Wednesday, 4 June 2003  
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Whose minds are well- perfected in the factors of enlightenment, who, without changing delight in “the giving up of grasping”(i.e. Nibbana), they the corruption  free, shining ones, have attained Nibbana even in this world. 
Dhammapada (Pandita Vagga)

The six-colour - sacred symbol of Buddhists

by Nemsiri Mutukumara

The six-colour Buddhist Flag, the Sri Lanka Buddhists designed in 1885 as a "Sacred symbol of veneration to the Buddha, is 118 years old.

The original designs of the six colour Buddhist flag with the strips of the sixth-colour.

At that time the Buddhists, particularly the Sinhala Buddhists were being mercilessly harassed by the British regime despite their solemn assurance to safeguard Buddha Sasana, the protection of all Buddhist Vihara and places of worship. The British denied to the Buddhists all the just rights they enjoyed in this Buddhist country.

Buddhists formed the Buddhist Defence Committee on January 28, 1884 to campaign for the restoration of the Vesak Pasalosvaka Poya (Full Moon) day which had been a natural holiday from the time of King Devanampiyatissa in whose reign Arhat Mahinda established the Bhikkhu Sangha community in Sri Lanka.

In every country where Buddha Sasana has taken root and established as the National religion the four poya days - according to the phases of the moon, vis-a-vis, the Full Moon, the first quarter of the waning Moon, the New Moon and the last quarter of the waxing Moon were holidays in India from the reign of King Bimbisara.

The Buddhist flag with the shortened sixth colour recommended by Col. Olcott which was approved by the Sangha and Lay Buddhist leadership and accepted as the flag of the Buddhists.

In fact, almost all the existing religious leaders in the Jambudipa - India - of the time of the Buddha observed their religious ceremonies, rituals and obligations on those days todate.

The Buddha Sakyamuni - the Prince of Peace accepted and declared that all His followers and disciples too follow the existing national system so that the entire country will enjoy peace and live harmoniously.

In fact, the Buddha himself adhered to the prevailing system without going against the State.

Three months after attaining Supreme Enlightenment and becoming the Buddha, He preached His First Sermon - the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta to the five-fold ascetics (His erstwhile colleagues in search of the Truth) on the Pasalosvaka Poya day of Esala. Unfortunately the Dutch who followed the Portuguese in seeking a foothold in this country, temporarily, withdrew the Poya day holiday system the people enjoyed for over 2000 years.

The Dutch Governor Falk abolished the 2078 years old Poya Day holiday system and introduced the Sunday holiday by proclaiming an Act.

People at large treated Falk's proclamation with utter contempt and paid no heed whatsoever. Only a handful of those Buddhists living in some towns along the maritime areas where the Dutch built forts such as in Galle, Matara, Jaffna and few other coastal towns observed the Sunday holiday in order to hob nob with the new masters.The agitation of the Defence Committee focused their main demand from the British administrator who succeeded the Dutch; restore to the Vesak Full Moon holiday once again.

Within the country the Bhikkhu Sangha were leading a heroic movement to regain the lost rights, the just rights, those rights enjoyed for several centuries.

Besides the agitation against the British Raj, which were confined to representation and negotiations with the British Governors. The Bhikkhu Sangha took on the Evangelists and denounced once and for all times their arguments in favour of all mighty creations.The Great controversies - Udanvita Vadaya, Baddegama Vadaya, the Panadura Vadaya, the Gampola Vadaya created a new re-awakening not only among the Buddhists but also among the new Christians who were bought by the Evangelists preying for the poverty of the innocent and helpless people.

When the American Theosophist Colonel Henry Steele Olcott accompanied by Russian Theosophist Helena Petroven Blavatsky arrived in Galle in 1880, having read the report of the Panadura Vadaya, he found the atrocities carried out on hapless but peaceful and peace-loving people by those who claimed to be the "Gods chosen people" whose disgusting manoeuvres were a colossal insult to their "Creator".

Understanding the wholesomeness and the efficacy of the Dhamma, Colonel Olcott embraced Buddhist way of life at the Vijayananda Piriven Viharaya in Velivatta, Galle and took upon himself the historic role of fighting for the just rights of the Buddhists. Overnight, Colonel Olcott became a popular person - a friend of the Buddhists.

Colonel Olcott made representation to the British Foreign Office about the necessity of re-introducing the Vesak Poya holiday in Sri Lanka in 1883.

On March 27, 1885, the British Government declared the Vesak Poya Day as a National Holiday - once again - by Gazette Notification.

The Vesak Holiday news reached almost all parts of the country and the people everywhere organised themselves to celebrate the historic event in an unprecedented manner.

By that time, the Colombo Committee had already formulated a Buddhist Flag. Colonel Olcott who had seen many national flags had suggested that the six-colour based on the six-fold rays that emanated from the body of the Sakyamuni Buddha, which design was submitted by the Secretary to the Committee Mr. C. P. Gunewardene, should take a rectangular shape.

Both, the Gunewardene design and the Olcott suggestion were unanimously accepted by the Buddhist leadership.

The six-colour, born out of unity of the Buddhists of Lanka was chosen to be presented to the Buddhist world for use not only as a symbol of veneration to the Buddha but also as a symbol of Buddhist unity.

Over the past century and more, Buddhists are accustomed to hoist the six-colour in its proper manner as very rightly shown in the Vesak Poya supplement cover page of the Daily News on May 15, 2003.

History repeats itself.

The religious fervour of the Buddhists was on a high pitch this year, throughout Sri Lanka. So similar to 1885, were the Vesak Day celebrated by the Sri Lanka Buddhists in almost all parts of the globe they lived on this Vesak Day.

The Theravada Bhikkhu Sangha, especially the Sri Lanka Bhikkhus led the way for the rest of the community in celebrating the Thrice blessed Vesak Day, with sila, bhavana, dana, dhamma desana, cultural presentations, the singing of bhakti gita and opening of new Viharas, expositions of sacred relics of Sakyamuni Buddha in Viharas and Buddhist Centres.

The inauguration of all these ceremonies and festivities, had one thing in common that came to centre stage - that is the six-colour Buddhist Flag.

Unfortunately, many places, including Buddhist centres, Viharas and road decorations, the hoisting and unfurling of the six-colour was a great insult to the Buddha Dhamma and Sangha.

Can the Sri Lankan Buddhists display such a grotesque ignorance to their miserable performance of hoisting six-colour in a most callous and disrespectful manner as they had done during the Vesak week, the Government had declared after the 2500 the Buddha Jayanthi Vesak season in May 1956?

Have the Buddhists so short memories to forget that the World Fellowship of Buddhists WFB which was inaugurated and established in Sri Lanka in 1950 with Dr. Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera as founder President unanimously accepted the six-colour Buddhist Flag - the International Flag of the Buddhists for 65 years from 1885 to 1950 - as the official Flag of the WFB?

The WFB inaugural conference also accepted the Dhammacakka design with eight spokes as its official Emblem.

This design too was printed in the Daily News Vesak Supplement cover page. The entire Buddhist world should be grateful to the Daily News for opening eyes of the Buddhists showing them the authentic flag and the emblem.

Regrettably, the advertising agents had ruined the Vesak Supplement with their Cog wheel designs instead of the wheel. The advertising agents had painted the logo of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. If those copywriters are ignorant of Buddhist symbols they should consult knowledgeable people. Are they unaware of the standard issued by the Bureau of Standards.?

Dr. K. D. G. Wimalaratne, Director of the Government Archives and an authority of the history of the six-colour says the Standards Bureau has already issued a Report on the Six-colour which should be observed by one and all.

The Buddhist Flag should not be over printed with any other slogan or design. The sanctity of the six-colour which means the rays that emanated from the body Sakyamuni Buddha when He attained Supreme Enlightenment should not be polluted under any circumstance.

The Buddha Sasana Minister W. J. M. Lokubandara has appointed a Committee headed by the Venerable Velamitiyave Kusaladhamma Nayakathera, Parivenadhipati of the Vidyalankara Pirivena and Chancellor of the Kelaniya University to examine the present situation and recommend suitable measures for future guidance.

Since the Bureau of Standards has already provided guidelines, the Nayakathera's and other members, task will not be so difficult, we believe.

However, suitable steps should be taken to prevent the use of slogans or any other designs printed on the six-colour flag.

The six-colour is a sacred symbol for the entire Buddhist World.

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