Reading is one of the first skills that we pick up. It is also the one skill we find very vital throughout life. In fact, it would be very difficult to live if you were illiterate, even if you can speak the given language. Reading enriches our knowledge – and our lives. We have to read books for the purpose of education, but it would be a dull world if that was the only task for books. Hence, we read for pleasure and personal enrichment. However, reading is not only for children – adults too should fall in love with reading. This is why September has been designated as the Literary Month.
While September is the Literary month, 17th September is celebrated as the ‘Literary Day”. Not only this, but another importance is that, four great personallities who have attracted the attention of many people of this country were born on a day like today.
The cultural and political stance of the four of them are in all four directions, as well as their successes and failures, and their attempts to quantify their dedication is timeless. Two of the four are prominent figures in the political dynasty. One was William Gopallawa, the first and only Non-Executive President of Sri Lanka when Ceylon declared itself a republic in 1972 and changed its name to Sri Lanka. Second, the country’s first Executive President, J. R. Jayawardene. The third person who marked the birth of today, who has been hailed as the ‘Father of Hydroelectricity’ in the country who has made a significant contribution to the past in the past is J. Wimalasurendras and the fourth is a man of age who was committed to safeguard the Buddhist heritage of the world Anagarika Dharmapala.
Anagarika Dharmapala who was born as Don David Hewavitharana marks his 157th birth anniversary today. Therefore, as a tribute to him it is respectful to reminisce the service he did to the nation and the Buddhist world. Anagarika Dharmapala is known as the ‘Father of Nationalism’ in the recent history of this country. Later in his life he embraced Buddhism as a true devotee and became a monk. It seems that this virtuous man who passed away as Ven Sri Devamitta Dhammapala Thero is also considered as a Bodhisattva who has left a living record in recent history of Sri Lanka.
There is almost nothing that we do not know about Anagarika Dharmapala because we have learnt many things about him in almost all educational institutions. Therefore, his outstanding ‘appreciation of localism’ in ‘Dharmapala Vision’ is universally appealing. This very ideology creates platform for any country to stand up to the world independently.
Appreciation of localism is a fairly broad topic. But often only a fraction of it is discussed or written about. It is worthwhile to protect both tangible heritage as well as the intangible heritage as a country. In particular, Anagarika Dharmapala devoted his life and wealth to make Ceylon shine as a Great Country in the World”, to make humanity rule in that great country, to inherit a free and independent country for all, both physically and spiritually. It is not a religious propaganda that was carried out by Dharmapala following the Buddhist philosophy. He constantly promoted the religion of nature and the religion of humanity. Dharmapala’s love for trees, animals and people was incomparable. The foreign dignitaries such as Mr. Olcott and even Mrs. Blavatsky have joined hands with him to facilitate the future work of this human pioneer. Therefore, in this day and age when the need for a renaissance has arisen more than ever, it is high time that Sri Lankan contemporaries, especially the youth, follow the ‘Anagarika Dharmapala thought and philosophy’ and dedicate themselves to the maximum possible local well-being.
Like USA, Japan, even England have at times given priority to its own local produce, and also our immediate neighbor India is a country that does not hesitate to give priority to localism.
As such, the coincidental fact that today marks the seventy first birthday of this great son of India, Shri Narendra Modi, the present Prime Minister, who will not be forgotten when discussing the remarkable soft skill of valuing localism, will add further value to this note.
Talking about this great personality of India, our closest friend and neighbor, Shri Narendra Modi, who is celebrating his seventy first birthday today, is also an exemplary human being who has conquered life by combining the harshness of his life with self-reliance. He, too, has often been seen throughout the past appreciating localism and humanity. Therefore, it is wise to take a minute to come to terms of realization of appreciating our own values, in line with this ancient humanist and the living humanist. Because we must preserve the intangible indigenousness that fades from us as much as the boasting we speak of as indigenous.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka on March 13, 2015, he also addressed the Supreme Parliament of Sri Lanka and symbolically handed over a housing complex built for the low-income people. He returned to Sri Lanka in May 2017 as the Chief Guest for the International Vesak Day celebrations centered in Colombo. On those occasions he did not forget to constantly recall the strong historical, political, cultural, and as well as spiritual ties between India and Sri Lanka. His next visit to Sri Lanka on June 2, 2019, to inquiring into the well-being of the people affected by the barbaric terrorist attack on St. Anthony’s Church was a special occasion. Not only did this give the world a recommendation about the general security situation in Sri Lanka, but it also had a positive impact on the country’s tourism industry in real time.
Even in the practice of this devastating pandemic, Covid 19 which we are still facing up to date, the first stock of vaccines was donated to Sri Lanka from India. Even in these toughest times, people-to-people friendship between the two countries is at great strength. We strongly believe that the bond of brotherhood between the two countries will continue to be deepened for centuries to come and we are forever grateful for the constant support given by India.
It would not be inappropriate to compare the two towering personalities – Sri Lanka’s most venerated Buddhist religious leader Ven.Anagarika Dharmapala and India’s celebrated political leader and a statesman guided by strong religious sentiments Shri Narendra Modi. Similarly as Ven.Anagarika Dharmapala demonstrated and spoke of throughout his life, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s intense love of nature ; such as the birds, animals , trees and people has come to the notice of the world over and over again. At his one day Wild Adventure with Discovery Channel’s Bear Grylls, he had remarked that he and his ancestors ardently loved nature and some of them, although very poor, rejected opportunities offered for doing firewood business because of their love for trees.
We sincerely wish Shri Narendra Modi be blessed with more opportunities and strength to educate and bless the future generations of both India and Sri Lanka. Your services haven’t been forgotten and we deeply appreciate your existence!