Political leaders need training in sacrificial leadership

My dear Mahinda aiyah,

Ayubowan, vanakkam, assalamu allaikum and best wishes as the country concludes celebrations and ceremonies to commemorate the thrice blessed day of Vesak, and the 2600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s enlightenment. The pandals may have come down, the dansal and Vesak zones closed but the message of Vesak, the precepts and principles of the Buddha dhamma need to be practised in daily life at our homes, workplaces and wherever we go. Otherwise the celebrations would have been in vain or a waste of money and time.

 The core of the Buddha dhamma is the inner liberation from, our slavery to self-centredness and selfishness or our desire for self-interest ‘personal gain’ or glory power, prestige and popularity. If this truth does not set us free, then we will remain as hypocrites or holy-humbugs pretending or acting. This inner liberation from the self-centered nature is particularly important for political or other leaders and decision makers. If they are not experiencing liberation and are only seeking power to dominate people and plunder the resources of the country then these leaders are in one hell of a mess and are leading others also into a hell of a mess. It will be like the blind leading the blind with both ending up in a mud-hole.

Throughout this special Vesak week we heard scores of dhamma sermons in temples, on television and other media. If the word preached or the religious seeds fell on the wayside or a stony heart or among thorns and thistles they would not produce good fruit. We hope the Vesak sermons would have transformed the minds, hearts and nature of political leaders especially because Sri Lanka is facing its moment of truth and only people with goodwill will be able to lead the country out of this international crisis.

The government or higher education minister SB Dissanayake appears to be keen on giving leadership training to University entrants at military camps. This is apparently meant to stop sordid ragging or other acts of indiscipline so that the higher seats of learning in the country will produce men and women who will lead Sri Lanka on the high road of integrity,a selflessness and sacrificial service to the people. But university students believe that politicians – some of whom behave like thugs and most of whom are alleged to be involved in corruption or other acts of glorified criminality – have no right to force students to undergo leadership training at military camps. The students have filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court while last Friday requested the authorities to put off this training programme which was scheduled to start this week.

Independent analysts and observers believe that before training university students the politicians themselves need to be trained in an academy like a Buddhist pirivena as was done in old Burma in the good old days of that  country. During the Vesak period  Minister Champika Patali Ranawaka and several members of the Jathika Hela Urumaya shaved their heads donned white national costumes and entered a Buddhist pirivena for two weeks of meditation, reflections and re-training in the highest principles of the dhamma. Sri Lanka would be much better off if other politicians did this not just for two weeks but for one or two years so that we would have good governance, accountability, democracy, respect for dissent or diversity of views. With this training we may hopefully have political leaders who are not in the hell holes of bribery and corruption and who do not plunder and pillage the resources of a country in which people in more than 20 districts are known to be struggling below the poverty line. If we propagate a hell hole where political leaders rob the poor then we have gone to the devil and God help us.

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