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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Thursday, June 09, 2005

'Learning and discipline must be the keynote in university education'

Daily News: 07/06/2005" BY PREMAWANSA Ranatunga

A tribute to the late Dr. E.W. Adikaram in retrospect of his birth centenary which fell on 29th March, 2005.

THE late Dr. E.W. Adikaram, one of the greatest luminaries of learning and discipline in Sri Lanka, was also an educationist, philosopher and scientist with an uncommonly sane mind and a gayheart.

He valued the principles and teachings of philosopher Krishnamurti, which contributed immensely to establish a righteous society. After his career as Principal at Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, he evolved a novel system of principles based on ethical and spiritual values.

Dr. Adikaram founded an association to propagate noble ideals and moral life patterns which helped to mould the character of individuals. He conducted lectures and seminars through his "Situwili Samajaya".

The convocation address he delivered on 13-12-1979 as Chancellor of the Sri Jayawardhanapura University stands testimony to the dual principle of learning and discipline which could produce fully-fledged citizens for a better Sri Lanka.

To highlight some of his ideals, I wish to quote some lines from his convocation address: "That learning is to look at something afresh and understand as it is. In that looking there is no pre-judgment. Pre-judgment is a hindrance to the understanding of what is. When a scientist investigates something with his microscope he has no pre-judgment of what he is going to see."

The above quotations will give the reader a brief idea of the philosophy he professed. Ronald Blythe in his introduction to "Emma" written by Jane Austen says that, "She can get more drama out of morality that most other writers can get from shipwreck, battle, murder or mayhem." Likewise, Dr. Adikaram gave preference to the subject of morals more than all other things.

Dr. Adikaram was very fortunate to have a staff of teachers who followed his principles and who conditioned and moulded the character of students by inculcating good morals in them. The staff as well as the students of college were in one entity like members of one family. There were no divisions or rifts among teachers or students. Discipline (sikkha) was adhered to the very letter.

All Pali students of higher education are acquainted with Dr. Adikaram's "Early History of Buddhism", He has written several books dealing with Buddhist philosophy. When Sinhala became the official language some educationists were of opinion that science could not be taught in Sinhala as there were no terms in Sinhala, equivalent to those in science.

But Dr. Adikaram took up the challenge and produced several text books for schools in Sinhala and disproved what others said. Dr. Adikaram published a series of journals called "Situwili". This series contributed to the character building of the adolescent immensely.

He was a great humanist and ardent lover of the younger generation. He spent most of his time and energy to mould the character of young boys and girls to convince them that education alone devoid of good morals, discipline and manners does not make one a fully-fledged person.

He abhorred the practice of smoking and taking alcohol. He vehemently opposed the consumption of meat. On several occasions he launched campaigns against the practice of eating fish, taking intoxicants and killing.

Following are two interesting anecdotes to indicate his noble principles!

One morning he opened his garage to take out the car to go to school. But to his great dismay he saw some mice had littered inside his car. He fell into such a condition of remorse, he left them there without disturbing them. Closed both the car and the garage and went to school walking.

* * *

It was the practice then that any latecomer to school, whether pupil or teacher, should stand under a tree in the compound for some time as a punishment. One morning to the surprise of all, the Principal himself became the victim and he was seen standing under the tree as he too was late.

He showed the others that he not only preaches but he practices what he preaches, a very rare habit among most of us.

* * *

The above are two random samples picked from the career of a rare personality whose life brimmed with virtues and deep learning.

Dr. Adikaram was not only a renowned philosopher and a psychologist but also a great humanist. He was metaphysical not only by virtue of his scolasticism but by his deep reflective knowledge and experience in religion.

It brings to my memory a quotation from "Maha Mangala Sutta'. Nibbanti Dhirayatha Yam Padipo, which means, the demise of a Holy person is like unto the flickering of a bright light slowly fading away.

His funeral was attended by an august gathering from all walks of life.

Around the funeral pyre stood all, reflecting on the many facets of an amazing life, a microcosm of a human civilization of a transcendental nature.

Before I wind up, a few lines from Shakespeare too:

"Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then heard no more".

So we do not hear anything, any more from him. But this golden image of this rare personality will remain in our hearts until we perish.

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