29 September, 2020

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Kirby, Colomboscope & A Rant Against All These Idiots 

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

I was at Cinnamon’s Colomboscope the other week. To be honest, I liked it.

Well, some of it.

Most of it was a bunch of expats explaining Sri Lanka to foreigners. Generally, this includes well-meaning but meandering discussions on class conflict and a lot of thought on where Colombo is headed.

This is ironic, because the people actually listening to this were definitely not the Common Man – you couldn’t have found a more culturally disconnected bunch of people if you’d tried. There were your expat teens (ratio of clothes to makeup – 1:1000), your Colombo inbred aunties, your Sri Lankan hippies (it’s too hot to be really hippy, but hey, we try), your irate bloggers and a bunch of people killing time until TEDx.

To wit, this is the sort of people who will nod their heads, say “we need to look at this problem before it overwhelms us” and then break for lunch leaving the actual thinking to someone else. The Common Man, Homo Communia, was definitely not one of the species present. Homo Intelligentsia was also in short supply.

Colomboscope

Photo courtesy Adrian De SIlva

But back to the bourgeoise story. Thus it was that I found myself in a couple of sessions, listening to a Buddhist monk and an Christian breatharian. More specifically, the Venerable Upatissa Thero, Theravada monk and possible British wit, and the Reverend Kirby De Lanerolle of WOW, which to my great disappointment stands not for World Of Warcraft, but for Works Of Wonder. Before we get too hung up on the “Christian” label, let me point out that modern Christianity has more divisions than a Sri Lankan political party, and so I use this in a very general sense.

Kirby is famous. He’s been on National Geographic, which is usually an honor reserved for crocodile hunters and rare African cats. He also made the papers last year when a story started circulating of a Sri Lankan man who claimed to have lived for five years without food. He’s also the co-founder of the Warehouse Project.

The monk went first. These were two separate parts of the same session, so it wasn’t a debate. Upatissa Thero came to the stage and was introduced: a British citizen who became a Mahayana monk and then stumbled onto Zen Buddhism and ended up here in Sri Lanka as a Theravada monk. “Well, it seemed a good idea at the time,” he explained jovially.

Upatissa was a jovial monk. People have asked me to write about him, but perhaps the closest I can get to actually describing the guy is to say that Sri Lanka needs more monks like him. His crowning statement was regarding a question on prayer: “Hey, man, I don’t know all the answers. Try it. It it works for you, that’s cool. All I’m saying is I have a different path.” Pretty soon the monk had the audience laughing and was arguing Richard Dawkins with a more scientifically bent member of the audience.

Upatissa is a reminder of the sad irony of Lankan Buddhism: that many of those not born in the land of Buddhism grasp it better than we seem to do. Modern Sri Lankan Buddhism is a far cry from the philosophy that it’s touted to be. Buddhism has become a bona fide religion. You are born into it, whether you like it or not. You go to the temple with your family, whether you like it or not. You put down flowers in front of an effigy and pray for whatever – better luck, more money, more rice. On paper, we say it’s respect for the Buddha. Inside, it’s the worship of idols. The temple is more like a guilt trip – more like a illusory reset button of sorts. We’ve missed the wood for the trees.

The stranger, having looked at the plain from atop the mountain, perhaps understands its shape better than those who are born and die in the flatlands.

Then it was time for Kirby.

By [all 36 million] the gods, what an orator. Kirby is an elevator pitch on a different level. He began by extolling, rather vaguely, his sinful past.This he eased into his philosophy, dishing out phrases such as “I was looking for the next high: then I found the Most High.” I’m not going to repeat his words, but someone please hire this guy to pitch companies to venture capitalists.

Kirby is full of bullshit. His church and beliefs espouse things worthy of a Supernatural episode. I’m not going to rant against it, because my interaction with him was very limited, but here’s the takeaway:

One, he’s smart. Smart enough to take scientific fact and represent it as the proof of God. He’s also working with a set of beliefs that let him to just that. If I’d asked him about the curvature of space and time, no doubt he would have said that that’s clear proof that God works in mysterious ways.

Two, he likes the sound of his own voice.

Three, he genuinely believes that his God and Jesus is the right path.

Notice something about these three points? They’re basic attributes of most successful religious preachers, not just Kirby. As long as a bunch of people believe that their Invisible Friend in the Sky is the One True Guy, we will have people like Kirby running the marketing operations. It’s inevitable.

In fact, if Kirby is guilty of anything, it’s the rest of his drivel: that faith can heal (try telling that to all the cancer patients, old sport), that you can get by without a doctor, and if you believe in something, reality will make it so that it happens. I’m sorry. The universe is a large place. It does not care about the delusions of a speck of dust.

He’s also guilty of influencing idiots like Prince Leone, a sort of deluded religious word salad generator who recently spat out a grammatically compelling argument against free will, where he pointed out that God, not voters, actually placed Maithripala Sirisena at the forefront of Sri Lankan politics.

And no, I am not responsible for this terrible Photoshop – it’s off his own page. This man would have gone places in the 14th century, though perhaps not as a graphic designer.

Let’s just say that sometimes I’m glad I live in a mostly Buddhist country with a bunch of other faiths and cultures thrown into the melting pot. The last thing we need is to be governed by madmen with the Host of Delusion and Grandeur at their backs.

*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com

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Latest comments

  • 13
    5

    One thing that most of us find monumentally aggravating is people with pretensions to being wordsmiths seeking to criticize people who they claim are not worthy of such attention!
    I do recall something about “sound and fury signifying nothing” and this seems to epitomise the “art” of the poseurs who fit that description!

    • 1
      0

      Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

      “Let’s just say that sometimes I’m glad I live in a mostly Buddhist country with a bunch of other faiths and cultures thrown into the melting pot. The last thing we need is to be governed by madmen with the Host of Delusion and Grandeur at their backs”

      Do not forget that still, yes still, 25% of Americans, 34% of Europeans and 47% of Sri Lankans ( those who voted for MaRa) believe that the Sun goes around the Earth, including the astrologers.

      1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says

      http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says

      Ken Miller on Human Evolution

      Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007
      Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

      1. Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV4_lVTVa6k

      • 1
        2

        “47% of Sri Lankans .. believe that the Sun goes around the Earth”

        Where did you get that number from Amare? Out of your hat?
        As far as I know flat earth and this sort of b%^^&*!t is found only in the Bible and Bible believers in Sr Lanka could not be that high..

  • 8
    0

    Only death is certain in human existence.
    All philosophers dwell on what we should do, before that happens.
    If all of us did nothing but good to all fellowmen, there is no need for any religion.

    • 3
      2

      Another of the tax evaders.

  • 4
    4

    Yeah but you will not be “Saved” if you do not follow the fake path of a virginal birth based religion. Last time I checked even without real ejaculation, if a penis is inserted and withdrawn, a woman can get pregnant. So the entire fear mongering God based politics and preaching is fascinating because they equate believe in a mythical event to money and power and success. That fella you mention must be one of those American type evangelicals. The big guy in the sky instills fear. Buddhism does not instill fear; it is a rational way of life. Enjoyed reading this. To be “saved” accept God of the Christians and Jesus’ “virginal birth” or convert to ISIS lest you be beheaded. I will take Buddhism any day over fear mongering faiths.

    • 8
      3

      “Virginal Birth” has nothing to do with Salvation. It is by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved. If you do not wish to believe that, its too bad but please do not cast sly comments meant to insult the Son of the creator God. Colombo Telegraph, we are surprised that people like you will print an article of this nature.

      Incidentally, the Virgin Birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus are perhaps the most monumental events in the history of mankind.

  • 15
    2

    So, Mr Wijeratne was (un) fortunate to meet the greatest BS artist God ever planted on earth! The great prophet Kirby who for some reason never looks me in the eye. Yes I’ve met him three times thanx to my naive bunch of friends who dragged me to this WOW thingy. I have tried so many times to get his attention ..but WOW! What a fantastic sideslip he does each time. Anyway I don’t blame Kirby. Hez smart. Smart enough to BS his way to National Geographic. Hez a smart rump kicking super hero who thrives on the ignorant (m)asses. This self proclaimed prophet has catapulted to the top in the mastery of BS leaving his western counterparts Trailing way behind him.. Im glad that I was able to watch him in action…It was pure entertainment. Beats Jonas Nightengale from “leap of faith”

  • 7
    10

    Pardon me for my expression but your writing is crap Yudhanjaya. [Edited out]

    • 5
      1

      If Yudhanjaya’s writing is crap, every comment you send is shit.

      • 2
        2

        I also don’t know how a professional journalist can come to such strong conclusions by sitting for one,half an hour session at a panel discussion. This is pretty bad journalism written to please the masses who are on a witch hunt against one man not understanding what he is stands for.. Sad Funlover.

  • 12
    9

    I don’t know how a professional journalist can come to such strong conclusions by sitting for one,half an hour session at a panel discussion. This is pretty bad journalism written to please the masses who are on a witch hunt against one man not understanding what he is stands for.. Sad Yudhanjaya..

  • 11
    0

    All religions have a more theoretical path and a popular path. The popular path trodden by the majority helps them psychologically deal with things that they feel they don’t have control over (illness, death, weather etc.).

    While the theoretical path is often trod by a only handful of priests/monks, often in isolation or seclusion; most monks/priests are there to serve the this-worldly needs of the people.

    In my experience most people find the concept of a divinity (to obey and reap benefits from) easier to believe, since internal motivation is much more difficult than external. Thus the threat of burning in hell (or bad karmic retribution) is a better motivator for good behavior than meditating on the meaninglessness and impermanence of life.

    In the end, as far as we all know, we have this ONE life in which to be a good human being. As long as we use whatever spiritual beliefs to help us in that goal it is a good religion, in my opinion. So groups like ISIS and aggressive Evangelicals who promote discrimination against groups such as gay people, do not help us be good humans.

  • 3
    2

    sinhalese buddhist

    “In my experience most people find the concept of a divinity (to obey and reap benefits from) easier to believe, since internal motivation is much more difficult than external. Thus the threat of burning in hell (or bad karmic retribution) is a better motivator for good behavior than meditating on the meaninglessness and impermanence of life.”

    Do you know why or the factors that contributed to have hardly any Tamil Buddhists in Sri Lanka?

    What happened to the Sinhala Hindus?

  • 1
    0

    ”’a bunch of expats explaining Sri Lanka to foreigners. ”’ now there’s a cure for insomnia!

    Truth to tell, when I saw ‘Cinnamon Colomboscope’ I thought ‘goodie’ a tour of our best upper-class knocking shops. And the Rio Cinema was where my old pal Lucky lost his viginity to a bint from Borella in the back row of the balcony as Julie Andrews celebrated their coitus with a stirring rendition of the ‘hills are alive to the sound of music’.

    But it ended in tears when I read that the august Victoria Masonic Hall, where pater spent many an evening unravelling the delights of an antediluvian existence, was now earning its keep playing host to this load of tripe.

  • 5
    3

    Do you know enough about God to react so negatively? Do you know enough about Buddhism to consider yourself better off being a Buddhist? Judging from your writing, the personally targeted diatribe and the conclusions you have drawn there is a need for much superficial understanding of the Buddhist philosophy that you claim to be associated with. Sadly people like you, Yudhanjaya, thrive on destructive journalism. Research and know yourself and your subject well to be in a position to defend your work. It is easy for most to react in the negative when the topic is larger than themselves. I understand then, where you come from. Little knowledge debases journalism and does more damage to yourself and to others. This is not in the essence of any philosophy or religion.

    • 2
      0

      Kamanee,

      The author would like to ask you the same questions.

      “Do you know enough about God to react so negatively? Do you know enough about Buddhism to consider yourself better off being a Buddhist”

      Did you read and understand what he is implying.
      He is only finding fault with the self righteous, pretentious and the phony. If you are not any of the above then there is no need to be upset.

  • 2
    0

    Sri Lanka doesn’t have Buddhists………at best they are a part of a new religion called buddhindus, worshipping statues, prostrating themselves at kovils while chanting stanzas in languages totally alien to them. The great man Gautama Buddha must be turning in his grave when seeing how these monks have prostituted a deep and beautiful philosophy……”a way of life” if you will in order to safeguard their own skins. How can you be born into a philosophy? Impossible!

    Monks are supposed to walk the land, beg for their food and teach the dhamma………when do we see this in Sri Lanka, when was the last time you saw a (Sri Lankan) monk walking the streets with the begging bowl? Let’s face it, for centuries the temple has been the final destination of the “modda putha” in the family…..sad plight indeed!

    As for Kirby……kudos to him! He has found some suckers who he is leaching off big time…..lets just hope he doesn’t offer them Kool-aid one day!

  • 3
    0

    Amarasiri

    I like your questions. However I do not have answers to them. One thing I do know is that in medieval times, buddhism was much more widespread in Tamil Nadu, and one would surmise that at least a segment of Tamil-speakers in Lanka also practiced buddhism.

    I think hinduism has a certain pageantry and celebration of life that buddhism lacks; thus I believe it could be more easily embraced by people. Also the fact that “hindusim” is really a broad and generalized set of beliefs helped it co-opt divinities from various backgrounds to its growing pantheon as it travelled south. Today,it has even incorporated buddhism, which in a certain perspective was a rebellion against hindu casteism at its birth.

    Most Sri Lankan buddhists practice aspects of hindusim – for the same reason mentioned above – the latter provides more relief for “this-worldly” problems, and celebrate life – especially with the “bhakti” movement.

    Thus despite all these labels, both buddhists and hindus in Sri Lanka venerate the same divinities and the Buddha. It’s a pity that we don’t recognize our shared heritage the way we should.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Yudhanjaya

    I liked your RANT dude. I really enjoyed it.

    I admired the gumption you displayed in the little bit quoted below. Funny, nevertheless very very true:

    “You are born into it, whether you like it or not. You go to the temple with your family, whether you like it or not. You put down flowers in front of an effigy and pray for whatever – better luck, more money, more rice. On paper, we say it’s respect for the Buddha. Inside, it’s the worship of idols. The temple is more like a guilt trip – more like a illusory reset button of sorts.”

    Why funny? Because in January immediately after being sworn in as President (sorry, His Excellency The President), Maithripala Sirisena rushed, cameras clicking, to that tree to make ostentatious obeisance. His act graphically illustrated the classic, traditional, home grown, guilt ridden, thanha bound, materialistic, superstitious Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist.

  • 2
    0

    By this mans diatribe about Kirby, it seems Kirby might have touched a nerve.Guilty???? who knows.

  • 2
    0

    He owes his new found fame and blog hits to Kirby and God. What irony…

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