By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha may be regarded as a role model of a politically concerned bhikku. Sri Lanka has had many bhikkus who got involved in the political game-play but all of them didn’t play that game rightly keeping the different roles of the bhikku and the politician distinct. There was no conflation of these two roles at any stage reflected in the public image of Revd Maduluwae Sobitha.
In the mid-fifties we had the disgraced Buddha Rakkita of the Kelaniya temple who along with his catspaw, Somarama, helped to bring down the image of the Sasana. When I was a kid my father once took me to the Kelaniya temple to see the monk. There he was like a grand prince. Bottles of whisky in display in his study. In my presence he received numerous calls from,maybe, Ministers that had approached him to act as go-between in political and financial deals. He himself had a deal with a shipping company. The deal did not materialise and Buddha Rakkita got the then Prime Minister assassinated. Before midday on that fatetful day SWRD was gone! Here was a monk who killed a Prime Minister!
Buddha Rakkitta, drunken with power, had even played lover to a woman Minister. Power is erotic, they say.
Numerous other lesser robed-beings came after Buddhi Rakkita but they did not go that far because the public outcry against the Sanga had been so great that for years none of the safrans came on political stage. With the formation of the JHU that negative trend disappeared. The JHU itself rode to recognition and political power on the dead body of the Australian-Sri Lankan monk, Revd Gangodawila Soma who for some mysterious reason became a very popular figure during a short stay in Sri Lanka.
Revd Soma was not widely popular in Australia. He did have a lot of enemies and some strong devotees but he virtually had no impact in the Sinhala community of Australia. He was a capable organiser and knew how to raise funds. Encouraged by his popularity in Sri Lanka Revd Soma declared his ambition to contest for President of the country. To gather more public respect he went on a deception trip to Russia along with a Catholic priest who had arranged to get Revd Soma a doctorate by showing a little booklet he had written many years before on stupas. Acute diabetic that he was, he suddenly died of a heart attack. This had been enough for the pseudo-patriots and extremist monks to go round the country and ask for an immediate investigation to what they were confident was a Christian conspiracy. These mischief makers succeeded in roping in gullible Sinhala Buddhists to back their campaign. It was their campaign that gave birth to the JHU. The new party promised during elections that they will launch an investigation and punish the conspirators. Elections were won but the resulting UPFA government of which the JHU were a part did pretty nothing. Revd Soma was forgotten for ever.
But the JHU enjoyed Parliamentary power and all the privileges that went with that- car permits, houses etc. Cushy had been the life of JHU monks!
With the rise of the JHU, we saw bhikkus directly involved in the political game -play. The party did nothing when Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Ministers played foul. Even over the jailing of war hero SF they did nothing. Here was an instance when monks became plain politicians. The Sanga and politics went together.
There were monk-appendages to these powerful Sanga players. They made deals with traders and businessmen. Some nasty ones kept on revving up religious strife. Muslims were attacked and their mosques destroyed. Trouble upon trouble in a country hardly short of troubles.
Sri Lanka was sinking morally and politically and the country became a Banana Republic. A dictator was in the throne and his family had been well set. The sons were powers to themselves. The Thajudeen murder has raised many serious issues.
In the meantime, the need for national reconciliation after the war was looming large. Rumours spread globally about the government’s alleged involvement in war crimes. The United Nations had a Damocles Sword over the island. If the sword were brought down the poor population would have had to bear the brunt of economic sanctions. The country was already heavily in debt to China.
Revd Maduluwawe Sobitha materialised in the political scenario at this critical juncture. Both Yahapalanaya and National reconciliation were urgently needed. No civil leader seemed to possess the charisma to lead the nation. A respected monk had a great role waiting for him. Revd Sobitha filled the vacuum with elegance and grace.
It is important to reflect how Revd Sobitha filled that vacuum. Although he had a political goal he skilfully kept away from direct involvement in the nitty gritty. He sponsored the new ideology and helped select the right political leaders to get the job done. He never had intentions of being the President although many beckoned him to come forward. Revd Sobitha was strictly concerned with getting the country to move in the right direction. He stood apart and saw it done. As far as individual leaders were concerned Revd Sobitha stood aloof.
With January 8th Revd Sobitha was smiling. His task completed. He had next only to see that what was promised is being delivered. Revd Sobitha never accumulated financial wealth. He was happy to remain in his Naga Vihara and tend to his flock. He had no luxury cars and no car permits. He could have got the world as a gift but he eschewed all world possessions. What he was left with was the unstinted respect of people of all walks of life and of all ethnic and religious groups.
shankar / November 9, 2015
god took him away after he had served his purpose of making this a better country for the future.he will get a great birth or no birth at all.
Once people have served their purpose they are are taken away.This apples to the good as well as evil characters such as hitler whose purpose was to unite and tame the aggressive adventurous and invading warlike europeans.
everything and everybody has a purpose in life.For less important people like me maybe it was just to put 2 kids into this world.For others it may be a more important purpose like sobitha who fought hard to get rid of evil rulers.
Desilva / November 9, 2015
Please write, instead of posting links – CT
Amarasiri / November 10, 2015
RE: Role Model Of A Politically Concerned Bhikku
“With the rise of the JHU, we saw bhikkus directly involved in the political game -play. The party did nothing when Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Ministers played foul. Even over the jailing of war hero SF they did nothing. Here was an instance when monks became plain politicians. The Sanga and politics went together.”
“There were monk-appendages to these powerful Sanga players. They made deals with traders and businessmen. Some nasty ones kept on revving up religious strife. Muslims were attacked and their mosques destroyed. Trouble upon trouble in a country hardly short of troubles.”
“Sri Lanka was sinking morally and politically and the country became a Banana Republic. A dictator was in the throne and his family had been well set. The sons were powers to themselves. The Thajudeen murder has raised many serious issues.”
Sinhala Buddhist Banana Republic of Sri Lanka is well Defined.
Ven. Maladuwa Thera wanted to change that.
Godfrey Weldt / November 9, 2015
An excellent article of facts and of a fearless catalyst the Late Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera. May his spirit attain Nibbana!
Justice & Fairplay / November 9, 2015
There is considerable truth and accuracy in what Shyamon says concerning Ven Soma thero (or Mr Soma, as some called him in Oz) and the impact he made or failed to make while in Australia.
This I have heard from very sensible people full of earthy good sense, who are very good Buddhists though not seen rolling around temples but practicing the Buddha’s way without any fuss or fanfare.
Before the race / religious fanatics begin to tear him down, I would recommend that everyone attempts to see what Shyamon is trying to say, and through it, fathom what his philosophy to life, religion and politics is. Everyone after all is entitled to his view if stated civilly and in moderation.
The venerable monk has now left us. It is all the more reason why we need to change our ways, out thinking, our outlook. Let the change be such that we could truthfully say ‘he did not die in vain’.
John / November 9, 2015
Well, this is not the time to talk about Ven. Soma, if not it’s debatable what Shyamon is trying to say,
Let’s say good bye to iconic son of Lanka Most Rev. Sobitha thero,
He accomplished his mission, unthinkable , we need him again , but he deserves more,
May Most Rev. Sobitha attain supreme bliss of Nibbana
EDWIN RODRIGO / November 9, 2015
An important correction. The name of the monk who short SWRD was not Somawansa but Somarama. I think it is important to make this correction, in the present context where others with the same name are fishing in troubled waters.
We hope that other monks who have intentions of getting involved in politics will follow Ven Sobitha’s example. The role should be one of providing guidance, advice and consultation.
Shyamon Jayasinghe / November 9, 2015
Thank you, EDWIN RODRIGO, for your correction. Yes, it was Somarama
Backlash / November 9, 2015
“The country was already heavily in debt to China”. The present Chinese are pros in global politics. In the venal Rajapakse regime they saw the man and the government that can be easily bought off to carry forward the Chinese dream of politically and economically conquering the whole of Asia. Their obstacle was the fastly growing India, closely connected to all Western powers. Rajapakse was bribed to boggling levels through various mega projects to advance China’s designs to secure the calculations of its own military-political complex. The alert India quickly saw through the plan. This was followed up by a sudden convergence of India and the West. The politically dead CBK came around. And so was born Yahapalanaya with a rural simpleton conveniently at the head. Rajapakse dug his own grave at the ill-advise of his astrologer.
Now the Yahapalanaya has to pay off the Rajapakse mega debts. It is far too much of a strain. Soon the new regime will be forced to chose between saving the Rajapakse many foibles and its own financial survival. One can see the Cabinet is divided on several issues where the Rajapakses feature. The Ranawake-Senaratne-Karunanayake wing may well win and the Rajapakse headaches will multiply. To the Rajapakses the spectre of The Hague – again.
Uthungan / November 10, 2015
To MaRa supporters and thieves, Sobitha Thero’s intervention into SL’s critical political juncture along with the astrologer may be due to an Indo-Amrerican conspiracy.
But many ordinary Lankans would see it as something divinely inspired.
Because of the simple fact that today, if the derailed nation has been steadied and set on the right but tortuous track of reconciliation and progress, it is entirely due to the said monk’s inspiration and dedication which no one can dare deny.
Perera YY / November 10, 2015
Don’t attack Ven Soma with false stories, who is reveared in Sri Lanka. Ven Soma was well liked in Australia too.
Karunaratne Gamage / November 10, 2015
YY Perera defends Revd Soma. But what does he have to say about the specific allegations in this piece of writing: Firstly that Revd Soma attempted to get a bogus PhD. PhD’s are usually awarded for specific research in a specific format undertaken with an appointed supervisor. Only Russia is ready to give fake PhDs. The monk puts himself in the rank of Melvyn Silva. Secondly, it is true Revd Soma wanted to contest as President.
These are undeniable
Perera YY / November 11, 2015
This country is full of fake PhD fellows. They call themselves Dr, they have not set foot to a university or have obtained a general degree only. At least Soma thero was getting a real PhD from a proper Russian University. Ven (not Revd as how you put it) Soma wanted to contest as President. Yes I would have voted for him. Your darling Ven Sobhitha too wanted to contest for President, yes I would have voted for him too. Your name – ‘Karunaratne Gamage’ is also fake; we all know who you are
karunaratne Gamage / November 11, 2015
YY Perera says Revd Soma was getting a real PhD. A proper PhD has to follow a set procedure. 1. The applicant must submit an abstract with thesis 2. That has to be approved by the university.3. A supervisor has to be assigned.4.The applicant must spend a few years researching it under the supervisor.
Not a single of these steps were followed by Bhikku Soma. He took out an old booklet written by him many years ago and wanted to present it for the PhD. What a joke! Bhikku Soma was deliberately engaged in a fake act-yy. Best part a Christian priest had done the deal. What frauds these monks are.
Upali Wickramasinghe / November 15, 2015
What K.Gamage says is true.G.Soma “thero” unashamedly canvassed himself for the presidency.I was never convinced that he was genuine.Like Dharmapala he preached a divisive philosophy.
He was no different from a cheap politician.
Prem Vaidyaratne / November 11, 2015
The writer must be praised for analysing the role of Sobitha Hamuduruwo with a razer type of mind. It is pointless criticising the writer for having exposed Melbourne’s monk Revd Soma as the writer is absolutely right about his facts. At a time Sri Lanka’s Sanga is full of rascals like Gnanassara it is a big loss to lose our Ven Sobitha Hamuduruwo.
Perera YY / November 11, 2015
Reply to karunaratne Gamage, looks like you are only N ‘ata pass’ expatriate living in Melbourne. Each university has its own guidelines. It is up to thAT Russian university to decide. you don’t know anything about the communication Ven Soma had with the Russian University. May be they asked him to do more research or anything else how do we know? You are a real moron
Wij / November 13, 2015
Your exibiting yourself as an “ata pass moron” by shamelessly defending Ven Soma Thero, who wanted to get a Phd in a similar way as Mervyn Silva. No reputed university will award a Phd to a small book with no research value. Also Ven. Soma thero was expelled from two Australian temples owned by Sri Lankans there for taking so many IDD calls to a woman in Sri Lanka. There was a rumour that such calls were to a woman in Sri Lanka.
Karunaratne Gamage / November 12, 2015
Hey Perera YY.What is this foolish defence of Revd Soma? Soma was never registered for PhD and there had been no arrangement for a supervised degree. He was after a bogus PhD like Mervyn Silva. As long as worshippers like you are thee we will have fraudsters and gon monks
upul / November 12, 2015
Was not Revd Soma associated with a woman incident?
Wij / November 13, 2015
“To gather more public respect he went on a deception trip to Russia along with a Catholic priest who had arranged to get Revd Soma a doctorate by showing a little booklet he had written many years before on stupas.”
Above statement is not true as Phd for Ven Soma Thero was not arranged by a Catholic priest but by a pastor belonged to an another christian sector