Development is not only meant for stomach but also for the wits. (Part-19 IV)
Posted on February 21st, 2011

Geethanjana Kudaligamage

Rajapakse, regional politics, “Eurocentric Developmentalism” and the western hegemony (Part 19 IV)

 Please be advised that the article titled “What does man want from development””¦Awsadahamy asks” is the part 19-III of this article. 

 Native philosophy of development reaffirms the right to life of all beings; not only of the fittest, but also of flora and fauna. The eastern philosophy investigates man and his existence, his nature of being as a part of a universe where he has been positioned in his proper place in relation to a larger function of nature. Above all, the distinctiveness of his existence have been investigated, in relation to space, time, causality, liberation and ultimate freedom (in Sri Lanka, this ultimate freedom  has been taken over by Buddhist philosophy in post Buddhist era). In this entire endeavor, wisdom/knowledge has been placed vital and pivotal, as the key to liberation or happiness. Demolishing darkness of ignorance and realization of knowledge considered as attainment of ultimate liberation or enlightenment in oriental sense. Not only for Awasadahamy’s philosophy, even for Buddhism and Hinduism, has this been the cardinal principle of ethical foundations.

 As I previously mentioned, according to mythological traditions of Bharata, “ƒ”¹…”Yaksas’ were extremely intelligent. Great poet Kalidasa also recognizes Yaksas as people of “ƒ”¹…”gnana,’ extraordinary cleverness. These people of ancient Lanka were traditionally well known for putting more emphasis to the meaning of life in terms of the development of mind. That may be one of the reasons why Buddhism, a doctrine that promote spiritual development was well flourishing in Sri Lanka for well over 2500 years, because developing mind was a common trait of all philosophical traditions of Asia. But comparing to the long history of the land, this Buddhist history might be relatively a shorter span of time.

 Hindu culture in India was no different. Let us see the following Sanskrit Shloka.   

  vidyaa dadaati vinayam “”‚ vinayaadyaati paatrataam
paatratvaaddhanamaapnoti “”‚ dhanaaddharmam tatah sukham

 “Knowledge generates humility, by humility one becomes worthy, being
worthy one earns wealth, with wealth one gains righteousness, and by
righteousness one becomes happy”.

 So the knowledge brings ultimate happiness. In Buddhist beliefs, happiness has been considered as ultimate wealth. “ƒ”¹…”santhutthi paraman dhanan.’ Aubowan culture appreciated the development of mind, so did Buddhism, the reason for these two to embrace each other thus established. It doesn’t say that knowledge is power. But it says that knowledge brings wealth of righteousness. This is a complete a different to the western notion of knowledge. This reveals the fundamental difference between two different philosophies of sciences between Asia and the west. Dr. Gunaratne rightfully says that “Western science does not accommodate axiology.” Main problem of western notion of science is that it attempts to stay above human society and life world. It tries to rewrite morality and ethics entirely for the sake of science. Every human activity has been based on ideology/philosophy but science. Nevertheless western science has never been bound or disciplined by any such humane values based on a philosophy. Where is the righteousness of western science? Awsadahamy learns and use western science with careful analysis to give life to enhance his philosophy of “Live and let live”.  He will discard all anti-human aspects of sciences.

 For the East, this happiness of knowledge is humble and modest, and not arrogant at all. In other words, knowledge is not a tool to grab power, but a tool that reaffirms the limits of power. Although colonial criminality of capitalism used this wonderful scientist’s knowledge to risk entire global humanity, when Einstein was praised for his great findings in the “ƒ”¹…”theory of relativity’, with charming humbleness he said “I am just like a fortunate and happy insect sitting on a small piece of debris of the universe and finding out that the piece of debris is the Earth, which is spherical and not flat”. Humbleness of knowledge or, the state of enlightenment is such a gentle state of mind, but not like bombarding the weak in the third world while claiming that they are the children of European enlightenment.

 Can this approach be a part of our modern development? Yes of course, this understanding makes our development a meaningful endeavor, avoiding pitfalls that western development already has fallen today. Would this hamper our chances in the competitive world of economics? Would this demand our fishing folks to cease their fishing trade? Or ship builders to stop building ships? No! Eastern philosophy never promotes passivity or dogmatic ideology, although some people have misunderstood about it. With proper ideology, we will be better equipped with our understanding of different experience. We mustn’t forget that indigenous live and let live philosophy is not limiting to Buddhism, but it is a larger ethical, mythical tradition of the island, and of Asia. It has been complemented but never being weakened by Buddhism. That is the reason why when Buddhism did not have answers, still native culture had answers to tackle Prabhakaran’s criminal ideology. And that is the reason why Aubowan culture produced the most notable environmentalist scientist of the world through Vapi culture and the reason why Buddhism had tools to embrace him. So Buddism and Vapi culture complimented each other pretty well. In some societies it didn’t work very well like that. Nalanda may be never had such a powerful sustainable life philosophy like in Vapi culture to go along with Buddhism. If Buddism is an ideological flower, the culture of the society is the casket that provides security for that ideology/flower. Don’t forget, people die, and even kill if needed to protect ideals. World history is a long tale of such struggle.   

 It was only after the advent of modern ideology and its western monopoly of freedom principles, the west began to promote the concept of development through entirely economic perspective. Modern system was profiting out of genocidal violence and slavery of capitalism, which on the other hand was conditioned by its bizarre production, consumption and the exploitation. The original freedom principles had been hijacked by colonial criminality, which appreciated only the type of knowledge that can create surplus value. Therefore, the rest of the knowledge branches were sidelined or weakened by a system regulated by productivity under the market principle. When the knowledge was arrested by mechanisms of productivity, market principles and labor specialization, then western modern knowledge-tree happened to go through severe trimming of reductionism creating disability of some vital branches of knowledge. Seeking productivity for the sake of satisfying human consumption and productivity for the sake of increasing profit margin are two different things. Science became just a tool of increasing profit creating most anti human devices to condemn man himself. Today in the west science is leaving people jobless, homeless and making them to commit suicide because of the automated devices it has developed to deny human labor. Again it (science) has being enslaved to protect this bizarre culture of capitalism creating larger stockpiles of armament eventually to keep 80% world humanity in poverty.

 However, originally, even Hegel, Kant or for writers like Max Weber, could not deny the fact that the concept of development primarily an ontological/ideological pursuit although it has other implications of causality that eventually brings high productivity, as a result of free man’s natural urge to rise up to his ultimate creativity.

 When man’s freedom is gained, especially political freedom being released, if the society in point is grounded in a well functioning cultural wisdom without chaos, this free environment will uplift his creative powers into their zenith. This rising never will be barred by our indigenous ideals which promote cohabitation with nature. Instead, this new environment will accommodate to search for new avenues to reach high productivity without causing environmental damage. The notion of high productivity at the cost of nature is absolutely a modern myth generated by ever increasing surplus value of modern development theory. The truth is entire modern world has been entrapped in a whirlpool of self animated modern system that has no ethics.

 For example, let us take the existing modern civilization based on fossil-fuel. The entire modern civilization has been arrested by this oil-centered political culture. People have been made to pay their lives even today for this maddening culture of oil. The question is, if there was no substance discovered as such called oil, or the mechanism of fuel combustion within a cylinder of arrested air to create an explosion and then to cause a movement to turn a crankshaft and then a wheel,  how human civilization would have resolved the energy issue to mechanize human activities? Would human society become stagnant without any progress? Human intelligence would have never envisioned an alternative energy? No, it is not the case. The case is human creativity has been controlled by market forces. That is the reason. Actually human mind was never given a chance to see other avenues, because productivity and surplus value was the controlling arm of all human activities. The rest of the affairs are controlled by multi national corporations in oil business.  

 On the other hand, as far as the larger proportion of populations being marginalized from world history and western political ideology, this void of knowledge will be the hunting ground of NGOs, INGOs and the corporate media where they can misguide and misinform people and then channel public consciousness to political abyss advantageous for them. That is the main reason why we must begin our development from universalizing our education, demolishing mono-western narration of human knowledge. The informed citizenry will be the biggest security providers for a developing nation.

 However when man is free, man as an animal who desires to “ƒ”¹…”create’ in his fullest potentials, combined with his hand (action/labor) with that of the powers of his mind (faculties/intellect) leaves physical proofs along the passage of the history as spontaneous results of enjoying his freedom through his creative powers. Manmade civilization, with all its hard evidences, is the result of such abundance of freedom. He changes the nature just like a water stream changing its cause without causing environmental damage or changing the entire ecology of its surrounding.

 Human Knowledge, entwined with nature””‚the ultimate realization of “ƒ”¹…”being’ as the index of development

Today Transnational Corporate (TNC) centers want us to be political only to the extent that we do not meddle into our economic affairs. The visible part of the logic is as if they telling us like. “You do your politics and we do your economics”, the invisible part is even larger, and a part of it is like we do our politics and our economics as well as your economics, and you do your politics the way we want it, a deal. But it is only a one party deal. They have taken something belonging to us, but have never returned anything in exchange; then it’s not a deal. In this prescribed political principle, the era becomes a “democracy without economics”, because our economics has been arrested by IMF, World Bank; and WTO. It may be a wonderful political theory for the useless nincompoops or “Gon-Waheys” of Colombo, but not for us.

 So, they want us to be democratically political; as far as we act dumbly economical; or politically democratic as far as economically Colombians. This is the type of “ƒ”¹…”politics’ west prescribing to us; to say it loudly again, the democratic “ƒ”¹…”politics’ without “ƒ”¹…”economics’. The overly fetishized political power of third world very often tends to think of politics without economics, because they rule their lands for some clientele outside their geography. The skillful mechanisms of global financial institutions have created a myth that glorifies budgetary deficit as a sign of rapid development, so keeping nations under the cycle of insurmountable debt. So the remaining in power of regimes will depend on the goodwill of global financial institutions. These politicians of the third world, with the help of some local business lackeys profiting out of the misery of their own masses, rule their lands while letting someone else to take care of their economics, a standard neo-imperial apparatus. Ranil Wickramasinghe is the unique variety of a golden sitting duck in this kind, the model political example among the headless third world; because he not only can think of “ƒ”¹…”politics’ without “ƒ”¹…”economics’, he even can think of “ƒ”¹…”politics’ without “ƒ”¹…”politics’. (Ex. CFA and his Safety-Net theory).

 Udula and me

Ideology creates enemies as well as long lasting friendships. I used a symbolic character in this series, his name was Awsadahamy. But there is a true character by the name Awsadahamy as well. Although they have similarities, they are two different entities; that means, Awsadahamy concept of “Live and let live” culture of the “Aubowan” culture is a conceptual construction, but my friend Udula Bandara Awsadahamy is a true character living among us.

 Today I am going to bring some of writings of Udula Bandara Awsadahamy in support of my argument of appreciating local knowledge based on his research. Born in Rotawewa, Minneriya by this gigantic ancient reservoir, Udula relentlessly researched ancient reservoir system to understand the scientific rationale behind our ancient irrigation system of Sri Lanka for last thirty years. No one helped him financially or morally in this endeavor other than his close friends with their priceless encouragement and appreciation. If Sri Lankan authority is serious about finding a policy for a sustainable agriculture, Udula says we have a gigantic treasure of knowledge out there. But none of our administrations were serious about conducting a systematic research into it because they do not trust it and do not understand it. Even now, if necessary resources and authority is provided, Udula says he is pretty confident that he can uncover a lot of mysteries about our technology hidden behind ancient irrigation systems and related agriculture in Sri Lanka.   

 Udula Bandara Awsadahamy is a friend of mine since 1980 s. When we met at Dambulla Rajamaha Viharaya for the first time, I sensed that we had many things in common to share. Since then he became my closest friend and buddy sharing all our happiness and sad nesses. The bonding agent of this friendship for last thirty odd years between Udula and me was nothing but our shared sorrows. When he met me in Colombo or when I met him in Rajarata, we had lengthy discussions. As we grew up under JR regime most of our young life, always such discussions ended up in complete anguish and pain. Due to his influence and knowledge, I came to know about complexities of ancient irrigation systems. We grieved together witnessing the colossal damage that Daffodilized servile western intellectual can do to a highly sophisticated ancient system of irrigation and agriculture; and we were saddened by the damage that had been caused to archaeological sites by the cultural triangle simply due to their arrogance and arrogating resistance to understand complexities of ancient knowledge.

 As a result of his unbearable sorrow of witnessing the saddening state of ancient treasures continually destroyed by this madness of perceived modernity, he published a book under the name “Wewa” in 1999 introducing and analyzing the complex system of ancient irrigation system in Sri Lanka. This may be the first in that sort of studies shed some analytical light from an “ƒ”¹…”indigenous perspective’ into this subject mater. Presenting the book to Wew bandi kalapaye janee janaya he had wrote these following few emotional phrases.

 “To a nation meandering unaware of the  unfathomable abyss they being dragging into, to a people of infancy naively sucking  breast of a dead mother, to the  peoples of a land of man made lakes””‚ melancholically struggling  for  water at the threshold of a dying reservoir””‚I present this book with love.” (Sinhala version translated into English) these few words of Udula tell it all.

    In Sri Lanka, people know Udula Bandara Awsadahamy through his highly acclaimed TV program of “Wahalkada“ televised on Rupavahini years back. For some people of Cultural Triangle of Roland Silva, he was devil (Yaka) throwing sand into their golden Biriyani bawl, due to Udula’s criticism of the destruction that Cultural Triangle had inflicted upon a heritage of an ancient culture.

Among fellow architects in his field, and his batch mates of University of Moratuwa, he was “Awuse” (shorten form of Awsadahamy) helping to build fellow students and friends’ village houses with architectural drawings and constructional advice free of charge. For his professional clients, he is a highly talented architect. Yet for some influential Kulture Colombians like”¦”¦”¦ (names with held for obvious reasons), he is a Godaya who cannot understand the sophisticated intricacies of modern culture. But for the rest, he is a man of the soil who born in Rajarata, and still living among people whose generations had being kicked all over the dry zone by maddening spiral of politicking innocent lives by different political administrations of Colombo. For laymen of Minnariya, Udula mahattaya knows about Wews (ancient reservoirs) better than the irrigation department and Mahaveli development authority. The reason is clear; the Rajarata Gamiyas knew that Udula has done in-depth study into the subject of their “ƒ”¹…”wewas’ to say things with authority about Rajarata wewas (ancient irrigation) system.

 But as Dr. Gunaratne pointed out, when western science was imported to its colony, the colonial administration used science as an ideology to marginalize indigenous knowledge. This tradition has made local scientist to denounce local knowledge without giving a proper investigation into it, while the western scientists to acquire patent rights of local knowledge like in the case of Aurvedic formulas in chemistry. In that sense local science traditions has become most unscientific and irrational in some cases. Udula’s experience with Department of Forestry and Department of Irrigation gives a better theme for a case study into this aspect.

 For Irrigation and Forestry, Udula was a Naya must be killed at sight. The reason for this allergy of Udula was nothing but had caused by Udula’s questioning the rationale of their programs based on traditional knowledge, because these pseudo scientists and engineers were allergic to whatever traditional. I am not going to write myriad of confrontations they had earlier, but one in the recent times may be worth to mention. First of all I must say there are so many good scientists and engineers in Sri Lanka still respect viable traditional knowledge. At the same time there are a lot just learned people called engineers without vision just representing colonial hegemony through science. We must condemn that type of hegemonic science marginalizing native aspirations.  

 The story begins with the event that Ministry of Irrigation had organized a seminar to mark the World Water Day. As the response for the invitation received by Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB), the bureau had proposed Udula Bandara Ausadahamy’s name as their representative presenter to deliver a lecture/presentation in the event of the said seminar. Since the CECB also comes under the ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, CECB may have received this invitation for their involvement in construction in infrastructure of the said field.

 However when the department of Irrigation had seen the name of Udula, they had reacted in their typical manner as if they saw a Naya. So, immediately Irrigation had submitted their displeasure to CECB for suggesting Udula’s name for the seminar. But CECB was firm. They had responded saying that they are going to send Udula anyway. Irrigation had asked the CECB to suggest a different name to represent CECB. But CECB politely had rejected the idea. Then Irrigation department’s response was worse than the erstwhile colonial administration. They had said that if Udula comes he might get hurt. So the CECB wanted to clarify it. Then the Irrigation had revealed that there are engineers ready to beat Udula in the event of his arrival. Finally after going through an exchange of myriad of correspondences, CECB had decided to withdraw from the seminar. If this is the democracy existing in state sector in Sri Lanka, what would be the outcome of our development? Why they allergic to give a listening to traditional knowledge? Are they not for the native people of Sri Lanka? Why native has been sidelined the very function of development, for whose benefit? Isn’t that against Mahinda Chinthanaya?  

 Udula is a contemporary link of families who lived in Minnariya for generations lived by the reservoir, maintained and took care of this gigantic treasure of ancient knowledge throughout many generations.    

 Due to the ignorance of the true intricacies and complexities of the advanced technology of ancient wisdom, many promoters of western science blindly believe that the western science is superior over everything indigenous. So they think that western development ideology as the only panacea to all our ailments while denigrating local knowledge. I wouldn’t say that there are no areas of western knowledge that is superior to ours. Yes there are many areas we can learn from them about; but definitely it is not irrigation systems, where we are the superior.

 Today I decided to bring an example of ancient knowledge of Sri Lankan science that sent all western scientists in total disarray and confusion without being able to understand its subtleties and complexities. If there is any knowledge systems in the world that can claim to have contributed to the everlasting sustainability of man’s survival, elevating his will to live and let live, with enormous confidence I would say, that is none other than ancient hydraulic engineering of Sri Lanka that built marvelous irrigation system and its related philosophy and technology of agriculture. This man made wonder simply surpasses any similar knowledge ever evidenced by mankind, even gigantic unproductive pyramids of Egypt. In next article I am going to attach some of Udula’s writings (he sent me long ago through emails) into this article for the benefit of Lanka Web readers. Let us see what he has to say about the subject of “ƒ”¹…”Vapi’ culture and the agriculture of Sri Lanka.

 (To be continued)

One Response to “Development is not only meant for stomach but also for the wits. (Part-19 IV)”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Bravo, Geeth ! Many thanks. We hope Mahinda Chinthanaya will carry forward ancient Lanka knowledge in every sphere of life.

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