By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
Buddhism was established around 500 BC. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to overcome conflict in the consciousness of the individual. Buddhist teachings maintain that under any circumstances (whether it be political, religious, cultural or ethnic) violence cannot be accepted in solving disputes. It asserts that violence is a perversion of Buddhism and a rejection of Buddhist heritage. As such it has become a questionable issue whether the conduct of the political leaders, religious extremists or the Military Forces had profound effect on the spiritual progress and culture of the Buddhist Sinhalese.
It is during the period of King Devanampiya Tissa, Sri Lanka saw the introduction of Buddhism. King Devanampiya Tissa laid aside his bow and arrow when Arahat Mahinda said that ‘we are the disciples of the Lord of Dhamma. In compassion towards you, we have come here from India’. Prior to the arrival of Vijaya, Nagas and Yakkas were inhabitants in Sri Lanka who are said to have been considered as aborigines. The origins of Nagas can be traced through the great epic Maha Bharath where there is reference about Arjuna’s pilgrimage to Keerimalai in Sri Lanka and worshipped at Naguleswaram. Further, Maha Bharath mentions that Nagas were a civilized people living in Central India and Sri Lanka while Mahavamsa mentions that both Nagas and Yakkas were Hindus. It is after the meeting of Arahat Mahinda, King Devanampiyatissa and his subjects embraced Buddhism because of its noble path, though the Nagas worshipped serpants signalling the presence of the worship of Lord Shiva, while the Yakkas were described as devil worshippers.
The Nagas and the Yakkas left no traces of a civilization like the Indus Valley civilization, during which period number of Hindu religious texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Epics like Ramayana and Maha Bharatha were written. Ramayana states that Ravana was a great devotee of Lord Shiva signalling the presence of Hinduism in Sri Lanka. As regards Sri Lanka whether such a civilization existed in the South of India or whether Sri Lanka and India was one land mass is a debatable issue. Pali language came much later than Sanskrit.
The Buddhist faith embraced and followed by Devanampiyatissa and his subjects promoted and encouraged tolerance and never allowed room for violence. However, the impact of the Kalabra’s rule in South India for almost 300 years (dark period in the history of Tamilaham which consists of Tamil Nadu and Kerala), could have been the beginning for ethno-religious diversities. It is also disturbing to observe what made Mahanama to utilize Buddhism for evil ends and was instrumental in dividing mankind when composing Mahavamsa. In fact, Buddhism is considered as refined Hinduism. At present, Buddhist extremists like the BBS continues the work of Mahanama, with the indirect support of political leaders, though the Sinhalese and the Tamils celebrate the Sinhalese and Hindu New Year. The arrogance of the Sri Lanka political and religious extremists together with the Military Forces can be observed when Hindus are forbidden to ring the bells in temples on days that are of religious significance and even attacking business establishments belonging to people of other faiths. This is an indication that the Buddhist extremists are bent on shattering the spirit of nationalism signalling that had demolished the very foundation of the rich philosophy of Buddhism which was acclaimed by King Devanampiyatisa. Even Emperor Asoka who realized the harrowing expression resulting from those tearful eyes of the victims during the Kalinga war, embraced Buddhism and promoted non-violence (Ahimsa). Moreover Swami Vivekananda said ‘the varieties of religious belief are an advantage, since all faiths are good, so far as they encourage us to lead a religious life’. Briefly it can be said that the practice of non-tolerance by extremist Buddhists marked a deviation from the Buddhist teachings. Mention should also be made of Dr.B.Ambedkar started a movement of social reform to give due respect for other faiths.
According to Buddhism four noble Truth is as follows:
Truth is suffering.
Truth is the cause of suffering.
Truth is the end of suffering.
Truth is the path that frees us from suffering.
In the words of Sri Swami Sivananda Truth is described as follows:
There is only one Caste known as Caste of humanity.
There is only one Religion known as Religion of love.
There is only one Commandment known as Commandment of Truthfulness.
There is only one Law known as Cause and Effect.
There is only one God known as Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient.
There is only one Language known as Language of heart.
That which separates man from God is mind. All souls emanate from the Supreme Soul and eventually those Souls unionize with the Supreme Soul known as God.
According to Buddhism life is suffering and the remedy is to dispel the ignorance by practising the Eight-fold Path. But in Hinduism, if an individual intends to dispel the ignorance, he or she should follow the principles of Righteousness, i.e. the eternal Laws.
Lord Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. Hinduism has no founder, no prescribed texts and no central authority. Hinduism is based upon eternal principles. The cosmic view of Hinduism transcends the sectarian principle and paves way for the co-existence of all beings under the Vedic principle known as ‘the Universe is one family’. It is this principle which guides the humankind towards universal harmony through acceptance and tolerance. Sanatana Dharma recognizes that the Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any concept. The potential for human resources is present in every human being. All humans are spiritually united like the drops of water in an Ocean. Therefore, no race or religion is superior. Both Hinduism and Buddhism are characterized by tolerance because of their non-violent nature.
Hinduism and Buddhism are interwoven. One cannot survive without the other. According to Swami Vivekananda the relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism is like Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew and Lord Buddha was a Hindu. The difference is that the Jews rejected Jesus Christ, while the Hindus accepted Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Buddha never wanted to destroy Hinduism, but came to fulfill the Truths of Hinduism. Buddhism does not condemn other religions, while Hinduism believes all religions have some truths in them, and is considered as a Universal Religion.
The virtues on Buddhism is based upon compassion, while virtues on Hinduism is based upon in following the principles of Righteousness. Upon an above analysis of both Buddhism and Hinduism this was misunderstood by the Buddhist extremists and the Military Forces which had continued to torture the innocent Tamils in an uncivilized manner. Even the most respected Maha Sangha at Kandy are unable to condemn the activities of the BBS and the Military forces. After the formation of BBS, the rise of Buddhist extremism have reached a magnitude signalling the reign of terror through the indirect blessings of the Military Forces. Eventually this would be an obstruction to comply with the international obligations to which Sri Lanka is a signatory on matters relating to the Latimer House principles, the 13th Amendment, human rights issues, etc. If both Hinduism and Buddhism can be practised hand in hand, there is no reason for Buddhist extremists and Military forces to step into religious affairs and promote a religion of unrighteousness, thus giving the concept of Truth a different meaning.
It is time for Sri Lankan extremists and the Military forces to realize that the principle of non-violence is central to Buddhism. Even hate speeches encourages violence which is a deviation from the concept of compassion. Their behaviour towards the ethnic communities signals that the separation between the Buddhist extremists and the others will be the cause of the downfall of Sri Lanka. Countries like China and Pakistan wait for the opportunity to encroach in Sri Lanka and the world will witness a fractured Sri Lanka.
Though the significance of Buddhism were disregarded by all narrow-minded politicians, religious extremists and the military officers, who are still instrumental for a fractured Sri Lanka, as they have failed to recognize that religions have the force of binding the people together. It is regret to observe that Sri Lankan political leaders, having disregarded the significance of Buddhism, were instrumental for the creation of several thousands of orphans and widows on account of their being unrighteousness. Sri Lankan political and religious extremists have forgotten to realize the greatness of Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ who had experienced emotional sufferings and accepted all sufferings on behalf of humanity. It is a tragedy that political leaders, religious extremists and the military forces created history in Sri Lanka through non-violence, instead of utilizing religions as Souls of a country to bind the people together by practising tolerance. It is a million dollar question whether Sri Lanka political leaders will declare Sri Lanka as a secular State with a new face where all can enjoy equal rights as in a Federal State, instead of being a fractured State.