Move forward from the February 4 legacy | Daily News


Move forward from the February 4 legacy

As we celebrate the 72nd Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence, I would like to remind you of two important common sayings in Sri Lanka. The first: Do not forget your mother who gave birth to you. The second: Do not forget your country, the place where you were born. We should look at our country with fresh eyes to gauge what we have accomplished since our independence and what still needs to be developed in order to be able to move forward to make our island a paradise. If we do not develop our character, we will end up like the two men in Aesop’s Fable about the donkey and his shadow.

Necessary practice

One day a donkey and his owner were walking down the road and a traveller asked if the donkey was for hire. The owner agreed to have his donkey carry the traveller to the next village. It was very hot that day and about halfway to the next village, they decided to stop and rest. The only shade they could find was the donkey’s shadow. Both men tried to fit in the shade, but there was not enough room. The traveller said, “I should sit in the shade because I hired the donkey.” The owner disagreed, saying that the donkey was only hired to carry him and that its shadow belonged to him.

On and on they continued arguing about who would sit in the shade; meanwhile, the donkey wandered off. When the men finally stopped arguing, the donkey and his shadow were gone. The traveller demanded half of his money back and walked to the next village and the donkey’s owner spent hours looking for his missing donkey.

When we identify with our ethnic, political or religious differences we are like the two men in the fable; we focus on the labels which divide us. The Buddha taught in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta that for the well-being of a community these seven practices were necessary:

1. Frequently gather together for discussion.

2. Meet in harmony and unity, depart in harmony and unity, and work in harmony and unity.

3. Respect and follow all laws or if a law is found to be incorrect, work to change it in a lawful manner.

4. Respect and listen to worthy leaders, both religious and secular.

5. Refrain from committing or advocating violent crimes: rape, destruction of other’s property, or killing.

6. Respect, protect, and maintain temples and shrines.

7. Preserve personal mindfulness, so that in the future the good among the people will gather together, and the good who have already assembled will feel at ease.

While I am aware that these practices are much-quoted, my question is: “Are they truly being practised, or only given lip service?”

Respectful disagreement

A person would be wise, no matter what their ethnicity, political or religious affiliations are to keep in mind that what is at stake. It is well known that Sri Lankan people are very gifted and talented. Highly intelligent and able to learn how to do just about anything we set our minds to. Unfortunately, the ability to work together for the good of everyone is not a priority. We have not set our minds on this; we have not learned that we can respectfully disagree and compromise; we have not learned the value and benefit of cooperation. This lack of teamwork has cost us a great deal and we must change this if we are to survive both as a people and as a nation.

There is much to do to help our country to fulfil its potential, success and validation that can be had with cooperative work of all towards rebuilding and developing our beautiful island. I am happy to say that newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa understand what is needed to help all of the people of Sri Lanka are dedicated to developing this beautiful country.

Do not waste your time and energy on needless disagreements that are unproductive. Let us also be dedicated to developing ourselves for the benefit of our families, our communities and our country: Sri Lanka.

Put aside the past, by dwelling on it, only brings more anger and unhappiness. The Buddha said holding on to anger was like swallowing a lump of hot coal. And to dwell on past grievances is to be on a continuous diet of hot coals. This fire of anger and hatred can be put out by focusing on present opportunities to be kind and compassionate, thereby drinking the milk of human kindness to quench the thirst for revenge.

“So cultivate calm patience, and grow wiser as you age. Never act, nor speak a word when overcome by rage. Remember without fail, that when your temper flies, you’ll never do a worthy thing, a decent deed, or wise.”

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