By C.V. Wigneswaran –
Someone asked me; You had said Hindu Priests in the North do not dabble in politics. But others say they do. Why this difference? If Hindu Priests too dabble in Politics what is wrong with Buddhist Priests doing so?
My response was; When I was interviewed by Iraj he asked me whether Hindu Priests in Temples in the North do dabble in politics. I said truthfully they do not. No temple priests in Jaffna openly dabble in politics taking up to the streets. They relegate themselves to their Temples. That is for certain.
If anyone says a saffron clad Hindu Swami does take part in demonstrations he would be referring to Velan Swami, who does get involved in such demonstrations etc. I answered only the question about Temple Priests in Jaffna posed to me. The person whom you refer to is not a Temple Priest. He is an individual Monk. I know Velan Swami well. He was a qualified Engineer who took upto robes and was nurtured by the Chinmaya Mission. He was sent by the Chinmaya Mission in India to Jaffna to look after the Mission Branch here. When he came here he found the most inhumanistic conduct on the part of the Armed Forces and by those violent groups whom the Military nurtured. He felt their conduct, including the Government refusing to give what was due to the Tamils as per International Covenants and International Agreements, reprehensible. Such conduct by the Government and its Armed Services was against Dharma. Fighting on the side of Dharma as per Bhagavad Geeta and other Hindu religious texts was permitted in Hinduism. This made him ask for permission from the Chinmaya Mission to air his views on those matters. Permission was refused. But the anxiety to stand for Dharma persisted in him. So he left the Chinmaya Mission and started a new Mission, the Sivaguru Atheenam.Velan Swami does not dabble in party politics. He stands for Justice and Fairplay. He is never violent. He still holds on to the peace and tranquil demeanour of a Swami. He is prepared to be taken by the Police into custody and harassed just like how Gandhiji allowed himself to be arrested and harassed. He is prepared to suffer for the rights and benefits of others.
So the reference to saffron clad Swami does not refer to Temple Brahmin Priests. Velan Swami is a phenomenon. He is the modern version of how Hindu Swamis must behave – To fight for justice and fairplay on the side of Dharma. He is also well versed in the Bhagavad Gita and other Texts and daily gives satsangs at his Atheenam. He is not a Brahmin Priest. One is reminded of Sri Aurobindo in India who was a person of Religion who also took part in the liberation struggle against the British. Presently there is a need to liberate our People of the North and East from Sinhala hegemony.
Let me come to the second part of your question. Velan Swami would politely criticise even myself if he felt I was not standing on the side of Dharma. He looks at society objectively through the conditionings he received from his Hindu Texts, and works towards Dharma.
Could you say so about the Buddhist Priests? Have they studied the Sri Lankan Constitution including the Thirteenth Amendment? Do they realise Thirteenth Amendment is not a political solution for the Tamils of the North and East? Do they realise what the Politicians on behalf of the People of the North and East are unitedly asking is Federation or Confederation? Do they know what the problems of the Tamils are? Do they know that the Sinhala Language is a recent language which came into being only in the 6th and 7th Centuries AD and their first Grammar Sidath Sangarawa in the 13th Century AD? Do they know that the Buddhist remains found in the North and East belong to the period of the Demala Baudhayos?
If any Buddhist Priest (anyone)could give a rational analysis of the Law and the social ambience in which the Thirteenth Amendment came into being and why he considers necessary that the Thirteenth Amendment should be scrapped, then we Tamils could sit together with such person and talk. Either side could try to convince the other. The Tamils may agree that Thirteenth Amendment is not necessary if the Buddhist Priest accepts that full fledged Federalism is the solution to the Tamils’ problems.
The young Buddhist Priests who take to the Road are not of the calibre of the Priests that Buddhism expects them to be. They use un-Parliamentary language, they are prepared for violence, they spew venom against those whom they consider as their enemies and do not understand at all as to what they are agitating about. They just listen to some politician or politically motivated person and act on their statement without examining the truth or otherwise of the statement made by their mentor. Kalama Sutta of the Venerable Buddha is lost sight of, by them. In fact they have degenerated to be henchmen of politicians losing site of the responsibilities of a Buddhist Priest.
If they are objective and are speaking on the side of the Dhamma they should exhibit the four virtues of the Heart viz. Metta – loving-kindness; Karuna- compassion; Mudita– sympathetic joy and Upekkha– equanimity. According to the Buddha’s teaching, all members of the Sangha should develop these important spiritual qualities. Our young Political Buddhist Priests do not exhibit any of these qualities.
Unless a Buddhist Priest could try to exhibit the above four qualities he is not worthy of adorning the Robe. They should exhibit loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity towards all beings including the Tamils of the North and East! What have the Tamils of the North and East done to the Sinhalese which they have not done to the Tamils? The war became necessary because of the discrimination and brutality of the Sinhalese both their Politicians and the Military towards the Tamils.The least the Buddhist Priests could do to the Tamils is to sit down to hear their woes. Instead they get carried away by the lies, bloody lies and statistics of pseudo intellectuals among the Sinhalese and hate the Tamils. Where is Mudhitha in them?
Surely any dispassionate practicing Buddhist among the Sinhalese would agree with me that the place of the Buddhist Priests is their Pansala. They have the Vinaya Rules to follow. Participating in partisan political demonstrations cannot be condoned by Buddhism. Even if the other Religions could condone the activities of their Priesthood, Buddhism cannot. I meant what I said when I declared that the place of the Buddhist Priests is in their Pansalas or in Aranyas.
Let us say Buddhist Priests have the right to dabble in politics due to their social responsibility. Then should they not have demonstrated against the then Government when the Mattala Airport (210 million US Dollars), Hambantota Port (307 million US Dollars), Magampura International Convention Centre (15.3 million US Dollars), Lotus Tower (67 million US Dolars’ Loan taken) and Colombo Port City (No clear form of investment) were built out of borrowed loans which were piled up over the earlier loans? That is to pay one loan they took another loan with greater interest rate. When the best section of the Hambantota Port was offered to a Chinese Company in 2015 for US $ 1.12 Billion on a long lease, was there a murmur from these Buddhist Priests? When a portion of this Country was being handed over to the Chinese did the Buddhist Priests show their concern?. No!
When so many Sinhala Buddhist people are suffering from penury and dire poverty, the Buddhist Clergy has never come forward to protest against the Government in favour of their own kith and kin. When our own citizens were killed at the Easter bombing none of the Buddhist Priests took to the street. When the Upcountry Tamils who are the backbone of the Island’s economy asked for an increase of a thousand Rupees and the Government refused to consider their request, did any Buddhist Priest take up their valid request? How come when the insufficient and innocuous Thirteenth Amendment is referred to by the President there is so much agitation? These Priests have never come forward to find out from us, the Tamils, as to what our problems are. So much for their understanding of Buddhism!
Their demonstrations against the Tamils are no doubt politically motivated. Someone manipulates them. They do not for a moment think of the Buddha and His teachings when they willingly become handmaids to such political forces.
The World today is travelling towards prosperity and camaraderie among all Nations. But thanks to the Buddhist Priests we are travelling backwards towards economic ruination and hatred among human beings.Have the Buddhist Priests contributed constructively in our battle against poverty? At least the Buddhist Priests could raise Home Gardens in their Pansalas to make the Pansala self sufficient in food. Of what use are their demonstrations against the Thirteenth Amendement which has been in the Constitution from 1988 onwards?
Furthermore Buddhism expects love and concern from all Buddhists towards all living beings. There is expropriation of our resources, killing of rare birds and animals, taking place in our forests. Has any Buddhist Priest called for the stoppage of such wanton villainous acts?
Therefore may I reply your question saying Hindu Priests in Temples in the North do not dabble in politics. Even if Hindu, Christian and Islamic Priests were to dabble in Politics, the Buddhist Priests must not do so in terms of the Vinaya and the Buddha’s teachings.I still say Buddhist Priests must be confined to their Pansalas or Aranyas.By their taking up to politics Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike got killed by a Buddhist Priest. Buddharakita Thero’s tanha brought immense ill fame to the Buddhist Clergy. At the time these incidents took place we should have asked the Sangha to stick to the Vinaya rules strictly and controlled the young Samaneras and young Buddhist Priests blossoming forth then. This was not done. Politicians were able to give Mercedes Benz cars to Mahanayake Theros and silence them in their favour. So much for their understanding of Buddhism.
When I was discussing the role of the Buddhist Priests in modern times with Dr. E.W. Adikaram once, he agreed their behaviour was quite anti-Buddhistic. Venerable Ananda Maitreya was one of the most respected Buddhist monks of the twentieth century in Sri Lanka. When I had discussions with him before he passed away, he too accepted that politically motivated Buddhist Monks were a curse to the entire Buddhist Clergy. Hence I voice the views of responsible Sinhala Buddhists of this Country.