By Sajeeva Samaranayake –
Buddha takes no prisoners: but the ignorant do
Pride, arrogance and blindness is natural, indeed to be expected, from politicians, generals and most others who feel powerful. But it has no place within Buddhist practice. As Buddhists we are taught to reflect on the impurities and foul nature of this body and the greater defilements of the mind that bind and deceive us. Whether we cover this body in white or black, and whether or not we cover it at all is a cultural preference. It does not change the fundamental character of any of us as human beings. We remain mired in self deception and suffering until reality dawns that we are stuck and we seek to understand why.
Until then our ‘Buddhist birth’ and cultural conditioning helps us to believe that we are Buddhist and when we dress in white and raise Buddhist flags we feel Buddhist. Likewise when we see women dressed in black covered from head to toe we feel they are different and alien to our culture. This is how the ignorant worldling or puthujjana thinks. A Buddhist goes deeper than these superficial impressions: indeed s/he learns to be open and tread the middle path in so far as sense impressions are concerned, avoiding both extremes of ignorance and false certainty.
Buddhism therefore is not a religion; as religions are widely understood today – exclusive clubs with their own subscriptions and benefits. It is simply a way of clarifying what we see, a path of liberation or vimukti marga. It is not a path that is cluttered by compromise, adjustment, cultural and historical baggage. It was discovered by Buddha and taught 2600 years ago. This path was walked by countless men and women across the centuries, through the rise and fall of kingdoms, empires and nations. In fact Buddha’s own clan – the sakyas were annihilated by the Kosala King Vidudabha about two years before his own demise or parinirvana – a stunning reminder of the transience of worldly formations. This path is now being walked around the world by free men and women belonging to many countries, cultures, languages and colours who find in it a worthy personal challenge.
On the other hand the repetition of verbal formulas, cultural events and merit making ceremonies centered on external symbols that are of Buddhist origin provide a kind of gateway towards the comprehension of the teachings or the dharma or law that the Buddha used. They also ensure that the outer framework survives from generation to generation so that the substance will be safe from the vicissitudes of change.
That of course is the theory. In reality we find today – just as the Buddha found in relation to Brahmanism that people have become enslaved to rituals and that they use the key of liberation to lock themselves within an impregnable prison. Once they do this it is a numbers game and the more prisoners they gather around themselves the merrier. Just a few solitaries whose paths lie far away from the corridors of money and power will use the key to open the doors and walk out. These are the people who remain faithful to the original purpose of early mankind who sought the meaning of life – not as a scholarly pastime but as a guide to living.
From herd to individual
Long before the advent of abstract writing and modern ways of religious and political separation early human beings commenced a process of authentic self-expression rooted in their concrete experience of life in nature. They drew animals before they knew art and made stone tools before the idea of engineering arose. Likewise they devised rituals for placating the forces of nature before religion was conceived. This collective folk worship served them as gatherers, hunters and scavengers. However when they moved into more settled occupations like herding animals and farming, society had to contend not just with nature but with a whole human environment. The emphasis shifted from violent rituals like animal slaughter to non violent sacrifices that eventually produced the idea of self-sacrifice, the surrender of self and ego as the highest gift to the divine. In India where these ideas evolved in the centuries before Buddha the emphasis shifted from a mere struggle for physical existence to the lofty object of freedom from karma and samsara – the cycle of births and deaths for the individual. Peoples of this age were generally united and defined by this common quest for meaning as Samuel De Lanerolle (Origins of Sinhala Culture) observed:
The Manushyas, Nagas, Devas and other religionists mentioned in Buddhist literature were united not because of their colour or their blood relationships but because of the similarity of their faiths and modes of thinking.
This integrity – the aligning of the deeper self of heart and soul with the more operational mind-body self as the core of all quests for meaning is affirmed by Karen Armstrong (Search for God) who says:
Religion is a practical discipline, and its insights are not derived from abstract speculation but from spiritual exercises and a dedicated lifestyle. Without such practice, it is impossible to understand the truth of its doctrines. This was also true of philosophical rationalism. People did not go to Socrates to learn anything – he always insisted that he had nothing to teach them – but to have a change of mind.
Breakdown of Praxis (yoga) and the descent to violence
It is this deep alignment of our spiritual energy with our thoughts and actions we refer to as yoga. Typically however most Sri Lankans – like their brothers and sisters of the west only know yoga as a different form of physical exercise, a good ‘de-stresser’ and nothing more. Nor have we made the connection between the western term praxis (the interaction of theory and practice) and its older eastern sibling yoga. In the absence of practical methods for incorporating spiritual practices into daily life the spirit of dharma practice dies out. As far back as 1963 the English Bikkhu Ven. Nanavira Thero stated:
Quite in general, I find that the Buddhists of Ceylon are remarkably complacent at being the preservers and inheritors of the Buddha’s Teaching, and remarkably ignorant of what the Buddha actually taught. This fact, combined with the great traditional reverence for the Dhamma as the National Heritage, has turned the Buddha’s Teaching into an immensely valuable antique Object of Veneration, with a large placard in front, DO NOT TOUCH. In other words, the Dhamma in Ceylon is now totally divorced from reality.
Indeed much has happened in the 50 years since then. The overall picture is complex and significant advances were made in both Buddhist learning and practice. However the noxious mix of Buddhism and confrontational politics has continued to pollute the environment strengthening and hardening the original foundation of ignorance that Ven Nanavira referred to.
Sasana as nation
The current attempt In Sri Lanka to create a frontier mentality or tribal consciousness among the Sinhala Buddhists is an immediate result of the war. Although the war ended in 2009 a war mentality has been fostered, leading to continuing political instability and a crisis of meaning. This vacuum is now sought to be filled by a sense of purpose. Fundamentalism all over the world share this pattern.
The nature of Sinhala Buddhism has at time been contradictory, with one strand stressing spiritual objectives and the other political. The preferable and sacrosanct view, however, is that the Sinhalese belong to the Sasana; not the other way about. The Sinhalese cannot own and have not owned this transcendent, transnational conception. It is a relationship with duties rather than rights and powers. The standing of Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country, especially in East and South East Asia will be threatened if the sasana continues to be used as a mere legitimizing mechanism for political power without a true allegiance by the state to Buddhist principles. This will be further elaborated below.
According to Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere (Buddhism, nationhood and cultural identity: The pre-modern and pre-colonial conceptions)
Our conception of sasana is a ‘form of nationhood’ constructed by the ethnographer on the basis of a phenomenological reality existing in Sri Lankan culture and consciousness. Not so with ‘identity’ which is a conceptual invention of the analyst. There is no word that resembles ‘identity’ in the Buddhist lexicon.
Consistently with this assertion the wikipedia makes the following statement on Naga people in a widely known but grossly under-appreciated fact about the origins of the ‘Sinhalese’:
“Yaksha,Raksha,Naga,Deva groups who were divided according to what they worshiped lost their identification after all converting to Buddhism.”
This very change was an act of liberation and transformation by which these ancient tribes merged within an ethical order – the Sasana. It affirmed the truth of the absence of any fixed or permanent identities. This is a legacy of freedom that Sri Lankans must cherish and should not forget.
Buddhists as a faith community
Tribal identities were not exchanged for a “Sinhala” identity. These tribesmen and women simply embraced Buddhist thinking and the Buddhist way of life. We find references to these tribal identities even up to the time of King Dutugemunu and it is reasonable to assume that his ‘people’s war’ served to further strengthen the collective solidarity of this faith community. In the course of time a common language, common values and a common culture unified these people as a nation. Yet this was not a defensive nation with closed doors who felt that this island was the only place for them in the whole wide universe. On the contrary it was a confident nation with open doors which welcomed and naturalized people from India and other countries into its fold. As Buddhists they shared a worldview which was rich in tolerance and understanding and deep in its commitment to liberative ideals.
What went wrong? The reasons are more internal than external. They have less to do with western imperialism and more to do with historical choices made within the Sangha.
What the faith community lost – and has failed to recover
After the Brahmanatissa famine in the First Century BC the monks took a decision to codify the Buddhist Canon. What is less well known is the great debate that took place between town monks and forest dwellers as to the foundation of the Sasana. The question was posed whether this is learning or practice and the town monks who argued in favour of learning won the day.
While it is common to refer to the three refuges ultimately the sole refuge of the Buddhist is practice. In place of this was substituted the refuge of the written word and the living dharma was converted to a Religion of the Book.
This was a silent revolution within the Sasana that helped to transform a liberative discipline into a domesticated communal religion that would be presided over by scholar monks and cultural specialists. Society from this day gave greater preference to the vocation of learning rather than meditation and practice. This was the beginning of the trek back from nirvana to a social institution that would in time come to share the privileges, divisions and defilements of society. The Sasana tied itself close to society at a cost to its independence.
While forest dwellers remained influential the tradition of meditation itself was not maintained in Sri Lanka. This absence would be felt keenly in the wilderness years from 1215 to 1815 and beyond. The great monks of the post Dambadeniya era were all celebrated scholars – even though Veedagama Maitriya Thero – the author of Loveda Sangarava was a forest dweller. A concerted effort at reviving meditation was only commenced in the 1950’s by the Sri Kalyani Yogasrama Sansthava within the Ramanna Nikaya.
Other great losses after Polonnaruva were:
The Order of Nuns who provided dignity and leadership to women and balanced the excesses of a patriarchal society
The Buddhist critical tradition that was fostered by inner democracy within the Sasana which maintained the three Great Schools of Mahavihara, Abhayagiriya and Jethavanaramaya. Abhayagiriya was in fact an International centre of Buddhist learning, exchange and fellowship.
The tradition of self reliance that would be substituted by a tribal return to polytheism, superstition and the worship of territorial Gods
Facing the west – without non violent tools
Consequently the Sasana was already disarmed when it confronted a new religious phenomenon in the Catholicism of the Portugese. A Buddhist response to violence had to be fashioned but the requisite mental tools were lacking. Eventually it was the adversarial western approach that influenced Buddhism. Western ideas of fixed identities, certainties and dogmas, their printing presses and technology and methods of impersonal education were all adopted to produce a society which now finds itself in a state of permanent division and conflict. The grand Sasana that focused on just three objectives:
is now blown up into a massive corporation with a great deal of possessions and no idea of letting go. This is evident in the definition of the Sasana in the latest Buddhist Commission Report.
The futile attempt of Article 9
It is this reduced religion that was mentioned together with the other faiths and given first place by the British in their 1818 Proclamation.
Parroting this idea in Article 9 did not enhance the status of Buddhism. Instead it was affirmed as a religion in its reduced state; a grave error. Just as Hinduism is the fundamental and underlying faith and spirit of India, so is Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Pluralism and inclusion is part of the great legacy of Anuradhapura and its three great schools of Buddhism – Mahavihara, Abhayagiriya and Jethavanaramaya. The near intact Shiva temples of Polonnaruva testify to the continuation of the same legacy there. It took an Englishman, Richard Gombrich to point this out in his book Theravada Buddhism, first published in 1988.
What has been irrevocably lost…is the perception of the Sasana as unique and sui generis: contact with the wider world, now formalized in the apparatus of government, has lined up Buddhism , Hinduism, Islam and Christianity as the four religions of Sri Lanka, four objects on a par. (That the state assigns Buddhism a ‘special place’ is irrelevant to this subtler concern.) the recurrent claim that Buddhism is not a religion on par with others but something of a different order , may be a ‘way of life’ so that the other religions are or may be compatible with it, is, among other things, an attempt to reclaim Buddhist uniqueness. What is being claimed, usually in a very vague and muddled way, can be expressed in my terms: that the other religions are all right on the communal level, but only the Buddha pointed the true way to salvation. Liberal Buddhists add that you do not have to call yourself a Buddhist to follow the Buddha’s way.
The way forward – enhancing our collective wisdom
The centuries old shift of Buddhism from an individual liberative discipline to a communal religion provides a key to why the Lankans lost their cherished independence to the British in 1815. The reservoir of collective wisdom cannot be fed when there are no wise individuals. Spiritual anxiety at the individual level is what motivates serious practice and guarantees progress on the path. Sinhala Buddhists have glossed over this imperative to develop a collective spiritual anxiety regarding pre-conceived objectives like the perpetuation of the Sasana for 5000 years and maintaining a 70% Buddhist majority in the island etc, etc. The erection of Buddha statues all over the country, chanting prayers day and night and proliferating merit making ceremonies with high visibility seems designed to provide this re-assurance of the continuity of the ‘Sasana.’ Complacency dominates the issue of personal morality and advancement. The slavish attachment to rituals bars the way to stream entry and keeps one trapped in samsara. Independence and freedom – unless won at the individual level cannot blaze the way to collective wisdom and collective independence.
Consequently the agenda of action I propose with utmost respect to my brethren and the noble Sangha is to ensure that we guide at least one half of this Buddhist majority (35%) back to a path of humility, silence, discipline, compassion and wisdom. 50 years after the perceptive comments of Ven Nanavira we are paying the price of apathy and non action in terms of further national disintegration. If we wish to avert this nation becoming a playground of great global powers the time for action is now.
American mama / March 17, 2013
A very exhaustive article.
During my life I learnt that (1) one can write a 10 page research paper for a scientific journal on cooking dhal curry or (2) just describe it in a very concise 1 paragraph article.
Approach 1: First describe the chemical composition of lentils ( carbohydrate, protein content etc ).Then describe the adding of onions, chillies & condiments with a description of their chemical content and then write another bunch of paragraphs on the tempering process of how chemical bonds have to be dissolved using heat and the thermodynamics involved such as enthalpy, entropy, bond energies etc etc., all adding upto about 10 pages.
Approach 2. Just take some lentils, temper it using some chillies and onions ,add some condiments and let it boil until soft. Now this takes only a few sentences.
Goes to show that some long articles just have very simple messages.
In response to your article I would like to say that there are two paths in Buddhism. One for the lay people and the other for the monks who renounce life to seek enlightenment. THe monks can afford to be peaceful( I know some are not) because they are taken care of by others, but lay people have to defend themselves & their loved ones from those who may not appreciate their way of life because they are subject to normal biologica/natural laws in the struggle for existence that Darwin talked about in his Systema Naturae.
A good case in point is what happened to the Jews in Germany who tried the peaceful way. The present Israelis probably learnt very quickly.
manel fonseka / March 18, 2013
Mama, I dunno about Darwin, but
tho you say
‘The present Israelis probably learnt very quickly’, it seems that plenty of younger ones are turning their backs on ‘the Israeli way’.
Apparently as many as 30,000 Israelis have moved to BERLIN in the last decade. A 30-year-old actress gave some of her reasons: ‘There’s the occupation, the army, the religion. The society teaches you that this is the only place for you and you’re not welcome in other places. It’s a country that is occupying another country and it makes its own people crazy.’ Berlin, however, seems quite the opposite, according to Israeli diplomat Emmanuel Nahshonin,there: ‘You can compare Berlin to New York City in the ’80s…The city stands for freedom and tolerance.’
And how’s this for a testimony to the success of ‘The Israeli way’? “It’s strange,” says Avisar Lev, 35, nestling into the snug armchair near the window. “I immediately felt at home in Berlin, for the first time in my life.”
AMerican Mama / March 18, 2013
It is very easy to rattle off theoretical stuff until you get caught in the middle of a situation like what happened in Rwanda.
Then U begin to realize that all living beings are subject to Darwinian Laws of Random Variation, Struggle for existence and the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.
NO amount of preaching religious theory and other hocus pocus is going to change that. Hence all nations have armed forces.
AmaMomma / March 21, 2013
Parippuwa, could you explain how to cook wela-waraka.
ranaraja / March 28, 2013
THE SANGA HAS AUTHORIZED THE SELECTIVE APPLICATION OF BUDDISM.
THEY STICK TO THE CONCEPT OF RICE-MUD OVER POT-MUD BRICK-MUD IDEOLOGY.
VALIDATING A DIRTY SOILED BUDDISM & ‘BUDDISTS’.
American mama / March 17, 2013
Correction : Should be “On the Origin of species”.
Systema Naturae was by Linnaeus.
Old age is getting to me I guess.
AmaComa / March 21, 2013
‘The origin of the species’ by Charles Darwin.
amina / March 17, 2013
The Greatest tragedy comedy in Buddhism in particular is the clergy who should be an example to others agitate and give all the trouble to innocent people of other religion and the ordinary people try to calm the spoiled-child-like behavioral act, just on the contrary to other religious clergy.
henry / March 17, 2013
My dear friends our Lankans really now are learning about religions – Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity etc. Very good for the country. In the near future the world would be at our feet to learn from us every thing about every religion in the world as we are master of all the religions, courtesy of the Gota and his BBS.
Mohamed Marzook / March 17, 2013
Conflicts have very often brought out truths. The situation now created by the BBS and JHU has provoked many Buddhists to learn more about Islam and Muslims. Thank you BBS, JHU and Champika.
PEACELOVER.. / March 18, 2013
DEAR BUDHIST BROHTERS AND SISTERS……AND BODU BALU SENA … WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS ?
garawi / March 21, 2013
Just avoid Tamil Nadu. Problem solved! One Dalai Lama was asked at one of his conferences, What he would do if somebody is coming with a knife to kill him? He said, ‘I will run’!
muslim / March 18, 2013
OH HENRY!THERE s A HOLE IN THE BUCKET O HENRY ,HOW TO PUT IT RIGHT O HENRY
nothing will stay in it because the leaders of this regime are leading the
people astray in the name of religion .
This is a very good article by a budhist,why cant the ranawakas and the gotas and the Bodu bala sena s learn from these real budhists and learn how to fix that hole.
BBS and JHU must open their eyes and see that it is the muslim countries that have helped srilanka,Air Arabia ,Saudi Air are the only airlines that have agreed to land at Mattala airport,thereby ,bringing halal money to the country.
bonaparte / March 18, 2013
Its because a lot of Muslims live at Hambantota and surrounding region. Just be practical as Muslims do. No need for Halal in this equation.
C. Wijeyawickrema / March 18, 2013
What is Sajeeva S’ solution to Islam Taliban agents work in Sri Lanka??
sajeeva samaranayake / March 18, 2013
Prevention – if they are here – remove the conditions that provide them a role here
we have lived with Muslims for quite a long time – what was the key to this harmony?
Karuna / March 21, 2013
Another psychotic comment,by the racist , how can Taliban come to srilanka,
as they will not be interested to set camp here ,as there is not a drop of
oil found here,though we were told that oil was found .
Sunila Mendis / March 18, 2013
Thank you Sajeeva Samaranayaka. Although exhaustive your article gives the reader some valid points to ponder.Without an understanding of a country’s past we cannot grasp what is happening at the moment.This article deserves to be published in Sinhala and Tamil for people to be more enlightened rather than repeating the stance of political monks.
Walter / March 21, 2013
I agree 100%. As I was reading I was telling myself that the article has to be translated to Sinhala and made available to at least the intelligent masses. Thank you Sajeeva.
Safa / March 18, 2013
The search for truth is the ultimate objective of all religons. The Siddartha Gautama sacrificed a life of luxury and power to achieve enlightenment. He did not have spiritual anxieties regarding the material life such as perputation of the religon or race. He taught a path to spiritual emancipation from all things worldly.
If we keep considering and clinging on to the worldly aspects then we will be spritually weak. I often see the words ‘He who folows the Dhamma is protected by the Dhamma’. I agree with this concept totally. In Islam we say something similiar – “And whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (of every difficulty). And he will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine” (Quran, At-Talaq: 2-3)
So the proof of religon and sprituallity is that it can face the onslaught of the material world and its challenges. To overcome challenges to religon we have to look within the teachings themselves. The fight is between good and evil, the spritiual vs the material.
Wickramasiri / March 18, 2013
A fine article concise enough to pin point where we are. I am inclined to be a follower of Buddhist values,the 35% who prefer the path of compassion,and humility.Yet one subject we need to address is how to meaningfully educate all Buddhists on what the Buddha taught. When I observe the violent behaviour of many Buddhists including monks, it is obvious to me that they do not understand the fundamentals. I wonder whether this is a consequence of what the writer himself postulates: the focus on knowledge of the Dhamma and the exclusion of it’s practice to different schools.
Many writers also support the rituals associated with Buddhist practice as complementary and therefore important. In this modern age however true observance of Buddhist values must take precedence over ritual if the dhamma is to be meaningful to society. Many Buddhists in Sri Lanka appear to believe that ritual is all there is to Buddhism. Likewise non Buddhists have questioned me on the various rituals including (mistakenly) some bizarre ones such as why sorcery and witchcraft, “charming” and astrology are part of Buddhist teaching. Many do not believe that these are not of Buddhist teaching. I am sure some Buddhists in the country too will be unaware. Is it once again time for another major council (sangayana) of the clergy?
Champukegege / March 18, 2013
DEAR C. Wijeyawickrema ,
Dont compare or mix islam and taliban .
we are living in a country where there are laws and police , if there are taliban they will take care of it.
Study the greate religion ISLAM.
PLEASE WATCH THESE VEDIOS
1)How 100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim… and average convert is 27-year-old white woman
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1343954/100-000-Islam-converts-living-UK-White-women-keen-embrace-Muslim-faith.html#ixzz2LtDtYPXI
2)Why do Western Women Convert?
3)Women & Islam: The rise and rise of the convert
Three-quarters of Britons who become Muslims are female. Now a major new study has shed light on the difficulties they face in adjusting to their new life.
4)WHY YOUNG BRITISH WOMEN Converting to ISLAM? – BBC Documentary
Rambler / March 19, 2013
You are a sorry case to do PR for Islam. Looks like you yourself need convincing about your own faith. Why do you keep yapping about people converting to Islam? Do you need reassurance that Islam will not eventually die out as it is medieval and not suited to the globalized high-tech world? The worst thing is you are impressed by some white trash converting to Islam for some stupid thrill in their pathetic lives or to spite their equally trashy parents. Grow up and go to the mosque 6 times – you need 1 extra time as you are a slow learner !
noble / March 21, 2013
Quran (4:11) – “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females(Inheritance)”
Quran (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…”
Quran (4:3) – “Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four”
Qur’an (4:24) and Qur’an (33:50) – “A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage.”
Quran (4:34) – “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”
Quran (38:44) – “And take in your hand a green branch and beat her with it, and do not break your oath…” Allah telling man how to beat his wife.
These are only a bit of women’s status in Islam.
So, I do not know whether white and paticulrly British women like to be beaten up and degraded but Muhammad’s favourite wife Aisha didn’t like it at all. She is said to have complained to Muhammad about the role assigned to women under Islam. In Hadith, Muslim (4:1039) says as Aisha said to Muhammed “You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses.”
Visakha Tillekeratne, Justice for Victims / March 18, 2013
I agree whole heartedly with Wickramasiri and the points made by Sajeeva. Buddhism was not meant to be a corporation. it is a way of life. We must also understand the great truth that everything is subject to change and decay. So the more one builds the machinery and apparatus, the more the corporation is subject to change and decay and chaos.We have to be mindful of the mind.How do we get the population to see this. More discourse and peaceful acts.
Feizal Mansoor / March 18, 2013
A welcome refutation of ill-conceived notions but I wonder if any of the assertions of the BBS are honestly held?
The whole episode reeks of political intrigue which is a misconceived attempt at political destabilisation when one hesitates to believe it is mass thuggery?
But is Sinhala only Buddhist? Is Sinhala not Christian? Does Sinhala not rever Murugan? Is Kdhr alai Salaam not the Green Man of mystical Islam?
Gnanath Obeysekere reports of a kavi that he has heard sung which refers to Lord Buddha, who has his maha vihare at Becca. Which is the pre-Islamic name for Mecca.
Sriyan Dereniyagala attested to an Arab presence in the Anuradhapura period.
“The word ‘SANAATANA DHARMA’ means the presence of the all-pervading SUPREME LIGHT/CONSCIOUSNESS [SAN/SM] in [AATANA] all the beings [DHARMA] in the whole of the creation. This SUPREME LIGHT/CONSCIOUSNESS has no beginning and no end. This Supreme light/consciousness was there, is there and shall remain there forever….Any spiritual approach that helps the individual being realize the individual being’s union with the supreme light/consciousness comes within the scope of the GREAT SANNATANA DHARMA…! Therefore, A TRUE FOLLOWER of the GREAT SANAATANA DHARMA has full LOVE and RESPECT for all the different spiritual approaches and their followers…!” – Liberal Sanaatana Dharma
Our version of this is our collective aspiration to Arya Sinhala. Our people have shown their gentle tolerance of all authentic interpretations of this from time immemorial. Take for example the appropriation of the Kataragama Yantra by the Abrahamic faiths.
Any aspiration of the restoration of the Sinhala culture and the Sinhala way of life can only arise out of Mahasamatta. If we live in dhamma, dhamma will protect us. The King sets the standard by the righteousness of his reign and his own personal example. As one we must embrace the techniques of our forebears, but we can each only do it by ourselves.
I hope more and more of us will work to restoring the common consensus that there is a way to behave and we learnt this on our Mother’s knees. After all as we pursue Arya Sinhala we are always potentially Dharmaraja.
All who live in this country are Sinhala, whatever their faiths and alleged race. As such I would support a ban on the slaughter of cattle. I know of no reason why halal meat cannot be imported?
American Mama / March 18, 2013
Who among the very devout Buddhists here is prepared to give away his wife & children as servants to a Brahmin, like King Vessantara is supposed to have done as stated in the Vessantara Jataka story ??
This type of mythology and bleeding heart sentimentality is what led to the decline of Buddhism in India & other places.
Someone above said Israelis are living happily in Berlin, Germany.
Sure. Maybe for now like they did before 1939. The day some skinhead nazi group grabs power these bleeding heart Jews will be back in Israel in a jiffy.
The SADDER BUT WISER JEWS are living in Israel with missile defense systems and nukes protecting their very religious behinds.
bonaparte / March 18, 2013
About Vessantara Jataka, once perception depends on from which angle one tries to understand it. I also had different views as I gradually aged. As a child, the story evoked sadness for the wife and kids, hatred to the cruel brahmin and anger towards the king for doing such a heartless act, despite the teaching that it was part of Bodhisatva practising his paramitas.
As an adult I thought what a daft thing the king was doing, because in a present day British court he would have been jailed for cruelty to his wife and children, and it was not a noble act to follow at any era of human civilization. There was some selfishness in it despite the principle of Dana paramita. Naturaly it was a bit of politcial writing, written by the reciepients of Dana.
Only in the late years of my life, I realized the significance of the message. The message is more powerful than the more obvious lesson in “Dana Paramita”, this being that all conditional attachments come to an end sooner or later, no matter how much clinging was there in life; love and relationship is just a temporary phenomenon.
For many years, I was puzzled by the traditional Sri Lankan (village) custom of reciting Vessantara Jataka loudly at night in the homes of the dead, while the relatives quietly moan the dead, waiting for the appointed time and day to dispose the body. Those silent hours were really eerie, if one has experienced it. In this set up, verses from Vessantara Jataka might block the minds from imagining the return of the spirit of the dead, or they might harmonize with the sense of loss the loved ones feel.
But perhaps the verses even bring home a more important message, to understand the inevitable phenomenon that what comes together conditionally separates when the conditions change. It is said that a separation in life is worse than death; people who had experienced divorce would knowe this. It is this state of nature that has been depicted in the story, and not just a fancy fairy tale.
Wickramasiri / March 19, 2013
A fine comment. Perceptive, inspiring, and poetic. Great.
American Mama / March 19, 2013
I used to be a Buddhist until I realized that Buddhism is full of “metaphysical holes” just like the Abrahamic Theistic religions of the so called “BOOK” with their “God concept.”
But that’s another story.
But I do believe Buddhism to be the most intellectual and least harmful of religious philosophies, though it too is pretty shaky at the higher level.
All this ‘dana paramithawa’ and ‘conditional arising’ talk holds only if you have no responsibilities and are living away from society as a priest looking for so called “enlightenment”
But if you are living within the bounds of human society your first responsibility is to defend your loved ones & keep them safe.
Hence guns, police, army and whatever else.
bonaparte / March 19, 2013
A-Mama, I guess as a former Buddhist you were aware of Singalovada Sutra; sinhala and english translations are readily available. It is a formula for those like us who live within the bounds of human society; it does guide one to defend ones loved ones and keep them safe, and to keep most of what one earns for the benefit of oneself, family and relatives as well as the needy. I learned the formula in the Dhaham Pasela, may be at age 12 or so, for YMBA Kanishta exam; the knowledge stayed with me, but, sure I did not always live by it 100%, yet I did use the teaching as a guide, a point of reference, mindful not to exceed the tolerances that were considered safe and sound. It is well known amongst those who cared to study the teaching that Buddhism has a solution to the puzzles and problems of anyone at any intellectual level; “Horses for courses”, if one wishes to put it in the western way. I am not a monk seeking Nirvana, just a layman coping with the burdens entrusted to common folk.
American mama / March 19, 2013
so why not follow the singalovada sutra. “speak softly but carry a big stick. “Is that what it says ? I cant rememebr it though I did study it.
bonaparte / March 20, 2013
Lol, you have a sense of humour!
Speaking softly and rationally is the big stick, though I acknowledge that some overiding human emotions make it difficult in politically charged situations. May be our senior politicans should use that type of big stick more often with their dealing with adversaries, and also set an example to their small fry and supervise them. We might end up with a less violent Sri Lanka that way.
Core teachings of any faith is about personal conduct, to help personal salvation through self-realization. It is the power mongers who manipulate spiritual teachings in the political arena, even in some cases leading to mass suicides in the name of their faith. It is mixing faith with politics that is giving rise to turbulent “kenda heliya” in society.
A good case in point to illustrate the current politcial manipulation proces and difficulties with good governance can also be found in Buddhist literature, for example, in the way Ajatasatru defeated Lichchavi’s. You might have heard this; the latter kingdom followed an honourable, spiritual process in its administration that held the kingdom together. Ajatasatru, having tried to defeat the neighbouring Lichchavi’s several times, stumbled on Lichchavi’s secret for unity, during a casual conversation with Buddha. Naturally, the crafty Ajatasatru sent spies to corrupt some of the weak minded Lichchavi administrators, created dissension in the kingdom that weakened the state. After that it was an easy task to invade and destroy Lichchavi kingdom. Do we see this phenomenon still today in the Middle East, and may be threatening Sri Lanka too?
Yes, I agree with Mama, that in the national and politcial dimension fear does not allow rulers to be pious even if they are pious in their personal lives. That’s why they manipulate and mobilize the people’s belief and sense of the right to religious freedom as a powerful weapon to protect themselves. Obviously they face similar opposing forces and so end up in stalemate, or until one destroys the other. Is that not the state of nature?
As an individual at personal level we should be able to understand it, and that is what faith applied to personal life and one’s own welling negative reactions should do. To keep those reactions under control. It was an interesting dialogue, a pleasure to contribute.
noble / March 21, 2013
There is no compulsion whatsoever for Buddhists to seek ‘Nivana’ at this life or next life or the one after that. Same goes for ‘the sanga’ as well.
Therefore, the aim of all the good Sinhala Buddhists should be to save the ‘sasanaya’ from being overwhelmed by conspirators in the guise of perfect or true Buddhists. These true Buddhists do not know that they have learned their true (Therawada) Buddhism from whatever is written and preserved by mahavihara monks of the Sinhala Buddhists.
Amerigo Vespushy / March 21, 2013
Thou art enlightened! Alas, You are convinced in the Trilogy. Hellelujah!
sajeeva samaranayake / March 19, 2013
and deeply felt – thank you…
manel fonseka / March 19, 2013
I am well aware of what happened to German Jews in the 1930s & 1940s (one of my favourite childhood books incid., much wept over, was Anne Frank’s diary), as well as the fact that history repeats itself & fascists of various kinds are on the rise again in Europe. But who should be even more aware of this than descendants (faith-based or genetic) of those Jewish victims?
THEY have not gone BLINDLY to Berlin. This is an aware, educated sector, which doesnt buy the notion that it would be WISER to live with plenty of nuke warheads tucked away underground, surrounded by resentful, angry, volatile populations, & with increasing INTERNAL disillusionment & anger and lack of ‘faith’. I put the last word in quotes as it bears two meanings here.
And, Mama, I don’t agree with your statement that the wiser ones ‘are living…with missile defense systems and nukes protecting their very religious behinds’. Well, yes, their ‘behinds’ of course, but scarcely their religious ones. For centuries in Palestine, its age-old Jewish population didnt need nukes to protect them. And now THEY are probably even more resentful than the displaced Arabs (Muslim & Christian), as the imposition of a Zionist state (to which the orthodox among them were absolutely opposed) on top of them has actually made them more insecure & targets of aggression than they may ever have been over the centuries.
Many more German (& other) Jews would have emigrated to the US in the 1930s (in preference to Palestine with its Balfour-Sykes-Picot promise of a ‘homeland’) as their lives became more and more unendurable in Germany. Many Jewish academics and other members of the intelligentsia applied for US visas. Also to US universities for even temporary positions to help obtain even visitors’ visas. The WORLD could see what was happening in Germany, even if the Germans couldnt. Maybe as in other countries nearer home, the right, the access to information was, shall we say, limited. But the story of the role played by US academies of various kinds in the face of those cries for help, is a pitiful one.
Some have suggested, shameful, even. I believe Stephen Norwood (‘THE THIRD REICH IN THE IVORY TOWER: COMPLICITY & CONFLICT ON AMERICAN CAMPUSES’) may be one such. A book I cant really to afford to buy from abroad however & cannot ever expect to find in a local bookshop. But here’s an Amazon description:
‘This is the first systematic exploration of the nature and extent of sympathy for Nazi Germany at American universities during the 1930s. Universities were highly influential in shaping public opinion and many of the nation’s most prominent university administrators refused to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime. Universities welcomed Nazi officials to campus and participated enthusiastically in student exchange programs with Nazified universities in Germany. American educators helped Nazi Germany improve its image in the West as it intensified its persecution of the Jews and strengthened its armed forces. The study contrasts the significant American grass-roots protest against Nazism that emerged as soon as Hitler assumed power with campus quiescence, and administrators’ frequently harsh treatment of those students and professors who challenged their determination to maintain friendly relations with Nazi Germany.’
manel fonseka / March 19, 2013
Forgotten my own point in a long digression.
Re your ‘protecting their very religious behinds’. I wonder just how that religious dimension is reducing. More & more Israelis are NOT religious, tho it was/is the Jewish religion that qualified/s the immigrants a place in that staked-out part of the Asian sun. Many have left BEHIND their religious faith & the prominence you see is NATIONALIST.
American Mama / March 19, 2013
“More & more Israelis are NOT religious”
How do you know this ? Did U conduct a statistically acceptable Public opinion survey in Israel ??
Personal opinions are dime a dozen.
Haretzzzzzz / March 21, 2013
Correct. A dozen a dime.
American Mama / March 19, 2013
So what ??
1. I am not defending the USA or whatever they did or did not do to to save or help the Jews.
This is exactly why I am saying the Jews should have prepared to defend themselves instead of wasting time reading the torah and shaking their head back and forth like crazy. Now U want the Buddhists to do the same thing too, like MEDITATE while some thug is waiting to bite your head off.
2. You seem to have forgotten that the first reason for the Jews to get out of ancient Israel & emigrate to Europe etc., was the rising power of the Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. The jews were NOT FIT enough to fight so they ran away to Europe & India etc
3. Are you telling me that King Dutugamunu should have held Elara’s hand & meditated until they disappeared into “Nirvana” wherever that is supposed to be.
Please get real. It is very easy to preach from behind a computer.
Explain to me why every country which is preaching peace & harmony is maintaining a well oiled military machine ??
manel fonseka / March 25, 2013
re your: ‘It is very easy to preach from behind a computer.’
From where do YOU preach, or should we say: gently state?
You don’t even use your own name, wherever you blog from? How do YOU blog without sitting behind a computer? Oh yes, u prob use a more up to date gadget or dictate a letter to someone else who despatches it for you?
At least I face up to being faced down!…
I see there are a number of statements, assertions, counter-arguments from you re my Israel related comments. I have seen them too late, probably for you to take note of even if CT DOES accept them later. But I have plenty of ‘evidence’ to back all my comments, most of it from Israelis or non Israeli-resident Jews. This includes ATHEISM in Israel, the myths surrounding the ancient dispersal of a tiny tribe which ’emerged’ in my life time as the State of Israel, & this includes conversion back & forth over centuries in THAT part of the world between Jews, Christians & Muslims – there were plenty of Liz Taylors & their male counterparts even in the 1st c AC., & the myth of it’s safer to live in israel, with mass weapons of destruction & a total carte blanche from the UN system to break all its cherished (?) laws/regulations, wotever, over and over.
And all the while I refer back to Israel it is from a position of distress and anguish about many of the same kind of steps being taken here- asserting the superior prior claim of some people to a particular area after centuries of the shaping and reshaping by history, declaring special militarised zones, forcing people one way or another into permanent temporARY dwellings or emigration, forcing the state’s favoured religion upon sections of people who have long adhered to another, etc. etc. Israel is an example of so many things we must try not to do in our own tiny land.
LatAmerican Nephew / March 21, 2013
Probably they could have escaped Israel for their persecution by the Zionists the Polish.
Lankan / March 19, 2013
Gotha and the Government of Sri Lanka is so scared of the rebel Buddhist monks, as they know that if the Buddhist monks oppose them they will not be elected again (Gotha is not elected but appointed by an elected govt)so Gotha has embraced the Bodu Bala Sena. Now Gotha can use the Balu Bala Sena the way he wants to manipulate the masses. Further the Asgiriya Mahanayake is against the present regime so the regime needs a rebel buddhist organization to threaten the Mahanayake as well. But when the services of Balu Bala Sena is not required anymore they will be liquidated the same way underworld members who helped the politicians to do the dirty work for them are being liquidated.
Rambler / March 19, 2013
Yeah Lankan, just like the evil LTTE rump is using the lumpen hordes in goddamn Tamil Nadu.
sajeeva samaranayake / March 20, 2013
“Are you telling me that King Dutugamunu should have held Elara’s hand & meditated until they disappeared into “Nirvana” wherever that is supposed to be”
No – but they did the next best thing – fight a duel to save thousands who would have otherwise died to make either of them the big boss over the island. So there are many applications of non violence – and they can be as intelligent or stupid as the person practising them.
And after Elara was killed he was honoured.
Many centuries later when a sinhala chief called Pilimatalawa the Younger was a fugitive in Anuradhapura from the English troops who were mopping up after the 1818 rebellion. P was down with fever and hardly able to walk. It was pouring with rain. And yet he remembered the prohibition of Dutugemunu against anyone going otherwise than by foot close to the grave of Elara – and he got off his horse or carriage and walked.
To me this was a triumphant moment. A moment of honour in defeat – just as Keppetipola the rebel commander showed immense courage and presence of mind and dignity when facing his own execution.
Looking at these events nearly 200 years later I can see that they signified the final curtain on an honourable epoch. It would take a very long time to recapture the values of faith, sincerity and courage that these two leaders showed then. But we have a responsibility of keeping the faith until such time.
Once again – you have a point. But it is not the only point and it is by no means conclusive. man does not live by bread alone. Nor does he find security in weapons alone. The massacres of school children in America are eloquent testimony to this point. There is something more – and we will not rest until we touch that last thing.
American mama / March 20, 2013
“No – but they did the next best thing – fight a duel to save thousands who would have otherwise died to make either of them the big boss over the island. So there are many applications of non violence – and they can be as intelligent or stupid as the person practising them. “
Duels are out of fashion now. Besides Dutugemunu attacked many tamil fortresses & destroyed and killed many Cholas before he got to Vijithapura.
I can’t imagine Mahinda mama and Prabakaran with duelling pistols :)
My only contention is that buddhist principles are practical mostly to INDIVIDuALs who opt to search for enlightenment & live away from society. Perhaps that is why Buddha wanted monks to separate themselves from society to a large extent.The lay buddhists must protect monks ( but some monks theses days could protect the lay people judging from the BBS actions !!
Garlicum smellum / March 21, 2013
Historically, Mr.Ellara was killed for there were many who were in want of grabbing his position of protector of Buddhism.
Therefore, Mr.Dutta planned a scheme to exile the frail Ellara to retire to a place in a small village named ‘Gammapatana’ near Kanyakumari where he lived until his demise.
john / March 21, 2013
What is troubling the community most is the phenomenon of rising incidents concerning Muslim women in the Country wearing the Abaya.
Among the forms of feminine clothing of Muslims are the scarf covering the head known as “Hijab” , the veil covering the face known as “Niqab” and the loose robe like overgarment covering the whole body known as “Abaya”in Arabic, “Burqa” in Urdu and “Purdah” in Persian.
The names of these clothing are often confused or used interchangeably by many including the “Ethno Religious Fascist”Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS) organization which has been targeting the manner in which many Muslim women dress as part of its overall Anti-Muslim campaign.
A familiar feature of public speeches by BBS leaders including its President Ven. Kirama Vimalajothy Thera and General Secretary Ven.Galaboda Attha Gnanasara Thera had been the virulent view expressed against the Abaya or Burqa dress worn by Muslim women. All sorts of vulgar remarks and derisive comments were made against women wearing such clothing.
Both Vimalajothy and Gnasara Theros flouted principles of Vinaya by viciously attacking the Muslim women wearing such dresses. One description repeated frequently on BBS platforms was “Goni Billa” (scary person in a sack) Since the Abaya covered the whole body of the women, the BBS speakers called it “Goni Billa” in a manner that appealed to low tastes of people.
These derogatory speeches have already begun to impact on some misguided Sinhala youths. There have been scattered incidents where Muslim women in Abaya and even Hijaab clothing have been the target of caustic,offensive remarks.Attempts have been made to yank the clothing by street urchins in a few places.More serious incidents too have begun to proliferate in recent times
The latest incident is one that occurred in Manampitiya in the Polonnaruwa district concerning the Muslim postmistress who had assumed duties from February this year.On Saturday March 16th as she was leaving after work at the Post Office some youths accosted her and requested her not to wear the “Hijab”.She simply ignored them.
On Monday March 18th morning the Postmistress was on her way to the Post Office on Manampitiya Main street when youths on two motor cycles tried to snatch the Hijab away. The postmistress however held on to the scarf tightly. The youths had sped away as people started rushing to the scene.
The Muslim postmistress has lodged a complaint with the Manampitiya Police. She has stated that she was unable to see the faces of the would be Hijab snatchers as they were wearing helmets with visors
noble / March 21, 2013
What if all the criminals start wearing hijab when they rob banks. No witness will be able to identify the culprits. And that’ll be the day banks will have to ask everyone to remove the hijab just like the helmet is when they enter a bank.
selva / March 21, 2013
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selva / March 21, 2013
This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
Senguttuvan / March 21, 2013
Or does the Belafonte/Odette song goes as “There’s hole in the bucket,
dear Lisa, dear Lisa” refrains of which are more than Odette’s reference to Henry. I have no desire to contradicting you. I am pleased to revisit the good ole days – thanks to your rekindle.
muslim / March 21, 2013
The good old days have gone and now we are in violent times,where caste ,race ,jealousy, discrimination are the order of the day.Islam ,Hinduism
Christianity ,Buddihsm are all different roads leading to the final destination.
The bodu bala and the likes of this outfit with the higher support are destroying the road to peace.
Puttaparutti Magician / March 21, 2013
“Harry Belafonte and Odetta” or else attribute it to the famous ‘Da Vinci of Leanardo De Capricious’.
Could that, “Good ole days” be read as “good hole days” and then you were kindled when a nymph stoked you somewhere? Oooohhaaa….
silva / April 4, 2013
you don’t want to know Buddhism to understand what is morally correct. Racial vilification is wrong there should be laws to punish perpetrators. All religions should follow some common path to achieve tolerance from other religious groups. No religion should have state backing.
Fair constitution, Strict law to prevent extremism even it is Buddhist, Hindu or Muslims should be implemented. For example broadcasting Bana, Muslim chants in early morning using loudspeakers should be banned. Worshiping another human being with bending knees and touching the feet is disgraceful.
Most religions generate superstition then you believe in good time , bad omen and other superstitious activities. Politicians can thrive on these myth and deceive people. We have no food to eat , no work to do but happy as we feel we are the major race in the country. Pools open your eyes.