Talking pictures | Sunday Observer

Talking pictures

14 May, 2023

Pre-made plastic Vesak lanterns adorned with multiple colours and decorations were on display at shops like hot-cakes.

Most parents were seen buying plastic lanterns for their tiny-tots to celebrate Vesak. But on the same day, the village folks lit up the starry night with their own hand - made Vesak lanterns and Vesak buckets.

Their lanterns were in various shapes such as octagon- shaped, lotus-shaped and star-shaped and were lit up with candles. All the family members in co-operation with one another, cutting the paper delicately and splitting the bamboo sticks patiently, made Vesak lanterns.

Their lanterns were short-lived and started burning to ashes as the full moon hid behind the dark clouds. Upon seeing the burning lanterns, little ones learned a lesson about impermanence.

Showing the burning Vesak buckets to children, their parents let them realize the vanity of human wishes. Therefore, on seeing the burnt out ashes of their lanterns, children did not shed even a tear drop. This understanding is the path to the spiritual goal to attain Enlightenment. We should celebrate Vesak unlike Halloween with the right understanding of the essence of Vesak. Vesak marks the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of the Buddha. It is undoubtedly important for all of us. On one hand, it is a golden opportunity for us to fill our lives with good qualities and virtues. On Vesak Full Moon Poya day we feel the importance of Sila, Samadhi and Panna. The first priority is given to our spiritual goals. Hence, we contribute to meritorious activities and try to eliminate sinful thoughts as much as possible. In addition to aforementioned facts, Vesak strengthens and widens our family ties.

For example, we make Vesak lanterns and organise Dansal with our friends and relatives. But at present, as a result of the commercialization and competitive environment, one can witness the deterioration of our society.

Simple life

Many years ago we had a simple and pious life style nourished with the Buddhist philosophy. Those days, unlike today, people had enough time for righteous activities. They used to get advice from Buddhist monks before initiating important things in their lives. This is why they were able to overcome their problems successfully. The Buddhist monks rendered a commendable service for the village by guiding people on the right path.

Another significant fact was that people had a great understanding about impermanence. They remained unshaken whatever happened in their lives and never took hasty decisions. They always sought answers and solutions, not from bullets but from Buddhism.

Today people have failed to realize the vanity of things. This is why there have emerged controversial issues in our lives. We cannot underestimate the service provided by Pirivens. Pirivenas had undertaken an onerous task of shaping people’s lives in a better manner.

Pirivenas offer a wide range of subjects such as languages, mathematics, science and so on. Significantly, not only could people gain a profound knowledge of various subjects but also could enrich their lives with good qualities such as equanimity, compassion, kindness, generosity, discipline and mindfulness.

Indeed, there is no doubt that there was a better education system blended with Buddhist philosophy. Our pirivena system produced right-thinking citizens with wisdom for the country. The most appropriate example for one of such piriven products was Siribaddana who built the Ruwanweliseya. Siribaddana was one of the main engineers who contributed to the country’s development.

Today’s education system in comparison with our piriven education diminishes children’s sensitivity, creativity and sensibility gradually. Going down memory lane, we can remember how we went to school, carrying in hand a bundle of writing books tied with a bicycle tube.

Neither did we have many textbooks those days. We always walked past paddy fields but never felt tired because the wind sweetened with the aroma of flowers rekindled our hearts. At present, there are children who have not even seen paddy fields. It is because of their competitive education system.

The biggest drawback in our present education system is the competitiveness of examinations. Parents preparing kids for this relentless race do not give much thought to the improvement of their soft skills. It is no exaggeration to say that children’s school bags are heavier than their class teachers. In such a backdrop children have no time for making lanterns.

Bamboo frame lanterns

We make Vesak lanterns in cooperation with others. Therefore, it is possible to improve many qualities in our lives such as patience, tolerance, creativity, physical abilities, leadership qualities and so on. Most importantly, we can learn what impermanence is.

The right understanding of impermanence is essential for anyone to live a better social life. There can emerge conflicts and controversial issues in any society as a result of the poor understanding of life and impermanence. Without a shadow of doubt we have to admit that today’s children have been made selfish by their parents.

Vesak is an opportunity for us to rebuild our lives in a better manner. The onus is on parents and teachers to pave the way for children to thrive in society. It is important to encourage children to make Vesak lanterns without being slaves to plastic lanterns.