Excerpts from President Premadasa's speech

I am very happy that representatives of the world community — Ambassadors, High Commissioners and also representatives from many countries of the world and various international organisations — have come to this sacred city today to take part in the religious ceremonies that we are holding. This ceremony commemorates the occasion on which I took oath under the Constitution before the people of Sri Lanka from this historic octagon. It has been the practice of our kings to meet and speak to the people here, but it was the first time a Head of State had taken oath here under the Constitution. When I aspired to be the President of Sri Lanka through the process of democratic principles created in our country, through the votes of our people, I made a promise that if I were elected, I would take the oath of office from this historic octagon.

Not only the Buddhists of Sri Lanka but also the rest of the people, whatever religion they profess, have great respect for this sacred building and this sacred area where we have the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha.

The Buddha's message is not a religion as such; it is a way of life. Lord Buddha realised the causes for the suffering of mankind and taught us how to meet the challenges of life. He showed us the realities of the world, and he gave us the path that leads us to realisation of the normal truth. Why do we say that it is the normal truth? Because it is the truth that you can experience and prove. Your conscience will easily tell you if what you are thinking, what you are going to say and what you are going to do are good for you and good for others. If you can purify your mind, you will get the true reality.

Buddhism can be practised by anybody, any layman. You need not give up your laymanship. Anyone who believes in other faiths, too, can follow, practise, experience and also experiment with the five precepts of Buddhism, which will lead anybody to purity.

One should lead a non-violent life and become peaceful in self. Unless you possess peace, you will not be able to give peace to others. What are we doing? We are asking others to be peaceful while we are violent. That has been the problem everywhere. Where there is controversy, conflict and confrontation, it is because we have not gained the wisdom to analyse and realise this truth.

We have been going through a very tough period in our country. Now we are getting a sense of relief. How did we bring about the present sense of relief? It is not through the power of the law, not through any royal decree. We have got this relief because of the great faith that our people have in spirituality. They believe that if they are good, the environment will become good. They believe that the power of truth can influence even the bad and the violent. Lord Buddha has proved these things. So the majority of our people, belonging to various faiths, various communities, various parts of the country, never lost faith while they were suffering from this terror.

What can our people do? They can only try to generate their human kindness, their human compassion. And that spiritual power is overtaking this brutality and terror in the country. That is why I say, it is not the power of government, it is not the weaponry of government, it is not any royal decree that has been responsible for restoring the peaceful environment of this country. This land must again regain peace, discipline and prosperity. It can only be realised if every one of us contributes towards that, and this is what the common people are doing. So we have come here to express our gratitude and pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic and also pay our respects to the other faiths and religions.

I am very grateful to the clergy and believers of various faiths for the arrangements that they have made. We are also grateful to the heads of foreign missions, and various foreign organisations who are here to help us. Other friendly countries have always understood Sri Lanka. In every continent, countries have always respected this little island of Sri Lanka. They have never misunderstood the situation here. They are continuing to help us. So to representatives from these countries and from organisations, some giving aid and some connected with voluntary services, I think it is my duty, as the representative of the people of this country, to convey our gratitude, and to tell them how much we value their cooperation and support.

And now you will be able to hear a few words from our friend, Sri Chinmoy, whose name means "full of Divine Consciousness." Please give us some of that.