By N.C.Rajendra –
Constitutional obligations of the state to protect and foster all religion and thereby maintain peace and harmony among all
There was a time when Sri Lanka was a paradise and a pearl in the Indian ocean. There was a time when all the superlatives used to describe the country were found to be insufficient. There was a time when peace and happiness, love and friendship were the essence of life in Sri Lanka reflected in the joy and serenity of all Sri Lankans.
Can we not regain that Paradise? Can we not all be pearls for the whole earth to admire? Yes, we can.
Photo courtesy AFP’s Ishara Kodikara/ Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page
The State which, we Sri Lankans have chosen as our means to that end, has first and foremost to understand its obligations cast on it by us the Sri Lankan citizens. Their obligations are spelt out in simple easy to understand language in Article 9. The essence of our living and enjoyment of life springs from Article 9. This is the source from which all our rights, be they fundamental or common, arise.
These are the solemn words of that supreme law called the constitution.
“THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA……..having solemnly resolved by the grant of such a Mandate and the confidence reposed in their said representatives who were elected by an overwhelming majority to constitute SRI LANKA into a DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC ………and assuring to all peoples FREEDOM, EQUALITY, JUSTICE, FUNDAMANETAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY as the intangible heritage that guarantees the dignity and well being of succeeding generations of the PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA and of all the people of the world. ……..”
Where do these high sounding words and lofty ideals and utopian dreams come from? From the Preamble to the Constitution of Sri Lanka-Paradise of the world and the land like no other.
What is of special interest here is the declaration that the INTANGBLE HERITAGE THAT GUARANTEES THE DIGNITY AND WELL BEING OF SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS OF SRI LANKANS AND ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD.
The intangible heritage that guarantees the dignity and well being of human beings is the LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP that were carried in the genes of all the inhabitants of Sri Lanka. This is the heritage that the constitution woefully expresses in commands and prohibitions in its Articles.
There are many treatises by eminent jurists and renown scholars but this miniscule essay is an essay on how the present government honours its undertaking and mandate to uphold “the intangible heritage that guarantees the dignity and well being of succeeding generations of the PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA and of all the people of the world. ……..” by discussing the Government’s observance of its obligations under Article 9, 10 and 14© of the SUPREME LAW in Sri Lanka, which the State undertakes to do under Article 9
Article 9 “ The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana. Though jurists and scholars have not thought it fit to explain how giving one religion the foremost place is not contradictory to the concept of EQUALITY- the maintenance and protection of which is the duty and mandate of the Government as explicitly stated in the Preamble and Equality is a Human Right acknowledged and accepted by the United nations of which Sri Lanka is a member.
But that initial violation by the Constitution makers themselves is forgivable because their obligation and duty is commanded in the next line “it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana.
Buddha Sasana is plainly and simply the teachings, practices and doctrines of Lord Buddha and one of the basic concepts taught by the Buddha is respect for all other human beings, however different they may be culturally or by way of religion. This would mean that we Sri Lankans who are living today, show respect for Islam and its followers, Hinduism and Hindu worshippers and Christianity and all Christians regardless of the names by which they are known or called and all other religions or beliefs.
It follows just as night follows day in the tropics, that if the Government does its duty of protecting and fostering the Buddha’s teachings there would be no destruction of mosques temples and churches of other religions. There would be no hate, animosity or hostility against other religions, races or tribes. There would be love and respect for ALL.
How has the Government failed in its duty under Article 9? The Government has failed to ensure that the monks observe the teachings of the Buddha. The Government has failed to ensure the contents of the Teachings in the Daham Pasalas. The Government has failed to bring a code of conduct so that Bhikkus behave according to the Buddha’s teachings. The Government has failed to set standards and qualifications for the RECRUITMENT OR ORDINATION of Bhikkus. The Government has failed to prevent politicians from manipulating Bhikkus or Bhikkus from manipulating politicians.
By permitting or condoning misbehavior among the Bhikkus, the Government is repudiating its obligation under Article 9 of the Supreme law.
The Government has another obligation under Article 9 of the Supreme law. “ TO ASSURE TO ALL RELIGIONS THE RIGHTS GRANTED BY ARTICLES 10 AND 14(1)(e)”
Has the Government failed here?
The Constitution right at the outset, in fact, in Article 9, lays down what is considered the most important requirement for anyone to govern the country. That important requirement is the duty to protect and promote the Buddha Sasana, implying that once that is achieved everything will give rise to peace and happiness and in turn respect for all the rights granted in Articles 10 and 14(1)(e)
Let’s examine the rights under Article 10 and 14(1)(e) and appreciate how the objective of peace and happiness is achieved by the State if it fulfills its obligations under Article 9.
Article 10 “Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion including the freedom to have or adopt a religion of his choice”
What is the Freedom envisaged here?
It is the right to have and cherish the idea or matter thought out, studied and embraced by a thinking or rational individual. Article 10 also refers to a thought, religion or belief of the family the individual was born into and later customarily adopted or a religion chosen after study and deep thought knowingly accepted by that individual with conviction or faith.
Logically following from this premise, no Guru, priest, monk or teacher, parent or any other person has the control of the thought, religion or belief of the individual whose thought, religion or belief which he himself has moulded in process of acquiring the ultimate content of his thought, belief or religion.
Following from this point, it is impossible to permit a Buddhist monk, Hindu priest or sage or one of the million Christian priests or leaders to assert that they are spiritual leaders of an individual unless that individual has manifestly accepted that guru, monk, priest or teacher as his Thought Controller with the right and power to protect him from different other favourable thoughts.
Any one, be it the Ravanna Bala Sevava or the BBS or any other Rabble-monks, claiming to be the Religious Thought Controllers of every Buddhist individual is violating Article 10. By permitting this wrongful assumption of the position of Thought Controller or turning a blind eye to it, the Government is failing in its duty under Article 9 to assure the rights granted by Article 10.
Recently, there were reports that Buddhist monks or those dressed in yellow robes had humiliated and assaulted certain Christian groups because those groups were distributing Christian literature. In fact those Yellow robed ruffians had in many instances prevented members of those Christian groups from entering certain towns and villages, claiming that they had no right to talk to those townsfolk or villagers, although these villains did not know and do not know to this day what the thoughts, beliefs or religions those individual villagers had adopted for themselves.
To explain further, the individual having the freedom to practice his religion, implies that he must have an array of religions to choose one religion from that array. Knowledge of this array of religions he can acquire from sold at bookshops or from books delivered at his home. He can study these books and other literature by himself or by means of a teacher at a public place or at his home.
It is only after study, thought, analysis, comparison and reflection that an individual can make a choice.
It follows, therefore, that by preventing evangelical missionaries from entering villages the Bhikkus are instrumental in violating the fundamental right under Article 10. The Police in permitting this behavior of the yellow robes is aididng and abetting the offence of violating the right of all the villagers granted by Article 10.
Destruction and mutilation of mosques and places of worship constitute offences under the Penal Code and should be dealt with under the Criminal Procedure Code or the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Article 14(1)(e).
ARTICLE 14(1)(e) “the freedom either by himself or in association with others and either in PUBLIC or in private TO MANIFEST his religion or belief in worship, observance ,PRACTICE and TEACHING
It must be understood that Article 14(1)(e) is supplementary or an extension of the freedom defined in Article 10, which deals with the mental element of the individual, while 14(1)(e) deals with his expression of that element in words, deeds and public conducts.
Article 10 is a definition and declaration of the freedom to think and to believe anything. Belief in a god or not. It also declares the freedom to believe in a religion, which necessitates the existence of a God.
Article 10 also implies the freedom to continue one’s belief in a religion or codes of conduct or teachings acquired by the mere fact of birth into a family and it declares the freedom to CHOOSE A RELIGION OR BELIEF and adopt it replacing the one he was born into.
Logically following from this declaration under Article 10 is the freedom to change or replace one’s religion acquired at birth and replace it with a different religion, belief or thought. e.g. A Christian born into Christian family ,educated in a Christian school and changing from the Christian religion to another religion or system of thought, whatever the reason for that change may be. There are many prominent examples of this change (look to your right you find a thousand and look to your left you will find twenty thousand.) Ask any of the thousand Darwin-mice or hundreds of the Dawkins-mites and they will tell you “they learnt from books and men” and learnt to play the game their way (different from their parents or families). They will tell you that they learnt at school at home, in libraries and at lectures in PUBLIC PLACES AND PRIVATE. Some of them will tell you how their gurus visited them at their home and inculcated those anti religion doctrines into their empty vacant minds or fertile but non-irrigated minds. (forget the Western intellectuals of the 19th and 20th century who entranced some of our pseudo intellectuals)
What has to be observed here is NOT ONLY the freedom they had to change and adopt another religion or system of thought (ART10) but also the Freedom that permitted the Guru to visit his home or any other public place and TEACH him directly by means of the oral word and indirectly by means of the printed word and now by means of audio-video technology.
Evangelical Christians in Sri Lanka are doing the same thing. They are commissioned by the bible to find Sri Lankan citizens who wish to exercise their right to hear from others what they have to teach in order that they may CHOOSE AND ADOPT a religion (Belief in an almighty god) or a system of thought.
Now can this RIGHT UNDER ARTICLE 10 BE DENIED? Who can deny it? Can thugs robed or unrobed deny it? Can the State turn a blind eye to it? Should not the State prevent it? Has the State condoned it?
This is the right of the willing learner yearning to fill his mind with new thoughts and judge for himself whether “to be” (what follower he is presently) “or not to be” (to change and adopt another) “whether it is nobler in the mind” to change or not to change.
What right does the practicing evangelical Christian have to go looking for the Article 10 free thinker? Is it granted in Article 10? Let’s examine the contents and what is grounded in it.
Article 10 “Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion including the freedom to have or adopt a religion of his choice”
It is here that Article 14(1)(e) shines like the Sun on a cloudless day in Sri Lanka, where only the blind cannot see the Sun but feel its heat.
ARTICLE 14(1)(e) “the freedom either by himself or in association with others and either in PUBLIC or in private TO MANIFEST his religion or belief in worship, observance ,PRACTICE and TEACHING” (repeated for emphasis)
Dwelling on the words “manifest his religion” in worship, practice and teaching, it is obvious that the evangelical Christian has the right to teach. But whom does he teach? Is it NOT the Sri Lankan citizen who is recognized in Article 10?
Evangelical Christians are not individuals who confine themselves to buildings but who worship, observe and practice their religion anywhere and at any time without infringing the rights of others
Evangelical Christians are footstep followers of Jesus Christ – their Leader. Jesus Christ went from house to house, village to village to village, city to city, looking for people referred to in Article 10. Paul, a footstep follower of Jesus Christ did the same and, in addition, from one country to another. In fact all the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ did exactly the same thing. There are many scriptures which state that worship means and includes teaching others the word of God. There are other scriptures which enjoin Christians to declare the name of God to every one possible. These scriptural behests and commands are being followed everywhere in the world, even if “hell should bar the way.”
What Sri Lankans do not realize is that Evangelical Christians are doing exactly what the bible commands them to do and describes teaching others and declaring God’s name as essential ingredients of worship as opposed to rituals and ceremony.
Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam were brought to this country by non Sri Lankans in the same way that they were taken to other countries. Christianity was brought here 500 years ago and there are many others, including atheism that arrived in this country and are flourishing here.
How did Mahinda convince Devanampiya Tissa that the teaching of the Buddha was superior to the religion (Hinduism) or form of worship prevailing in the country at that time? Was it not by teaching him at his home? Arts 10 and 14(1)(e)? What did Sanghamitta come here for? Teach wasn’t it? To whom? Aricles 10 and 14(1)(e) resound like a nuclear blast.
What did the Chinese and the Siamese come here for? To be taught. Did we not send monks to China to teach the Chinese?
There is no doubt that an eager and willing pupil has the right to be taught under Article 10 and that he can be reached at his home to be taught in the traditional manner of ORAL TEACHING or in any way that he chooses.
There is no doubt either that the TEACHER has a right to teach his religion to a willing pupil anywhere in terms of Article 14(1)(e).
What is not understood is that the Teacher has a common right to traverse the streets of Sri Lanka and villages in search of the citizens referred to in Article 10.
But what brings sadness to the hearts and tears to the eyes of those Sri Lankan citizens who hope and depend on the State for protection is that the State has failed to understand its obligations “to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana” under Article 9 of the constitution.
If the State were to protect, control the ordination of the monks by selecting them after a rigorous examination of their motive and inclination, there would be no monks who would be accused of crimes or of destroying Mosques and causing harm to non Buddhists.
The State has failed in not enacting a code of conduct according to the precepts of the Buddha for Bhikkus and ensuring that the code is strictly followed and enforced by a Bhikku court.
The State has failed in its religious education. It has failed to ensure that the Buddha doctrines are taught with the objective of practicing the teachings of the Buddha. It has failed to ensure that those who attend Daham Pasala have a continual education even in adult life.
Should the State accepts its obligations under Article 9 by protecting and fostering the Buddha Sasana, it will ensure “to all religions the rights UNDER ARTICLES 10 AND 14(1)(e) of the Constitution and the state will be true to its constitution and an example to the world. What is more we will be proud to call Sri Lanka a land like no other.
LET’S DO IT, Sri Lanka.