- “I was overwhelmed to see all local universities recommending me for this task”
Well-known journalist, media personality, lyricist and author Sahanthini Rathnayake has been selected to pen Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s biography for the first time in Sri Lanka. Her translation of a poem from one of Dr. Ikeda’s books was selected out of the translations sent in by over a 100 other applicants.
“I was overwhelmed to see all local universities recommending me for this task,” she said in an interview with Daily Mirror Impulse. “Dr. Ikeda is a new character to Sri Lanka and this is the first attempt to introduce him and his vision to the Sri Lankan audience. As a nuclear disarmament advocate, photographer, poet and a Buddhist philosopher, he’s an inspirational character. He’s also the President of Sokka Gokkai International, the world’s largest Buddhist lay organisation which declares approximately 12 million practitioners in 192 countries and territories.”
Rathnayake has also penned several other children’s story books including ‘Sea has come to the village’, ‘Sudu Menikege Kurulu Gedara’ among others that raise awareness on environmental conservation, Sustainable Development Goals among other topics. “People lived with deep-rooted customs and rituals but they have forgotten these practices. People in Japan consume organic food and they are quite healthy. But that’s not the case here in Sri Lanka. Then what about conserving mangroves? The impact of the tsunami wasn’t felt in areas which were protected by mangrove habitats. Therefore, by relating these stories to the younger generation, they will think twice about their responsibility to protect the environment for their own wellbeing.”
Having had to raise two children as a single mother, Rathnayake has faced many challenges in her life. But these challenges haven’t stopped her from reaching her goals. Apart from story books she has also translated many biographies of eminent personalities including Genghis Khan, Dr. Abdul Kalam, John F. Kennedy, Maxim Gorky, Leo Tolstoy, Taslima Nazrin, Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. “When the Pearl Harbour was bombed, John F Kennedy came to fight as a soldier. During this time 13-year old Ikeda was working at a nuclear arms factory in order to save his country. Therefore, all these characters have a link to one another.”
While working at the factory Ikeda develops tuberculosis as a result of the gun powder and dust he has to work with. But later on he raises awareness on equality, compassion and sheds light on the ‘Saddharma Pundarika Sutra’ or the ‘Lotus Sutra’ which is regarded as one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. “When I was in Japan I researched about him and I realized that he’s a visionary,” she added.
The biography will later be used as a handbook in local universities and will be distributed to 192 countries. “Writing a biography is a form of meditation. You need to have a lot of patience. When I write a biography I imagine how life would have been during the period the characters actually lived. This makes it easier for me to relate to their lives. However, I would like to thank Sumithra Rahubadda for identifying the writer in me and for all my teachers who placed their trust in me for this endeavor.”
By: Kamanthi Wickramasinghe