19 November, 2017

Maha Sanga Becoming Fundamentalist…….Was Gnanasara A Mere Forerunner?

By Vishwamithra

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”  ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Prior to the last Presidential Elections in 2015, the Rajapaksa clan tried a fast one. And it backfired. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, who is more akin to a street thug-clad-in-saffron robes in search of a cause to push his own ego and the those of whom he had vowed to place on the throne than a layman who has renounced a greed-ridden life. Evan though his caste, which is the critical factor in being qualified to be ordained under the Malwatte Chapter of Siam Nikaye, was a shady feature of the man, by sheer force of the personality Gnanasara managed to dominate the media coverage at the time. Through a series of gung-ho cavalcade of protest marches, manhandling and uttering utter filth as his basic lingo, Gnanasara managed to enter into the psyche of the majority of the Sinhalese Buddhists who themselves had found a cause to identify with.

Defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) provided that cause. The growing triumphalism coupled with deliberate desecration of the political culture by the then rulers, the Rajapaksa clan, supplied the impetus to this increasingly polarizing socio-ethnic phenomenon. Their propaganda machinery went into full gear and began branding everyone who opposed them as unpatriotic. The image or portrayal of an image of an unpatriotic or traitorous person could be devastating to military officers or those who have retired from the armed forces. That is what happened to Sarath Fonseka.   

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) militants, a fundamentalist Sinhalese Buddhist action group, in order to muster the support of an extremely racist and religiously obedient to the Mahawansa and its glory-descriptions of the Kings of ancient times, towards a sizeable segment of our voting population, took to the streets immediately after the cessation of military action. Their battle cry was a broad-based message founded on numbers. Here are the latest numbers: Sri Lanka Demographics Profile 2017. … Sinhalese 74.9%, Sri Lankan Tamil 11.2%, Sri Lankan Moors 9.2%, Indian Tamil 4.2%, other 0.5% (2012 est.) Religions: Buddhist (official) 70.2%, Hindu 12.6%, Muslim 9.7%, Roman Catholic 6.1%, other Christian 1.3%, other 0.05% (2012 est.) (Source: CIA World Factbook).

In order to secure a realistic and firm hold of the majority of the voting population, if the objective is to form a government, the pundits of the Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka Freedom Party and its satellite parties theorized that they could completely disregard the minorities and ensure an impregnable firewall with an overwhelming majority of the Sinhalese-Buddhist vote. All this happened soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated Sarath Fonseka in 2009. With the subsequent victory at the parliamentary elections in 2010, they were further encouraged and insisted on adhering to this base-instinct-based argument that a firm and solid voter bloc of Sinhalese Buddhists would suffice to secure future election victories. This theory of Sinhalese Buddhist majority-based belief was at the core of their introduction of the Eighteenth Amendment which erased the term limit on election for the office of President. Although this amendment to our Constitution unquestionably lent a legal basis for Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to perpetuate rule over Sri Lanka, the ethical and moral arguments that cascaded in the wake of the easy passage of the Eighteenth Amendment were many and divergent in their content.

In one of the greatest contributions to parliamentary history, M A Sumanthiran’s address on the debate on the Eighteenth Amendment deserves a special place. Amidst a cacophony of disturbances and heckling emanating from the government-benches, Sumanthiran delivered a masterpiece. Quoting a statement issued by some leading academics at the time, Sumanthiran said thus: ‘By choosing to amend the constitution through an urgent bill the entire process of reform has been expedited, if not short-circuited, and no room has been left for any kind of public debate let alone public consultation. Under a Constitution that explicitly recognizes the “Sovereignty of the People” that process is not acceptable, especially when no convincing reasons have been given as to the need to expedite this process. Indeed, the most distressing aspect to this whole process is the lack of interest in government ranks on the need to raise awareness, let alone build consensus, among the general public on the need for such urgent reform.’

The unusual rush applied by the Rajapaksa government to facilitate passage of the Bill was a clear indication of the ill-faith with which the Bill was introduced. This is the time the so-called custodians of Buddhism could have risen to the occasion and taken a stand on the side of the masses. Instead they unleashed the notorious thugs of the BBS. Both Chapters of the Siam Nikaya, Malwatte and Asgiriya, were conspicuously silent when Gnanasara was in full rampage a couple of years ago. They refused to condemn him and in a vicarious sense, they condoned his deplorable and obscene public and private conduct. Buddhist clergy and its hierarchy is built in such a way, its flexibility was used as an excuse to stay silent on matters of monk-discipline. In other words, the crude exercise of quietude when the very fundamental teachings of the Teachings were challenged, the Heads of the Sanga Sasana opted to side with the ‘fundamentalists’ of a different kind, of the modern day twenty first century variety.

Now those fundamentalist propensities are being openly represented by the two Chapters of the Siam Nikaya and other heads of the Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas. Their willful engagement in the process of the debate on the new Constitutional changes is not only old and hackneyed; it’s dangerously close to interfering in secular affairs of government. Secularity in governmental matters is profoundly significant in that negation of secularity would mean, especially in the context of a democratic pluralistic society such as Sri Lanka, what was relevant in dictatorial monarchs as was in ancient Ceylon during the reigns of Kings and Queens, is not applicable anymore. Even during such reigns, according to Chanakya, arguably the first ever social scientist known in human history, the fundamental function of a ruler is to make his people ‘fearless’. The very construction of a monarch goes against such principles of secularity and all sense of objectivity and ‘consensus’ element of democracy, a system of government that developed over the last three centuries.

Whether one likes it or not, we are committed to the basic principles of democracy and safeguards of basic human rights as pronounced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. We should not be swayed by parochial propensities of tribal instincts. What was most relevant and applicable to a monarchical rule should not be allowed to prevail upon a much more acceptable and wiser way of governance, social intercourse and civilized life and thought. Buddhism taking pride of place during the days of our Kings is not only more acceptable at the time, it was more natural. But when Ceylon gained Independence, she was not only was freed of the colonial shackles that bound her to the British Raj, she also graduated from a feudalistic socio-economic way of life into a fully-fledged democracy in which governments are elected and rejected by the people by virtue of the Universal Franchise granted unto her in 1931.

Unfortunately, our Buddhist clergy seems to be still living in the past and that was mainly facilitated by the 1972 Constitution that granted ‘Special Status’ to Buddhism. The irony of this ‘Special Status’ is that when such special provision is written into the constitution, it is impossible to take it away, specifically in the context of democratically elected governance. These nuanced arguments are beyond the average rural voter. Not that they are not learned enough to digest such sophisticated constitutional affairs of government, but that they simply do not have time to think of such matters that they think are out of the realm of material value to them. Besides, their allegiance to the Dharma is grossly understated by the Colombo-living pundits. Whether their allegiance is profoundly philosophical or abjectly superficial, the faith in ‘the land, the faith and the race’ is however ungainly, is deep-rooted and unshakeable.

What was ominously initiated by Galagoda Atte Gnanasara has is now being ordained by the Highest of the High Monks in the Buddhist clergy. The hue and cry about a Muslim invasion of the local businesses and legitimate Tamil rights would result in Sri Lanka becoming a satellite of Pan-Tamilism, has become a very justifiable grievance of the ‘majority’. When politics become entrenched in ethnic and religious shades, governance also becomes entrapped in the same gory muddy trenches. That is why no advance in the sphere of ethnic harmony and religious tolerance is visible in the near future.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com                                       

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    This is non-hindus and non-buddhists want their way. that is why. why buddhists whether monks or lay people cannot assert our selves eventhough a assertiveness is a christian habit.

    • 0
      0

      According to linguists and geneticists all inhabitants of Srilanka belong to one and the same ethnicity – Sinhalised Tamils, Tamilised Tamils and Islamised Tamils.

  • 4
    2

    If a monk speak in favor of Federal solution he is a pious Buddhist monk (e.g. Dambala Amila). If a monk speak against Federal solution, destruction of archeological sites, he is a fascist, fundamentalist, yellow clad thug (e.g. Ghanasara).

    Buddha as a social reformer talked against caste system, slaughter of animals as sacrifice. Buddha advised Licchavi Kings and preached ‘Dasa Raja Dharma.

    What are “legitimate Tamil rights”?

    • 2
      0

      Eagle Eye,

      Mahawamsa is an Insult to the Buddha.

      Sinhala “Buddhism” is an insult to Buddhism.

      • 1
        0

        Absolutely agree, Amarasiri.

        Thank you for speaking these home truths so clearly and so unambiguously. It is time that some of us broadcast to the whole world that Buddhism must rise above all forms of chauvinism and partisan thinking. It belongs to all, and is universal.

    • 1
      0

      Eagle Eye ~ “What are ‘legitimate Tamil rights’?”
      The right to enjoy the ‘rights of all Lankans including that of the Sinhala-Buddhists’

  • 2
    5

    This writer has conveniently or surreptitiously not disclosed a significant historical fact viz when the Kandyan convention was signed by representatives of the King of England and Chieftains of the Kandyan kingdom the conquerors undertook to recognise the place of Buddhism as the foremost religion in the country. That status has to continue despite the continuous efforts of evangelists, stealthy Christian missionaries, and other religious adventurers sneaking into the country from time to time. This kind of pseudo historical diatribe by non Buddhists like Visvamitra makes everyone not any the wiser.

    • 5
      0

      Percy,

      Grow up please. The Kandyan Convention was meant for the Kandyan Kingdom only and there was a clause to delimit. You the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists subverted the truth and causing misery to all.

      • 0
        3

        Burning issue the Kadyan Convention was for the Kandyan kingdom as the rest of the country was already under Brit rule. Suggest you read some history as I would also say to Diogenes who is quoting some dates which are of the least interest to me and I can’t see the point he is making other than to tell the world that he is familiar with PE Peiris.How childish? Tut. Tut.

        • 3
          0

          Percy,

          Man please get real! When the Kandyan Convention was signed, the North and South were being administrated separately. Pay attention to clause that delimit the effect to the Kandyan Kingdom only! Do you know that the Kandyans were the first people to demand federalism? How old are you?

          • 0
            0

            You are perfectly correct which the racist Percy is trying to cover up. When British took over from Dutch, Kandyan kingdom was not under their possession. British continued to rule with Jaffna separately from rest of the land. Kandyan Kingdom fell in 1815 and even after it fell British continued to administer the three kingdoms separately. It was only in 1833 for administrative convenience that all three kingdoms were merged into one. Therefore when the Kandyan convention when it was signed was only applicable to Kandyan kingdom. It is interesting to note that when British first took possession from Dutch. the lands in Srilanka were administered by east India company stationed in Madras.

        • 1
          0

          Percy

          Its time you changed your pseudonym and your avatar came back with new identity.

          Your typing smells like weeks old unsold stale Vaddei.

    • 3
      1

      As per the convention Buddhism given foremost place only in the Kandyan Sinhalese areas and not in other parts of the country, especially in the Tamil areas. Do not rewrite history to suit your racist agenda. Oh you forgot the last King of Kandy, as well as few of the kings before him, were all Tamil speaking Naickers from Madurai or Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu and the court language of the kingdom of Kandy was both Sinhalese and Tamil. Half the so called Kandyan chiefs who signed the convention signed it in Tamil and many of them belonged to prominent Kandyan families. This include the ancestor of well know anti Tamil Srimavo Bandaranaicke nee Ratwatte. Her great great grandfather signed his name as Ravathai in Tamil , which the family later Sinhalised to Ratwatte to keep their lands and wealth. It was during her time in the early 1960s Tamils living along the north western coast were forcibly Sinhalised. Overnight the medium of instruction changed from Tamil to Sinhalese. In the 1970s she changed the demography of Trincomalee from predominantly Tamil to Tamils being made a minority. It was during her era that standardisation was introduced to deny Tamil students higher education. A Muslim minister connived with her so that Muslims can benefit. She made Buddhism the sate religion. The great grand daughter of Tamil Naicker immigrants from Tamil Nadu like many of the Tamil origin Kandyan aristocracy became the biggest anti Tamils. The irony is they all may be closely related to ardent Tamil nationalist politician in Tamil Nadu Vaiko who is also a Naicker or to even famous Tamil/Bollywood movie star Sri Devi another Tamil Naicker from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu

    • 2
      1

      Percy

      Could you cite your source to support your typing.
      If you couldn’t find the source then its alright.

    • 1
      0

      Percy,

      Buddhism will survive even if every temple is demolished and razed to the ground. It will survive in the minds of the intelligent. It is only those who are insecure and suffer from hatred who want to “save” it.

      There is nothing we can do to “save” Buddhism. Instead we should allow Buddhism to save us.

  • 4
    0

    Percy, read man .. read history. Read particularly Paul E Pereis. The Kandyan convention was not signed on the 2nd of March but on the 11th by some of the Nilames. But Galagoda , Ehelepola and Pilimathalawe signed on the 18th of March. Galagoda signed only after he was assured that Buddhism and the local customs of the Sinhalese would be protected. However, it is said that the signatures of the last mentioned Nilames differ from their signatures that appear in their later correspondence. Gnaanasaara the monkish thug who is a disgrace to Buddhism has nothing to do with the said chieftain Galagoda. Although that bugger is clad in yellow robes he is no Buddhist.

    • 2
      1

      Yes and this convention relates to the handing of the Kingdom of Kandy to the British and does not relate to the rest of the county , that was already under British control. Understood. Therefore anything signed in this agreement relates only to the Kandyan Kingdom not to the rest of the country.

      • 1
        1

        Are you saying then that all up-country Tamils should be evicted from the Kandyan Kingdom?

        • 1
          0

          And all Sinhalese from the north and east?

  • 2
    1

    V., as always a great analysis. But, the Sinhalese are condemned to play out their destiny as a people who will forever live in the Mahavamsa shit-hole. This mentality has come to be ingrained in them for so long by their calculating leaders. There has been Sinhala Only and Budhism only since 1956 but where has that got them. The Sinhalayas do not realise that their clergy and their leaders take them for a ride. Tell me a Sinhala leader who did not send their children to study abroad. It is Sinhala Only for the peasants and English Only for the Sinhala elite who can retain power forever by playing the ethnic-religious card. So, the SAITM issue. The Sinhala elite send their children abroad to study medicine- Chandrika, GL being examples. The Sinhala middle class which cannot afford foreign education cannot educate them in private schools. the GMOA which fleeces the Sinhala sick will not allow it. SO, the story goes on. When all you have to do is to shave your head and wear a yellow cloth by day and do misdeeds by night, why not have the free mercedes, the free beef and the other goodies? If the Sinhalayas produce a Prabaharan, may be the story will change. Until they have their corrupt politicians, Mahavamsa mud hole will be the hole the Sinhalays will make bigger over time.

  • 2
    1

    This guy, Gnanasara, is the epitome of the Sri Lankan Buddhist priest. He looks and behaves like a professional wrestler. His bellicose manner, his shoulder muscles exposed and his one finger salute will qualify him for a star place in the world wresting federation, where you also get to wrestle with female wrestlers. Can we please send him there?

    He is also suitably black, disproving all theories about the Sinhalaya being Aryan. I wonder how he got into the Siam Nikaya which takes in only Goigama usually Kandyan people, who are supposed to be fair to the presence of Robert Knox and his buddies among them. He should be in the Karawe or Salagama sect like the Amarapura Nikaya. That will make him what he really is, a descendant of Tamils who came from Malabar or Kerala.

    It is said that Hilter had Jewish blood. He had to shed so much of blood to tell himself that he was not Jewish. Is that what the buddhist monks are doing? Telling themselves that they are not Tamils despite their Tamil origins.

    • 1
      1

      Re-read what you have posted. The most racist comments that would never be allowed on a liberal Western website.

      • 3
        0

        Racist comments and racists like the present the Sinhalese Buddhists will never be allowed in western society

      • 1
        0

        Paul

        Are you saying/confirming you are incapable of typing most racist comments in this forum?

        If you have a liberal, secular, democratic, state …………….where people make informed choices, rational, then of cause people will behave themselves, but then this is Sri Lanka why do you expect the fellow forum sharers to type responsibly?

        You are one of the covert/overt supporter of Sinhala/Buddhist theocracy, happy to build a ghetto, ………………….. you don’t seem to mind fascist rule, nepotism, theft, …………………
        Why do you care?

  • 0
    0

    All religions as practiced tend to stray away from the fundamentals laid out by the founder. One will think that ‘fundamentalists’ will try to guide the practice to the correct path. Unfortunately this has become happy hunting grounds to a breed of fundamentalist who exploit religion for their own personal gains. In Lankan politics, Gnanasara belongs to this category.

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