22 January, 2018

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Neo-Colonialist Seneviratne Posing As A Buddhist Revolutionary

By H.L.D. Mahindapala

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Regurgitating the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist propaganda, first  injected into the political mainstream by G. G. Ponnambalam, in 1939 at Navalapitiya,  has been the forte of the one-eyed theoretician, H. L. Seneviratne. (HLS). He  has made a career out of his  “Sinhala-Buddhist World View”, to use his fanciful lingo, which is nothing but another derogatory term for Ponnambalam’s “Mahavamsa mentality”. The primary task of an academic, in addition to teaching, is to conduct objective research in  order to shine a light on hidden / unknown  aspects for societies to find a way out of crises in which they are stuck. But there isn’t single bit of empirical evidence or insight in  his latest anti-Sinhala-Buddhist article, published in two parts in Colombo Telegraph, that throws any new light into the Sri Lankan past or the future. However, he comes  out with an idea which he considers to be revolutionary. He is telling the Sangha that the time has come to stage a revolution to reverse the historical forces of “1956” and replace it with the pristine principles of pure Buddhism. Obviously, this Professori can’t be from this planet. Even a Bambalawatte school boy would dismiss another “Sangha Revolution” as a fiddle-faddle fantasy that could sprout only in a vacuous head floating in the Andromeda clouds.

He  is virtually asking the Sangha to take over and dismantle the society that Sinhala-Buddhist culture had built over the centuries and revitalise it with the Philosophical ethics of Buddhism. On the surface of it there seems to be some merit in it. But how realistic is it? Not only Buddhists, all religionists in various parts of the world yearn to restore the pristine  purity of their religions. Various millenarian movements have arisen in Europe and the East to take their societies back to the so-called “golden age” when everything was so pure and ethical, as imagined  by the reformists. So the available historical evidence, both at home and abroad, confirm that HLS’s theories are not only pie-in-the-sky shibboleth but also old as Sri Pada. He  has nothing new to say for anyone to find their way out from the current plight. This is the fundamental flaw in HLS’s articles and books. He is either rehashing anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism first launched by Ponnamabalam in the  thirties, or trying to create “Yellow Revolutions” and take the nation back to that lotus-eating land which never existed except in his pipe dreams.

He says: “In Sri Lanka, it is unfortunately the worldview of Sinhala Cultural Buddhism that has overwhelmingly taken hold over the society, to the near exclusion of Philosophical Buddhism. Our challenge therefore is to try and imbue the society with the universalist ethicality of Philosophical Buddhism, and its ethos of urbanity, civility and modernity; and, I am calling upon the more educated and dynamic sections of the saṅgha to accept that challenge, and give leadership to a social movement for meeting it.” I don’t think even  Buddha during his time managed to “imbue the society with the universalist ethicality of Philosophical Buddhism, and its ethos of urbanity, civility and modernity.” So HLS is just whistling in the wind when he calls on the dynamic wing  of the sangha to reform the Sinhala-Buddhist civilisation to suit his fancies. If Buddha couldn’t do it how does he think that some modern day monks could do the impossible?

Take the example of Buddha himself. After he attained Enlightenment, Buddha, contrary to popular belief, did not retire into the forests to meditate, cut off from society. He spent the better part of his life moving with  kings, courtiers, merchants, intellectuals of the day, other religionists, ordinary folk and, on one occasion, he even auctioned the corpse of a prostitute, doing a zen-type of demonstration to show the way out of worldly illusions and suffering. It is, indeed, fair to ask how much of the ethics of Buddhist philosophy was Buddha able to inculcate into his society? To “imbue the society with the universalist ethicality of Philosophical Buddhism” is a big ask which only a super human being  may be – I  repeat, “may be” – able to  achieve in some distant time, far, far away from  our time in  some  utopian  land. I don’t think even Christ can change society even if he comes the Second Time. If he couldn’t do it the first time, as the Son  of God – a divine force who sacrificed his life to save mankind — I can’t  see how he can  do it the second  time. And I say this not to belittle Him  but seriously, questioning  the ability of any worldly / divine force to change the everlasting and unalterable  clash of dialectics which are at the core of history, moving  across the open-ended time and space providing erratic history to  choose many options. Let alone the lay society driven by secular  forces, how many sangha societies have been “imbued with the universalist ethicality of Philosophical Buddhism”? So when HLS talks  of “imbue(ing) the society with the universalist ethicality of Philosophical Buddhism” he is talking  through  his hat.

Even if he relies on his Western models of “philosopher-kings” (Plato) he will not be able to  find a  fitting example to justify his claim to take Sri Lanka back to his ideal state. In fact, Bertram Russell blamed Plato for breeding fascist dictators with  his notion of “philosopher-kings” who assumed that they knew what was best for society. He condemned the Platonic concept of “philosopher-king” for producing Hitlers and Mussolinis – the all-knowing “philosophers” with power to prescribe recipes for their ideals which turn out to be nightmares for their  victims.

But why go that far when we can test  the theories of HLS with the living examples? Let’s take the case of Sobitha Thero, the ideal moral model that would be considered by him as a fit and  proper agent to lead his proposed “Sangha rebellion”. The Thero’s political agenda was, I  believe, to enthrone the best tenets of ethical Buddhism. The “venassa” (difference) that was proposed by the Thera was to return to the pure Buddhistic principles. His ethical leadership, which was marketed as an alternative to the devalued Rajapaksa regime, became the dynamic Buddhist force that invigorated the Yahapalanaya movement to reach its peak in January 8, 2015.  HLS also adds that Ranil wrote a book on Buddhism preaching “political bana” that would transform society and bring it in line with Buddhist ideals. In the end, only Arjuna Mahendran and his  son-in-law, managed to attain the political nirvana promised in Ranil’s bana. In his article HLS admits that the movement led by Sobitha Thero has been a failure. So why is HLS floating the  idea of  another “Sangha revolution” which is most likely to end up in the lottery funds of the Foreign Ministry?

If he has any common sense he would  know that his proposed “Yellow Revolution” is never going to take off the ground. It is going to be like the revolution that was promised by the local Marxist. It never came  in the  form they expected. What came out of their Marxist theories was a gang of fascist criminals dressed up in fake Marxist-Leninist clothes. To this day the rag-tag remnants of the JVP “philosopher-kings”, some of whom are domiciled in bourgeois havens abroad, pose as defenders of human rights and champions of the oppressed working class and minorities, glossing over their criminal operations that violated the basic tenets in the UN Charter.

It was, of course, the most bizarre revolution in the history of Marxism. Marx predicted that the workers will be in the vanguard of the revolution. But the lumpen Marxists in the JVP led a bunch of schoolboys who were assigned to capture Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaiake, dead or alive. And, the climax of the JVP revolution came when the leaders abandoned the boys and fled, seeking refuge under a bed in a Buddhist temple in Panadura. Ain’t it hilarious that our misguided revolutionaries find  refuge ultimately in Buddhist temples which they had earlier condemned as evil obstructionists to progress and communal harmony? HLS too follows this line. He, of course, is hoping for a direct Revolt in the Temple. He condemns the Sinhala-Buddhists as the main cause for  the failure of good  governance since “1956” and then, in the same breath, he urges the dynamic monks to lead a revolution against the rest of the Sinhala-Buddhists. There is, no doubt, an urgent  need for change, radical change. But are the Buddhist monks the vehicle for that change?

In his proposed revolution HLS wants the Sangha to be in the vanguard. And then what? Can he guarantee that it won’t end up like Champika Ranawaka’s “Buddhist revolution” that is progressively going to  pieces? In any case, how many Buddhist revolutions does he want? Also how many Buddhist monks can he corral to overturn the biggest Buddhist revolution of “1956”? In all this there isn’t a shred of  evidence to prove that our Professor is capable of producing viable, rational, or even a moral proposal to save the day. As far as it is visible, HLS’s latest theoretical concoction is as inane as his plastic smile that spreads right across his face, from ear to ear, as if he is posing for an ad designed to sell  toothpaste.

Besides, reading through his text one finds an irreconcilable contradiction. HLS who is seeking a Sangha revolution to restore Buddhist ethics is, in the same breath, harking back to the colonial past as the idyllic haven which was destroyed by the Sinhala-Buddhist Revolution of “1956”. He  is indeed horrified that “1956” had occurred, overthrowing the English-speaking elite left behind by the colonial masters. They were the entrenched elite in the private, public and social sectors protecting, preserving  and perpetuating the colonial legacy to the last hole in golf. Apparently, the task he sets in his proposed revolution now is for the Sangha to take the nation back to the pre-“1956” era.

The task of all Afro-Asian nationalist leaders in the post-colonial period was to adjust the historical imbalances that deprived the oppressed indigenes their rightful place in history. But this inevitable historical trend has put HLS into a catatonic state. Why? Because he believes that the old colonial order had served the nation better than anything that came after “1956” – his bete noir. According to his judgement, anything tainted with Sinhala-Buddhism has ruined the nation. His alternative is to return  to neo-colonialism which would take us back  to “the good old days” of the British when everything was to his colonial taste. In essence, his argument  boils down to simply this: the English-speaking minority (6%), who wielded power through the English medium (the kaduwa), had done a good job of work and their rule should have been perpetuated even though such a rule would have forced the vast mass of the people who had lost their heritage and their  bearings to endure the indignities of colonialism and its alien culture for a lengthy period in the  post-independent era governed  by pukka brown  sahibs.

He is shedding buckets of tears, crying that post-1956 forces had removed the right of appeal to the Privy Council, not kept English as the third language as in Singapore, removed Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, not adhered to colonial type of law and order which would have continued to serve the colonial interest at all costs etc. All this is music to the ears of those who continue to believe that there would have been salvation if we continued to live in the British colonial hot house, without releasing the grass root forces that were moving subterraneously from the19th century and surfaced ineluctably in “1956”. The seismic movement of “1956” threw the English-speaking brown sahibs off balance. It was a period of transition. The old world was dying and the new world was struggling  to be born.

The primary task in this period of transition was to restore the just claims of the people whose rightful place in history was robbed by the colonial masters. The inequities and injustices of imperialism had to be adjusted. The victims of colonial history had a right to regain their lost heritage and place. Though late, voices are raised now in the ex-colonies by the victims of colonialism demanding  compensation. But HLS, who came from the village, is hailing  the colonial masters who burnt their homes, destroyed their crops, massacred all those above 18, denied their basic dignities and whipped his ancestors into line as white messiahs sent to save the native Sri Lankans. HLS refuses to accept that the villagers who had to bear the burden of imperialism for nearly five centuries, had a right to reclaim their history, their language and their religion.

The task of managing the period of transition between two worlds fell on the shoulders of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. The entire Westernised elite  in all communities, together with the English-speaking Vellala elite  in the  public service and professions ganged up against Bandaranaike. It  is  the power of the Westernised English-speaking elite that resisted the historic forces led by Bandaranaike. They demonised him. HLS continues to blame the post-Bandaranaike period as if all history began with Bandaranaike. He argues that everything went wrong after the advent of Bandaranaike. Condemning the post-Bandaranaike period he  yearns for the pre-Bandaranaike norms maintained by the colonial masters. His cultural cringe to be a white man makes him another “coconut” – brown outside white inside. The post-Bandaranaike period is so repugnant to him that if he had H. G. Well’s Time Machine he would not hesitate to take a quick ride, back in time, to the pre-Bandaranaike period and lock himself inside it to live in it forever.

He is disappointed that history has failed to fulfil his wishes. He is against open-ended history advancing on its own terms, leaving the ideological weirdos to stew in their own theoretical juices. His mission on earth is to root out “Sinhala-Buddhist World View”, through a revolution led by the  Sangha, Then – Hey Presto! – Sri Lanka could solve all its problems, including Bond scandal, corruption, inefficiencies, ethnic issues, constitutional problems, foreign exchange, unemployment, floods, droughts, mountains of garbage, you name it. Pah!

Theorising without taking  into consideration the ground realities only makes him a hollow man with his headpiece filled with straw which even the mad cows won’t eat.

To be continued….

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Latest comments

  • 8
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    I have been reading your anti-religious polmics for many years now…as an atheist you think that human reason alone could guide humanity..
    No religious faiths is needed to guide humanity…that is what I get from reading your articles.
    My contention is opposite to your one ..
    Humanity is peril due the fact humanity follow human desire and human whems and no divine instructions..that is the cause of all evils..
    How many millions people have been killed in WW1,&ww2 and all wars and man made fights and war ..why you blame God for action of human?
    I think all religious faiths help humanity ..

    A real Buddhist is better than greedy non practising Buddhist..
    A real Christian is better than non practising Christian..
    Likewiase in all regions..
    Problem is not religion it is human brains and human ego and human evil thought..
    To.some.extend religion failed nurture them …
    But it is human problems not divine one …
    I hope you read more on all religions may God guide you before you die ..
    When you die you will see the truth ..

    • 6
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      Dr NAS—————–“as an atheist you think that human reason alone could guide humanity”_ Who said he is an atheist? Well this public racist was one of the early converts to Anagarika Dharmapala’s Sinhala/Buddhist fascism, a religious cult of a noisy minority.

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      Spring Koha, old codger, Ken, Uthugan, ……………………….. Where are you?

  • 6
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    Clearly HLD Mahindapala has not understood Prof HLS. He will say the same nonsense in the “To be continued……..”.

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      K.Pillai ————“Clearly HLD Mahindapala has not understood Prof HLS” ———-Does this public racist understand his own typing, leave alone anything substantial from intellectual giants.? ——————————————————————————————————————-

      It’s normal for children to need attention and approval. However, attention-seeking becomes a problem when it happens all the time. Even charming attention-seeking can become controlling. Many children make tragedies out of trivial concerns to get your sympathy. Excessive attention-seeking results in a situation where your child commands your life. -familyeducation.com————How Much Attention Is Too Much? ———I thought the above is useful when handling a person who is going through his second painful childhood.

  • 1
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    HLS has openly expressed the secret wish of every anti Sinhala Buddhist ” If only these rice eating idiots who have become a persistent pain in the neck can be fooled to follow Buddha’s path of universal compassion to the letter and spend their time meditating His sublime philisophy we can smoke them out with a cigarette butt” What better way than coaxing the guardians of the Sinhala race to take the lead for self destruction themselves to achive this asks SLS. No one wishes us Nibbana within this life so fervently than anti Sinhala Buddhists. 90% of Colombo Telegraph articles and comments are devoted to preaching Buddhism to Buddhists. ——–Soma

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    H.L.D. Mahindapala the public racist types: —————–“He spent the better part of his life moving with kings, courtiers, merchants, intellectuals of the day, other religionists, ordinary folk and, on one occasion, he even auctioned the corpse of a prostitute, doing a zen-type of demonstration to show the way out of worldly illusions and suffering. ” as if he witnessed Buddha’s activities personally. ———-Yet Buddha the awakened one’s teachings had failed to educate the Goebbels of failed Sri Lankan media. ———— How dare this public racist address world renowned academic Prof H. L. Seneviratne “one-eyed theoretician”? Another evidence of a country which thrives on anti intellectualism. This cultural revolution which started with the advent of Pancha Maha Balavegaya had legitimised all racist opinions and practices and embolden the bigots to earn a living out of bashing the minorities.

  • 5
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    The Malay Tun this time is more Buddhist than the Buddhists. Obviously there are different traditions of Buddhism. In the Sinhala-Buddhist variety, the Buddha time-travelled twice to Sri Lanka, blessed the Sinhala people ( such a people not being there in his time 2500 years ago) left his giant foot print on Adam’s Peek and made it his thrice blessed land. Buddha must have been super divine person which Mahindapalan decries. In one Hindu tradition, Buddha is an Avatar of Vishnu. Many Tamils believe this. Anyway after decrying the powers of the Buddha, he has his own interpretation of Sinhala-Buddhism that came after the racist “revolution” of 1956 when the “kaduwa” (ie. English), the only long thing the Mahindapalan can claim to have, as he writes in English and lives among the whites and eats Tamil curry.

    He is a mosquito weight fighting a super-heavy weight, an intellectual gnat ringing in the ear of an elephant – annoying but not lethal. Seneviratne may have got it wrong but has a cogent argument. The return to philosophical Buddhism is a necessary antidote to the present malaise in Sri Lanka which the racists and the likes of the Malay Tun, outdoing the Sinhalaya in his racism, have brought about. It is the rare racist who will take the beady-eyed Malay Tun seriously. The young in Sri Lanka have woken up to the fact that they have been misled by the Sinhala-Buddhist rhetoric of people like Mahindalpalan to ever take them seriously again.

  • 3
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    One wonders why the articulate HLDM choses to pour venom on HLS. Is it for the sin
    of what many liberal Lankans have been asking themselves – Why does not somebody save Philosophical Buddhism (to use HLS’s description) from the hands of different colours and forms of charlatans who have hijacked this philosophy from a man, yes man, from the Indian Subcontinent? After all this is a question decent and practising weary Buddhist men and women, throughout the country, have been asking for years. Their understandable lament is Sinhala Buddhism is only being utilised as a means to gain political power. That is what it has been from the time of SWRD to such self-proclaimed hollow champions like Dinesh G, Champika Ranawaka, Gammanpila – just to name a few impostors.

    HLS has raised a valid point – similar to what many in the world ask controversy-ridden Islam. That is, to say, It is time to begin the reform from within. HLS needs to be applauded for the timely thought – not condemned for the initiative..

    Kettikaran

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    [Edited out]HLS needs to remember that buddhism is the most democratic and Buddha allowed different views to be expressed and Devadatta like people lived their dreams even they lost it. HLS come and talk about Sanga rebellion now. Even now, Chief monks of Kande have allowed monks to think and behave freely and it looks monks act comeptely freely some times, even against what Buddha taught. So many non-buddhist accusations are the evidence to that. What is wrong now is Buddhists not thinking and acting on behalf of non buddhists and the sri lankan colonial mentality which gives predominence to christianb thinking. So, what I saym Sangha does not have to rebel anymore, except leaving the order if they can not do it properly. Other than that, Buddhists must reclaim their values by being christian buddhists. That is impose the buddhist values in Sri lanka and teach non-buddhists how to live. Ask the govt also to leave it to people who can do it as they are dithering and struggling without taking dicisions.

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    Mr. Mahindapala, —Thank you for the EXCELLENT article. It’s time take the dollar-eating anti-Sinhala-Buddhist by their horns.

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      Jonny Baby ————“Thank you for the EXCELLENT article.” —————–Is it a case of monkey praising its own tail? ——–You are a racist. Are you the public racist HLD M?

  • 2
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    HLDM,
    Are u a native of once Aboriginal domibated down under ? I say no even though I don’t know your DNA.

    The laughable matter is ,you’re blaming Prof HLSeniveratne “Apparently, the task he sets in his proposed revolution now is for the Sangha to take the nation back to the pre-“1956” era.”

    You are discrediting or insulting Prof HLS but can you do the same to Attorney -At-Law CV Vivekananthan
    for writing an analysis under the title “Prophocies of Bandaranayake ” ?
    Read this article and digest first. Then burb over the phone with smart patriot DJ.
    You are an insult to majority of the Sri Lankan Sinhalese Diaspora in Down Under and in other countries .

  • 2
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    “Regurgitating the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist propaganda, “

    Your disease is visible.

  • 1
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    I must congratulate HL Seneviratne on having received this diatribe from the likes of a Maindapala!
    HLS must be doing everything right to have received the woebegone and confused drivel from this son of mahinda!

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    Reading the comments, It makes me wonder,we have to die to met god, if he created us, to pray for him. He cannot heal the sins of man, did he create the Virus that infect us too, only man can find a cur

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