Friday, March 13, 2009

Twenty Six Long Years

Most of Tibet’s suffering is inflicted on it by outsiders (yesterday’s blog). Sri Lanka’s seemingly endless suffering is all self-inflicted. Having gone to Sri Lanka in 1976 I was able to witness how a combination of diminishing opportunities and poverty, ancient animosities, bad government and political opportunism caused what could have been a manageable situation to get out of control. One would have hoped that being primarily a Buddhist culture that the Dhamma might have been drawn on to offer some hope of avoiding the coming storm. I am very sorry to say that this was not the case. A prominent monk I used to know when he was young, said some years ago, ‘We have to put the Dhamma books in the cupboard until the war is over.’ In saying this, he was not being a lone ‘hardliner’, rather, he was expressing a fairly widely held attitude, especially among the sangha. I am not naive enough to think that just chanting the Dhammapada or meditating would have been enough to defuse what was an extremely complex situation, but it was sad to see how little the Buddha’s teachings of detachment, kindness, awareness and careful consideration were heard above the spite, racial slurs and jingoism, often shouted in the name of ‘protecting the Dhamma.’ It looks like the conflict is drawing to a tear-stained, blood-soaked conclusion. Should that be so, and I hope it is, it will takes several generations at least to heal the broken hearts and the broken lives. Will there be magnanimity in victory? Will there be attempts at reconciliation? Will the Dhamma be ‘taken out of the cupboard’ to help heal the wounds? I will hold my breath and hope so. Have a look at these powerful images of war-torn Lanka at The 30th and 31st images are of Lasantha Wickramatunga’s funeral (see my post of 18,1,2009)

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