By Indi Samarajiva –
I’m a Buddhist and have the utmost respect for the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, that being the community of practice. There are, however, claimed and robed Buddhists who are a shame to us all, to all Sri Lankans. For example, in Panamai, a mob led by a Buddhist monk has stolen a statue from a Hindu Kovil, a place where it was safe for Buddhists or Hindus to worship. This violent thuggery is an affront to all people of faith, and everyone really.
In a flagrant violation of law and order and the freedom of worship, an ancient statue of God Pillaiyar also known as Vinayagar and Ganesh was seized by a mob and taken away from the Sithi Vinayagar Hindu temple in Panamai /Panama in broad daylight on Monday August 6th.
The “captured” Pillaiyar statue has been taken to the Buddhist Vihare in Panamai by the mob comprising thugs, homeguards and members of the armed forces in civil attire. The entire operation was masterminded and commanded by a Buddhist Priest.
The Pillaiyar statue is now being kept in the premises of the Panama Buddhist Vihare. (DBS Jeyaraj)
Despite the ethnic conflict, there hasn’t traditionally been religious beef. I have worshiped at and slept in Hindu Kovils and temple premises alike. Most temples have a Hindu shrine built-in. Trishaw and bus iconography usually has the Buddha plus a range of other gods, often Vishnu. Lakshmi pours coins from her palm at the front of many buses. Also, in practice, many Buddhists worship at Hindu kovils or shrines, especially if they need a particular result, exam score or something, which the Buddha is not especially attached to.
Also, at the Sri Maha Bodhi shrine in Anuradhapura, services at that holy Buddhist place are done by Hindus, the descendants of a caste that came down generations ago, with the sapling I think.
This long history of community and shared practice makes sacrilegious events like this all the more sad. This and acts like ‘Buddhists’ threatening and evicting a mosque in Dambulla are a shame to both religion and nation. Sri Lanka is an ostensibly Buddhist state, but an open one, not a Taliban. Buddhism itself is incredibly open. On retreats I have always seen people of other faiths, and the libraries have a range of materials. The Buddha himself would never be so unwelcoming or rude.
The very idea of stealing a statue is so anti-Buddhist it boggles the mind. You’re stealing a Hindu statue? Why? There is some twisted permutation of Buddhism that makes this possible, but the fact remains that theft is pretty clearly wrong in our nation of laws, so these errant monks need to be hauled up for doing wrong.
This is against the law of the land, against local custom, and is a great shame to both the Sri Lankan faith and nation. This, what Jeyaraj calls Saffron Terrorism, needs to stop.