|Monday, 24 June 2002|
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On Poson Poya day we remember the great gift the Arahant Mahinda gave us when he arrived on our island and presented to the highest in the land, so that we as a people would benefit from the teachings of the Buddha Dhamma.
Since then the Dhamma has been available as a guide to our people and our rulers and is the standard under which most of us Sri Lankans have gathered to find identity.
The adherence of the majority of Sri Lankans to these teachings has also made this country the famed repository of Theravada Buddhist thought, attracting scholars and pilgrims from around the world who want to imbibe from this deep well of wisdom. Over the centuries scholars and monks in Sri Lanka, as well as those who have settled here from overseas, have guarded the doctrine commendably and spread the word to other parts of the world.
On this Poson Poya day we must also remember that in the past three decades this country has witnessed great brutality. More than a hundred thousand Sri Lankans have died in violent rebellion during this period. We have hunted each other in packs, motivated by power-hunger and greed.
Most of these killings resulted from tensions that arose through bigotry, the inequitable treatment of our citizens and intolerance; all traits abhorred by the Dhamma.
These long years of violence has also brutalised and traumatised our people. When we have a road accident mobs take the law in to their own hands and beat up the driver and destroy property. Election violence is rampant. We have some of the world's highest murder and suicide rates. We have even lost the grace of sport to lose a match and we beat up our opponents.
In these brutal years we have allowed the violent few among us to dictate to the peaceful majority. The window of peace we have now is the time for the righteous and peace-loving to stand up and be counted.
Today at Mihintale, the organisers are expecting more than a million devotees to gather around that historic and sacred rock to mark the Poya. At Somawathiya the ceremony to lay the pinnacle of the Cetiya will be the highlight of the day.
Both are indications that the people are optimistic about the glimmer of peace they see on the horizon. They feel free and safe to travel and congregate, as they must.
As we gather at the temples, we must spend time in sombre reflection as the Dhamma teaches us. We must meditate on the state of our country and think of the violence we have perpetrated on each other.
We must think of the great gift the Arahant Mahinda brought to us - the teachings of the Buddha. We must go back to those basic values the Dhamma teaches us, of compassion, kindness and understanding. We must remember that we should always wish that all beings be happy.
These are values the Buddhists in this country share with the followers of all other faiths living among them.
So as we light our lamps and offer our flowers let us resolve to turn our society back on to the correct path - the path of righteousness and compassion. Let us be determined to put the years of brutality behind us and not return to violence.
Let us not waste the gift that the Arahant Mahinda brought us.
Produced by Lake House