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The inherent danger of immersion in the occult and propitiation of gods and mediums



It is a certainty that most Buddhists of this country are moving away from the true Dhamma preached by the Buddha and elucidated by the vinaya following, learned monks of the Sangha. A boast is made that this country is the repository of pure Theravada Doctrine. Not so, I make bold to emphatically assert. If we follow the Buddha Word, handed down from his time at first orally and then in writing, our temples would not accommodate grottos for the veneration of the Hindu Pantheon of Gods Shiva and Ganesha, and Goddess Sarasvati, and  Kali, now gaining popularity. People would not flock to Kataragama and pay obeisance with pooja vatti,  and bargaining offering gold and silver statues and cash bribes at the Kovil, to fulfill desires expressed. Veneration of ancient Kiri Vehera comes later, almost as an afterthought to such ‘Buddhists’.

‘Koti valige’ clinging VVIPs

 Significant and needing change is the fact of our political leaders laying such store on deities and consequently elevating mediums to guider-status of even government policy. Two examples: charmed water pots thrown by the ex Minister of Health and other Ministers of State as reportedly advised by the PM’s mystic guide Eliyantha White. Later, worse damage was done by the same Health Minister and Speaker of Parliament imbibing a paniya concocted by a scheming carpenter turned medium of Goddess Kali, as a preventive and cure for Covid 19 infection. I need not mention the resultant harm and spread of infection by crowds wanting the paniya. Neither do I need to remind you of the tale told that the PM of the 2010 – 14 SLFP government dissolved his government and called for premature elections, as advised by his astrologer. He continues clutching his good luck talisman – blessed by which deity we do not know. Prez Premadasa observed rites such as sitting only on his charmed seat that, we heard rightly or wrongly, accompanied him when he went for meetings. In spite of such belief in gods and mantras and the millions of jasmine trays offered by him at temples, he finally went up in bomb smoke.

Those of us who profess to be life-guided by Buddhism and pay scant respect to rites and rituals as extraneous, are scared by the trends that seem to be gaining popularity. We were a laughing stock to the world after the pot and pani fiascos. The worse fear is that policy decisions could be dictated to by mediums, who usually are charlatans.


  Delineations and definitions are apt here. What I refer to is astrology and a branch of it: directions of a person’s actions according to prescribed times, planet paths etc, advised by a person claiming such superhuman/ mystical/phenomenal powers. Astrology per se passes muster – horoscope and palm reading and interpretation. The danger is when the far-fetched abstruse or arcane creep in with mysticism attached. Connected to this latter is voodoo, hoodoo, black and white magic. One could even accuse a person who claims to see much more than meets the human eye through divine power of being a sorcerer/sorceress. It means the supremacy of the occult over the ordinary and natural.

And who is Kali? She is outside the traditional Hindu Pantheon but very powerful. She is a black goddess whose name derives from the Sanskrit ‘kala’ – death or black. “Her origins are traced to the deities of the village, tribal and mountain cultures of South Asia. She makes her first major appearance in the Sanskrit ‘Devi Mahatmya’  (6th  century BC) and her cult is associated with death; also sexuality, violence  and paradoxically with motherly love.” She is said to be “the goddess of time, change, and destruction. She is the energy current inside a human that is wild, empowered and all loving.”

Those who get under the spell of such supernatural and/or astrological cults sink deeper and deeper for such a path or habit is a clinging to a koti valige – long endurance lulled by assurances of personal security and safety, but ending in disaster, calamity and finally death by fire and brimstone. Here it is the ego that is foremost; egotistical fears, needs equating to greed, and delusion; so very antithetical and inimical to the tenets of Buddhism.

Cases of the occult in history

 Famous persons in the past have been led to disaster by soothsayers, astrologers and forecasters of the future, often expressing religiousness. The most infamous is the tragedy caused by Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), a charlatan to beat all others. Able to stop the bleeding of hemophilic Alexei, heir to the Russian throne, he was completely favoured by the Tsarina. Obsessed by his pseudo-religiousness, she came under his spell, believing he could cure her son. Instead, this infamous man was one of the main causes of the downfall of Nicholas II and the Russian Empire. Stopping the bleeding of the young prince was adduced to his ability to hypnotize; he had no mystic powers, only misguided religious fanaticism.

More recently, Nancy Reagan, after the President escaped a shooting, sought supra mundane help and was directed to Joan Quigly, an astrologer, who became the First Lady’s prop in safeguarding Ronald. All his movements were subject to Nancy’s approval through Quigly’s advice after consulting the planets. Did it stave his succumbing to Alzheimer’s which he showed signs of even as Prez and prop Nancy’s social status?

Princess Diana relied on Debbie Frank whom she was introduced to in 1981. Did this woman with supposedly supra-human knowledge prevent the princess from her excessive holidaying and warn her of impending danger?

Personal anecdotes

 I sure must present my case in this antipathy towards dabbling in talismans, charms and such like. I am a firm believer in the efficacy of pirit chanting in times of illness and the prediction of a ‘bad time’ for a family member.  Our politicians wear ragged bracelets of pirit threads, multicoloured to boot! A relative when very young, living overseas, always wanted a ‘pirit noodle’ around his wrist; picturesque nomenclature of his. I believe in horoscopes but never get my ola scroll ‘read’.  Born and brought up in Kandy, we hardly ever indulged in the propitiation of the gods, even of the Hindu Pantheon, to whom devales were built just in front of the Dalada Maligawa – a concession to the Indian wives of the last kings of the Kandyan Kingdom. We were worshippers at the Dalada Maligawa and our local Halloluwa temple.

Hence at Kataragama, after marriage to a family which believed implicitly in gods and made frequent pilgrimages ‘down south’, I was a voiceless skeptic. Once I openly declared I would not enter the main devale and participate in the evening pooja. I felt one had to have 100% faith to follow the rituals, which I lacked. Result: a monkey from the edge of the roof of the devale urinated full on me! I am certain it was the god proving defiantly he had exceptional powers! I hasten to add I believe in the presence of the gods and their power; my point is I don’t bargain or propitiate them for favours. I grew more and more distant from rites and rituals and try to be a true follower of the Buddha’s Dhamma. However I do pay pooja to ‘bodhiyas’ in temples since devathavas reside in them and need merit transferred by humans to attain Nibbana. They do look down in favour on persons who are ‘silvath’ and may help divinely.

A person in Kandy, wanting to stop his son’s love relationship with a girl considered unsuitable, got a kattadiya – rare in Kandy then – to place a charm under the girl’s home doorstep. The charm boomeranged and the son was drowned. Evil charms like curses and cruel thoughts come back to roost.

Remember the three witches in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’? Working on his ambition and moral weakness they led him on with promises given in quibbling language. A brave and strong soldier finally ended utterly tragic; his overriding ambition fanned by his wife and used distortedly by the witches caused him destruction, and under him of Scotland as depicted by Shakespearean and historian Holinshed yore.

It is positively dangerous to ardently believe in the occult and the ability to get favours from deities, using rapacious mediums. There is betrayal at the end. Let not our leaders be led in decision making that affects the country by consulting the occult or gods, through dangerous mediums.

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From a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ to a ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’



A meeting of BRICS leaders

As the world continues to reel from the ‘aftershocks’ as it were of the October 7th Gaza Strip-centred savagery, what it should guard against most is a mood of pessimism and hopelessness. Hopefully, the international community would pull itself together before long and give of its best to further the cause of a political solution in the Middle East.

It is plain to see that what needs to be done most urgently at present is the prolongation of the current ceasefire, besides facilitating a steady exchange of hostages but given the present state of hostilities between the warring sides this would not prove an easy challenge.

Considering that there are no iron-clad guarantees by either side that there would be a longstanding ceasefire followed by a cessation of hostilities, what we have at present in the Middle East is a highly fraught ‘breather’ from the fighting. There are no easy answers to the currently compounded Middle East conflict but the external backers of the warring sides could alleviate the present suffering of the peoples concerned to a degree by bringing steady pressure on the principal antagonists to drastically scale down their hostilities.

If they mean well by the communities concerned, these external backers, such as the US, as regards Israel, and those major Middle Eastern states backing Hamas and other militant groups, would set about creating a conducive climate for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

De-escalating the supply of lethal military hardware to the warring sides is a vital first step towards this end. External military backing is a key element in the prolongation of the war and a decrease in such support would go some distance in curtailing the agony of the peoples concerned. The onus is on these external parties to prove their good intentions, if they have any.

Meanwhile, major states of the South in increasing numbers are making their voices heard on the principal issues to the conflict. One such grouping is BRICS, which is now featuring among its prospective membership, countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran. That is, in the foreseeable future BRICS would emerge as a greatly expanded global grouping, which would come to be seen as principally representative of the South.

Since the majority of countries within the BRICS fold are emerging economies, the bloc could be expected to wield tremendous economic and military clout in the present world order. With China and Russia counting among the foremost powers in the grouping, BRICS would be in a position to project itself as an effective counterweight to the West and the G7 bloc.

However, the major challenge before the likes of BRICS is to prove that they will be a boon and not a bane to the poorer countries of the South. They would be challenged to earnestly champion the cause of a just and equitable world political and economic order. Would BRICS, for instance, be equal to such challenges? Hopefully, the commentator would be able to answer this question in the affirmative, going ahead.

The current issues in the Middle East pose a major challenge to BRICS. One of the foremost tasks for BRICS in relation to the Middle East is the formulation of a policy position that is equitable and fair to all the parties to the conflict. The wellbeing of both the Palestinians and the Israelis needs to be staunchly championed.

Thus, BRICS is challenged to be even-handed in its managing of Middle Eastern questions. If the grouping does not do this, it risks turning the Gaza bloodletting, for example, into yet another proxy war front between the East and West.

Nothing constructive would be achieved by BRICS, in that the wellbeing of the peoples concerned would not be served and proxy wars have unerringly been destructive rather constructive in any way. The South could do without any more of these proxy wars and BRICS would need to prove its skeptics wrong on this score.

Accordingly, formations, such as BRICS, that are genuine counterweights to the West are most welcome but their presence in the world system should prove to be of a positive rather than of a negative nature. They need to keep the West in check in the UN system, for example, but they should steer clear of committing the West’s excesses and irregularities.

More specifically, the expanding BRICS should be in a position to curtail the proliferation of identity politics in the present world order. The West has, thus far, failed to achieve this. The seismic convulsions in the Gaza re-establish the pervasive and pernicious presence of identity politics in the world’s war zones, so much so, one could say that US political scientist Samuel Huntingdon is being proved absolutely right in his theorization that world politics over the past 30 years has been essentially a ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

After all, current developments in the Middle East could be construed by the more simple-minded observer as a pitting of Islam against Judaism, although there are many more convoluted strands to the Middle East conflict than a violent clash of these religious identities. More so why the influence of identity politics needs to blunted and eliminated by the right-thinking.

One way in which this could be achieved is the through the steady espousal and practise of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ theory. While the existence of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ cannot be denied on account of the pervasive presence of identity politics the world over, the negative effects of this brand of politics could be neutralized through the initiation and speeding-up of a robust dialogue among civilizations or identity groups.

Such an exchange of views or dialogue could prove instrumental in facilitating mutual understanding among cultural and civilizational groups. The consequence could be a reduction in tensions among mutually hostile social groups. Needless to say, the Middle East is rife with destructive politics of this kind.

Accordingly, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way cultural groups interact with each other. The commonalities among these groups could be enhanced through a constant dialogue process and the Middle East of today opens out these possibilities.

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Their love story in song…



The duo in the company of Dinesh Hemantha and Jananga

It’s certainly encouraging to see Sri Lankan artistes now trying to be creative…where songs are concerned.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen some interesting originals surfacing, with legendary singer/entertainer Sohan Weerasinghe’s ‘Sansare,’ taking the spotlight.

Rubeena Shabnam, Sri Lankan based in Qatar, and Yohan Dole, living in Australia, have teamed up to produce a song about their love life.

‘Adare Sulagin’ is the title of the song and it’s the couple’s very first duet.

Says Rubeena: “This song is all about our love story and is a symbol of our love. It feels like a dream singing with my fiancé.”

Elaborating further, especially as to how they fell in love, Rubeena went on to say that they met via social media, through a common friend of theirs.

The song and video was done in Sri Lanka.

Rubeena and Yohan with lyricist Jananga Vishawajith

“We both travelled to Sri Lanka, in August this year, where we recorded the song and did the video, as well.

‘Adare Sulagin’ was composed by Dinesh Hemantha (DH Wave Studio, in Galle), while the lyrics were penned by Jananga Vishwajith, and the video was handled by Pathmila Ravishan.

It is Dinesh Hemantha’s second composition for Rubeena – the first being ‘Surali.’

“It was an amazing project and it was done beautifully. Talking about the music video, we decided to keep it more simple, and natural, so we decided to capture it at the studio. It was a lot of fun working with them.”

‘Adare Sulagin,’ says Rubeena, is for social media only. “We have not given it for release to any radio or TV station in Sri Lanka.”

However, you could check it out on YouTube: Adare Sulagin – Rubeena Shabnam, ft. Yohan Dole.

Rubeena lives and works in Qatar and she has been in the music industry for almost five years. She has done a few originals but this one, with Yohan, is very special to her, she says.

Yohan Dole resides in Australia and is a guitarist and vocalist.

He has a band called Rhythmix, in Australia, where they play at various events.

He has been doing music for quite a while now but doing an original song was one of his dreams, he says

Rubeena and Yohan plan to get married, in December, and do more music together, in different genres.

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Mathematics examinations or mathematics curriculum?



Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams. 

by Anton Peiris

R. N.A. De Silva has, in a recent article, provided some useful tips to students as regards preparation for mathematics examinations. Trained teachers and graduates with professional qualifications are familiar with this topic.  All mathematics teachers have a duty to help the students with revision.

The more important task is to salvage the Sri Lankan O/Level mathematics students from the abyss that they have fallen into, viz. the implications and the retarding effect of the use of obsolete Log Tables. The Minister of Education, Senior Ministry Officials and the NIA are oblivious to the important and interesting things that have happened in Grades 10 and 11 mathematics in the UK, other parts of Europe, Japan, Canada, China and elsewhere. They have been like frogs in a well for almost half a century. Here are two important facts:

1. O/Level mathematics students in Sri Lanka are 46 years behind their counterparts in the UK and in other developed countries. Ordinary Scientific calculators were introduced to the O/Level mathematics classrooms in the UK way back in 1977. Prior to that those students used Slide Rules to facilitate their mathematical calculations. Ordinary scientific calculators give the values of Sine, Cos, Tan and their Inverses, Log, LN, exponential powers, square roots, squares, reciprocals, factorials, etc., at the press of a button, in addition to performing arithmetic functions. There is no memory to store mathematical formulae, etc. It is an invaluable tool for solving sophisticated and interesting mathematical problems and also problems in ordinary statistics. It has paved the way for achieving high standards in O/Level Mathematics in those countries.

Just compare the maths questions in the Cambridge IGCSE or the London O/Level Maths Exam with the questions in the Sri Lankan O/Level maths exam and you will see how far our students have fallen behind.

The Cambridge O/Level examination was replaced by the GCSE and the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) a few decades ago.

I am not referring to Programmable Calculators and Graphic Display Calculators (GDC), meaning devices with a small screen that can display graphs, perform statistical calculations like the Z- Score for large samples, show Matrix calculations, provide solutions to algebraic equations, etc., at the press of a few buttons. GDC is a compulsory item for A/Level mathematics students in the UK and in all developed countries.

Some teachers say that by using ordinary scientific calculators in Grades 10 and 11, students will not acquire the ability to carry out mental arithmetic calculations. This is not true because

(i). Calculators are introduced in Grade 10. Maths teachers have five years of Primary School and three years of Middle school (Grades 7, 8 and 9) i.e. a total of eight years to inculcate sufficient mental arithmetic skills in their students before the calculators are introduced in Grade 10!

(ii). In the IGCSE and in the London O/Level Mathematics Exams calculators are not allowed for Paper 1. Preparation for Paper 1 requires the acquisition of mental arithmetic skills, e.g., one lesson per week in class in Grades 10 and 11 in which calculators are not allowed. Sri Lanka could follow suit.

Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams.

An ordinary scientific calculator costs less than 10 % of the price of a smartphone.

Sri Lankan students in International Schools sit the IGCSE or the London O/Level mathematics exams where ordinary scientific calculators are allowed. These students have made big strides in learning mathematics by using the calculators. Only the rich can send their children to International Schools in Sri Lanka. Millions of poor Sri Lankan students do not have calculators.

Our Minister of Education has announced that the government was planning to transform the country’s education system by introducing ‘’STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Maintaining high standards in O/Level Mathematics is the key to a successful implementation of STEAM programme. Unfortunately, the Education Minister and top education official are not aware of the fact that the only way to improve the standard of O/Level Mathematics is to do what the developed countries have done, i. e., revamping the O/Level mathematics syllabus and to introducing the ordinary scientific calculator in Grades 10 & 11. If they do it, it will be an important piece of curriculum development.

Bear in mind that the UK and other developed countries have taken another important step during the last 20 years; they have introduced the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) to the O/Level Mathematics class and by providing a Core Exam and an Extended Exam. In the Cambridge IGCSE Mathematics Exams, Papers 1, 3, and 5 constitute the Core Exam. Papers 2 ,4 and 6 constitute the Extended Exam. Calculators are not allowed in Papers 1 and 2.

The Core Exam is a boon to students who have very little or no mathematical ability. More on this in my next article.

By using Log Tables, our Sri Lankan O/Level students have to spend a lot of time to solve an IGCSE (Extended Syllabus) exam problem or a London O/Level mathematics exam problem because the use of Log Tables takes a long time  to work out the Squares, Square Roots, exponential powers, reciprocals , LN , factorials, etc., and that is tedious work while their counterparts in developed countries do that in a few seconds by pressing a couple of buttons in an ordinary scientific calculator.

The Calculator has given them more motivation to learn mathematics.

O/Level students in the UK have graduated from the ordinary scientific calculator to the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) thereby improving their ability to solve more sophisticated, more important and more interesting problems in mathematics, statistics and physics. Sri Lankan O/Level students are compelled to use obsolete Log Tables.

Hats off to that Minister of Education who introduced the ordinary scientific calculator to the Sri Lankan A/ Level Mathematics classroom and to the A/Level Mathematics Exam a few years ago. That was a small step in the right direction. Minister Susil Premjayantha, please revamp the O/Level mathematics syllabus and introduce the ordinary scientific calculator to Grades 10 and 11 now. That will ensure a big boost for your STEAM programme and yield benefits for the Sri Lankan economy.

(To be continued. Topic 2:  The necessity for introducing an O/Level Mathematics Core Exam and an Extended Exam. The writer has taught O/Level and A/Level Mathematics and Physics for 45 years in Asia, Africa and Europe and is an Emeritus Coordinator for International Baccalaureate, Geneva.)

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