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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Reconciliation through Buddhist teachings

Reconciliation is a broad-based sociological phenomenon that emerged among the human groups long before the modern subject area known as sociology came to be known. Reconciliation embraces quite a number of areas such as art culture, religion, physical sciences and communication.

Reconciliation covers a broad perspective from a historical point of view. The Buddha was one of the greatest advocates of reconciliation process who tried to usher in peace and harmony via the understanding of the real value of human existence. He, it is widely known, was responsible in bringing back friendship to enemy clans.

From a broad as well as panoramic point of view the phenomenon of reconciliation through the teachings of the Buddha was examined for three long days from November 14 to 17. The event was significant not only to the Buddhists but also to others who are interested in peace and harmony among human groups.

The event happened to be the 60th anniversary of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. The glorious past, the present and the future trends were openly discussed by scholars. In Sri Lanka the event was organized by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress.

The main agendum was segmented into five: socio-cultural and economic perspectives, historical perspectives, environmental perspectives and ethnic harmony all linked to the central subject of reconciliation throughout the teachings of the Buddha.

As a classical and learned contribution, a compendium of essays was distributed to those who participated in the event at home and abroad.

This collection of essays is edited by Dr Praneeth Abhayasundara and Diuni Gunawardhana. I found this a remarkable gift for all participants who gathered within the three days. The collection is itemized into four groups as follows.

Part one: selected essays relating to the main topic of reconciliation through the teachings of the Buddha. Part two consists of essays related to the origin and progress of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.

Part three is devoted to five essays linked to Sri Lankan contribution to Buddhism. Part four is devoted to fourteen essays written on miscellaneous subjects pertaining to the teachings of the Buddha. All in all the compendium of essays covers a broad gamut of subjects linked to Buddhism looked at from various points of view.

I, as a participant on the second day of this summit, had the chance to watch and listen to three eminent personalities who I admire so much and read some of the writings by them. They are Dr Ananda Guruge, Professor Asanga Tillekaratne and Ven Achan Brahmavanso. All the three scholarly presentations were equipped with the adequate knowledge related to the main subject.

They were not merely addressing the audience, but made it so stimulating that there was a sense of liveliness. Books are meant to be read silently. But speeches are meant to be heard and grasped in its totality.

Though we have read quite a number of contributions made by these scholars, we also felt that they possessed the knack to mesmerize the audience with resourceful doctrinal material of the Buddha.

A special mention should be made about Ven Achan Brahmavanso for his skill in wit and wisdom. It was never an exercise in mere dogma. Most of what he underlined happened to be emerging from his own practices.

A number of booklets were freely distributed to the participants. For me some of them were rare publications. The list of freely gifted books included Buddhism, a living message by Ven Piyadassi Thera, Buddhism in a Nutshell, and parts I, II and III of Buddhism for Beginners written by Ven Narada Thera.

All these books seem to have come out of press to meet the needs of the modern day necessities. They will be included in the repertoire of Buddhist books by those who love to collect them for posterity. This in fact is one of the main issues that should be taken seriously by the literary panels and/or religious study panels of the ministry of cultural affairs.

A serious minded group of scholars should translate some of these selections into Sinhala enhancing the growth and strength of religious studies in the country at large. A newly carved vision on religious conscience is emerging in the field of comparative literary studies in the world.

But I am not sure whether our literary enthusiasts and literary critics are aware of this trend. I propose that such a symposium should be planned to meet the area of awareness. The literary scene is gradually narrowing down as a mere conventional literature. But in actual practice the literary vision should be broadened too.

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