The Right and Honourable D S Senanayake – Wrapped Around in the Noble Eightfold Path was He
Posted on November 1st, 2015

By Prof Suwanda H J Sugunasiri  (writing from Canada)

(in Commemoration of his  131st Birth anniversary that fell on October 21st,  2015)

It may not be election time in Sri Lanka, but I’m voting for the Rt. Hon. D S Senanayake! That’s right, the honourable thing to do. Birth Anniversary falling on October 21 (1884), it’s election time of a special  sentient being,  the Buddha declaring, ‘Rare is birth as a human’ (manussatam dullabham).

I’m no history buff. In fact, the only time I enjoyed the subject was at the University Entrance class at Nalanda Vidyalaya when the freshly minted graduate, the handsome Mr K M P Rajaratna in a national dress brought dynamism to it. It was not who killed whom which year but making history come alive. But even then was I not to stumble upon what I’m going to write about.

It was browsing through the  Sri Lankan collection in our home library   that I was inducted to the Hall of History. The eye-catcher was the   D. S. Senanayake Memorial Number of The  Ceylon Historical Journal, edited by S D Saparamadu. Likely purchased by my wife Swarna as a University Entrance student, it had sat on our shelves all these many years but, sorry,  rarely got attention from my academic busybody. So shall we say that retirement has its benefits, ha…!

So why am I voting for DSS  (no disrespect intended but simply to save space)? THAT he’s the ‘Father of the Nation’  we knew, basically understanding that he steered the country towards Independence from British colonial rule in 1948. But HOW? Now a ray of insight was  beginning to shine on me when I read that most of the agitation from 1932 to 1942 may have been on the wrong lines.” (Sir Ivor Jennings, Former Vice Chancellor of University of Ceylon, writing on D S Senanayake and Independence”,  (p.16)).

So what did Rt Hon. Senanayake do right? Let’s count.

Political Wisdom

A colony can obtain Independence by force or persuasion”. But effective non-cooperation leads necessarily to force, as Mahatma Gandhi discovered ” (Jennings).  So DSS’s   strategy was to be co-operative, and use   persuasion. Now I know how Ceylon gained Independence without shedding a drop of blood”.

There could not be a better example of cooperation than in relation to the Soulbury Commission.  The British getting the fullest support for the war effort from the State Council headed by DSS,  Dominion status had been promised soon after the war. Yet, breaking the word, well, what else is new, huh, there came to be appointed the  Soulbury Commission.   The Ministers held aloof from us…,” writes Viscount Soulbury the boycotted party  (and Governor-General of Ceylon, 1949-54, writing on Senanayake the Man”),  and there was the  possibility that  we might be deprived of the opportunity to carry out our terms of reference. That such a step was not taken was largely due to the strength and wisdom of DS” (p. 62). And .. if he had not lived, the history of Ceylon would have been very different”.

In a word,  then, it is the   QUALITY of the man  that   that   got results  where  others failed.  And  that in short was the story for me.

Wisdom DSS had, it was said. Sir Andrew Caldecott (one of those who had never understood DS”) once asked one of his advisors if he found Mr Senanayake intelligent””(Jennings, 20). Mr. Senanayake made a great impression in London because he was so utterly unexpected. Whitehall was used to the slick, England-educated, graduate politician. It had not expected a  bluff old farmer with a sense of humour. What is more, he knew  his stuff””.  S D Saparamadu, Editor of the Special Issue, points to  DSS’s knowledge of constitutional niceties that would do honour to a pundit” (97).    Jennings corroborates.  ‘Soulbury Constitution’ it was called, but the fact is that it was produced by Mr Senanayake” (17)! Thanks to his leadership skills,  Ceylon was able to play a leading part at these [Commonwealth] Conferences, far beyond the influence which  her size granted.” (Hon J R Jayawardena, writing on D S Senanayake’s Foreign Policy”, 52). Intelligent enough?

So if using persuasion and working in cooperation as well was wisdom,  it is only part  of the story. So let me recount.

He had not only the fire of a complete conviction, but also the sense of  strategy of a great general.” (Jennings, 22).  DSS and his  Ministers may have boycotted the Soulbury Commission, but DSS made sure he met with the Commissioners informally. With the kindliness and hospitality typical of his people, DS made extensive arrangements for the Commissioners to see the Island” (Soulbury, 62).

Here’s the man of wisdom himself  talking: My government  reiterates its firm faith in the democratic way of life in which  the rule of the moral law holds sway” (52). And it clearly touched the hearts of world leaders.  Leading personalities of different countries become symbols of change. .. [DSS] was such a personality, who impressed himself not only in Ceylon, but on a wider sphere” (Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India (8)). Many are those who agree: very wise and well balanced leader”  (Clement Atlee, Prime Minister, Great Britain (9)); man of enormous breath of vision” Great Statesman of the Commonwealth” (Rt Hon. R G Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia) (10); … a man of sterling worth with a broad outlook, a mature wisdom and a great determination” (Ghulam Mohammed, Governor General of Pakistan (14)).

Economic Wisdom

Mr Senanayake’s  Economic wisdom was not far behind  his Political wisdom.   What he brought in was  an effective agricultural revival – productive, egalitarian, and would you believe, scientific.

It may perhaps be  the ‘Kundasale girls’ in western pants doing paddy farming that may be what’s lodged in your memory.  If this  speaks to his attempts at modernizing farming, and introducing it to the younger generation, it, however,  can be said to be  a marginal s(l)ideshow. The wider contribution was the reforms he introduced as Minister of Agriculture and Lands. In the words of R L Brohier, (Member of the Gal Oya Development Board,  and Author, Ancient Irrigation Works in Ceylon), In the first half-century of the British period there were sown the seeds that diverted agriculture to an industry which commanded money rather than means of sustenance” (69). By contrast, DSS’s policy focussed itself on the peasant farmer needs” …(70),  promoting a prosperous self-supporting multitude of peasant proprietors” (74). But  in equal measure [it was] emphasizing the dignity of labour and the value of cooperation” (70).

His self-sufficiency promotion thrust in relation to agriculture was guided by three interrelated considerations:  first,  as a technology based on science, second,  as an industry based on tradition and thirdly, a   business to be founded on economics and not merely a way of life” (70).    So many an idea of the Minister, novel as they were” writes Brohier,     were, surprise surprise,   repugnant to the official disciples”!

One important detail that receive special consideration is the system on which  colonists were to be selected.” Under this, all applicants were to be divided into three classes: peasants or small-holders, middle class Ceylonese, and others”. The small-holders were to be of a  restricted tenure preventing alienation or mortgage” (73). This was to ensure that the land was not abandoned or left uncultivated. And for preventing the land becoming subject to multiple individual ownership.”   While the individual allotment to the small holder was limited to five acres of paddy,   his well-being was not totally abandoned to him.  Not only were two additional acres of ‘high land’    allotted for dwelling purposes”,  but   a cottage would be erected at government  cost” as well!      While the middle class was given 50  acres, it was under the same conditions as for the peasant. The third category, capitalists” were offered land only if available after distributing to the peasant and the middle class, but still only on a 99 year lease (74).

This system of land distribution was in stark contrast to the practice in British times. Government  policy in the colonial regime was to sell the land to  perpetuity, and to  the highest bidder (D S Senanayake doing the First  reading of the Land Development Bill in the State Council in 1933 (Hansard) (83)).

Land distribution was not the only detail worth noting. There were the other dimensions built into it  to ensure success and keeping the peasant off the indebtedness wagon. Thus did  his  policy include  providing financial assistance in the form of loans. This was to ensure that the peasant would not be in eternal indebtedness, more often than not  resulting in the land being divided into uneconomical lots, with the lender appropriating the land.

Doing my doctoral studies in Canada in the mid seventies, a running theme in developmental research was the widening gap between the rich and the poor, metropolis and hinterland, West and East. Forty years later, the gap continues. If nothing else, DSS’s approach needs to be considered a significant if small measure going against the grain.

His Economic wisdom also lay in having the necessary research done not only as to the extent of land available for distribution, but also the quality of the soil before land was allotted, so that the gift would not end up a white elephant to the allottees. Within half a century of British occupation, many of [the rain forests of the mountain zone] were felled” (71). Afforestation, therefore came to be  a dimension of DSS’s Economic wisdom.

Pointing to increasing unemployment that was sure to follow with a growing population, he was convinced that this would only be solved  by increasing the amount of land under cultivation and providing careers for much larger numbers on the land” (76). Minneriya, the two colonies – Kahagama and Minipe, and  Gal Oya, his last colonization scheme” (76) would amply speak to this strategy and wisdom.

The crowning achievement .. in his role of rebuilder of ancient irrigation works and reclaimer of the dry zone, is the .. scheme he initiated in the plains around … Polonnaruwa… The primary requirement in this undertaking was the restoration of the Parakram Samudra.” (75).

Another dimension of the Senanyake  Economic wisdom was the promotion of animal husbandry as part of agriculture reform (79). He  …educated the country in the methods of housing,  breeding and feeding stock through country-side  live-stock farms….”. Within reason, he also introduced protective measures for agriculture and animal husbandry produce, by prohibiting the importation of eggs, vegetables and animals, from time to time as necessary” (79).

Hands-on Wisdom  

Political and Economic wisdom was not all the Rt. Honourable had. A hands-on Practical wisdom, too. Attention to administrative efficiency was primary among them.

I remember once  publishing an article in the Ceylon Daily News, writing from Canada, under the title, Do we get the Best Administrators”. So I was happy to see the Father of the Nation on the same wavelength. Mr S was not liked by some of those who worked under him, because he could not tolerate inefficiency, procrastination and bombast” (21).  He liked people who could work quickly, efficiently and cheerfully.” A  Convocation Address by the Prime Minister given at University of Ceylon in 1947 (Oct. 17) was on the topic of Qualities required of public servants” (106). His interest was The establishment of a disciplined, efficient and contented public service.” (106).  He outlines several desirable personal qualities” of such a public servant (107):  high academic standard which  is evidence of ability and power of concentration”,  interest in his job”,  energy and enthusiasm ..”,  a  high sense of duty”, character and personality”, self-discipline” and  physical fitness”. But who would expect a Mao Zedong in a horse-riding aristocrat? Believe you me, another desirable quality of a public servant he saw was a knowledge of the people of the Island”.

He chides those who, posted to a rural area,  dare not go into the jungle in case he meets a mosquito”! (109). Sarcasm it may be, but a knock out punch it was, wouldn’t you say? Of the women graduates, he points to the many avenues of employment in the Public Service … where the special qualities of … gentleness and tenderness can be made use of to the best advantage of the community.” (109).

The future of the country lies not with the birds of passage who have been elected to Parliament but with the young men and women of the country of whom you are a highly selected example”. And it is your duty to devote your talents to the public benefit.” (110).

Realism  was another dimension of his Hands on Pragmatism.   I did not get all what I asked”, he says in the State Council in 1945, recommending acceptance of the White paper on Constitutional Reform. But the question is whether to keep the  Donoughmore Constitution [of 1941] or whether  we jump nine-tenths of the way.” Soon  the knock-out punch, my favourite: A  man should not refuse bread because it is not cake” (103-4)!

Russia was no favourite of DSS: Enslavement of the world is what we believe to be  their attitude…. We will never be with Russia until she gives up her policy” (J R Jayawardhena writing on DSS’s Foreign Policy, quoting the Hansard (54)).   Yet, when questioned in Parliament, he says, If Russia wants our rubber, let her become another competitor.. [They] can buy in the open market.” (Hansard) (58). His approach then seems to be irrespective of … political views and ideologies” (58). Simply put, realism. 

Personal Qualities

If we have seen the Rt. Honourable’s right and honourable Political, Economic,    Administrative and Pragmatic wisdom by the bushel,  what is behind it all can be said to be his personal qualities.

  • A man of singular personal attraction”,   pursuing  his objectives with sincerity and forcefulness”, yet always with due regard for the rights and feeling of others” (Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, 10).
  • His personal qualities will always earn him a place of warm regard in the hearts of those who had the honour to know him” (Menzies, recalling his friendship with warm pleasure”).
  • of very great personal charm” (Clement Atlee, Prime Minister of Great Britain, 9).
  • If he had been born and bred in my country, I should  have described him as the best type of English country-gentleman – able, shrewd, practical, good humoured, kindly and modest” (Soulbury,  62) He brought into my office the fresh air of the countryside, the breezy cheerfulness and good humour of a charming friend. He never seemed worried or stressed and I still seem to hear his hearty chuckle” (66).
  • Courage, moderation and modesty” (Soulbury, 67).          

            Gratitude was another personal quality DSS brought to the table. Gratitude must be accorded especially to those of the past generation who saw the vision of Free Lanka far off among the hills, who strove to make the first breaches in the bureaucratic  wall that surrounded us (Senanayake, 99). He was  grateful for Britain’s good will and co-operation”  (Menzies). He never failed to support   his Catholic alma mater, St Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia.

Humility: I put my case for Lanka in all its strength and with all my force. Possibly there might have ben a better advocate. Certainly there could not have been a fairer or patient judge” (98). In a self-mocking, he tells the university graduates,  I do too much talking myself to have much faith in talkers” (108).

Then there was his  sense of humour, seeing it in others, too.

Sentiment was not absent in his heart either.  Going against the advice of his engineers that greater advantage would be achieved by damming the Amban Ganga at the Sudukanda Gap” than  the Parakrama Samudra,, he permitted sentiment to stand in the way of practical utility” (76). But it was not sentiment without reason:   he explained it in terms of the time saved by utilizing an existing bund and merely filling in a breach” (76).

Going on  a limb here, with apologies,   the two protagonists in my novel Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey (available on Kindle, or in print at Vijita Yapa and Namel-Malini Punchi Theatre) are sitting in the open verandah of a rest house in an ancient capital, facing a vast ocean of water. Later moving on to  a bund,   dangling their feet,  the female protagonist Tangamma, in  a surge of insight, and changing history,  proposes  a name change of her dear husband, from Milton to Milinda. Brohier talks about discussing DSS  letting sentiment reign in,  while lounging in the open verandah of the quiet Polonnaruwa Rest House”.

Soulbury captures the personal qualities of DSS  as if in summary  …those who lived in his time were lifted up by the example of courage, kindliness, moderation and modesty ..” (67). Adds Brohier (80),  …cultivating the great gift of appreciating his own capabilities, he learnt to tactfully handle men of far greater brilliance than himself. Therein lay the key to the power, prestige and greatness he later achieved”.

No other man had so many political enemies”, says Sir John Kotelawala, in politics  with DSS over 25 years, writing A Tribute…” (11).  And few others lived to make those same enemies come round to at least to grudging admiration”.  Soulbury confirms: .. we did not always agree., and yet looking backwards I think that when we differed he was much more often right than wrong.” (66).

Hands on Compassion

To let Mr Senanayake’s compassion go unnoticed  would be to provide  an incomplete picture. The love he had for all living animals… was nowhere manifested to greater degree than in his property, Koulwewa Estate, where he farmed poultry, ducks, pigs, turkeys, goats, sheep, deer, buffaloes and … cattle of many breeds.” (Brohier, 79).

Recounting his invitation to DSS   to his country farm in the UK, and  taking him to the Whipsnade zoo, Soulbury recalls, By a happy chance, the first elephant he saw had been brought from Ceylon .. DS went up to him and spoke a few words in a language incomprehensible to me but obviously understood and relished by the elephant” (65). Communication is not just in language (vacī viññatti) but also in body language ((kāya viññatti). I should add, telepathically, too, British  biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s research providing some scientific evidence.

Running the family estate,  as DSS did, may have been by way of looking after family interests. But what we also see here is an elephantile heart in relation to quadrupeds. Multipeds (insects) and nullpeds (my term) (snakes), as in the Metta Sutta, would have no doubt gotten their fair share of compassion in the company of DSS.

His compassion, of course, goes beyond the animal kingdom. The  principles of fairness and justice in the context of land alienation,  and all the other things done for the welfare of the citizens of a free Ceylon,  would amply speak for it in the biped  kingdom.

Charm, chuckle and compassion he had. But … don’t be taken by surprise if he wrestles you down, with  alacrity! As in the mug shot of him in the issue, beware, he is  a wrestler!  I don’t know how much of the skill he took to the political ring, but what his interest tells me is that he paid as much attention  to   his physical health as also to his psychological health.  For, isn’t ‘good health the greatest gain’ (ārogyā paramā lābhā) (Buddha)? It is only good health that would have allowed him to go about all the things he did, for over a quarter of a century. Whenever he had a big problem on hand, he broke away from his busy life in Colombo, and sought self-expression in his hereditary home in the village of Botale, or in the quietness of Koulwewa Estate.(Brohier, 80). In other words,  he has not forgotten self-compassion.

His emphasis on self-care he shares with his university audience:  Muscle and brawn are no substitute for intelligence, but there is no need to ignore the claims of physical education.”   And his continuing care for the other is well reflected in the wish he shares with his university audience:  I wish it were possible to compel every student to spend a year  in a village as a villager” (110).

The Rt. Honourable’s compassion, however,  was not an all namby-pamby. He fails not to give the occasional punch when needed. The international aristocracy of [Western] Sovereign States, jealous of their special positions, carefully choose their colleagues in the charmed circle. International peace was necessary not for the greater happiness of humanity, but to impose their own domination of the world.” (113) (BBC speech).

We consider India to be one of the greatest nations … but we do not expect India to play the role of trying to establish rights where they have no rights, … or to deprive other countries of their rights” (57) (Hansard).

When it comes to his own people, in addressing the university audience, says he, .. our objective is not to raise the standard of living in Cinnamon Gardens”, of the rich (110).

So it was a critical compassion that DSS had.

Buddhist Praxis

Adroit politician, insightful economist,  five star administrator, compassionate human being. Guess  what I see in  all this.  A Buddhism in praxis, i.e., theory in action, for the well-being  of the many, for the comfort of the many, out of compassion for the world / sentient beings (bahujana hitāya, bahujana sukhāya,  lokānukampāya).   In contemporary language, who we have is a socially engaged Buddhist.

But is this     a far-out theorizing of a dry-bone Buddhist academic? Hardly! You may be surprised that it is very much based in the  warm breath of, are you ready, a  practicing Buddhist Rt Honourable Senanayake. Sure he did not wear  his Buddhistness  up on his sleeve, any more than he sought to enthrone Buddhism in the Constitution. But would you believe, or did you know, that unknown to us the public, he was a devout Buddhist?  A practicing one, too, taking to the ata sil (Eight Training Principles (sikkhāpada), popularly, Precepts). How often don’t ask me. But observe he did, donning the white Sil attire.

Evidence of his Buddhist praxis  is that his attitude, behaviour, action – politics, economics, administration, are   all conditioned by   a compassion  instructed by wisdom, and of course,  vice versa,  the  ideal well exemplified by the Buddha.

We have   recorded   examples of his  Mettā ‘friendliness’ and Karunā ‘compassion’ in international relations: My government’s relations with other countries continue to be extended on the basis of friendship” (53). Ceylon feels that peace cannot be established… by hatred or revenge…” (60). Thus it is that Mr Senanayake came out very strongly on the side of complete freedom” for Japan, America ultimately taking the same view (J R Jayawardhena 60). And he also urged that Japan be not   asked for  reparation.  Talking about the colonizer he had fought, and who had imprisoned him (52), DSS only has kind words for the British public who has shown by their commonwealth idea  .. an unrivalled genius for compromise…”(113).

A prime example of his personal Buddhist praxis is noted by Jennings. Dominion status  promised,  but word broken,      Oddly enough, Mr. Senanayake was not at all angry”.  Wouldn’t it take a Bodhisatta  to not   get   hot all over?  He never seemed worried or stressed”, notes   Soulbury (66). So not just a one time marvel.

Not getting angry can also  be seen as being reflective of  another Buddhist praxis – upekkhā ‘equanimity’, instructed by  the Eight-fold World Reality Wheel (aṭṭhaloka dhammacakka) – gain n’ loss, infamy n’ fame, blame n’ praise, comfort n’ dukkha (lābho  alābho ayaso yaso ca nindā pasasā sukhañca dukkham).

Then there was his breezy cheerfulness and good humour of a charming friend” (Soulbury).

Beyond his personal practice, he seems interested in having Buddhist values imbibed in university students. Just as his contribution … towards the establishment of a residential university is not so well known” (Sir Nicholas Attygalle, Vice Chancellor, U ofCeylon, 81), by facilitating, as Minister of Lands,  the acquiring of the New Peradeniya Estate, his interest in the University  Sangharama and Vihara role is not known either. He laid the foundation stone to the vihara.

His speech on the BBC on the Middle Way” of Moderation as a path to peace (110)   clearly  speaks to another Buddhist praxis.  He talks of spirituality, too: we are convinced that only through clearer knowledge of the fundamental spiritual values of existence can international understanding be reached” (114).

The Rt. Honourable  also well represented the national Buddhist ethos with the kindliness and hospitality typical of his people” (Soulbury, 63).

A Noble Eightfold Path in Action

A man of enormous breath and vision”, says Menzies of DSS (10).   Along with it, his punditry and conviction may then be seen as an example of ‘Right view’ (sammā diṭṭhi) in him,  the first benchmark of  the Noble Eightfold Path. The strategies he used  could be seen as   ‘Right conceptualization’ (sammā samkappa). He had a wonderful faculty for defining them [objectives] precisely”.

Whenever DSS disagreed with someone, he  would express it with an  opener such as  I mean to say”,  As a matter of fact” and  Actually” (Jennings, 18), never  putting up an oppositional front. If they were unable to convince him, they were told, in the nicest possible way, that they had better go away and think again”. His humour,   charm  and  chuckle added,  we have Excellent Speech  (sammā vācā), the third link in the Path. It is not only strategy that  shows  ‘Right Action’ (sammā kammanta), but also his approach that impressed others, and drew them over to him if in the long term. His ‘Excellent  Livelihood’ (sammā ājīva) was written all over the landscape. It was to do his best to serve the people, both at home and abroad that fits the bill.

‘Excellent Mental Exercise’ (as I translate it) (sammā vāyāma) in the Noble Eightfold Path  entails avoiding the bad (nivārana), getting rid of the bad (pahāna), cultivating the good (bhāvanā) and protecting the good  one already  has (anurakkhana). Did he avoid the bad? We’ve read how the efforts made for Independence under earlier leadership failed. So  he took a new tact – of cooperation and accommodation. So how’s that for avoiding the bad, eh? We don’t know what badness there was in him personally – and I’m sure there was,  as everyone who is not an Arahant does, but there is little doubt that he sought to cultivate the good in himself (as e.g.,  not getting angry),  as well as in others when he demanded a self-disciplined, efficient  and contented   public service. And, did he ever protect the qualities he possessed! The record of 25 plus years of work in the field should speak loudly  for itself.

Part of observing the Eight Training Principles (ata sil) is to cultivate mindfulness. I don’t know how often DSS took to it on Full Moon Days, but there is little doubt that he was into ‘Excellent mindfulness’ (sammā sati) in  whatever he did in his public life. Meditation, never mind ‘Concentration’  (samādhi) was certainly not part of the practice of Sinhala Buddhism at that time unlike  today. But it was with pleasant surprise in his address to the graduates that I read him  talk of the value of  ‘concentration’. ‘Excellent concentration’ (sammā samādhi) in the spiritual sense of watching the breath may not be what he himself practised, but it was  undoubtedly in excellent concentration that he went about his business.

Though attired in a vest and tie, and not  a white wrap around,  the   Rt. Hon DSS can then be said to have had the ongoing wrap of the   Noble Eightfold Path around his mindbody   in all his adult political life.

His Legacy, Tusita Heaven and My Respects

But we humans have an uncanny skill at pulling down the pillars of goodness, don’t we,  as soon as the architect is out of sight. It didn’t take long for King Asoka’s Dharmarajya to come tumbling down after his passing away. DSS may not have set up physical pillars across the country as Asoka did, but build  tall pillars he did – in politics, economics, administration and personal example.

In his Foreword, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke hoped that the Journal Issue  may serve to reveal to the people this vision of a great leader .. so that future generations may trod the path he trod”  (7).  I will let the people of the country, and my readers, make up their own minds as  to what extent the country has maintained the legacy of DSS . But there is nothing  in my mind that doesn’t lend credibility to the Buddha’s words, The body of mortals  does  go  to decay; but the name goes on” (rūpam jiarati maccānam, nāmagottam na jīrati).

If anyone has  earned the accolade Rt Honourable, it would be DSS, even though he had turned down all British honours earlier, and now accepting it only so Ceylon will earn respect alongside other Commonwealth countries.   Nationally  he has earned it for all his contributions in the  Political,  Economic,  Administrative and other spheres. Internationally, for all his contributions to peace and democracy.  But he earns it equally by being literally Right   and literally Honourable in relation to moral and spiritual standards: the rule of the moral law holds sway” (52).

So why am I writing about the Rt. Hon. Senanayake?  It is to share with my dear readers what I have learned about him,  thanking     Editor Saparamadu for keeping history recorded for posterity.  It may also be for educational reasons. This is not the Senanayake we had ever known as students or adults. To this average onlooker of society and politics, there was nothing honourable about a horse-back riding aristocrat! Our schools didn’t teach us of the great leader, other than as the ‘Father of the Nation’, which to us apolitical brats, meant nothing.

But I’ll admit to having a more selfish motive: to practice my mudita, i.e., altruistic joy, at discovering a goodly sentient being. It is also to introduce a  kalyāna mitta ‘beautiful friend’ we didn’t know about. Says the Buddha, a kalyāna mitta is the whole spiritual life, not just half of it as Ven Ananda had said. Sorry I was not one of the ‘fortunate ones’ to benefit personally and directly from the company of this great sentient being.  But at least I’m happy that I have benefited from this historical relationship with a sentient being at his best in the context of social living.

If my memory serves me right,  I was a dot among an estimated million gathered   at Independent Square  (on March 29, 1952, as the record shows) where the  body of the Troop (Sena) Leader (Nayaka) was cremated. It was as  a tiny trooper of the Nalanda Junior Cadet Platoon.   Sixty two years of water under the bridge, and two oceans and 10,000 miles away,  I’m happy to be able to do better, and pay my personal respects to a rare human being and an example par excellence of goodliness, with all the ingredients to do still better spiritually.

The student  of Buddhism in me tells me that the late leader would have inevitably ended up   in the Tusita Heaven for all the merits accrued through his good deeds. Queen Mahamaya ended up there, and the future Prince Siddhartha came to us from there. But may I    hope that upon the completion of his life in Heaven, the Rt Hon Senanayake will  work out his liberation from samsara.

‘Hatred’, based in ‘anger’ is one of the three Blemish Roots (akusala mūla) that keeps one in Samsara. Oddly enough”, we have been told, you Sir, were not angry in a situation demanding a justifiable anger. So we could say then that you’re well on your way to a ‘jettisoning of anger and hatred’ (dosakkhaya) (dvesha, in Sanskritized Sinhala), one of the characteristics of Nibbāna.   Compassion feeding on Wisdom, Wisdom feeding on Compassion, in a Conditioned Co-origination (paticcasamuppāda) reciprocal relationship, you Sir,   are close to making it ‘across to the other shore’ as in the Dhammapada line.

May you attain the peace of Nibbāna!

Saadu Saadu Saadu Sā…!

(This was originally published in the Sunday Island in two parts (Oct. 25 & 31, 2015) under the title, I’m Voting for the Rt. Hon. D S Senanayaka!”)

(US Fulbright and Canadian Buddhist scholar Suwanda H J Sugunasiri  is the author of Evolution and Devolution in the Aggañña Sutta”, and Arahant Mahinda as Redactor of the Buddhapujava in Sinhala Buddhism.  His latest research is titled TRIUNE MIND FINDS HOME IN TRIUNE BRAIN: An Exercise in Buddhianscience & Westernscience” <>).

8 Responses to “The Right and Honourable D S Senanayake – Wrapped Around in the Noble Eightfold Path was He”

  1. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    I should point out here that C.W.W Kannangara faced significant opposition to his move to establish free education in the country, especially from D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.[9] D.S. Senanayake even said if we have free education in Sri Lanka we will never find a coolie to pluck coconuts.

    Kannangara spoke for six and a half hours to convince other members of the council to vote for the bill, and was supported in his efforts by H. W. Amarasuriya, Dudley Senanayake, J. R. Jayewardene, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke and Dr. N. M. Perera. There was also a public campaign launched by Dr. E. W. Adikaram, Professor G.P. Malalasekera and Mr. L. H. Metthananda to support the bill, which was eventually passed in the State Council in July 1945.[3]

  2. Independent Says:

    Today it is difficult to find people to pluck coconuts because of cricket, not because of education.

  3. Senevirath Says:

    නීල කියන්නේ ඇත්තය් 1815 ගිවිසු මෙන් බුදු දහමටදුන් ප්‍රමුඛත්වය වත් දීමට අකමැතිවූ ඩී එස් ””හාමුදුරුවන්ට කිව්වේ ”’හාමුදුරුවනේ ආණ්ඩුව සරණන් ගච්චාමි කියන්න එපා කියලය් ඔහු සරණ ගියේ ජෙනින්ග්ස් ලබා ගත්තේ අර්ධ නිදහසක් හැසිරුනේ නියම කලුසුද්දෙක් ලෙස
    නමුත් ජේ ආර් හා ප්රෙමදාසලටය් රනිල් ටය වැඩිය ඔහු හොඳය ද හ ගුණයක්


    Very good and timely article, Prof; Suwanda H.J Sugunasiri, but I must disagree with your findings. You do not give the year at Nalanda Vidyalaya University Entrance Class where your good buddy K.M.P Rajaratna, wore a “Alagoniya”, which you call the National dress entered as a teacher to Nalanda College. If you gave the year I could challenge your statements.

    Before we go back and analyze the birth of the ALAGONIYA, let me give you my back ground. I am 75 years old and live in Florida, USA. I was at Ananda College when late L.H. Methanada principal Ananda College and late Karunanada at Nalanda College introduce the “Alaghoniya” to both Colleges. And both Colleges changed the teaching medium from English to Sinhala. Taught English as a compulsory subject. Also Tamil was a subject at Ananda college that every one studying for SSC (then it was called) had to take. I do not know why leaned professor is using the Alagoniya and his buddy Rajartne to honor Late D.S. Senanayake who never woe an Alagoniya. They simply do not correlate.

    Neela Maha, Don’t forget late Lalith Athulathmudali’s father Don Daniel Athulathmudali state council member for Agalawattha did vote for this bill as well. Then show me where Late D.S. Senanayake making such a nasty statement about Tamils as coolies!. Was it in the Hansad?

    Independent, Independent; Plucking Coconuts have to be done by Robots. and not humans. Sinhala has to wake up like the Chinese and Thai’s then only such things will happen. Why not these poor family kids become millioners and help their families. See how poor Denash Chandimal was and how his father helped the family after the Tsunami, then Denash got the turn around.
    If I did not challenge this statement about Tamil Coolies then it will be establish as a true statement and a field day for Dis-information writers. Example is late JRJ never said he can change a man to a woman but dis information writers like; Rip Van Winkle (Old one), Colette, Wijayadase and Motta Ghedara (of Lankadeepaya) Mahagam sekara did make this statement real.

    What many did not know is that late D.S. was a non colonialist and that is why he liked Lord Soulbury and Sir Ivor Jennings. I can see where the author is coming from he calls “Gandhi Gee” Mathma Gandhi. Gandhi told Tamils must have half of the Lanka Deepaya.

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    the bill, and was supported in his efforts by – was not any Tamil MP supported???

    good to know

  6. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    When DS mentioned about coolies, he was not referring to Tamils since we never ever used Tamil coolies to pluck coconuts, he was referring to Sinhala coolies or manual workers in villages. This D.S.Senanayake’s statement was well publicized in the media.(you can google it)

  7. Independent Says:

    I was joking.
    It is good anyway if cricket can make the poor rich. But nowadays they become filthy rich. that is the problem. This class cannot be given so much money . For doing what ?
    Do they tax these arrogant cricketers ( Chandimal is an exceptionally nice lad but look at most others ).
    Cricket mad Ranatungas to steal so much money. Each one occupying different party leadership to make sure they steal whoever in power and look after each other.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    I forgive him for his statement. He did NOT obstruct it.

    He still had the gut to settle Singhala people in strategic GAL OYA, etc. Had he NOT done that Tamil Elam would have happened a long time ago. Even after winning the war our new politicians have been UNABLE to even RESETTLE (let alone settle new people) Singhala and Muslim people in the north and east.

    He also UNIFIED all Singhala groups including SWORD-B.

    For me DSS is the GOLD STANDARD. As humans we all have shortcomings. His INDEPENDENCE was not complete but was sufficient for SWORD-B to introduce Singhala only (TRUE INDEPENDENCE).

    DSS also turned down SIR nonsense. Will our politicians do that? No chance! DSS also never bowed down to Endia and Tamil demands. His law in 1947 avoided SL becoming a Kallahonistan.

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