The week-long Poson ceremonies come to a climax tomorrow with tens of thousands of devotees congregating in Anuradhapura for religious observances mainly in Mihintale and Thanthirimale. It was to Mihintale that the Buddha-Dhamma was brought by Arahat Mahinda and Buddhist historians say the reigning King Devanampiyatissa was on an animal hunting expedition when Arahat Mahinda proclaimed, “Stop Tissa, do not kill”.
Non-violence is the principle feature of the Buddha-Dhamma and most other major religions. They teach that an open-minded dialogue is the most effective and sustainable way of conflict resolution. As we celebrate Poson Sri Lanka is faced with more than its share of conflicts – in the political field, in civic society and even among religions in the aftermath of the April 21 Easter Sunday terror attacks on three churches, three five star hotels and two other locations in Colombo. The attacks are known to have been carried out by small Islamic groups linked to the international terror group known as the Islamic State, though moderate and mainstream Muslims claim that such brutal violence has no connection with Islam.
Buddhism and other major religions tell us that human beings are often selfish or self-centred and seek personal gain or glory. This happens not only in politics where important decisions are taken but also in religion, business and civic society. Spirituality tells us that we need to be gradually liberated from our slavery to selfishness and self-centredness
Politically, the good governance dreams have been shattered though there were high hopes when the government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and the United National Front (UNF) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took office on January 8, 2015. In recent months it is known that the President and the Prime Minister are not even on talking terms and the situation became worse after the Easter Sunday bombings. The Legislature, apparently seeking to fully exercise its power, appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe the terror attacks and especially find out why intelligence reports were not acted upon to prevent the killing of more than 260 people. The PSC sittings were thrown open to the media and they gave wide publicity to the testimony of witnesses including former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and former Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara. Their testimony was apparently damaging to the President and he demanded that the PSC sittings be stopped. But the UNF government went ahead and the President reacted by refusing to call the regular Tuesday cabinet meeting this week, provoking Joint Opposition critics to say Sri Lanka was functioning without a government. However, some sort of compromise appears to have been reached and it was officially announced on Thursday that the Cabinet Meeting would be held next Tuesday.
As we mentioned earlier, dialogue is essential for conflict resolution on a win-win basis. This is not so much a social or political principle, but more so a spiritual principle, preached by most major religions. For an effective dialogue, the parties involved need to be aware that what they know about the conflict is always relative and never absolute. There is much more they need to know. The day we stop learning is the day we stop growing in maturity. Thus for a win-win dialogue, the parties need a paradigm shift. That means they need to be aware that there is much more they need to know about the issues involved. This spirit will help to come to an accommodation on the Middle Path which again is a spiritual principle. When dialogue takes place in this way there is generally a situation where one plus one makes not two but three – something new is found on the Middle Path and the two or more parties effectively implement the win-win solution.
Buddhism and other major religions tell us that human beings are often selfish or self-centred and seek personal gain or glory. This happens not only in politics where important decisions are taken but also in religion, business and civic society. Spirituality tells us that we need to be gradually liberated from our slavery to selfishness and self-centredness. If we are self-centred the decisions we take will negatively affect others and also ourselves. Bitterness, jealousy, anger, unforgiveness and the wicked world’s other vices will dominate society. We will be like those Easter Sunday suicide bombers because when we are self-centred we will destroy ourselves and even destroy those who come in to contact with us.
This Poson week is a good time to meditate on the need for us to be other-centred and serve others sincerely, selflessly and sacrificially. This spirit of other-centredness is important especially for those who take leadership in society. We hope Poson produces such liberation whereby all religions could work together on poverty alleviation, the battle against global warming, disarmament. and other issues which are part of our spirituality.