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Old 13-07-13, 11:41 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default The Thomian formation of Munidasa Cumaratunga

The Thomian formation of Munidasa Cumaratunga
Sixty ninth death anniversary fell on March 2

March 5, 2013, 6:01 pm


by Sandadas Coperahewa

Helabas mini - Kalabhushana

Vidurunana Abhinandana Pranama Harasaraniya

In the centenary report of S Thomas’ College, Matara - 1844, 1944, J. W. Buultjens, (who had rendered yeoman service to S. Thomas’ College Matara, during his long tenure of office - 1895 - 1931) had mentioned a statement made by the Portuguese historian, De Queryroz, that the language spoken by the Sinhalese of Matara was much better than all others. Mr. Buultjens had further stated that Matara and the district of Matara were well known all over the island, in Sinhalese times, as the home of poetry and literature.

According to an observation made by S.J. Gunasegaram, M.A. (Lond) (Principal of STC Matara - 1934-1936) every home in the district had experienced the chastening and ennobling inspiration of this ancient seat of learning. It was the sole imparter of education in the English language. S. Thomas’ College, Matara, remained a Junior Secondary School, as its sister College in Colombo continued to attract some of the best pupils to her higher forms. Whatever be the statements he had made with regard to S. Thomas’ College, Matara, S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, had been controlled and managed by a Board of Govenors. Whereas STC Matara had been managed by the Diocese. STC Matara came to be officially recognised as a secondary senior school in 1914.

Cumaratunga may have attended STC Matara in 1895. Cumaratunga’s father passed away when he was studying in the fifth standard. This would have been a great blow to his studies at that time. As he had stated in `’Piyasamara’, the home background had been a most enjoyable place in many ways and specially as a seat of learning. However, later he was persuaded by his elder brother to attend STC Matara, during the time of J.W. Buultjens who was doing some excellent work. This must have been a period of transformation with regard to the associative connections between the old and the new. Flugel in his Psychoanalytic study of the family has stated the general principles guiding this type of child situation:-

"The new end or object to which pzychic energy is directed must have some associative connection with the old object which has been abandoned. it is very frequently possible to trace some kind of resemblance between the loved parent and the new object of affection... the resemblance may be of an opposing or negative kind, the later object of love being marked by different form or contrasting with the original object. He has also stated that there has been no clear-cut difference between the nature of this early Filio - parental affection and that of the later loves of adolescent and adult life."

Cumaratunga’s sensitive and healthy mind must have been attracted by his personality. His qualities of earnestness, honesty, integrity and his remarkable sympathy towards students - his habit of calling children ‘Putha’ etc. ,as mentioned by late Bhikku Metteyya who won the prize, must have impressed him.

He had to stay at some place at Walpola, as mentioned by him, (in ‘Kiyawana Nuwana’ - 7 Lesson - 4) and had to walk the distance to the schools, about half a mile from his boarding house.

The new home and school environment must have paved the way for him to stimulate and refresh his imagination in diverse ways. This required some sort of leisure and freedom from obstructions, attitudes, harraasing worries etc., to perceive varieties of experiences and the stimulation of senses. Those diverse relations which existed within the flux of perceptions, sensations, and emotions must have laid the foundation for the fuller experiences of his life.

At this particular pre-adolescent age, Cumaratunga like most active children of his age, must have been attracted by bright and saturated colours. As mentioned by him in ‘Piyasamara’ - his father stimulated his innate poetic imagination when he was about five years of age. At this age, perception and direct attention, and diverse ways of attraction must have had an impact. Here too, greater the training and the experience, clearer and more defined and vivid the type and forms of objects perceived in nature. According to Prof. W. D. Vernon the perceptive material relates to some intervening motive in the personality may be perceived more readily than the unrelated materials. Gestalt (or Foit) psychologists like, Wertheimer, Kohler, Kottka, have emphasized that normally perceptions always possess some kind of form - arrangement easy to perceive and remember - specially, where the objects show simplicity, regularity, symmetry and continuity. According to the observations made by Prof. Vernon, - the field-dependent types are close to the external environment - frame of the visual world.

Whereas the field independent types of groups rely on their bodily sensations, field independent children show a greater capacity than field - independents.

In Cumaratunga’s case, the process of perception was not upset by the arousal of unpleasant emotions or by some sort of painful experiences on the arousal of emotional conflicts.

According to experiments conducted by Witkin and Asch - these states are liable to upset the process of perception. According to the experiments conducted by these psychologists, Cumaratunga appears to have adopted both the (1) synthetic and (2) analytical method in the perceptive process. In the synthetic method one can see the perceptive field as an integral whole. In the analytic method, one can break up the field into its constituents parts of details.

Specially Cumaratuaga’s prose and verse works and commentaries which he supplied for classical Sinhala poems and Sandesa poems bear ample proof. Thus, he was able to master the particular science - the fine organization of thought and experience, - namely, the organization of thought. This led to his organized action. The following lessons which he contributed to ‘Kiyawana Nuwana 7’ bear unmistakable testimony:

1) The rapture of the cane

2) The fortitude of manhood

3) Hypnotism.

4) Birds’ nest

5) A village game called Pandu

6) The dog’s disgust for its tail

are some of them. (Those who are interested may read my article which appeared in the Island March 2 and 3, 1987) The School Inspector, who visited the school at that time - E.H. Van Der Wall - reported about the excellent tone and spirit which prevailed among masters and pupils of STC Matara. This is an outcome of Revds: J. S. Lyle, H. E. Beket, F. D. Edirisinghe and the pioneering work of J. W. Buultjens, A. C. Buultjens etc. As mentioned earlier, by the Inspector - this is the Thomian spirit, induced by the overpowering Thomian - impact. What I mean by it is - contact, impulse, and insertion as well. S. Thomas’ became an educational centre to nurture human nature, running out threads of harmonious relations of this impact, in all directions. These created the spirit within.

As observed by D.H. Lawrence, there should be a certain purity of spirit to be an artist. The motto which should be written over every School of Art is - "Blessed are the pure in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Cumaratunga is a great literary artist who was endowed with this particular rare pure spirit. S. Thomas’ College, Matara, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, indeed did much to create this noble quality among the best students. This is the Thomian Spirit created by the great teachers of STC Matara. According to Warden Stone - versatile Warden of STC Mt. Lavinia - it is the Thomian Spirit created by Bishop Chapman, and brought to full -growth by Miller. According to ‘Warden C. H. Davidson, there are many facets to the Thomian spirit. It is a truth which which no one can dare deny. At STC Matara it is the Thomian spirit created by the great predecessors and brought to full growth by J. W. Buultjens, which paved the proper path for the elevated ones. This particular spirit pervaded Cumaratunga’s life.

Thus his devotion to STC Matara, had been deep, silent and steady - and its impact and spirit had a remarkable influence on his life.

In unmistakable terms he had mentioned in detail, this impact and spirit which paved the way for his dynamic drive. (Refer ‘Kiyawana Nuwana’ - 7, ‘unequal- fight’)

"Among countries, one which resembles the isle of Lanka and there, among its cities, one which is similar to Matara and among its schools, one which could simulate S. Thomas College, (Matara) who will be able to emulate? This is not a statement made by the egotistical drive, this is etc. mine, or this is ours’ etc. In my case, I have perceived well what is within me. Oh, how these three had been impressively imported there. In my heart - Yes in my heart - which resembles a rough black granite - it is irrelevant to inquire about any other thing, so symbolically and indelibly fixed."
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Old 13-07-13, 11:43 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default Cont. The Thomian formation of Munidasa Cumaratunga

In this particular case, it is nothing but the development of character in the field of education - whether it is the development of character by the removal of hampering influences of diverse types, or the development of individual capacities to the utmost or the training of the individual in relation to the particular set up and make him an important and useful person in society.

Whatever be the circumstances during his pre-adolescent or adult life may be and whatever be the type of education he was subjected to, it made him to some extent to direct his will and choose the right way to set about to recondition himself. No doubt credit goes to his illustious father and to J.W. Buultjens who shaped his education at STC Matara. I am unable to say whether the conditioning process which took place in his early life, predetermined as an outstanding personality. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 1882) was able to visualize this process. According to his statements :-

"Character is nature in the highest form. It is no use to ape it or to contend with it. Somewhat is possible of resistance and of creation, to this power, which will foil all emulation. This masterpiece is best which no hands but Nature’s have been laid on it. Care is taken that the greatly destined shall slip into life in the shade, no thousand - eyed Athens to watch and blazon every new thought, every blushing emotion of a young genius."

Quite similar to the impact which directed Cumaratunga’s education at STC Matara, Cumaratuaga’s literary revival and the ‘Hela Havula movement also exerted a similar impact on the educational activities during the tenure of office of Warden Rev. Canon R. S. de Saram. W. D. Pinto Jayawardene who was the Head of the Sinhala Faculty at that time came to Matara during the Sinhala New Year vacation in April, 1949. At that time I was an examiner in English, Pali and Art at Sri Sudharshana (Buddhist Mixed) school, Welegoda, Matara.

I conducted English classes for Sinhala trained teachers, during the week-ends. Pinto Jayawardene, stayed for about a month, at Siri Walukaramaya, Pamburana, Matara. His anxious desire was to make a special study of classical Sinhala, and the diverse innovations brought about in the Sinhala literary field - which paved the way for the literary revival in modern times. He was also eager to make a special study of Matara literature, folk poetry etc.

One day Mr. Pinto Jayawardene came to my place, a few days before the Sinhala New Year, accompanied by a priest. After a formal chat, he asked me whether

I was in a position to help him in his studies of Sinhala Literature. I agreed to do so. I also agreed to supply him with lunch and dinner. From the following day, he started the study quite eagerly, after lunch and dinner. Within a week, he was absorbed in the study. As time passed by, he studied many aspects of Sinhala Literature, which appeared rather vaque. One day he inquired about symbolism in classical literature. I stressed the fact that it is a vast field and gave one example from ‘Sasadawata’ -

I gave an English translation:

The Loth flowers having espied

Which the, pleasant winter symbolised

The Lady feeling the lover’s hugging embrace

Gave it a joyous kiss of grace

115) Daka Loth mal al - kalata kal salakunu van

Himin ihilath novana - kal hanga thosin sinmbi kal

On some other day, I gave a long account of the revival movement of:

1. Ven. H. Sumangala

2. Ven. Sri Dharmarama

3. Gate-Mudliyar Gunawardene

4. Munidasa Cumaratunga

He was much impressed. He told me that before long he had to start work at STC Mt.Lavinia after the Sinhala New Year vacation.

He went back to school as the school term started. In a letter written to me, he stated quite frankly his appreciation in the Sinhalese study.

"It was a happy day that took me to Matara, for that stay there has created in me a hunger and thirst for a better knowledge of Sinhalese. Do enjoy the Sinhalese Literature as the Helayas do and to taste of its deepest depths would mean the sweeter heaven to me. Yet I think if my passion continues even that may be possible!" (dated 26.5. 1949).

At that time, Canon R. S. de Saram’s keen interest both in the study and teaching of Sinhalese gave much encouragement to Pinto Jayawardene and to the teachers of the Sinhalese Department. As a response, a detailed syllabus in Sinhalese (for Std. 2 - V.E.) was published on Aug 1, 1953. These were based on years of study and experiment. In the introduction Pinto Jayawardene made a comment about those who neglected the Sinhalese language and those who brought about silly arguments to write with ‘careless ease’.

"I must frankly admit that I have no patience with those who advocate any kind of Sinhalese, as long as one could make oneself understood - the ungrammatical, unidiomatic, loose, shoddy Sinhalese with a large number of raw English or foreign words - the Sinhalese that is mostly spoken in some of the large towns and which is generally referred to as modern Sinhalese. I believe that Sinhalese must be taught well and correctly and that the language of the vast majority of the villagers should not be ignored."

To achieve this end he wrote and published the following books for the use of students at STC Mt. Lavinia.

1. Siyabas Viyaranaya

2. Siyabas Vahara 1 (1953)

3. Salasiya - (The Sinhala Syllabus)

4) Kiriya Pahaduwa

(This is an elucidation of Cumaratunga’s ‘Kriya Viwavaranaya’)

As the outcome, there was such literary activity in the school. The STC magazines that were published in his time bear ample proof.

It will be quite interesting to note that long before this literary revival, that is in 1938 - Munidasa Cumaratunga was invited for a lecture, by the STC Literary Society. It is reported that he gave a very impressive talk, in simple, lucid style on suggestive sentences on ‘Ingi - Vaki’ (Refer ‘Aruna’ Sinhala Magazine November 1969, Page - 55). STC Magazine (Term III, Val. II, No. 3. Page 88, 1977) refers to the vibrant activities that took place at that time. It has further stated that D. D. A. Ashubodha, C. Coperahewa, G.L. Jinadasa and V. H. Vitharana were also responsible for the new awakening.

The Thomian magazine (September 1958, Vol. LXXXV No.1 P. 29 30) FARRAGO, refers to the long standing bonds of the two schools:

"Twenty five years ago a high adventure ended in fiasco - few pretend to know just now. Warden Stone had written welcoming ‘another Thomian head master’ to S. Thomas’ Boys Senior Secondary School. Today Mr. J. E. M. Fernando is yet another Thomian head master, having been appointed Principal of S. Thomas College (as it now is), Matara. We wish him every success and quote as an inspiration Warden Stone’s in 1931: - ‘May it be the leading Church of England School in the South’. We have long standing bonds with our namesake. G.B. Ekanayake and G. E. M. Arndt spring to mind. L.A. Arndt who in his brief tenure gave the college song, still used set to a piece of martial music composed by a Dutchman to counter the Malays in Java (The great Depression), J. C. C. Perera of Royal College and our Divinity School, R. S. S. Gunawardene, B. E. W. Jeroratnam, L. A. M. Arndt, D. N. Perera, C. G. George, C. Coperahewa, S. J. Gunasegaram, - these are just a few of the links. Besides in the minds of most the Southern school was a feeder to the college. In these trying times we shall watch with interest the progress of the school under Mervyn Fernando, a leading Classics man in his days."

It should,also be noted that K. B. Jayasuriya, a Sinhala scholar, who became the Principal of STC Matara, after J. E. M. Fernando, formed another link at STC Mt. Lavinia.

Bad education in any field specially in Ceylon has been due to some teachers who are unaware of their own complexes. Now and then, we have noticed how unconsciously some of them got used to project their own feelings of inferiority on to their pupils.

At STC, the Wardens and Sub-Wardens were able to create the ‘Thomian Spirit’ and add steel and grit to a large number of students.

As observed by a psychologist, ‘They did their best to divert the stream that is dashing itself on the rocks, spending its energy in an entirely wasteful way, into a channel where it may drive the dynamos of daily living.’

Real Thomians - whether they were at S. Thomas’ College Matra, or at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, learnt to act alone and direct their actions.

‘They were not led by others and never tried to lean upon others. Their minds were fixed on some great ideal to work for the good and the well-being of others. In the words of John Stuart Mill - ‘The only change is to treat, not happiness but some end external to it as the purpose of life. Your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation exhaust on that.’

Let me close this article with the great wish of Meryn Casiechetty:

Be thou forever and flourish

And serve Mother Lanka as well

As you did in the past, may you nourish

The thirsty who drink at your well.

Sandadas Coperahewa

Helabas mini - Kalabhushana

Vidurunana Abhinandana Pranama Harasaraniya

From: Sereno Barr-Kumar <sbarrkum@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 1:18 AM
Subject:Sandadas Coperahewa on Munidasa Cumaratunga and STC Mount and Matara

Maybe you can add this to the TyreTracks teachers page


Sereno Barr-Kumarakulasinghe
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Last edited by sriyanj; 17-05-15 at 08:51 PM.
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