Literary understanding of Buddhism and Hinduism | Daily News


Literary understanding of Buddhism and Hinduism

Two of the four great religions followed in Sri Lanka are Buddhism and Saivism. Do all of us know about these religions? I wonder. Let me recall some books published some years ago.

One book was called The Mechanics of Buddhism written by Tilak Marapana.

He says:

“The Purpose of this work is to give a better understanding of the underlying principles upon which the Buddha’s preaching are founded upon... It is the Abhidhamma that explains the workings of the Dhamma and makes it possible for one to understand the relevance of the practices engaged in as a Buddhist...”

He says that the Four Noble Truth is the foundation of Buddhism. They are the Truth of (a) suffering in existence, (b) identifying the cause for this suffering, (c) If the cause is eradicated suffering would cease, and (d) the way to eradicate. The Noble Eightfold Path and the Buddhist Practices work towards ending the cycle of rebirths.”

Healthy and unhealthy attitudes

The book is divided into three parts: Volitional Activity, the Results of Volitional Activity and the Path to Nibbana.

The Chief Incumbent of Rajamaha Viharaya in Kelaniya, Venerable Dr K Mahinda Shanngharaktta Thera has written the foreword to this book:

“The author analyses the concept of mind, mental factors, different planes of consciousness, and their states with reference to healthy and unhealthy attitudes towards human life”

There is an eight-page English-Pali glossary also attached. I wish that the book is written in simple language.

Next, a book in Tamil on Saivism.

Although most people call us Hindus, we are really Saivaistes. Saivism is one of the components of a larger area of Hinduism from the North of India. It is perhaps the oldest faith in the world. They say it exists for more than 8000 years.

A majority of people in South India and Lanka are Saivites. Their primary god is Lord Shiva. But in reality, what we profess is some traits of Brahminic rituals and Saivaitic rituals.

Specific functions

For instance, Subramaniya in North India is Murugan in the South. Durga is Parashakthi here. Ganesh here is known as Pillaiyaar. Mahalaxmi there is Lakshmi here. These deities are all one and take different forms to perform specific functions.

I will come to the subject. One is a quarterly magazine and the other is one in a series of Encyclopedia.

The Indu Nagareekam (The Hindu Civilization) and Indu Oli (Hindu Light) were by the All Ceylon Hindu Congress. The book on Hindu Civilization is primarily meant for the Lankan GCE A-Level Students. But it is useful for degree students and uninitiated readers.

Some of the subjects dealt with are the Siva Lingam (a phallic symbol representing Lord Siva, Saiva Siddhantham (The theory of Saivaism), the significance of the dance of Siva, the temple architecture and the like. The Dance of Siva is eruditely explained by the late Dr Ananda Coomarasamy in English.The book is a fine compendium of the Hindu Civilization in general and the Tamil culture as related to Saivaism in particular.

Wider readership

This book is edited by T Manoharan with assistance from various scholars on the subject. It is desirable if it could be translated into Sinhala and English for wide reading.Encyclopedia of Hindu Culture: Emeritus History Professor, S Pathmanathan and his Team have compiled this worthwhile Hindu Encyclopedia of researched entries beginning with the Tamil alphabets Thi to Tho. This is published by the Department of Hindu Cultural Affairs. This is in Tamil. But certain essays from this could be translated into Sinhala and English for the benefit of a wider readership.

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