|SOWING THE SEEDS OF THE DHAMMA |
The objective of ‘Daham Pahana’ is to ingrain the principles of the ‘Dhamma’ in all faiths
By Rebecca Fleming
At a juncture where divisions among the people are becoming impediments to unity, the first ever all-religious prayer rally to bring followers of all faiths together in a spirit of love was held recently with the blessing of leaders of all religions.
A timely effort by ‘Daham Pahana’ , an organization that aims to promote righteousness and peace in Sri Lanka through the medium of music has already touched many hearts irrespective of their race, caste or creed. Led by a layman, Anton Charles Thomas, everybody calls ‘Brother Charles’, the movement was founded 16 years ago. Today, it is a multi-religious organization which has its group comprising Sri Lankan expatriates from around the world including; England, Italy, Israel, Dubai and The Netherlands. Over the years the movement has conducted its services both in the southern and the northern regions of the country in churches, temples, seminaries, rehabilitations centres, prisons and among youth groups.
The packed audience at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on the evening of Sunday, August 31, included a large number of Venerable Buddhist prelates, Catholic Bishops, hundred of priests and nuns, Bikkhunis and religious leaders of Islam, the Hindu faith, intellectuals, politicians and over two thousands of people representing different faiths.
Among the Buddhist monks who had joined Daham Pahana movement were Ven. Vitiyala Kavidhaja Thera, Ven. Weligama Dhammessara Thera, Ven. Madampegama Assaji Thera, Ven. Vijitha Thera while the Christians were represented by Catholic Bishops, Rt. Rev. Norbert Andradi, the Bishop of Anuradhapura diocese, Rt. Rev. Vinstant Fernando, Bishop of Badulla diocese, the Rt. Rev. Frank Marcus Fernando, Former Bishop of Chilaw diocese and a large number of priests and a number of Islam and Hindu religious leaders including Rev. Alhaj Niyaz Maulavi representing the Islam and Rev. Mohan Sharma Saami representing the Hindu .
The message of the inter-religious rally was a plea to each and every one to return to their original religions and to search its spirituality and instil unity, love and compassion among the people of this country.
Ven. Vitiyala Kavidhaja Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Paramadharmodhaya Temple in Wellampitiya, who is also well-known for his ‘Mapiya Doodaru Senehasa’ programme conducted in schools to develop a better parent- children relationship said that the love and ‘Maithree’ is the core of every religion and all faiths must join around this and unite themselves. “When the Lord Buddha preached that all creatures be blessed and free from sorrow, he referred to all beings without bias,” the Ven. Monk said.
Well known songs about Buddhism, peace and the beauty of our island nation were sung by popular singers along with the thirty member orchestra led by musician Mahinda Bandara. The rally which was a giant step in bringing people of different faiths together, bridging their differences through the universal language of ‘Music’ assisted by the use of latest technology in an audio-visual medium has never been used at a religious rally in Sri Lanka so far.
The prayers were through songs like ‘Surakinna Barai Sambudu Sasane…” a song that tells about Buddhism and its teaching of ‘Maithree’ ( love) sung by Muslim singer, Ishak Mohideen Baig was analysed by Brother Charles describing its deep spiritual meaning. “Buddhism in this country has taught its followers unity, love and coexistence and that it why with 68% of Buddhists in this country live peacefully with other religions and that Sri Lanka has become a haven for multi-religious coexistence. As a Catholic I must be grateful to all Buddhists in this country because they have created an environment for such co-existence .They have given the message enabling the nation to reach forward towards peace which can only be restored by returning to the teachings of each religion.”
“The message of this effort is that compassion and charity for all is the essence of every religion. The only hope we can have for peace is through the lights of religions we all believe and the effort initiated by Daham Pahana to empower the spirituality of every religion is only way to win everlasting peace and a righteous society,” Professor Carlo Fonseka, a leading member of the organization said.
“We are a blessed nation as we have got the opportunity of having people following the world’s major religions preached by Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed and the teaching of Hinduism is followed,” former Bishop of Chilaw, Rt. Rev. Frank Marcus the Spiritual Director to Daham Pahana appointed by the Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka said.
Towards this objective, the Sri Lankan branch of Mahathma Gandhi Centre (MGC) too has joined with ‘Daham Pahana’ and a group of them too joined the event. “Today the country has failed to use its ethnic diversion for its betterment and instead it is being led to ethnic polarization. We are pleased to be associated with this movement,” a MGC representative said. With this beginning, all religious leaders vowed that they would illuminate peoples’ hearts and lead them towards a spiritually empowered nation and compel the leaders in the country to participate in this movement to achieve this goal.