[APPRECIATIONS - (31-12-2018)] | Daily News


 

[APPRECIATIONS - (31-12-2018)]

Rev. Canon Gamini Seresinhe

He rejected sin, but accepted sinners

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. - James 3: 13.

I pen these words with gratitude, in memory of late Rev. Canon Gamini Seresinhe (our father who is in heaven) in order that his name be respected and his will be continued to be done on earth by all who loved and associated him. He was born on December 28, 1933, as the eldest son of Richard Wilson Seresinhe and Catherine Seresinhe.

He was nurtured by his two brothers, Nihal and Gladstone, in Baddegama, the cradle of indigenisation of the Church of Sri Lanka. His father was a landed proprietor and his mother was the Principal of Baddegama Christ Church Girls' School. She had penned more than 40 lyrics in the Christian Hymnal and was a violinist, too. Her elder brother was Chancellor Emeritus of Vidyodaya and Chief Sanga Nayaka of South Ceylon Ven. Baddegama Piyarathana Thera.

We are certain that Rev. Fr. Gamini was rooted in our culture and rich heritage, and was knowledgeable in all faiths in this country. He was never shy to say about his humble beginnings. Being a student of Christ Church Boys' School, Baddegama and Richmond College, Galle, he was well-versed with the English Language and the norms and etiquettes of the West.

He entered Theological College in 1956, completed his studies in 1961, and was ordained in 1963. During his student days at the seminary, he had loved Prison work and had visited Ven. Somarama Thera (assassin of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike) with Christine Hall. He had also visited the shanties near Golf Links and had bathed the poor. Ven. Narada Thera, who taught in the Divinity School, had been a very good friend of Rev. Fr. Gamini. Influenced by Bishop Lakdasa de Mel and loved by Bishop Harold de Soysa, he envisioned Church to be Sri Lankan in fibre and flavour.

He was an unpurchasable priest who hated sin but loved sinners. At a time when we have crooks in priests clothing, he always put his trust in the Saviour and not on silver; in God and not on gold. He served Mt. Lavinia, Egoda Uyana, Kandy, Ampara (the Bakkiella church was started by him) Bandarawela, Panadura, and the longest period, at Nugegoda.

As a person who had a wound in the heart, he knew what heartache was all about, as much as Jesus who had scars (and who knew what pain was) was the God of the stars. He reversed the churches that were class-filled and Christ-empty and wanted us also to feel the human pain, rather than the class pain.

Rev. Fr. Gamini always had the right attitudes, but his arteries gave trouble. Like Jonah, David, Elijah, Simeon Peter, John, and Mark, God gave him two chances. He was taken to England in 1968 for a bypass operation, and came back and inspired many lives, including mine, for another 31 years. He always went ahead with the task believing in the power behind. Among the retired clergyman, he had the best garden in the cathedral premises.

Rev. Fr. Seresinhe always wore the robe with sandals. He knew how to bring people to God, as well how to nurture them. He never allowed people to deceive him. His life spoke very clearly, but he never closed his lips for God. Things that were bitter, he made better. He made music out of misery, song out of sorrow, and success out of setbacks.

He never compromised on clear moral and spiritual issues, be it our liturgy, school syllabus or mode of evangelism. He always had the courage to stand up for certain things than lie down for everything. He objected to snake-charming on the high alter that demeaned the sovereignty of our God.

In so many churches, the sheep look up and are not fed. The biggest problem in the church is “insubordination in the ranks” after ordination. They work for desks and chairs for peace, justice, reconciliation, culture and other concepts and international non-governmental organisations, but not for the church and its people, the sheep.

Rev. Fr. Gamini “called his own sheep by name, and led them.....and his sheep followed him and they knew his voice.” (St. John 10: 3,4). He went in search of them and saved them. As a person who had cultivated quiet moments with God, he never wanted attention or sympathy during illness. In God he was strong. (“That is why in Christ's sake I delight, in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:10).

It was heartening to see beggar Rathnapala of Nugegoda (who had lost both his legs from the hip) coming to see Rev. Fr. Gamini (even without a wheelchair), who was on the second floor at Sri Jayawardanapura General Hospital, under treatment. It was Fr. Gamini who bathed him and cared for him when he was on the road.

Before Rev. Fr. Gamini's death, he ordered and paid for a small casket. He showed me his monument that was to be placed at the burial grounds at Baddegama, with the words, “Beggar of God and a friend of the beggars.” He was ready to meet the Master. I was fortunate to learn under the feet of such a pastor who followed my Master. He went to be with the Lord on September 3, 1999.

It seems that 1 Corinthians Chapter 4 Verses 14 and 15 were really written by Rev. Fr. Gamini to all of us who loves him: “Even though you have 10,000 guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father, through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”

Yes, Rev. Fr. Gamini, we solemnly pledge to do that on your 85th birth anniversary. May you rest in peace, arise in glory, and cheer us up on the day of the Lord.

Prabhath Gamalathge

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Alec Robertson

Devout dhamma propagator

It has been 16 years since Alec Robertson; preacher, writer and broadcaster of the dhamma and one-time Member of Parliament; passed away.

Alec Robertson was born in Gampola on October 30, 1928, and died on December 31, 2002, at the age of 74. His career life was dedicated mainly to the Buddhist cause: propagating the dhamma through talks, discussions, books, and articles in Buddhist journals and newspapers.

One of his most significant contributions was the popularisation of the weekly dhamma discussions in English at Maitri Hall, Lauries’ Road, Bambalapitiya. He was closely associated with the Servants of the Buddha Society, which has conducted Buddhist discussions on Saturday evenings for almost half a century.

He started taking part in these meetings while he was still at school. He became the society’s Assistant Secretary when he was just 21 years. Later, he became the secretary before serving as its president for an uninterrupted 30 years, from 1969.

He relinquished this office only when he realised that declining health would not permit him to discharge the duties of this office effectively. But he continued to be associated with the society as its adviser until his demise.

His voice and personality reverberated in the Maitri Hall, where he chaired the society’s meetings and gave a dhamma talk every first Saturday of the month. When the scheduled speaker could not turn up, Alec Robertson would give the talk himself, often asking the audience to suggest a topic.

Robertson had a prodigious memory. His knowledge of the dhamma was extensive, based on his studies of Pali, the dhamma, the abhidhamma, and commentaries, as well as through his association with Buddhist scholars, monks, and laymen.

Robertson was also for many years associated with broadcasting, giving dhamma talks on the radio and participating in dhamma radio discussions. For several decades he participated in one of the most popular Buddhist radio programmes at that time, namely the Buddhist Forum. In this forum, a number of Buddhist scholars discuss various aspects of the dhamma and entertain subjects for discussions from listeners.

Apart from Robertson, participants in the forum at that time included former Supreme Court Judge late S.R. Wijayatilake and dedicated Buddhist worker late Austin De Silva. Robertson became the Chairman of the Buddhist Forum later and continued to perform the task, except for brief intervals, until his death, a period of two and half a decades.

As a writer, Robertson had many Buddhist publications to his credit. These include the Buddhist Attitude to Christianity, Nibbana – Happiness Supreme, The Triple Gem, and the Uposatha and Buddha – the Healer Incomparable. He also regularly contributed articles to the newspapers, Buddhist journals and the Buddhist annual Vesak Sirisara.

Although known largely as a promoter of the dhamma among English-speaking people, Alec Robertson also had a good command of the Sinhala language. As a young man, he travelled to different parts of the country giving talks, usually in Sinhala, at the invitation of Buddhist organisations in the outstations.

He strove, at all times, to share his knowledge about the latent power held within the human mind. His messages were directed at awakening people to recognise this great untapped and unseen capacity within them and to introduce the teachings of the dhamma as the path to greater self-awareness. Robertson masterfully used the dhamma to explain the most abstract concepts such as the doctrine of impermanence that has even posed challenges to Western psychologists. Robertson was well read in the discipline of Western psychology. He openly challenged eminent western scholars such as Dr. J.B. Reihn's conceptualisation of the human mind as inconclusive on the strength of the deeper understanding he had developed through the teachings of the dhamma. Continually asserting his belief that the Lord Buddha has been the greatest ever psychologist the world has ever seen. His outstanding services in the cause of the dhamma were recognised by the State when the J.R. Jayawardene administration conferred on him the title of. Later, the Premadasa government appointed him a Member of Parliament.

He served for five years as an MP, focusing largely on Buddhism, social welfare and education. The United National Party (UNP) assigned him to the Avissawella electorate, and his addresses to the constituents were mainly on the dhamma and its practice.

In recognition of the yeomen service rendered to the nation and Buddha sasana by the well-known propagator and preacher of the dhamma, Alec Robertson, a commemorative stamp was issued on October 30, 2013, under the National Heroes category. This was arranged to mark his 85th birth anniversary.

Robertson pursued his mission in life with determination, courage, and commitment. May his onward journey in Samsara be smooth and brief, and may he attain early the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Prof. Mahendra Fernando, University of Colombo

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Kenneth Perera

Beloved and sincere friend

Death is so sad and painful. It leaves the living with a loss that can never be replaced.

I pen these lines as a mark of respect to a great friend. It has been nearly four months since Kenneth passed away, putting everybody who knew him to grief and misery. The fateful day; September 4, 2018; was an extremely sad day to hear that he was no more. I have lost a genuine and sincere friend of exceptional calibre. His 71st birth anniversary falls on January 4, so let this be a tribute to him.

He was smart, always attired in a simple way and was also so cheerful and unassuming that his colleagues admired him greatly. All who knew him will forever remember the charming manners that he carried in his successful life. He has left a memory so beautiful which will not fade away with the passing of time.

He was a dearly loved husband, father and a friend. The illness took his life was a long and challenging one. His wife, Priyani, took great care of him with lots of affection and empathy in the absence of his son Milinda, who is in Australia.

She told me that, when Kenneth was at Maharagama Apeksha Hospital, Kenneth was well-looked after by the doctors and the nurses in ward No. 22, as well as the paying ward. Priyani said that Kenneth really enjoyed the friendliness and the kindness of all the staff from doctors, ward sisters, nurses and right down to the attendants.

Though I did not witness their actions, I wish to commend them for their dedication to duty on behalf of my beloved friend. I pray that you are celebrating your birthday in heaven and that heaven is all what we dreamed it to be. It has been almost four months since you left us. As your birthday approaches for the first time, I look at it with dread…. I can't go and pore over birthday cards or select a gift, but so many happy memories of years gone by and the happy times we had celebrating your birthday. It’s tough and I am left wishing that I had at least one more.

So, my dear friend, until we meet again and celebrate your birthday, I remain. May your soul rest in peace.

Your ever-loving friend, Lalin

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Dr. Nadarajah Sivananthan

A compassionate doctor

Friends old and new were among the many who gathered at the Hendon Crematorium in London, to pay their last respects to the much-loved Dr. Nadarajah Sivananthan who passed away on November 27.

Siva was the firstborn to late Dr. Nadarajah and late Maheswary Nadarajah of Urumpirai, Jaffna.

The orations delivered at the funeral bear testimony to Siva’s personality.

He was a kind doctor, affectionate husband, dedicated father, much-respected sibling and good friend to many who came across him. In fact, Dr. Siva epitomised his chosen vocation of service to mankind.

Despite the passage of time, some five decades on, I can vividly remember our first meeting at Royal College in the year 1967. A debonair teenager presenting himself immaculately dressed in the school uniform. Displaying his trademark smile, there was a charm and aura about him!

He was obsessively self-disciplined as a schoolboy; punctual, obedient and always focused with an intent to aim high with an ambition to enter the medical profession. At school, Siva was a model scholar who not only complied with the school motto of disce aut discede, but went even further, to proposita consequi.

Although we went in different directions on leaving the school we were destined to re-establish our acquaintance in the UK around the year 1984. Erudite and Intelligent he was gentle, never uttered a word of hatred even amidst the worst of adversity. I vividly recall my conversation with him in the aftermath of the 1983 civil unrest in Sri Lanka when our discussion centred around the well-being of his parents and siblings in Colombo. There was a pause when I could sense his distress but no outburst of emotions.

Instead, he appeared resigned with forgiving words towards the arsonists who set fire to his house forcing his parents and siblings to flee for their lives! That was Siva.

Many of his qualities appear to be derived from his father, the late Nadarajah whom I first met at an awards ceremony in his capacity as at the President of the Western Province Tamil Teachers’ Association. Nadarajah was the Head at the Vivekananda Maha Vidyalayam in Colombo. An indefatigable community worker, Nadarajah also served as a Features Editor at the popular Tamil daily Thinakaran.

Siva qualified as a doctor in 1975 and was posted to the General Hospital Ratnapura as a pre-registration trainee. On completion of this post, he was appointed as a medical officer at Ruwanwella and Colombo Hospitals.

He married Manju in 1979. On completion of his compulsory service to the Government of Sri Lanka, he travelled to the UK, where he received further specialist training upon qualifying for the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP) examination in London.

Siva’s intention was to return to his motherland Sri Lanka as a specialist physician to serve his people, but the dark hours of 1983 and the political turmoil that followed compelled him to give up his lifelong ambition but set up practice in the UK.

Lanka’s loss was UK’s gain. He entered General Practice in Gloucester, where he served his patients with utmost professionalism and compassion.

Dr. Siva served the National Health Service for over 36 years, treating people from all walks of life with distinction. He was loved by all his patients and his caring attitude to those who sought his help was a special feature in attracting many patients towards his practice.

Below are some excerpts from a testimony from one of his patients:

A really lovely practice, receptionists friendly and very approachable, and lovely nurses. Dr. Siva was a man I trusted implicitly with my healthcare and that of my son’s.

Embedded in these words are many of Siva’s qualities, including his organisational skills and, more importantly, his dignified and holistic approach to his patients. Siva’s services to his patients could not have been achieved without the dedication of his wife Manju who was a tower of strength to Siva not only as a life partner, but also as the administrator of his medical practice.

Siva retired in 2016, taking an interest in travelling and music while spending more time with his grandchild.

His retirement was cut short following a brief period of illness, but he faced his final days with courage and fortitude with the help of Manju and their children.

He passed away peacefully in Hospital with his wife and children by the bedside. He is survived by his wife, children Nayana and Arun, two grandchildren, and six siblings.

“No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after his death.” - Plato.

Dr. Sati Ariyanayagam


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