We would like to appeal to the Sinhala Buddhists first of all to acknowledge the crimes that they committed against their own Tamil sisters and brothers and ask for forgiveness from the Tamils. Rejoicing at the war victories, when thousands have been killed, ‘disappeared’, maimed, raped and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and detained, is totally against the dhamma.
After all, forgiveness in Pali is apaya – no fear – we should cultivate spiritual fearlessness. Fear arises from construction of the other. Construction of the other arises from separation of self and other. This is ignorance. The enemy is, in fact, greed, hatred and ignorance. In order to be fearless one needs to break the fetters of ignorance and greed. It is the ideological attachment to a majority dominated state that has caused the war and led to enormous suffering. The notions of minority and majority are wrong perceptions. We are interrelated or ‘interbeing’. One who realizes interbeing is fearless. It is this fearlessness that can help transform the colonial construction of the Sri Lankan unitary state. This construction is based on greed and hatred.
Through deep Buddhist meditation we can realize our interbeing. In reality we all are friends, who may have different ethnicities. But with right-mindfulness (sammâ smadhi), we can see that they are all our friends, not enemies. The words war heroes and terrorists are misconceptions. We can live together, acknowledging each other’s dignity. Tamils are human beings and they should live their basic human rights as we do. They aspire to live in their own land just like the Sinhalese. The government of Sri Lanka should follow Emperor Asoka who transformed violence into loving kindness treating all diverse ethnicities in his empire with dignity and equal respect, upholding different cultures and religions. We need to follow the great Buddhist emperor in order to uphold the world in the twenty- first century in peace, truth and compassion. The Sri Lankan state needs a transformation.
The Machiavellian approach of exploitation and imperialism is coming to an end, as the Buddhist teaching of anicca, impermanency has implied and as evidenced by the fact that the Roman and British empires have come to their ends and the American one is on the decline. The future of humankind depends on ahimsa and satyagraha. The power of the truth was not only expressed by Gandhi, but it was proclaimed by the Buddha. Once we confront the Noble Truth of Suffering – not only individually but socially; we can then find out the causes of suffering, which link directly with greed lobha (capitalism and consumerism), hatred dosa (nationalism, militarism, pseudo-democracy), and delusion moha (mainstream education stressing on the head without cultivating the heart and mainstream mass media).
Then we can overcome social suffering through the Noble Eightfold Path of Sila not exploitative of oneself and others, samadhi, deep meditative practice of self-awareness, and panna, that is wisdom or true understanding, seeing that we are all interconnected. The Tamils and Sinhalese need to be brother and sister. If this is taken seriously as a reality not as a far-fetched ideal Sri Lanka can really be a land of the buddha, with a small ‘b’. Tamils and Sinhala could be side by side in unity and diversity. This will indeed be a good example of the country in the twenty-first century. It will be a century marked by the strength of spirituality beyond hypocrisy and mediocrity.