The keynote address delivered on sociology day in 2015 at the University of Peradeniya, and elsewhere published as In Praise of Foolishness (with Apologies to Erasmus).In this essay he reflects back on his own works.
“In the more popular paper I argue that right thorough history literary chronicles refer to the king in heroic terms but a different dialectic prevails in respect of the Tamil king: when Duṭugämunu is conscience stricken Elāra emerges as a noble figure; when Duṭugämunu’s conscience is ignored in some later texts Elāra is depicted as a villainous and cruel king, a despoiler of Buddhist monuments. My friend, an eminent scholar who has written at length on Buddhism responds to the gush¬ing and sentimental comments of sociologists by informing us of a ninth century Pali work which says that the Tamils “were wrecking Buddhist institutions and damaging Buddhist monuments which were very dear to the people.” This text adds that Duṭugämunu was so overjoyed in his victory that he could not sleep for a month whereupon a group of monks recited benedictory verses to put him to sleep. I could not resist sarcasm when I added: “Naturally the good king entered into a profound sleep, this time his joy, not his conscience, having been stilled.” I pointed out to my friend that these various versions have little to do with empirical history but with debate, those contentious dialogues that erupt in history. I will admit I employ irony and sarcasm as part of my argument when I confront the pseudo-patriotism of scholars who wrote about these debates but I added that my friend honestly believed that the second version is the true one and not the earlier version in the Mahāvaṃsa. Unhappily my friend cut off all relations with me and thereafter lambasted me in popular newspaper articles; and he continued to do so even after he shed his secular attire and became a monk. What then is the moral of my tale? A text can provoke anxiety, even anger, and my own venture into irony and double-talk had backfired. In the case of my monkish friend he was so fixated on his view of the righteous Duṭugämunu and the hated Tamil monarch that sarcasm or no he would not brook any recognition that he might be wrong. With such intransigence there was no point in continuing an argument.”