Colombo Telegraph

Response To “The Black Abaya & Majjhima-Patipada”

By Kapila Abhayawansa

Prof Kapila Abhayawansa

The article “The Black Abaya & Majjhima-Patipada” – (CT, 27. 11. 2015) by Mr. Mass L. Usuf tries to give the impression that the article is a clarification of his views that were not correctly understood by me when I responded (CT 21. 11. 2015) to his first article “Cultural Invasion – In The Wake Of The Abaya”. I don’t think that there were very deep views expressed by Mr. Usuf, that cannot be understood even by anyone except one who is illiterate. Though he says that he explained the universal principle of modesty with the example of the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun, to those who read his article it was not a secret that his sole intention was to promote black abaya justifying it by way of Buddhist teachings.

His example of the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun itself proves that he is trying to compare the dress that covers head and face with the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun in order to consolidate his opinion on balck abaya. Therefore, I don’t find any difference of his intention even in his second article “Black Abaya & Majjhima-Patipada” from the earlier one rather than an attempt to reestablish it.

Anyhow he starts his response to my article with the half way wrong translation of the 2nd verse of Dhammapada. The first part of his translation namely, All we are is the result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thought. is incorrect. Ii is completely a misrepresentation of the teaching of the Buddha, In the correct way it should be All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. There is a vast difference between the translation shown by Mr Usuf and the correct version of it. It is very wrong to use misrepresentation of Buddhist teaching to prove one’s own selfish idea.

Distinction of Dress form of abaya does not depend on its colour. But it must say that the black colour further strengthen its distinction. Mr Usuf points out that The Professor says that the people would perceive the dress-form of covering the body as extremism. Based on this logic, we have to accept that the bikkhuni is also an extremist. She also covers her body just as the Muslim woman does; the only difference is the colour. I think that Mr. Usuf is not blindfolded to see the difference between the dress that covers from the head to the feet and the dress of the Bhikkhuni. The dress of the bhikkhuni is not a blockage to her face. Buddhism is not an extremism to the extent that it intends to control the desire of people by means of dresses. It is possible that the hidden head with face can produce the curiosity of the mind of the people. That itself would be a danger to women. It is proven truth that sex crimes are comparatively, occurring more in the countries where women are restricted in their dresses than in the countries where women are given freedom to choose dresses on their own accord.

It is reported in the Their gathā that there was a bhikkhuni who was said to be an arahant by the name Subhā Jïvakambavanikā lived at the time of the Buddha and plucked one of her eyes and handed to a youth who was mad in sensuality seeing her eyes. Even on such an event the Buddha did not ask bhikkhunis to wear a garment similar to Abaya which covers the entire body,
On my statement that Sri Lankan social context is different, Mr. Usuf asks a question as to a bhikkhuni visiting another country change her colour of her robe. In fact, she does not want to change the colour or pattern of her robe because of the reason that people can easily recognize her as she is not covering her face. On the other hand, it is wrong to compare the dress of the religious priests whether of female or male to the dress of the ordinary females or males. They are a particular group. They have a uniform which can represent their religious priestly group. People do not expect the change of that uniform according to the social context.

Mr. Usuf highly evaluate the Buddhist principle when he says: The Professor speaks about the Middle Path and also speaks of ethnic squabbles. Wonder what happened to the Middle Path? In a country that is preaching Metta: loving kindness, Karuna: compassion, Mudita: sympathetic joy and Upekkha: equanimity, how can the Professor who should be promoting peaceful co-existence even suggest the “disturbance of ethnic harmony leading to squabbles and harm to the whole society”. I really admire Mr Usuf’s interest in Buddhism. But I would like to ask him a question: when I said that by way of the introducing strange cultural form to another society, it might be a cause to damage cultural harmony, how can it be against the middle path which promotes the peaceful coexistence. Middle path also suggests not to do anything which break the common happiness of people.

“The black abaya per se is not the issue. The prejudice which creates the wrong perception is the problem. This is what the Buddha taught”. Says Mr Usuf. Though he says now that black abaya is not the issue, it of course ,was the issue of his first article. Prejudice does not arise for nothing. If one does not create a background on which prejudice arises, there wouldn’t be both prejudice and the resultant misconception. Therefore, it is the duty of any one who earnestly expects social harmony, not to create an environment on which prejudices come to be and also to avoid prejudices as well.
Lastly I must say that I have no intention to drag this issue to a debate. I wrote this article too for the reason that Mr. Usuf directly addressed me through his second article.

May social harmony prevail throughout entire humanity.

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