Re: "Shared culture links Viet Nam and Sri Lanka" published on February 6.
I enjoyed reading Dr Amarasinghe's article about Viet Nam and Sri Lanka's past and current close ties. The Sri Lankan ambassador pointed out that while it is good to have official associations between the two countries, it is far more beneficial to have deeper cultural ties.
Dr Amarasinghe reminded Viet Nam News readers that a religious connection between Viet Nam and Sri Lanka – Buddhism – is first recorded in southern Viet Nam nearly 2,000 years ago. Together with the Mahayana version of Buddhism, the philosophy has now blossomed into 17,000 pagodas across this country. It is easy to see how Buddhism incorporated with ancestor-worship now underpins daily life in this country.
The ambassador also pointed out how Viet Nam's version of Buddhism exists positively alongside other religions and faiths. The world could learn a lot by studying Viet Nam in this regard.
However, Viet Nam has more than political and religious ideological connections with Sri Lanka. Viet Nam, to be more specific, Vung Tau, holds a powerful, living religious symbol which originated in Sri Lanka and is as old as Buddhism itself!
According to Buddhist history Buddha gained enlightenment when sitting under a Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) in the small town of Bodh Gaya, India. A nun took a cutting of this tree and replanted it in Sri Lanka. In turn, a visiting monk from Sri Lanka planted a cutting of the Sri Lankan tree in a pagoda at beautiful, historic Vung Tau, Viet Nam.
This special tree can be seen at the Thich Ca Phat Dai temple. Because this pagoda is the guardian of such a unique religious icon, it is also considered to be extremely lucky. Needless to say, this pagoda is also the most visited religious site in Vung Tau.
Last week Thich Ca Phat Dai temple hosted 3,000 monks and nuns from all over Viet Nam and Cambodia. The major reason for this annual pilgrimage to Vung Tau is the Sri Lankan tree.
A gift from Sri Lanka in the 1960s, it seems to keep on giving. What a powerful connection between Sri Lanka and Viet Nam!
Dr Amarasinghe's very positive article jarred part of my memory; a bit of history which seems almost unbelievable these days. About 28 years ago, Viet Nam sought policies that would improve its war-torn image. Ha Noi instigated the "More friends, less enemies" policy. What an outstanding success that has been!
Countries wanting to form bilateral relations with Viet Nam can learn from the Sri Lankan connection. Form an official association, but don't stop there, move on to a more meaningful, cultural/personal relationship with the very friendly Vietnamese people.
I'm an author who has lived in Vung Tau for the last nine years. I enjoy my morning read of the Viet Nam News.