25 October, 2020

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French Kissing The Buddha

By Sanjana Hattotuwa –

Sanjana Hattotuwa

Recently, when three French tourists were in the media and the dock for taking photos that had them kissing and posing with a statue of the Buddha at the Ambekke Temple in Kandy, Udaya Gammanpila, the spokesman of the blithely racist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) noted, “Sri Lankans consider this statue to be sacred. They desecrated it. This is uncivilised behaviour” and went on to note that “We condemn this action of the three French tourists and urge Westerners to please respect our culture and act decently”.

The photos taken by the tourists are easily available online. The British FCO has already revised its travel advisory to Sri Lanka, quite correctly noting that “The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for posing for such photos”. Your columnist submits that no congregation, no place of worship, no religious deity or God is above ridicule and critique. Yet tourists who come from cultures that celebrate the freedom to write and rally against organised religion may naively devalue the power of religious symbols and places of worship in a country like ours. It is unlikely that Dawkins or even Hitchens when alive, who with every sinew and syllable stood against blind faith over reason, would have encouraged photo-ops with the Pope in a bikini, or going in the nude to Mecca. Kissing the Buddha in a country so strongly and globally associated with Buddhism is wrong – at best incredibly naïve, at worst insufferably dismissive of local sensibilities.

That said, Sri Lanka’s growing saffron mentality has also led to a sickening national hypocrisy. Around two years ago, a pop star’s visit and concert was cancelled because of a music video of his that featured, for all of two or three seconds, a bikini clad woman dancing in front of a barely distinguishable Buddha in the background. Some years before, the country banned the import of Buddha Bar CD’s. In the interim, there have been sporadic news stories, especially in Sinhala websites, with images of the Buddha on the t-shirts of foreigners, for example, as evidence of their depravity and degeneracy. That the government seeks to increase tourist inflows, since inconvenient to this argument, is never mentioned. Everything detrimental to Buddhism is portrayed to stem from a foreign influence. Never once does the critique extend to the behaviour of self-styled Buddhists themselves, and Sri Lanka’s own monks. The same people incensed by the behaviour French tourists are almost completely silent over the violence in Dambulla in late April, led not by tourists, but by Sri Lanka’s own Buddhist clergy and mobs organised in the name of Buddhism. The same JHU that rightfully calls the photos by the French uncivilised is revealingly silent over the reprehensible behaviour led and condoned by the Chief Prelate of Dambulla, his racist comments against residents of the area and the desecration of a place of worship by Muslims by monks who went on to publicly disrobe in front of it, all indelibly captured in the media. In fact, despite overwhelming video and photographic content, the same Police who swiftly prosecuted the French tourists are, to date, unable and unwilling to arrest or hold accountable a single person leading or in the mob in Dambulla. The same Buddhist monks and avowedly Buddhist politicians who express their condemnation of the recent photos by the French, went on to chant pirith and bless the Rajapaksa’s manic myrmidon Mervyn Silva, who on the grounds of a leading temple openly called for the killing and maiming of traitors earlier this year, and not for the first time.

The British FCO’s travel advisory got it wrong. If a tourist really wants to offend the Dhamma and the Buddha and get away with it with complete impunity, he or she should simply shave their heads and don a saffron cloth. Armed thus, any behaviour goes. And if that sounds offensive and absurd, it’s no more so than Sri Lanka’s mainstream psyche. All religions, in any country including ours, must remain personal, where it means and matters the most, whether genuflection, meditation or affection is anchored to a God, the Dhamma, Apple, Nicki Minaj or opium. Any institutionalised projection or openly preferred choice, especially when supported by the State, risks revisiting history replete with the most heinous of violence against non-believers by the faithful, and stoking religious intolerance.

We are fashionably aghast at the French. Given the events of 2012 alone, we really should be more ashamed at ourselves.

Sajanana’s blog ; http://sanjanah.wordpress.com/

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Latest comments

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    Very well put, I must say. Congratulations for hitting the nail on the head.

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      Pure bullshit!

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    The title looks mischievous

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    Sanjana always hits the nail on the head with his articles. I wish his articles and those of many others that appear here and elsewhere could be translated and disseminated in the Sinhala press…very few Sinhala speakers have access to the net and if they do, they don’t understand the lingo.

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      Re: ‘ I wish his articles and those of many others that appear here and elsewhere could be translated and disseminated in the Sinhala press’

      He’ll be called a ‘sudda’ and a traitor, and possibly persecuted if they can get their hands on him…

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    One with no affinity with JHU would be temoted to ask how in the world this man refers to that party as ‘blithely racist’? Isn’t it a serious accusation punishble by law?……or are we to accept it as the functioning of the freedom of the wild ass?

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      that is what he is paid for..for example how can a so called critique unable to understand the cultural sentiments and a religious doctorine…on the record this man has .. [Edited out]
      dont forget even to date the unauthrized structure still stands in dambulla thanks to the racist sinhala govt..imagine similar thing happnend in some other country..

      Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
      http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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      Chandra

      Chances are that only those with affinity to JHU will not find the JHU bigoted. The KKK didn’t think they were bigoted, but everyone outside of it did. The NAZIs didn’t think they were bigoted. But everyone outside of it did.

      Listen to those from outside your bubble. Often their opinions of you are derived as a result of them seeing a side of you that you would choose to ignore out of bias towards yourself.

      As for serious accusations punishable by law. No accusation should be punishable by law. Such a law, or legal system, could only belong to a community of the ‘wild ass’ as you have put it.

      If accused, one has a right to defend themselves. You have the right to pose here why you don’t believe the JHU is not ‘racist’. But to cry out for legal punishment is a lazy attempt at silencing those who you can’t actually argue against. The law is not there to punish people. It is simply there to protect.

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      Freedom has nothing to do with the wild ass. Shall we accept it as freedom of speech.

      A Reader

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    Why were these Buddhist politicians, the clergy and the Buddhist people who express their condemnation of the recent photos by the French tourist silent when girl children were raped by the provincial politicians who were also Buddhist? Even when the perpetrators were given bail these very people were silent. Is it that kissing a cement statue is more of a crime than raping children who are flesh and blood? What kind of double standards our Buddhists have? The writer is quite right when he says that Sri Lanka’s growing saffron mentality has also led to a sickening national hypocrisy.

    It is a fact that westerners embrace or kiss when they express their love or any emotions. Even in urban Sri Lanka this is happening and it has become a style. so what harm in showing compassion by kissing a statue..are these Buddhsts who see this as a crime so primitive in their thinking?

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      This ridiculous sentence only reflects on the small mindedness of our country. The above commentator is right, with so many other crimes going on, crimes that shatter the lives of little children, and criminals getting away with it, we will be the laughing stock of the world at this excessive punishment. This is no way to attract tourists. We have to show more tolerance in instances like this, the Buddhist way. Our lack of tolerance should be shown towards rapists, murderers, and kidnappers.
      If we want tourists to keep helping our economy, this is no way to do it.

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    Spot on Sanjana, as always…

    Jack

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    Sanjana, It will be a good idea to put your religion (if you have one) with the article if you want to write about religious matters..
    It is norm since reporters have to write if they get free ticket if they write about air line which they promote or write articles about.
    Try to stay with govt. corruption issues rather than going into areas that you are not qualified to comment… (even though you think you are a wise crack).

    We all know you work for Centre for Paid Alternative, so enlighten us about your paid masters activity.

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      Concern? are you qualified to make your statement who may or may not write on such matters.Voicing an opinion comes under freedom of speech I can understand Concern as a distinguished eminently qualified arrogantly pompous person you must daily struggle with the idea of freedom speech.

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    I’ve seen a young sri lankan girl in sydney visit a buddhist temple clad in a skirt with the image of lord buddha. Is that the culture that you want for Sri Lanka?

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      What is wrong with an image of the Buddha on a skirt?

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      Asela honestly we have better Buddhist culture than the girl you saw with Buddha printed on her skirt. We have Buddhist priests themselves who destroy age old Buddha statues looking for treasure. We have many of the Buddha statues as begging objects to collect money, nicely illuminated from the closest street lamp post at no cost at every street corner. We certainly do not want the culture with the Buddha statue on the skirt as we have the Buddha under the skirt so no outsider can see what goes on inside.

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    Sanjana – couple of simple challenges for you if you really think of your self as a journalist.

    1. I challenge you to go to Saudi Arabia with your Jesus printed on t-shirt and walk around in Riyadh.

    2. I challenge you to publish a photo on this website with your wife/girlfriend kissing Allah! or forget kissing…just an arm around Allahs would suffice.

    Take up these two simple challenges nd then come and write an article on being unfshionable Sri Lankans.

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      ALLAH IS INFINITE.SO ONE CANNOT PUT AN ARM AROUND HIM.
      MUSLIMS DO NOT HAVE PORTRAITS,PICTURES OR STATUES.
      ABSOLUTELY STUPID COMMENT!!!!!!!!!!

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        Thanks Ayman!! your comment it self explains your stupid mentality…! is that why you killed each other protesting against a cartoon of Mohammed??

        Sanjana – Muslims are attacking American embassies in the mid-east against a video apparently making fun of Islam!! hundreds of people died when they protested against cartoon of Mohammed which was published in Denmark!! a cartoon!!!

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    This writer is most probably a Die Hard Christian or one without a religion who has no respect for other religions and cultures except to his political masters. When the Muslims behead others for insulting Islam it is acceptable. When the Christians take similar action it is OK. But when the Buddhists talk about protecting their religion they are racists.

    He should be ashamed to call himself a Sinhalese. What a [Edited out] is he? He must be a person from [Edited out]. Only those who have similar minds with low tastes, will praise this writer

    Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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      Don Sarath
      Most probably a die hard eloquent Buddhist public speaker and writer.

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      Ali Don Sarath, Your Buddhist piety is displayed when the Editor has had to editout some of your post. It shows how much of a Buddhist you are? Pathetic man!

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    How can kissing a stone be unlawful?ridiculous!!!!!!!Man kissing a man is lawful,Man kissing a women is lawful.
    It is understandable if Someones insults buddas phylosophical teachings that the person should be punished.Buddha never advised its followers to make a statute of him and worship..Show me which chapter of dhamma pada it say so……

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    We need not take cynics like Sajana seriously. But we must be worried about the damage they do to the society. Of course they are paid well to do this kind of work.

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    “Buddha never advised its followers to make a statute of him and worship”… Yes but he didn’t advice otherwise either.

    First of all, the french tourists didn’t have any idea of what they were doing therefore it was not intentional and they should not have punished. That’s my personal view as a buddhist.

    But the Cristian extremists (so called freedom loving people) who try to advice us not to worship buddhas made of stone… hmm… they will love to have buddhist countries without those beautiful temples, gigant buddha statues etc because they think it’s a threat to their “almighty” god, and their quest to evangelize the whole world so for them it’s ok to insult other people’s religions like the cartoons against prophet Mohammed in Scandinavia calling it “freedom of speech”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in anyway defending our corrupt Sangha and their behaviour which only gives ammos to these cronies who are ever ready to criticize us as a culture.

    We have to reform ourselves, become a rightful society, remove any unsuitable monks from the sasana if we want save this great religion from all these attacks. Politicians fail to do that job (not because they are crooks, but like in any democracy as they depend on votes of the majority so they will never hurt popular feelings… but comparing this to western politicos who even went to the extent of supporting terror groups just to keep their immigrant vote bank, our leaders have much better ethics in that sense).

    The massive Buddhist viharas / temples and our 2600 yrs old incredible history and heritage are some of the main tourist attactions of Sri Lanka. Just like in Thailand, Myanmar etc. So if our ancient kings didn’t build the great temples in Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Kandy etc with “stone buddhas” in them today we would attract no tourists at all.

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    Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu and Amen to that Sanjana! But I am afraid you are wasting your breath. Some of the people who post here are beyond help..

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    They should pay a fine of US$1000 and be deported, if they show disgraceful behaviour to ANY religion in Sri Lanka. Physcologically foreingers visit in order relax from work stress hence we attribute them with such modest behaviour as TOURISTS who want to chillax in the proper way.

    Cultural Ministry should print some guidance to tourists on how to pose in graceful manner with the Buddha. No one should be discouraged in taking photos of the Buddha, but certainly not gyrating around with the Buddha. Me and my family had taken photos alongside with Buddha in the 90s shrine built on donations given by my father in Tissmaharama, during Premadasa time during Gama Udawa programme

    Our teachers have taught us the sentimental values on these Buddha statues that we should show deceny of respect as they are built by craftsman who sacrificing their time performing this patient art in benevolence of gratitude. Same applies to show respect in not to throw a plate of rice as it is the farmer and his family who has sacrificed their heritage and legacy by not taking the opportunity to be the next Oil Rich Kid so that he could would have the benefit of earning his blessings by feeding us.

    I was astonished when I did not hear a whimp from the Academia of Saffron Robes when Taleban destroyed the archelogical Bahmin buddha statues in Afghanistan. JHU would not exist, if Green Man did not show dissent to Buddhist monks. His ridiculous behaviour sent shivers on every Buddhist spine.

    The saffronites, nationalists, idealists and radicals should be taught lessons of humlity and humbleness in this land. French kissing the Buddha is not the correct of way relaxing and neither RELIGION is the LAW in the land of the LION WITH THE SWORD.

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    Foreigners may be mistaking our Buddism as Tantric Buddism

    If they know its mud Buddism, it is not kissing they will do

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    Foreigners may confusing our Buddism as Tantric Buddism

    If they know its mud Buddism, it wont be kissing they will do.

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    i dont know y ppl make a big issue out of this. The tourists were FINED not subject to capital punishment. Probably it would be the same in any other non muslim asian country. This is an asian and a third world country. Free thought and intellectual dialogues are not a common part in our country it would take more time for our country to be there. I see ppl saying it doesnt matter as it is a stone. Yes it is stone but reverd by the ppl here and a part of the culture. Doing such a thing to a venerated statue can be considered as an attack against one culture.
    After all tourists dont come here to test the level of tolerance in SL. They come here to explore and have fun. So in other words they are idiots.
    I see this is a stupid move at a time when SL is not in good terms with the west. I reject how some orgs chased Akon but in this i am not against the gov.

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