His is a salutary effort as he seeks a philosophy that incorporates both altruistic and self-centered behaviour as complementary facets of our lives. Altruism and self-centered behaviour could be complementary only in a limited range of activity. For instance, one of the aims of life that he mentions, “Artha” or accumulation of wealth is difficult to achieve when combined with aims of altruism.

The ancient Indian philosophy that PK has recommended is nothing but pure Hinduism that has developed from the Vedic tradition. The four hierarchical goals he mentions; Moksha, Dharma, Artha and Kaama are the four main goals in Hinduism. Different schools of Hinduism may give different weightage to these goals but basically, at present, these are the main goals of Hinduism. PK probably prefers this system due to its hierarchical nature, in the sense that a goal placed low in the hierarchy cannot be achieved at the expense of a higher goal. This arrangement, I assume, he probably thinks would prevent self-centered behaviour at the expense of altruism. There cannot be any other reason for adopting this system. However, no limit is enforced to the “Artha”, or accumulation of wealth as long as it is not carried out at the expense of Dharma. Yet, one wonders how Dharma could coexist with the greed that is necessary for accumulation of wealth.

These four goals of Hinduism developed gradually in the Vedic tradition. In the early Vedas for instance Moksha was not mentioned and Dharma was given prominence. In the later texts, in the Upanishads the concept of Moksha gradually developed. Brahmanism introduced the concept of Moksha as the final union between Brahman and Atman. It was Bhagavad-Gita which developed the three paths to Moksha; 1) Kamma marga (path of duty), 2) Gnana marga (path of knowledge and 3) Bhakthi marga ( path of devotion). The Upanishadic and Brahmanical thoughts on this subject were criticized by Buddha. During Buddha’s time the Atman-Brahman concept was being intensely debated and Buddha’s response was the “Anatta” concept and an attack on the caste system that Brahmanism advocated. The caste system was built into the religion and also into the path to Moksha. “Anatta” concept rejected the Atman theory and the attack on the caste system rejected the major tenets of Brahmanism.

Later when these theories raised their heads in the 2nd Century CE Ven. Nagarjuna, one of the greatest Buddhist philosophers who was also known as the second Buddha came out strongly against the four goals of Hinduism. Nagarjuna says Moksha and Dharma cannot coexist as partners in the same journey. He says the world of Dharma is so different from the freedom implied in the concept of Moksha. They cannot be intellectually related. Dharma needs worldly action while Moksha is unworldly understanding. He asks; how could worldly action and thought lead to unworldly state.

These three goals of Hinduism are based on its philosophy which is defined by Nithya, Sukha and Athma whereas the thrilakna of Buddhism are Anithya, Dukha Anathma which therefore are the exact opposite of Hinduism.

Buddhism which has influenced the minds of a majority of people in Sri Lanka has a solution to this problem. It proposes that people must earn a living and the earnings have to be divided into three portions, one portion is spent on the family, another portion is saved for a rainy day and a third portion is given in alms. Jeffrey Sachs the renowned economist says “Buddhist economics will give guidance to all those who seek peace, fairness and environmental sustainability”. In the Attahita sutta (Anguttara Nikaya) Buddha says the person who is embarked on the wellbeing of himself and also others is the supreme being.

Thus, there is no need for practitioners of Buddhism to adopt ideas of altruism from any other philosophy. People in this country have been moulded by Buddhist tenets and their culture is altruistic in nature. Hinduism is a great religion but there is no need for it to replace the Buddhist ethos that had been inculcated in the minds of Buddhists in this country and which have moulded them to be altruistic when the need arises.

N. A. de S. Amaratunga



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Opinion

Send them back to school!

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We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.

We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.

Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.

S. H. MOULANA

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Opinion

Compensate victims of gas explosions

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There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.

The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.

All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.

M. B. Navarathne

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Opinion

Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense

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The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?

Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.

All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.

The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.

In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.

In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners

Sunil Thenabadu

Brisbane, Australia

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