Nalin de Silva, Gunadasa Amarasekara, Jathika Chinthanaya and Marxism

My response to Gunadasa Amarasekara (GA), published in The Island of 27/10/2008, was mainly to expose both the real motive behind the film Aba as well as the campaign to exonerate its director in order to make people believe that Aba authentically depicts the chronicles, without which, the objectives of creating a film that narrates a Biblical story cannot be achieved. I am afraid the nationalists, who represent the interests of the Mahavamsa as well as the Mahavihara, cannot take Aba lightly and the pseudo-nationalists who have got exposed with the film cannot be spared in this discussion. Consequently, Jackson Anthony (JA) the self-styled admirer of the Sinhala Buddhist culture and GA and Wimal Weerawansa (WW) who frequently identify themselves with patriotism had to be subjected to criticism and it should be noted that none of them have been able to reply. In their absence, two contributors, who I am sure have no intention of making a public appearance, but serve the interests of GA, have attempted to save one or more culprits in their letters published in The Island of 01/11 /2008 and 03/11/2008.

After decades of writing GA may have realized by now that his incoherent ideas have failed to create a single follower who is confident enough to defend his literary "theory" or political "ideology" and I am sad to notice that the arguments I put forth in my response have not been met. Therefore I repeat that both GA and N. Walgampaya (NW) should realize that when the impact, a film can have on society cannot be ignored, we cannot restrict our criticism to the cinematic aspects of it, even though certain critics may only be good at discussing aesthetic features of a piece of art. For instance, if the Sinahala Buddhists, who eagerly watched the film, attracted mainly due to its artistic aspects, start believing that the story presented in the film Aba is what our chronicles actually include, then can it be allowed to happen? I am of the view that no artist should be allowed to prostitute art in order to promote a theory, historical or otherwise, which he or she cannot defend ideologically. JA went on to create Aba, which lacks credibility, subtlety, depth and complexity, which must be present in any cinematic work that deserves praise, simply because he had different objectives. Given the government support for the film we should not be surprised if the authorities allow screening of the film Aba at schools in order to teach "history" to the students. Both GA and NW maintain that JA's critics must have made him laugh but the duo must be told that JA, who kept running away from almost all public debates he was invited to, can have his laugh, if any at all, only in his privacy.

HR thinks that I am a devotee of Nalin de Silva (NdeS) but he / she has to be told that Sinhala Buddhist culture, logic of which is Catuskoti, cannot create devotees as such and I like to identify myself as a sravaka of NdeS who is showing the path for national liberation. HR further says that I am trying to save NdeS after realizing how misguided the latter has been. I should say that if I had realized that NdeS was wrong, I would have left him instead of defending.

H. Rajapksa (HR) says that NdeS has praised Aba but he / she should be told that it was the latter, who criticized Aba and pointed out its Christian image before anybody else and after his critique volumes of emails started circulating with the message that NdeS has demanded banning Aba, though he had only criticized it. It is solely the understanding of the correct position of NdeS with respect to the film and nothing else that has prompted NW to defend HR but unfortunately NW has thought of the most incongruous reason to justify the HR's (mis)interpretation of criticism by NdeS as praise.

HR thinks that Jathika Chinthanaya is a concept initiated by GA long before thinkers like Samuel Huntington addressed their minds to it. It is only a popular myth that the concept of Jathika Chinthanaya, which NdeS uses, is the same concept, which GA talks about. NdeS had used the term Chinthanaya, as early as, on 05/12/1982, in order to discuss western Chinthanaya, in an article appeared in the Divaina and titled "Suden hanwadu gesu kalu minissu" or "Blacks branded in white". His famous work, Mage Lokaya, which was written before the GA's article on Jathika Chintahnaya appeared in the Irida Divaina on 17 - 08 - 1986 (and republished in Deshapalana Samaja Vichara by GA) too contains the term "Chintahnaya". The concept of NdeS is based on Constructive Relativism, which advocates that knowledge is relative to culture among other things and was introduced in Mage Lokaya, as opposed to the GA's concept, which was influenced mainly by Andrzej Waliki's book "A History of Russian Thought", and a review of the book by Joseph Franc. Even though the differences between the two concepts have not been properly explained so far, Rajapaksa's letter underscores the necessity to make the distinction.

The concept of Jathika Chinthanaya of NdeS is consistent with the Theravada philosophy and consequently the Sinhala Buddhist culture even though the GA's Jathika Chinthanaya is rooted in western realism. The concept of NdeS calls for the need to create new knowledge based on the Sinhala Buddhist Chinthanaya in order to challenge the hegemony of the Western Christian Modernity while the GA's concept is constrained by the myth of the objectivity of western knowledge. When Fritjof Capra wrote "The Tao of Physics" in 1970's, he believed that the parallels between modern physics and Eastern "mysticism" would some day become common knowledge. But his dream can never come true and it is only the concept of NdeS, which accepts that knowledge is almost always based on a certain Chinthanaya, can explain the reason. While GA uses the term Chinthanaya in the same sense of 'thought', what NdeS implies by it is the phenomenon that is largely responsible for the commonality that can be observed among the creations of mind including knowledge and other pieces of work by people belonging to a certain culture. While the concept of NdeS has evolved throughout the last two decades in order to explain many phenomena such as the emergence of the Western Christian Modernity, the Amarasekara's is still a nebulous concept despite the latter's efforts to enhance it by blending it with the Erich Fromm's concept of social character. According to NdeS, a Chinthanaya is consisting of three interrelated sections namely, an epistemology, philosophical background and set of attitudes. Constructive Relativism, which NdeS developed single-handedly, is an epistemology that has augmented the epistemology of the Sinhala Buddhist Chinthanaya. NdeS always emphasizes on the need to create new knowledge by different nations based on their respective Chinthanayas in order to face up to the hegemony of the Western Christian Modernity and this contribution by NdeS has added a whole new meaning to the concept of nationalism.

HR believes that Samuel Huntington has also thought about the concept of Jathika Chinthanaya but if HR ever bothers to read Huntington someday, he / she will realize that Huntington's thinking has got absolutely nothing to do with either the concept of Jathika Chinthanaya or any other thing that can be interpreted as Chinthanaya at least vaguely. Huntington's main contention is that the post-Cold war conflicts are culture based and it is NdeS who showed that culture based conflicts began with the emergence of the Western Christian Modernity more than 500 years ago. Well before Huntington, NdeS has given due prominence to the cultural factor of the conflicts between the Western world and the other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Even though HR has tried to create the impression that NdeS is still a Marxist, what he / she should know is that NdeS, who refutes the existence of an objective reality, can hardly be called a Marxist. NdeS has explained for the umpteenth time that he is not a reductionist and does not reduce anything to culture, Chinthanaya or any other thing for that matter. According to NdeS, course of history is determined by not just one but three factors namely, political, economical and cultural causes, which are not mutually exclusive but interdependent, even though, under certain circumstances, one or two of them can dominate the other(s). I regret the HR's inability to understand that cyclic Chinthanaya of Sinhala Buddhists does not facilitate reductionist thought. In fact, one has to first become a realist, if one wants to be a reductionist because things can only be reduced to what is believed to be reality.

Not only NdeS is not a Marxist by any stretch of imagination, it is he who has attacked the Marxist theory more than anybody else in Sri Lanka. His Marxvadaye Daridrathvaya or Poverty of Marxism, which can now be downloaded freely from, is a case in point. Not knowing that we have to create our own knowledge, based on Sinhala Buddhist Chinthanaya, if we ever want to free our decision making process from the hegemony of the western knowledge, it is GA, who tried to build a bridge between Marxism and Buddhism some time ago in order to develop an ideological base for the national freedom struggle. In fact, GA in the aforementioned article in the Irida Divaina, which is titled "Marxvadee Chinthanaya ha Jathika Chinthanaya" or "Marxist thought and Nationalist thought", argues that Marxism is a knowledge system that can be used to build a Jathika Chinthanaya. Then in a speech delivered on 15/12/1986 and reproduced in "Deshapalana Samja Vichara", GA has said that the only political ideology we can chose is Marxism, and has proceeded to discuss the way to incorporate Marxism into Jathika Chinthanaya. It is not an exaggeration to say that influence of NdeS has played a major role in the GA's departure from Marxism. HR thinks that NdeS has attempted to reinterpret Jathika Chinthanaya in the Marxist determinist mould. While I challenge him / her to produce a single piece of evidence to substantiate his / her claim, I appreciate if HR learns to talk about things he / she understands. GA, who is sometimes described as a father figure to the youth based political movements, is increasingly becoming a mouthpiece of such movements if not a puppet, mainly after the failure of his sterile project to blend nationalism with Marxism. In this regard the GA's article appeared in the Irida Diavina of 21/12/2008 is a case in point. The GA's current predicament, as the self appointed "theoretician" of a quasi-Marxist political party, only highlights how intellectual sterility can lead to servility.

Due to a printing mishap, a sentence in my letter published in The Island of 27/10/2008 has got published as two different paragraphs and HR has thought I have referred to Dr. Sumathy as the ideological darling of GA. While more than one fourth of the HR's letter is based on his / her misunderstanding due to this typographic error, I must clarify that I have, in fact, referred to WW. For the benefit of the confused readers I have reproduced that particular sentence below. Dr. Amarasekara might not know that Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan is very much feminine, but the point I want to make is that the fact that the film has left both of them cold and untouched at the end of film must be food for thought for the ideological darling of the former, Mr. Wimal Weerawansa, who has argued in his lengthy article published in the Divaina of 05 - 10 - 2008 that the fact that certain anti-national NGO elements are up in arms over the film prevents us from advocating that Mr. Anthony has created the film based on anti-Sinhala Buddhist motives. HR must be told, in no uncertain terms, that we are well aware of the servants of the Western Christian Modernity and do not expect to be educated by ghost writers.

Narada Wickramage
08 - 01 - 2009
The Island - 27th October 2008
- Mr. Narada Wickramage
- Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera
The Island - 23rd October 2008
Also see the other relevant articles
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