Ranil Wicremesinghe, these days, is making promises to people in the
South, East, West and in the North, recklessly, knowing he has (a) no
intention and (b) no actual means for keeping them. And ambition has
even possessed him a re-incarnation of Kings Prakakramabahu (though he
cannot figure out who). But let that be.
Let me discuss only his promise to build the biggest Dagoba in the
world. The 'biggest Dagoba in the world' is in construction in India by
the Goenka Foundation with air-conditioned rooms for Vipassana
meditation. Let that also be.
I am not an archaeological authority on Dagobas but I know what the
Buddha said about icons, and why. In the Dhammadayada Sutta, he says:
'Now, monks, suppose I had eaten, refused more food, finished, had what
I needed and some almsfood was left to be thrown away.
Then two monks arrived hungry and weak and I told them: Monks I have
eaten ... but there is this almsfood of mine to be thrown away. Eat if
you like. If you do not eat it I shall throw it away where there is no
greenery or drop into water where there is no life ... The first monk
thought ... will throw it away but the Blessed One has said, "Monks, be
my heirs in Dhamma, not my heirs in material things."
Now this almsfood is one of the material things ... He spent the day
and night hungry while the second monk ate the almsfood. The Buddha
says: '... The first monk is more to be respected and commended by me.
Why? Because that will conduce to his few wishes, contentment, purity,
easy support and arousal of effort.'
Prince Bodhi invited the Buddha and disciples for a meal in his newly
built palace and laid a white cloth down to the last step of the
staircase. When they arrived, he said, "Venerable sir, let the Blessed
One step on the cloth so it will lead to my welfare and happiness for a
long time." When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.
Prince Bodhi entreated a second and a third time. The Blessed One
looked at venerable Ananda. He then asked Bodhi to "remove the cloth for
the sake of future generations. The Blessed One will not step on the
cloth." (Bodhirajakumara Sutta). For the second time, the Buddha stopped
the practice of icon-worship.
It is not here necessary to discuss why. Obviously, Mr.
Wickremesinghe does not know and is proposing an action that will lead
to his ruin either in this very life, in the next, or in some future
life. To mislead people by using the Dhamma for ambition is a grave and
stupid kamma when its vipaka will follow just as the wheel and the hoof
of the cart-bull.
Dagobas, stupas, statues etc. were built after cremation of the body
of the Buddha. Relatives and clan members quarrelled for the ashes.
Brahmin Dona divided it to eight portions and kept the bowl for himself.
Years later, Asoka was the first to politicize the Teaching but his
rule lasted only 40 years. Ancient Kings in Sri Lanka and elsewhere also
built monuments of brick and mortar, to glorify their reign, using free
labour of peasants, to detract their attention from poverty and slavery
of feudal power - among other things.
These days, even kassippu mudalalis and other criminals build them
enshrining also bogus relics. So, I do not want to waste more time
commenting and shall only ask Mr. Wicremesinghe: 'Please sir, tell the
people why exactly you want to build this and where?'
Whilst offering a bouquet to the doctors and nursing staff of ward 5
of the hospital for the dedicated service to the patients who come under
their care which I observed during my short stay in the ward, I wish
this catches the eyes of the authorities and the staff in the health
The conditions in this hospital have vastly improved and the public
have confidence in the services provided.
The cleanliness of the wards is not anything less of that in a
private hospital. The wards are swept and mopped thrice a day and not a
bit of paper is found on the floor. The toilets are flushed and
maintained. The inadequacy of the number of toilets and bathrooms
relatively to number of patients is the only snag.
It was a sight to see the young doctors with the Stethoscope round
their neck and pressure checking meter in hand walking swiftly up and
down to check the pressure of patients or adjusting a drip.
During my stay I witnessed an elderly Tamil worker admitted with
breathing difficulty. The doctors rallied round the bed and arranged to
give oxygen and fix and apparatus to monitor his heart palpitation.
The young doctor sat on the bed and checked his blood pressure and
took down notes for the information of the Consultant.
The Consultant on his rounds devote at least five minutes to a
patient which sometimes a patient may not get after paying the
consultants fee in a private hospital.
This change of attitudes of those engaged in the medical profession
in this ward can be a pointer to all in the State Health Sector and
bring about confidence among the poor of the country to have care and
B. B. Perera,