Today is Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day Drinking, no part of our culture

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By 2018-01-01

By Chandra Tilake Edirisuriya

We are living in the era of Gauthama, the 28th Buddha, the previous Buddha being Kshyapa and Maitreya the next. The Buddha's doctrine conforms to every scientific truth. Buddhism is a rational philosophy that enables man to live an orderly and meaningful life.

The mental peace a Buddhist, who lives according to the tenets of Buddhism, experiences is unique. Buddhism is the greatest gift mankind has received. The ultimate aim of a good Buddhist is to donate his physical body for the good of others. Only a Buddhist can have this singular sense of detachment.

A Buddhist can be totally honest. It does not cost a cent to lead a virtuous life. On the contrary it will cost a fortune if one commits sin having a brush with the law and leads a disorderly life that affects one's physical and mental health. It augurs well for us being weaned away from eating beef following the 1956 Cultural Revolution. However, the drinking habit also introduced by the westerners, and was no part of our culture, persists to this day leading to such heart-rending incidents like a 57-year-old grandfather throwing his granddaughter of 3 years and 8 months into a well, recently.

The 1956 Cultural Revolution was made possible by the movement launched in the late 19th century by Anagarika Dharmapala in protest against Christian cultural encroachment, calling for a return to authentic Buddhism. Prof. Dr. G.P. Malalasekera, who had even changed his first names George Peiris to Gunapala Piyasena, proposed to Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake to appoint a Commission to go into the injustices suffered by Buddhists under colonial rule. The Prime Minister, however, was not amenable to the proposal on the pretext that it would be in violation of the Soulbury Constitution. Undaunted by the disappointment the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress headed by Prof. Malalasekera appointed a Commission of Inquiry on 2 April 1954 which came to be known as the Buddhist Commission. Its report outlined the grievances of the Buddhists and recommended measures to elevate the position of Buddhism. It stated that Buddhism had been neglected during colonial rule and that little had been done by post-independence Governments to repair the damage. 

The report was released on 4 February 1956 at a meeting held at Ananda College, Colombo and a week after the report was released Parliament was dissolved and a general election was fixed for April 1956. A document titled Ten Commandments including a pledge to implement the recommendations of the Buddhist Commission was submitted to the major political parties. Only the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna led by the Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, accepted the Ten Commandments. The result was a landslide victory for him. As Prime Minister he took the initiative in appointing a Buddha Sasana Commission on 4 March 1957 to make recommendations based on the Buddhist Commission report. My father who retired as Head Master of Government Schools in March 1957 gave evidence before the Commission for several days before he passed away in June 1958.The Commission submitted its report to the Governor-General on 4 June 1959 but with the assassination of the Prime Minister its implementation was stalled.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike

The rulers, who came after Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the Philosopher King of Plato, who was called a Bodhisathva, was deified and was said to be the Diyasena Kumaraya, were clueless. They did not have the acumen, the sharpness of mind required to handle a nation that had undergone the harrowing experience of being under three Christian European colonial powers for as long a period as 450 years. The only silver lining in the cloud was giving the foremost place to Buddhism in the First Republican Constitution of 1972 and retaining it in the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. What must be done today is to revive the movement to revitalize Buddhism and bring back and consolidate the country's identity as a Buddhist nation. The numbers of the Sinhala Buddhist majority have to be increased defeating attempts at sterilization and promoting LGBT rights and promoting abortions.

There are 22,254 Tamil Buddhists in Sri Lanka 11 of whom, are bhikkhus. In the Tamil-majority Northern Province itself there are 470 Tamil Buddhists. Just as Buddhism is propagated in other countries of the world it should be spread in this country as well.

The scientific nature of Buddhism has to be explained not only to the Tamil Hindus but also to all other non-Buddhists as the late Ven. Soma Thera did. The value of emancipation from illogical beliefs should be explained by setting out the basic teachings of Buddhism in order for them to get over their intellectual sloth and torpor. Among those who expounded the doctrine of the Buddha in scientific terms was my teacher at Ananda College, Colombo, in the 1950s, C.P. Ranasinghe.

The Buddha referred to all substances in the universe collectively as matter (rupa), and we shall proceed to the examination of the Buddha's detailed descriptions of the various substances of which this universe is composed. We shall deal with these various substances in the order of their occurrence, says C.P. Ranasinghe in his magnum opus The Buddha's Explanation of the Universe.
He goes on to say that there are four generally known substances constituting the universe, earth, water, air, and fire. In each of these substances, there exist one element in predominating proportions and a number of other elements in very small proportions. In analyzing each substance to its primary and secondary elements, the Buddha referred to them in an abstract sense.

Basic Material Energies

The abstract elements are units of action (kriya) of forces that exist by repetition, the speed of repetition being 17 times lower than the speed of the repetition of the mind, i.e. about 176,470,000,000 per the duration of a flash of lightning. The abstract elements, in other words, are the material energies of which the universe is constituted and they exist repeating themselves at this speed.

The principal elements of the universe are: (1) abstract earth (pathavi), (2) abstract water (apo), (3) abstract air (vayo), and (4) abstract heat (tejo). Abstract earth is the basic energy of the common substance known to us as earth; the abstract water is the basic energy of the common substance known to us as water, abstract air is the basic energy of the common substance known to us as air, and abstract heat is the basic energy of the common substance known to us as fire.

Each of these four great abstract elements (maha bhutha) has two chief characteristics, which could appear to us at first sight to be converse characteristics, but which, on closer examination, would be found to be the same. The two characteristics of each of the four great abstract elements are: (1) abstract earth: to harden, and to soften; (2) abstract water: to flow and to paste; (3) abstract air: to expand and to contract; and (4) abstract heat: to heat and to cool.

No substance is formed in the universe without the mixing of all the four principal elements, the presence of each element affecting the features in each substance in the eight different manners mentioned.

Formation of Substances

The presence of a large proportion of units of abstract earth in a substance has the effect of making that substance hard, and a small proportion, of units of abstract earth, makes a substance soft. The presence of a large proportion of units of abstract water makes a substance flow, whilst a small proportion makes the units of other abstract elements present in that substance to cling together.

The presence of a large proportion of units of abstract air causes a substance to expand, and the presence of a small proportion of units of abstract air causes a substance to contract. Similarly, the presence of a large proportion of abstract heat will cause a substance to be hot, and the presence of a small proportion of abstract heat will cause a substance to be cold.

Each of the units of all the elements tends to exist independently, existing by repetition, but such independent existence ceases on the meeting of the units of one species with the units of other species, for, then, all the units stretch infinitely and clasp each other closely, tightly, and firmly.

The units of the four kinds of abstract elements, on meeting, grip each other so tightly and thoroughly that in the union each unit of abstract element in any substance penetrates into each other. It is such unions of units of abstract elements that settle into forming substances. The dual forces of each of the four types of abstract elements begin to operate, causing the effect each type produces on the other three types of abstract elements. If, for instance, a particular substance is formed by the union of a larger proportion of abstract earth with smaller proportions of units of the other three abstract elements, it would tend to be a hard substance. As the proportion of units of abstract water united in this substance is less, the abstract water will have only the effect of pasting or binding together the other units of abstract elements in that substance. In this mixture, the presence of abstract air is also less, and the effect on the substance would be to make it contract, thus, reducing its volume. The presence of abstract heat in a lesser proportion produces the effect of making the substance cold.

Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

In addition to making substances hot and cold, abstract heat has also the quality of settling substances in different states. When this effect, too, is brought to bear on the substance illustrated, the final product of such union would be a settled substance, a hard, closely and tightly bound, contracted, and cold piece of matter, such as what we see in the common substance we popularly name as earth.

The common substance we understand as water also has the same properties. Water has a large proportion of units of abstract water. The presence of this large proportion of units of abstract water makes this substance to flow. The existence of only a small proportion of abstract earth makes the substance soft, but the fact that water is fairly heavy indicates that the abstract earth contents of water is appreciable, for weight is also a property of abstract earth. There is also present in water a substantial proportion of abstract air, and the effect thereof is that the substance is expanded. Abstract air, however, serves as an agent of contraction as well, for, if it were not for this effect, water would tend to flow to infinity. Thus, abstract air in water controls the tendency to flow by checking its flow into infinity, whilst preventing it from over-contracting either. Abstract heat makes water hot or cold, according to the intensity of the proportion that is present.

Air is also similar. Air contains a large proportion of abstract air with lesser proportions of the other three abstract elements. The presence of a large proportion of units of abstract air tends to make air to be expanded. The small proportion of the units of abstract earth gives air its weight and softness. The proportion of abstract water causes air to flow, and to stick and bind together. The units of abstract heat make air hot or cold.

Fire is also as much a substance as any of the other three principal common substances. Fire contains a predominating proportion of units of abstract heat, with a certain small proportion of units of abstract water, abstract earth, and abstract air.

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