Groundviews

Of Symbols, Identity and Sovereignty: The Sri Lankan flag and us

A discussion.

I thought of him as the speaker of the flag

He said

We Sinhalese are the people of the lion.  Our flag represents us. Every point every line has a meaning.  Look at the color of the flag it is red and yellow. Yellow is symbolic of wisdom and derives from the color of the Buddha’s robe.  The Buddha, when he attained enlightenment wrapped himself in a cloth that covered the bodies of the dead.  The bodies in those days may have been bathed in saffron, which was used as a disinfectant. The saffron dye stained the cloth that the Buddha wore and it became yellow.  The color yellow became indentified with the Buddha and his wisdom, which encompasses both life and death… And so yellow became the color of wisdom. While red became the color of life. Red for our lifeblood, our energy, our anger, our hate, our passion, our love, our revolutions, our desires,

He said

The red ground within the yellow border represents man’s instincts contained within a framework of wisdom. The four yellow Bo leaves for the tree under which the Buddha sat as he obtained enlightenment represent the four symbols of enlightenment. Respect for life, compassionate action, altruistic joy and the gravity of that sublime state of mind as you contain within you the discipline of wisdom.

He said

The lion represents society and the sword is the instrument of protection of society.

He said

The sword has three sections the first, the hilt or handle stands for the basis of society, the second, the hand guard stands for the guidance of society, the third the blade, stands for the protection of society

He said

Look at the hilt, the basis of society.  The three points at the bottom are there for the law of dependent origination, birth, life and death. The four petals extending from the hilt represent the fact that every   thing has a form and a name.  , The four petals for land, water, birth and death represents man’s birthright Just as he, as a living being has a form and name, a right to land, to water, to birth and to death and no one can deprive man of these…

He said

This is the basis of the ten royal codes of conduct, the instrument by which society is ruled and is the code for the rulers to live by.

Sharing,
Morality,
Recognition of talent,
Integrity,
Courtesy,
Restraint,
Non-violence,
Non-hate,
Patience,
Non-revenge.

And through non-revenge we protect the right of all to exist.  In non-hate, in non-violence, in restraint, in courtesy, in patience, in integrity, in the recognition of talents, in morality, in sharing. This is the basis of the existence of sovereignty for any society of human beings

And I said

In my world we manipulate both birth and death and do not hold anyone’s right to land and water as sacred.  Instead we value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nor do we value non-revenge but rather the right to extract it through the instrumentality of the law!

From : Harrison and Harrison  (1986) The Lagoon Cycle

So, as we fight to protect our symbol and to hold our heads high, it will behoove us to appreciate what this symbol signifies. It challenges all of us who claim to be represented by this flag to be measured by the ideals symbolized by the flag in order to establish our identity.

Reference

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison 1986 The lagoon cycle: March 23 through June 2, 1985, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.