Can we say that, what has become of Lanka today is the legacy of a “2600-year old culture”? Someone said if so, we should have been better off without any culture at all. One way or the other it is impossible to avoid the effect of culture, for any society. Culture, including technology decides the growth of civilisation. The effect of culture thus has a dialectical relationship to society today. As such, development obeys the rule of negation or in Buddha’s word uthpatha, thithi, banga. In a tragic moment, society under the influence of Buddhism could show the very opposite of the sane and sound nirvana mind. Maraya, the agent of thrushna could dominate the leadership of the society at that moment of history. The Sangha, the society of disciples too developed according to the rules of impermanence. Even during the lifetime of the Buddha, there was a serious dispute among the monks. Two sides clashed openly. So much so, that the Buddha had to leave to live in the jungles of Pareleyya, but that was not the end of Buddhism. Hence, to judge the overall effect of Buddhist culture on Lankan society one has to move with the times. The fact that Buddhism remained a teaching among the Sinhala masses would have an effect. It can create a specific intellectual space, in conflicts and debates that which would come in the future.
"To those outsiders who know and understand the Theravada teachings of the Buddha, it must indeed be strange to see how this ‘Buddhist Country’ with a “2600-year old culture” actually practices those teachings. It must appear to them that the kernel of the teachings of the Buddha has disappeared in the present society"
To an outsider, hearing these words “Lanka’s 2600-year old culture” and seeing for themselves how this “Buddhist culture” has shaped this country’s fortunes/misfortunes, it must be truly mind-boggling! Because within such a context they must also see that the citizenry of this “Buddhist Country” are not all Sinhalese or Buddhists. There are Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and others, who also call this country their motherland. They too are a significant part of the rich cultural and historical fabric of this country. But yet, they are regarded and treated as the ‘other’, ‘occupants’ or ‘guests’ of this ‘Buddhist Country’. According to dubious claims, this is a “Buddhist Country”, because it is a majority Sinhala Buddhist country and it existed in this form for a long period. To those outsiders who know and understand the Theravada teachings of the Buddha, it must indeed be strange to see how this ‘Buddhist Country’ with a “2600-year old culture” actually practices those teachings. It must appear to them that the kernel of the teachings of the Buddha has disappeared in the present society. Also in this ‘Buddhist Country’ which holds such rich claims to the Buddha and his teachings, one would expect to notice tolerance and compassion reign supreme
"Perhaps this wonderful country might have been better off, had it been blessed with ‘cultured’ political leaders to represent a ‘2600-year old culture, endowed with wisdom and a selfless vision for the greater good of the land and all its diverse people"
According to some of the stories contained in the Mahawansa, and data relating to archaeological findings, we have an ancient culture of a great many historical symbols-massive feats of engineering and construction genius, artistically carved stone etc. But can culture be measured only by these impressive ancient material symbols? What dimensions are attached to these by the constructions going on now?
"There are Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and others, who also call this country their motherland. They too are a significant part of the rich cultural and historical fabric of this country. But yet, they are regarded and treated as the ‘other’, ‘occupants’ or ‘guests’..."
The term ‘culture’ in the broader sense – in relation to the quality of life afforded equally to all the people of this land - cannot be found.
For as things stand, what use have we for this ‘2600-year old’ culture if gamblers, drug-peddlers and racist thugs dominate society? Where is the consistent and continuous campaign of the opposition? If people are not mobilised and not educated on the dangers faced by the country, elections will give results that would tally with the false conscience created by the government.
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