By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Revd. Uduwe Dhammaloka epitomises something ghastly and frightening about the future of the Sangha, namely that this great and noble institution of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhists is, surely, cracking from within. We had, once, nationalists crying from treetops that Christian and other Western forces were subverting the Sangha. I tell them that we need not look outside. The decay is internally generated.
Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka had a big and venerating following.It is not a case of Gnasasara. Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka was indisputably an authentic monk of longstanding held in high regard. Questions were raised hush hush that he was getting too concerned about grooming himself-applying face cream and doing facials and all such glittery things. Such personal idiosyncrasies typically lead to a multitude of canards and gossip. The monk was demanding a prestigious car to go for bana, they said and the fact is he did always travel in luxury cars. It was a mandatory requirement that he should be provided with a special mike that commutes his voice into something ethereal and divinely soft. It was also rumoured that the car he travels in had special electrical light effects that represented the Buddha’s halo or budu res.
The provocation for this article, however, were not any of those charges about the once holy monk but his recent strange performance in suddenly charging that the late Revd Maduluwave Sobitha did not really die of natural causes and that he was murdered!
Hey! This is news to all of us. It was no secret that Revd Sobitha was advanced in age and that he had been battling with an acute onset of diabetes and its chronic associated ailments. The government had, with the monk’s consent, despatched him to Singapore for special treatment. And now, after months of the passing away of Revd Sobitha we have our handsome and smiling Revd Uduwe giving us a different narrative: Revd Maduluwave Sobitha -the prime mover for change of the Rajapaksa regime and the installation of a yahapalana government- had been, according to the new narrative, disappointed about the course taken by the YP government of Maitripala Sirisena and Wickremesinghe. The YP government, therefore, in true Rajapaksa style, engineered Revd Sobitha’s death. We are relieved that Revd Uduwe did not say he saw Ranil or Sirisena taking a cup of poison to give the ailing venerable monk. The latter’s death had been crafted in subtlety!
It surprises one how Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka didn’t bother one bit about the hopeless timing of his accusation. The timing was so bad that the motive of the charge is made self-evident. The Revd accusing monk had just been arrested on charges relating to keeping a baby elephant in his temple at Allen Methiniyarama. He was later bailed out.
This monk has long been observed as a clever self-marketer. We have referred above to his funny idiosyncrasies. They aren’t mere extraordinary habits. They can be viewed as being marketing devices employed to impress and to create a glow about him. Here, again, when he was arrested and taken in the police van he recited gaathaas and vowed not to react in retaliation. He wore a perfect appearance of metta or loving kindness to one’s enemy. As though the compassionate Buddha was taken in the police van!
We are deterred from commenting on the charges relating to the court case.
However, as a frequent visitor to Allen Methiniyarama Avenue I remember residents relating to me how Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka virtually took over the old temple gifted long ago by a White lady called Allen to the then residing monk for having cured an eye disease that had afflicted her. It is a multi million dollar patch of forest in the heart of Colombo. Residents told me that Revd Uduwe, who had then the blessings of the former lawless regime, came in a security – flanked four – wheel drive and just rode through the property like Lord Mountbatten. Hey presto the property was his! We know the previous regime was so efficient.
The path that led a once good and authentic monk to where he now is as an accused in a court case is a standard lesson to the whole Sangha. It was his involvement in active politics and in the political power game of lay politicians. Power simply corrupts. To stay in power one has to be liberal about the truth and lie if possible. Politicians world-over are in a deception game. Politicians in Third World countries like our own thrive on mega-deception. Few rise above that and to the level of statesmen. What Buddhism doth one have if one is prone to engage in duping and deception?
Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka’s explanation for the elephant episode is that someone had just dropped off the baby tusker in his temple and that he was,in fact, looking after the helpless, orphaned animal. It is well-known how unwanted cats and puppies are dropped off in temple places by their owners. Wonder who has unwanted baby elephants that can be offloaded like this in temple premises!
The other thing is that Revd Sobitha’s disappointment had been over the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s decision to invite Rajapaksa’s men into cabinet. Revd Sobitha was until death backing the YP government. If Revd Sobitha was,as stated by Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka, assassinated such a dastardly act must have arguably been done by Rajapaksa’s men of whom Revd Uduwe was a crony.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickreamesinghe, while attending a religious ceremony on the 16th of March reportedly made a veiled criticism of Revd Uduwe Dhammaloka. Here’s the report:
“Praising the conduct of Ven. Indrarathana Thera of Hiddelana Sri Maha Viharaya, PM Wickremesinghe said there had been no allegations that the Nayake Thera had sold elephants to other monks. Ven. Indrarathana hadn’t been accused of using state power to take over temples in Colombo, PM Wickremesinghe said, adding that he was not a monk who had obtained money from gem dealers. “He has led an exemplary life as a true Buddhist,” PM Wickremesinghe said, adding that Ven. Indrarathana, the President and others, including him, did not apply cream bought from the UK and France.”