| by Thrishantha Nanayakkara
( April 13, 2012, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The culture around the Sinhala-Hindu new year is so profound that it reaches out to all stake-holders in the society imaginable. Among many features like traditional food, visiting relatives, etc, I have special respect for the sporty sub-culture. Traditional games like walking to win without dropping a lemon held by a spoon stuck in the mouth, threading a needle, pillow fight on a pole, eating buns hung from a thread without holding them etc, test one’s ability to concentrate, maintain inner calmness, and be aware of one’s body mind, and the environment while being competitive. Since self discipline, concentration, and wisdom are the three major groups in the eightfold path of Buddhist practice, it is quite evident that those ancient wise leaders who introduced well thought out traditions to Sri Lankan culture gently integrated good religious practice to the major cultural events that reached out to people of all walks of life. Traditional sports are so simple that one’s financial situation never becomes a barrier to join the community to enjoy, renew old relationships, reconcile differences, and to stay cheerful and healthy during the festive season. This practice, perhaps groomed great men and women who processed the amazing level of concentration and wisdom to design and build Sigiriya, Yoda Ela, Ruwanmaliseya, and so many other wonders Sri Lankans are proud of. This culture no doubt played a pivotal role to train leaders who respected the rule of law, knew how to fight an ethical war with focus on the goal but no hatred in mind, and be innovative without blindly following predecessors.
|Pedestrians and bystanders are seen at an intersection following a tsunami warning across the island, in Galle on April 11, 2012 – Image Source: Getty Image|
This new year maybe a good opportunity for us to think where we lost track. Did we, at some point mistakenly elect leaders who pretended to know the “scent of the villagers’ when in fact they were master manipulators of the weaknesses or soft points of the modern mentality of villagers? Did we ourselves lose touch with the deeper meaning of cultural events like the Sinhala-Hindu new year due to blind faith in the word “modern” that made us vulnerable to leaders who would mesmerize us with empty but “modern” things to stay in power? Did we under-estimate the simple sports that helped to test our moral values before being humiliated in international forums like UNHRC? Did the Nation that once played a key role in international trade with the West and the East along the Silk route forget the importance of honesty and accountability to maintain relationships?
Let us think before blindly wishing somebody a new year with an abundance of “rice and betel” (“batha-bulathin piri”) even if the other does not chew betel, for this new year is too profound to be blindly followed. Let us start to practice it. Wife, get the needle and ask the husband to thread it. If there are no competitors around in your apartment complex, do it several times and ask the kids to time it to see if you guys improve. Get the kids to walk without dropping the lemon from the spoon stuck in the mouth. You can join too. Eating buns hanging from a thread maybe fun too. If there is no monastery around, you only need a place to sit to meditate for a while as a family to practice the religious part. Hindus and Catholics can do the prayers from anywhere too, if you do not find a Kovil or a Church around. Let us practice it and be skimmed in the deep meaning of this great tradition hoping one day our kids may revive the lost civilization.