BUDDHA JAYANTHI

The Buddhist Council is being inaugurated to commemorate in a fitting manner the Buddha Jayanthi. This great historic event is not only of intensely religious importance to the preponderant majority of the people of Ceylon but also of special national significance to all of us who proudly claim Sri Lanka as our Island Home. It has been taught with profound truth that to dwell in a pleasant land is one of the greatest blessings which a human being can be heir to. Therefore does it behove us, who live in this pleasant land of Ceylon and who feel, “this is my own, my native land,” to be alive to the heritage of our nation and to the history of our land which are so inextricably interwoven with the Teachings of Lord Buddha.

The celebrations that are being planned will indeed help us, particularly those of us who do not belong to the Buddhist Faith, remember vividly that the art and architecture of Ceylon, her learning and literature, her status and stature in the Comity of Nations and her position of prestige and privilege in South and South East Asia cannot be dissociated from the Life and Teaching of Lord Buddha. These have also largely encouraged the intercommunal amity and harmony that prevails in our land of which all of us should feel justly proud. The spirit of tolerance and kindliness that characterises the Teachings of Lord Buddha was truly responsible for the warm welcome that was accorded to the early Muslim settlers and for the freedom of worship which they enjoyed in Ceylon. Because of this welcome and because of this freedom, they and their descendants were able to make substantial contributions to the wealth and welfare of Ceylon. It is my proud privilege to be able to refer to this chapter of Ceylon’s history on this occasion.

I am however not competent to deal with the exact religious meaning which the Buddha Jayanthi has to a Buddhist. But I can truly say that in the context of current affairs any efforts that help towards the spiritual reawakening of a section of our country, whether large or small, would invariably promote the regeneration of the country as a whole. For while in previous ages and in preceding years. State and Society were confronted with the conflicts between one set of spiritual values and another set of spiritual values, we today witness the sorry spectacle of the acrimonious conflict between spirituality and materialism, the latter emphatically denying and aggressively repudiating all values spiritual.

Thus has it become necessary on the part of the State to pay due consideration to the importance of religion in building the new Society based on liberty, equality and fraternity where the lives of the people will be regulated by spiritual values and moral principles which Religion alone can effectively provide. Fortunately for us in Ceylon, State neutrality in religion since the passing of the Education Ordinance of 1947, has meant the equal encouragement of all religions. Where the Government made no provision for the teaching of any religion in its schools as part of the school curriculum before 1947, it is now committed to making equal provision for all religions. Thus the earlier belief that State neutrality in religion connotes equal indifference to all religions has no current validity.

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan has recently reminded his European audience that there will be no peace within or without unless man heals the discord between his mind and his spirit; Religion alone can be the healer of this discord. Buddha Jayanti will remind both Buddhists and non Buddhists alike of the inescapable questions to which every one of us sooner or later will have to find satisfactory answers – “What art thou in thyself and from whence hast thou come? Whither art thou going and for what purpose hast thou come to tarry here a while and in what does thy real happiness and misery consist?” The answers will no doubt convince us that Power without Vision, Science without Religion, and Politics without Morality would lead Humanity to a sure perdition, both in the Here and Hereafter.

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