Solitary Vice

The Solitary Vice

daya dissanayake

The literary month is over and we are into the Reading Month. We continue to celebrate a literary month and a reading month, two full months, 61 days, dedicated for reading, even though the reading habit has fast declined over the past few decades. Other countries too celebrate a Reading Month, USA in March, Philippines in November, and in Australia the Family Reading Month falls in May. In many other countries, with a lower literacy rate than ours, the reading habit is still alive and kicking, while some of our academics lament that not only the reading habit, but literature itself is dead, and they keep on flogging the 'dead book'.

Our ancestors listened to stories, poems and religious discourses, which was named the 'Oral culture'. About 2 centuries ago the common man started reading, and around 1800, in Europe, the term bibliomania or the 'Reading Mania' came to be used. It is on record that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had read every book that had ever been published in history by the time he died. Perhaps we have to modify the statement "every book available to him at the time", because he may not have come across all the books from the orient.

Though modern print technology arrived in Europe in 1448, literacy was very low. Only the elite had the ability to read the published books. It was only by about the end of the 17th century that literacy had gone up to over 60 per cent. Then more and more people wanted books to read, and the printers and publishers were ready to supply the demand.

It was about the beginning of the 19th century, that reading came to be considered a mania, in some parts of Europe. In England peddlers roamed around villages selling books for one penny, further encouraging the mania. In addition to romance and history, scientific and philosophic works became popular. The print culture contributed to the French revolution, with the underground literature. Books for children gained ground. These included not only school text-books, but also stories and folk tales, like those of the Grimm Brothers.

Women became avid readers and some of them began to write too. It was claimed that women who spent time reading romantic novels were prone to fanciful imagination. They fell in love with the authors and the characters in the books. They used the term 'reading mania' for those who read what was called 'trash'. With the invention and arrival of the 'idiot box', the reading mania turned to 'watching mania' and creating the 'Aural culture'. Again it is turning into a new reading mania, reading on-line. Here too the accusation of so much 'trash' on the web is a much talked about issue today.

Like in the 19th century, the readers of all the blogs and social media publications are said to be getting stupider, because they are said to be passive readers, just absorbing information without really understanding or grasping what was written. Another new term came into use, "bureaucrats of discourse consumption".

The reading mania was considered a "damaging misuse of an otherwise good thing, a truly great evil which is as contagious as the yellow fever in Philadelphia... It does nothing for the mind or the heart, because reading becomes mechanical...One reads through everything without purpose, enjoys nothing and devours everything; there is no order to it, everything is read lightly and just as lightly forgotten, which is just as useful considering most of what is read"

Prof. Mikita Brottman, at the Maryland Institute College of Art, in her book, 'The Solitary Vice: Against Reading (Counterpoint), says that "reading is a solitary vice, ...not an act of pleasure but a tool of self-exploration, one that allows people to see the world through the eyes of others and lets them travel deep into the darkness of the human condition." Brottman adds, "while illiteracy is just as dangerous as sexual ignorance, in both cases there is a case to be made for moderation". Yet she is not against reading, "It is easy to get into the habit of reading; what is much more difficult is learning to become a conscientious, discerning reader." She wrote this book in 2008.

One hundred and five years before her, in 1903, Edith Wharton had written, in 'The Vice of Reading', "No vices are so hard to eradicate as those which are popularly regarded as virtues. Among these the vice of reading is foremost." She continues, "It is when the mechanical reader, armed with this high conception of his duty, invades the domain of letters -- discusses, criticises, condemns, or, worse still, praises -- that the vice of reading becomes a menace to literature....To read is not a virtue; but to read well is an art...The mechanical reader is a slave of his own book-mark". He cannot remember where he had stopped, "while the born reader is his own book-mark". Wharton compares a mechanical reader to a tourist who drives from one 'sight' to another, without looking at anything that is not set down in the guide book.

Wharton finds the harmfulness of the mechanical reader to be fourfold, first by bringing demand for mediocre writing, facilitating the career of mediocre authors, luring creative talent into mechanical productions. Second by retarding true culture and lessening the possible amount of really abiding work. He confuses moral and intellectual judgements. Fourthly, he produces a creature in his own image - the mechanical critic.

Edith Wharton concludes, "the mechanical reader systematically works against the best in literature."

It could be that what she said applies to literary awards too, all over the world, and the harm done to literature by judges who are really mechanical readers.

Oct. 12, 2012, 12:23 a.m.

language of the beast

The beast in us

daya dissanayake

Prof. J. B. Disanayaka, in his most recent book, 'Encyclopaedia of Sinhala Language and Culture', says "Language is thus what separates man from Beast", but language has not helped man to kill or even suppress the beast in him. Did language make man a beast or did the beast in man develop languages?

Times of India reported on August 18th, 2012, that 211 people had died in the past six months due to serious adverse events during clinical trials carried out by the drug industry, and in 2010 the total number of deaths was 668 (2 more than the number of the beast). In 2008, in one trial 49 children had died. More trials are carried out on innocent animals, not just for medicinal drugs, but even for cosmetics, totally unnecessary cosmetics. Man the beast, who considers himself as the humane animal, without any hesitation drops a cosmetic lotion into the eyes of a rabbit, to see if it could blind the poor animal.

The clinical trials are carried out by some of the most highly educated people among man kind. Those who promote such trials have a whole range of arguments to justify the murder and torture, for which they use language. In the USA over one hundred million animals are used for experiments every year. And it is also a multi-billion dollar industry to provide animal testing facilities and to breed animals for such experiments.

This is just one instance where the beast in us has come out. We use and abuse animals all the time, and we have been doing it throughout history. We have been using animals for food, clothing, labour, religious festivals, experiments and entertainment. We have been torturing and killing them for all these purposes. We use terms 'animal' and 'beast' to insult other humans, but to be called a 'human' should be the vilest insult to any man or woman, the way 'humans' behave today. Animals are really more humane than most humans.

Max Muller is reported to have said "Language is the Rubicon that divides man from beast". Muller himself used and manipulated language to degrade and insult the entire oriental history and philosophy. Language has always been used by power hungry rulers to incite people to invade, attack and conquer other people, other lands.

Perhaps language is what has turned man into a beast. Because it is more than one language, that is used and understood by man. When he cannot understand the language used by his brother, he fights him, kills him, takes over his land and property, sometimes even his family. In the same way, because man cannot understand the other animals, he has no hesitation in killing or torturing them.

If a man could hear and understand the plea of a poor cow, when he gets ready to slash its neck, may be he would hesitate in his act. If a man could understand the plea of a helpless mother when he takes away her only child to be conscripted into his killer squads, may be he would hesitate in his act.

We are so proud of our ability to speak, read and write in human languages, sometimes in more than one language. We are loyal and devoted and take all measures to preserve and develop our languages. Yet if languages are intended for communication, to be able to share our thoughts and visions and feelings with other creatures, our languages have failed miserably.

We also use animals for entertainment in racing. It is big business to bet on such races, and we use our languages to print the racing news. Animals run when they are hunting prey, or to escape from other predators, or just for fun when they are young. Animals are not meant to run against each other just to entertain humans. If humans want such entertainment, they should run themselves, and bet on such racing, as we do in cricket. Then animals are used in other sports, like polo. Making elephants play polo is one of the cruelest sports man has developed.

In most of our fiction, it is the beast that comes out, pushing the humane being aside. Many of the best sellers, money-spinners, and even highly acclaimed novels deal with murder, torture, sado-masochism, women and child abuse, war and destruction. Language too has become a weapon of destruction, like all other human inventions and discoveries like fire, the wheel and nuclear energy.

That is why there are only three wise monkeys, because when they do not hear, see or speak evil, they will not do any evil.

Even though it is difficult to accept Prof. J. B. Disanayaka's comment about language and the beast, the book is really an encyclopedia which should be read by all and as he said at the launch, we can enjoy reading it the way he had enjoyed writing it. It is also a comparative study of the Sinhala language and its versatility and richness when compared with the English language, even though the English boast their language has over one million words.

Prof. Dissanayake dedicated and gifted his book to five children, at the book launch. Children are the future of our country and of our language. Let us add to his wish that our children will learn and use language to the betterment of man and all life on Mother Earth, so their children will be able to inherit a happier world filled with Metta.

Oct. 3, 2012, 2:22 a.m. » Tagged: language

Two poems


I didn't bring my C.V.

Name -

Date of birth -

Address -

G.C.E. O/L five, three

A/L bio one C, Two S

any job will do

One hundred thousand

square pegs

vying for

half a dozen round holes

the carpenter

keeps on turning out

thousands more of square pegs

no one bothers to tell him

all the holes are round

and too few


against the deep blue sky

the multi-coloured kite


over the top of the green trees

heavy with fruit

the golden green waves

on the ripening rice field

stared up at the

blue and red tail on the kite

at the other end of the thread

the little boy

in ragged shorts

ran along the road

trying to hold aloft

the used polythene bag

tied to a piece of tape

from a discarded video cassette

black acrid smoke

spewing out of factories

settled slowly on

rotting garbage

in blocked drains

Sept. 13, 2012, 7:58 a.m.

Embedded Language

Embedded Language

daya dissanayake

Man likes to believe that he is the only intelligent animal on earth who has developed language as a means to communicate with each other. Monkey lip-smacking, which requires rapid, controlled movements of the tongue, lips and jaw, may be tied to the emergence of speech. W. Tecumseh Fitch, head of the department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, has determined, that lip-smacking occurs at a rate of 5 cycles per second, which happens to be the same rate as for average speed human speech. But monkeys did not develop speech.

Man with his capability of speech developed too many languages and now he is unable to communicate with his neighbour. He is the only animal on earth who has been using his hands at first, then later weapons, to fight with his own kind, instead of peaceful communication. Today we even fight and kill each other because we cannot understand our fellow humans, and because we believe our language is superior to that of another. Though we are proud to have highly developed languages, we behave worse than the lowest forms of animal life, because of our inability to communicate with, and understand our fellow human beings.

"All language, practices and religions are embedded in human cultures and societies", emphasize the importance of the Embedded Language, by the editors of 'Embedded Languages: Studies of Sri Lankan and Buddhist Cultures'. It has been published in honour of Prof. W. S. Karunatillake. The essays in this volume "all share the common understanding that seeing the words of Buddhism and of Sri Lanka requires that we understand how the language is constructed, played with, and displayed in specific and particular contexts."

John Ross Carter, in his essay, 'Linguist, Language Teacher, Translator: Cross-Cultural Thirthankara', had written about Prof. Karunatillaka, "A linguist who is also a language teacher and a translator is a ford-maker (thirthankara), leading others to cross-cultural understanding". Carter begins his essay "Often it has been said that language is our first bias, ....our native language establishes our conceptuality of the world as we perceive it to be, of ourselves in the world we perceived..."

Steven Pinker, who wrote the best-seller, 'The Language Instinct' (1994), had said that through language we are enabled to rise authentically to a level of becoming fully human, "because information is a particularly good commodity of exchange that makes it worth people's while to hang out together". But the problem is the exchange has to be with different currencies, of different values, making it more and more difficult to hang out together.

Anthropologist Leslie C. Aiello, had written that the evolution of increased social intelligence would be closely linked with the evolution of languages. It is Aiello who argued that as man became an erect biped the repositioning of the head had caused the back of the tongue to bend downwards. This enabled him to produce subtly different noises, giving him the ability to speak and sing. She also believes that the increased ability to communicate is tied with the increased ability to cheat. Higher level social intelligence gives the ability to read and manipulate others to protect one's self against manipulation.

Carter discusses about how language can be manipulated to coerce and repress others into a central ideology, and at the same time language has enabled us "to conceptualize and communicate a center of value inclusive of all persons: the dignity of the human personality discerned in the faithfulness of human relationships - in the face of deceit."

Wilfred Cantwell Smith had observed that through the use or words, "spiritual truth has been made, has made itself, audible, learnable, appropriatable". He goes on to say, "What a statement means is what it means to some person or persons, at some time or place. And this varies : if not from person to person, at least from group to group, and from era to era".

When human beings use over 6000 languages around the world, every word could have a different meaning to different people. Meanings could change in translation, from language to language, from era to era even within the same language. The interpretation of a word, or the translation has created so many rifts among cultures, and even among religions. Many religious sects which split away from the original organizations were due to the different interpretations given to a few words, which changed the original teaching and the message given by the founders.

One word or just a few words had sometimes changed world history, the fate of entire nations, and millions of people. The three words which summarize the mission of Jesus is considered to be "He humbled himself". Ajahn Buddahasa used four words to explain Buddha's teachings, "Be Peaceful and Useful". Gaafar Bin Abe taleb had said, "He ordered us to say the Truth, be honest, connect our relatives, be good to neighbours". It was said in the Mundak Upanishad, and adapted as the national motto of India, "Satyameva Jayate" (Truth alone Triumphs).

Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial began his 17 minute speech, with the words "I have a dream..". Ronald Reagan, on June 12, 1987, said in Berlin, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall". It was not just the phrase, which brought down the Berlin Wall, but it has gone down in history as the words that changed the lives of the Berliners and entire Europe.

We do not need a thousand words to convey our thoughts. A few well chosen words could change the fate of mankind, could make this world a better place to live, not only for man, but for all life on earth. And we should be careful to avoid the use of a single word that could cause harm, cause pain and misery for any creature. Let us embed our language with the best human values in our culture.

Sept. 5, 2012, 8:59 a.m.

murdering Khayyam

Murder of Khayyam

Idries Shah had said about Rumi, that his "technique prevented those who were incapable of using the material on a higher level from experimenting effectively with it, allowing those who want poetry to select poetry, giving entertainment to people who want stories; stimulating the intellect in those prize such experience."(The Way of the Sufi, 2007)

Perhaps Edward FitzGerald did not see the deep philosophy in the poems, or did not want to see the Sufi mysticism in it because it would have been contrary to his beliefs. FitzGerald was writing about a woman, while Khayyam was writing about God. As Osho commented, perhaps FitzGerald did not know that to a Sufi, 'saki' meant God.

"Much of Sufi symbolism is correspondential, and is worship. The tavern means the call of contemplation, the lips open to the inscrutable mysteries of God's essence. Tresses and curls illustrate expansion and infiniteness. Wine is wisdom." (Sufism:Omar Khayyam and E. Fitzgerald, C. H. A. Bjerregaard, 1915)

Anand TNN, wrote in the Lucknow edition of Times of India 03-12-2003, "The Rubaiyyat, for its length of 75 four-line rubai or stanzas, is perhaps the most frequent source of modern entries in English dictionaries of familiar quotations (35 citations in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations; 33 in Bartlett's).

Anand continues, "The most famous line, "Thou beside me singing in the wilderness" has been the subject of countless illustrations; and "thou" has always been depicted as a handsome young houri (maiden). The admirers of Khayyam may be loath to know that "thou" does not sing, and is not a houri in the original, but merely his Sufi fellow-initiate with whom he meditates over a book of poems."

In Fitzgerald's Rubaiyyat, a garden is the setting for the musings and the yearnings of the persona and an expression of his moods; in the original there is no garden at all and each "rubai" is an individual short poem, a kind of epigram.

Using a 15th century manuscript, 'accidentally discovered', Fitzgerald recreated the poems in the mid-Victorian style that was loosely based on the original Persian text. He is believed to have studied this very complex language for about four year before translating Khayyam, but had to use a Persian-English dictionary, and relying more on his intuitive guess than his knowledge of Persian in interpreting what a passage meant. It reminds us of Mark Twains translation of his 'Jumping Frog' into French and then back to English. FitzGerald's lack of confidence in his translation is indicated by his four revisions later on, with numerous changes, additions and deletions, before his death in 1883.

FitzGerald's translation went unnoticed at first, and then was enthusiastically received by eminent Victorians including Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Meredith and Sir Richard Burton. He was lionized by critics for imposing a general order upon a disparate collection of Oriental verse, by which time his fame had spread to America.

FitzGerald was guilty of more than paraphrasing, or mistranslating; he portrayed Khayyam as anti-Sufi, a hedonist and atheist. "Saki" in Suffic tradition can be a metaphor for God, and "Wine" for divine love. This simple concept was not readily grasped by Westerners who believed that wine-drinking was forbidden for all Muslims.

In his translation of a 12th-century manuscript of The Rubaiyyat, made with the help of Omar Ali-Shah, the Sufi poet and classical Persian scholar, Robert Graves, claimed that Fitzgerald's version of "Omar Khayyam's mystical poem has been erroneously accepted throughout the West as a drunkard's rambling profession of hedonistic creed: "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die."

"Khayyam is also credited with a flat denial either that life has any ultimate sense or purpose, or that the Creator can be, with any justice, allowed any mercy, wisdom or perfection illogically attributed to him, which is precisely the opposite view to that expressed in Khayyam's original."

Since Khayyam was translated into most other languages from the FitzGerald translation, the readers of these translations also never had an opportunity to learn of the real Khayyam. We have forgotten Khayaam for who he was. That is the tragedy of translations. Anand called him an 'Interpretive Translator'. Interpretations and translations by people with vested interests, or with their ingrown bias or the inadequacy of their knowledge of the time and the culture of the original writing is what we are faced with.

To quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Poetically, Khayyam represents a voice of protest against what he regards to be a fundamentally unjust world. Many found in him a voice they needed to hear." Did FitzGerald hear that voice?

FitzGerald translated only 110 quatrains. Peter Avery and John Heath Stubbs translated 235, while Swami Govind Thirta (A.M.Datar) published 1096 quatrains in translation. Did FitzGerald find only these 110 rubai, in the manuscript he was given, or did he ignore the 900 other rubai, or did Swami Thirta add rubai of other writers?

Here is a rubai translated by Saidi Ahmad, which is not found in FitzGerald.

"Of knowledge naught remained I did not know,

Of secrets, scarcely any, high or low;

All day and night for three score and twelve years,

I pondered, just to learn that naught I know.

(Rubā‘iyyāt of Omar Khayyam, Sa‘idī Ahmad,1991, p. 125)

The question remains: can Fitzgerald be indicted for this transformation - or, to use his own jocular word, "transmogrification" - of Khayyam's mystical poem? If something had been lost in the process of translation, then anything that was gained would be FitzGerald and not Khayyam.

Aug. 30, 2012, 7:36 a.m.

Ancient Healthcare

Healthcare in Ancient Sri Lanka

Our behet oruwa, (herbal bath) I believe, is the best symbol for our ancient healthcare system in Sri Lanka and this cultural treasure from Medirigiriya shows how we treat our ancient traditions.

Ancient healthcare as a subject has to go back to pre-historic times. Herbal and other forms of medicine would have been used long before man invented writing, so we do not have any records.

The oldest evidence available is from the study of the 'Iceman'

In 1991 on the Italian Alps, a dead body of a man was found. The man had died 5300 years ago. Probably no human corpse had been put through so much study in post mortem examinations. Our interest on this dead body is because the scientists had discovered eggs of an intestinal parasite, Trichuris trichura, in his rectum. This discovery would have just gone unnoticed if not for the fact that the Iceman had carried a pouch. In it was found a lump of bracket fungus, Piptoporus betulinus, a mushroom which contained an acid which was laxative, and a resin that was toxic to bacteria and intestinal parasites. This showed that either the man himself could not only diagnose his illness, but know how to treat it, or there was a medicine man or woman in his village who had prescribed the treatment.

If there had been any such well preserved bodies of our pre-historic Lankans, we too could have found some information of their healthcare practices. Let us hope that one day soon our new generation of archaeologists would be able to uncover such evidence.

About our own healthcare system, let me start with a quote from the Culawamsa.

"A young man was drinking a little water in which were frog's eggs. An egg penetrating by the nostril entered his skull. it opened and was a frog; it grew and dwelt there. At the approach of the rainy season the young man was greatly tortured by it. The King1 split the skull, took out the frog, put the parts of the skull together again, and cured the young man at once."

This was 1600 years ago.

And this is the interpretation given by Dr. John Atygalle, in 1917, (about 90 years ago.)

"The operation might have been cephalotomy, for the removal of hydatid tumour, occasionally met with as we know within the cranium, and it is not a little interesting to observe that the cluster of hydatid growths, when seen under the microscope, is not unlike a group of young or half-grown toads after they have shed their tails. We also know, on the authority of Scobold, that one medium by which the echinococci find their way into the human frame is by the drinking of foul water."

(Sinhalese Materia Medica. John Attygalla MD first published 1917. Introduction page IX.)

This is a very rare disease and today surgeons need MR imaging to locate the cysts! I brought up this incident to draw your attention to the fact that in ancient Sri Lanka, diagnosis, medicine and surgery were so highly advanced.

Healthcare in Ancient Sri Lanka, would go back about 5000 years if the Ravana story is true, as he was said to be a great physician and had written several books on healthcare. Even if Ravana was a mythical figure, some form of indigenous medical treatment would have existed long before the arrival of Vijaya and the Indians. Mother goddess, Ancestral worship, like the Nee Yakku of the Veddhas, Tree worship would have been part of the treatment for ailments. As more and more groups migrated from India, some of the Ayurvedic systems would have been brought in by them. Arrival of Buddhism had brought the healthcare system associated with the pirivenas and the temples and this complex system has been considered as Deshiya Chikitsa.

When we talk of Healthcare we think of hospitals and we take pride in the claim that the first ever health centres were established in Sri Lanka during the time of Pandukhabaya, and that the first dedicated hospital in the world was established at Mihintale. But what should come to our mind is about keeping ourselves healthy. Hospitals should be the last resort, or when ill-health could not be avoided. Till a few decades ago, our village folk believed that being admitted to a hospital meant a person would not go home alive, because it was the last resort. Till then the village physician could treat them successfully.

Pandukabhaya's hospitals could be the imagination of Mahanama thera or an attempt to bolster Pandukabahaya's image. The word used was Sivikasotthi sala which has been interpreted as a lying-in home. The term most often used was thimbiri-ge, the temporary hut built outside the house, by using wood of the timbiri tree, where the woman gave birth to the child. Maternity homes may have been built in the crowded urban areas, where there may not have been enough space in the home gardens to put up a thimbirige.

The term timibirige could also have been used for more permanent lying-in homes, as recorded in the pillar inscription by Kassapa IV.

There is the pillar inscription found at Mandalagiri (Medirigiriya) during the time Kassapa V, again refers to a hospital and that goats and fowls shall be assigned to the hospital and Paranavithana suggests that they could have been animals killed by accident.

Kiribathvehera pillar inscription mentions a Behet-ge, was it a dispensary or where special medicne was prepared? Kassapa V in the Anuradhapura slab inscription mentions a Raj Vedahal. (Royal hospital?) Polonnaruwa council chamber inscription mentions a Vedahala to which a one pala of Sudhingur is to be given annually. Paranavitana identified it as 'dried ginger', and it would have been a major component of the medication used then to be of such importance.

We also find caves which had been donated by physicians, at Piccandiyava we find Veja Bamana Gobutiya , and Rajangana, Upasaka Veja Mitaka. Pujawaliya and Sadharmalankaraya refer to vinnambu (midwife).

Prof. Siriwira identifies four types of hospitals in Ancient Lanka. These hospitals can be broadly divided into four categories viz: (a) monastic hospitals where in-house treatment was provided for ailing monks for short or long periods; (b) hospitals for laymen where in-house treatment was provided (c) maternity homes and (d) hospitals where only outdoor treatment was provided.

The hospital at Mihintale, established around the 9th cent. has been identified as the oldest hospital in the world. It probably consisted of a large waiting room for patients, two examination rooms, a dispensary and 32 rooms for indoor patients. There had been another room for immersion therapy in a behet oruwa, and a jantaghara. This hospital could have catered for the laity too, in addition to the residents monks, but several other hospitals in the city of Anuradhapura may have been for the monks only.

Even though these hospitals were meant either for the monks, or for the public, were they open to the common folk. Inequality would have existed, the women who considered themselves of having royal blood, or who were from rich families, would not have been willing to share the lying in home with the less equal people. It could have been the same with the hospitals, where only the families of royalty, high officials or rich merchants could receive treatment. Even if the hospitals had been put up with all good intentions for the treatment of all mankind, in practice preference would always be for the rich and the powerful. In that case these hospitals could have been like the modern day private hospitals, out of reach of the have-nots.

The ordinary people would have tried their best to avoid falling ill or depended on home remedies. When we were kids we were told not to get wet in the rain, or eat cold things after getting wet, instead now our children are encouraged to eat ice cream in the rain so we could treat them with a so-called herbal remedy.

In my novels i have taken the liberty to describe three hospitals in Lanka, about which we do not have any historical or literary evidence. In katbitha i have placed a hospital in what is now known as Ramakele, near Sigiriya. Then in The Healer & the drug pusher, a hospital in Jaffna and an eye hospital in the present Maligawila. Because i believe there could have been such hospitals in these places and also many other monasteries in our country. Culawamsa mention that king Aggabhodi I (600 AD) had built a hospital for the blind at Kanagama, probably identified as Dombegoda today, near Maligawila.

i do not have many photographs, and so i had to borrow from an article published by Prof. Leelananda Prematilleke and Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare. A few years ago when i visited Arankele, i was not allowed to take photographs of the Jantaghara. Photography had been banned by the Dept. of Archaeology and the reason given was photos of historic sites were used in commercial advertisements!

The ancient hospitals discovered and excavated around the island show clearly how they had been designed and constructed in keeping with the Deshiya Chikitsa philosophy and science. The hospitals were on very large flat land or terraced, providing a lot of open spaces with aesthetically laid out gardens. The buildings would have allowed the maximum ventilation, with open courts and huge windows and open verandas. In keeping with the system that the healing is both for the mind and the body an image house was built at the centre of the buildings for easy access to the patients and the hospital staff. When we walk around the ruins of these ancient hospitals we can see how calm and soothing the surroundings would have been.

Toilets and bath facilities were attached to the rooms or positioned nearby. This shows that the bath and toilet in one unit was not something we had got from the Europeans, because it is said that the English learnt to bathe daily only after they came to our part of the world, and that was the reason for women to get married in June, after their annual bath in May when the water was warm enough to bathe. Even then, by June she would begin to smell of stale sweat and that was the origin of carrying a bouquet of fragrant flowers.

It is again so unfortunate that limited space and funds have deprived the patients today of such facilities in our hospitals, like when 3000 beds are crammed into a space of a 30 acre block of land.

Today we think vaccination is the only solution to prevent viral infections, and that vaccination was a great achievement of the west. But it was known in the east many thousands of years ago, probably around 200 B.C. In the old days, children developed their own immunity against measles, mumps or chickenpox from a mild infection, in their childhood. It was considered as a part of growing up. Children didn't die of such infections. Today there are vaccines for even such minor infections, and now there is a growing panic in the west that all these vaccines are causing other far more serious problems in children. Many parents in the west are refusing to vaccinate their children for fear that the vaccines cause autism in children. In our country there were several unfortunate deaths claimed to be due to the rubella vaccine. (Our young school girls are not promiscuous as the girls in the west and there need not be such fear about teenage pregnancy, so why can't we wait till the girls reach marriageable age and give them the choice, instead of forcing them to take the vaccine so early in life?)

Today too, the WHO is in a mighty hurry to vaccinate everyone against swine flu. Normally a vaccine goes through a period of tests and trials for several years before WHO approves it for use, but in this case it was approved and used without any such precautions, and several hospitals in the States are carrying out trials with children, human guinea pigs. This is at a time when there are several cases filed against drug barons for releasing this virus in the first place.

When man has to depend on a machine to go to sleep, it just shows the pathetic situation we are all in. We have the latest fad of the sleep labs in our hospitals. Sleeplessness is an age old problem, and our ancient healers did not resort to sleep labs or CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) machines to solve the problem. The CPAP machine will only keep the airways open when the muscles relax and the airflow is interrupted. In the past the physicians would have gone into the patients condition and history and identified the cause for sleeplessness and then treated him accordingly, by eradicating the cause, either mental or physical.

Today in our country we find euthanasia practised in the leading hospitals, where a ventilator could be switched off when the family decides the patient is beyond recovery or has suffered long enough, or the hospital bill is running too high. I don't know the legal and ethical aspects of this, but according to our Deshiya Chikitsa this could never be condoned. Those who are in favour of euthanasia refer to the stories of the Buddhist monks, Channa, Vakkali and Godhika during the time of the Buddha. They had taken their own lives when they realized they were terminally ill and there was no cure. These three monks were at the end of their cycle of birth and re-birth. But for an ordinary lay person, seeking death will not let him escape his suffering, because he has to face his kamma, and face the same suffering may be in the next birth too, and taking his own life would add to the prolongation of his suffering in the future lives.

In our literature we find many references to healthcare which display the awareness among the people of common treatment methods. A few examples - Sadharmaratmavaliya mentions first – Avasta piliyam first aid . – Meha aththavunta thel anubhava karannata kiyanna se, probably because oil was not considered good for diabetics,Semata uka sakuru kannata kiyannase, and cane jaggery bad for phlem. Paya barabayata pitikara behet badinna se, Filaria was known and there would have been treatment for it. Vadimata akamethi nisa vanda behet kanna se. This could mean we had contraceptive drugs in ancient times, in addition to the use of other contraceptive methods. Then there could have been treatment for barrenness too. Women had also prayed for children. A woman would go up to a Bo tree early morning, in her wet clothes, immediately after a bath, and walked around the tree with the rays of the early morning sun falling on the tree and bouncing back on the woman as she prayed for a child. Today a childless couple would spend thousands, month after month at fertility centres.

Even for Leprosy our indigenous medicine had a treatment. Leprosy had been first described in the 'Susruth Samhita' and treatment with 'Choulmoogra oil' was known at that time. Hydnocarpus kurzii, Chaulmoogra contains strongly antibacterial chemicals, two of which, hydnocarpic and chaulmoogric acids, are responsible for destroying the bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, that causes leprosy.

King Bimbisara who suffered from hemorrhoids had been treated and healed by Jivaka.

The importance of taking good care of ones health is seen well in the precautions taken during pregnancy. They had refrained from taking certain food which were considered bad for the mother or the baby. They would avoid overeating. All these precautions came under gaba pirimesima or gaba raksana. There were also ceremonies carried out for garbharaksana. Perhaps all these precautions could have helped the mother to deliver the baby at home, with only the assistance of a midwife or an elderly lady, and Caesarean surgery was not resorted to. After the childbirth too, the mother's diet was controlled, special food was given to yield sufficient milk for the baby and to keep the mother and baby in good health. Our people had survived in Sri Lanka for several thousand years without feeding their babies with infant formula. If the mother's milk was not sufficient, they found a suitable healthy lactating mother to feed the baby. The personal touch is seen here as they called her 'kiri amma', which is not the same as calling her a 'wet nurse'. The Butsarana mentions that a mother would take medicine herself when her baby was sick.

Panchakarma must have come from Indian Aurveda and it is for cleansing and rejuvenation of the body by removing ama or toxins. I don't believe that true panchakarma is offered at most of our so-called ayurvedic resorts or if the foreign patients who come in search of this treatment would have the time or the patience to undergo the complete treatment, after the individuals constitution and dosa has been properly studied. Today even Deepak Chopra offers Panchakarma to his Hollywood clients.

Panchakarma would begin with the purvakarma, to prepare the body to get rid of the toxins. Then the Pradhanakarma to be followed by paschatkarma. The main therapy will depend on the dosha conditions and the individual. Vamana (therapeutic emesis) and Nasya (nasal administration of medicated oils and herbal preparations); Virecana (therapeutic purgation) and Rakta mokshana (therapeutic withdrawal of blood) , and Bhasti is the introduction of herbal medicaments into the colon to be retained and absorbed into the body. We use suppositories today.

Raktamokshana, bloodletting is done in different ways for different conditions. For vata conditions a horn of a bull is used. For pita it is leeches and for khapa it is an instrument made from a dried bottlegourd. Pilindavachcha thero who complained of body aches was cured by Raktamokshana or lohitan mochetun, as mentioned in the Mahavaggapali.

Even today in our hospitals bloodletting is done, in cases of Polycythemia Rubra Vera. Even though it would be done in a most hygeinic manner and under medical supervision, it would be done in the same manner for all patients, not considering for a moment that the patients constitution would vary from one individual to another. Had we been able to use some of our ancient knowledge, perhaps these patients would have better chances of recovery.

Probably one reason for the success of our ancient healthcare system was that our physicians never went against nature. Our Deshiya chikitsa would have been based on Ahimsa, loving kindness, not only for human beings but for all living creatures, unlike today, when animals are used to experiment on, and then for clinical trials to test new drugs before use in humans. Animals are infected and then killed to make vaccines, like the vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis, where rats are infected, killed and the inactivated vaccine developed from their brain tissue.

In Deshiya Chikitsa they had very successful treatment for snake bites. Today we use snake venom anti serum, made by injecting the snake venom into horses, and then collecting the serum from their blood for the anti-venom. The horse gets snake venom injections many times during its life, suffer the poison, and then his blood is circulated through a plasmpheresis machine to collect the serum. To save human lives, horses have to suffer and die in the end.

Ancients believed that gazing at the moon was considered very good for keeping the eyes healthy.

There are many references of the treatment of eye ailments, including Glaucoma. It is unfortunate that with all the advancements in medical science, we have consultants who could not diagnose a case of juvenile glaucoma, when our ancient healers could diagnose and treat 76 different ailments of the eye.

Among the Jataka stories the Sivi Jataka is of interest when we talk about eye surgery. A king by the name of Sivi, had decided to donate his eyes to a blind Brahman and summoned a physician, by the name of Sivaka. Sivaka had not wanted to use any surgical instruments to operate on the king. Sivaka had prepared three types of medicinal paste, applied one of them on a blue lotus and had stroked the king’s eye with the flower, then the second paste was used, and then the third. The eye had loosened from the socket and come out to hang by the nerves. It was removed and handed to the king who had offered it to the Brahmin. The detached eye was then placed in the Brahmin’s eye socket and he had been able to see with the king’s eye. Such a story would not have been included among the Jataka stories unless there were physicians who could perform such miracles.

Coming back to king Buddhadasa, 337 – 365 AD and quoting from Culavamsa, he was a mine of virtues creating happiness for the inhabitants of the island. He had seen a snake writhing in pain when he was on his way to the Tissa vewa to bathe, he had got down from his elephant and with the knife he wore at his side, had split open the belly of the snake and removed the diseased parts, applied an excellent remedy and at once cured the reptile. Whether he treated a real snake or a man of the Naga tribe what matters to us is that he could perform surgery with his knife, in the open air by the roadside, first diagnosing the problem without any aid of CT or MRI scans, and as he would not be carrying any medicine with him, prepared the remedy from any herbs available around him, and with the confidence that there would not be any post op. infections or complications. It is also not mentioned if he carried the knife for such emergency surgeries, or as a weapon, because if it was for surgery, it should have been “sharp enough to split a hair in two”.

A monk came to him ailing from drinking milk with worms in it. A horse had also been brought for bloodletting. After the king had bled the horse, he had given a dark liquid for the monk to drink, and after he had drunk it, told him that it was the blood from the horse. In revulsion the monk had vomited out not only what he drank, but all the worms along with it. If this is not a true healer in action!

Buddhadasa had also been able to streighten out the back of a bhikku who had been bent in half, though culavamsa does not mention if it was done by surgery or medication. Jesus too had miraculously cured a woman who had suffered for 18 years from a bent back.

Buddhadasa had saved a chandala woman the fruit of whose womb had taken a wrong position seven times with child. For the woman to miscarry seven times, means she either was not able to receive proper treatment because Buddhist monks did not touch her because she was a woman and the lay physicians did nto touch her because she was a chandala. It could not be that our Deshiya chikitsa did not have any treatment for such a condition.

According to the Culavamsa, Parakramabahu I was another great physician. He had not only built hospitals, but also visited them on Poya days. “with an eye that charmed by goodness he gazed at the sick. And as the Ruler of men was himself versed in medical lore, he the all wise summoned the physicians appointed there, tested in everyway their healing activities, and if their medical treatment had been wrongly carried out he met them with the right method, pointed it out to them as the best of teachers and showed them the proper use of the instruments by skillfully treating several people with his own hand”. Culawamsa also claims that he treated a crow “suffering from an ulcer that had formed in her cheek”. Once again it is a matter of argument if 'Kaka' meant a crow or a resident of the crow island in the north.

Dr. John Atygalle states in his book that he has personally known of cases where limbs which would have been subjected to immediate amputation by Western surgeons , has been not infrequently restored whole under the treatment of these much despised 'native surgeons'.

In vedic India initially there would have been several obstacles in the development of healthcare. Any person treating the sick would have been considered impure and a Brahmin who worked as a physician sometimes may not have been allowed to perform Vedic rituals.

Long before the time of the Buddha, the early physicians would have been mostly wondering ascetics. They treated people wherever they went, and also met and exchanged their knowledge and experience, getting into discussions and debates and thus went on accumulating all the medical lore into a huge store of medical information.

When the Brahmins realized the influence of the medical system, they would have decided to take charge of Ayurveda. They would have manipulated the Hinduization of this heterodox knowledge. and claimed that the healing process was passed down by Brahma, through Prajapati, the Lord of beings, to Indra who taught it to Danavantari. It was then written in to the Susruta Samhita by Susruta. Probably the Susruta Samhita is a collection of all the knowledge that was accumulated by the wondering ascetics, and not the work of just one person. The Brahmins incorporated the medical practices with their rituals and vedic practices, convincing people that the rituals have to go hand in hand with medical treatment for effective cures. To improve the efficacy of the healing plants, they created a plant goddess, Arundati.

Susruta samhita may not be the oldest book on medicine so far discovered.

The oldest could be the Edwin Smith Papyri, accepted to have been written in the 17th cent. B.C. recording techniques of brain surgery used in ancient Egypt from around 3000 B.C.

Charak Samhita was written about 100 A.D. Astanga Hridaya Samhitha, attributed to Vagbatha around 11th cent. contains medical knowledge from Tibet and India. Hridaya Samhita deals with heart ailments. Bark of the Kumbuk. Terminalia arjuna, had been used even in the treatment of Cadiomyopathy.

Without such restrictions of the concept of purity and cast issues, and with the belief that treating and nursing a sick person was a most meritorious act, the Buddhist monks would have begun to learn and practice medicine in earnest. As healing became a part of Buddhism, all the medical knowledge began to be collected in early monasteries, so it became institutionalized, then developed into infirmaries attached to the monasteries and grew into hospitals.

In the past a patient would go to the physician with the confidence that the treatment will cure his ailment. The physician would treat the patient with the sole intention of healing him, without any financial or other benefits expected. The physician will also spend time to learn all about the patients body, his mind, his environment and his habits, before he would prescribe any treatment. He also does it in good faith. The people who would prepare the medication also do it with the intention of seeing the patient recover from the illness, and would not be doing it for any financial gain. The person who serves the medication to the patient also gives it wishing that it would be effective.

Whatever the ailment was, one of the major ingredients always found in our medicine was 'Loving Kindness', which probably was the so called 'guru mushti', which some students could not grasp.

When the physician holds the patients hand to check his pulse beat, he becomes one with the patient, both in body and mind. It is not only the pulse beat, but the texture and the warmth of the skin, the look in the patient's eyes, his breath, would tell the physician a lot about his mental and physical condition. Then the physician would treat the patient as an individual, and he would never just treat the illness in isolation. That is why we could say in ancient healthcare, the medicine would only be about 1/4th of the cure. The rest would be the confidence the patient has on the treatment and the physician, the good intentions of the physician and the strength of the patients own system.

A well learned ayurvedic physician could diagnose almost any ailment, without resorting to the modern day investigation methods. But his diagnosis was always accurate, because it was personal first hand investigation. There is no possibility of any human errors by a lab technician, or a software bug in the instrument, or the wrong sample being tested, the wrong report being sent to the patient. Diagnosis was never outsourced, probably nothing in the healthcare system was outsourced.

Diagnosis would have been very accurate and must have been always non-invasive. Treatment would not cost very much, often done at no cost, and there are no records of surgical misadventures, harmful side effects of the medicine used or of exploitation of the patients by the physicians.

In the North of the country, till about the 10th century Deshiya Chiktsa would have been practised in healthcare as most of the migrants from South India till then would have been Buddhists. Later on with the advent of more and more Hindus, there would have been a parallel practice of Siddha. This system of medicine, sometimes called Siddhayurveda, is said to have been more suitable for the climate and the people in the North. The physician in Ancient Jaffna had known the art of preparing drugs especially those with iron and mercury. He was claimed to be an expert in the purification, calcinations, and oxidation of minerals, knew the use of alkalise and also a master in treating poisoned conditions as snake-bite. The physician was able to dispense medicine free of charge. His methods were cheap, natural, and simple. With the herbs he collected in the district, and with simple drugs he gave rural population good medical aid. There is a story that Crown Prince Paranirupasinghan once went to Kandy and successfully treated a long standing ailment of the Queen.

The Kings of Jaffna had encouraged the practice of medicine by getting new books on the subject written by able physicians, and caused them to be revised from time to time by a body of physicians. "Pararajasekaran", "Segarajasekaran" and “Sarpasastram” are some of the books. There had been a herbarium at Kalliyankadu where some rare herbs were preserved.

Today Ayurveda is the term most commonly used for the ancient healthcare systems of the Indian subcontinent, and includes Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and what is termed Deshiya Chikitsa found in Sri Lanka. It also has come to mean a way to earn a quick buck from the western tourists, where the term Ayurveda is abused, making a mockery of our ancient healthcare system.

Today unfortunately ayurveda too is getting commercialized, which is more harmful than the Western treatment, because ayurveda treatment can get away without proper research, clinical trials and scientific studies on their long term effects. Unscrupulous businessmen could hide behind the fact that ayurvedic drugs do not need any clinical trials, because they have been tried and tested and found hundred percent satisfactory over several millennia. However most of the drugs now reaching the west, in the name of Ayurveda are far from the true formulae used by the ancient sages.

Multinational drug makers are getting into the act, like a marketing campaign in rural India, calling it Arogya Parivar, to push their western drugs on the poor people in the villages, I believe they are abusing the very concept of Arogya.

Then we have herbal drugs, trying to mislead people into thinking that they are based on ancient formulae. But a true indigenous or Ayurvedic drug could never be manufactured on a large scale. To manufacture in such large quantities the herbs have to be cultivated as monoculture crops, and to obtain high yields agrochemical poisons have to be added. Then the herbs have to be harvested frequently to meet the demand of the factory. When they needed a medicinal plant, our ancient physicians were careful about the place where they found it. They would never pick a herb from near a cemetery or by the road side. They would know the time of the month and the time of day to pick the herb. These plants were found in their natural habitat, as a part of a stable and healthy ecosystem. The contents of the plant and the micro-nutrients and metals found in it would be so different from a plant grown on a mass scale with synthetic fertilizer. The part of the plant used for the medicine too would be very important.

A very good example from the present day is the making of tea. We do not pluck just any leaf from the tree, but only the two leaves and a bud. The planter and the tea maker knows what would happen to the quality of tea if the third leaf is added. And the Japanese have realized the effect of poison added to the plants in the name of agrochemicals and that is why they are so strict about the contamination levels in the tea we export to them.

The next problem with the commercial herbal preparations is that it is one common product for everyone and would not work in the same manner with different individuals. It is only very recently that western medical professionals have begun to realize the same drug may not be havi

Aug. 24, 2012, 2:16 a.m. » Tagged: archaeology , healthcare

adam & eve

adam & eve

'Is that an island over there?' Mayura asked the waiter.

'That's the Pigeon Island'

'Why? Do you have a lot of pigeons on the island?' Manori wanted to know.

'There had been many pigeons in the past, but not any more' the waiter replied.

'Who is there on the island?'

'No one. It is a very small island, too small for anyone to live in. A few tourists visit the place by boat'

The young couple wanted to see the island. They were informed that the hotel had a boat, which could be hired for the trip. Mayura wanted to spend the whole day on the island. At his request, lunch, a flask of tea and several bottles of water was made ready and handed over to Ravi, the boy who operated the boat.

Ravi turned the boat around and helped the couple to climb in. When they were safely seated on the bench, the boy started the engine and with a wave of his hand to the people on the beach, he took off towards the Pigeon Island.

When she looked behind her, Manori saw the shoreline getting away from her. Ahead of her, the island was growing larger and she could identify the few shrubs growing on it. She saw a fishing boat, with no one on it. Had it been abandoned, she wondered.

What they saw as one small island from the hotel beach, now she noticed were two small islands, at a fair distance from each other. They were already passing the first island. As they came closer to the Pigeon island, they could see the coral formations and the fish swimming around the shallow waters.

Ravi helped the girl to step out of the boat and took the food and water in the basket, to be placed under a tree, above the high tide line.

'I will be back at five o'clock' Ravi told them, as he went up to his boat.

Manori watched the boat taking off at such a speed, that it was travelling a few inches above the water for a short distance. She squeezed the young man's hand and turned towards him with love filled eyes. Mayura pressed her hand a little tighter.

'Ooi, it hurts'

'This is our island now' Mayura shouted.

'You are the king, and i'm the queen'

'That's what you think, but i got you down just for the day'

'Try me. Now you have got me for eternity' she told him.

Mayura took off his shirt and hung it from a branch of a tree nearby. Manori pleaded with him to find out if there was anyone else on the island. He walked behind Manori, along the beach, circling the island. The island was long and narrow, with a scattering of boulders at one end. They found it difficult to go across the rocks.

'Are you sure there is no one on the other side?' Manori asked.

'I don't care if any one is here' Mayura told her, as he walked up to where the food basket was placed, and he started unzipping his trouser.

'You didn't bring your bathing trunks' Manori reminded him.

'Only you and i are here in the whole universe. Why do i need any clothes?' he asked her.

'You must be mad'

'I want to be mad today. Now it's your turn. Come on, get into the water' he told her. On his pleading, she took off her outer garments and ran into the water.

' Do you remember the film Blue Lagoon?' he asked her.

'No I don't think i have seen it. I know it is an old film done even before i was born'


Ravi returned sharp at 5 o'clock.

He could not see the young couple. He thought they would have walked across to the other side of the island, and he settled down under a tree to wait for them.

He waited for about thirty minutes. The lovebirds had not returned. He was getting impatient. He started looking about him. Then he climbed up the rocks to look on the far side. He could not see any one.

A small shadow of fear passed over Ravi's mind.

After a short while, he decided that the young couple were not on the island. The next thought that came to his mind was that they had drowned in the sea. But how could anyone drown in such calm and shallow water.

Could they have been kidnapped? The only way to approach this island was by boat. If any other boat had come to the island, he would have seen it from the hotel beach.

Ravi ran to his boat and took off at a speed he had never even dreamt of. He was out of breath as he ran into the Manager's room, after beaching the boat. The Manager was able to put together what Ravi was trying to say, and he told the receptionist to call the police, and ran to the beach, behind Ravi.

He summoned two security guards who were on the beach, and together, they raced back to the little island.

On the way they kept questioning Ravi. Ravi kept on repeating the same story, from the moment the couple had got into his boat. The police launch arrived, and Ravi had to repeat his story once more.

The police officers inspected the clothes under the tree. With the young man's clothes, there were only the outer garments of the girl. Her undergarments were found closer to the water. Two police dogs began to sniff their way around. When it got dark, they continued the search with the aid of torchlights. Several boats had been searching the surrounding sea, all the while.

They gave up the search when they realized there was nowhere else to look for.

In the morning, the police and the hotel staff, and a few villagers, arrived on the island, and started looking all over again, for any trace of the two young people, which they may have missed in the dark.

By noon they had to return, disappointed.


Ravi sat on the hotel beach, gazing at the island. He did not want to believe that the couple had drowned. He did not realize that he had missed his lunch. He had been seated in the shade of a beach umbrella, but the shade had shifted. Yet he did not feel the afternoon sun on his body.

From the length of the shadows, he noticed that the time was around five o'clock.

Suddenly he stood up and walked to his boat. There was no one else around, and he had to push the boat in to the water all by himself.

A security guard saw him and walked up to help him.

'Where are you off to?' the guard asked him.

'I'm going to look for the couple'

'Their bodies would be cast ashore tonight, somewhere' the guard laughed. 'You won't find them on the island'

He started the boat and headed towards the island, without bothering the reply.

As he approached the island he realized that he would not find any one on the island.

Ravi saw someone or something under a tree.

The young man and the girl were fast asleep under the tree. They did not have any clothes on. The girl had one hand flung carelessly over the boy.

Were they asleep, or dead? the thought flashed across Ravi's mind.

Over fifty people and two dogs had searched the entire island, that same morning, combing every inch of land. If they were not here in the morning, and there was no means of transport for them from the island, then was he looking at the ghosts of dead people? Fear entered his mind next.

He hesitated to go near the two people, because he was afraid, that they could be dead, and he also felt shy, since they did not have any clothes on. Though he worked on a hotel beach and seen enough naked flesh, he could not understand why he felt shy. Ravi cleared his throat, when that did not have an effect, he tried to cough a few times. Then he tried to call the young man.

But they did not respond. His fear that they were dead, started growing. He took courage and threw a stick at the sleeping figures.

Mayura opened his eyes, and with dazed eyes he started to look around, as if trying to figure out where he was. When he saw the naked girl sleeping next to him, he realized that he too had no clothes on.

Ravi pulled off his shirt and threw it at Mayura. Mayura covered the girl's body with the shirt, as best he could, before he woke her.

'It's not dark yet, why did you come so early?' he asked. 'We fell asleep after lunch, and were thinking of having another dip before you arrived' Mayura added as if to trying to explain their state of undress. His voice also sounded a little annoyed for the disturbance.

'I don't know what you are talking about. You had asked me to come yesterday evening at five o'clock'

'What do you mean yesterday, we came here only this morning' Mayura asked in turn.

The girl was trying to hide behind the shirt. Ravi told them the events of the previous evening and this morning, still keeping a little away from them.

'I dropped you here yesterday morning. I came back yesterday evening sharp at five o'clock, but you were not here. Then we came back with the police and searched all over'

Mayura could not believe it.

'Today is Sunday, you came here on Saturday' Ravi added. He also explained that the police had taken their cloths, and other belongings. Ravi went back to his boat to fetch a piece of cloth that he found on his seat, which he gave to Mayura to wrap around his waist.

Ravi had tried to ask them where they had spent the night and the entire day Sunday. But they kept insisting that they came to the island the same morning. But Ravi was certain that one full day had elapsed, from the time he found the couple missing from the island, and all the people at the hotel and the police were also aware of it.

As they watched the island grow smaller with the distance, Mayura wished how wonderful and romantic it would have been if really he and Manori had been able to spend a night on the island.

daya dissanayake

Aug. 21, 2012, 11:56 a.m.

advertising demon

advertising demon

daya dissanayake

As long ago as 1719, Daniel Defoe reminded us through Robinson Crusoe, that people should compare their condition with those that are worse. Nanda Malini in her song about crying for sandals till she saw a person without feet, tells us about it, but unfortunately, the advertising industry makes us blind to the world of the less privileged and less fortunate.

Historian Romila Thapar once suggested that “a fundamental sanity in Indian Civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.” (Romila Thappar, Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300, OUP, 2000).

But that was in Early India, when only Mara was present. Satan and Lucifer and the Devil arrived much later. Then all of them found a very convenient and very efficient platform in the mass media. Advertising was first infiltrated and then taken over by Satan and Mara in partnership.

Through the Advertising industry they were next able to take over most of the entertainment world and sports and business as well. Satan and Mara could now work on man's inherent greed and envy. It happened in other fields of man's development and discovery too.

Probably this demonization began with the discovery of fire, when man first used it to prepare his food. Then evil forces took over, teaching man how to use it to destroy his surroundings, property and even libraries. Man developed the wheel, which enabled him to build a car and a train. Then Satan showed him how to build a battle tank and an armored car. Man discovered the means of splitting the atom, and Mara showed him how to build the nuclear bomb.

It was Thorstein Veblen, who used the term 'Conspicuous Consumption', to describe the behavior of the nouveau riche in 1899. 200 years later the situation is getting worse, with the high technological advances made by the advertising industry, which encourage not only the middle and the upper classes, but even the low-income families, to flout their wealth more and more, to spend more money than what they could earn.

Advertising also uses 'Informercials', with embedded advertising, supposedly to provide us information, to provide education. They have invaded the domain of the writer with embedded advertising in novels and songs. Business pages carry 'Advertorials', promoting one product or another. Advertising and marketing is a gross abuse of 'Freedom of Expression', and perhaps in most instances a violation of basic human rights.

A Buddhist who recites the Five precepts every day would find it difficult to keep the Second and the Fourth Precepts, if he is in the Advertising business. They have to grab what does not belong to them, they have to grab it for their employers and their clients. They have to use half truths, untruths and total fabrications to sell their products and to attract attention. They sell unwanted, unnecessary and sometimes harmful food supplements claiming miraculous benefits. They sell drugs which cause more harm than good. They use doctors and teachers for indirect marketing stunts.

Our greatest and most dangerous enemy is the free economy which encourages uncontrolled advertising and sales promotion. The devil is all around us, tempting us to eat not only the apple, but to cut down the tree to pluck the apples. All the advertisements around us, brainwashing us and our children, tell us to consume more and more, and most of what they want us to consume are unnecessary and often harmful. They are all harmful to our ecosystem and cause depletion of our resources as never before. We are made to believe that the more money we spend, the happier we could be. Instead of eating a home-cooked fresh cereal, we are told to eat a pre-cooked processed cereal, and we do not pause for a moment to consider the harm we are doing to our environment during the processing of this meal. All the pre-cooked, or processed food also mean more and more packaging, almost all of which would be non-biodegradable. While exhausting our natural resources, we are also adding more and more waste products to pollute our atmosphere, our fresh water and our land. Do we want to breath today so our children can suffocate tomorrow? Do we want to eat today so our children could die of starvation tomorrow?

The excessive consumption even extends to religious activities. We are made to believe that more flowers we offer, the more oil we burn, more gold we gift, we earn that much more merit. Going by this belief, only the rich and the richer can receive more merit. So the poor will always remain poor and will never earn enough merit to even look forward to a better life after death. If we really have to offer flowers at the temple or the kovil, would one flower not be enough? Why do we have to offer several, or sometimes one million flowers?

If the WWF prediction is correct, and unless we take some measures to control our consumption, then 50% of the world population would have to migrate to another planet, unless there is a world war or epidemic that would wipe out mankind. We overeat, because we are compelled to eat all the advertised food. Then we complain of 'life-style' diseases, and let more advertisements lure us to consume more products to bring down our cholesterol and sugar. We overuse electricity by purchasing all the latest electrical equipment at home and office, and then we complain of power shortages. Then we generate more power by burning more fossil fuels, contributing to pollution and global warming.

We add more poisons and carcinogenic chemicals to the food we grow because we are informed, that all these chemicals will result in higher yields, higher profits, but we are not informed of the environmental cost and the health cost. Or we ignore the risks because of our greed.

It is advertising which has corrupted and ruined all sports activities, tempting sportspersons to seek forbidden substances to enhance performance, and for gamblers to tempt them with filthy lucre. It is advertising and unethical marketing which lead to worsening violence and crime.

Satan or Mara had appeared in many guises over the ages, to keep on tempting mankind. They had done everything possible to mankind to keep them enslaved by greed and envy. Towards the end of mankind, during the 20th and 21st centuries, Satan or Mara had been behind all the advertising of unwanted and harmful products, feeding man's greed, creating envy against those who possessed or could possess all these products advertised in the electronic and print media. Man had been guided to create the electronic media, including social networking sites, to make it easier for evil to convey their messages to mankind, to tempt him to do more evil.

The way we are heading now, the end of the world will not be from a nuclear bomb in the hands of a global terrorist, but in the hands of all of us, we are all eco-terrorists, trying very hard to destroy everything around us. The enemy is within us, and it is our responsibility to neutralize the enemy and save our earth.

Aug. 21, 2012, 6:42 a.m. » Tagged: advertising