27 October, 2020

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Buddhists Who Are Willing To Change Their Point Of View

By Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe

Ramya Jirasinghe

The Crucial Element Missing for Peace in Sri Lanka:  Buddhists who are willing to change their point of view

A few months ago The Sunday Time’s Talk at the Café Spectator column ran a snippet on President Rajapaska’s response to a journalist who had found the President exercising on his head in a room at Temple Trees. The President, with his characteristic flare for turning every situation into a joke, had said;   “mang beluwe oluwen hita gaththama kohomada mata rata penne kiyala”. During times of turmoil and crisis, real gems of wisdom surface in the guise of black comedy. This is one such gem. The need of the moment is precisely that: someone willing to change a point of view that will invert the world as we view it.

It goes without saying that there is an urgent need in Sri Lanka to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences if we are to create lasting peace in this post war nation. Yet, 65 years of the country’s history since independence has been a portrait of recurring failures to garner a unifying national identity.  The fault lies in our ideology of identity. And here lies the surprise. It is a fault that doesn’t lie with the politicians. Manipulation of truth and reality, after all, is a characteristic of the politician. The fault lies in a failure on the part of the Buddhists.

What Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Buddhists have failed to achieve as a predominately Buddhist country, is the ability to adapt the Buddha’s central teaching, and based on that, the code of conduct given by him, into our own society and to a global world system that is founded on a set of diametrically opposed values. The world the majority politicians are creating now is inherently opposed to Buddhist ethical teachings. What, then, is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching?

If there is one place in the Buddha’s  four decades of teaching about the human condition, where he reduces his teaching to a few lines, it would be in his last words, uttered to monks before he passed away under the shade of trees of ancient India. As Maurice Walshe translates the Buddha’s last words: “All conditions things are of a nature to decay –strive on untiringly.” Encapsulated in this distilled essence of the Buddha’s teachings is his ground breaking, rigid-ideology subverting, declaration on the reality of existence: that all phenomena are unstable, impermanent and transient; that nothing can bring lasting satisfaction; and that all phenomena are devoid of anything that can be identified as a self. In his teaching on dependent origination he goes into minute detail on how identities and phenomena arise and disintegrate, and how it is ignorance and craving that undermine human happiness.

It goes without saying that the Buddha’s declaration, which he called the Dhamma – the true nature of reality, was both ground-breaking and transformative at that time in an Asian society that had been built on rigid social hierarchy and dogmatic religious positions. Yet the truth of his declaration could not be disputed. This is because; instead of asking his audience to accept his words with blind faith, he used a “phenomenological” approach. He told people to accept his declaration only if they found it to be true when they explored it personally and experienced the truth themselves. He merely provided a toolkit in the form of the Noble Eightfold Path, for this personal exploration of reality. It is a tool kit that also provides a clear guideline for conduct (as given in the 3rd, 4th and 5th factors of the Noble Eightfold Path).

On numerous occasions, the Buddha offered guidance to lay people such as Sigala, King Pasenadi and the Nakulas on how to live constructive lives in society. In a world marked by suffering, impermanence, and relentless change, human life should be lived with kindness, compassion and gentleness. A life lived in complete adherence to right conduct became the only means of engagement with conventional reality. This social ethic became the cornerstone of his moral foundation, for no other alternative way of life is possible in the face of the truth he declared.

No religious teacher had before or has since, so compassionately exposed the fragility of the human body, mind and identity. And in doing so, the Buddha shattered any possibility of differentiating one living being from another based on any of the numerous labels we give ourselves based on appearance, family, ethnicity, religious allegiance or ideology.

However, the need today, in a Sri Lanka that has been riven apart by differences and by such strong, dogmatic insistence on the solidity of our identities, is a means to incorporate an understanding of this teaching into our public lives. And it is here that Buddhism’s greatest dilemma and challenge to Buddhists in Sri Lanka lies.

Buddhism’s Challenge to Sri Lankan Buddhists:

The Buddha’s core teaching pulls the rug from under all social structures that make up conventional reality and all forms of conceptualisations of identity and thought. How, then, is it possible to integrate this core teaching into modern society that exists entirely on concepts and structures? The concept of “nation”? The concept of “nationalism”? The concept of “personality”? The concept of being a “Tamil” or a “Sinhalese”? The concept of being a “Muslim”, “Christian”, “Hindu” or a “Buddhist”?

In refusing to be driven by social concepts on the grounds of the Buddha’s teaching, the true Buddhist may become vulnerable to others who live lives based on material strength and dogmatic beliefs. Colonisation became possible with the development of weapons which others did not have. Imperialism is founded on the desire for wealth, on dogmatic beliefs (religious or secular) and on the search for glory.

At the extreme end of the spectrum of answers to this dilemma lies what appears to be passivity of the individual Buddhist: a gentle detachment that can be interpreted as selfishness or disengagement. History shows that at a national level any country or civilization that appears weak, militarily or economically, will inevitably be subsumed. Countries and regions in the Near East and the Malayan Archipelago that once had thriving Buddhist civilizations but which succumbed to aggressive ideological and political forces are good examples of this.

No doubt, the world order today is far more complex, and people and countries, far more desperate for natural resources today than they ever were during the time of the Buddha. Therefore to live a life or to structure a society based on the Buddha’s core teachings may, in the short term, appear to be folly. It is to lay oneself or a community open to abuse, exploitation and destruction.

Yet, as the Buddha showed, change is the nature of all things. In his teachings there were no dilemmas or contradictions: in the face of this reality, existing skilfully (good mental, verbal and physical conduct) was the only choice a human had. War, for instance, was never an option because it set the mind off on a path of unskilful thoughts and resulted in unskilful actions.

According to Bikkhu Thanissaro: “In many passages, kings are mentioned in the same breath with thieves: They confiscate property and show little regard for the rule of law.” In any event, great societies such as the Athenian and Roman, have flourished and died. Each was consumed by militarism and prejudice. Ultimately the winds of change sweep over everything. Isn’t it far more valuable to build a society on tolerance and peace than create a monstrosity of aggression and hankering? Which vision will create a society that will last over the millennia? The answer to the Buddhist dilemma lies in the Buddha’s teachings itself. Every engagement with conventional reality needs to be underscored by the skilful conduct. Unwholesome conduct is never justified by the Buddha; not even to protect one’s life or one’s belongings or even the institution of Buddhism.

In his sutra, the Simile of the Saw in the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha says, “even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will….” Extreme scenarios as the Simile of the Saw are useful as they highlight the emphasis the Buddha put on right conduct in threatening situations: conduct that eschews thoughts, words and deeds of anger, hatred, and violence.

Those Buddhists trying to help Sri Lanka keep faith in the Buddha’s teachings and protect the institution of Buddhism need to find ways to model their actions according to the rules of conduct given by the Buddha. From this starting point, the Buddhist polity needs to integrate the basic guidelines for wholesome conduct based on the Buddha’s teaching into its codes of behaviour. It needs to remind Buddhists to not be driven into dogmatism and ideology. To remind Buddhists that all labels are impermanent and not really oneself – not even the labels “Sinhala” or “Buddhist”.  With this understanding as the foundation, it can develop strategies for the constructive use of power, the protection of boundaries and the safeguarding of communities and religions.

The Buddha’s code of conduct is the Buddhist polity’s greatest source of protection.  It will never be possible for unscrupulous politicians to manipulate a Buddhist polity grounded in such a code of conduct. It will never be possible for any international humanitarian organisation to accuse a Buddhist polity of human rights violations or war crimes. Nor will it be necessary to condemn the way of life or beliefs of others if the Buddhist polity simply follows the way of life advocated by the Buddha.

If Buddhists do not contribute to the killing of animals for food by creating a demand for animal flesh through their own consumption of it, then how anyone else prepares their meat becomes a non-issue. What is currently happening in Sri Lanka over the issue of the method of slaughter is that the Buddhist polity is crying foul, to use a Sinhala idiom, that the cat’s paws are wet, having themselves used the cat to extract  jak seeds for their own consumption (ballalu lawa kos ate bame).

The Buddha showed the pointlessness of rituals such as ablutions, and Buddhists who accepted his teaching turned away from rituals, but did not engage in the useless exercise of trying to stop all the rituals that were taking place in India during his time.

Finally, Sri Lankan Buddhists today would do well to consider again the life of Emperor Ashoka. We are often reminded of and so venerate the actions of his son and daughter in transplanting the bodhi tree and sangha on this island; but we can also learn from Ashoka’s own extraordinary actions that were taken after winning the horrific war against the Kalingas. The horrendous suffering his army caused, especially on innocent civilians, moved him to dedicate his life, and future rule, to promoting the Dhamma.

History records Emperor Ashoka implementing compassionate policies across his kingdom and reconciling with his former enemies. Skilful actions is the real practice; acting ethically to restore a war-torn country based on compassion, while more difficult, is a Buddhist’s —  and Buddhist ruler’s — highest calling.

All over the world today, people must also be weary of war, selfishness and violence. There appears to be an underlying desire for a truly different world view on which to build a new world order. If Sri Lankan Buddhists strive to find ways to incorporate the Buddha’s teaching into public life, then the formulation of constructive tools of engagement for peace with different communities or nations can begin.

Living up to the Buddha’s ideals of compassion and ethical integrity can be this country’s greatest gift to the world.

*Ramya is the author of “Rhythm of the Sea”, and “Trinity”. Her book of poetry, “There’s an Island in the Bone”, was published in 2011. She won the 2011 State Literary Joint Award for poetry and was longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize, Ireland in 2011. She was a joint runner-up to the UK’s Guardian Orange First Words Prize of 2009 and The Times-online of UK, featured her in its 2009 selection of contemporary war poetry.

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    Well done ramya.You have hit the nail on its head.

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      Spot on Ramya – the crucial element MISSING in Lanka today is: BUDDHISM – in spirit and practice as taught by Siddharta Gautama.
      Buddhist WOMEN must speak up and out against the distortion and corruption of Buddhism by politicians and greedy monks.

      What exists today in Sri Lanka is a corrupted rotten public religion – a corrupt and ugly form of UNBUDDHISM — ritualized, and MILITARIZED political religion which the Sinhalay modayas, particularly, FOOLISH WOMEN in white sarees follow. This unbuddhism is cultivated by Mahinda Rajapassa and his corrupt and criminal family, particularly Gotabaya the white van Goon, to perpetuate the Rajapassa military dictatorship in Sri Lanka.

      The sasana in lanka is backward and primitive and desperately needs modernization and proper EDUCATION for life in a global world dominated by capitalist consumerism and great social inequality.

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    Dear Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe,

    Thank you for bringing this problem to the forefront, as it is the core issue in Sri Lanka, and should be brought up repeatedly.

    Need to get to the CORE Problem. The Monk Mahanama Myths and Sinhala “Buddhist” Racism. They piggy back off Buddhism and distort Buddhism.

    You say:

    1. “Buddhists who are willing to change their point of view”

    2. “It goes without saying that there is an urgent need in Sri Lanka to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences if we are to create lasting peace in this post war nation. “

    3. “On numerous occasions, the Buddha offered guidance to lay people such as Sigala, King Pasenadi and the Nakulas on how to live constructive lives in society”

    Comments:

    1. What is Practiced in Sri Lanka is Monk Mahanama Buddhism Myths, also known as Sinhala Buddhist Racism. Why racism, because the Tamils, the Veddahs, and the other Natives are demonized. Their beliefs, such as Jainism, Animism and Hinduism are demonized, conveniently forgetting that Buddhism sprang from Jainism and Hinduism.

    2. Since it was the Mahanama Myths that got the majority of Sinhala Buddhists, to be taught distorted Mara Buddhism, reason will only transform only a fraction of these Myths holders, even in this 21st century. Even after 470 years, still about 25% of the people in the West believe, the Sun goes around the Earth.

    3. Sri Lanka Buddhists need a Martin Luther, like he did for the Catholic Church, to break the Hegemony of the Monks, the Monk-Ruler Axis.

    4. In the end, the truth will prevail and the Myths will be exposed, as there is No Nirvana, Nibbana, and Rebirth, which the Monks preach all day. Has anybody reached Nirvanna in Sri Lanka over the past 2,300 years? NO. What they practice is Buddhist Indulgences, like what the Catholic Church did.

    5. Lanka had a great civilization before Buddhism, and Buddhism allowed for the Monk Hegemony by creating the Monk-Ruler Axis. Ravana was Hindu, if you believe Ramayana is true.

    DeJa Vu, but keep hacking at the Myths.

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      You are playing the same Record. Find some thing new.

      It is you stupid Tamils who brought Mahavamsa to the fore front.

      So, just grow up.

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        JimSofty, aka Shills and Myth Holders,

        Facts hurt.

        Amarasiri is no Tamil. Amarasiri is an Egalitarian. The Shills, the Myth Holders, the Racists, the Opportunists, the Dictators and dynasty builders get in the way of an Egalitarian society.

        Need to playing the same record, because the The Shills. the Myth Holders, the Racists, the Opportunists keep playing the same record.

        You are very welcome to come up with counter arguments, to your Myths, just like Copernicus came with data, Galileo came with the phases of Venus etc. What we are discussing and debating are the issues and ideas and see if there there is support for the claims made.

        1. It is hard when ones myths and brainwashing are challenged, and proof was requested. The Catholic Church had a system to address that called the Inquisition, but came with feeble counter arguments. Introduced the Index, “The Media Ethics”, like what some are trying today. Ban the Times Magazine, Buddhist violence and racism, because it tells the truth, calls a spade a spade.

        Needed, facts, supporting data and very good reasons in support of your Myths.All you are providing is racism and religious fanaticism of the Monks and Priests who are after their own self-interest. No support for Nirvana, Nibbana, Rebirth, Sansara, Hell, Heaven, Limbo, Purgatory and other flavors.

        DeJa Vu…..

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        JimSoftly writes: “It is you stupid Tamils who brought Mahavamsa to the fore front”

        You have also blamed Tamils for inventing the term ‘sinhala buddhism’ therefore I feel it appropriate to ask as to what other crimes you think Tamils should take group-blame over? We are interested in specimens such as Jim asking people to grow up whilst assigning generalised negative characterisitcs to anyone who isn’t a sinhala buddhist bodu-sena supporting nutter

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    Dear Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe,

    Thank you for bringing this problem to the forefront, as it is the core issue in Sri Lanka, and should be brought up repeatedly.

    Need to get to the CORE Problem. The Monk Mahanama Myths and Sinhala “Buddhist” Racism. They piggy back off Buddhism and distort Buddhism.

    You say:

    1. “Buddhists who are willing to change their point of view”

    2. “It goes without saying that there is an urgent need in Sri Lanka to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences if we are to create lasting peace in this post war nation. “

    3. “On numerous occasions, the Buddha offered guidance to lay people such as Sigala, King Pasenadi and the Nakulas on how to live constructive lives in society”

    Comments:

    1. What is Practiced in Sri Lanka is Monk Mahanama Buddhism Myths, also known as Sinhala Buddhist Racism. Why racism, because the Tamils, the Veddahs, and the other Natives are demonized. Their beliefs, such as Jainism, Animism and Hinduism are demonized, conveniently forgetting that Buddhism sprang from Jainism and Hinduism.

    2. Since it was the Mahanama Myths that got the majority of Sinhala Buddhists, to be taught distorted Mara Buddhism, reason will only transform only a fraction of these Myths holders, even in this 21st century. Even after 470 years, still about 25% of the people in the West believe, the Sun goes around the Earth.

    3. Sri Lanka Buddhists need a Martin Luther, like he did for the Catholic Church, to break the Hegemony of the Monks, the Monk-Ruler Axis.

    4. In the end, the truth will prevail and the Myths will be exposed, as there is No Nirvana, Nibbana, and Rebirth, which the Monks preach all day. Has anybody reached Nirvanna in Sri Lanka over the past 2,300 years? NO. What they practice is Buddhist Indulgences, like what the Catholic Church did.

    5. Lanka had a great civilization before Buddhism, and Buddhism allowed for the Monk Hegemony by creating the Monk-Ruler Axis. Ravana was Hindu, if you believe Ramayana is true.

    DeJa Vu, but keep hacking at it.

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    Hello Ramya,

    Good analysis and advice. But don’t expect that such sound guidance is going to contribute to any kind of peace and harmony in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

    Despite the fact that almost all religions profess some form of peaceful coexistence, all what it succeeded in doing was to lead its followers to terrible events of death and destruction. Even Buddhism is not spared this dreadful fate.

    No matter how well meaning the leaders of religions were, all what they succeeded in bringing out is the caveman instincts in humans that otherwise would have lain dormant if not for the ‘ism’. The human psyche has a penchant to attach itself to one ‘ism’ or another. The clever amongst the clan will exploit this weakness and the rest will succumb to the terrible fate ‘isms’ inevitably lead to – definitely not to peace and harmony.

    Good luck Ramya with your work , but don’t hold your breath for any change in the human condition.

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    Miss Ramya Jirasinghe:

    Buddhism will not vanish from earth for another 2500 years. Lord Buddha has told that. Remember every thing is what we think or imagine. In other words concepts. Buddhism has rooted in the minds of very intelligent and very important people, for example, Bhikku Thanissaro.

    The question is whether Sinhala-civilization exists for that long. Because, Buddhism has a major role in Sinhala civilization.

    You took politicians here. In this case, Politicians involved in what citizens asked for (even the buddhist monks are Sri Lankan citizens and they are not enlightened).

    So, Buddhist have to protect the Sinhala – Buddhist civilization. Monks give a leadership in that. I think that is very good (becuase, civilian buddhists are lais back and not interested, I suppose).

    LTTE supporters coined the word Sinhala -Buddhists.. In other words, they are talking about Sinhala Buddhist civilization. Would it survive if we allow Christians and Muslims to have their way ?

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      There is a big world out there ! You are nothing in this tiny Sri Lanka and Sinhala-Buddhism does not mean anything to anyone out there – other than to the Sinhala-Buddhist in this country.

      If you want anyone to be interested in Buddhism – practice what was preached.

      So get over – you are nothing. Just a piece of shit going about insulting other faiths. This shows what crap you are following as a religion !!!

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        “There is a big world out there”

        The way some of these sinhala buddhists talk especially the way they refer to India, it would lead an alien to conclude that India and SL are as big as each other with similar military and economic capability. Likewise this mad fascination with ‘protecting sinhala buddhist civilisation’ (even though LTTE supporters coined the word sinhala-buddhists according to Jim) will likely achieve the opposite objective of what the sinhala-buddhists wished i.e. increasing division amongst minority groups who will then fall into the orbit of external powers with their own agendas. Already we have seen the bodu sena drive a huge wedge between the SL govt and the SLMC, this gap will of course widen with each anti-minority act perpetrated by intolerant hardline ‘buddhist’ groups

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    It is convenient for people to blame others for their shortcomings. Such people do not improve as they consider themselves perfect. The saying ‘Those who live by the Dhamma are protected by the Dhamma’ is true for all religons.

    Recently Muslims were being attacked by the likes of BBS and SR but have not responded. Those attacked did not even take legal action against the perpetrators. Instead the community has resorted to prayers and fasting and left the solution to the Almighty. As a result a violent situation was avoided.

    The Quran says

    “Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere.” (2:153)

    “And be steadfast in patience, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.” (11:115)

    Similiarly I think that if Buddhist take recourse to the true teachings of the Buddha they will not be under threat. Those who live peacefully need not fear others. Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred.

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    Ramya:

    Even Buddha understood and mentioned that it is very difficult to live as a PERFECT Buddhist.

    Christians and Muslims do not understand it and they understand it in their terms. So, there is no point of arguing with them.

    Other than, Sinhala – Buddhists MUST try to protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization.

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      “Other than, Sinhala – Buddhists MUST try to protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization.”

      The missing link word: Other than, “Sinhala Nazi Buddhists” MUST try to protect….:):):)

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      “Christians and Muslims do not understand it and they understand it in their terms. So, there is no point of arguing with them”

      Jim how content you must be to casually dismiss over 1.5 billion people following these 2 religions, as if there is no merit in any of their deeds or actions. Obviously this will not stop you or your master MR from abusing the hospitality of christian and islamic nations when it suits you or are in trouble, but they should at least be mindful of the behaviour of these so-called ‘sinhala-buddhists’.

      “Buddhists MUST try to protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization”

      Will Jim like to tell us what about sinhala buddhist civilisation he is so keen to protect? Because the only ‘tenets’ that seem to separate ‘sinhala buddhism’ from ‘buddhism’, are irrational hatred of other faiths and creeds (as showed by Jim’s earlier comments) and the expressed desire to see sinhala miliatary supremacy over the whole island of lanka i.e. a very ethno-centric, militarisitc, clearly unreligious ‘civilisation’

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      Jim Softy,

      “Other than, Sinhala – Buddhists MUST try to protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization”

      Why? There is no need.

      1. Buddhism was imported from India around 300 BC. The people were Animist, Jain and Hindu. Therefore, there is no need to protect Buddhism any more than Animist, Jain and Hindu beliefs.

      2. Sinhala gene pools the southern Indian gene pool. It is protected and represented in the Tamil and Muslim Gene pool as well.

      3. So what is not common is Buddhism. It is Buddhism that is dividing the people. The problem lies with Monk Mahanama and the Mahanama Myths.

      4. There was a civilization Before Buddhism. Ravana was Hindu and had a civilization, if Ramayana is true.

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        Dear Amarasiri,

        I know you say the problem lies with monk Mahanama’s myths.
        Why do you think people bought his myths?

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          Prassana Malli,

          One can fool some of the people some of the time. However, it is hard to fool all the people all the time.

          In Sri Lanka Buddhism is about Monk Hegemony. Not much different from the Catholic Church Hegemony. Read about Martin Luther. Read about the Wahhabi-Saudi Axis that was promoted by the British to destabilize Ottoman Empire- the Great Game.

          In Sri Lanka, it was the Monk-King Axis. In Saudi Arabia Mullah-King Axis. Turkey got rid of it and became secular, thanks to Kamal Ataturk.

          Sri Lanka needs a Martin Luther Monk to Reform Buddhist Racism and Terrorism, that has nothing to do with the Enlightened Buddha’s teachings, and a Sri Lanka Kamal Araturk for separation of Temple and State. All we had were opportunists. That is why we are in this sad situation. Curse the Soulbury commission for giving independence too early and not putting sufficient checks and balances. Look at the US constitution, the French constitution and the Turkish Constitutions, still going strong.

          Why Monk Mahanama. The Tamils were invading. They were Hindu. However the Sinhala were Hindu too before that. Without Buddhism we would have got Sinhala Hindus and Tamil Hindus. No Monks to get in the way. There will be Nirvana, Rebirth and Sansara, delivered by Priests instead of Hegemonic monks. Remember, Buddha, and his parents were born Hindus. Buddhism came out of Hinduism and Jainism, The Hindu priests and the Kings would have kept the peace, better than the Monks.

          So, Buddhism was the curse of Lanka. It was not the Sinhala or Tamil.
          Sri Lanka had Tamil Kings. Sri Wickrama Rajasinha was Tamil. Bandaranaika hailed from India. No problem there, but the opportunist became a traitor to his own genes.

          Bali Indonesia is 94% Hindu and peaceful.

          Do you STILL believe in the Monk Mahanama MYTH that Vijaya’s grandfather was a lion? Test the Gene pool of the Sinhala.

          Buddhas visited Lanka 10 times, attained Nirvanna on the day Vijaya landed etc. Myths? Childish Stories!

          Do you believe in Santa Claus coming from the North Pole driven by reindeer on Christmas Eve?

          There are many other Myths. Here the focus is on Mahanams Myths and Sri Lanka Buddhist Myths.

          Next time you go to Daham Pasala, make a collection of the Myths, and check them with facts. Ask who benefits, and whose self-interest n is being served.

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            Hello Amarasiri ayya…

            Thanks for responding and I knew you and I have a lot in common. You can take a look at my second reply to the ‘Rationalist’ However, the difference is, I let go the troubles and you seem to hold on to them.

            ‘One can fool some of the people some of the time. However, it is hard to fool all the people all the time.’
            You didn’t think I tried to fool you, did you? I was only trying to get to the bottom of your unease by questioning.

            Your thoughts on Buddha, his teaching and rest of the word with respect to the former are the same as mine, but as I said already I let go everything but the teaching of Buddha of course not to respect Buddha, but it makes my life easier to live in this chaotic world.

            I know I am not the only one and hope one day you will join us…

            Best,

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    Excellent article. If Lanka so wanted to, it could create a true Buddhist society that others would want to emulate. However, it seems to be driven to the extremes of anger through ignorance and anger, doing exactly what the Buddha warned against. Politicians have and always will exploit whatever resources are at hand for reasons of power – only the rare exceptional gem will desist, that that is truly rare. if only the good sanga in this country would stand up and show us all the true nature of things. Where are they?

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    Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe,

    In your assessment, you imply that the problem is with the Sri Lankan Buddhists. You say “What Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Buddhists have failed to achieve as a predominately Buddhist country, is the ability to adapt the Buddha’s central teaching, and based on that, the code of conduct given by him, into our own society and to a global world system that is founded on a set of diametrically opposed values.”

    That is a red herring argument. You completely fail to identify the core problem. The problem is not with just the Sinhalese Buddhist, but “Buddhism” itself. Today, we see this problem with all Theravada Buddhist communities all around the world, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, etc..
    So your argument narrowed down to Sri Lankan Buddhist’s inability “to adapt to the Buddha’s central teaching” is not logical. The evidence is that the problem is common to all Theravada Buddhists all around the world. Why has ALL these ‘Buddhist communities’ failed to adapt to the Buddha’s central teaching?
    The real core problem is that “Buddha Dharma, like all other Religions, teaches that it is superior to others. This dogmatic idea is why ‘Buddhists’ feel that their values should be the only governing values of the country.
    The Buddhist should “change their point of view”, that Buddha’s teaching is superior to other philosophies. The Buddhist should accept that the Buddha’s teaching is ONLY ONE of many ideas that human beings have come up with throughout history. Even at that, it has not proved to be a viable solution for human organisation, as Amarasiri has pointed out above with “Has anybody reached Nirvanna in Sri Lanka (or even anywhere on Earth) over the past 2,300 years” ? NO.

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      My Dear Rationalist,

      You said “The real core problem is that “Buddha Dharma, like all other Religions, teaches that it is superior to others”.

      You may say Buddhists who do not know Buddha’s teachings think so, but Buddha never did say so.

      A few points from the Buddhist scriptures to enlighten you on this;

      1) Dhamma is not to be followed out of respect to me/Buddha – Buddha, Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

      2) Dhamma is not to be followed to be in line with my/Buddha’s words- Buddha, Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

      3) Dhamma is not to be talked about, but to be practiced- Buddha, Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

      4)Dhamma needed to attain nibbana is a handful of leaves when compared to all the leaves in a forest – Simsapa Sutta

      5)Dhamma is not to be studied for the sake of criticizing nor for refuting others in disputation- Alagaddupama Sutta

      6)Unskillful qualities leading to harm and suffering criticized by the wise are to be abandoned -Buddha, Kalama Sutta

      7)Dhamma is a similitude to a raft for the purpose of crossing over, but not for the purpose of clinging to -Alagaddupama Sutta

      Sir, now can you stop thinking about Buddha in the way a rationalist would not?

      Sir, you also aid “Has anybody reached Nirvanna in Sri Lanka (or even anywhere on Earth) over the past 2,300 years”

      8) Buddha said “Dhamma well propounded by the Buddha is timeless, evident to be seen here and now, inviting investigation, leading to emancipation from suffering, to be comprehended by the wise, each for him or herself ‘privately’. – Maha-parinibbana sutta

      Sir, now paying attention to 4) and 8) together with the word ‘privately’, with your rational mind, can you setup a test for testing someone has achieved Nirvana? The answer is no and the answer to you question has to be ‘do not know’.

      I hope this will help you to understand Gautama Buddha better.

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        Prasanna,

        When the Buddha, without any empirical evidence (which a Rationalist would require) says, the path of a righteous life is the Eightfold path, it is saying that ‘path’ is Superior to others (that existed at the time).
        If the Buddha, been an ‘enlightened’ individual, really wanted to say (for his disciples to clearly understand), that his path is NOT superior, but equal to others, would have said something like “the Eightfold path is just only ONE of the paths”. NO, he said that it was THE path that leads to ‘cessation of suffering’.
        That is why, throughout history and even today, ALL Buddhists have understood it that way and think it is superior to other philosophies.
        Even after 2,300 years, after many millions of people have experimented with the Eightfold path (now don’t tell me that all of those people did not understand it and did it wrong), NONE have achieved the reward/benefit promised. So, is it not time to realize, this path has failed, and we need to try something different?
        “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

        The above is exactly my point in answer to Ramya’s essay “The Crucial Element Missing for Peace in Sri Lanka: Buddhists who are willing to change their point of view”.
        Buddhists need to change their point of view that Buddha’s teaching is superior to other philosophies, and stop trying to impose it on All citizens of this country by making it the governing values of this country. We have tried it for 60+ years and it HAS FAILED.

        With regards to your invitation to me to “setup a test for testing someone has achieved Nirvana?” – I did not invent this “Nirvana”. It was the Buddha who invented it (and he is the only one who claimed he achieved it). I would suggest it was his responsibility to setup such a test, would you agree?
        If I was to invent something like finding a cure for cancer, I would certainly setup a test to see if the cure achieved the results – That is the Rationalist method.

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          Dear Rationalist,

          Thanks for responding.

          I know you are not satisfied, but I will try my best with my knowledge of Buddha to clear your misunderstanding about him as rationally as possible.

          You have ignored Buddha’s statements from suttas that I gave you and without reference to a sutta, you claim when Buddha said 8thfold path is righteous, it’s superior to any other.

          Don’t be childish my friend. When Buddha talks about his position about his teaching in relation to other teachings he declares that, but when he talks about his doctrine he does not repeat his position on doctrines of others after every part of his doctrine. For example, when he says in the 8thfold path ‘this this the right view’ etc he means with reference to his doctrine to ensure the student doesn’t misunderstand it.

          You call yourself a rationalist, but my empirical evidence so far about you makes me think you are a hypocrite of rationalism because of the following reason, but I have my compassion to you my friend;

          As a rationalist, you should first at least read the Buddhist scripts before committing yourself to talk abut Buddha’s teachings.

          Now with rational mind of yours can you tell me if Buddha has had only one method of enlightenment and he was a rationalist like you want the world to be, how he possibly can talk about any other methods when he has not studied them empirically? How can Buddha say something like you expected him to say ….something like “the Eightfold path is just only ONE of the paths”?

          Sir, your thought processes is either a paradox, or you have a problem with your basic logic. With deep respect to you and regretfully my friend I have to tell you this, before you become a rationalist you need to sort your logic out.

          However, like you have misunderstood, if a Buddhist also did misunderstand Buddha’s teachings in your way or in another way it is not Buddha’s fault. If you say if Buddha was supernatural and must correct everyone, then you are counter arguing your position of the world- rationalism is right.

          I agree with you on one thing though and that is, the majority of Buddhists have misunderstood it for thousands of years and that is the reason why those Buddhists are in the current position. I did too until I read suttas, practiced and experiment with it for over ten years and I am glad about it.

          Also, note that I did not comment on Ramya’s original article at all and as far as I remember it I partially disagreed in my mind with it – to be honest I need to read it fully again if I need to comment.

          About the Test for Nibbana-
          I agree with you that the test must be a selftest (because it is a private thing), but the problem with you was you wanted everything in this world to be rational. It is in fact rational within oneself. In other words one sees it introspectively. Even yours great Albert Einstein once said
          “I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

          Best,

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            Prasanna,

            Your argument about what exactly did the Buddha said or what you read in the Buddhist Suttas or your ability to predict Solar eclipses through ‘intuition’, are irrelavant to the discussion here.

            What we are discussing here is “Why have Sri Lanka NOT been able to “to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences and to create lasting peace in this post war nation.”

            It would be beneficial if you could concentrate on the subject matter, and make your views known in relation to the above question.

            Here is Ramya Jirasinghe’s (author of this article) position:
            Ramya is arguing the reason for the above question as, the inability of the Buddhists to change their point of view to that of the Buddha’s true teachings. Further she states, “the need today, in Sri Lanka …… is a means to incorporate an understanding of this teaching into our public lives.

            My counter argument is:
            Ramya is incorrect because, firstly, Sri Lanka has been trying to ‘incorporate an understanding of this teaching into our public lives’ since independence and it has proved disastrous. Doing this has precisely been the PROBLEM. It has NOT worked.
            Why it has not worked is because, you are trying to incorporate the values (correctly understood or not) of one ethnic group, to the ‘public lives’ of ALL Sri Lankans, and it is NOT acceptable, nor fair to the other groups. It will never work, as we have found out over the last 60+ years. In fact it has resulted in further dividing, and alienating the minority groups. Further, it has created a superiority complex in the minds of the majority tribe resulting in the chauvanistic displays we see today by the likes of Sinhala-Buddhists.

            Secondly, from Ramya’s statement that the Buddha “told people to accept his declaration only if they found it to be true when they explored it personally and experienced the truth themselves. He merely provided a toolkit in the form of the Noble Eightfold Path, for this personal exploration of reality. It is a tool kit that also provides a clear guideline for conduct (as given in the 3rd, 4th and 5th factors of the Noble Eightfold Path)” we have to assume that “Buddhist” have followed these teachings of the Buddha and ‘found them to be true’ and are conducting their lives accordingly.
            Then, IF these teachings of the Buddha “which he called the Dhamma –is the true nature of reality”, WHY is it that wherever in the world this ‘Dhamma’ is practiced and incorporated into ‘public life’, there is unrest, violence and division ?

            What I am suggesting is MAYBE the fault is with the ‘dhamma’ itself. MAYBE this ‘dhamma’ is NOT the answer how to guide and conduct our ‘public lives’. This ‘dhamma’ is NOT the guide to NATION BUILDING as Ramya Jirasinghe is promoting.

            So Mr. Prasanna, what does your ‘intuition’ suggest that we should do about the question “How can Sri Lanka be able to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences and to create lasting peace in this post war nation” ?

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              Dear Rationalist,

              Come on, did I say I can predict solar eclipse by intuition? I said yours truly Albert Einstein said.

              Also, you are the person who started complaining about Buddha and his teachings, not me, and as I already said, that is the only point on which I opposed you. And now, in your latest reply, you say it has nothing to do with this article, but again you jump back into Buddha’s teachings latter part of your latest reply. Now can you see from your own writing that it has something to do with Buddha’s teaching in how we interpret it, but has nothing to do with Buddha himself or what he meant about the teaching? Anyway, I am at least happy that you stopped blaming Buddha and his teaching. Still, you need to understand his teachings, if it to be useful to you. You only know 4noble truths and 8thfold path by reading, but there is more in it and more profound dependent origination (paticcasamuppada in pali) which you have to see in you. It is up to you to investigate, see it and continue with training to see results. No one else, not even Buddha if he was living can do it for you.

              Now to your final question “So Mr. Prasanna, what does your ‘intuition’ suggest that we should do about the question “How can Sri Lanka be able to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences and to create lasting peace in this post war nation” ?

              I’m afraid, the above question actually did not apply to me until you specifically asked me now and though I have an answer, my intuition tells me that it is not appropriate to tell because it would not benefit you at least at this moment in time. I already explained to you many times what I responded on. Of course, I accept defeat in this part of the debate if that’s what you want from me.

              best,

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              Prasanna I agree with you and thank you for trying to rationally (and patiently) explain an issue which cannot be understood unless by an astute mind. The issue in Sri Lanka is not Buddhism or the dhamma. For a layman Buddhist teaching merely applies a set of values to live by. These values do not conflict with other religious beliefs but are complementary, and in fact lead to greater respect for each other. It is the non practice of Buddhist values that has caused violence and despair, and that is the crux of the problem. That is also what Ms.Jirasinghe needs to understand.

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    The subject of Buddhism is nothing anyone can discuss in a day or two and nothing that will give authority over anyone… the TRUTH is for oneself to find out… Buddhism is nothing Christians, Catholics, Islamists or even by name Buddhists will find out…

    What we are concerned about is not about who knows Buddhism or who doesnt or who practices Buddhism or who doesnt…

    What we are worried about is that we cannot trust the Christians or Islamists because history have shown how deceitful they are…

    They have misused our compassion and kindness and usurped our land and converted our people… it is against these incursions that we are preparing outselves… yes we are Buddhists and we want the Buddhist structure and culture to prevail… currently the country is diluted with everything that is NOT Buddhist because these were the cultures the colonials introduced

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      “What we are worried about is that we cannot trust the Christians or Islamists because history have shown how deceitful they are…”

      and history has shown how deceitful the sinhala buddhist poltical leaders are in making noises about 13A-plus and talk of political packages after the war to India, muslim and christian nations in order to secure their help to defeat LTTE before showing their deceit and committing to increasing centralisation and militarisation instead.

      “misused our compassion and kindness and usurped our land and converted our people”

      Likewise the sinhala buddhist polticial leaders like Gotabhaya has misused the compassion and kindness of the american people in giving him a green card and economic refugee status during the 1990s in order to engage in un-buddhist mafia-style white van hits and other crimes not consistent with buddha’s teachings thus causing former USA nation to go against Gota’s brother in UN human rights council

      “currently the country is diluted with everything that is NOT Buddhist because these were the cultures the colonials introduced”

      Are you going to blame MR for facilitating this unbuddhist violent Duminda Silva-style gangster, bodu sena mob culture or will you be praising MR for his obsession with the old white colonial english queen and her family thus explaining his mad bids for white man commonwealth games and summit meetings as well as unneccessary trip to gate-crash her birthday party celebration in London?

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    Either change or perish is the message. Testing times for the mythology that lasted 25 hundred years. The ingredients for peaceful co-existence is RESPECT to each others opinions and beliefs which we all hold sacred. Wealth may not always be the root of all evils, however it could be a blessing if they are directed towards progress and development of Humanity. The obstacles are Greed, Arrogance, disrespect, etc. Insecurity in faith breeds fear and hostility. The right faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light. Those who are led to believe absurdity can also be led to commit atrocity.

    Lo! We have sent thee with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them. (The Noble Quran 35:24) And if they deny thee, those before them also denied. Their messengers came unto them with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), and with the Psalms and the Scripture giving light. (The Noble Quran 35:25)

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    Buddhists who are willing to change their point of view????

    “It goes without saying that there is an urgent need in Sri Lanka to secure harmony and mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences if we are to create lasting peace in this post war nation.”

    Mutual respect for each other’s ethnic, religious or linguistic differences is deeply embedded in the hearts of all Sri Lankans except religious fanatics. Occasional bursts of violence against followers and believers of other faiths are due to the foolish acts of a few. People of Sri Lanka reacts very quickly to baseless gossip but very slow to interact with other people when it comes to burning national issues.

    The main reason for this is lack of awareness of impacts of the issue in question. Take for example the 13A. What do the pro and anti 13A politicians do? Pro 13A sees it as a solution and the rest as a threat to unitary state of Sri Lanka. Who has explained what is 13A to the present younger generation who were school children in 1980s. In 1987 the JVP forced even the students in the kindergarten to go in procession shouting “pala baba apata epa” (We do not want “Palath Sabha’ or PCs).

    In “Religion & Ideology-Sri Lanka Question” by Rev. Fr. Francis Houtart, analyses the socio-economic backgrounds of some 10,000 rebels who were being rehabilitated in the camps after 1971 insurrection and concludes that the large majority were Buddhists from economically and socially marginalized families and they were convinced that socialism as the path for salvation and rebellion as the only option to create a socialist government.

    Socialism is an ideology for governance based on equality and Buddhism is a way of life which teaches to be happy with what you get and you are the saviour of you. Socialists do not believe in saviours who preach liberation through believing in persons who bring the message of persons with super natural powers but believe in equitable distribution of wealth. When the wealth is in short supply and the equal share is inadequate to make ends meet what would be the result? Questions would be asked as to how could the 15% of the population ask for 1/3 of the country.

    This compels me to think whether the core issue that requires the Buddhists (only the Buddists???) to change, is a small problem like a storm in the tea cup or a large socio-economic problem arising out of the hidden agendas of world economic giants for controlling the resource rich and strategically located country and of those who are trying establish a sovereign state for an ethnic group in the North of Sri Lanka.

    My thanks to Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe for highlighting a nationally important issue but I kindly request her to revisit the same issue and have a fresh look at it in the context of hidden agendas of those with ulterior motives. Buddhists cannot be expected to remain silent by accepting the teaching “be happy with what you get” in the face of impending threats.

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    LATEST ISLAMIC PLOT TO CAUSE MASSIVE CARNAGE IN SURREY, VANCOUVER, UNCOVERED:

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/RCMP+announce+arrests+terror+plot/8605678/story.html

    More reason for Sinhalese to support BBS! It is only a matter of time before extremists in the Islamic community start to carry out bomb attacks.

    Change WHAT point of view? Are Buddhists causing death and destruction all over the world?

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      But you promote….. viciously.

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    the comments show that there are too many knaves and fools out there in SL to twist the truth that Chamalie
    Jirasinghe speaks. Do they not know that ever since independence, Sri Lanka has been mired in this racist and religious shibboleth when as a Buddhist country it should have progressed well ahead of all and ensured that its people live happy lives. Instead we have had a succession of fools leading other fools through stoking up hatreds. It is good that there are at least a few people left like Chamalie Jirasinghe who can speak sense but to deaf ears.

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    James Palumbo, who has donated more than half a million to the party, is one of around 30 new peers. His ennoblement will again raise questions about the award of honours to party donors, which would give them a say in legislation.

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