Saturday, August 19, 2017 09:04:28 AM

Avoiding Superstitious Cures, Defeating Dictatorial Solutions

By Tisaranee Gunasekara - Sun Jun 18, 12:09 am

Image courtesy University of Sri Jayawardenepura

Sri Lanka, despite her soaring developmental ambitions, spends less than 1% of her national budget on research and development, an anomaly which was highlighted at the recently concluded symposium, Science and Technology for Society Sri Lanka 2016. Addressing the gathering, Prof. Ajith de Alwis, warned that “Sri Lanka is paying a heavy price in overlooking science in decision making.”[i]

And this symposium on science began with a two minute video on religious observances, a piece of tragicomedy symbolic and symbiotic of Sri Lanka’s dangerous romance with politicised religion and her willing embrace of superstition.

The Buddha in Samaññaphala Sutta categorised astrology, demonology et al as ‘animal arts’[ii] (The extensive list mentioned in the Sutta includes palmistry, reading omens and signs, interpreting celestial events and dreams, making predictions for state officials, chasing demons, casting auspicious times, predicting life spans, forecasting political or natural events and casting horoscopes). But in Sri Lanka, said to be repository of the Buddha’s teachings in their purest form, Sinhala-Buddhists treat astrological predictions with the reverence that adherents of theistic faiths accord to the words of their particular god or prophet.

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