Dear Jerome,

How are you holding up? I don’t think you know me. I grew up in Moratuwa, not too far from your hood. You are just one year older than me. Perhaps we may have even met during our school days. Given your impressive oratorical skills, I would expect you to have taken part in English Day competitions where I slayed some Peterites. Or were you an Interactor? I remember St. Peter’s had a really good Interact Club those days. Anyway, I thought of writing to you while you are facing these testing times. I hope this will help you.

One of my younger cousins is a Roman Catholic. We practically grew up together. His Catholic father left him when he was little and settled in the USA. His mother who was Buddhist by birth continued to raise her son as a Catholic. So I got to celebrate Christmas with them. I remember going to the mass on Christmas Eve once or twice at the Queen of Angels Church in Rawatawatte.

It was at his place that I first read the bible. Do you remember the little red colour “ළමා බයිබලය” (Children’s Bible)? I’m not sure if the Bible Society still publishes that. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading the many bible storybooks which they also published. Do you remember those deep blues and bright reds and the life-like drawings? Moses’ story in particular. He was such a hero, wasn’t he? Come to think of it, they were the first comics that I read. Comics as in hand-drawn scenes in the blocked layout with speech bubbles. Like the Marvel Comics that my kids read nowadays. I eventually read the complete bible. It’s a really good piece of literature.

But of course, I was never convinced of the central dogma of Catholic theology. I never got anything less than 98% for Buddhism as a subject in any of my school exams. I was a strong debater both in school and in Sunday school, often speaking against theism. I think I heard you say that you first met god when you were sixteen. That’s the year that we sit for the Ordinary-level exam, and I’m pretty sure many of my friends would’ve also met god seeing the math paper for example. I got all eight Distinctions and followed the Bio Stream for Advanced-level. What did you study, Jerome?

I also heard that god spoke to you again when you were 22 or something. By then, I was studying Genetics, Microbiology and Biochemistry for my Bachelor of Science degree in India. Oh man, that was the best of our youth, wasn’t it? I had really nice hair back then. I’m glad you still have yours. But I suggest you go easy on that hair gel, mate. I can see that you are going thin on the top. That’s how it starts.

Do you have any higher education in the sciences, Jerome? Because I think that a lot of the problems the theistic believers struggle with such as the origin of life and its function can be very well understood if you have proper education in the natural sciences. At least they would not sound so uninformed and ridiculous when they argue against evolution by natural selection and random mutation. I majored in Genetics. It’s the study of inheritance. Do you know that the father of Genetics is in fact a Christian monk? His name is Right Reverend Gregor Mendel. You should check out his backyard experiment that led to the discovery of the basic rules of heredity. Genius.

Okay okay, I know I’m kinda boasting here. I think you know that I’m writing this for your followers as much as for you. One has to establish one's credentials before making a case. Unfortunately, Lankan society is highly subservient to authority. They tend to judge the “content” based on the “speaker” rather than on the “merit” of the content. A weak human trait which I think is very useful for your line of work. Anyway, let me cut to the chase.

Jerome, you made those claims about the Buddha’s enlightenment and the biblical claim of Jesus calling himself the light. I don’t think you are naive to take those words literally. In both cases they are metaphorical. Jesus uses metaphors in his numerous preachings. And guess what Jerome, Buddha is a master of metaphors, analogies, examples, comparisons etc. You’ll be amazed if you actually read the Tripitaka which has so many stories describing the events and the teachings of the Buddha. But the key message I want to give you is the core idea of the Buddha’s teachings which we call the Dharma. And I’m doing this only because you say that you are interested in the “truth”.

You believe in a soul. Something metaphysical that will continue beyond corporeal death. But there is no evidence of such a soul or spirit. I know that it is a very difficult concept to reject because you constantly feel that there is a “thinking you” inside you. That there is a “self” of Jerome who decides what to do and so on. And it’s frightening to think what would happen to that self, that “you” when you die. It’s comforting to believe that you, your soul, your spirit, or your consciousness will continue after death and will eventually end up in heaven along with the souls of all your lost loved ones. But that’s just that. A comforting belief that has no evidence.

But then you could ask “What evidence is there to say that there is no soul?” That’s a common logical fallacy made by most believers. It’s what we call a “negative claim”. The burden-of-proof is on the person who says that there is a soul. But for the time being let’s grant that. Still, we are left with no evidence for either the existence of a soul or the non-existence of a soul. The best we can say is that “we don’t know”. Now that, my friend is the first step towards the truth. So if you are really, I mean really interested in the truth, you need to come out of both these unfounded beliefs of the existence of a soul and the non-existence of a soul. I know it’s really tough to do that, to break away from this primordial evolutionary conditioning. But you gotta try.

Some modern scientists and philosophers explain this sense of a “thinking self” as an “emergent property” of the physical brain. Your body is made up of trillions of cells. Those cells are made up of common molecules. Those molecules are made up of atoms, atoms of sub-atomic particles and so on. What you call “you” is one big complex chemical reaction. That’s all the evidence we have. And that is enough to explain life without any need for a soul. Buddha calls this “අනාත්ම” (Anāthma).

And it’s all dynamic. Molecules break only to make new molecules. You can’t control it. Look at yourself. You don’t have the youthful looks that you flaunted when you acted in those advertisements anymore. You are ageing. You are decaying. Your body is desperately trying to exist. That’s why it needs that emergent property of a “thinking self” to fight for food, to fight for shelter, to fight for procreation. You are not making the body do that. The body, the cells, the molecules, the atoms… are making you do that. But it eventually fails. Your body will most certainly die. Therefore none of it is permanent. Your precious Miracle Dome too will decay and fall apart eventually, just as the thousands of bodies dancing inside it will along with your body. Buddha calls this “අනිච්ච” (Anichcha).

But those physical constructs will be rebuilt. Those atoms will make new molecules. New cells. New bodies. Just like another house of prayer will be made with the bricks made of the mud and dust of your once miracle dome. And the same neuronal structures will be made making the same emergent properties. Can you even imagine all the different combinations that could arise? That’s why the Buddha says the probability of you being born as a human being is unbelievably small. Pretty logical isn’t it!

Now this whole goddamn mess of a process of existence is what the Buddha calls “දුක්ඛ” (Dukkha). I mean do you want the current mental burden that you are suffering with, to be recreated over and over, Jerome? You want your pain to end. But even if you somehow get away with your current predicament, there is no guarantee that the same burden will occur in some future brain. Some might naively call it reincarnation. But it’s not really you. Because there is no “you” to start with.

What Buddha wanted to do was to find a way to end this process of wicked existence. And that’s precisely what he did. He discovered through logical reasoning, a scientific path to eradicate the causes that maintain this existence. That discovery is what we call the “Enlightenment”. It’s rather counter-intuitive for the “emergent property” called the “self” to actually try to end itself. Buddha used an analogy for this called “පටිසොතං” (Patisothan) meaning “going against the stream”.

I know this is a lot to download in a letter, Jerome. I’m not even going to explain to you the path to Nirvana here. But I hope this gives you some understanding of the Enlightenment that we the followers of Buddha talk about. At least you should be able to realise that it’s different from what Jesus would have meant in his reference to light. I know that this is a difficult time for you. You are suffering. But it’s nothing compared to the actual suffering in the world. If you want the truth, I wholeheartedly invite you to study the Tripitaka. Let me be your friend in your search for the truth. Maybe we can meet up one day for a long chat. May the Dharma Guide Your Way!

Yours truly,

Eranda Ginige


eranda g12as







*The writer is a social entrepreneur and former presidential advisor. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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