Cruelty to Elephants, our Gentle Giants
The idea of this piece was in my mind for sometime but deliberately delayed it, so that I could devote much time and effort on the final outcome.
The idea was to have an overview of the human thinking over the last 3000 years based on written or oral material of the East and West.
How science shaped and developed my way of thinking is altogether a different kettle of fish.
I must say, I had the luxury of free thinking from my childhood and nobody tried to modify it.
In other words, I did not have a mentor.
Except for the sports master, in my simple village school who instilled in my mind, the golden rule in sports “It is participation, not winning that matters” under the Olympics banner and the late Professor Senaka Bible in my undergraduate days, there were only a few personalities that I admired.
Only other exception to that rule was Sir John Kotalawala whom I used to see as a tiny tot. He was famous for his uttering “ It is better fox hunting in England than doing politics in Ceylon".
Shooting foxes was a sport in UK then, I joined the cavalcade, vigorously opposing it, as a sport, in early eighties, on the lines of animals rights, while working there.
We won our campaign and it was abolished on the grounds of preventing cruelty to animals.
Unfortunately in this country we still cause untold cruelty to our “Gentle Giant”, a political symbol of major party in the name of traditional Buddhist practice of parading them in procession.
Some cruel monks of our tradition are the exponent of this “cruelty sport” while illegally hunting the baby elephants in the wild joining hand with Ganja (hashish) growers.
Having said that, I did not understand the deeper meaning of Buddhism (till later years in my life), but its principle practices have had a lot of influence in my thinking. It teaches us of Simplicity and despise grandiosity and Avihinsa (non violence) the guiding principles which are antithesis to our grandiose high priests.
For a starter, I did not believe in creation of the world by a single god.
That meant I did not believe in existence of any form of god dead or live.
Advent of the Russian exploration of space when I was a tiny tot, not only made deeper meaning and admiration of its people without a religion.
For my luck, I was born with scientific outlook and learning science was a pleasure (language and religion were not) and a pastime.
To add to that there was emergence of lot of reading material including local papers and scientific journals at the British Council Library. English language or literature (I hated Shakespeare but made a point to visit his birth place when I was working in UK) was not my forte but that did not deter me from grasping scientific terminology.
In other words, the outside world contributed a lot in my formative years.
The fact, that I was born to a independent free nation was a feather on my cap.
There was no indoctrination and freedom to think and act were bonuses.
How, I went up the ladder was a shear chance occurrence with no prior programming.
The rationalist Abram Kovoor was making his presence felt and I had the audacity to pose probing question to him (but no need to record those flimsy occurrences, here).
I never followed his line of thinking but had admired him all the same.
Abraham Thomas Kovoor (April 10, 1898 – September 18, 1978) was an Indian professor and rationalist who gained prominence after retirement for his campaign to expose as frauds various Indian and Sri Lankan "god-men" and so-called paranormal phenomena. His direct, trenchant criticism of spiritual frauds and organized religions was enthusiastically received by audiences, initiating a new dynamism in the Rationalist movement, especially in Sri Lanka and India.
Professor Carlo Fonseka was active somewhat later in time to Kovoor but he did not make an impact on me.
But I loved his orations and style.
It was revelation at that time.
All these petered out and we went into a shell and old sort of dogma crept into the system with Swabahasha steamrolling, the English education.