Monday, 01 November 2004  
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The relevance of Ahimsa - a rejoinder

I read with interest, the excerpts from the keynote address by Justice C. G. Weeramantry, former Vice President of the International Court of Justice, when he spoke about the Relevance of Ahimsa on World Peace Day. You captured this in the Daily News on 04 October - two days after Gandhi's birthday.

Justice Weeramantry says 'We cannot lose sight of the fact that one of the richest parts of the intellectual and cultural inheritance of all humanity consists of the great and sublime teachings of all the religions and we have no right to deprive our children of a perspective of religions other than their own'.

Following elders

I agree. Reality is that majority Sri Lankans do not 'intellectually' learn religion, but follow their parents and elders, mostly intuitively. Where rulers/governments had/have direct involvement in religious activities, there was material value in learning religion top-down.

To that extent, the value of religions needs to be realistically and practically assessed through visible objective measures. Otherwise, we risk further loss of value of our respective religions.

I asked Gamage, the driver who took me to Galadari Hotel from Katunayake, on my recent visit to Colombo, as to how he practised Buddhism. Gamage said that he went to the Temple on Sundays with his family. He highly recommended the temple near my hotel. I asked him about Kalutara Bohdi Temple and he did not seem to know much about it.

I asked in particular about Kalutara Bodhi because of my plans to visit Kalutara with the SriLankan Airlines team, for its Commercial Conference. I remembered with appreciation, Sir Cyril De Soysa, for whom I worked many years ago and who I understand established the Kalutara Bohdi Temple.

Yet, Gamage did not know about this even though he is educated up to G.C.E (Ordinary Level). Likewise the new graduates joining SriLankan Airlines did not know about Captain Rakitha Wickremenayake the founding chairman of Air Lanka when it was formed 25 years ago, Mr. Kula Kulesekaram the founding General Manager and Mr. Colin Martinus the founding Commercial Manager.

A big part of my contribution to the Commercial Conference was to connect the young ones to their ancestors in the Airline religion. That is how we share their wisdom intuitively.

Religion need building up

Religion, like law, needs to be built into our daily life so that when the structured system that we intellectually follow fails us, we could take solace in the Truth that resides within us as our personal God - however humble and simple that Truth may seem to be.

On my recent visit to Colombo for example, I had clear and direct evidence of this 'invisible' Force. On the first day of my arrival, when I set out to buy a pair of flat slippers, I ended up at the Hare Krishna temple, waiting for the arrival of Lord Jagannath (Juggernaut) who was being taken on Procession. I realized that I was not accepted by the ladies amongst whom I was seated.

It's an intuitive feeling which was later confirmed by a lady who asked me to tie my hair up. I obeyed orders even though I noticed other young girls with their hair down. I took the first opportunity to go outside and wait for the Chariot and when the Chariot did arrive the priest threw a packet of sugar candy towards me. I followed the girls who were dancing and ended up right in front of the altar and enjoyed a glorious Dharshan of Our Lord Jagannath.

Lord Jagannath

I felt that He approved, based on the feeling with which I went to the temple. As if to confirm this, the Indian Priest included in his discourse, a story about how Lord Jagannath rejected the services of the priest who had rejected, Vibheeshana, the brother of Ravana - the king of Lanka, on the basis that he was a foreigner and the brother of Lord Rama's enemy.

The Indian priest giving the discourse said that the Lord recognized the feelings with which we served rather than the form. I felt that the Lord spoke to me through the priest. These are everyday miracles for those who do have faith.

These are examples of how, with all my success in the material world, I am still intuitively led by Divine messages in knowing rights and wrongs and that I am not alone when I feel right even though the whole community might seem to think and/or say I am wrong.

The lady who asked me to tie my hair up may also feel likewise as per HER system. If I do not do the work to reconcile her system with mine, I would have conflict within myself. Likewise that lady for whom it would be more difficult to understand my "minority" system. I was a minority in that group. At the physical level, majority vote must be respected in a system of democracy. This was why I plaited my hair even though I did not feel that it was righteous.

Respect to Buddhism

Taking Sri Lanka as a whole, Buddhism must be respected and accepted as the leading religion if we are to rely on our intuition and conscience to realize Peace.

Majority Sri Lankans are physically driven. Hence they need to 'see' to believe and follow. Towards this they need to 'see' their leaders consciously and expressly following their religion in everyday life.

I was heartened to note that most public expressions included their Tamil versions, thus giving the feeling that Sri Lanka is a multicultural country requiring the Objective system at the lower levels of management. Within each group one could be driven by intuition and subjective measures - as if we were family following one religion.

Buddhism is a powerful connector not only within Buddhists but also across religions, especially with Hindus who often connect Buddha to Lord Vishnu. God comes to us in the Form that we genuinely give Him.

One of my colleagues asked me after the Sri Lankan Commercial Conference, whether I truly believed in God. I said yes. He asked me whether I believed in One God or many gods.

I said that the One God came to me in many forms as per my genuine beliefs at the particular moment of need. If we believe Truth is God, as Gandhi did, God comes to us in the form of Honest people. If we are honest, we will invoke honesty in the other person. If we believe in finding Truth through Justice and the Legal system, God comes to us through the highest practitioner of the Law.

The Judiciary, which Justice Weeramantry is a part of, has failed Sri Lankans. Our Judiciary have separated themselves from the PEOPLE instead of separating themselves from the Government, as per the Doctrine of Separation of Powers in a system of democracy.

The Doctrine of Separation of Powers has been used and abused as per the convenience of the Judiciary. Hence there is NO Common Law recourse for the ordinary citizen, but each one is for himself - with his own sense of Justice.

In people intense countries it is inevitable to a large degree that the person at the bottom would not see and read the law the same way as the person at the top.

Gandhi's best service

The best Service Gandhi did to India and therefore to the whole world was to do this translation THROUGH HIMSELF. Where Gandhi knew that a law was being interpreted differently by himself on behalf of the ordinary Indian, compared to the British, he first tried to bridge the gap through education - usually interpreting the law into everyday household language. It was after this that he acted in breach of the law when he felt the law worked against all Indians as well as the British.

Anyone who truly followed Gandhi's mind, would realize that Gandhi made himself into a feeler. Mothers are feelers and Fathers are thinkers in a traditional family.

When representing the whole family/group one has to feel. This is how a member of a democratic parliament is elected. When leading the family/group, one has to think-as is the role of a government ministers so that there is vertical growth. Eventually, until the thinkers also feel, they are not complete.

It's by feeling one with the people that we hurt when the people hurt. Gandhi felt with the British also by renouncing the benefits from his work in Politics. Hence Gandhi became the Law. Any law that Gandhi could not identify with was counter-productive and/or wasteful.

Loss of loved ones

Gandhi's Ahimsa was essentially to absorb the losses of his loved ones. Towards this Gandhi accumulated good karma/social credits through his self-sacrificial ways, the basis for which he acquired from his mother.

By renouncing the benefits but doing the WORK, Gandhi followed Krishna's Geetha. Krishna commands Arjuna to fight, but to do so without attachment to the fruits of his work.

The Arjuna in Gandhi actually fought the British mentally. Had Gandhi truly followed Krishna and I believe he did, he would have eventually separated himself from the British and fought a physical war - as per the rules of Dharma. Towards this he would have needed to be a doer like Arjuna. But because the British felt the Truth in Gandhi - there was no need for the separation - but instead independence.

AHIMSA is not absence of physical war. It is absorbing other people's mistakes by doing extra work to make up for their unearned benefits and absorbing losses through one's personal credits - to become the whole.

- Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

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