By Ravi Perera –
“False face must hide what the false heart doth know” ~ Macbeth – Shakespeare
The reach of the modern media is limitless; lifting the cloak on institutions which for centuries had remained inviolable, its light flashing into each nook and corner, challenging long-held beliefs, remaking our opinions on every man and matter.
Circulating on the internet recently were some pictures/videos of a supposed Buddhist priest with a female companion, allegedly his mistress. Found in a compromising situation, they were surrounded by angry devotees of his temple, probably the arrangers of the entrapment, and some police officers. His private life bared to the wide world, the priest was hardly coherent. The female companion for some reason appeared to be handcuffed, adding further humiliation to the feeble, one most vulnerable.
Understandably, we are indignant when those claiming moral authority over us, a priest, a teacher, a judge, strays across the line of rectitude. Not only do they occupy socially important positions, their situation confers a certain authority transcending legal definition. Respect is accorded to them, the society at large will defer respectfully to their opinion. Often, held up as worthy, we look to them for guidance, exemplars for the younger generation.
We humans are fallible, often faltering, failing, betraying the principles we profess. In a society in obvious decay, such failings are rampant, everything is in turmoil; there are no norms or standards, anything goes; mammon is the only true god. We see this decline particularly in the clergy, a much diminished institution today.
Far from the religion’s fundamental asceticism and renunciation of the worldly life, the order has become an institution awash in the material. Obtaining rich patrons, brokering power and gathering wealth; the institution is given more to the ritualistic aspects of religion; forgoing the essential, for the pursuit of the illusion. There is a gaping chasm between the inspiring philosophy of Buddhism and the real lives of its adherents, observably flawed in both character as well as of mind.
If the clergy is diminished, it is the overwhelming theme of the layman; lives highlighted only by their acts of foolishness, incompetence, lies and deceit.
Who among those angry devotees of the temple could cast the first stone?
If we assume that the average devotee is a creature of the society he comes from, and at the same time, partly responsible (however small that responsibility) for the country around him, a tentative character sketch suggests itself.
Instinctive, discontent, superstitious, a life commonplace in every aspect. Religion for him is the occult, worshipping of false gods and indulging in lurid rituals. He will grovel before those he considers his superiors, pleading for favours and benefits. His working life is marked by an indifferent performance at the work place, taking/giving of bribes, making of false expense claims and stealing from the employer. It is not enough, for further prosperity he pleads to a pantheon of gods. To ease a heavy conscience, the man may occasionally indulge in a so called religious rite or an act of charity, whenever possible, giving the exercise wide publicity. Here is a pious man, the multitude will proclaim!
Hypocrisy is the name of the hand that casts the stone.
The woman, whose liaison led to the handcuffing by the police brought to mind the blurb on the back cover of my copy of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, George Orwell’s masterly satire on power, perverted.
“The ‘Party’ rules by the agency of four Ministries: the Ministry of Peace which deals with war, the Ministry of Love which deals with law and order, the Ministry of Plenty which deals with scarcities and the Ministry of Truth which deals with propaganda!”
One is made to wonder why the police is so heavily involved in a matter which is primarily a question of private morals. If they feared a breach of the peace, was that female the prime source of the potential threat? In the course of duty, one must rise above the temptation towards the vulgar or the cheap scandal.
For several decades now, it has been apparent that in its standing as well as service quality, our police force is steadily falling behind law and order institutions of other countries, particularly the British constabulary on which it was originally modelled. Politicization, bad leadership and substandard recruitment has eroded the public confidence in the force; rather than a protector, a visit to a police station is an experience to be dreaded, an encounter with a dark and obscure world.
An observer may well assume that the persecution of opponents of the government and the clearance of the roads for the easy passage of the fast moving convoys of government leaders, are the two main functions of our police. This is the rule with all governments, the intensity of these two activities however change according to the mentality of the different rulers. So poorly are the police equipped for other duties that often the victims of robberies and other similar offences have to provide the transport for the police to visit the scene of the crime. However, if the complainant is a politician in power, their basic instinct is to scramble with lightning speed. A force maintained with the tax money of all citizens, functioning for the benefit of a select few.
Meanwhile, what will become of the romantic priest and his mistress?
For that, we will need to await another Orwell to give us a Ministry of Morals.
old codger / February 7, 2022
While I am against hypocrisy by clergy, Buddhist or otherwise, as the author says, it is no business of the Police unless there is a breach of the law. I have heard arguments by the police that angry devotees might turn violent, but then it is the devotees that need to be arrested, not the amorous couple.
This gives the lie to Prof. G.L Pieris’s recent statement that Sri Lanka is a “secular country”. How can it be secular if the Police enforcement religious discipline, as in Saudi Arabia? I wonder what the many Muslim-bashers on this site have to say?
This also illustrates the anarchy that is Sinhala Buddhism. There is no central authority to enforce discipline, any crook can occupy a temple and live it up as he likes, with no oversight, as many do. The temples need a through reformation. But who will bell the cat?
soma / February 11, 2022
Sampath Sam / February 7, 2022
I wonder what stopped the Monks to get married and have their family life apart from teaching Buddhism.
soma / February 11, 2022
They lose the free meal.
Captain Morgan / February 7, 2022
The Sri Lanka Police are just a bunch of jokers. Their primary responsibility seems to be to serve the politicians, and not the public. They act forcefully only with soft targets, being careful not to take action against hard targets, by which I mean persons in powerful positions. What was the need to handcuff that poor girl? Were the police alarmed that she will try to overpower them and run away? Actually, this is not a matter for the police at all, so why did they get involved in this incident? What was the law that was broken? This is entirely a matter for the Dayaka Sabha, which can take the appropriate disciplinary action against the Chief Incumbent of the temple.
This sort of thing has become the way of life for many Buddhist monks in this country today, as they have turned into worldly persons with a wide range of interests, including wine and women. The songs are limited though and restricted to the Bana that is chanted loudly to impress the believers.
chiv / February 7, 2022
Waiting for Evil’s opinion ?????? Must be a conspiracy to tarnish the image of monk, religion and SB country.
old codger / February 8, 2022
Did you know that the sale of meat was banned on Independence Day? That’s how secular this country is.
Kanapathy Varunan / February 7, 2022
Is it correct to say that the Buddhist Priest who are ‘served’ by women, are referred to as Pansala Menikes?
Buddhist1 / February 7, 2022
Most of the Buddhist monks who are upfront in political activities are CROOKS. They are in politics more than the politicians and it’s the stupid Rajapakse family that has elevated them to this status by visiting pansalas on a daily basis, giving offerings not from their pockets but from the Government coffers. First of all, it’s time people open their eyes and ensure that all Buddhist monks go on Pinnapatha daily for their food, this is what Lord Buddha preached. Mahanayakes are another bunch who are useless, they are only worried about the next Benz Car they could get from the government. They do not know and do not manage their flock. The time has come for the Dayaka Sabha members to take the reign onto their own hands and correct these monks who are not following the teachings of Lord Buddha.
Raj-UK / February 7, 2022
Buddhist monks are expected to be celibate but its not against the law to be involved in a consenting amorous relationship, therefore, it is not the police but up to the Buddhis Order (‘sangha saba’?) in SL to take appropriate action, assuming that a code of conduct exists & disciplinary rules are enforced. However, considering the antics of racist & political monks, such as, Gnanasara, continuing to carry on unhindered, questions this ‘code of discipline’, unless the ‘High Priests’ see no wrong, even though, in contradiction of basic Buddhist teachings of non violence & compassion.
Raj-UK / February 7, 2022
A few years ago, an aging monk at a London temple was convicted for paedophilia when a lady doctor brought charges against him, which happened over 20 years ago. The victim, who was about 11 years old when she was abused, had to wait until her father passed away to bring charges as the father did not believe her. When this matter became public, several others also came forward, which enabled the prosecution to convict the priest. Many eminent Sinhala Buddhist continued to support the priest, citing a ‘christian conspiracy’ to disgrace Buddhism & MR, the President at the time, instructed the High Commission to bear the cost of the priest’s legal fees. The convicted priest was deported after serving an 8 year sentence & is supposed to be currently living in a temple in Gampaha area which also runs an orphanage.
I am not sympathetic to any monk breaking celibacy vows but it seems that there is some confusion over the legality of these crimes & no disciplinary code of conduct existing in SL, thereby, any common criminal, con artist or podophile can become a monk & continue their merry ways while gullible disciples worship them in reverence.
old codger / February 8, 2022
We still don’t know the names of the monk and the Navy officer who were accused of raping a 15 year old a few months ago. Are these categories untouchable, unlike the Muslim whose name was splashed all over for the same offence?
nimal fernando / February 8, 2022
Stop insulting the great man Buddha and leave him alone.
Give up trying to follow impossible edicts.
Escape the trap you were ensnared from the day you were born.
Pretend Buddha was never born ……… or you have never heard of him ……… and de-Buddhist yourselves.
Then, you can live your lives as you please without hypocrisy.
………. I won’t feel so alone and lonely then: I’ll have EE and roughly about 6.9 million for company ……….
deepthi silva / February 8, 2022
Old Codger, I am with you when pointing out the absurdities and the cruelties of all religions. At least by those who claim to follow them. Religions appeal to the irrational and the innate loneliness/weakness of humans offering a remedy. I think as a statistic ,higher the IQ less the belief.
Bashing Islam ? So many Muslims migrate to Western Christian countries. I have never heard of anyone migrating to Saudi or Iran. Is there anything to bash?
old codger / February 8, 2022
“I have never heard of anyone migrating to Saudi or Iran. Is there anything to bash?”
You are sadly misinformed. Millions of foreigners migrate to Saudi and UAE. But they aren’t allowed to stay. I know people who worked into their sixties. If you behave yourself, Sharia Law makes for a very safe environment. Does this look like a hellhole of Islamic repression to you?
Not everyone needs to be a slave in the Middle East.