OPEN FOR DEBATE A friend of mine sent a copy of the article by Journalist Shenali D Waduge by email. I read same. I think I had met her when I wasMore
“Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet, and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support, and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” ~ Pope Francis, Patris Corde
The feast of St. Joseph falls on 19 March every year. To Christians, St. Joseph is not only the patron Saint of the sick and of the dying but also the patron Saint of the family. The name of St. Joseph is of special significance to me as I received my entire primary and secondary education at St. Joseph’s College Colombo (the largest Catholic school in Sri Lanka), and I live in Canada whose patron Saint is St. Joseph, and in the city which has the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph – The Oratory. St. Joseph’s Oratory attracts thousands of locals as well as foreign tourists each year. St. Joseph is considered by Catholics as the patron of the universal church – so declared by Pope Pius IX in 1870 – and his life is featured in the New Testament in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke.
Although Joseph lived in the first Century AD, veneration of the Saint in the western world is reported to have begun only in the 14th Century when an order of mendicant friars – the Servites – observed his feast on 19 March. In 1479 Pope Sixtus IV introduced the feast to Rome.
Joseph was from Nazareth, Galilee, a region of Palestine. He descended from the House of King David. He married Mary and found she was already with conception. Mathew recalls in his Gospel (Matt 1:19): “ being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame” Joseph decided to divorce Mary quietly, when an angel appeared and informed Joseph that the child in Mary’s womb was the son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Soon after the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared and advised Joseph of the impending danger of King Herod the Great of Judaea’s decision to have violence committed on the infant Jesus, whereupon Joseph fled with the family to Egypt, only to return to Nazareth after Herod’s demise.
Perhaps the most relevant significance of Saint Joseph in the modern world is the integrity he presented. “integrity” is a complex word carrying many nuances, one of which is that it stands for “doing the right thing even if no one else is watching”: in other words, practicing unobtrusive goodness. In the words of Pope Francis: “The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, ‘at the service of the entire plan of salvation”. The definition of “integrity” in Webster’s Dictionary is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility; the quality or state of being complete or undivided”. St. Joseph is recognized as the epitome of masculine holiness, particularly as an example for modern culture.
Martha Beck, in her book The Way to Integrity: Finding a Path to Your True Self defines integrity as “wholeness” which denotes peace and goodness both from without and within. In other words, doing the right thing for the right reason. This way, Ms. Beck seems to suggest that we could transcend what culture sells us to find “integrity, and with it, a sense of purpose, emotional healing, and a life free of mental suffering. Much of what plagues us—people pleasing, staying in stale relationships, negative habits—all point to what happens when we are out of touch with what truly makes us feel whole”. This translates to independence from psychological suffering.
Part of integrity was love of family for Joseph. Father Gary Caster, author of Joseph: The Man Who Raised Jesus says: “Joseph has confidence in what God the Father is asking him to do. He doesn’t hem and haw: ‘Maybe we shouldn’t go [to Egypt]. … Just what is God asking me to do? Joseph immediately does everything the Father tells him to do through the angel. He’s not wishy-washy, doesn’t overthink things, doesn’t insert himself [his will].” Joseph was also imbued with righteousness and justice, which are aspects of integrity. Br, Subal Rozairo, in his article St. Joseph: Patron of the Universe and Social Justice says:“ St. Joseph comes across to us as a model of many virtues. He was an authentic person who showed by his simplicity that he was not afraid because he knew God was with him. He was not controlled by external forces. He faithfully and joyfully attended to the little but fundamental things of caring for Mary and Jesus. In his simple lifestyle, he was rich in relational trust with the father to whom he utterly surrendered himself. Of all his virtues justice, simplicity, and integrity are the featured ones”.
The righteousness, social justice, and integrity that St. Joseph was known for percolated through the ages from the Gospels of Mathew and Luke to modern day philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche – the former of whom introduced the categorical imperative of universal righteousness. Immanuel Kant was of the view that every human being is an end and not a means. This philosophy is based on a sense of duty to human dignity and that the duty should be performed with kindness. This is what made Adolf Eichmann’s assertion before the Nuremberg Court tenuous – that he did everything with a sense of duty irrespective of moral restraint – unacceptable. Kant also said that one should judge a person not on how they acted when times were good, or when they felt like being kind or caring and that the true measure of kindness in a person was in how they behaved when they didn’t want to, and when there was nothing to be personally gained for them. This epitomizes what St. Joseph stood for.
Fast forward to modern times, one wonders how Nelson Mandela – the epitome of Kant’s ideal and Nietzsche’s Uber mensch – would have treated refugees or immigrants in today’s context. It has been said of Mandela: “Mandela was an amazing leader and example of love, forgiveness, and kindness and one of the things that made him so remarkable is that upon his release in 1990, not only did he not express anger, or hatred towards his jailers, he actually befriended them. In fact, he invited one of them to attend his 1994 presidential inauguration and to the 20th anniversary celebration of his release from prison. Both James Gregory, and Cristo Brand, Mandela’s jailers spoke of the deep respect they had for this man. Brand went from being pro-apartheid as a young man to someone who stood with Mandela against racial segregation, and oppression”.
One cannot gainsay that if St. Joseph were to be asked to point to an ideal human being in modern times, the great Saint would turn towards the likes of Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately, such people are few and far between in this modern world.
Bangladesh High Commission in Colombo observed the International Mother Language Day – 2023 this morning at the historic Independence Square with the gracious presence of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Dinesh Gunawardena. Other dignitaries present were the State Minister of Higher Education Dr Suren Rāghavan, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya and Heads of Diplomatic Missions and UN and International Organizations. People from all walks of life including academia, intellectuals, political and cultural personalities, high government officials as well as hundreds of students and scouts from schools across the island also joined the observance. On this occasion, Independence Square turned into a grand assembly of different language speakers.
The Prime Minister and other dignitaries scribbled in their respective mother tongues their feelings about the Day on canvas with strokes of brush and paint. The programme began with the choral rendition of the immortal Ekushey song by the children of the High Commission officials and their family members. The entire hall stood in solemn silence for one minute as a mark of respect to the Language Martyrs.
To mark the day, under the patronage of the High Commission and with the assistance of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Education, an island-wide creative writing and painting competition for children was launched two months back on the theme “Mother Language: Unity in Diversity”. In today’s event, the winners of the competition were awarded.
The day’s attraction was an absorbing multilingual cultural performance by students and performers of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre, Russian House in Colombo, Maldivian Educational & Cultural Centre, Iranian Cultural Centre, SAARC Cultural Centre, Bangladesh High Commission and singers from Sri Lanka. In song, recitation and dance forms in as many as eight languages, they showcased their respective cultural traditions and love for their mother tongue and motherland. The finale was a K-pop performance. All the items drew huge appreciation from the crowd.
In his welcome remarks, High Commissioner of Bangladesh Tareq Md Ariful Islam reflected on significance of the day, shared its historical perspective and emphasized the role of mother tongues in promoting an inclusive society and a peaceful world. Sri Lankan State Minister of Higher Education Dr Suren Raghavan spoke in three languages–English, Sinhala and Tamil, about the importance of the preservation of mother languages and linguistic diversity. UN Resident Coordinator Sarat Das spoke about the significance of multilingualism.
The event was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka, the United Nations in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Scout Association.
A blood donation camp was also arranged by the High Commission in association with Sri Lanka Scout Association at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University Hospital.
The day’s in-house observance began at the Chancery in the early morning with the ceremonial hoisting of the national flag at half-mast followed by one-minute silence, special prayers and reading out messages of high dignitaries of Bangladesh.
Israel calls its latest military campaign Operation Break the Wave, a lyrical description of a brutal reality. This year, 2023, will be the seventy-fifth year after the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948 when Israeli troops illegally removed Palestinians from their homes and tried to erase Palestine from the map. Since then, Palestinians have resisted against all odds, despite Israel’s formidable backing by the most powerful countries in the world, led by the United States.
Operation Break the Wave started in February 2022 with the assassination of three Palestinians in Nablus (Adham Mabrouka, Ashraf Mubaslat, and Mohammad Dakhil) and continued with terrible violence along the spine of the West Bank, spreading into brutalised Gaza. On 26 January 2023, Israeli forces killed ten Palestinians – including an elderly woman – in Jenin and in al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, and then shot at an ambulance to prevent it from assisting the injured – a clear war crime. The Jenin massacre provoked rocket fire from Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza, to which the Israeli Air Force responded disproportionately, shooting at the densely populated al-Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of Gaza. The cycle of violence continued with a lone Palestinian gunman killing seven Israelis in the illegal settlement of Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem. In reaction to that, the Israeli government has put in place ‘collective punishment’ systems – a violation of the Geneva Conventions – which allows the state to target the gunman’s family members, and the Israeli government will make it easier for Israelis to carry firearms.
The Israeli government launched Operation Break the Wave in response to habbat sha’biyya (‘popular uprisings’) that have begun again across Palestine and express the frustration generated by Israeli pressure campaigns and the near collapse of economic life. Some of these uprisings took place not only in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza where they are more common, but amongst Palestinians living inside the 1948 Green Line of Israel. In May 2021, these protestors gathered under The Dignity and Hope Manifesto and called for new agitations, a ‘united Intifada’ which unites Palestinians in exile, inside Israel, and in the Occupied Territories. These moves and the gains of Palestinians in the United Nations system indicate a new dynamism within Palestinian politics. Most recently, on 31 December 2022, the UN General Assembly voted 87 to 26 to ask the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on Israel’s ‘prolonged occupation, settlement, and annexation of Palestinian territory’. The new phase of Israeli violence against Palestinians is a reaction to their achievements.
In the midst of all this, the Israeli people voted Benjamin Netanyahu into office to form his sixth government since 1996. Already, Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for over fifteen of the past twenty-seven years, as he heads into another seven-year term. His government is fiercely far-right, although from the standpoint of the Palestinians there is steady continuity in Zionist state policy, whether the government is led by the far-right or by less right-wing sections. On 28 December 2022, Netanyahu defined his government’s mission with clarity: ‘The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea, and Samaria’.
Netanyahu’s maximalist standard – that the Jewish people, not just the Zionist state, have the right to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – is not something that has appeared precipitously in this government’s statements. It is rooted in Israel’s Basic Law (2018), which says, ‘The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established’. This legal manoeuvre established Israel as the land of Jewish people, not a multinational or multi-ethnic territory. Furthermore, every administrative definition of the ‘State of Israel’ asserts its control over the entire territory. For example, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has, since at least 1967, inaccurately counted any Israeli living to the west of the Jordan River, even in the West Bank, as an Israeli, and official Israeli maps show none of the internal divisions produced by the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Israeli state policy, rooted in a settler-colonial mentality, leaves no room for a Palestinian state. Gaza is throttled, the Bedouins in an-Naqab are being displaced, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are being evicted, and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are growing like a plague of locusts. Netanyahu’s governmental partner Otzma Yehudit (‘Jewish Strength’) is willing to conduct Palestinicide in order to create a Jewish-only society in the Levant. The promise of Oslo, a two-state solution, is simply no longer factually possible as the Palestinian state is eroded and contained. The idealistic possibility of a binational state – made up of Israel and Palestine with Palestinians given full citizenship rights – is foreclosed by the Zionist insistence that Israel be a Jewish state, an ethnocentric and anti-democratic option that already treats Palestinians as second-class residents in an apartheid society. Instead, Zionism is in favour of a ‘three-state solution’, namely expelling Palestinians to Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
In 2016, the United States and Israel signed their third ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on military aid, which runs from 2019 to 2028, and under which the US promises to provide Israel with $38 billion for military equipment. This aid is unconditional: nothing in the agreement prevents Israel from using the equipment to violate international law, kill US citizens (as it killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a reporter), or destroy humanitarian projects funded by the US government. Rather than mildly rebuke Israel for its ethnocidal policies, US President Joe Biden welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu, his ‘friend for decades’, to assist the US in confronting illusionary ‘threats from Iran’. Furthermore, just after Netanyahu’s government deepened Operation Break the Wave, the US military arrived in Israel in force to conduct a joint military exercise called Juniper Oak, the ‘largest and most significant exercise we have engaged in’, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder. Backed to the hilt by the US and nonchalant about condemnation from international bodies, the Israeli state continues its fatal project to erase Palestine.
Maya Abu al-Hayyat, a Palestinian poet living in Jerusalem, wrote a beautiful poem called ‘Daydream’, which settles into a rhythm of Palestinian life and geography defined by little towns in the West Bank. There are children playing, women dancing, life where life is denied by an occupation that has lasted for generations and generations, where the screams of the occupied mimic the loud alarm of the Palestine Sunbird, the national bird.
I’ll write about a joy that invades Jenin from six directions,
about children running while holding balloons in Am’ari Camp,
about a fullness that quiets breastfeeding babies all night in Askar,
about a little sea we can stroll up and down in Tulkarem,
about eyes that stare in people’s faces in Balata,
about a woman dancing
for people in line at the checkpoint in Qalandia,
about stitches in the sides of laughing men in Azzoun,
about you and me
stuffing our pockets with seashells and madness
and building a city.
My pockets are filled with rage and hope, an expectation that our struggles of solidarity alongside the Palestinian people will prevail, because the ‘process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible’.
If transportation technology was moving along as fast as microprocessor technology, then the day after tomorrow I would be able to get in a taxi cab and be in Tokyo in 30 seconds ~ W. Daniel Hillis
Known as flying cars by some, air taxis (or flying taxis) are technically known as EVTOL (electric, vertical take off and landing) aircraft. In other words, they are drones propelled by multirotor equipment and are usually designed to carry less than a dozen passengers (there are two seater air taxis in the design phase in China and Germany).. Air taxis are calculated to ease traffic congestion on the roads making it easy for commuters to get from one place to another without being bogged down in traffic. A good example where air taxis could be beneficial is in the context of a rush to the airport to catch a flight or a dash to the railway station to make it to a train which is few and far between during the day. Air taxis take off and land vertically, obviating the need for runways needed by conventional aircraft, and land in vertiports – described as “half airports, half subway stations”.
EVTOLs other uses are in search and rescue operations, transporting organs for transplant, as well as delivery and tourism. It is estimated that in the coming decades there could be hundreds or even thousands of EVTOLs in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States .
The Economist’s annual journal The World Ahead 2023 says: “air travel turns profitable as international arrivals soar by 30%. But they stay below pre-pandemic levels”. At present only up to one third of air travel pre 2019 can be seen, but the demand for travel is growing. The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) – the trade association of airlines – has forecast that there will be a return to pre pandemic levels for global airlines by around end-2023, calling it “about the right timeframe”. The use of air taxis would largely be domestic, particularly in large countries such as the United States, Canada, China and India which have large domestic markets. The exponential increase in international air travel would in turn mean that air taxis would be a popular and efficient mode of transport in the context of domestic connections.
The Economist goes on to say: “This will be a crucial year for the aviation pioneers developing electric vertical take off and landing (EVTOL) aircraft …several firms are hoping to obtain the necessary certification in 2023 to commence commercial production, paving the way for the fast passenger services”.
Prior to starting to manufacture these aircraft, manufacturers and regulators would have to agree on safety standards and the latter would have to issue a license for the aircraft before passengers can be carried. BBC Science Focus reports: “Many developers believe their vehicles will be safety certified and cleared for take off by 2025, if not sooner. Boeing, Airbus and Hyundai are some of the familiar names building air taxis. Another is Joby, which bought Uber Elevate, the ride-sharing giant’s foray into eVTOLs, in December 2020. Meanwhile, British firm Vertical claims to have the highest number of conditional pre-orders with the likes of Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines among the investors lining up for its VA-X4 vehicle”. The Report goes on to say that sprawling and congested cities such as Los Angeles i São Paulo, Osaka and Singapore are some of the cities preparing for the advent of advanced air mobility offered by air taxis. In Europe the continent’s first vertiport is being built in France in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics, with the United Kingdom following close.
Regulations on air taxis in most countries are yet to attain fruition. However, air taxis could arguably be considered analogous to any aircraft big or small, and therefore regulators could well be influenced by current international regulations applying to the manufacture of commercial aircraft. Annex 8 to The Chicago Convention which addresses issues of airworthiness of aircraft provides that the State of manufacture is required to ensure that each aircraft, including parts manufactured by sub-contractors, conforms to the approved design, and that the State taking responsibility for the production of parts manufactured under the design approval has to ensure that the parts conform to the approved design.
The Annex begins with an obligatory provision on the State of design of an aircraft by saying that it is required to transmit to every Contracting State which has advised the State of Design that it has entered the aircraft on its register, and to any other Contracting State upon request, any generally applicable information which it has found necessary for the continuing airworthiness of the aircraft, including its engines and propellers when applicable, and for the safe operation of the aircraft, and notification of the suspension or revocation of a Type Certificate. For its part, the State of Registry has to ensure that, when it first enters on its register an aircraft of a particular type for which it is not the State of Design and issues or validates a Certificate of Airworthiness it is required to advise the State of Design that it has entered such an aircraft on its register.
The State of Design has to ensure that, where the State of Manufacture of an aircraft is other than the State of Design, there is an agreement acceptable to both States to ensure that the manufacturing organization cooperates with the organization responsible for the type design in assessing information received on experience with operating the aircraft. The State of Manufacture of an aircraft is obligated to ensure that, where it is not the State of Design, there is an agreement acceptable to both States to ensure that the manufacturing organization cooperates with the organization responsible for the type design in assessing information received on experience with operating the aircraft.
There is also a requirement (not specifically aimed at manufacturers) that compliance with the Standards prescribed as above is required to be established by flight. Chapter 4 of the Annex stipulates that the functioning of all moving parts essential to the safe operation of the aeroplane is required to be demonstrated by suitable tests in order to ensure that they will function correctly under all operating conditions for such parts. Initially air taxis will have crew piloting the aircraft. Annex 8 contains a requirement that the aircraft be provided with approved instruments and equipment necessary for the safe operation of the aeroplane in the anticipated operating conditions. These include the instruments and equipment necessary to enable the crew to operate the aeroplane within its operating limitations. The underlying principle is that the aircraft is required to have such stability in relation to its flight characteristics, performance, structural strength, and most probable operating conditions (e.g. aeroplane configurations and speed ranges) so as to ensure that demands made on the pilot’s powers of concentration are not excessive when the stage of the flight at which these demands occur and their duration are taken into account.
Certification of airworthiness of an air taxi is a serious business and internal regulations of a country must consider analogous standards already established by member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Human beings live on earth, without knowing where they came from to be born and where they would go after the end of life. This is the scenario for thousands of years that have gone by.
Human beings have been struggling to find some answer for this vexed question without much success so far.
Fact with regard to human life
In view of sustained efforts to understand the “fact of human life” over many centuries, several explanations have been guessed or imagined and evolved. As a result of such attempts to find answers, several religions have come up all over the world, resulting in sort of competition amongst the religions as to which answer and explanation is appropriate and which is not.
Some religions speak about rebirth after the end of one’s life until such time one would lead a pious life that would facilitate him to reach the feet of God, wherever He is and whatever He is.
Some other religions talk about hell and heaven at the end of human life. So many other explanations have been offered and theories are propounded like pre-ordained fate etc.
There are several mythological stories, ” establishing ” that there is God ruling the world and about God’s incarnation to correct the world’s happenings from time to time and describing ” impossible conditions “such as a person having ten heads and another person living and passing away and then resurrecting and so on, which cannot be even visualized by the humans.
Individuals really do not understand clearly and convincingly and without an element of doubt as to why one would be born and the human body grows in size over the years and then finally perish in one way or the other.
The fact is highlighted at the end of one’s life that none is really “big or small” in the world, with death ending as an equalizer and clearly create an impression that whatever one has ” achieved in life and not achieved ” is in vacuum, without any significance, whether the person was a President or beggar.
Is it time passing exercise?
In any case, what is clear ultimately is that the human life process end up as a time-passing exercise, with individuals getting themselves into the business of getting a living and striving all the time to prove themselves to others with so-called aspirations and achievements.
In such circumstances, many persons try to avoid the uncomfortable thought process relating to the origin and end of life, as they move on blindly with the life process, with imaginary hope and aspirations.
With sort of helplessness, humans simply resign themselves to the confusion and lack of clarity about the purpose and otherwise of human life. Ultimately, some theories are accepted by some and some other theories are accepted by someone else, simply as a matter of faith.
Now, what is the way out in such a condition for an endlessly thinking human being on this subject?
What Hindu religion says ?
Perhaps, leaving aside several stories and theories that have been said and repeated over the years , fundamentals of Hindu religious thought suggest a way of life that enables one to live with peace, even with unsolved questions about the origin and end of human life.
The fundamentals of Hindu religious thoughts ask humans to introspect about the question “Who am I”, that ultimately would lead one to meditation exercise and make the individual conclude that whatever may be the origin and end of life, it cannot be and need not be probed beyond a level.
On the other hand, asking the question “Who am I” enables one to understand the fruitlessness of the life process and ” it’s vacuum”
In such circumstances, the Hindu religion advocates visiting temples and offering prayers, that would drive the mindset towards introspection on the inner self, meditation and seeking peace in the mind, destroying ego
Hindu religion asks everyone to lead life actively with a sense of detachment, with hatred or prejudice towards none.
This condition ultimately promotes peace and harmony in the mindset of individuals, that is what really matters.
Hindu thoughts do not ask individuals to lead inactive life, withdrawing from the life process. On the other hand, it advocates active life with detachment.
One would never know or need to know about the origin and end of life, as such thought process will lead to nowhere.
Under the circumstances, achieving peace in the mind is all that to be desired in worldly life, even as one would continue the process of living active life. Such peace in the inner self amounts to the realization of “God within,” which condition Hindu religion elegantly term as “Ananda”.
This should be the essence of the goal of human life, though it may be deemed to be a time-passing exercise.
Prime Minister Modi shows the way
Recently, Prime Minister Modi’s 99-year-old mother passed away. Mr. Modi cremated the mother’s body and then immediately went ahead with his official programme, even though the passing away of his dear mother must have caused deep grief in his mindset.
By this act, he exhibited his attitude of detachment and continued his work with dedication. This approach to the death of his mother reflects the true basics of Hindu philosophy, where the central advocacy is that one has to maintain detachment to the pleasures and pains of life, even as one would continue to pursue active life and maintain the work culture.
Such an approach to life, as exhibited by Mr. Modi, would pave way to achieve inner peace, which really amounts to the realization of God.
“In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed,” -Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh
Zen Master late Thich Nhat Hanh was a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, renowned for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. A gentle, humble monk, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called him “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence” when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native Vietnam for almost four decades, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer in bringing Buddhism and mindfulness to the West and establishing an engaged Buddhist community for the 21st Century -https://plumvillage.org/thich-nhat-hanh/biography/
Jo Confino writing in the Guardian many years ago said quote “Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches that the world cannot be changed outside of ourselves. The answer is for each one of us to transform the fear, anger, and despair which we cover-up with over-consumption. If we are filling our bodies and minds with toxins, it is no surprise that the world around us also becomes poisoned. He also argues that those who put their faith in technology alone to save the planet are bowing to a false god”
Confino goes on to say “Like many other spiritual leaders, he sees the genesis of our pain as coming from our dualistic mindset that sees our connection to God, or Buddha, or spirit as outside ourselves and accessible only after our death. As a result, we have developed a strong ego that sees itself as separate and threatened and needs to amass things like wealth to feel strong and protected. But none of these can fill the chasm created by our deep sense of separation”
Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh believed that within every person are the seeds of love, compassion and understanding as well as the seeds of anger, hatred, and discrimination. Using a gardening metaphor, he said our experience of life depends on which seeds we choose to water. His words are very profound and yet, they are simple and very logical. They remind one of the words of a Buddhist Monk of repute in Sri Lanka, Venerable Galkande Dhammananda, the only Monk pupil of late Ven Walpola Rahula, who constantly refers to the mental wounds that all human beings carry and the chain of events that follow whenever such a wounded person thinks, talks and acts in a particular way. Practicing the tenants of Metta, Karuna, Muditha, and Upekka (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy or empathy and equanimity) at all times, towards all living beings, is what Ven Dhammananda espouses at all times. This would be the seed of love, compassion and understanding that Ven Thich Nhat Hanh referred to above.
Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh’s words “The energy we need is not fear or anger, but the energy of understanding and compassion. There is no need to blame or condemn. Those who are destroying themselves, societies and the planet aren’t doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming and they want to escape. They need to be helped, not punished. Only understanding and compassion on a collective level can liberate us” are identical to what Ven Dhammananda has been saying about the need to understand and do one’s utmost to heal the mental wounds of oneself and in others by extending Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka to all others.
Buddhist Monks like Ven Thích Nhất Hạnh and Ven Dhammananda have expounded what Buddha taught about the oneness and interdependence of all living beings. The National Library of Medicine in an article titled Cosmic design from a Buddhist perspective says “one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is the concept of interdependence which says that all things exist only in relationship to others, and that nothing can have an independent and autonomous existence. The world is a vast flow of events that are linked together and participate in one another. Thus, there can be no First Cause, and no creation ex nihilo of the universe, as in the Big Bang theory. Since the universe has neither beginning nor end, the only universe compatible with Buddhism is a cyclic one. According to Buddhism, the exquisitely precise fine-tuning of the universe for the emergence of life and consciousness as expressed in the “anthropic principle” is not due to a Creative Principle, but to the interdependence of matter with flows of consciousness, the two having co-existed for all times”
Margaret Blaine, author, Buddhist teacher and a former mental health counselor, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, United States in a concise but an in-depth observation says “Buddhism teaches the principle of the oneness of life and its environment. That means as though our subjective self and our objective surroundings might appear to be two independent realities, they are in fact two dimensions of a single reality, each arising in relationship with the other. As Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of this form of Buddhism says, “Environment is like the shadow, and life, the body. Without the body, no shadow can exist, and without life, no environment. In the same way life is shaped by its environment.”
The Buddhist concept of interdependence which says that all things exist only in relationship to others, and that nothing can have an independent and autonomous existence is the key to the survival of everything one sees before their eyes and feels in their inner selves. This and Buddha’s words that “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” is the context in which the those who are causing untold harm to the environment should consider why the broader view of what comprises the environment is important and why it should be saved and preserved.
Efficient and effective land and water resource management, the criticality of forest cover, development of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuel generated energy to lower carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions, realization and acceptance of the universality of the value of all living beings, not just human beings, to sustain and maintain a safe and healthy environment are all vital elements that should be integral to thinking of people of Sri Lanka and of course the entire world.
The destruction of forests, the indifference to any value to life, both fauna and flora, the wanton destruction of wild life habitats are clear examples of people not realizing and recognizing what Margaret Blaine said about our subjective self and our objective surroundings in fact being two dimensions of a single reality, each arising in relationship with the other.
It is sad and unfortunate to note the reported decline in Sri Lanka’s forest cover down to 16% now, whereas Bhutan’s forest cover is in excess of 70%,(As reported in News 1st, Rain Forest Protectors of Sri Lanka movement has said that Sri Lanka’s forest cover that stood at 82 percent in 1881 has dropped drastically to 16 percent. The Conservator General of Sri Lanka has denied this reported decline in forest cover). However, whether it is 29% as reported in 2015, or 16%, it is best for the country if an assessment could be carried out by an independent body as the general belief amongst many is that there is degradation and exploitation of forest cover and opening up of land for “cultivation” and “development” purposes at the behest of politicians. What matters for the future generations is the truth. Hiding the truth is a sure way to bring forth the destruction of all living beings.
The Buddhist concepts outlined here are logical, common-sense concepts. They need not be Buddhist concepts, but simply common sense concepts. The Buddhist doctrine relating to greed and anger as clearly explained by Dalai Lama, “True happiness comes from having a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved by cultivating altruism, love and compassion, and by eliminating anger, selfishness and greed” are clear pointers that accumulation of wealth, engaging in armed conflict and war, and lack of empathy and sympathy with and towards the less fortunate are, among other things, the drivers of ignorance, the root cause of unhappiness and suffering. Buddha’s fundamental message that he teaches only two things, suffering and end of suffering clearly applies to life in general but to the environment as well as it is the ignorance about the reality of interdependence of all living beings and that all things exist only because of others that causes human beings to destroy what in fact sustains them.
Whether Buddhism provides a way to save the environment or whether common sense provides the way, what influences negatively on it is political shortsightedness and ignorance.
In saying this, politicians are not solely identified as the cause as they are a product of a political system which only people create and which they only can continue with or change. Such a change can only come from the younger generation through a more informed, questioning, and challenging education system. If this generation is not exposed to rational thinking and objectivity, they will behave in the same manner as their forebearers and before they realize it, the environment would have become irreparable. What has been borrowed from them would be of no use to them when it is passed onto them. They will have nothing to pass onto their succeeding generations.
A Youtube video (uploaded December 27, 2022) with the alarmist caption බුදුන් ඉපදුණු මේ ලංකාවට සිදු වු අපරාදෙ අපිත් දැන ගනිමුද (Let’s be aware of the enormity of the injustice perpetrated on Sri Lanka where the Buddha was born) captured my attention this morning (January 1, 2023), both because of the sensationalism of the title and its association with the popular youtuber Harindra Jayalal who presents its content as an important news bulletin from a so-called ‘We Rectify Our History’ organization (presumably based in the UK). Five days after uploading, the video has got about 8,500 views, and only 301 subscribers. Though Harindra Jayalal presents it as a newsflash under ‘Breaking News’, the maker of the video is someone who chooses to obscure their identity by describing it as a DANAPALA VIDEO. While watching the video, though, I felt that Harindra himself made this video as a strong believer in the controversial new hypothesis that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. But again, I thought ‘could a person like Harindra subscribe to such an improbable concoction’? In terms of my experience, Harindra is far too rational, educated, cultured and knowledgeable to embrace such a harebrained ideology. I believe that he is too honest to prostitute his journalism for mercenary ends.
Lucidity, idiomaticity, and precision of expression characterize Harindra Jayalal’s Sinhala. Such linguistic elegance is not common among ordinary Sinhala language Youtubers. His professionalism and sophistication as a journalist are hard to match. However, the emphatic positive tone of voice that he adopts right through to the end of the presentation cannot be due to any real personal commitment to the authenticity of the ‘Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’ claim. Instead, by lending his patronage to this video, he may be helping out a struggling new youtuber through his own established fame. Yet, Harindra seems to be here overdoing his generosity because, his apparent espousal of that extremely anti-national heresy, might only provide some justification for the insidious process of cultural genocide that is being carried out, unknown to most ordinary Sri Lankans of diverse ethnicities, against the country’s innocent Sinhala Buddhist majority, something that has been going for decades now.
Be that as it may, according to this ‘news flash’, “…. The Ariya Kammattahna Sanvidhanaya/Ariya Kammattahna Organization led by a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk named Ariyamagga, resident in Europe, is going to sue the British government. He has taken steps to institute legal action against government officials who served during British colonial times. He charges that Britain has distorted historical information relating to the subcontinent of India and that his fundamental rights are being violated by officials serving today in their place by intentionally failing to rectify those distortions. ……. The case names the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs, the State Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, Secretary of State for Tourism Zones and National Heritage, and the Secretary of State for Education as respondents……the court action will go ahead as the violations are continuing……”. (This is from the opening of the spoken text of the video as roughly translated by me from Sinhala as other relevant parts of the same spoken script found in the rest of this essay; details such as names of ministries may not exactly tally with the real ones. – RRW)
The ‘We Rectify Our History’ organization argues that Britain has violated provisions of various legal statutes that it cites such as Britain’s 1998 Human Rights Act, the 1988 Copyrights, Designs, and Patents Act, and the 1907 Hague Convention. It demands that at least certified photocopies of the ancient ola leaf books stashed away in British libraries and museums be made available (to it on behalf of Sri Lankans) free of charge without reserving copyrights and that steps be taken to provide funds for new archaeological excavations needed to correct those (deliberately introduced) errors in our country’s history.
The plaintiff organization pleads that (the British government) acknowledge that the school education system established under the colonial administration disseminated for public consumption false information without any foundation in Sri Lankans’ (collective) national and religious identity, and also that (the British government) tender an apology to the general public of the world for the crimes committed.
In Sri Lanka’s ancient chronicles, Buddhist literature and even in colloquial parlance in Buddhist religious contexts today the name Jambudipa (Pali) or Dambadiva (Sinhala) refers to the subcontinent of India. But according to the ‘Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’ theorists, Jambudeepa was in the eastern part of Sri Lanka (if we imagine the map of the country as vertically divided with a line into east and west). A central claim made in th
e aforementioned plea for justice is that the true location of the Jambudipa where the founder of Theravada Buddhism, Gotama Samana, was born and lived and the locations of its cities and Buddhist holy sites were conspiratorially concealed from the world and that these venues were substituted by those in India by deliberately altering the maps of Sri Lanka and India. This is alleged to have misled the Theravada Buddhist adherents and deprived them of their right to know the truth about their spiritual master. (By ‘Theravada Buddhists’ the petitioner ‘We Rectify Our History’ organization means Sinhalese Buddhists.) What does it aim to achieve for them by asserting the following harmful falsehood?
“Having been misled (by false information) as explained above, the Buddhists of today mistake Hindu and Jain holy places to be Buddhist ones and go to worship at them. This is a tragic state of affairs” according to the plaint. But we know it is not. What is there tragic about it, even if the alleged fraudulent deed actually happened? On the contrary, it would be a happy state of affairs. Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists have much in common (tolerance, nonviolence, compassion, humility, mind culture, inner search for truth, etc.) and have no problem visiting each other’s shrines without being challenged as impure infidels or non-believers. Community of basics makes for intercommunal peace and peaceful coexistence, as has always been the case in Sri Lanka between Hindus and Buddhists. However, this ludicrous complaint lets the cat out of the bag.
The ‘Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’ idea is obviously a piece of fiction carefully thought up by some evil minded individual or group to confuse the credulous unsophisticated, grievously ill informed (embarrassingly large) section of the Sinhalese Buddhist community about their religion as well as their history for some political and/or religious advantage. Those who stand to gain by this may be having a field day at present. They must be laughing their heads off in private at the silliness of those Buddhists who have swallowed this and other similar fabrications (such as the mythical Ravana being their progenitor) hook line and sinker.
Believers in the ‘Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’ myth might be induced to sever even their sentimental links with places that they correctly believed to be historic Buddhist places of worship in Sri Lanka later built over by invaders. The misguided adherents of the fiction will forget the Sacred Buddha Gaya/Bodh Gaya in India, which our indefatigable Anagarika Dharmapala did much to reclaim for the world Buddhists as he knew it was his historic responsibility as a ‘Sinhale’ Buddhist to do so. (This is because after the missionary Mahinda Thera introduced Theravada Buddhism to Sri Lanka, its scriptures that had been until then transmitted orally was committed to writing there in the 1st century BCE and was preserved for posterity, making the island the repository of Theravada Buddhism. By the end of the 19th century CE, Buddhism had almost entirely disappeared from India due to Muslim invasions and anti-Buddhism Hinduist influence.) Dharmapala met with limited success, no doubt, but it was a great achievement, even an epoch making one, considering his smallness when pitted against the powerful opponents he had to face in that Hindu dominated religious environment during the British Raj at the turn of the 20th century. Anagarika Dharmapala, in association with activists like journalist and poet Sir Edwin Arnold from the British intelligentsia, laid the foundation for the current Buddhist revival in India. Today India is rediscovering and restoring its lost Buddhist heritage, for example in the form of rebuilding the ancient Buddhist monastic University of Nalanda (427-1197 CE) burned down by Muslim invaders in the 12th century. This made it possible for Prime Minister Modi to shout out to the world not long ago: “India gave to the world the Buddha, not yuddha (war)”. India honoured Anagarika Dharmapala by issuing a postage stamp commemorating him in 2014.
I came across a book written in Sinhala about this ‘Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’ argument. Its title translates as “Evidence to prove that the land of the Buddhas is none other than this ‘Heladiva’ or Sri Lanka: Debunking myths” (2018) by a writer named S. Ariyaratne. It is full of information drawn from authentic sources, but garbled by him through misinterpretation. The book contains a lot of interesting but, scientifically unauthenticated details both about the dhamma and history, but without any serious supporting evidence or rational elucidation. In some instances Ariyaratne quotes from the Mahavansa, which he seems to modify in his interpretation to suit his thesis that the Buddha was born, lived, and died in Sri Lanka. One example: in Mudaliyar L.C. Wijesinghe’s translation (1889) of the Mahavansa the last verse of Chapter VI is as follows: “This prince named Vijaya, who had then attained the wisdom of experience, landed in the division Tambapanni of this land Lanka, on the day that the successor (of former Buddhas) reclined in the arbour of the two delightful sal trees, to attain nibbana”. Ariyaratne interprets the same Pali verse in Sinhala; his version can be rendered into English thus: “Prince Vijaya of steady wisdom arrived the day that the Tathagata lay down to attain nibbana (in the shade) between two sal trees in Lanka or Tamraparni whose branches were intertwined” (Page 210 of Ariyaratne’s book).
Between pages 112-132, Ariyaratne looks at Anagarika Dharmapala’s work in India from his own uninformed jaundiced point of view. His unconvincing, idiosyncratic argument is that the Lankan Buddhist missionary, misled by the suddas (Whites/Europeans), mistakenly identified Bodh Gaya in India as the birthplace of the Buddha, but that towards the end of his life, he showed signs that he realized his mistake. But it is only an unsubstantiated assumption on Ariyaratne’s part. He points out that the Bodhi tree found there is not the Bodhi tree under which ascetic Gotama attained enlightenment, which should true for the original probably disappeared during foreign invasions. He thinks Alexander Cunningham (the pioneer of what later became the Archaeological Survey of India) planted the extant Bodhi tree in 1870. Concerning this he mentions ‘Relighting the Lamp’ by Australian monk Bhante S. Dhammika (no stranger to English language newspaper readers in Sri Lanka). But Ariyaratne doesn’t seem to have carefully read what he makes reference to. Actually, ‘Relighting the Lamp’ is only the last (or 4th) section of that monk’s 241 page book ‘The Navel of the Earth: The History and Significance of Bodh Gaya’ (BPS, Kandy, 1996)’ between pp. 119-171. In that part of the book, Bhante Dhammika has included a fairly detailed account of Dharmapala’s legitimate heroic struggle to acquire the sacred place for Buddhists. Dharmapala played a key role in ‘relighting the lamp’ in India.
Bhante Shravasti Dhammika outlines the historical importance of Bodh Gaya in his preface to ‘The Navel of the Earth…..’:
“…..Bodh Gayā’s historical significance is due to it having a longer and more complete history than almost any other place in the subcontinent, a history supplemented by epigraphical and literary sources from China and Tibet, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Nor is this history merely an outline of events or a list of doubtful dates, as so often encountered in the study of India’s past. Rather, it includes detailed descriptions of Bodh Gayā’s now vanished temples and shrines, accounts of the elaborate ceremonies and doctrinal disputes that once took place there, and even details of how time was kept in its monasteries. This history is also made more interesting by the participation of some of Asia’s greatest personalities, from Asoka to Curzon, from Xuanzang to Anāgārika Dharmapāla…..”
The book also supplies information about the conspicuous presence of Buddhist monks from Simhale (Sri Lanka) and the construction of religious buildings in Jambudipa including Bodh Gaya under Sinhalese royal patronage. In the 4th century, Sinhalese king Meghavanne (304-332 CE) built a special monastery at the place of Buddha’s Enlightenment – the Bodh Gaya Monastery. It survived there for a millennium, functioning as a major monastic university complex. It operated along with two other Buddhist universities,the famous Nalanda and Vikramashila monastic universities, which came into existence later.
The author of “The Navel of the Earth…” is an extremely more reliable authority on the history of the Buddha’s birthplace than Ariyaratne. In fact, the erudite Bhante S. Dhammika, who is additionally an alumnus of the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, has devoted many years of his life for researching the subject, even traveling on foot where Buddha walked across that part of north India to and fro, preaching his message. He has written and published over a dozen books. A book by Bhante Dhammika published last year (2022) is ‘Lumbini’, which gives a short history of Lumbini “the first of the four major holy places of Buddhism, being where the person who was born to become Buddha was born”.
The truth is that, in my opinion, Ariyaratne is not at all worthy of comparison with Bhante Dhammika in this context. He has had no worthwhile academic training in either Buddhism or the history of Buddhism, not to speak about anything else that is ancillary such as the secular history of Sri Lanka and India. What may be taken as an autobiographical note on pp. 12-14 of Ariyaratne’s book mentioned above says that he was born in a small impoverished village in Nivitigala in 1972. At age 14, he was admitted to the Sangha order as a novice. He studied at a pirivena in Ratnapura, where he became a kind of loner allegedly trying to learn the dhamma in an unorthodox way, which meant that he read material outside the prescribed syllabuses. Disgusted with the Sangha order at age 19 (i.e., before higher ordination), he disrobed, and became a layman again, reverting to his birth name Ariyaratne. But he claims that he continued his search in which he followed in the footsteps of such ‘Arya utuman’ (Arhants) as the infamous and totally ignorant Waharaka (Abhayarathanalankara) and Meewanapalane (Siri Dhammalankara)!! Meewanapalane has been officially excommunicated by the Malwatte Nikaya, but he continues to preach to a dwindled audience. Waharaka died in 2017 and his death was described as ‘Parinibbana’!, a term used only in the case of the passing away of an Arhant, most usually in referring to the death of the Buddha. It is an abomination to abuse that terminology to apply to the death of a sinful fake Arhant. (There is a great possibility, nay probability, that these are plants intended to destroy the Buddha Sasanaya, which is the breath and being of our over 2500 year old Lankan/Heladiva civilization. Those who bristle at this, please listen to the advice of the Buddha in the Kalama Sutta, and independently find out their hollowness by studying samples of their preachings.)
Ariyamagga Thera who is the main motivator of the ‘We Rectify Our History’ project as well as the leader of the so-called Ariya Kammattahna Organization may belong to the same group of rogues in robes. (I googled the name Ariyamagga Thero, but failed to find any monk by that name or an organization he heads, except the name in Sinhala characters ‘Pujya K. Ariyamagga’.) The theme ‘We Rectify Our History’ probably comes from Ariyaratne’s book, p. 116, where the author writes “Let’s rectify mistakes in our history by ourselves”. Isn’t it possible that some eccentric uneducated zealots have also been recruited or are simply being used as ownerless donkeys by the prime movers of a global conspiracy against the Sinhalese and their Buddhist culture?
It is true that the British stole many archaeological treasures including ola leaf manuscripts of inestimable value from Sri Lanka. At least some of them are being preserved in British libraries and museums. They are waiting to be reclaimed by us through proper channels. This is not the time to get them, as we can understand, given the debilitating economic and political difficulties Sri Lanka is experiencing. This task should actually be left to present and future young generations. Ariyamagga’s silly move could be a preemptive strike meant to foil such an attempt being made by young Sri Lankans even before it is initiated.
Harindra’s video ends with a glowing eulogy to Ariyamagga: “The intrepid step that this monk has taken, daring Britain’s ‘White Crown’ is a courageous and heroic move made against the British Empire by a citizen of Sihale ever since the defeat of the (armed) liberation struggle of Uva Wellassa of 1818”. I hear the chuckle of the conspirators behind this mock tribute to Pujya K. Ariyamagga. (END)
“Isn’t it really the first real world war we are living in, much more than the first and second world wars?” …Thomas Friedman
With the above quote Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman credibly claims that the two “world wars” in the twentieth century were not truly world wars as they did not affect the entire world but occurred in segments of the world, whereas Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the major disturbance occurring in 2022 – gave rise to the truly first world war. Friedman goes on to say: “In this seemingly “global war on air” almost everyone can either watch the fight, participate in it in some way, or be affected economically by it, no matter where they live”.
Granted. A few good things happened in 2022. It was a year where democracies around the world strengthened, and some autocracies stumbled. The countries in the West grew more united than ever before in their resolve to uphold a rules based international order. China’s economy went down and COVID raised its ugly head spoiling for the autocratic rule of the country its egotistical forward march. A bewildered Russia was thwarted in its use of force in Ukraine. COVID receded around the rest of the world prompting the World Health Organization to declare, in September, that the end of the pandemic was in sight. Both in aviation and affairs of outer space progressive steps were made, where, for example the 41st Session of the International Civil Aviation Organization adopted proactive resolutions for the future development of international civil aviation on the one hand, and the United States became the first space-faring nation to undertake to cease its original intent to test anti-satellite weapons and pledged to encourage other major powers to follow its lead.
Regrettably these proactive trends were foreshadowed by a global trend of misbehavior during the year.
Gross Global Misbehavior
On 22 February, Russia invaded Ukraine – a sovereign democratic nation which seemingly was minding its own business. Many would argue that this event was inconsistent with the fundamental rules enunciated in the foundation of international law contained in the United Nations Charter. Article 2.4 specifies that all Members of the United Nations must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. While this principle can be considered relevant to Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine on the one hand, Article 51 of the Charter can be invoked in defense of Ukraine which acted in self-defense. Article 51 states that nothing in the Charter must be deemed to impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council of the United Nations has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense must be immediately reported to the Security Council and will not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Article 51 gives the Security Council the power to intervene and take “necessary action” – which is further expanded in Article 41- which empowers the Security Council to take non-military measures in the first instance and the intervention of the Security Council and further expanded in Article 42 of the Charter which stipulates that. should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.
However, the legislative impotence of these treaty provisions is made blatant by the fact that such action as recognized in Articles 41 and 42 can be vetoed in limine by any permanent member of the Security Council (The 5 permanent members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).So much for that.
Elsewhere, in the United Kingdom political turmoil was taken to unprecedented proportions when the country saw three prime ministers elected by the Conservative party in just two months. The first instance involved scandal and misbehavior during the height of the COVID crisis; the second resignation of the short-lived Prime Minister was due to feckless insouciance in economic and financial policy which upended the markets, rendering the country gravely unstable.
Tension between the two greatest powers – United States and China grew. The policy statement issued in October under the Biden administration focusing on National Security Strategy said in diplomatically frank and open terms: “China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit,” and the United States intends to “win the competition.” The policy statement was also impliedly alluding to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea, its somewhat uncanny support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its many provocative and aggressive maneuvers and efforts calculated to intimidate Taiwan, and its alleged theft of intellectual property in vast proportions.
Coming to the Middle East a far-right government which some claim to lead to an illiberal democracy was put in place in Israel which may cause justifiable trepidation in the international community in the context of the ongoing and intractable Israeli-Palestinian issue.
One of the worst, and most egregious demonstrations of misbehavior occurred in Iran. “Morality Police” in Tehran proceeded to arrest Mahsa Amini – a twenty-two-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman visiting Iran’s capital city – on the charge of failure to cover her hair properly. She died in police custody. Mass protests erupted in September across the country, primarily led by women against this outrageous killing. The signature cry of the protesters was “Women, life, freedom!” The political situation in Iran led to an absurd claim by Iranian leaders who accused the United States and Israel of interference and misbehavior in engineering the protests. This was arguably with a view to shrouding the government’s political repression, corruption, and mismanagement of the economy. To make matters worse, the Government of Iran ordered the use of force against the protesters with a view to quelling the protests. It is reported that as many as 450 protesters had been killed on the streets by Iranian security forces by December.
Further East, on 24 December and in flagrant disregard and abuse of women’s’ human rights, the Taliban government ordered all foreign and domestic non-governmental groups in Afghanistan to suspend employing women, again with the tenuous accusation that some female employees didn’t wear the Islamic headscarf correctly. The ban was an unfortunate and regrettable follow up of an earlier move by the Taliban authorities to ban women from universities.
On a global level one of the worst examples of human misbehavior is the failure to stand together on the environmental front, where climate change is one of three major defining megatrends of our time (the other two being the looming and portentous threat of nuclear war and the exponential forward march of the technological revolution). At the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP/27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which opened on 7 November 2022 in Egypt, The Secretary General of the United Nations called the climate crisis the defining issue of our age. And the central challenge of our century. He added that the world was on the highway to hell with the foot firmly on the accelerator and that it is unacceptable, outrageous, and self-defeating to put it on the back burner . The Secretary General called for “a historic Pact between developed and emerging economies – a Climate Solidarity Pact. A Pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal. A Pact in which wealthier countries and International Financial Institutions provide financial and technical assistance to help emerging economies speed their own renewable energy transition. A Pact to end dependence on fossil fuels and the building of new coal plants – phasing out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and everywhere else by 2040” .
One of the greatest obstacles to combatting climate change at a global level is the lack of political will which can be put down to the irresponsible indifference of States. As of September 2022 Only 38 countries had filed their National Adaption Plans . COP/27 ended with the retention of the 1.5c goal (compared to pre industrial levels) and an agreement on a fund to compensate developing countries for losses and damage caused by the climate crisis. However, the conference failed to agree on concrete steps to wind down the use of fossil fuels.
With these goings on, we can only hope that the world will conduct itself more responsibly in 2023.
I am writing from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I wish a very happy New Year 2023 to Sri Lanka and its people.
In the New Year-2023, Sri Lankans will need to put extra efforts together, to reignite the economy and promote growth and also to make it inclusive and beneficial to all. They will also need to intensify investment in education in 2023. They must work together to eradicate corruption, crimes, drugs and substance abuse as well as violence against people in their communities. Where they disagree, let them do so with dignity and respect and promote unity and cohesion as they build their country together. The challenge now is to continue to pursue the economic and political conditions that will spread the wealth throughout the population and provide an example for the rest of the world. They must work harder to build a truly caring society in 2023.
Despite all the success the country has achieved in recent years including 2022, new and old dangers – economic, political, and security-related – threaten to derail its progress. With sound policymaking, effective leadership, and enough foresight, however, can meet and defeat these challenges as well as the many more to come in the New Year. They probably use the beginning of every year to reflect on the past years, make decisions and set resolutions for the New Year. It is a good thing to make resolutions, but it takes a good deal of discipline and commitment to get results that would be different and better than what they got last year. Catherine Pulsifer wrote, “The New Year symbolizes the ending of one year and the beginning of yet another. We celebrate this event, yet it is only a moment in time, like any other day. But it is also considered a time when new beginnings can happen. Be determined to have a Happy New Year!”
In the New Year’s foresight, Sri Lanka’s growth initiatives may be overarching themes that place the country at the tipping point and people perceive to be key areas for intervention to keep Sri Lanka on its current rising trajectory. This year’s format is different from years past, encompassing viewpoints from high-level policymakers, academics, and practitioners, as well as utilising visuals to better illustrate the paths behind and now in front of Sri Lanka. Growth in Asia and elsewhere has shown that industrialisation is crucial to job creation, a value that has to be enshrined in the new sustainable development goals of Sri Lanka.
The country has witnessed remarkable improvements in poverty reduction in recent years, but persistent challenges in inequality, education, health, and violence, among others, still plague it. As the 2023 year may provide the opportunity to be a jumping-off point for strong policies and efforts to accomplish the desired goals, they should understand the assortment of opportunities of 2022 provides for supporting human development efforts and argues for the central role that better data and corrective measures play in addressing them.
To explore the consequences of Sri Lanka’s rapid urbanisation which historically has facilitated the country transition from a reliance on agriculture to industry and jobs. However, without strong policies to deliver services, finance and build infrastructure, and support the urban poor, the country’s rapidly growing cities and intermediate cities cannot deliver on their potentials. The New Year may see a number of governance milestones and obstacles, and the march towards good governance. Any sort of violence, killing and destruction… shall have to be ruthlessly suppressed by the law and order controlling body of the government. People want peace and that has to be ensured. People do not want the banal forces and their mango-twigs to get any chance to fish out any benefits in the troubled waters. Raise your voice. Beware of that the ruffians must not get any chance to disturb them because Sri Lanka is for Sri Lanka’s people of all religions to live together in peace.
The government should reflect on the country’s growth-governance puzzle and the complex institutional changes necessary to move from economic growth to economic transformation. Historically, urbanisation is a sign of economic prosperity. As a country underwent structural transformation, and its economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and industry, the composition of the population of the country shifted from being predominantly rural to predominantly urban. However, urbanisation in the Sri Lanka’s context displays different characteristics from the ones witnessed in Asia and other countries. This growth demonstrates a great need for better urban management and institution building. Thus, if managed properly, the new emerging cities can produce several economic opportunities as cities offer economies of scale, which can be conducive to sustainable economic prosperity and improved human development.
Despite all the political and economic challenges facing the country, the people’s desire for a better life with better education for their children, strong domestic institutions, full employment opportunities and faster economic growth means that the future can be much brighter. Many of the hurdles they may uncover have policy solutions. Government should spend primarily on the work to improve not just education systems but also infrastructure across the board. Smart, pro-business policies will also help ensure the creation of decent jobs that can keep young people engaged in society and out of troubles.
Despite challenges on the economic front, together they made substantial progress in providing basic services, such as, electricity, housing, roads, water and sanitation, healthcare as well as accessible education. The country’s GDP has begun to show welcome improvements. Thus significant strides were made in the past years in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment. Still the government needs for renewed efforts to boost inclusive economic growth and improve the lives of poor and working-class; and it remains a key priority of the government.
The mornings of winter fall on the last of the fogbank and will wash it away. We can smell the grass again, and the torn leaves being eased down into the mud. The few loves we have been allowed to keep are still sleeping on the sky of Sri Lanka. Here in the country, they walk across the fields with only a few young cows for company. Big-boned and shy, they are like girls we remember. Those girls are matured now. Like Sri Lankans, they must sometimes stand at a window late at night, looking out on a silent backyard, at one rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls of other people’s houses.
They must lie down some afternoons and cry hard for whoever used to make them happiest, and wonder how their lives have carried them this far without ever once explaining anything. They don’t know why they are walking out here with their coats darkening and their boots sinking in, coming up with a mild sucking sound we, as foreigners, like to hear. We don’t care where those girls are now. Whatever they have made of it they can have. Today, Sri Lankans want to resolve many things. They only want to walk a little longer in the cold blessing of the wind, and lift their faces to it.
Emotions and excitement will be lifted up inside eyes and mouth widely grinning hands clap together anticipation rising going through the whole body. As we, foreigners, wait for the sunrise, we wait for a shimmering blue sea in Sri Lanka. We shall see a beautiful golden sun. And we believe it will set them free. We put our pens down greatness without sound; love without a doubt and a heart unbound; freedom of tongues is freedom of minds; and free air is freedom of lungs. We smoke though, temporary satisfaction for eternal sorrow; one more drag; confidence to load the mag up against our heads, we then resurrect ourselves with memories of something else in Sri Lanka. So, we as foreigners are grinding again, making our way up the lane, but the cities big so we take a… Melody Beattie reminds us, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”
With the moon as the conductor, the symphony of lights begins. As the heavens open in anticipation, stars one by one comes filing in with each rhythmic starlight flicker keeping in tune with the galaxy. Entire planets hold their breath in wonder from everlasting to everlasting nebula breeze. It all plays out in harmony keeping perfect 3-4 times and such beauty is not held by boundaries and seen and heard light years through time. The year 2023 should be to do only good deeds for Sri Lanka.
The winds of bearable and golden-like and sweet-note are on the heads of Sri Lankans. The winds of civility and refinements having good or auspicious marks; of commendable looks… good governance…gentleness of disposition…exquisite beauty or grace…quite consistence; very reasonable; judicious; fair; adequate; relevant; well-refined life shall prevail in their days; and I wish our Sri Lankan friends, and people in general a glorified and restful festive season. Celebrate new life in the New Year 2023. From Bangladesh, I wish to finish-off today in the words of Goran Persson, “Let your New Year’s resolution be this: you will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”
The End –
I was saddened to hear about the passing of a great teacher, a dear friend who I had known since 1984 in London, and who always welcomed me at the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre at Kingsbury, Brent, London NW7 1NB, without reservation.
The Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Nakaya MahaThero passed away on 19 December 2022 at Northwick Park Hospital after a prolonged illness. The cremation takes place at Hendon Crematorium at 09.45 a.m. on 31 December 2022.
The Ven. PiyadassiThero was a well-known, highly respected monk. He hailed from a dignified family, comfortably well-off in Sri Lanka. Entering monastic life must have indeed been, a difficult choice.
He came to London as a missionary from Sri Lanka, as a young monk, an understudy of the educationist, Late Most Ven. Saddatissa Thero, in early 1984, took over the ongoing missionary work, in a quarter of London which was much the favourite residential area of Sri Lankans, but without a Buddhist Temple.
It had been prepared ready for the teachings of The Buddha, but with the demise of one of the notable missionaries, NayakaThero, Ven. Saddhatissa in the late 1980s, there was a vacuum which had to be filled by a visionary, to carry on the onerous duties. of the late missionary,
It was also a time of much turmoil in Sri Lanka due to civil strife and the unease had spilt over to London and the UK. Many Sri Lankans were eager to congregate, but fear was understandably profoundly rooted in our psyche.
Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Thero was a simple, trusting mind who brought home the message of The Buddha, in being able to perform a role of bringing solace and comfort to a broken community of Buddhists and also Sri Lankans.
As the years rolled by, Galayaye Piyadassi Thero was given the accolade by late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, elevating his service to citizens and country, by the award of the title, MBE, hardly ever before conferred on a Buddhist monk.
He continued his monastic work without fanfare and organised many functions for the Buddhist and Sri Lankan communities, including the Buddha Jayanti celebration and the annual remembrance of the World Peace Day of Prayer for Inter-religions as for the annual Tsunami Remembrance Day each December.
He will be sadly missed by not only the Buddhist community but by many Inter-Faith dignitaries in the Borough of Brent, for spreading the message of oneness. Hiscontinuedmission of being an unpublicised religious Visitor to nearby hospitals to comfort the sick, is legendary, before he became indisposed himself, over recent times.,
Sri Lankans in London had a mentor who will be sadly missed. At the same time, Buddhist temples in our homeland will lose the undivided contact due to his charitable and fundraising activities, which he silently carried on, even with his disability over recent years.