Living Heritage of Sri Lanka

Mahasammata or Great Consensus

detail of Ptolemy's map of Taprobane

Traditional village culture is based on Mahasammata or the Great Consensus and Asana Deka Bana, the traditional process of conflict resolution.

In the days of the Kings, people met in an ambalama, or traveler's' stop along the wayside, to discuss matters of importance. Every perspective was aired and since Dharma ruled and all things were impermanent, change became a cornerstone of knowledge. Humor and lampooning were vital elements of a culture where ritual theatre highlighted the foolhardiness of any view other than Dharma or Truth. This not the validity of texts, but the Truth as experienced and lived from day to day.

Learning from traditional lifestyles is vital for a society that is being torn apart by conflicting perspectives. However, traditional living is itself in danger of becoming extinct in the teeth of modern development.

The increasing dependence on market driven economics makes it necessary for practitioners of our traditional lifestyles to gain full economic value for their goods and services.

Sri Lanka is essentially an agrarian society. Our traditional farmers are green farmers who return to the land what they take from it. This contrasts with consumer-oriented mechanized agriculture. Traditional farming is labor intensive and the produce of traditional farms is free of petrochemicals and other poisons. Indigenous seed is used (farmers control their own seed stock) and the organic output is both untainted and nutritious. Traditional farming protects and conserves bio-diversity, yet as a result of modern agriculture this tradition is also disappearing.

As conflict threatens to spread to remote areas like Okanda and Kudumbigala in the Kataragama God's forest like in other parts of Lanka, it behooves all sections of our multi-cultural community to preserve the indigenous culture that once flourished in every district.

Sri Lanka's living heritage is our unique contribution to world culture. To enter the twenty-first century garbed in a cosmopolitan veneer would be to stand empty handed.

The Living Heritage Trust is a private sector initiative dedicated to the preservation of Lanka's unique cultural heritage and traditional wisdom.

The Living Heritage Trust seeks to preserve the forest-village lifestyle and the ecologically sustainable conflict-free culture of village Lanka. Our villagers have much to teach us and we ignore them at our own peril.