Caritas vs Buddhist Government

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( March 30, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the article ‘Government, NGOs, UN Resolution & propaganda’ by Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.
It is my understanding that the article is in response to Government statements about the UN Resolution. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera states in this regard ‘In a news item telecast over ITN at 9.30 pm on 23rd March 2012, Hon Maithripala Sirisena, Minister of Health accused Caritas SEDEC Sri Lanka as an NGO of being responsible for instigating farmers to protest. He also claimed that Caritas SEDEC Sri Lanka had a presence in Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council had its 19th Sessions recently.’
Our expressions are usually the net sum of our memories. As per the above, the Minister connects the UN Resolution to Caritas – a resident of Geneva – to the farmers’ protest. Most of us connect the presence at the place of birth of an outcome, of a person who stands to benefit from a particular outcome, to the ‘cause’ of that outcome. Caritas being present in Geneva would therefore understandably be connected by most surface readers to the Geneva outcome. It is the law of majority and it works for that place at that point in time. Without deeper feelings of ownership, it cannot be sustained beyond that environment in a different environment.
The Government itself tried to influence such surface outcomes in Geneva. The defeat it received is temporary to that extent. But instead, if they make out that their work was based on deep investment in Human Rights, then they are likely to import the defeat into Sri Lanka and give their work the face of already existing opposition/enemy. The Sri Lankan Government that kept the outside world away when it dealt with its opposition/enemy, would be immune to the judgments of those outsiders if its actions were driven by inner belief. The fact that the Government is showing signs of being adversely affected confirms that they abused the privilege of ‘Sovereign Rights’ to derive quick outcomes that suited them. They are now exposing that they lied back then when they claimed the right of Sovereign status. It was an apparent status and not real.
Rev Dr. Harold Anthony Perera says ‘Apart from the fact that Caritas SEDEC Sri Lanka is not an NGO, we are especially saddened by the fact that the Hon Minister has chosen to level such accusations at a faith-based institution with a history of over 40 years, having rendered yeoman service to the people of this country without any considerations of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.’
All non-profit institutions are faith based. If it were true that Caritas was faith-based at most times, I would not have experienced fear / anxiety when I was sent to Caritas here in Australia, by the Courts for treatment of alleged mental illness. I do believe in Christ and Our Lady and if Caritas was a true Christian, I would have prayed to Christ and/or Our Lady when I felt anxiety there. Instead I prayed to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This morning I received an email about the realizations of a student of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, including the following message:
‘This thought had plagued me when I realized that prayer is not an act of asking God or telling God. It is silent communion with Him. When we either ask or tell God, we make the preposterous and utterly foolish assumption that we know better than Him. Swami often tells us the story of two farmers – one who prayed for rain for his crops, the other who prayed for a dry day so that his daughter’s wedding could go on uninterrupted. Whose prayers should God listen to? Should He listen to the one who cries more? Or to the one who pines more? Should He give precedence to age or should He give precedence to status and influence? Of course! He will listen to the one who loves Him truly. And who is that? Naturally, the one who has surrendered to His will. When one has surrendered to His will, is not prayer redundant? Our definition of prayer changes as we realize that the one who is always in sync with the Lord has his prayers answered for he always prays for what the Lord has already willed! This is indeed a very different way of thinking. If my prayer is answered, it is because I was in sync with God; I was in communion with Him. If my prayer has not been answered, I was not in sync with Him; I have to make efforts to be in communion with Him. It is everyone’s experience that we feel some intuitive urges. And then, these urges just manifest themselves. Let us know that these are instances when we have been in communion with Him. And when these intuitive urges have manifested for me, I have felt the thrill of experiencing Him. I see Him, hear Him and feel Him and He speaks to me! I feel the thrill because I ‘know’ His plan. And I know His plan because I have been able to be in sync with Him for those precious moments’
My response was based on my deepest experience of the arrival of the Divine within:
‘Thank you so very much Ravi. I have started today at the request of my friend Vijay Amirthalingam, the 5 day Poojah to receive Swami into our home. To me it is no coincidence that you sent me this very message with which I identify. When we are true to ourselves we would identify with God’s outcomes. It was because Kungkumum materialized on my picture of Swami (given to me by Vara Akka) that I felt comforted in my fight against the University bureaucracy. Swami confirmed to me from within that I was acting per the path of my Truth. That’s how I started believing that Swami is God. The student who wrote the message above is also identifying with that. With that kind of belief every problem is an opportunity. Without that we are limiting ourselves to our small thoughts in a big world. According to the Poojah – Swami would come into our home today to the extent we prepare to receive Him. I prepared – more mentally – keeping my home more in order than usual. I left the front door and our courtyard door open as part of the Poojah ritual. . In came our neighbor with good news regarding our vote. He showed much respect and kept thanking us for our cooperation. Then I received email from my dear friend Yasmin who makes me feel I am in communication with the whole of Air Lanka. Then I got your mail confirming my feelings with all these folks. Thanks Ravi. Swami has reinforced His presence in my home through all of you.’
When the doctor at Caritas threatened me with enforced medication, I panicked and prayed to Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba – the majority Form I had given God in that issue up to that point in time. Had the doctor treating me been a true Catholic, he would have identified with the Christ in me and hence would not have caused me anxiety. Then the Form of God receiving my ‘thank you’ would certainly have been Jesus Christ and Our Lady first. That is my discovery of how the system of faith works. It’s for this reason that when I was / am searched by armed officers in Sri Lanka, I consciously pray to God through the form of Lord Buddha. This is the value from being Universal. Faith is One – Forms differ as per the needs of the environment. It matters not to the True God, what form we pray in. True God answers through any form.
Similarly to one who stays within her/his Truth it matters not whether the cause of the pain is called ‘racial discrimination’ or war crimes in the case of the Sri Lankan Government and Criminal Trespass in the case of the University of NSW. Every person giving their own form would be right provided they believed through that form. The essential criterion is belief.
Later when I went back to prison after the Caritas experience, I realized the real reason why? The following day which was Mother’s day 2005, I shared the prison cell with Florence who read the Bible every day. Florence confirmed that she was enforced with medication while in prison and this helped me get myself released from prison and help Florence release herself from prison. Until that experience, Florence was refused approval by the authorities to come out of prison, even though she had been there for many years for what seems like a trivial reason – such as attacking the Police who gave her orders to get rid of her poultry. Florence identified with me and hence was able to naturally follow in my path. My husband and I picked her up from prison and kept her with us before she joined her daughter. I was able to provide this service to a fellow Australian, because of our common faith in Our Lady which did not happen with the Caritas doctors nor with the University of New South Wales.
Rev Dr. Harold Anthony Perera states ‘The records will show that our commitment to serve the people of Sri Lanka received the recognition of the highest authorities in the land. Worthy of special mention is the Presidential Award bestowed on Caritas SEDEC Sri Lanka in 2005 for the construction of a record 10,713 permanent houses and 12,616 temporary shelters for tsunami affected families, 34,163 tsunami affected farmers and 26,967 fishermen were directly assisted for their livelihood and 46,984 persons in self employment ventures.’
I was also in Batticaloa to help the People of Batticaloa recover and reconstruct themselves after the Tsunami tragedy. No I did not get any Presidential Award for my services. But two outcomes that ‘happened’ when I was involved in that Service confirmed to me that I was blessed by the Lord – in this instance in the form of Lord Muruga of Kathirgamam. Below is an excerpt from my book ‘Who am I?’ that gives some background to my presentation:
‘I bowed to the Judge’s chair. I touch the foot of my great-grandfather A.M.Pillai Thatha’s Chair at cousin Ravi’s home here in Sydney. That Chair is almost two hundred years old. Such expressions of worship and prayers help me focus within me. Hindu legends speak of god ‘appearing’ to the devotee. I said prior to my UNSW experiences, that we must have sinned more than our ancestors for god to not appear now in this Kali yuga (era). It was my way of saying that I did not –disbelieve nor believe that god appeared but that it was said to help others ‘see’ someone’s merit. Now, after my UNSW experiences, I believe that god does come but only sometimes in direct human form, to reward us in the material world. God does come when there is no one else available and when we are in genuine pain. God continuously sends signals – sometimes directly and often through people – people with whom we have reconciled; with whom we are connected through faith/trust.
Who is this God? I was born into a family that expressed belief in God – mostly in Hindu forms of God. It was therefore natural that I also went through the rituals and practices that personified this belief. When I wanted something and I prayed through those practices – for example fasting – I usually got what I wanted. I noticed that I wanted f the time I was praying to myself – to the Truth in me. This helped me raise my work to ownership level. At ownership level I did something because it was natural to me – that something is a part of me – that I did not need to ‘see’ the final outcome to feel satisfaction. Doing the work was the experience and the satisfaction. Those actions originated from my heart rather than from my body or intellect. The outcomes also went direct to the heart – the moment the work was done.
That something is me. I discovered that Body, Mind & Soul in the language of ‘work’ is ‘Money, People & Ownership’. The Seen, the Thought and the Felt. ‘Small body, big heart and great mind’ is the introduction I like best identifying with’. It came from an Australian academic. This academic said it in his natural environment but failed to uphold it at the wider/higher levels. I concluded that those wider/higher levels were not part of his natural world. Some Sinhalese in public forums (for example have declared that they find me physically unattractive. Around the same time Tamils in public forms (for example declared that I was good looking and that I was a renowned Tamil. Sinhalese went mostly by the following picture published on the net by Patrick Harrigan – an American Religious Scholar living in Sri Lanka and helping the needy: Patrick wrote to international investors in Sri Lanka ‘The Living Heritage Trust is very fortunate to have great friends and supporters, including some really talented and motivated volunteers. But among all these volunteers, one stands out from all the rest in terms of sheer drive, energy, and commitment. Gaja Lakshmi Tsunami Paramasivam, now Project Manager at our Mankerny site, despite her petite frame, packs more power than any three football players combined, and brings with her long experience working in Jaffna with the Tamil Relief Organization even before the tsunami struck. Thanks to a circle of supporters in Michigan, led by Natalie Hall, we were able to equip Gaja with a brand new notebook computer to take into the field at Mankerny, a remote coastal village north of Valaichchenai in Batticaloa district whose residents, some 400 families of indigenous Tamil speaking Veddas, nearly all lost their homes and livelihoods in the tsunami. We have selected the Mankerny Veddas as the community we hope to rebuild with your support, starting with the first indigenous style model dwelling now under construction there as part of a larger project to support, rebuild and reinvigorate indigenous Vedda communities on the east coast. Mankerny has no electricity, so it is a marvel that Gaja Lakshmi and her colleague, fellow volunteer Julia Hall of USA, have been able to accomplish so much there under primitive conditions in the refugee camp, and yet somehow continue to turn out professional reports not only about our Mankerny project but also about another project in Pala Munai (Kalladi) near Batticaloa town as well. Rather than pre-empt Gaja’s reports, we are going to attach them for you to read at your leisure. You will immediately notice the professional approach that Gaja and Julia have brought to our work in Mankerny, which hitherto had consisted of my occasional visits, including 18 annual pada yatra foot pilgrimages through Mankerny, whose poverty never prevented the Mankerny folks from feeding the multitude of pilgrims on their long trek to Kataragama. Gaja’s style also tells you something about her motivation in wishing to serve the poorest devotees of the inscrutable god of Kataragama, Lord Skanda-Murugan’
In addition to the above ‘award of honor’ through a structured path I was able to connect to the real ‘award of honor’ based on my true Service:
  •  My colleague Julia Hall and I returned to our temporary residence – a small room in the only concrete house in Mankerny at that time and we found a whole group of young workers getting ready for a big event the following morning. Our hostess said ‘Aunty they are getting ready to meet the VIP’s from your country – Australia’. Beyond that they could not give us any details. As an Australian, I felt obliged to include myself in the event through any facility available. The following morning, a large group gathered under a big tree and we sat down in a circle. I learnt that the head of the group of visitors was the Australian High Commissioner supported by one of the Second Secretaries and that the rest were from AusAid. I gave them feedback as per our own work at grass-root level. To me this was no coincidence. I was the Australian working with the people, through our Common faith and yet, I was not officially included in that team – the same way I was left out at the University of New South Wales. Yet, to the victims who needed support – I was made to be seen as being part of the Australian team – so they could work the Reconstruction system with ‘dignity’. Without me most part of the Australian Aid there would have been mere handout – breeding welfare mentality. In the UN Resolution matter, if there had been a Swiss national working with the needy as part of the needy that would have reduced the shift of blame from Tamil Diaspora to NGOs and other similar organizations such as Caritas. In real terms the blame that was allocated to Sri Lanka is for all organizations that are doing the work that the government is responsible for. Hence one could take it that the Minister is sharing the blame. Those who are already practicing the solutions, would not be upset by the blame except for statistical accuracy which is a luxury that Sri Lanka cannot afford right now.
  •  The second event confirming my eligibility during Tsunami Reconstruction work happened towards the end of my project. I had completed the project and needed the approval of the government. The Kachcheri Officers at Vaharai said that I had to go to the Ministry concerned. I caught the bus to Colombo and stayed at my aunt’s (mother of Ravi mentioned above) place which was home to me. I looked up the telephone directory and noted the telephone numbers and address of the Department of Hindu Cultural Affairs which was very close to my aunt’s home. Prior to going there I went to the Ganesh temple known as New Kathiresan temple to seek His blessings. At the temple, I learnt that it was a special day for Hindus – Maasi Maham – and was happy to be part of the special ceremonies of worship. When I came out of the temple, I felt the urge to ring my cousin who was actively involved in management of temples. Part of my tsunami submission was to repair the damage to the Ganesh temple in Mankerny. My cousin knew some folks in the Ministry and I ended up being part of the team of Hindu religious leaders who met Minister Douglas Devananda first and then President Kumaratunge. President Kumaratunge genuinely engaged with me and I was spontaneously supported by Mr. Maha Ganapathi of the Ministry, whom I met for the first time during the meeting. To the folks back in Mankerny, I was stronger part of the cause of them receiving the development funds, than any other external donor. We were connected through our faith in Lord Kathiresan in Kathirgamam.
A faith based organization needs to look beyond the surface and know how the Lord’s system of Truth works. Excessive investment in particular forms – including Buddhism for Sinhalese and Christianity for Western organizations such as Caritas, is likely to block their own path to connecting to influential persons with different faiths, including those who have genuinely invested in the secular system. Deep faith in God – through whatever form – would help us speak the language of faith of the needy and / or understand/receive the essence of the message from deep investors in a particular system. This helps us to work the system naturally from within. The ultimate reward is that identification that the need has been satisfied by our service. That identification is blissful. When we share this with others that is Divine Service.


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.