28 September, 2020

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Rein In The Clowns

By Sharmini Serasinghe

Sharmini Serasinghe

Sharmini Serasinghe

What exactly does “giving the foremost place to Buddhism in the constitution” mean?

This question is related to a huge fuss being made by the saffron robed, and others, about the inclusion of Article 9 of the current Constitution, in the new Constitution of Sri Lanka, without any amendments.

As a Buddhist I ask, why does Buddhism need to be mentioned in the Constitution at all? What benefits has Buddhism, its followers and Sri Lankans as a whole derived, from it being given the “foremost place” in the current Constitution? Has the Dhamma become better than what the Buddha preached, since its initial mention in our Constitution?

What is starkly obvious by this hoo-hah, but not being articulated aloud is that, Buddhism be given pride of place, while other religions and faiths are relegated to, underdog status. If not, what else does it mean?

Is this the way to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in this country?

Next, I ask, as Article 9 of the current Constitution also includes, “……..it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana……” why, it must it be the duty of the State, to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana? Isn’t this the business of the Maha Sangha and its flock?

As all knowing Buddhists know, the Dhamma is indestructible and needs no protection from anything or anyone, least of all, a mere mention on paper; the Constitution, ensuring its supreme status. For, the Dhamma will always occupy the ‘foremost place’ in the minds of genuine Buddhists, irrespective of its mention in the Constitution or not.

However, despite Buddhism being accorded the “foremost place” in the current Constitution, its image in the eyes of the other stands greatly challenged today, as it has been sullied, not by others, but by those from within the Buddhist establishment; the likes of the abominable Gnanasara, his equally despicable Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), and all what they stand for.

Compounding this menace, we now have yet another saffron robed, Yakkalamulle Pawara and his Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa, claiming to “safeguard the identity of the Sinhala people, and to regenerate the supremacy and pride of the Sinhala people”.

Might I ask, safeguard our identity, from whom and what?

Might I also ask, what in heaven’s name is so “supreme” about the Sinhalese people? What have we, the Sinhalese achieved, others have not, to entertain such “pride”? I challenge all those out there, who keep chanting, “I’m proud to call myself a Sinhala-Buddhist”, to give me a valid answer to my questions, as so far, I have not.

Given the seeming inability on the part of the Maha Sangha, who remain as mere figureheads, to rein in these rampaging ‘monks’, whose only claim to monkhood, is the saffron robe they sport, it is incumbent upon the State to do so.

This ought to be, not only to safeguard the image of Buddhism, in this so called ‘cradle of Theravada Buddhism’, but more importantly, for the sake of reconciliation and peace in our land much ravaged, not by natural phenomena, but by the mentally challenged, amongst its human inhabitants.

The way in which this land is ‘marketed’ as a Buddhist country, first-time visitors may be pardoned, if they expect to see our Buddhist monks with halos above their heads. But instead of the men of peace, visibly refined, given to mindfulness and wisdom, which Buddhist monks are expected to be, we have the likes of Gnanasara, Yakkalamulle and their cohorts, hitting world headlines, for the humiliation and disgrace they have caused, and are still causing, to the image of Buddhism and Buddhists, of Lanka.

As mentioned before, the only claim these men (I refuse to call such, Buddhist monks) have to monkhood, is the saffron robe they wear. Once disrobed, they are nothing but rabble-rousing hooligans. Thus, they ought to be disrobed and punished, for desecrating the image of Buddhism in this country, and the saffron robe they wear.

It is incumbent upon the State, to repair the damage done to the image of Buddhism in this country, by none other than Buddhist monk themselves, by banning them across the board, from engaging in politics, and other business of the laity. If they must, then they ought to be ordered to disrobe. These charlatans, masquerading as Buddhist monks, have used and abused the sacred saffron robe associated with the Buddha and his disciples, for too long.

Politics is the business of the laity, and concerns only the laity, not Buddhist monks. Hence, they should also be instructed to keep their opinions relating to matters of the laity, to themselves, unless asked for.

The Buddhist laity of this country is, much to be blamed for the moral depths, Buddhist monks have stooped to, today. They have failed to respect the monastic conventions of a monk’s life, thus failing to support them to advance in their chosen path. For selfish gain, the laity has, over the years, tempted monks away from their path, and drawn them into their pathetically materialistic lay lives.

Tragically, Buddhist monks of today, in this so called ‘cradle of Theravada Buddhism’ have become symbols, of the good, the bad and the ugly; the latter being in the visible majority.

Most of those who join the Buddhist Order of monks today do so, not because of their understanding of the Dhamma, and commitment to propagating its message of peace, but to take advantage of the benefits accorded to monks, through our education system. There are also those ‘donated’ to temples by their parents for personal and foolish reasons, as well as freeloaders who enjoy the best of both worlds.

Except for the few and far between, they appear to have no idea of, or regard for what the Vinaya stands for. By the looks of it, those like Gnanasara, Yakkalamulle and their cohorts, don’t seem to have ever heard of it.

It’s not too late, for the sincere and good amongst the Buddhist clergy, to cleanse their order, by showing the door to the charlatans. The support of the laity is imperative in this regard, as a monk would find it impossible to live the life of a monk, without their cooperation; respect for monastic conventions. For this, the laity must be aware of what the Vinaya stands for, and establish a relationship with monks accordingly.

Hopefully, this would give rise to a renewed relationship of mutual respectability and sincerity, between the Buddhist clergy and the laity, and repair the damage done to the image of Buddhism, in this so called ‘Miracle of Asia’.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    2

    Congratulations Shamini! You called a Spade a spade. This is nothing but acid, Thanks!

    Here is the billion dollar question:
    Has the Dhamma become better than what the Buddha preached, since its initial mention in our Constitution?

    And these two are of no lesser value.
    Might I also ask, what in heaven’s name is so “supreme” about the Sinhalese people?

    why, it must it be the duty of the State, to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana?

    You have said what I always wanted to say. With you one hundred and one percent on this

  • 7
    2

    Sharmini;

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, that Buddhist ‘Monks’ are mistakingly, preaching to the People about a ‘Sinhala/Buddhist’ Culture.

    What is this Culture?

    You can have a Sinhala Culture, of Art, Music, Dance and Crafts, but Buddhist Culture is Sacrosant! It cannot be Sinhala/Buddhist!

    The Buddha’s Dhamma is a Culture of the Mind, for all Humans, not the Outward Trappings of Various Ethnic origins!

    Even the Sinhala/Buddhist Rituals that people follow now, and are mistaken for Buddhist Culture, are not the Rituals that were followed 70 years ago.

    • 6
      1

      Hamlet,

      Sinhala-Buddhist culture is, the Mahavamsa culture. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • 7
    0

    I tend to largely agree with the writer’s perspectives on the role of religion in a country’s constitution.

    To her critics; I would like them to ponder on these matters:

    1. During the previous regime, when Buddhism was ‘protected’ by the state together with self-proclaimed religious persons, did Buddhism “prosper” or decline in its image, practice or usefulness in Sri Lanka?

    2. Are Sri Lankans more in accord with Buddhist teachings than now?

    3. A popular notion is that Sinhala-Buddhists in the military “saved” Sri Lanka from terrorism. Was it as a result of them being Sinhala-Buddhists or Buddhism being “protected” or seen as ‘supreme’ by all observers that the war was won?

    4. How many commentators who castigate her as being disloyal to SL or as acting according to foreign NGO agendas have experienced what it is like to be discriminated against, as a minority member of the community?

    5. Can they quote some developed multi-cultural nations where a majority is given special pride of place (in religion or other cultural practice)being relatively peaceful?

    6. Would you agree that politicians have always exploited divisions among people, to rule? If so, would it not be in the interests of rogue politicians to create divisions?

    Thank you.

  • 4
    1

    Any religion prevails only when adherents practice it. For all intents and purposes Buddhism is now considered a religion. Simply said it was when SWRD politicised the Monkhopton and started using them as a tool to sway the Buddhist voter’s thought process was the equilibrium unbalanced. Was his demise poetic justice?
    The wide spectrum of monk militancy judging from the plethora of their associations (from benign to virulent) is alarming because they are but a facade to religious supremism.It’s easy to say that they should be reined in, but no government wants to test the water.
    Tabs in one hand and cudgels in the other they have free rein!

  • 4
    1

    Ours is a multicultural secular society.Let us ensure it is protected. Sri Lanka is for all true Sri Lankans regardless of ethnicity. To me this is scrocant

  • 6
    0

    Dear Sharmini

    Thank you for your frank and intuitive comments on this controversial subject. As always, you are spot-on. Of course, dogs will bark, but the caravan must move on!

    What I can’t understand is that these extremists and their political backers are so morally and conceptually bankrupt that all they have to offer is one-eyed ideas like Sinha Le, which completely obliterates what I understand the true teachings of the Dhamma is all about.

    What all right-thinking people in this country must do is to reject these thugs, as they have done in the last two elections, and send them into political oblivion. We don’t need any more divisions in this beautiful country.

    We’ve seen the mayhem caused. Why can’t these morons understand that this country has to move forward without looking back at our mis-guided history? Steps should be taken to correct this anomaly too. We have enough reputed archaeologists to refute the Mahawamsa (I think Paranavitharna did so first!) and scientifically investigate and construct a true version of our history.

    As someone said, who gave us the authority to take it upon ourselves to be the be-all and end-all of Theravada Buddhism, when we are just about 18 million our of 148 million Buddhists in the world??

    There’ll be a few more dogs barking at this too!!

    Cheers
    Suresh

  • 4
    0

    Sharmini Serasinghe

    Your article is Fantastic! It is very well written and you certainly have a lot of courage to have mentioned all these facts.

    Religion should not be mentioned in the Constitution at all. If the State is to be fair then they should take responsibility to protect and foster all religions in Sri Lanka.

    People should be able to live freely, be treated with respect and have equal opportunities. Respect is earned and to have a peaceful coexistence and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, people need to practice being broad minded and be considerate of others. No one is better than anyone else so there is nothing ”supreme” about the Sinhalese people!

    It would be great if the Buddhist priests practice ”Karuna”, ”Metta” and ”Maithriya” towards all. I am very sad to say that there are many under privileged people in Sri Lanka who can barely afford the basics but there are Buddhist priest who are living the lives of the wealthy! This is so wrong and unethical.

    Some of the Buddhist priest living overseas are basically businessmen, they do jobs and even loan out money on interest. I feel they are feathering their own nests and not interested in the religion itself. This is corruption! Furthermore, I would like to add that these priests are invited to other events they should never be invited to – one particular instance was at a cultural show / dinner dance hosted by the Sri Lankan association and the ambassador was seated at the same table!

    In the 1980’s in Myanmar, the government disrobed several monks as they were not following the pancha sila and engaged in unreligious acts. I wonder whether this will ever happen in Sri Lanka.

    • 2
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      There are many Buddhist monks on Facebook too. Some have even had the audacity to flirt with me via fb messenger. Disgusting.

  • 2
    0

    I agree with Saroja! I too have received facebook requests from priests. Infact, one time we were all invited to an formal occassion held by the Sri Lankan association and I had to pick up certain people and one of them was the priest. He refused to sit in the back seat and was busy admiring the ladies in my car including me. The next day I met the priest and told him that he needs to leave his robes and find greener pastures!

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