Colombo Telegraph

Protecting Buddhism From Extremist Monks

By Tassie Seneviratne

Tassie Seneviratne

There is widespread concern about the betrayal of Buddhism by extremist monks.  These concerns have been reflected in the media.  The Sunday Times Editorials of May 11th 2014 and June 22nd 2014 were entirely devoted to this serious concern.

I, though a Christian, have the highest respect and regard for Buddhism as it is the religion of over 75% of the people of this country.  Buddhism is a cultural heritage of our country that has to be protected and preserved in the manner laid down by its greatest teacher, Gauthama the Buddha. Due to its long history of Buddhism, our country is known as the Dhamma Dveepaya – the Island of Buddhism.  No lesser person than the enlightened Buddha has himself told his disciples that if they wished to honour him, they should follow his teachings.  His teachings have been divided into three main disciplines:-

  1. Pubba Hasi – Pleasant appearance; a smiling and friendly face.
  2. Pubba Bhasi – Pleasant and friendly speech.
  3. Pubba Kari — Pleasant and friendly action.

It is the breakdown in these disciplines that has led to conflict, hate and violence that are   spreading throughout the country raising serious concerns in all right thinking people of all religions.  Loving kindness, compassion, equanimity, patience,   tolerance and endurance are religious attributes generally common to Buddhism and Christianity – in fact to all religions.  Hence there is no justification at all for religious intolerance.  The enlightened Buddha preached these attributes 500 years before the advent of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

The danger today is that there are some people wielding enormous power who are misusing religious fervor for personal agendas.  The irony is that under cover of protecting Buddhism they are resorting to means diametrically opposed to the disciplines taught by the enlightened Buddha, thereby betraying Buddhism wholesale. Age old dirty tricks of unrighteous leaders, to distract the people when there is unrest in the country and their dues cannot be met, keep coming to the fore.  Shakespeare, through King Henry IV talking from his deathbed to his son at his succession, puts it like this :

“ ………….God knows, my son,

By what by-paths and indirect crook’d ways

I met   this crown; and I myself know well

How troublesome it sat upon my head:

To thee it shall descend with better quiet,

………………….

And by whose power I might lodge a fear

To be again displaced: which to avoid,

I cut them off; and had a purpose now

To lead out many to the Holy Land, (to wage war)

Lest rest and lying still might make them look

Too near unto my state.  Therefore, my Harry,

Be it thy course to busy giddy minds

With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,

May waste the memory of the former days.”

In the meanwhile there are also breakaways from different religions, forming sects with evil agendas causing aberrations to the body politic of this country.  These sects are not interested in the people or their respective religions, but are driven as suits their evil agendas.  As the activities of these sects have no bearing on any religion as such, they have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

The ‘Bodu Bala Sena’ (BBS) which enjoys the patronage of the Secretary Defence Gotabaya Rajapakse has come into much controversy and is being described as an Ethno Regligious Fascist movement. ‘Meth Sevana’, a cultural centre comprising of a library, dharmashala halls, meditation centres, and a number of mind relaxing places, situated on two hectares of land at Pilane, Wanchawala in Galle, was constructed and donated by a German philanthropist Michael Kreitmeir, to the Maha Sanga, obtained with the collaboration of the BBS amidst allegations that the property has been arrogated by the BBS. It was declared open by the Secretary Defence and Urban Development authority Gotabaya Rajapakse on 9th March 2013.He had earlier donated the Ashraff Memorial Hospital in Kalmunai in 2010 and International Maria Theresa College also in Kalmunai in 2011. Michael is a child-lover whose interest is to help destitute children. His projects are carried out under the name, Little Smile Association. There are rumblings suggesting paedophilia as the motive behind Michael Kreitmeir’s projects. It has to be borne in mind that all paedophiles are not necessarily child molesters, and vice-versa – all child molesters are not paedophiles. Clandestine sex is the strongest temptation a human being is confronted with – paedophile or otherwise.  Those in charge of women’s and children’s affairs are the most exposed to temptation – talk of stalkers also.  The Catholic Church too has its share of sex scandals. It is up to the individuals in charge of women and children to exercise restraint, and to the institutions concerned and state authorities to closely monitor institutions dealing with women and children.  As for the Little Smile Association which is a very large project, it will be in the best interest of all concerned that the Women and Children’s Bureau closely monitor its activities.  Nor can Michael Kreitmeir be expected to control the attitudes and conduct of the BBS, just because the Meth Sevana Project is his donation.

The task at hand is protection of Buddhism from extremist monks.  There is news that a separate Police Unit has been set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs to handle complaints related to religion.  What training they have in order to set about their job is a major question.  Proper training and being well informed are obvious prerequisites if the police unit is to deliver the desired results.  But in an environment where even the judiciary is being controlled, will the Police unit be able to act impartially in the light of the patronage of very powerful individuals that the people believe the mischief makers enjoy?  The motives behind these atrocities as discerned by the people and exposed in the media, send shudders through our bodies. However apart from the basic laws in the Penal Code, it would be appropriate for the special police unit to invoke provisions of the Buddhist Temporalities Ordinance, (Part v – Miscellaneous- that deals with appointment of Bhikkus), and act in concurrence with the Mahanayake Theras and the Nayake Theras of the respective Nikayas who are the appointing authorities of Samanera Bhikkus and Upasampada Bhikkus and who hold disciplinary authority over them, and with the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, if positive and righteous action is in fact intended.

*The writer is a retired Senior Superintendant of Police

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