By Vishnuguptha –
Venerable Sirs, you failed the test, the country and the Great Teachings…
“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do if you do not act upon them?” These words articulated by Siddhartha Gautama two thousand and six hundred years ago, seem to have had no impact, either superficially or spiritually, on Your Reverence. As the traditional heads of the Buddhist Order, Maha Sangha, you chose, when that ‘gangster’ in saffron robes who identifies himself as Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero called on you both, to betray not only the trust of all loyal devotees of the Dharma, you betrayed the Dharma itself.
As reported in the news media, when Gnanasara met with Your Most Venerable, you failed to prevail upon this Dusseela monk to refrain from his anti-Buddhist activities. You failed to let him know that he had brought immeasurable dishonor and disrepute to the Maha Sangha and their devotees by indulging in a practice of religious debauchery and social perversion. Just because he was garbed in a Saffron robe and just because he knelt down at your feet, all seem to have been forgotten and forgiven. Forgiveness is indeed a greatly appreciable deed yet to let this kind of modern-day ‘Devadattha’ free is the unkindest cut of all. You may have whispered into his ear what he ought or ought not to be doing, but whatever was exchanged between this Dusseela monk and you must be heard by the rest of the world. As Your Eminence may well be aware, there is no secrecy in Buddhist practices; Lord Buddha did not practice his great philosophy nor did he preach his teachings in whispers and murmurs. His way of teaching was an open book.
Leave nothing to evil gossiping; spare no effort to get at the truth and never be tired of inquiry and probe- these eternal teachings have enriched man; they have been a guiding light to humanity for generations and they shall remain so for another millennium. In such a noble context, how could it be that a one like Gnanasara was allowed to defame and defile those who are supposed to be the custodians of that very noble message? That is the crux of the issue. No announcement or pontification from any layman, politician or otherwise, would have the weight or severity of condemnation carried by those who occupy the highest echelons of ‘the Order’ nor would any layman do it for obvious political reasons.
This dilemma which has gripped this nation does not seem to have escaped the sublime minds of Your Reverence too. First of all, please do remember that Siddhartha Gautama was a human being. He was no deity nor was he propounded to be an offspring of a deity. So are you. In that context, it is quite reasonable for any ordinary devotee or follower of Buddhism to reconcile himself or herself to the fact that humans do make mistakes and if wisdom, instead of parochial emotions, is put into useful exercise, it might dawn on them that Your Reverence too are under enormous pressure, not so much from any political quarters but from the burden of generations-old myths and fantasies.
But you know in your hearts of hearts that what cascaded from the Buddha’s pure teachings was not what these members of the Senas and Balakayes are talking about. But just because it provides you with a phony ‘comfort zone’, you have chosen to stay within that comfort zone. Just imagine what the history of mankind would have been like, if two thousand six hundred years ago, an Indian Prince by the name of Siddhartha who was showered with all the worldly comforts and reassurances chose to remain in that comfort zone even after beholding the ‘four inauspicious signs’ (Sathara Pera Nimithi)- old age, the sick, the deceased and a monk. The ‘Great Renunciation’ that eventually culminated in ‘Nirvana’, the realization of the ‘Four Noble Truths’, was undertaken by a ‘princely’ man who had all mundane and cushy life with women, wine and song. That glorious departure from worldly comforts, albeit resulting in great pain of mind to Queen Yasodara, paved the way for millions of ordinary men women and children to stay away from devilish deeds and sinful habits. The unmatched quality of Buddhist thought and its practical application to day-to-day life has made Buddhism a way of life rather than a theological scripture which only an elitist-minded scholar could understand and practice. That unique character of this Great Teaching has taught us to be more patient than repulsive, more understanding than abstract and more considerate than self-centered.
Given that context, I would like to quote the following from another great teacher of India, Ravindranath Tagore:
“Leave this chanting and singing and
telling of beads! Whom dost thou
worship in this lonely dark corner of a
temple with doors all shut? Open
thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling
the hard ground and where the path-maker
is breaking stones. He is with them
in sun and shower, and his
Garment is covered with dust. Put off
thy holy mantle and even like him come
down on the dusty soil!”
If the current trend of these ‘monks’ is allowed to continue without any warning or reprimand by those who have the moral authority- albeit being devoid of any technical power- more and more devotees would turn away from the ‘dark corners’ of your temples and seek lighter shades. Vicissitudes of faith does not always result from forced conversion; it could also follow the sudden realization of the emptiness of the prevailing faith and beliefs.
These cultural vacuums created by the dastardly conduct of a handful of charlatan-monks would indeed spell the death of the Light of Asia- Buddhism in its purest form and practice.
Sir Edwin Arnold wrote and published one hundred and thirty five years ago in 1879, the Light of Asia so that the light that shone two thousand six hundred year ago could spread its splendor and sheen on the Occident. And his final stanza of that great masterpiece says thus:
Ah! Blessed lord! Oh, high deliverer!
Forgive this feeble script, which doth thee wrong.
Measuring with little wit thy lofty love.
Ah! Lover! Brother! Guide! Lamp of the law!
I take my refuge in thy name and thee!
I take my refuge in thy law of good!
I take my refuge in thy order! Om!
The dew is on the lotus! — rise great sun!
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
Om mani padme hum, the sunrise comes!
The dewdrop slips into the shining sea
May this “Light of Asia” be not extinguished from this land of ours.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org