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Meeting Buddha in Sri Lanka: Deep devotion and faith

  

DR. AJAY RISAL

At Raja-Mahavihara in Colombo‚ I was extremely amazed at how Buddha was being worshipped with beautiful flowers and sacred oil-lamps. Then I felt how little we have done to the place where Buddha had taken his first seven divine steps

As soon as my parents came to know that I was going for a short academic trip to Sri Lanka immediately after Dashain, their first reaction was, “OK….Then you are going to the country of Ravana. You are flying over the ocean like Hanuman…..” They were actually referring to the “Ramayana” (a Hindu epic).

Actually, the three countries; Nepal, India and Lanka have been interconnected since ages (Treta Yuga as depicted in our Hindu historical system). Nepal is the birthplace of Janaki (Janakpur), India-the motherland of Ram (Ayodhya), and Lanka-the kingdom of Ravana. But, we always forget another important link between these countries, which was established only 2500 years ago. As a professional person, I visited Sri Lanka to attend a conference related to my own field Psychiatry. So, I was able to meet professionals from different countries, residential and non-residential SAARC delegates.

On the very first introduction, when I told them that I was from Nepal, a Sri Lankan psychiatrist couple, currently staying in UK, were very happy. They started inquiring about Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. During the ten-minute chat with them, I answered many of their queries related to Buddha, Buddhism and its relationship with Hinduism in our country. Other delegates were also attracted by our discussion. A psychiatrist from West Bengal also expressed his deep devotion towards Buddha, and went on to say that our life would be a waste if we did not visit one of the four places related to Buddha; i.e., Lumbini, Gaya, Kushinagar and Sarnath. His sayings brought a flashback about my grandparents who would say, “Life of a Hindu is a waste if he does not visit any one of the four places: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Amarnath and Pashupatinath.” The more Sri Lankan delegates I met, the more I was asked about Buddha, Lumbini, Buddhism and Nepal. They had deep devotion towards our prince Siddhartha who enlightened his motherland as Buddha, “The Light of Asia” Buddha. They say the maximum number of statues and idols in the world are that of Buddha.

This was one occasions when I felt proud of being a Nepali in foreign land, because I am from the country where Buddha was born.

These interactions at the conference illustrated how much interconnected we are, and our countries belonging to the Bharatbarsha; Nepal-the birthplace of Siddhartha, India-the place where he became Buddha and obtained Mahaparinirvana, and Sri Lanka where he is worshipped, loved and admired so much.

When we visited Keleniya, considered to be the Raja-Mahavihara at Colombo, I was extremely amazed at how Buddha was being worshipped with beautiful flowers and sacred oil-lamps. Buddha-standing, sitting and lying down… I felt how little we have done to the place where Buddha had taken his divine first seven steps….The condition of Lumbini, where the whole world is pouring its respect, concern and faith is not meeting the standard.

Sri Lanka, where people became Buddhists so many years later can bring such divine monastery, but we Nepalis just boast of having Lumbini: What have we done?

Gangaramaya temple which also belongs to the capital city had more to offer. Buddha statues were everywhere but at the door, there were Ganesha, Vishnu and Shiva. I was happy to see the good instance of religious harmony. I was telling my Sri Lankan friends that in our country, there is no distinction between a Hindu and a Buddhist. Hindus consider Buddha to be one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, and Buddhists worship all the Hindu Gods with equal respect and devotion.

Though we could not visit Ashok-vatika and witness Hanuman, Sita and Ravana, we were not at loss as we could observe the deep faith and love of Sri Lankans towards Buddha and Buddhism. Sri Lanka, which became independent just 64 years ago (3rd Feb 1948) from the British Empire, had been steadily rising in development and democracy until it fell into the trap of violence and terror. Decades of fighting, massacres and insurgency ended just a little time ago. Thanks to Buddha and his blessings Sri Lanka has been gaining momentum in establishing economic progress, developmental works and long lasting peace. Nepal has to learn from Sri Lanka. Still we are far behind in peace-keeping, development and economic growth. Why has Buddha forgotten his own brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren? Why does his motherland still needs to cry bitterly?

Actually, after meeting Buddha at Sri Lanka, I have prayed to him to come back home, at least once to his motherland, wipe her tears and bless his own countrymen so that they know the real value of peace, non-violence and love.

The four days, when I breathed Sri Lankan air, ate Sri Lankan food, drank Sri Lankan water, I felt I was being blessed by Buddha. Our own prince welcomed us in this foreign land. Really, I experienced serene peace on the bank of Arabian Sea, sitting on a chair of Gale Face Hotel in the evening hours of November.

The same tranquil words of the National Anthem of Sri Lanka repeating again and again, “…Apa Sri…. Lanka….Namo Namo Mata……..” reverberates in my ears even now.

Dr. Risal is a Psychiatrist at Dhulikhel Hospital

Comments21

Respected writer, you had better understood the meaning of Eight Fold paths directed by the Lord Buddha instead of spreading worthless message through your writing. Being a human with such intelligent brain to write this article, how you can turn be to traitor not only to the nation but also for the human race. I really feel very bad and sorry to read this article, when one don’t understand the situation of own nation and become good enough to praise the other’s land. “Abandoning false speech... He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, and is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world...” Buddhist Ethics Junita Mulmi, Nepal

Drhttp://www.salem-news.com/articles/november212012/lanka-death-photos-tk.php. Ajay Risal Please do your research before writing get informed, canada

Religious practices have evolved into forms which the respective founder will not recognise! Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka is not an exception. Buddha preached non-violence and Ahimsa. Did Dr Ajay Risal meet any vegetarian Buddhist monk? Ajay describes his visit to Kelaniya Raja Vihara. If he does some research he will find out that in mid-fifties early sixties the Chief Incumbent was Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thero. He served life imprisonment for instigating the assassination (on 26 September 1959) of the then Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. The assassin Somarama Thero was executed. Ajay refers to Ravana. He reigned over the island now called Sri Lanka from 2554 BC to 2517 BC. Ravana was a devout Shiva worshipper, scholar in his mother tongue Tamil and several other languages and an accomplished Veena player. He possessed thorough knowledge of Ayurveda and political science and was very knowledgeable in the 4 Vedas and the 6 Upanishads. Kailas Pillai, New Zealand

Respected writer, you better had understood the meaning of Eight Fold paths directed by the Lord Buddha instead of spreading worthless message through your writing. Being a human with such intelligent brain to write this article, how you can turn be to traitor not only to the nation but also for the human race. I really feel very bad and sorry to read this article, when one don’t understand the situation of own nation and become good enough to praise the other’s land. “Abandoning false speech... He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, and is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world...” Buddhist Ethics Anonymous , Bangladesh (Temporary), Kathmandu, Nepal (Permanent )

This id to RAM. I am not a racist who defends the bad actions whether it is from SL Govt. or Prabhakaran's supporters Der. What Dr Risal says is about his emotional experience gained through his trip to SL. Don't insult Lord Buddha or the teachings of the great master, just because you are a terrorist supporter who would like to see more people killed. Lord Buddha is not a Sri Lankan Politician, and we do not own Buddhism. Joseph De Silva, Maalysia

All the tamils who live in UK, Aus, Canada talk about the so called "THINGS" that happed in Sri Lanka. Most of these fellows have been to those countries as refeugees and like to see problems/issues in Sri Lanka, so that they can get thier kith and kit to those countries by bypassing skills and ethics.... This unfortunate bunch in the world is so ignorrent and think that a 12% minority can rule eighter Sri Lanka or India.. I think Dr.Ajay should give bulk medicine this floke for their metal issue. jay, Australia

The violence in Sri Lanka cannot be attributed to the Sinhala buddhists. If so would they tolerate 60% of tamils to live among them.Violence begets violence. It is time the Tamils reflect the part they played in this violence. It is sad that the Tamil expatriates who used child soldiers as cannon fodder by supporting LTTE now wish to moralise and accuse the Sinhalese buddhists. It is time for reflection. jan, london

Sri Lanka is the blessed land the land which will preserve buddhism ,dravidayans tried to destroyed it long time back but king Dutugemunu came and deafeated evil elara and the recent evil prabakaran was deafeated by King Mahinda.History repeats no evil force can harm sinhala buddhists in this blessed land, those trey will get punished good example what happend to Indira Gandhi and her son Raiv.Stay away from Sri Lanka don't even think about harming it you will be cursed. Palitha , Canada

Dr Risal and Chandana ''But that truth cannot excuse human rights violations that currently afflict the nation as a whole; or for that matter obscure the looming threat of the cultural and political colonisation of the north by the Sinhala Buddhist majority'' - Biased and Prejudiced Collection on Sri Lanka, *Gananath Obeyesekere, Economic Davidson, Sri Lanka

This guy needs treatment very badly!!! Or he may have been forced to write this piece, for money or free holiday and "other benefits" to white wash the blood stains and corpses all over the island!!! joke, canada

Thanks for the wonderful article. Hari, Colombo

buddha barbarians are living in sri lanka. they are really fanatic indian, uae

It is good to read somebody from out admiering my country. Tamil extremist want to paint bad picture about Sri Lanka. When ever they can they spread false infor about. Who ever see the reality, let down as a fool. So Dr Risal dont get upset from there comments. Your article is great Senarath, Melbourn

A great story by Dr. Risal. It is fascinating to hear what others visiting Sri Lanka have to say. Sri Lanka was under the thumb of the terrorists for 3 decades. At last they have been decimated. It's a pity that the good Dr. could not visit other places like Anuradhapura. May be next time. .A.Samaraweera Dr.P;A.Samaraweera, Australia

Dr.Risan should get himself admitted into Dhulikhel Hospital as a patient! If Nepal can learn any thing from the Lankans, it is how to committ Genocide and get away with it. There's no effort at peace building in that country. People can be forgiven for being blinded by passion but to be totally ignorant of UN's report and various other NGO's recent report of a country before setting out to write about the same country is not acceptable for person who considers himself a 'professional'. I pray to the same Buddha that he endows Dr. Risal with the same kind of peace and happiness enjoyed by the Tamils in Lanka's north and east. ram, Australia

Dr Risal CEYLON : A DIVIDED NATION, B H Farmer(1963): ‘’Since those saddening days of 1958 Ceylon has had its share of trouble. The truth, though unpalatable may be to some, is simply that nobody unacceptable to the present Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has any chance of constitutional power in contemporary Ceylon.'' Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Ideology: Implications for Politics and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka, East-West Centre, Washington, Neil De Votta 2007: “This study argues that political Buddhism and Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism have contributed to a nationalist ideology that has been used to expand and perpetuate Sinhalese Buddhist supremacy within a unitary state; create laws, rules and structures that institutionalise such supremacy; and attack those who disagree with this agenda as enemies of the state. .... ….. International human rights monitors must be stationed in Sri Lanka to ensure minorities are protected’’. eureka, UK

Dr.Risal, please try to find some time to deeply know about the war crime, crime aganist humanity, ethnic cleaning, genocide, and massacre of srilanaka state terrorism and Buddtha chavusiam aganist innocent Eelam Tamil civilans. Actully the yellow dress thugs in srilanaka aren't buddist monks, they are hitlerist monk, they aren't following great buddisim at all, they are doing hitlerism, they are shame for buddism. Tamil Victim, UK

http://www.ijmhs.com/content/4/1/22 International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2010, Collective trauma in the Vanni- a qualitative inquiry into the mental health of the internally displaced due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, Daya Somasundaram, 28 July 2010: ''What happened in the Vanni and to its people from August 2006 onwards, particularly from January 2009 to May 2009, has been described in apocalyptic terms. …. The psychosocial and mental health consequences of massive trauma to individuals, families and communities can be profound. The interventions for recovery and regeneration should be holistic, integrated and multisectorial (Table 1). However, the underlying political context and struggle for control, power, discourse and obedience complicates what is allowed and can be done.'' Davidson, Sri Lanka

This Nepalese psychiatrist doesn't seem to know what has been happening in Sri Lanka in the last 64 years. eureka, UK

I felt very happy about you when reading your article and loved it. Bring the message of peace to your people(back)! If people are not enlightened themselves with the peace of Buddhism, it is because they are not aware of what the Buddhism is. Buddhism is not a religion, it is the ultimate wisdom of life. When people get to know Buddhism more, they clear their minds more and live in harmony with nature, i.e. our own kind. Chandana, Sri Lanka

The article states: "Decades of fighting, massacres and insurgency ended just a little time ago. Thanks to Buddha and his blessings Sri Lanka has been gaining momentum in establishing economic progress, developmental works and long lasting peace. Nepal has to learn from Sri Lanka. Still we are far behind in peace-keeping, development and economic growth. Why has Buddha forgotten his own brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren? Why does his motherland still needs to cry bitterly?" Are you serious? Sri-Lanka is nowhere near peace. Disappearances, killings, etc. happen to this day. The North is under fascist military rule. And a major source of this is the Buddhist Sanga there that is racist and militant. The Buddhist monks in Sri-Lanka follow none of the Buddha's teachings. They involve themselves in politics, violent protests, and to enter the most esteemed Buddhist institutions and be ordained a monk, you have to be "pure Sinhalese" as the head of one of these institutions has repeatedly claimed. Buddhist monks frequently take photos next to tanks and soldiers and give sermons on how the island needs to be cleansed of all non-Sinhalese Buddhists. Sound like the Buddha's teachings to you? This is the country you want to emulate? I would pick Nepal over Sri-Lanka anyday. Rajah, London

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