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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The mission misunderstood

Fifth death anniversary of Ven. Gangodawila Soma falls today

The mission misunderstood

Some observations:

It is human for us to be lured into the wrongful more than rightful actions. We are naturally born to see the world with a temporary vision. The Buddhist, in this backdrop, has a high-frequency trend to be foxed into a false view. Buddhism is quite flexible that can be easily and is being distorted by the anti-Buddhist camps all over the world. The techniques are quite smart to the extent that only a handful will be brave enough to expose them.

The late Venerable Gangodawila Soma belongs to that clan of monks who were adorned with the bravery to express the truth. Life is so short for men of such chivalry and it was no exception for Ven. Soma. He had to face the inevitable. He earned more wrath than bouquets from all fronts, though ironically he had a grand funeral participated by many who looked down on him.

Ven. Soma is notorious among many Buddhists to have condemned the god-worship. Many Buddhists did not hesitate to misinterpret that Ven. Soma denied the existence of the gods, which is not so. The Buddha had spelled out the existence of gods, but ruled out that gods should be left alone. Having the blessings of the gods does not mean we should pray them for material gains. Importantly we get nothing by praying for gods. Our strength is what we do ourselves, whereas no outer force has a power to reign over us.

The Venerable's views on the caesarean birth was not understood properly. Some pointed out that the monks have no right to poke their fingers on laypeople's business.

Medically speaking a caesarean birth should be performed under critical conditions such as pregnancy pressure. According to medical sources many women request for caesarean operations for no apparent reasons. Ven. Soma spoke about the second category and stressed that caesarean birth should not be performed unnecessarily. The normal delivery bridges the bond between the mother and child.

Ven. Soma scoffed at the petty vegetarian concepts among the Buddhists. Vegetarianism was not only refraining from eating beef, just because the cow is a useful animal for Ven. Soma. Buddhism means spreading loving-kindness to all in equality, not to a particular animal.

Ven. Soma was sometimes harsh in expressing his views, but was gentle at the same time. However his views led him to many forces that stood against him. They tried out many times to exploit the Venerable's mission. The rumour of Ven. Soma's intention to run for the country's presidency was one such result. Ven. Soma had a philosophical outlook on the monk's role in politics, but what his rivals were spreading was the late Venerable's last thought.

Ven. Soma was not reluctant to identify many Sri Lankans as either half or quarter Buddhists. They always sought after other refuges such as Sai Baba and God Kataragama. Many Kataragama pilgrims give priority to the shrines of various gods and Kirivehera, the only Buddhist shrine located in the premises is given a minor place in their to-do list. Ven. Soma never wanted to attack the devotees of these gods personally, but he felt humiliating to see a Buddhist going after other refuges.

He stood against the common comparison of meditation with prayers and hypnosis. He never looked down on any of the rituals, but maintained that the Buddhist meditation cannot be compared with other rituals.

Fundamentalism was not in the good books of the Venerable. He opined that it diminishes the good status of other religions. He knew that he will be a target of fundamentalists one day, which was inescapable.

Ven. Soma was not just a preacher. During his short and busy life, he has authored over 10 publications including the posthumously famed Buddha Stupa. The book reviews the nine great spiritual qualities of the Buddha; this is quite familiar to the average Buddhist starting from 'Itipiso Bhagava Arahan...' and so on. Ven. Soma emphasises the need of concentrating the Buddha's nine great qualities for a calm and serene mind. The mind of such a being can be compared with a Buddha Stupa, a Buddhist shrine. Buddha Stupa provides a detailed chapter-wise analysis of the nine great qualities of the Buddha.

Books authored by the late Ven. Gangodawila Soma
Buddha Stupa
Dhammapada Artha Vivaranaya
Bodhi Pooja haa Soovisi Vivarana ShanthiyaRahula Matha
Dhamma Chintha
Bodhi Pooja
Deva Sankalpaya haa Bauddha Akalpa
Lovuthuru Suvanda
Mage Deshaya Avadi Karana Handa
(co-authored by Chamika Munasinghe)
Sitata Sahana dena Budu Bana
(co authored by Gamini Sumanasekara)
Misaditu Bindina Handa
(co authored by Indu Perera)
Buddha, get to know Him

Another intellectual exercise of Ven. Soma Thera is annotating the Dhammapada, a Buddhist text consisting 423 stanzas. Having explored various related texts written in explanation of Dhammapada like Dhammapada Purana Sannaya, Saddharma Sagaraya and Dhammapada Pradeepaya, Ven. Soma undertook a notable attempt to further simplify the text so that it will be of maximum use to the common reader. Even a single stanza would be useful in rectifying one's mistakes - so obviously it is a mirror that reflects one's own self.

Sithata Sahana Dena Budu Bana addresses the chaos we come across in our daily life. Deshaya Surakina Ran Asipatha basically speaks Ven. Soma's interpretation about the Sri Lankan soldier. The soldier in the battlefield, according to Ven. Soma, is not an assassin. The soldier's main intention is to save the country from terrorism. He is more engrossed in killing a terrorist rather than a human being.

Rahula Matha is his first book based on the life of Princess Yasodhara, Prince Siddhartha's wife. He explains the way the princess gradually renounced the palatial luxuries to become a spiritually elevated asset of the Buddhist order. The book is said to have inspired many young ladies on their spiritual activities.

Deva Sankalpaya haa Bauddha Akalpa discusses much of his commonly discussed viewpoints on the God concept in Buddhism.

Books were published in heaps posthumously. Many authors did not know who the late Venerable actually was, and only a very few were actually genuine. Tilak Senasinghe, Gamini Sumanasekara, Chamika Munasinghe and Indu Perera wrote down the late Venerable's words when he was alive. They should be appreciated for their efforts in preserving Ven. Soma's legacy for the posterity.

Whatever people thought about the late Venerable Gangodawila Soma, his outlook of the Buddha's philosophy remains universal.


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