Frank Lee Woodward was born in Norfolk, England, in 1871, the third son of an Anglican clergyman. At school, and later at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, he was a renowned sportsman. But at around 19-years of age he went through a period of psychological ‘distress’, which led him in particular to the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, whom he described as ‘a pillar of strength to those who live inwardly’.
From 1898 he served as a schoolmaster at Stamford for five years, receiving a master’s degree from Cambridge in 1901. During this period he discovered Theosophy, at first via the ideas of reincarnation in Plato. He joined the society in 1902, and soon developed a boundless faith in Colonel Olcott and his brand of Buddhism.
Although already at this time something of an anachronism, as a Theosophical Buddhist Woodward believed implicitly in Madame Blavatsky’s Himalayan brotherhood of Mahatmas; he later wrote to a friend: ‘Do not repulse T.S. teachings because you cannot grasp them or because one side is prominent i.e. Hinduism … the Bodhisat (Maitreya) is watching over this world’.
A Theosophist of the old school, he offered his services to Olcott, who in 1903 installed him as the principal of Mahinda College, administered by the Buddhist Theosophical Society of Galle, Sri Lanka. Here he worked indefatigably for 16 years, assuming a legendary status which approached that of the good Colonel himself. Drawing no salary, he ploughed much of his inheritance into the erection of new buildings — an act of generosity which resulted in his living in dire poverty towards the end of his life.
Although he was a strict disciplinarian, the 350 boys of the college dearly idolized him. Woodward conducted the senior classes in Buddhist philosophy, and would personally wash the feet of many of the monks as they came to the school hall for almsgiving. For a time he edited the Buddhist, the leading Buddhist magazine on the island, and each year went to Madras for the annual convention of the Theosophical Society.
The tropical climate was beginning to tell on his health, however, and in 1919, armed with literally a ton of books, and ‘Buddha relics’, courtesy of the monks of the Galle District, he retired to Tasmania to live out the remaining 33 years of his life translating the Pali Canon.
Woodward bought a small apple orchard and cottage from a fellow Theosophist. Situated on the Tamar River 40 km from Launceston, his study afforded a magnificent view of Ben Lomond, one of the highest peaks in Tasmania, 65 km away. In this idyllic setting he began his real life’s work, at the age of nearly 50.
Apart from contributing the occasional article on Buddhism to Theosophy in Australasia, Woodward’s chief preoccupation was his translations for the Pali Text Society, established by Rhys Davids in 1881. From 1916 on, his contribution amounted to no fewer than 16 volumes, though it is probably for his 1925 anthology, Some Sayings of the Buddha, that he is best remembered.
Christmas Humphreys, that other renowned Theosophical Buddhist, writing in 1972, considered it still the finest anthology of the Pali Canon produced. It was also included in the World’s Classics series, with an introduction by Sir Francis Young-husband. For many Westerners, including many later prominent Australian Buddhists, this book has been an entree to Buddhism, and although the style seems now somewhat florid, it earned Woodward a place alongside Rhys Davids and Nyanatiloka as a Pali scholar.
F. L. Woodward’s life in Tasmania was characteristically unostentatious and rustic. He lived for his translations, and Tasmania afforded him the required isolation. Although he was thought of as a bit of an eccentric by the people of the district, he struck up close friendships with his nearest neighbours and was a favourite among the local children, who invariably received sweets from him on his visits to the store. He also drew up their astrological charts — another Theosophical pastime.
A strict vegetarian and animal lover, he astounded his neighbours with his fondness for the snakes of the area, many of which he accorded nicknames. Although in his last years his orchard was neglected and his spartan lifestyle not that much more comfortable than a Buddhist monk’s, making do on an annuity of around ?70 a year, he is said to have been always ‘cheery and boisterous’.
Each night he practised yoga, and he became so oblivious to his appearance that on the few occasions he left the ‘radius’ of his ‘ashrama’, as he put it, he often did so clad only in ‘a pair of pyjamas, a paper bag for a shirt and a white turban’. His neighbours relate that on one walk he bumped into Sir Robert Menzies, who was visiting friends in the area, and subsequently had him in for afternoon tea.
Woodward only descended on Launceston two or three times a year, usually to take part in some activity of the local branch of the Theosophical Society. He claimed always to be ‘confident of the goodness of whatever happens’, and perhaps some of this enthusiasm rubbed off on the increasing number of Australian Buddhists with whom he was corresponding in the few years before his death in 1952.”
[Croucher, Paul: Buddhism in Australia, 1848-1988. — Kensington, NSW,
Australia : New South Wales University Press, ?1989. — 147 S. : Ill. —
ISBN 0-86840-195-1. — S. 21 – 23]
The Western Contribution to Buddhism
(1973) Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications.
CHAPTER II BRITAIN
The name of F.L. Woodward scintillates among Pali scholars who edited and translated sacred texts of the Buddhists for the Pali Text Society. But Woodward is remembered in Ceylon more for his great service to the education of Buddhist boys than for his profound Pali scholarship. It is not generally known that he spent ?2,000 of his patrimony at the beginning of the present century to erect buildings for a Buddhist school in the south of Ceylon-Mahinda College, Galle- in which he served for sixteen years as Principal without drawing the salary attached to the post. The school funds met his bare expenses. A confirmed bachelor, he lived on a purely vegetable diet. He invariably wore a white suit while in Ceylon. He never went home on a holiday. Simplicity was the keynote of his life, which moved Mrs. Rhys Davids once to describe him as a “recluse.” The third son of the Rev. W. Woodward of Saham, Norfolk, England, Frank Lee Woodward was born on 13 April, 1871. As a boy of eight he mastered the Elementary Latin Course, and began the study of Greek, French and German. In 1879, he joined Christ Hospital, where he won the Latin and French prizes on three occasions. Besides his academic brilliance, he possessed remarkable athletic prowess. At the age of 14 he was a member of the House Fifteen, and two years later was a perfect and one of the First Fifteen. For several years he held the record for Putting the Weight and annexed prizes in most athletic events.
Pupil and teacher became close friends
At eighteen he entered Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge winning the first classical scholarship, and at nineteen was awarded the Gold Medal for Latin verse and an exhibition. He became College organist, won the prize for Latin essay and passed the Classical Tripos examination with honours in the third year of his admission to the University. He also held office as Rugby football Captain, Vice-captain of Boats, Athletic Secretary and full-back in the Association Football Team.
He served the Rugby Preparatory School for a short period as an assistant master. Later, he became classics master at the Royal Grammar School, Worcester, where he taught for three years until 1897. While there he rowed the Worcester City Boat to victory at many a regatta, and won honour for Worcester and the Midland Counties on the football field. Stamford School, an ancient foundation in Lincolnshire, was where he next served. He taught there for five years from 1895 as second master. E.M. Hare became close friends. During his five-year period at Stamford he devoted a good deal of his time to the study of both Western and Eastern philosophy, Pali and Sanskrit, English literature, and religion. It was he who persuaded Hare to study Pali.
Woodward joined the Theosophical Society in 1902. He described his becoming a member of it as “the most important event” in his life, for it led to his acceptance of the Buddha’s teachings.
In a letter to Col. H.S. Olcott, the then President of the Theosophical Society, Woodward offered his service to the East, and Olcott gladly accepted the offer, for at that time the latter had been requested, by Buddhists to find a head for Mahinda College, in Ceylon. On 1 August, 1903, Woodward landed in the town of Galle.
More than the architect of Mahinda
He found Mahinda College housed in an old Dutch building in the busy part of the Fort of Galle. The attendance was only 60. His high academic attainments and long experience as a teacher in public schools in England soon became known all over the country and parents began to remove their sons from other schools and send them to Mahinda College. One of them, now a nonagenarian, Mr. Vincent de Silva, says that he still remembers the Latin that Woodward taught him. He often speaks of his old teacher with affection and gratitude. The numbers on the roll rapidly rose to 300-the maximum that could be accommodated in the building.
Woodward himself selected the present site of Mahinda, some public-spirited residents of the area donating the lands. He was not merely the architect of the school, but its foreman of works as well. He was often seen with a trowel in hand among masons. Sometimes he would be on the scaffoldings taking measurements. His identity is concealed in the name of “Vanapala” (Sinhalese for Woodward) among the names on a brass plate in a set of classrooms.
Woodward was a strict disciplinarian. He set a very high tone in the college and it made rapid progress under his able direction. He, however, sought no publicity. He was revered for his self-sacrifice, his generosity and his erudition. One of his many efforts was directed at establishing Sinhalese as a subject for the Cambridge Local examinations which were then held in Ceylon. He was a pioneer of the Ceylon University movement.
He used to wear the simple garb of a white shirt and white cloth and to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism on full moon days, setting a noble example to his pupils and neighbours. Occasionally he would offer alms to Buddhist monks in the school hall, himself serving the meals with great humility, and would himself wash and wipe the feet of the monks as they came in single file for the alms-giving.
He taught various classes for several hours a day, besides attending to administrative matters. He knew every pupil of the school both by name, and by nickname – all given by him and drawn from Shakespearian characters. One of them was Caliban.
Regular donations to Society
Woodward left Galle on 7 October, 1919, for Tasmania, where he grew apples for his livelihood, and edited and translated Pali texts. He made regular donations to the Pali Text Society. In 1936, upon the publication of 15 volumes of a complete translation of the Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas, Mrs. Rhys Davids declared: “More specially our tribute is due to him (Woodward) who has borne the major burden, translating alone six of the fifteen volumes, giving aid in a seventh and now crowning our labours with this last volume. To all this must be added his recently issued translations of two Minor Anthologies in the Sacred Books of the Buddhist series Udana and Iti-vuttaka, and his first edition of the Samyutta Commentary. Very worthily has he stood in the breach left by the untimely death of Richard Morris and Edmund Hardy. That we can look forward in a few years to completing our scheduled programme is largely due to him.”
Mrs. Rhys Davids added that Woodward had undertaken all those labours while resting from “agricultural toil”, and not looking for any reward save that which good work done brings. Contact:
Courtesy: Mahinda Club.org
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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development
There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.
The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.
To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.
Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.
It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.
All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.
Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.
If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.
In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.
However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.
It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.
The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.
It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.
A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.
Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.
Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka
By Sanjeewa Jayaweera
It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.
The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.
We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.
This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.
Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!
At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.
One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.
It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!
ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!
The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.
When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!
I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.
I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.
I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.
Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!
I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.
Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.
We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.
Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?
Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!
To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.
Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.
The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..
How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!
If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.
And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!
Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.
Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.
With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.
I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.
Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.
He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.
Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.
He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!
I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:
“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.
“There is no science to beat common sense.”
But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!