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A Collective Effort

Lakmal Welabada


“All threesome - parents, ‘Maha Sangha’ (Buddhist priests) and the Government should get together to change the society to a better place for the future generation,” believes Thirikunamale Ananda Thero, Anunayaka of Amarapura Sri Dharmarakshitha Chapter and resident of Siri Vagiranana Dharmayathanaya, Maharagama.

“Parents are quite keen to send their children to Sunday School, as they have realised it’s a must when bringing up a child in a corrupted society. Directing a child towards the Dhamma is the only way,” says Ananda Thero. “And some parents expect it’s the duty of only the Daham Pasala and the Bhikkus. But, that’s wrong.

The basic as well as the paramount duty of this lie with the parents of the child. This is because, a child who study Dhamma for about two or three hours on a Sunday would go back to the same environment he comes from, and would spend the rest of the days in it. If that atmosphere is not right for the child’s growth, how can only Daham Pasala take the responsibility?

Parents should always be vigilant and create a healthy, graceful environment for a child to grow up in,” points out Thero.

“In ‘Sahbrahma Sutta’, the Buddha has preached that the home should be like a shrine or a heaven, which would provoke the child to treat his/her parents as if they belong to a ‘Sahbrahma Kulaya’ (supreme state of gods and goddesses) or ‘Sapubba Deva’ (gods and goddesses) or ‘Sapubbachariyaka Kulaya’ (great teachers) or ‘Saahuneyya Kulaya’ (esteemed opinion leaders of the society). All these levels are venerated by the general public.

Hence, the parents should lead a graceful life with self discipline following at least the Five Precepts (Pansil) so that their children can revere them with great devotion and faith as if they worship a god and a goddess,” says Thero.

Ananda Thero further says that we should not just be Buddhists by Birth, but should practise the precepts wholeheartedly. “Until recently, modern science has believed that a child starts to learn after he or she is born.

But, the Buddha more than 2500 years ago has preached that teaching a child should be started while he/she is in the mother’s womb. Dhamma caters not only for the extreme bliss of Nibbhana, but also to lead a good tranquil lay life. ‘Angulimala Piritha’ is one example we can give that has been recited for protection and safe delivery of babies.`

A country cannot flourish and prosper; without disciplining the man,’ was the motto of late Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Thero. So, it’s clear that disciplining a child should start from the time it is a fetus,” points out Thero.

Thero further denotes that Daham Pasal education should also change its educational methods and practical techniques accordingly to the time of era. “World keeps on changing, and our younger generation also gets entangled in the global transformation. We have to understand this, and be able to guide our children appropriately,” says Thero.

Q: What have, Siri Vagiranana Dharmayathanaya been doing in this regard?

A: Dharmayathanaya was founded by late Madihe Pannasihe Thero in 1958. Ampitiye Rahula Thero pioneered the Daham Pasala in 1971. At present there are nearly 7000 students studying in the Dhamma School. Dharmayathanaya has been rendering a great service by running 14 branches island wide.

We have in-house programs and co-operating societies that look into the social, religious and cultural well being of the society, including Dharma Vijaya Foundation, Janavijaya Foundation, Three Sil campaigns (for children, youth and elders) affiliated with Sasana Sevaka Samithiya, Daham Pasala (Sunday School) and Thurunu Saviya (local Scouting and Guiding campaign operated along with social work).

We are trying to work in this well knitted network and do our best to promote the Buddhist education while seeing into the welfare of children and young Bhikkus especially in the poverty stricken areas of the country.

Q: What is the duty of the State in this regard?

A: State is one of the forerunners in this. Without imposing law and order, we cannot expect a country to be well disciplined. Even when the Buddha was alive, the kings of that era practised law and order of the state.

Q: We have heard that the Mahanayaka Thero of the Three Chapters are hoping to forward a especial proposal to the State of Government along with the ‘Buddha Jayanthiya of 2600’.

A: Yes. Twenty suggestions will be brought to the limelight along with the Commemoration of the 2600th Anniversary of the Buddha’s Enlightenment that falls on the year 2011. It was said that the people of Sri Lanka got ready for the `Buddha Jayanthi - 1956’ since 1945.

The Police reports also showed how crimes had been lessened in the country during this period of ten years. So, we should try to recreate the same situation once again by re-organising and revitalising our spiritual lives.

Ananda Thero gives a brief account of the proposals. The education of the Bhikkus and the temples with few privileges are expected to be developed. Every home is expected to follow the Five Precepts. Every Full Moon Poya Day should be reserved for religious ceremonies including Sil campaigns unifying the temple and the people of the area under the patronage of the Pradeshiya Sabha.

On Full Moon Poya Days, both the government and private Institutions should not go for non-religious ceremonies, and none of the tutory classes should be held.

Children and youth should be provided a good, religious and disciplined atmosphere throughout by making Daham Pasal education and practice of Buddhist rituals in schools compulsory. All types of religious conversions and activities which are against Buddhism and Buddhist culture should be curtailed.

A process should be launched to acclaim the ‘2600th Buddha Jayanthi’ with the International Buddhists at Buddhagaya premises in India. These are some of the things in the list of the proposal which will be forwarded to implement a better tomorrow for the younger generation,” says Thero.