Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Leave the past where it belongs – in the past!

By Ven. Dr. Walpola Piyananda, Chief Nayake Thera of America

Let us face life – realistically. The only way there will ever be peace in Sri Lanka is if all political factions accept the reality of living in the present. Here in the present, where life really takes place, we all have the opportunity of creating a better future based on our ability to let go of the past.

Yes, in the past wrongs have been committed—the wrongs committed by the LTTE and the wrongs committed by some of the Sinhalese. But let us learn from these errors in action. These misdeeds are a part of our history. We cannot undo them, even though some scholars try their best to re-write history; but we can pay attention to it and learn its lessons. The study of science teaches us that everything changes moment by moment – nothing ever stays the same. This is the Buddha’s primary teaching of Impermanence. Since nothing is permanent – why do we hold on to the past? Holding on to the past especially the unpleasant becomes a distortion of the event. The memory is not real and clouds our vision so that we cannot see the possibilities that exist today for peace.

Sri Lanka today has a great opportunity to rid the land of terrorists and make a new beginning in peace. When the north and east is free of the LTTE, we can acknowledge the wrongs of the past, make appropriate apologies, make the necessary amends, and move forward as one country.

I have already spoken about our history in previous articles. Now I will appeal to your higher natures, and express my confidence in my fellow Sri Lankans – all of us – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, and Burghers.

When you think about it, every country in the world has a troubled past; there are no exceptions. At some point, however, each and every country either has the opportunity to come to terms with the troubles of the past, through addressing the grievances of all to seek a healing by letting go of the anger and hate that revisiting past wrongs generates.

I have lived in America for thirty-three years, and during this time I have witnessed a great deal of healing, and great strides toward building unity and harmony among the diverse peoples living there. A perfect example is the African-American community. Until the early 1960’s this group was oppressed, disenfranchised, and victimized by racial prejudice. Now, this group can completely participate in mainstream America – and racial oppression is not only illegal, but these days mostly viewed as a relic from the past – an unfortunate mistake in the evolution of the U.S.

America, I’m happy to say, has moved on from its past in this regard, and a great deal of healing has taken place. The healing, of course, is not perfectly complete – not by any means – but it is farther along than it has ever been, and the process continues in a positive direction.

Sri Lanka must follow this example. We must begin to effect a healing if we are all to live together on this small island in peace. Healing begins with each and every one of us when we make the effort to let go of the anger that clouds our perception so that understanding and compassion can grow. Then we will be able to develop compassion for the other. Once we can have compassion for one another peace can begin to grow.

I make a strong appeal to the main opposition party: stop slinging mud at the government – learn to work with the government. Learn to put your priorities for the country as a whole – rather than on your party and special interests. We all want a peaceful country for our children. We must all work together to establish this.

To the Tamils around the world I say “Stop supporting the LTTE because by doing so you are killing your own people!” You may feel a strong desire for a Tamil homeland. You may strongly believe that an independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka is the answer. You give in to requests for financial donations to support this Idea. You send your money to LTTE-connected organizations thinking that you are helping to build a new country for your people.

Please understand that every dollar that gets into the hands of the LTTE is a dollar spent on death. Death for Tamils, death for Sinhalese, death for peace.

In closing, I would like to remind you about the story of Aravinda Rupasinghe that appeared in the September 28, 2006 edition of the Divaina, a Sinhalese newspaper. Aravinda was a 14-year-old Sinhalese boy who woke up one day speaking fluent Tamil. He forgot his real identity and firmly believed that he was a Tamil girl who lived up north in Jaffna. That day he suddenly announced, “My father is a supporter of LTTE.”

After a few days of counseling and therapy Aravinda came to accept who he really was now, and to understand that the Tamil girl was someone whose life he had lived in a previous birth.

This story reveals how a Tamil girl who died in Jaffna was reborn as a Sinhalese boy in Katana, which is near Columbo. This story also demonstrates that we can be reborn into any religion, any race, or in any country; we are not necessarily reborn as we are in our present life. The Buddha mentioned that samsara is without discoverable beginning. It is not easy to find a being who in this long course has not previously been your mother or your father, your brother or your sister, your son or your daughter, therefore we should be compassionate toward all.

The point is, any of us, whether we are currently Sinhalese or Tamil, could easily have been – or will be in the future – born into the opposite group! So why hate and kill one another? We are all one people, one country, and we can have one peace.


  1. what a load of bull shit...? you are a rajapksa man.dont preach mahinda chinthnaya.

  2. Its a real nonsense, we have heard this many times. Why this comes only now, where were you when innocent tamils were killed, what about the killings committed by the government, are'nt you ashmed of saying anything.

    Even if tamils do want to live in harmony and forget the past , the majority will not accept them, this is the fact and the heart beat of the sinhalese..

  3. Please say something which is realistic.

  4. WHAT A SOB ..... Your full of it.

  5. This skin head terrorist is changed now ???

  6. Anonymous (I dont even know how many of you are there),

    Killings committed by the govt? Can you give a list of the killings committed by the govt, alongside with the killings done by the LTTE? Anonymous, you are full of hatred, and this shows what a fool you are - you have fallen sucker to the bull shit of the MEDIA. Only that jackass prabhakaran and the Govt. know what they are doing. Boiling within yourself is a waste of energy.....
    P.S.: Are all tamils this idiotic?

  7. Idiots,
    Look at thi link.. http://www.spur.asn.au/LTTE_Atrocities_on_Tamils_from_May_2002_to_September_2003.htm

  8. I am quite dismayed at the negative comments mentioned below.
    Whatever party afflications of the person who wrote the article points raised are very valid. I only hope more of such voices can be heard in Sri Lanka.

    Need of the hour not to repeat the past glories but to look at the current problems with an impartial, open mind and begin the slow process of correcting them.
    What a pity. Even after years of suffering, people, especially those in power to influence public opinon, have learnt the way forward.

  9. Beautiful one.
    I'm so glad to hear such compassionate words. Yes it's very true, we are prejudiced by the past. We are holding on to it and trying to take revenge on the people that created the wounds in the past, without looking into ways of making the wound heal.

    Whoever wrote the previous comments didn't really grasp anything of what was said in the post, yet again because he/she is harbouring so much anger.

  10. Ven. Piyananda's article definitely opens our closed minds.It expresses clearly the Buddhist outlook,Hatred never ceases through hatred.I believe from the comments of the people,they are personal attacks on the writer.These attackers carry within their burning vengeance,the desire to make Sri Lanka a LTTE killing field.

  11. I wish to state that we are all God's children.When the writer said our children,he meant all children in a collective way.How stupid of anonymous to ask how many kids the writer has!Brush up your English language skills.

  12. Nabdeen Sudarshan AthukoraleJanuary 9, 2008 at 4:56 AM

    You say forget the past and start new.. but after getting rid of the LTTE. What hippocrisy yar. If you say forget the past keep LTTE where it is now. Keep MR where he is now and start the talks. You want to kill VP and then apply Buddhist philosophy. Does Buddhism teach you to kill? Does Hinduism teach you to kill? does christianity teach you to kill? If you are a true Buddhist u would disrobe your garments and write this article. I challenge you. You prais the US so much.. tell me which yellow robed monk thinks like you.. none. They are all racial minded monks. Look at the parliment .. why cant you use your influence and change MR and his cronies. why cant you change the monks in the parliment. Nobody should kill...The tamils have the right to involve in a struggle for their freedom but not armed struggle. The sinhalese too have the right if needed. We all need to struggle at some point so that we will live in harmony. But not thru weapons like Mr. MR, Mr. VP and Mr. JVP. I hope I threw some insights into your knowledge of buddhism. Please do some introspection. You will find exactly what the Lord Buddha said. None of you people talk buddhism. Buddhism comes to life when politics is taken away from it, buddhism comes to life when racialism is taken away. I ask the the venerable monk to think on these lines. Who knows nirvana may be at the end of the tunnel. God bless

  13. I was beginning to understand your point, then you are saying "get rid of LTTE" - I am not a supporter of LTTE (in fact I hate them & your goverment also same as LTTE). If you realy belive in a religion, then you will say "forget about the past" and "find a peaceful solution", but insted you are indirectly saying "support the goverment to get rid of LTEE". You are a disgrace to any religion. This sort of full of stupid people likes you have brought war and innocent singalese and tamil village boys & girls are getting killed.

  14. Ven. Piyananda, I thank you for your insightful comments about "leaving the past behind." You are one of the true voices for peace in our country. Violence begets violence, and you have made that point very clear.

    Both sides must move forward into a new era of peace and reconciliation. The LTTE had its chance to demonstrate its willingness to be a part of this process, but it ignored the peace initiative and stayed on its course of killing, divisiveness, and destruction. The government is left no choice but to remove the LTTE by any means it can.

    Please continue to guide us, the president, the government, and the tamil diaspora towards recognition of the fact that there is only ONE Sri Lanka - and One peace.

  15. I gree with the writer. We need to wake-up at some point. What has happend to Sri Lanka because of utter ignorance of all sides is enough evidets for us to think differently at least at this point, after all the distruction. All of you have written here with hate may type of people who are preventing the this beautiful country from having peace and harmony. Please everyone, think globaly. As the writer says, " We are all one people, one country, and we can have one peace."


  16. I too, am an immigrant from Sri Lanka and have lived in America, even longer than the venerable monk, and can assure the monk that the great strides made in America were exclusively because of great leaders like John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and alike – leaders with vision and more importantly, courage, to do the "right thing" by all of America's communities, and not just the White majority. Does the monk honestly believe that the Sri Lankan nation has ever had a single Sinhalese leader with the courage to stand by the minorities and do the "right thing", i.e. the "Buddhist thing" by them? - the likes of a Kennedy, Johnson or a Reagan? or a Clinton or an Obama?

    The author says, "When the north and east is free of the LTTE, we can acknowledge the wrongs of the past, make appropriate apologies, make the necessary amends, and move forward as one country." On the other hand, he says, the present is the only reality and we must always act in the space of this reality. If indeed the Buddhist reality is the "present", I ask, "why wait" till "when" the north and the east are rid of the LTTE to acknowledge the wrongs of the past? Did Buddha ever preach to "wait" to perform the right deeds. Why wait on the apologies? Why wait to make the amends? Why not apologize to the Tamils now for the legalized atrocities committed against them decades prior to the emergence of the LTTE? Why not do all of these right now? Why the duplicity, the delay and the hypocrisy? It just may be that the monk deep down hopes that the destruction of the LTTE will yield the space essential to continue with the hegemonic agenda of the Sinhalese-Buddhists - that the island is the exclusive habitat of the Sinhalese race and its powerful Buddhist clergy, and the rest of us including Tamils are mere second-class tourists.

    Of course, the monk wants us Tamils to live in harmony with the Sinhalese and Muslims, only as long as we are subservient and our rights are perpetually under the purview of the Sinhalese majority. Having lived in the US for over 33 years he should be reminded that subjugation of minorities by a majority is an ancient social abhorrence no longer tolerated in any civilized secular democracy. Nor are the Tamils any longer willing to live as second-class citizens bowing down to the Sinhalese or for anyone else.

    In astutely preserving his preservation the monk appeals to Tamils to refrain from funding the LTTE and also pleas the UNP to support the Rajapaksa administration in the latter's military incursion to crush the Tigers. As the Rajapaksas and the rest of the Sinhalese gang he seems to naively believe that destroying the Tigers will bring about peace to the nation. Similar to the case in the US in the 60's prior to the Voting Rights Act, irrespective of the LTTE, be assured that there will never be any peace on the island, as long as minorities are not accorded the identical privileges and rights accorded the majority, buttressed by an egalitarian new constitution that guarantees these rights.

    At his capacity as an adviser to the President, perhaps the monk can make a great contribution towards this end by advising the Sri Lankan government, to eliminate the lopsided constitutional protection bestowed to Buddhism in the Lankan Constitution. A correction in this regard would level the field on equitable constitutional protection for all great religions of the world - and not just Buddhism. It is this kind of corrective measures by the nation's Buddhist clergy that would make us Tamils feel that you are a genuine advocate of Buddha's dhamma (teachings) that "all men are created equal", a principle also enshrined in our commonly beloved US Constitution.

    In closing, as a spiritual leader it may be beneficial for you to ponder whether Sri Lanka as a nation could ever forge forward when sizable section of its society, the minorities, feel marginalized and unhappy? As you have alluded, as with America, many nations have blundered but they have self corrected. To heal, Sri Lanka must do the same. That means, could the Sinhalese leaders and you in particular, the powerful Buddhist clergy (the Sangha), garner the wisdom and the courage to abandon your misguided notion that "Sri Lanka is exclusively a Sinhalese-Buddhist state" and free yourself from the shackles of the past to become a modern nation? The capacity to do just this, by you and your leaders is at the heart of the national challenge. In delivering your own bana (sermon), in case you are not aware, this is exactly what the great American leaders, Kennedys, Johnsons, and the Reagans did: they were wise men who recognized, acknowledged and corrected the errors of the past to forge the greatest nation mankind has ever known. It is highly unlikely a Sinhalese leader with similar wisdom and courage will ever emerge.

  17. The venerable submits a persuasive case for mututal self examination and correction of past anomolies to build a peaceful and prosperous society.

    As the venerable has correctly stated, it is imperative that all of us who love our nation approach the national challenge primarily from that deepest place within us - compassion. There has been enough letting of blood, carnage, suffering and enough tears to overflow the oceans. Enough is enough - and it is time, as the venerable says, to view this humanistically and discover intelligent long term solutions. So, let's get on with the discovery of solutions - with love and respect for one-another.

  18. The innocent Tamil have no reason to forget their past, because this past is a time where they lived harmoniously with other communities. As far as I understand, this venerable Monk tries to open the eyes of blind people, no matter the ethnicity or religion. He has the courage to open his heart for every person in Sri Lanka disregarding cast, class, creed, or ethnical difference of people. Attacking him means, following the misleading path, namely the LTTE.

    This clearly indicates what the LTTE exactly needs, not a separate state for Tamils but a territory for missionaries who preach Tamils to live separate from Buddhists and Muslims. Such extremists may have only a past to repent but not a future to share the brother-hood with the other peace loving communities.

  19. I do respect the freedom of expression but I cannot feel free to respect the filthiness of indecency. Can we expect a better expression from a pro LTTE person? History will teach a lesson to anyone who deviates from the moral and ethical path. A cyanide capsule could be the best medicine for the bloodthirsty leader but not for millions of peace loving Tamils in Sri Lanka. Anybody, who does not respect the dreamlike wish of the peace loving Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim people in Sri Lanka, can taste the same cyanide capsule!

  20. Speaking of peace in Srilanka is the last thing which you can expect at this stage. The stage of all polititians are filling their pockets with the war on terror excuse put forward...I suggest now after coming to this end there should be an end to it. Either side should get defeated to find an end to the human sufferings irrespective of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers...Pray god to give both the Government and LTTE muts some sense to their mud stacked brains...

  21. The point that the Venerable Piyananda is trying to make is a valid one and is deserving of the consideration of those of us who wish to find a way out of this unbearable tragedy affecting our Motherland.Let us not kill the messenger.Is it not the the truth that dwelling on the past with each side blaming the other will never solve our problems.Neither side will ever agree that they are solely the cause of the conflict.If we embark on a quest to find out who and which side is to be blamed entirely, I have no doubt that we will spend another lifetime and a half without reaching a single agreement.if as the writer suggest ,we make a resolution to put the past to a side,having learnt from it the valuable lessons and primarily the lesson that we cannot live in peace whilst isolating and ignoring the rights and aspirations of the other peoples amidsts us,then and only then can we make any progress at all.Otherwise we will be stuck in this cesspool of communal disharmony with no end in sight.Just imagine what a wonderful place Sri Lanka would have been but for the communal violence that has been thrust upon a peceloving people save for a handful of selfish politicians.The Venerable Piyananda and likeminded people on all sides must be commended and encouraged to write and instil in us ways and means to broker sustainable peace.The alternative that is to instill more hatred and ill will is not only undesirable but patently vicious and dangerous. Peace begins in the hearts of men and women of goodwill.It is an intellectual experience.When a truth is presented,the least we can do is to consider iton it's merits.So please consider it with sincerity in your heart and respond in a positive and constructive way.To demolish it takes but a moment but to build it may take a lifetime.We need builders now not demolishers.The analogy drawn to leaders with vision in USA is useful but is not exclusive.Australia ,UK,New Zealand France etc.,have all produced such leaders.Did they not learn the hard way throuh death and destruction of gigantic proportion during two wars that communal harmony and peace is not a commodity that can be traded but an ideal that must be protected and preserved at any cost.It is not the property of either the majority or the minority but the very life breath of any nation.Without it everything is lost. Chris.Oz