29 September, 2020

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Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero’s Silence

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero’s act of self-immolation has generated much debate.  The act has been condemned as being ‘un-Buddhistic’.  The bikkhu’s past was commented on. This included his political affiliations.

Theories about his ‘state of mind’ were floated on the internet.  The stated precipitating factor, objection to cattle-slaughter, was taken up, taken apart.  Some asked ‘Why only cattle?’  Some pointed out that such things cannot be legislated.  Some pointed fingers at the bikkhu’s political associates and others who have shared similar objections.  Some, who either objected to the political associates and/or Buddhists and Buddhism in general, were unabashedly salivating. ‘One down, more to go!’ some cheered on Facebook.

Then there is the issue of encouragement and apathy.  There were those who prompted the act or created the ‘objective preconditions’ for self-immolation, those who were seen accompanying the bikkhu, and the journalist who was informed of the act ahead of time and who turned up not to stop it (not part of his duty of course)  but to record it.  He has been singled out for censure, but other onlookers, policemen included, have been ‘let off’.  That too has been questioned.

The ‘before’ has been imposed on the ‘moment of immolation’ by referring to the Bodu Bala Sena, the Jathika Hela Urumaya, the furor over Halal labeling and related rhetoric and incidents.  The ‘after’ has drawn from ‘moment’, which has fattened the ‘before’.  The calls for banning cattle slaughter have got louder.  Piggybacking on the incident, the call for legislation against unethical conversion has received new life.

So there’s before-politics and after-politics.  Those who are invested in the political will not be apolitical, especially when political capital can be made one way or the other.   Lost in all this is a human being who was but is no more, remembered in frames in flames, but reduced to a name to rally around or direct invective at.

The image of a bikkhu in flames disturbs me.  The image of anyone in flames would disturb, but being a Buddhist I am that much more perturbed.  Granted that what went before marks the moment and granted that moment feeds what follows, which in turn marks the moment, there’s still something tragic about missing the moment.

Let us forget for a moment the fact that Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero was a member of the Maha Sangha, the Buddhist Order. Let us forget his political affiliations. Let us forget the drama that preceded the act of self-immolation. Let us forget all that followed the act.  We see then a human being who emptied a can of petrol over himself, a human being whose garment caught fire, a human being who suffered terrible burn injuries before the fire was put out, a human being who was rushed to hospital and who was unburdened of burn and spectacle, politics and ideology, memory and wincing, concern for the living and dead, the survivals and slaughtering, pity and pathos, carrying (according to his beliefs – and mine) just the karmic accumulations of this life and those that were lived before.

Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero is no more.  There is a before-death and an after-death in commenting preferences.  No one can stop that and no one should.  We nevertheless talk of respecting the dead. We observe silence for those who are no more.  Buddhists offer pin to such people.  There’s civility and culture, propriety and civilization, a time for word and comment, dissection and conclusion. There is a time for silence. It is made of respect.  It obliterates identity markers.

Maybe it is a personal thing, i.e. an individual choice, but it disturbs somehow that there is a strange reluctance to be silent.  All I see is a human being in flames, cheered by those who cry ‘one down!’ and glorified (in the same magnitude) by those who find fuel in flame for other kinds of torching.

Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero is silent now.  By himself.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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    I think that thera was very understanding.

    We know even muslims are against killing pigs for meat.

    this buddhist monk stopping of killing every animal. He asked at least to one kind.

    See there are some photos how cattle destined to the death for meat kneel infront of humans, probably asking them to save them.

    there are photos which see cattle kneeling in front of buddhist monks as well as a police officer.

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      Everyone´s tolerance is not the same. His only wayout he thought could open the eyes of the millions was taking his life to a manner anyone could get shocked. Either he was not psychologically well OR should have very weak mind set. If he were alive only he could have fought further against cattle slaughter. Why this was not clear to him is not even easy to imagine. And Why his close confidants failed to sense what this particular monk was planning to do – is not yet clear to me. Can anybody please explain ?

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      I do not condone anyone taking his life. If any reader is interested in understanding the life and work of this monk, he should read the special write-up in this regard in ‘Irida Divaina’ by Manoj Abayadera. It is available through online.
      Leela

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        Leela, I do not have to read a special write up by Manoj Abayadera about this monk. The monk’s action to kill himself speaks for itself. When you have the capability to talk about issues, however disagreeable, killing oneself goes against the tenets of every religion.

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      As this Thero’ belief he must had been a MEE HARAKAA in his previous birth.. Thts why he committed suicide himself for ..

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        Do the Meeharakas in general commit suicide in your part of srilanka ?

        Bit more precise please – it is his capacity – others can explain more about what he could have done – but his physical existence is no longer is there. Why to attack the great monk who did not know any other ways than sacrice his life for the sake of saving cattle from being slaughtered.

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      If you know about Karma then no need explanation

    • 0
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      It appears you are accustomed to kneeling in front of our Medamulana Meeharaka!

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    Oh please. “The dictate that one ‘not speak ill of the dead’ is (at best) appropriate for private individuals, not influential public figures” wrote Glen Greenwald in the Guardian when people were trying to prevent criticism of Thatcher after her death. (Guardian of 8th April 2013.) When someone kills himself or herself for a political cause it is obvious that there wont be silence. Only a person who is conflicted by his sympathies for the BBS (call it Buddhist Brotherhood/ Patriotic Front/ Hela Urumaya/ Rajapakse Clan) and the obvious idiocy of the dolt who immolated himself, will advocate silence. Despite his professed Buddhist credentials he seems strongly governed by the Christian ethos on this ground.

    By Malinda’s argument all he would have seen when suicide bombers went off were flames and human beings dying! He wouldn’t have seen the criminality of the matter! (True they took others’ lives – but from his Buddhist perspective surely he would have seen all those peoples’ karmic bonds playing out!). Did he remain silent when thousands (whether it be 8000 as the Govt says or 40,000 as the UN says or 100,000 as the Tamil diaspora says) died during the last few days of the war?!!

    What a humbug!

    S

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      sulaiman: Don’t you have an iota of brain to realize that death of “8000 as the Govt says or 40,000 as the UN says or 100,000 as the Tamil diaspora says” were caused by a war that put a fullstops to daily barbaric terrorism that blasted 383 human bombs, clamour bombs and endless other killing tactic that killed a far grater number of civilians to include one Prime Minister of India and a President of Sri Lanka and so on. And for four years now we have no such blasts. That’s what Sri Lankan wanted. And that is democracy. And unsuccessfully though, that is what westerners try to do in Afghanistan etc.

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        Read what I have written my friend. My argument is simply that Malinda who is advocating silence and remembering of dead was at the forefront of the political discourse surrounding the death of thousands. If he was truly saddened by death he would have written a sombre article like this our remained silent. Instead he participated in the ‘noise’ after the war. I was only pointing out his hypocrisy.

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          “There is a before-death and an after-death in commenting preferences. No one can stop that and no one should.”

          Read the article completely you ‘humbug’!

  • 0
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    Cut the crap.

    This article is not up to your standerds, it is a pity.

    Go and give a liter of gasoline to your closest Hamuduruwo as a Pirikara, mate.

  • 0
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    Manlinda@,

    Quoting from yours :

    “The image of a bikkhu in flames disturbs me. The image of anyone in flames would disturb, but being a Buddhist I am that much more perturbed. Granted that what went before marks the moment and granted that moment feeds what follows, which in turn marks the moment, there’s still something tragic about missing the moment “

    I also happened to watch other video in which a burmian monk had burned himself – both these incidents disturbed me that much not being able to stop thinking how painful it should have been :(

  • 0
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    Malinda how about organizing a PIN for the innocent Tamils who were
    killed in the “no Fire zone”

  • 0
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    This is What Happens when people are Misguided, Follows Myths, and do not take the Middle Path. One needs balance. However, he did NOT follow Buddhism.

    “Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thero’s act of self-immolation has generated much debate. The act has been condemned as being ‘un-Buddhistic’. The bikkhu’s past was commented on. This included his political affiliations.”

    Read;

    140 Billion Animals Slaughtered Worldwide Every Year

    Religion or Not, Islam or Not this has happened. Even the so-called Buddhists and Hindus eat meat.

    http://blog.mamashealth.com/serena-the-wanna-be-vegetarian/140-billion-animals-slaughtered-worldwide-every-year/

    Since you opened this page, this is the number of animals killed worldwide by the meat, egg, and dairy industries.

    Everybody eats meat, except the PURE vegetarians.

    This is the worldwide Animal Industry. Do you eat meat?

    http://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/92704stats.htm

    STATISTICS: GLOBAL FARMED ANIMAL SLAUGHTER

    From Farmed Animal Watch: n.68, v.2

    Globally, slaughter of farmed animals for food increased to more than 50 BILLION individuals in 2003, not including any types of aquatic animals. The estimates, which are compiled and provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, are based on reports from more than 210 countries and territories. It is important to note that, while fairly comprehensive, these estimates may be significantly understated due to some countries or territories not reporting statistics and exclusions of some types of slaughter.

    With nearly 46 billion slaughtered in 2003, chickens accounted for 93% all types of farmed animals included in the FAO database. Following chickens, more ducks were slaughtered for their flesh than any other animal; approximately 2.3 billion ducks were slaughtered in 2003. Not considering birds, the slaughter of pigs was highest with more than 1.2 billion pigs slaughtered in 2003, followed by more than 850 million rabbits slaughtered last year. See below for a summary of the minimum 2003 worldwide slaughter estimates, by type of animal.

    — 45,895 million (45.9 billion) chickens
    — 2,262 million (2.3 billion) ducks
    — 1,244 million (1.2 billion) pigs
    — 857 million rabbits
    — 691 million turkeys
    — 533 million geese
    — 515 million sheep
    — 345 million goats
    — 292 million cows and calves (for beef and veal)
    — 65 million other rodents (not including rabbits)
    — 63 million pigeons and other birds
    — 23 million buffalo
    — 4 million horses
    — 3 million donkeys and mules
    — 2 million camels (and other camelids)

    These numbers indicate some significant changes compared to slaughter statistics from 1998. Over the past five years, slaughter of birds for meat has increased substantially, driven by a 30% increase in ducks and a 20% increase in chickens slaughtered. Goose slaughter also increased significantly, 17% over the five-year period, while turkey slaughter grew at a relatively slow 4% since 1998. The period from 1998 to 2003 also saw significant global increases in the slaughter of rabbits (21%), goats (19%), camels (12%), asses (10%), sheep (10%), buffalo (10%), and pigs (9%). On the other hand, the same five-year period saw decreases in the numbers of rodents (down 10%, not including rabbits) and mules (down 22%) slaughtered for their flesh.

    According to the FAO database, farmed animal production is highly concentrated in a handful of countries, most notably China and the United States. For each of the ten most slaughtered animals, at least half of the total 2003 slaughter is accounted for by the five highest-production countries. China slaughters more ducks, pigs, rabbits, geese, lambs, goats, cows and calves than any other country in the world. The US slaughters more chickens and turkeys than any other country, and is second only to China when it comes to pig slaughter. Overall, in 2003 China slaughtered more than 10.5 billion animals for their flesh, while the US slaughtered more than 9.5 billion animals, not including aquatic animals in either case.

    FAO Statistical Database – Agriculture
    http://faostat.fao.org/faostat/collections?subset=agriculture

    This is how they Slaughter in “Buddhist”China

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp_BmHXiFks

    Slaughterhouse of dogs in “Buddhist” China – Part 1

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc-Zo15BJFU

    Pig Slaughter in Tong Nan, “Buddhist” China

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxsbC51_cRA

    • 0
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      So, what’s your point mate?

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        Goraka,

        My point is people making critical decision on false information and data. Where is the biggest impact? There are more killings in India and China. We can excuse that happening 400 years ago like the Church persecuting and burning natural philosophers, but today?

        If this Monk really cared about Harak, he should have selected a Western Capital City like London, and burn there. It would have been cleaner, without the anti-Muslim venom. This monk is a shame for Buddhists and Buddhism. His party, JHU should be renamed Jatika Harak Urumaya.

        The Monk did not have all the facts. He was misinformed on many things. The problem with is Monk, who burned himself to death, is that his goals were multiple, and the Cattle was one of many. Even that was rooted in the anti-Muslim sentiment that was whipped up in the country by those who follw racism, and the Maraism.

        This Monk was a criminal.

        • 0
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          Amare, You are great, well balanced…. keep it up

    • 0
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      All that I wanted to say on Amarasiri’s one sided trash is better written in Lankaweb by UPALI COORAY on 2/6. Read it Amaraya and reply it if you can.

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    It is reported that the thero led the attack on the Dambulla Mosque in April 2012. Thereafter he has been involved in several such attacks against mosques and a church in weraketiya. His actions came to a climax with his self immolation.

    The Samyutta Nikaya states:

    “According to the seed that’s sown,
    So is the fruit you reap there from,
    Doer of good will gather good,
    Doer of evil, evil reaps,
    Down is the seed and thou shalt taste
    The fruit thereof.”

  • 0
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    Malinda – This guy had a questionable history not quite befitting a ‘monk’ (according to what the Buddha preached) right? And his ‘karma’ determined his fate, right? So being the Buddhist you are, why are you so upset that the cosmic forces took care of him in the way he paved his karmic destination?

    Would you say that ‘everyone gets what they deserve’?

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    An oft repeated quote from John Donne;

    “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Readers must pause to consider not, who profits from his tragic loss; but why we could not prevent it. How did we fail as peoples of a nation, as one and as a collective, to prevent this unwarranted loss of life? How do we even begin to address the multiple failures of our spiritual teachings, law enforcement, moral decay and apathy?

    Our failure to realize that causes we espouse and dedicate ourselves must benefit humankind across all walks of life; not one group of humans at the expense of another, is a tragic failure of the same magnitude as that of the Ven. Thero’s death.

    Where we have not failed is in generating conspiracy theories, intrigue and brinkmanship.

    Not only in giving up one’s life, but in life too, a life of full of hate, deception and one-upmanship against fellow human beings, be it in politics, religions or different races must diminish all mankind. The failure to dedicate ourselves to prevent these basic tenets of living and dying is where we have failed.

  • 0
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    I wish we had shown more sympathy towards our enemies( which is a little difficult) if not during the war but in the post war period. But somehow we Buddhists seem to be keen on saving animal rather than human beings.

    I suppose we all know the clergy blessed the soldiers when they went for war. One reason of course is for the soldiers to come back alive- We appreciate it. Other is to kill the enemy and win the war. This is our Buddhist Jihad.

    All religions practice Jihad one way or the other. Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. Buddhist Jihad was evident during the war.

    I would not call for immolation, which is bad in Buddhism, but cry for justice. I am not for one moment saying that LTTE actions were praiseworthy, but as Buddhists we could have been a little bit more compassionate.

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    [Edited out]

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    THANK GOD, THE DEAD CANNOT SPEAK.

    IF HE COULD, WE WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHO PLANNED THE WHOLE THING.

    ATTEMPTING SUICIDE IS A CRIME.

    WELL IT IS UP TO THE POLICE TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ALL THOSE WHO CONDONED AND CO-OPERATED IN THIS ACT

  • 0
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    If we practice the following, we should be able to control the slaughter of cows and the Ven Thero would have not died in vain.
    Step 1. Campaign against eating any kind of meat, fish even sprats. Stop feeding your pet dogs and cats meat.
    2. Stop advertising meat products.
    3. Stop the doctors from recommending meat protien
    3. Stop giving Dhane with animal including sea food.
    4. Please do not supply the forces with beef- army contractors please note.
    5. If one life of a cow will feed 1000 people you will need at least 10,000 lives of sprat fish to feed the same no. So let us save 10,000 lives of fish before trying to save one life of a cow. Mathematically we are 10,000 times more compassionate this way. So lets stop fishing first if your concern is genuine and not racism.
    6. Ban Buddhists and Hindus to consume beef and other meat products, fish etc thru’ legislation. Muslims will support this 100% even though we will have a massive business loss for our butchers.
    7. Once these few actions are taken you will find a massive surplus of cattle roaming our highways and streets and vegetable plots. It will take a quite a long time to solve this problem causing high vegetable prices, starvation, traffic jam etc. We will need huge finding to erect fences along roads and veg farms etc.
    8. Once all these actions find victory let us think of tackling halal slaughter for Muslims which is but a minor issue in terms of nos.
    Please educate the realities of worthless debate on slaughter. Let Buddhists follow in the footsteps of Buddha who himself ate meat and who allowed his monks to eat meat and stop this racial campaign in this peaceful beautiful island. We had enough killings and destruction in the past 30 years. Let us use our mind and move forward and cleanse our land of such racism, jealousy and greed.

    Instead let us all put our effort to fight Alcohol, Casino, drugs, prostitution, bribery and corruption which has become cancerous and march forward as a great nation.

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      What’s wrong with prostitution which is one of oldest profession?

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    The Sinhala-Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka are the most corrupt, most racist, and the most dangerous creatures.

    Are the Buddhist monks practicing Ahimsa (non-violence), Karuna (compassion), Metta (affection), and Maithriya (loving-kindness) towards fellow humans (irrespective of race/religion) or are they in the name of Buddhism promoting ethno-religious (Sinhala-Buddhist) chauvinism and hatred?

    Buddhist monks are supposed to have given up all the worldly things (Materialism) but in Sri Lanka, it’s a different story. The Sinhala-Buddhist Monks are Corrupt to the Core.
    These so called Sinhala-Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka do business, handle money, have Bank accounts and apply for Bank loans. It was found that a very large number of Sinhala-Buddhist monks had invested money in Sakvith Ranasighe’s illegal financial companies. They even sell the ata pirika (robes and other stuff) that the people donate them to earn money. Some of them are even employed. They engage in gambling, buy and sell shares, buy lottery tickets and so on. See the number of Pin-keta (tills) in the Buddhist temples. What they do with all the money they collect? Most of the culprits caught in printing fake currency notes were found to be Sinhala-Buddhists monks. They make money by selling the Car permits given to them. They print, record and sell books, magazines and Bana/pirith CDs, etc. and earn thousands of rupees in a short period.

    Buddha Business has made the Sinhala Buddhist monks very rich. They own bungalows and real estates and have luxury cars and vans, employing drivers. Very soon they will also apply for driving license. They also have the latest most expensive mobile phones, lap tops, etc. They do not go from house to house with the begging bowl as instructed by the Buddha, instead the villages bring food to the temple and also the Sinhala Buddhist monks employ cooks in the temple. We have also seen Sinhala Buddhist monks selling posters, begging for money, going from door to door asking money. Buddhist-monk led politicians wheeling and dealing in imported Mercedes Benz and being caught with the pants down illegally selling tax-free motor vehicles.

    They grow hair and make themselves attractive, adopt customs, habits and lifestyles like normal people, have secret love affairs, some of them live in boarding houses instead of temples, they listen to music and watch movies and have illegal sex with women or young boys. They keep mistresses in the temple (Buddhrakitha Thero and Ms. Vimala Wijewardene), and even take part in criminal/terrorist activities such as assassinating Prime minister (Somarama thero). Some of them drink alcohol, I have heard about monks who even keep Beer in their fridge. Some of them even form trade unions/associations; there was a time when the leader of the Nurses trade union in Sri Lanka was a Sinhala-Buddhist monk.

    Some of them perform false miracles and pretend to heal sick people with pirith water. They tie pirith thread and bless people expecting the people to fall on their legs and worship them. Some of them preach their own Bana (sermon) instead of Buddha`s Bana.

    The Sinhala Buddhist monks were War mongers, they supported and encouraged war. They take part in racist politics criticizing and condemning all other religions and races and creating communal hatred among Sinhala Buddhists and others. They take part in protest rallies, burning flags and effigies and also engage in fast unto death and now, self-immolation. Some Buddhist monks shredded their robes to take AK-47s and earn more respect. We saw how monks were involved in brawl in the parliament with blood soaked faces. The Sinhala Buddhist monks lobbed a grenade at the Shah Rukh Khan show in Colombo. At present the Sinhala Buddhist monks are engaged in violence against the Muslims and Christians. They stormed the Fashion Bug, verbally abused the Muslims (hambaya, goni billa), and threw rotten eggs at shoppers, attacked and destroyed several Mosques and Churches.

    Another new trend is the love for eating non-veg food (Meat and fish) among Sinhala-Buddhists monks. A new school seems to see nothing wrong in Buddhists eating animal flesh (including fish). An article by Ven. Dr. Vilegoda Ariyadeva thero, a former University of Ruhuna academic is a giant step toward guilt-free `Buddhism-friendly` meat eating. Dr. Ariyadeva thero claims meat eating is customary in Theravada Buddhist societies. Now a days when the Sinhala-Buddhists monks visit houses for Arms-giving (Daane) they expect expensive sea food and sometimes meat too. There are also Sinhala-Buddhists monks in Sri Lanka consuming food/drink in the afternoons/night even though they are not supposed to do so.

    Even though Buddhism does not have any caste system, caste is used among Sinhala Buddhist monks more than lay people. Different nikayas are formed according to the caste.

    Most of the Sinhala Buddhist Monks do not even follow the 5 basic moral principles (Pancha sila) what Buddha has preached. These monks are a damn disgrace to Buddhism?

    The Buddhism preached by the Sinhala Buddhist monks is no longer able to provide any vision or guidance or constructive power but are only occupied in maintaining their own petty positions in an already atrophied hierarchy resting on a utterly disillusioned and rapidly crumbling society from which the spirit has long since departed. They have subordinated the interests of the society to national goals and the narrow ambitions of nationalist and racist leaders.

    Not only the Indians but even the Sri Lankan Tamils gave up Buddhism and accepted Hinduism. For them to go back to Buddhism, has 2500 years of Buddhism in Sri Lanka (the so called Dhammadveepa) influenced any major changes in the Sinhala society (the so called guardians of Buddhism chosen by none other than the Buddha) in terms of attitude, character, behavior, morality and so on or has it failed miserably?

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      I don’t what’s your agenda. If you cannot talk good, keep silent.

    • 0
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      Read what UPALI COORAY has written in Lankaweb on even date.

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    All suicide is a psychological/mental disorder. Perceived as an easy way out, specially, when people of faith commit this act. If this act is a belief to highlight grievance then it has served it’s purpose through publicity and the result is an act of foolishness.

  • 0
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    When will this man learn to be objective and critical in his writings without spewing out these shallow meaningless words wasting our valuable time. May be he should take up some other occupation and spare us this pain!

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    It was an individual choice too by Hitler to suicide. But it does not mean that we should not discuss about his choice to suicide. Well Indarathana said to have been a member of Hela Urumaya. Why Hela Urumaya, being an influential partner of the regime, couldn’t introduce a legislation to prevent cattle slaughter. Was he sacked from Hela Urumaya becuase his intentions were unpragmatic? Malinda should ask these questions from Hela Urumaya who are now trying to sell this unfortunate incident as a jeevitha poojava

    • 0
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      Even Hitler was a vegetarian- What he did to the Jews is history

      • 0
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        Hitler Was BUDHIST. check the You tube… he killed 65 million people in the world

        • 0
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          Nonsense!

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          WTF?! What sort of idiot are you to get facts from YouTube? Do you also believe Homer Simpson exists? Oh.. Wait.. Isn’t there a video detailing out that Osama Bin Laden Buddhist as well?

          Moron.

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    SENEVIRATNE AND HIS COMMENTS ARE GOOD FOR THE CRAP HEAP !!

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    Forget setting yourself on fire, who is going to light a candle in protest for the human beings who are getting slaughtered on a daily basis in this country. Daily we are bombarded with news of dead bodies surfacing out of nowhere. Who is going to cry for the children who have been sexually molested and the women who were raped and murdered? Sadly, people have got their priorities mixed up. Saving the life of an animal has become so important that the whole country seems to be focused on that while the unlawful killing of human beings take place on a daily basis and nobody is bothered.

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    thunderstorm

    I agree with you. I am confused now which is superior whether human being or cow

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      You mean superior has to eat the inferior. You are no better than a beast Silva.

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    the ease at which he poured the petrol and lit the fire shows he had a lot of experience in doing the same. in
    ? 1983 july

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