Sunday, July 17, 2011

In memory of Late Comrade Wesley Muthiah, an epitome of the old LSSP.

The Sri Lanka Sama Samaja Party founded in 1935 marking the beginning of a great Marxist movement that changed the political scene of Sri Lanka, is today moving into history. Marxism merely means adhering to the political theory of Marx and Engels , that human actions and institutions are economically determined and that class struggle is needed to create historical changes to offset capitalism.

LSSP which was based on these theories was called a Marxist party which drew lot of venom from the opposition capitalist based parties. LSSP however was once the main Opposition Party and even the second Largest Party in the Parliament way back in the 1940s.

It started as a workers party and resorting to theoretical rhetoric to attract the workers in the government and private sector to unite them for a revolution of the proletariat against the ruling class. It failed to advent beyond urban workers to the peasants and villagers which doomed it from the beginning to an early death unwept, unsung and unlamented. Yet perhaps breathing its last, it remains today the oldest of all the political parties in Parliament.

But unfortunately the JVP which attempts to replace that great political moment trying to identify it as a Marxist political party has not even a Marxist political programme. But what it has is a program of disruption, creating political mayhem to withhold the economic and social development of the country . JVP hopes to gain popular attention and win their support by critical vituperations and mudslinging at the policies and progressive projects of the Government in power.

JVP has neither Marxism nor Socialism, but manifestations and orations of criticism, of all activities of the Government to keep in tow a loosing political base.

It had been accepted as a dictum that political parties based on Marxist socialism in order to gain popular political support should ride behind the political movements which have already gained the approval of the masses. JVP as a self proclaimed Marxist party should have therefore followed suit, to find a political space to eventually come out as a major political force.

JVP had the potential of being a popular political party, but withdrawing its support to the government has resulted in its falling headlong in to a political morass , with nothing new to propose to the people other than criticism of the party in power.

Any political party calling itself a socialist or a Marxist movement should in the present political context of Sri Lanka unite its forces not only to assist the government’s socialist programme of development but also to defend the country against foreign forces gathering together to undermine the development processes of the country, destabilize it to break its unitary status.

In this situation it is sad the once active Lanka Sama Samaja Party has failed to make a significant contribution either in presenting a progressive programme, or taking a more prominent role in the activities of the present Government’s effort of development. In the political debates in Sri Lanka there is a marked absence of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Its incapacity to find a means to be heard and seen in the public arena has made it already a “dead” political voice.

In this situation we cannot forget the contribution of an ordinary member of the LSSP the Late Wesley Muthiah, who did not seek office or favours but even living in UK in the latter part of his life carried out and organized very effective publicity programmes to bring the party sympathizers together, and organized and carried out many projects to help the under priviledged people and unemployed youth in Sri Lanka, and kept the Lanka Sama Samaja Party alive, heard and talked about.

In parallel to such programmes, Wesley organized lectures , social functions, and get togethers of party sympathizers as measures to keeping the Party alive without allowing it to fall in to oblivion. .

But unfortunately the lack of this type of organizations, meetings and social events by the LSSP in Sri Lanka has resulted in its falling into the category of “vanishing species” and the younger generation of Sri Lankans to-day seems to have already forgotten the existence of the LSSP . The last of the “ Mohicans” of the Party Comrades Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Tissa Vitharana despite being Ministers in the present Government do not play active roles to whisk the LSSP back to the political lime light.

The Late Comrade Wesley Muthiah was a man with an abundance of energy, he was able to meet people, speak to them and arouse their interest in the Socialist movement. That was how he was able to capture the imagination of his friend Comrade Sydney Wanasinghe to participate with him in his project to write the land mark “epic” of the history of the Lanka Sama SamajaParty that went into several volumes -"Britain, World War 2 & the Sama Samjists" in January,1996, followed by, " Bracegirdle Affair" (1998), " We Were Making History" (2002), "The Case for Socialism"(2004), "Two Languages One Nation-One Language Two Nations" (2005), " Socialist Women of Sri Lanka" (2006), and "Colvin R de Silva: Selected speeches and writings", (2007)- each covering a specific period of its history.

When eventually the Lanka Sama Samaja Party would be relegated to history, the future generations of Sri Lankans will at least have the written history of it- thanks to the Late Comarades Wesley Muthiah- and read the story of a great leftist movement that started with the Suriya Mal movement of Comrade Dr.S.A. Wickramasinghe, and branched out to be the Lanka Sama Samaja Party.

Late Wesley Muthiah where ever he was, did not fail to organize small groups of LSSP sympathizers and organize activities to bring the party to even a few people inclined towards socialism. In Matale, Wattegama, Elkaduwa, Nuwara Eliya, Talawakelle, Moratuwa, or in London Wesley did not fail to leave a remarkable imprint of the LSSP. Wesley was a rare individual overflowing with energy which he used immensely to keep alive the LSSP , unfortunately today the LSSP cannot count on any one to fill the empty space left by his premature departure.

Comrade Wesley Muthiah had not envisaged an eventual dwindling insignificance of LSSP to which it has fallen to-day. He once referred to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and said there would always be some one who will rise from an unexpected quarter to bring back to life LSSP and infuse into it the former vigour and popularity even if it would not be what it had been before.

Therefore on this fourth death anniversary of the Late comrade Wesley Muthiah it is apt in his memory to hope for some one to arise from an unexpected quarter to bring back to life and infuse into Lanka Sama Samaja Party its former vigour and popularity before it breaths its last.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

UNESCO- turns away from Indian, Chinese, and African philosophies to celebrates the World Philosophy Day 2010, with a hybrid philosophy of its own.

Philosophy is a subject apart from Education, Science and Culture which are within the purview of UNESCO. But Education being knowledge, philosophy could fall well within Education.

But philosophy is a diversity of knowledge, it is hence representative of different Cultures.
Therefore, probably as the religion, philosophy and culture of a nation are interrelated, in UNESCO Philosophy finds its place in the Sector of Social and Human Sciences.

Where ever it is placed, it is important that UNESCO has philosophy among its specialised programmes not only to popularise different philosophies among its member States, but also to exchange thoughts of philosophy among the member States to understand better each others religious and cultural philosophies to make that knowledge an instrument of international unity.

Many of the Nations among the 193 member States of UNESCO, had been colonised and their religion, culture, language, their way of life , and even their philosophies have been drastically affected by the introduction of the religions, cultures and languages of the colonial rulers.

Therefore, the time has come for these nations to re-discover there own uncontaminated cultures and philosophies, while learning to appreciate and enhance there own knowledge of the cultures, religions, and philosophies of other nations that share the world with them.

However, European philosophers prefer to acknowledge Greek philosophy as the foundation of their philosophies. The most ancient of philosophies for them is therefore, the pre- Socrates philosophy , and thereafter Socrates, and the Greek philosophers after him influenced the modern European philosophies.

Greek philosophy is based on nature, “The first of these were the naturalists. They were the first true Greek philosophers. The naturalists used logic and reasoning to attempt to answer all questions regarding nature. They had decided that most phenomena were not acts of the gods as previously believed. They believed that a logical and mathematical reason could be found for everything.” (

UNESCO seems to be satisfied taking as its source the European philosophers, who have roots in Greek philosophy. There is also another source from which the philosophers in UNESCO derive inspiration. It is the Islamic philosophers. Islamic philosophy is also influenced by the Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato whose philosophies were found translated in to Syriac language.

Therefore, there is a link between the Islamic and European philosophy both having roots in Greek Philosophy. This then is the root from which UNESCO draws inspiration for its philosophy.

But UNESCO says that it has been closely linked, not to speculative or normative, but to a different type of philosophy which is “..critical questioning which enables it to give meaning to life and action in the international context”. Does that mean, what UNESCO calls philosophy is a mutilated aspect of it, which is not linked to the speculative or normative-aspect of philosophy ?

Not being a student of philosophy it is rather difficult to gather the meaning of what exactly is the philosophy UNESCO is propounding . To an outsider to philosophy it seems that a philosophy cannot be changed, but one philosophy could be influence by another. With such admixtures will the modern philosophers of UNESCO discover a philosophy which is any where close to a universal philosophy ?

However, UNESCO explains its philosophy by stating that, “…UNESCO was born from a questioning process on the possibility of and necessary conditions for the establishment of long-term peace and security in the world. It is therefore an institutional response to a philosophical question, one that had already been asked by the Abbé de Saint-Pierre and Emmanuel Kant.”

It goes further , “…. one could also declare that it is a philosophical institution, since it intends to contribute to maintaining peace and security by heightening collaboration between nations through education, science and culture in order to ensure the universal respect of justice, of the law, of human rights and fundamental liberties for all, regardless of race, gender, language or religion, that is recognized for all people in the Charter of the United Nations. This end goal involves the recognition and implementation of a certain philosophy of law, of human rights and of universal history through means that are also philosophical.”

To an amateur it sounds that philosophy in UNESCO has altogether a different connotation from the accepted meaning of philosophy, “….a rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics.”

If you start gathering together all subjects, democracy, justice, law, human rights , fundamental liberties, perhaps terrorism as well and put it into one copper caldron, to make a hybrid philosophy, it becomes a sort of a witches’ brew of a herbal melange, with dried frog legs, blood of cats, dragon nails and what not.

This is what happens to most of the things not only philosophy, but also human rights or elimination of terrorists by non Western Nations, when they come to the United Nations System, where they take a different dimension not within the understanding of the ordinary folk.
A politician of a leading nation speaking at a press conference when she was asked what is terrorism, she said: “…..The bottom line is that you cannot lump all terrorists together. And I think we’ve got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raison d’etre of terrorists. I mean what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka or the Basque separatists in Spain or the insurgents in al Anbar province may only be connected by tactics……….I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what we are up against those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they are seeking.”
In the context of the above declaration, it would not be surprising if UNESCO were to put into its mixture, a universal respect to a certain category of terrorism calling it a philosophy of terrorism.
As in the case of UN where its Secretary General has set up a panel to investigate whether a developing nation that eliminated terrorism did not in its process of eliminating terrorism, violate human rights. If the panel from a distance after a lapse of an year finds that there were violation of human rights, it plans to take the country which successfully eliminated terrorism before a Tribunal for war crimes. That absurdity may be “speculative philosophy”, which UNESCO says is outside its philosophy.
However, for an ordinary person with common sense, if for whichever end, a group of people were to take guns, bombs, trains people as suicide bombs, and terrorises a country and its people, that group of people comes under the “broad brush” of terrorists, along with those who fly planes loaded with passengers in to Twin Towers, massacring people for no apparent reason, other than to satisfy the whim of a God that they believe in.

Does this come under the philosophy UNESCO is proposing as being, “..critical questioning which enables it to give meaning to life and action in the international context” ?

In other words speaking frankly, philosophy is philosophy without having to add new subjects and take out others to make it suitable to an imagined objective of an International Organisation.

UNESCO has 193 member states, covering different regions of the world. It is therefore a very rich Institution in terms of the wealth of knowledge, cultures, languages, religious beliefs, spoken and written languages, and philosophies. But yet UNESCO has a very poor Section of Philosophy. That is not a conclusion that I have come to, but it is stated by the Philosophy Section of the UNESCO itself.

In this disarmingly frank introduction to the subject, “ There can be no UNESCO without philosophy”, it is modestly stated, “…….But it is better to say that UNESCO does not have a philosophy in the literal sense of the word since it wants to be a privileged place for exchange and dialogue on the pluralism of experiences of thought and of world cultures.”

And it creeps out of this contradictory statement by saying, “… One could then state instead that UNESCO is a philosophy…..” If that is what UNESCO is trying to ladle out as philosophy it is not very encouraging.

It does not fall within the classical definition of philosophy, if it has some things added, and other things removed from the accepted norms. Then what is the philosophy UNESCO has in place of the “ literal sense of the word Philosophy”.
The introduction, “ There can be no Unesco without philosophy” states:
“Patrice Vermeren gives one of the possible interpretations of this tradition through his description of the philosophy used by UNESCO in his book La philosophie saisie par l’UNESCO.
It deserves credit for strengthening our commitment to revitalizing this tradition and to contributing, by all possible means, to popularize an international philosophical culture.
On this path, the “philosophical detour” – expression borrowed from Jeanne Hersch in her famous study on human rights from a philosophical point of view, undertaken at the request of UNESCO – is called for every day, and today more than ever.”
Hence it is seen from the above quote, that the Philosophical Section of the UNESCO’s contribution to the modern world is to popularize an international philosophical culture based on a “philosophical deviation” proposed by philosopher Jeanne Hersch on her “famous”,study on human rights from a philosophical point of view, and a modern philosopher Patrice Vermeren who wrote the book “ La philosophie saisie par l’UNESCO”.

We can make philosophies of many things, not only of Human rights, but also terrorism, as pointed out earlier, all that may be possible, but what is wanted today is a philosophy to bind, together, the different philosophies along with the people connected to those philosophies.

For that, one should learn to respect the philosophies and the cultures of different Nations from different regions of the world, not confining knowledge and respect to just European philosophy or concoct a new hybrid philosophy that will be a means to dilute all philosophies into one, in a sort of globalisation of philosophy.

To respect those philosophies of “others” one has to know what they are. It is the same with the different religious philosophies of the world, there should be an effort to understand the religions in the context of the modern world, not taking them “lock, stock and barrel” from ancient books, in the context of the Nations getting closer to each other through a highly developed technology.

There should not be any faith in the world which could claim to be the only true faith. We cannot allow representatives of any one religion kill or massacre people of other faiths in the name of the God they believe. It is the same with ethnic purity, people should not be allowed to break away territories or separate people to set up ethnically pure States.

Making use of human rights as a philosophy to make the UN or International Community to demand member states to recognise ethnic groups as separate entities, and give them political rights to set up separate States or Regional governments, would be a dangerous corruption of human philosophies.

Such a dangerous situation could be avoided not by introducing new philosophies but in bringing the old philosophies within reach of the ordinary peoples of the world in keeping with the evolutionary process of the civilisations. This popularization of philosophy is some thing that could be undertaken by the UNESCO, by organising workshops and preparing pictorial publications to be distributed in schools or to associations of elders.

It is like a multi-ethnic country, where each others cultural and religious differences could be made a means to unite the different communities, through an understanding, tolerance and respect to each others cultural and religious difference, not making them a means to divide and separate communities. The same principle should be applied to the whole world.

In order to organize such a universal unification, what better place is there other than the UNESCO. The British Minister of Education Ellen Wilkinson President of the UNESCO Conference held in UK in 1945, said:

“It is for us to clear the channels through which may flow from nation to nation, the streams of knowledge and thought, of truth and beauty, which are the foundations of true civilization”.

But these great words of wisdom of the past, are mutilated to day in the UN System. There is in recent times a move to use human rights as a weapon to keep the developing countries from rising above their state of under development. Terrorism which is despised by every correct thinking person had been used by certain countries along with the UNO, to punish a country for eliminating terrorism. These new philosophies based on human rights are therefore not being used for the benefit of the developing countries, but to keep them poor and dependent.

Hence UNESCO’s effort should not be to lie comfortably on a cushioned sofa of European philosophies, and invent deviation from them, to make UNESCO a privileged place for exchange and dialogue on the pluralism of experiences of thought and of world cultures, but to embrace all philosophies without distinction of their being European or non –European philosophies, and popularise world philosophies through its programmes of Education, Science and Culture, to make philosophy a rallying point for all Nations.

Very noticeable absences in UNESCO’s Philosophy programme are the Indian Vedic philosophies , Confucianism, Tao and other Chinese philosophies, Japanese Zen philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and even the philosophies of Africa the cradle of humanity.

India has a long history of different schools of philosophies, but UNESCO’s failure to recognise it in the international context seems a part of a concerted effort to minimise the importance of Indian, Chinese and allied Asian philosophies, to give dominance to European philosophies and popularise it in the world.

When the Buddha was born in India 2600 years ago it is said there were 62 different schools of philosophies. They were mostly based on human life, and the suffering of the people. Suffering is universal . One should not come to the conclusion that suffering exists only in poor undeveloped countries.

Suffering is every where among the rich and the poor without distinction. And most of the ills of the world come from attachment, aversion and delusion. And all the conflicts in the world are rooted in one or the other, or all three of these causes.

Now with regard to the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO, there is the most unforgettable phrase "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."

It was included into the preamble by the American poet and the representative of USA at the creation of the UNESCO- Archibald McLeish. He was not a Buddhist but as a poet and the Librarian of the Congress. He was certainly not a stranger to Buddhist philosophy.

Because, it was the Buddha who spoke of the importance of the mind in man. The first verse of the Dhammapada which contains the sayings of the Buddha reads:

“Mind is the forerunner of all states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.”

The draft of the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution was made by the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee quoting from “The General Epistle of James, Chapter 4”. It was refined by Archibald McLeish, to include his now famous words-“"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed" ,
in place of “The General Epistle of James, Chapter 4”

That is the history, but today in the UNESCO’s programme of the Celebration of the World Philosophy Day 2010, none of the Countries in Asia-India, Japan, China, or Africa is represented.

Perhaps they may have been relegated to the “concert”, which is rather the cultural, than the philosophic aspect of the celebration of the Philosophy Day.

Could there be a Philosophy Day without respect to all philosophies of the World ?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eva and the Sacrament of Baptism

We attended Eva’s sacrament of Baptism on the 10 October, 2010 held at the Chapel of……at Vaires sur Marne. Eva is 3 years old. She is a very talkative sweet little darling of three years.

She was dressed in a beautiful white dress. She was very proud and happy being the little star of the day.

Her brother much older to her is Hugo. Hugo seemed very proud of his little sister.
Giselle and Pierre took us to the small chapel where the Religious Ceremony was to take place was taking place there were three other little children baptised on the same day.

The Ceremony was conducted in Portuguese. I wondered whether the children understood what it all meant to be baptised. One little girl refusing herself to be baptised took refuge in her mothers arms. She would not allow herself to be taken to the water of sacrament, therefore the water had to be taken to her .

Eva was very brave.She allowed herself solemnly to be consecrated in the water of baptism.

Baptism -baptême in French, is the Christian sacrament, a water related ritual by which the believer is admitted to his or her faith. It may have been a ritual initiate by Jesus himself. In the New Testament it is said that, “ As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.”

John the Baptist immersed himself in a river, but he poured water on Jesus. Later the ritual was reduced to pouring water on the upper part of the body while the believer was standing in water. Now it is only a token of sprinkling water on the head which is called aspersion or pouring a little water on the head –called the affusion, where the water is poured thrice on the forehead. In what ever way baptism is performed, it signifies the admission of a believer to the Christian fold purified from the impurity of disbelief.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" John 3:5 RSV.

The baptism is also the means to save a Christian soul. A martyr who sacrifices his life refusing to renounce his religious belief is saved by identifying him as having baptised by blood. Those who have failed to receive ritual baptism in time, before death are accepted for salvation as having received a baptism of desire. All this indicates the necessity of baptism as a Christian.

However, the baptism as a necessary Christian purification was denied in the 16th Century by a Swiss reformist Pastor Huldrych Zwingly. Quackers and the Salvation Army both of Christian faith do not perform the rite of Baptism.

The words of Baptism is usually, “ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, while other do it in the name of the Jesus only.

The Jewish “mikvah” is an initiation ritual similar to Baptism. Mikvah is also used to cleanse a person from impurity of being in contact with a corpse, before he is allowed to participate in religious performances.

The equivalent of such initiation into the religion is the Islamic practice of circumcision. Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth. Though Mikvah could be repeatedly practised, both Baptism and circumcision are unique. The circumcision has been ruled unnecessary though not prohibited for the Christians through Apostolic Decree in 50 AD.

our little Eva was baptised of holy water before our eyes and is thus “ born of water and spirit” to become a true Christian.

After the ceremony we were to celebrate the event and Eva’s parents invited about a 100 friends and relatives to a cocktail and a sumptuous dinner at a very homely Portuguese Restaurant. The dinner was animated by Susana Lopes a Portuguese singer who sang tunefully melodious songs, and songs of love and patriotism.

After the dinner there was a much hip shaking dances brilliantly participated by Eva herself shaking her little hip to the maximum.

All that I watched from a distance sipping a tastefully bitter Lavazza cafee. We offered our best wishes and long life to sweet little Eva still not tired after the tiresome accession to her Christian faith, she was overjoyed receiving lots of gifts.

It also happened to be the Birth Day of her God Father Antonio, and naturally there were two big cakes one for the Birthday and the other for the Baptism.

Prohibited as I was from eating sugar I could not resist from sharing the Cakes, which I found were delicious. It was finally time for us to give our parting kisses and shaking lot of hands and say good night ….

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

L.S.S.P should take a lesson from one of its exemplary members the late comrade Wesley Muthiah.

On the 4 August,2007, our dear friend Wesley, parted from us leaving an empty space among his friends, all those who loved him, and had come to know him well.

Looking back at what a fiery political party LSSP was, and what it represented to Wesley, one feels sad that Tissa Vitarana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara are only the remaining embers of a dying fire.

If Wesley was there today he would still have refused to believe that, he would have rather said that they are like the glow of an ebbing sun that announces its rising again, like the LSSP coming back again to revitalise socialism in the uncertain political scene of Sri Lanka, where the people have not given up their resolve to weather the storms to chase political uncertainties, to await the hopeful message of Socialism that LSSP once brought to the historical political scene of Sri Lanka in the nineteen thirties.

That was the political commitment of Wesley. He sought no name, gain, or public applause. He was satisfied being in the background, doing his utmost to bring the message of the LSSP where ever he found himself. He was a dedicated “Samasamjist” who kept LSSP vigorously alive from his youth to end of his life .

More often, people are taken for granted when they are living and active. But once a person has departed, we begin to see him differently, for what he was in reality, we question, we begin to see what is missing since he had left us, and we measure him from the memories and the work left behind.

Wesley did not seek to convert any one to LSSP. But when speaking to those he met, his loyalty to the party and the principled attachment to socialism showed in his convincing arguments such that, those who listened understood that LSSP has more to it than what they had thought , and did not hesitate to accept an invitation to a meeting he organised.

That was Wesley , whether in Matale where he was working as a Labour Officer, or in UK where he was a teacher, and a Student member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

In Matale, his work took him to the tea plantations, where he came in contact with the poor, then neglected Tamil Estate Workers. The contact with these poor people, gave meaning to his political work. He was determined to help them to rise above their suffering. He organised the Matale Estate Workers Union, with a liaisons officer as a contact man between the Estate workers and the LSSP Group in Matale.

Even after leaving Sri Lanka, Wesley did not forget his dear Estate workers. He collected Sewing machines, type writers, and computers, at his own expense, and with the help of his friends, set up workshops around Nuwaraeliya, and Talawakele to help the children of the Estate workers.

Wesley was a socialists, who did not seek fame, popularity, political position, financial gain or self aggrandisement. He was a selfless man- a kind we rarely meet. He had taken away the " I , and Me " concept from him, giving himself selflessly to the cause of LSSP. He would willingly sacrifice even his own personal aspirations for the cause of the Party.

When he started organising the LSSP Group in London, he was preparing for the London Bar Examinations from the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn. But organising the LSSP Group took most of his time. He therefore had to choose between the Organising of the London LSSP Group, or preparing for the Bar Examinations. He chose the former, hoping to do the Bar Examinations later.

He was dedicated to the cause of LSSP, but significantly not as a political activist, but a loyal party member to promote the party among the people. Unfortunately, the LSSP lacks members like him today , and that is why the LSSP is in a sorry state, slowly fading in to oblivion.

Wesley stood by the Party giving his time and energy, through out its different phases of existence. Even when every thing seemed bleak, and the future of the party uncertain, Wesley did not relent his enthusiastic support, he intensely believed in a resurgence of the LSSP.

Wesley was a Christian not merely because his father was a Pastor, but Jesus was for him the symbol of the suffering poor exploited by the owners of the wealth and capital, LSSP was a way out for the mass of the poor people exploited by the rich and wealthy, to rise above their seemingly hopeless conditions of existence.

Wesley was always present as a member of the LSSP, to gather the sympathisers for a meeting, at an informal party, at his home or some place, to talk about matters relating to the LSSP , and inform them of the role they have to play to have a different political system that embraced the working class without any ethnic difference.

In the context of the sad state into which the LSSP has fallen to-day , one bitterly feels the absence of the people of the calibre of Wesley to revitalise the LSSP and keep it alive , organising workshops, lectures, and meetings to attract the attention of the sympathisers and well-wishers of the party. Wesley believed that if LSSP is to find its rightful place in Sri Lankan politics, it has to be with the people all the time not just during elections, to fold camps afterwards, until the next election time.

Wesley did not impose his point of view. He accepted criticism of the LSSP, and gave possible reasons for the errors committed by the Party. However, if the criticism was not justified he would quote from books, relate incidents and go all out to prove that the criticism was not justified.

The greatest contribution of Wesley, not only to the LSSP and the Left Moment of Sri Lanka but also to future generations of politicians, historians, and students, is his writings. When the Public Records Office of London released the secret files documenting Britain' s persecution of Ceylonese anti-war freedom fighters, Wesley conceived the idea of writing the history of the LSSP and the Left Movement in Sri Lanka.

He contacted late Sydney Wanasinghe, a fellow member of the Party and got him interested in his projected. This partnership, resulted in the issue of the first book, "Britain, World War 2 & the Sama Samjists", in January,1996, followed by, " Bracegirdle Affair" (1998), " We Were Making History", (2002), "The Case for Socialism"(2004), "Two Languages One Nation-One Language Two Nations" (2005), " Socialist Women of Sri Lanka" (2006), and "Colvin R de Silva: Selected speeches and writings", (2007).

These books tell the story of a wonderful political adventure, at times romantic, some times tragic , and often of an absorbing interest, about those who wanted to change the attitude of a people who were allowing themselves to be exploited by those who owned the land and wealth.

It also tells how the people, despite their cultural traditions and religious fervour were inspired by the pioneers of Marxism in Sri Lanka, and changed their way of thinking forcing the existing political system to accept principles of socialism.

This recorded history of the left movement of Sri Lanka will stand a monument to the memory of Wesley Muthiah.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another letter from Godwin

Another letter from Late Godwin Samararatne. Click on the image to read content.

In this letter Godwin speaks of "depression". H says there are two types of depressions, one with a cause and another without a cause. And he says one with a cause is easy to deal with.

But I do not agree with this. Because according to the teachings of the Buddha every thing results from a cause. When a cause is absent there is no result.

Yo dhamma hetuppabhava
Thesa.n hetu. Tathagato aha
Thesa.ngcayo nirodho
Evam vadi Mahasamano

That is what is paticcha samuppada is all about. Of course he refers to negative thoughts, which again is a cause for depression. When there are positive thoughts there could be no depression.

Sensation without the word may be helpful he says. That is to look at the sensation as it is without labelling it as a pleasant or an unpleasant sensation.

But again his saying that Yoga can help depression, is conditional. Yogacannot help depression, as thoughts are the cause of depression, and yoga helps to keep the body fit. Nevertheless, healthy body they say is a healthy mind. Therefore there is a point……

So what do you think Godwin meant when he wrote of a depression without a cause ?

Food for thought….
A reply:

Hi!Sometimes you know the cause of depression means you know that it was arisen from a loss of a family member, constant associations and complaints of a sick parent, losing a job etc etc.

But without any of the above, when life goes smoothly there is depression from time to time. The cause for such depression (depression without a cause) is really in the sphere of attachment (to concepts, ideas, self image) and it is directly related to ‘dukkha’ in the Buddhist parlance. The basis for ‘depression without a cause’ lies around the self identity and attachment. It is not easy to see as in the first case since it is not direct as the first one. One cannot know the beginning of it. May be when one goes in to meditation and spends sometime on a regular basis, one can slowly see the clues and root seeds in such a depression. But it can surely take a long time. Such understanding comes with the clarity of the observation of the meditator.

Depression without a cause enters to the body in a subtle way. Although the original cause of depression is a thought or emotion (reaction) it can have many unconscious layers. So without the knowledge, it enters the physical body (the cause of psychosomatic diseases start from an aberration of thought or from a negative emotion and its impact reflects in some part of the body). But it is very difficult to identify which thought or which emotion created that result in the beginning.

So one has to have multidimensional approach to deal with such a situation. One way to deal with it is to be a witness to pain of the body part. And also practice yoga. Those practices can detangle the impact of the negative emotion or negative thought which impacted the body part.

Sometimes it is recommended not to label the pain, sensation or emotion. The reason is when one starts without a label, one is open to learn from such experiences rather than starting already with a label such as anger, hatred or resentment. (given in a book)

Emotions and thoughts are very very complicated and there may be many layers inside them. So when one approaches them without a label (with moment to moment choiceless awareness), one can see many operations going along with it. Also as soon as one sees this entanglement, one automatically drops that negative emotion or the negative thought. (You do not have to know theoretically what you dropped or released even)

So there are advantages in labeling as well as not labeling depending on the situation.

Godwin seemed to use lots of his personal experiences and experiences with his psychiatric clients in answering your question in this situation. He uses what he really saw and experienced to answer your question. I am sure when you think about Godwin’s answers and used those tools for sometime; one can relate and get an explanation from the Buddhist textual angle as well.

I do not see any contradiction with Godwin’s answers and the textual explanation. Only thing is Godwin does not start like an explanation in Buddhist sutra. He just starts from where the problem is and help the client to see the full operation (experientially) and find a way to drop /release the negative association in that process.

If you start from the book explanation, one cannot independently explore and experience and drop the unwanted self associations. One always looks for words given in the text/book and tries to explain things from the concepts used in the book. It will become a very theoretical approach and one will not transform the ‘idea of self’ in such an approach. One will limit his or her exploration always to the concepts used in the books.

It is a very narrow approach as far as independent exploration and ultimate liberation is concerned. Also one cannot make oneself transformed if you take such a book approach. One should come to a point to interpret dhamma from one’s own experiences rather than using the terms and concepts in the texts.

Hope this explaination helps.

With Lots of Metta,


P.S. (1)

In trying to explain mind in Western Psychiatric terms the Buddhist doctrinal “concepts” get distorted. In Buddhist terms there is only mind and matter. Conceptual terms and labels are necessary tools to explain that which cannot be explained any other way. That I thought was why Godwin used the term” depression without a cause”.

It is some what like trying to explain meditation experiences, where the conventional terms do not fit into the description of the experience.

Everything is around the mind. No sensations and emotions arising as a consequence of a physical condition is independent of the mind. Because mind always intervenes to feel, experience, or suffer (dukkha). Therefore, it seems to me, that it is difficult to speak of depressions without a cause.

If “depressions without a cause’ lies around the self identity, as you say, then that it-self is the cause of the ‘ depression without a cause”.

The mind and form are two different entities working in coordination with one another. The mind, feels and directs, but the form neither feels nor directs. These are called sarammana dhamma and anarammana dhamma. Sarammana Dhamma are those that possess consciousness, which is the mind, and anarammana dhamma are those that do not possess consciousness, which is matter. Therefore, the form cannot feel pain or emotions because it is matter and an anarammana dhamma- without consciousness.

A depression is a mental state. The arising of a mental state should, therefore, necessarily have a cause.

All thoughts arise with a sense faculty coming in contact with an external object. Mind is also a sense faculty and the “external objects” it comes in contact with are the thoughts. Therefore, the thoughts are the cause of all mental states, which include “depression”

That is how I see it.


However, it reminds me that you spoke about text book ideas put forward as concepts , which denies the independent approach to a problem.

In that respect it is important to note that the Buddha’s Sutta Desana are based on concepts. That was because the real Dhamma beyond concepts would have been incomprehensible to the ordinary people. We knot that the Buddha hesitated before he began the teaching of the truth he had realised, thinking that the people submerged in ignorance may not understand his great teaching.

Therefore the teaching as disclosed by the Buddha is two pronged, one is in conventional terms, in which he explains his discovery to his disciples in terms which they can understand the teaching, and the other in ultimate terms which he left for them to experience through meditation. This does not mean that there are two truths, but there is one truth which is explained in two different ways.

The teachings of the Buddha which is also described as a “ Doctrine of Cause and Effect”, emphasises that nothing arises without a cause. That is also fundamental to the theory of “no-self”- another definition of Buddhism, as the Doctrine of Anatta.

In view of this I do not say that Godwin was contradictory, but I say that he put his idea in “contradictory terms”. Like the Buddha explaining the ultimate truth in conventional terms.

I think what Godwin meant when he said “ depression without a cause”, is –a depression the cause of which cannot be defined. Or to go further along with Godwin's way of expressing dhamma, when he said " depression without a cause " he may have meant seeing it as a mere "depression", without searching the cause for its arising, and giving it a label.

That happens in meditation. There may arise an "emotion" in the mind which disturbs the concentration. This emotion will continue as long as the meditator has identified the cause of its arising,such as through anger, attachment, jealousy and so on. These emotions are so subtle that a meditator may find it difficult to identify the cause, as if it had arisen with out a cause.

But there is always, even a subtle cause for an emotion to arise.

A letter from Godwin

I had problems with one of my French neighbours. I wrote to Godwin about it. And he wrote to me what I should do about it as a meditator. The letter was undated


My Dear UCS,

Many thanks for your letter. I was sorry to hear about the problems you are having- There is no doubt that it must be most unpleasant and difficult to have such neighbour . And when Annie becomes depressed it is natural that you are affected by it. How can a meditator handle such a situation – I propose the following;

(1) do not be surprised /shocked because it is natural that there are such cruel human beings in this world.

(2) It is possible to allow the emotions –anger resentment whatever and to realise it is O.K. to feel that- choiceless awarenerss !

(3) To try to see the situation as a learning experience-see how each day your reaction can vary-so they become your teachers !

(4) Sometimes it is also necessary to learn to assert your self- speak out – bang your own door…. But not without control. It is done and it is over.

(5) Is it possible at some moments to send them loving kindness.

(6) Is it possible to some times laugh at the whole play ?

What is the next problem pl.

with lots of love,


A Reply

It is really a nice letter. It summarizes almost all the tools available for a meditator to deal,explore ,learn and laugh at such situaions...............

With Lots of Metta, Sampath

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Remembering the late Godwin Samararatne the Meditation Teacher of Nilambe, Sri Lanka.

On the 22 March, it will be nine years after the death of Godwin Samararatne. I still think of him when ever I am faced with a problem, for which I cannot think of a solution. Godwin could look at a problem with more clarity as his mind was not clouded with defilements of the sort that I had to deal with.

The problems in our every day lives which seem complex and complicated are most often simple and not so complicated as they seem to be, if we could learn to look at each one of these problem as a whole, with an un-fractioned mind. Godwin had an un-fractioned mind . Therefore he could look at a problem with his whole mind, understand the cause of it and find a solution.

Godwin was able to take me out of predicaments from which I could not have extricated myself on my own. But these situations dealing with those problems of every day life created a friendship between us that lasted unto his death.

I accompanied him with Francis Story in my friend Karalliadde’s battered old car when the two of them were investigating into cases of re-birth. I went with him to Kanduboda, when his friend Bhikku Seevali was ordained under Venerable Sumathipala. We also went together for Venerable Seevali’s higher Ordination in Kurunegla, in a place where Venerable Maliyadeva had lived.

This privilege of being very close to him , sharing his thoughts and participating in some of his activities prepared me to follow his foot steps in meditation. I learnt more about the teachings of the Buddha, reading the books he lent me, attending lectures, and meeting people along with him.

He had a wide range of interests. He did not restrict his reading only to books on Buddhism, other religions, and philosophies. He could be quite at home discussing English classics or Modern Fictions. I remember him talking at length on Collin Wilson and his book the Outsider. He also liked reading Jiddu Krishnamurthi. His mysticism fascinated him. He stimulated my reading habits, creating an interest in looking for books following these philosophical traits.

When I was selected for Foreign Service, it was Godwin who encouraged me to accept the appointment, when I was hesitating for personal reasons. It was thereafter that Godwin was transferred to the Kandy Municipal Council Library. I had by then left to London to study Law, but nevertheless kept in touch with Godwin writing to him regulerly.

When I heard from him next he had left the Kandy library, and accepted the offer of the management of the Nilambe Meditation Centre, which was situated on a land presented by Late Mr.M.B.Alahakone, together with the buildings to house the Centre.

together with the buildings to house the Centre. I had by then married and settled down in France.

On my visits to Sri Lanka I did not fail to see Godwin at Nilambe. I did several retreats with him. Godwin was then a well known teacher of Meditation with his reputation gone beyond the frontiers. He was being invited to Switzerland, Italy, UK and Singapore and South Africa to give lectures and conduct meditation sessions. When ever he visited the countries of the West he telephoned me. As he was busy during the day we arranged to call each other in the night.

Some times it was very late when I called him and the person with whom he was staying in Switzerland was not very pleased with the midnight calls, but had agreed to put up with them as it was a diversion for Godwin. Some times he stayed with Dr. Mirko Fryba, Godwin was gentle, polite but not very orderly in arranging things. He once told me trying to hide his laughter that Dr.Fryba taught him how to fold his trouser correctly once he had taken it off ,and put it on the clothes rack before going to bed.

When Godwin took the trains to UK after his visits to Geneva, Dr.Mirko Fryba with whom he was staying had come to see him off at the station and waited until the train left the station. Godwin is very generous, and always willing to sacrifice his comfort for the sake of others, Dr. Mirko Fryba knowing this had given him “strict” instructions before the train started off that the seat had been reserved for him in the train and that he should not part with it to make a generous gift of it for the comfort of another.

Dr.Mirko Fryba-now Ven.Kusalananda

Once when he was on his way to UK after his visits to Geneva, he broke journey in France to stay a few days with me. He told me that it was quite a change to just relax without having a schedule to follow. My son was nearly two years, and Godwin loved to play with him. We went to the near by park and went for walks, Godwin carrying my son piggyback. I went with him to Mont Matre, the Sacred Heart Church, and watched the artists painting on the road side. When he left us we missed him very much.

Later on when I met him at Nilambe he was an accomplished teacher of meditation. I had visited him several time at Nilambe. I had the good fortune of doing a retreat with him the last time I saw him, alternating it with another retreat with Venerable Rahula. Godwin was a good teacher of meditation. He allowed the meditator to follow the practice on his own pointing out essentials of concepts and reality at daily interviews.

Some times Godwin was invited by a Professor in the University of Peradeniya to meet a group of people at his home, where Godwin conducted discussions on Meditation..

I accompanied him to these discussions once or twice. On one of these occasions the Professor presented to Godwin a young man who had a serious illness and had a few weeks or months live. I saw Godwin speaking to that young man with so much of kindness, tender interest and giving him so much of himself that the young man reacted with smiles and laughter as if he had been given a new lease of life. I saw Godwin extremely at peace with himself, while making the young man happy and almost hopeful.

The “metta” or loving kindness is the theme of meditation at his Nilambe Meditation Centre. Metta or Loving kindness was an innate characteristic of Godwin . He did not get ruffled over problems. When I was talking to him, I saw him closing his eyes to be absorbed into a moment of mindful silence. He was nevertheless very alert and remained present at the moment without letting the mind wonder away. At such moment, I thought he had perhaps attained several stages of mental perfection.

Godwin often told me that the best way to understand Dhamm is to read the Sutta-the discourses of the Buddha. Following his advice I read quite a lot on Buddhist teachings, and even read the Abhidhamma Pitaka. When I think of Godwin now with a little more knowledge of the teachings of the Buddha, and having written a book on Mind and Meditation, it seems to me that Godwin had more than what I perceived in him. He did not impose himself on a meditator .

I could think this way of only two teachers of meditation with whom I had the privilege of being in close contact. One was Godwin and the other the late Venerable Amatha Gavesi of the Pallekelle Samatha Vipassana Meditation Centre. When I asked Venerable Amatha Gavesi what he thought of Godwin, he said that Godwin reflects his inner peace.

Meditation is the turning point of a disciplined path of a virtuous living. Godwin was a disciplined being who followed the path diligently to reach the stage to meditate for the purification of the mind for emancipation from suffering. That was his ultimate goal, and he had no other ambitions in life.

In that path of purification the mind reaches its zenith of purity overcoming the ten obstacles or fetters first by completely shedding the concept of I, me and mine( sakkaya ditthi)

In Godwin one perceived that he had abandoned that attachment to a self. He was indeed a selfless being who would go any distance to relieve the suffering of another. When I was informed of my brothers sudden illness and that he had been taken to hospital, I wrote to Godwin. He put off his other commitments to visit my brother in the hospital. He wrote to me immediately after to give details of his condition. He was so compassionate that he would go all the way to help others who he thought needed help.

He had dedicated his whole life to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, not deviating for an instance from his devotion to the Triple Gem (vicikiccha). He adhered to no other religious views (silabbata paramasa). He had no attachment to religious rights and rituals, directing his mind to the goal of meditation. He may have attained the first stage of the purity of the mind of a stream entrant (sotapanna).

These mental attainments are difficult to be perceived by a layman or any one whose mind has not attained the level of the mind of a Noble One-an Arahat, but nevertheless one may guess these attainments, rightly or wrongly , from observable behaviour of the person. Godwin was not bent on satisfying his sense desires(kama raga). One could observe in him a certain laxity in dress, his tastes were elementary, and one noticed a careless simplicity in choice of worldly pleasures which he did not seek to satisfy.

Godwin was a being with out hatred, anger or ill will (vyapada). That purity of his mind almost seeped out into the area surrounding him and one was comfortably at ease in his company. He seemed to have over come the first five fetters or obstacles to mental purity. His mind may have reached the stage of a once returner (sakadagami) , and may have even reached the next stage of a non-returner an Anagami.

Had Godwin’s mind reached further development even beyond that of an Anagamai ?

Reflecting further with these thoughts in my mind, I remembered that Godwin was not conceited at least as we the ordinary laymen understand “conceit” (mana). Did he crave for material(rupa raga) or immaterial existence(arupa raga) ?

However, his mind seemed peaceful and calm showing an absence of restlessness (uddhaccha).

A keen observer listening to his explanation of Dhamma, reading his writings, or watching his discussions of Dhamma elucidating difficult problems as simply as possible for any one to understand, accompanied with his delightful humour, may have justly suspected that his mind showed signs of coming out of the clouds of ignorance (avijja) to allow the light of wisdom to glow.

On certain occasions he gave the impression of knowing what was in the mind of a person coming to see him. Could we take all these as evidence that his mind had evolved to reach the realm of an Arahant- a Noble One ?

A saintly person reaching higher stages of Meditation may go through physical suffering as a result of the fruition of a past unwholesome kamma, draining out remaining defilements from the mind for it to be release into Nibbana.

The Buddha suffered from acute diarrhoea after taking a meal with cooked mushrooms offered by Cunda the blacksmith, of which he died, or attained parinibbana.

Venerable Sariputta had severe abdominal pains and fell ill with dysentery before he passed away in the house where he was born.

Venerable Moggallana on the other hand suffered being beaten up by bandits who “pounded his bones until they were as small as grains of rice”

Therefore, could we assume that we saw in Godwin a saintly being dying with physical pain , perhaps in expiation of a past unwholesome kamma that reached its fruition by way of a liver failure ?

Once a friend told me that some visitors to Nilamba had seen in the nights coloured lights that appeared over the roof of Godwin’s “kuti ” which suddenly disappeared as if it had entered into the room. Some thought Godwin was visited by the deities-divine beings. When I asked Godwin whether he had an explanation, he closed his eyes and shrugged his shoulders with a smile.

May he attain Nibbana !