A Catholic’s thoughts on Poson: The impact of Buddha’s words | Sunday Observer

A Catholic’s thoughts on Poson: The impact of Buddha’s words

About 2,380 years back a valiant king of our beloved motherland was on a happy hunting spree close to the summit of Mihintale rock. “Tissa, Tissa,” said a voice. King DevanampiyaTissa was puzzled. May be he was angry at being called by his name.

Those hallowed words were to be the auspicious spring of a new era, which would engulf Lanka with the teachings of one of the noblest and Enlightened who walked this earth.

A gracious and repentant king abandons his pastime of hunting, throws away his bow and arrow and becomes the first Lankan to embrace the teachings of Gauthama Buddha, made known to him by Mahinda, the son of a noble king who had ruled this earth. King Asoka was an invincible monarch and conqueror, who practically took over most parts of Bharath and Mongolia.

This was about 200 years after the Buddha attained Nirvana.

After the famous battle of Kalinga, King Asoka upon seeing the massacred human beings, threw his weapons down and sought the words of the Enlightened one. H.G. Wells, in his epic Outlines of World History calls him the greatest monarch of the world preaching and living through the example of the teachings of his master. He led others into the path of tolerance.

His immortal edicts have been enshrined in the Ashok Chakra in the hallowed Indian National flag. It was this sagacious King who sent his beloved son Mahinda on that memorable Poson Full Moon day to our land. History was made that day. This everlasting happening took place 236 years after the passing away of the Buddha and about 300 years before another revered teacher preached his words on love, forgiveness, humility and the wages of greed and peace. He was Jesus Christ.

May I as a follower of Jesus Christ, in a little gem of an island where more than 70% are Buddhists, share my thoughts as a Christian, on this lovely day on the impact that the words of Gauthama Buddha have had in our country.

The Buddha walked this earth for eighty years and preached for about forty years. He visited our blessed land three times, and left his footprint on the summit of a mountain. Thousands of devout followers of Gauthama Buddha visit this shrine between the Full Moon Poyas of Duruthu and Vesak. I was privileged to trek the summit, pay my respects to the Holy Footprint, ring the bell once and see the awe-inspiring irasevaya or sunrise. There were six happy Catholics in the naday who simulated the walk of Jesus Christ up to the summit of Mount Calvary. When we reached the summit we felt that both our celestial teachers were there to welcome us.

The Buddha spoke on the five noble precepts that are for all time. He said man was the decider of his destiny. He has to paddle his own canoe to the final destination, which could be determined only by his actions. Yes! He said “Do not do to others what you do not wish for yourself.” Years later, Jesus said “He that is without sin let him cast the first stone”, when a woman in sin was brought before him by the hypocritical Jewish elite.

The Buddha-said Thanhaya Jayathi Soko – sorrow is always behind greed. How true. This has also been said by Jesus Christ in His words, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We have seen how prophetic and thought provoking words these sayings are when we go into history.

I believe in the existence of God. He gave us a conscience, a free will to know what is right and wrong. He gave us celestial teachers to guide us towards Nirvana. A high ranking church dignitary once said, “You know son, it is the fragrance of the Buddha’s teachings that has made this country to be resplendent as a tolerant, compassionate nation with smiling citizens.”

On April 21, 2019, the present Head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka uttered the same words after the tear jerking happening that day.

These words and happenings were the precursors of a memorable Vesak on May 19, 2019, when people of different races and faiths joined hands to make the words of our celestial teachers encompass our land with love, understanding, amity, tolerance and empathy.

I am not competent to delve into the essence of the Buddha’s teachings but we know that Jesus and the Buddha strove in their own way to heal the world. In our own little land, the Buddha’s teachings have made many a mortal to think and meditate.

A Japanese delegation comprising academicians on twelve facilities was on a three month study tour in Sri Lanka. They had been stopped at Avissawella on the night of Vesak and to their surprise served with sweetmeats, soft drinks and coffee. Payment? No they had said this was in commemoration of the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of the Buddha.

The visitors said “Has there been any monarch in the world who bequeathed to their citizens water in the form of large water bodies for them to irrigate, bathe and drink. The water tanks set near Buddhist temples blend with nature. Where has a king decreed that all his subjects who pass the tomb of his opponent - slain in battle - should alight from their horses or chariots as a gesture of honour?” They had all bowed their heads and said “Nowhere, only in your country.”

This group had been told about the sad event that happened at Kalawewa. When they visited the site, they had removed their headgear, taken water from Kalawewa and said, “This water is more precious than the exquisite gems of your land. We will come for the rubies and blue sapphires next time. Your kings have given you a living civilization – water. They did all this because they wanted to follow the teachings of the Buddha”. Then they had said. “The Buddha has a soft corner for your people and your country.” What beautiful words from those of another country.

Where else in the world are nativity cribs placed at junctions illuminated by a power source from a Buddhist home. At times from a Buddhist temple nearby.

Here we see ice-cream and refreshments served by Buddhists, during church festivals. Ours is a country where Catholic youth join hands with their Buddhist counterparts in organizing dansalas during Vesak and Poson. Bhakthi Gee is sung by the youth.

The chariot starts from the church premises. Can one name any country where biriyani packets are presented to those walking in a church procession? Even the blessed Prophet Mohammed must be smiling seeing the actions of his believers in this country.

I thank God for having given me the joy and honour of being a citizen of our resplendent little gem, Lanka.

“Men may come and men may go, but the little pearl of the Indian Ocean will never lose her lustre - ad-infinitum.”

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