8 August, 2022


Vesak: What The So Called Buddhist Balavegaya Is Doing In Sri Lanka?

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

The people in Hong Kong will be celebrating what they call Buddha’s Birthday tomorrow (May 17). The term ‘Buddha’s Birthday’ is similar to what is referred to in Sri Lanka as Vesak. However, the overall emphasis here is on birth and it is a sober celebration of life.

The Chinese are imbibed with the philosophy of Confucius who helped them to develop their moral principles. These principles are very deeply embedded in the Chinese mind. In Buddha‘s Birthday too, what they see are the important teachings relating to morality.

Hong Kong is one of the very few places in Asia which was able to overcome bribery and corruption. Perhaps one of the reasons that enabled such a radical transformation may be their attachment to moral values.

In India a similar approach to Buddhism was taken up by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who, more than anyone else contributed to the revival of Buddhism in India which was wiped out by Brahmanism many centuries ago. Before that, for several centuries the most widespread philosophy was Buddhism.

For Dr. Ambedkar, whose sole aim in life was to eradicate the caste system of India the revival of Buddhism signified the creation of a moral foundation for liberty, equality and fraternity. As the chief of the drafting committee of the India constitution, he made every attempt to incorporate these values to have a practical meaning to Indians who were deeply divided and fragmented due to the caste system which had been entrenched for centuries.

Dr. Ambedkar as a young and emerging leader in India declared in 1936 in a famous speech to enlightened Hindus that he was born a Hindu but would not die a Hindu. By this he gave an indication of his wish to abandon the Brahmanical philosophy in its totality. On Buddha Jayanthi Day in 1956 he openly declared that he would embrace Buddhism. On October 14 of the same year with about 500,000 adherents he embraced Buddhism in a public ceremony.

In a radio broadcast made the same year he declared his fundamental philosophy thus:

“My Personal Philosophy”

“Every man should have a philosophy of life, for everyone must have a standard by which to measure his conduct. And Philosophy is nothing but a standard by which to measure.

“Negatively, I reject the Hindu social philosophy propounded in the Bhagvat Geeta based as it is, on the Triguna of the Sankhya philosophy which is in my judgement a cruel perversion of the philosophy of Kapila, and which had made the caste system and the system of graded inequality the law of Hindu social life.

“Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty equality and fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha. In his philosophy, liberty and equality had a place but headed that unlimited liberty destroyed equality and absolute equality leaves no room for liberty. In his philosophy, law had a place only as a safeguard against the breech of liberty and equality; but he did not believe that the law could be a guarantee for breaches of liberty or equality. He gave the highest place to fraternity as the only real safeguard against the denial of liberty or equality or fraternity which was another name for brotherhood or humanity, which was again, another name for religion.

“Law is secular, which anybody may break while fraternity or religion is sacred which everybody must respect. My philosophy has a mission. I have to do the work of conversion: for, I have to make the followers of the triguna theory to give it up and accept mine. Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. The political ideal set out in the preamble to the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodies in their religion denies them.”

Dr. B R Ambedkar

(All India Radio broadcast of speech on Oct. 3, 1954).

During the public ceremony of his conversion to Buddhism he and his followers took 22 vows. They are as follows:

I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor shall I worship them.

I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are believed to be incarnation of God nor shall I worship them.

I shall have no faith in ‘Gauri’, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus nor shall I worship them.

I do not believe in the incarnation of God.

I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda.

I shall not perform ‘Shraddha’ nor shall I give ‘pind-dan’.

I shall not act in a manner violating the principles and teachings of the Buddha.

I shall not allow any ceremonies to be performed by Brahmins.

I shall believe in the equality of man.

I shall endeavour to establish equality.

I shall follow the ‘noble eightfold path’ of the Buddha.

I shall follow the ‘paramitas’ prescribed by the Buddha.

I shall have compassion and loving kindness for all living beings and protect them.

I shall not steal.

I shall not tell lies.

I shall not commit carnal sins.

I shall not take intoxicants like liquor, drugs etc.

I shall endeavour to follow the noble eightfold path and practise compassion and loving kindness in everyday life.

I renounce Hinduism which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality, and adopt Buddhism as my religion.

I firmly believe the Dhamma of the Buddha is the only true religion.

I believe that I am having a re-birth.

I solemnly declare and affirm that I shall hereafter lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.

For Dr. Ambedkar the rejection of every aspect of Brahmanism was essential to embracing Buddhism. Perhaps it is in this that the Buddhism he understood and the so called Sinhala Buddhism differs. What the so called Buddhist Balavegaya is doing in Sri Lanka is only a demonstration of how much Sinhala Buddhism rejects the most fundamental aspects of Buddhism and how much the Sinhala Buddhist mentality is rooted in the Brahmanical tradition.

On the very last day of his life the last thing Dr. Ambedkar did was to dictate a preface to his book on Buddha’s teachings. After dictating the preface he went to sleep and the following morning he was found dead by his wife. When his book Buddha and His Dharma was published, Mahabodi Society in Madras stated that the book represented Dr. Ambedkar’s ideas and not Buddhism. The Society was run by Sri Lankan Buddhists,

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Ac very interesting article, Basil. By the way who were the big guns of the Mahabodhi Society at the time?

    • 0

      Come Wesak it is Big business for the Show Case Buddhists of Sri Lanka. There will be from Dansalas to Pandals to side shows, all to make money in the name of selling Buddhism. There will be numerous groups of people who go around collecting funds for such enterprises mentioned above. They virtually extort large sums of money especially from Non Buddhists Businesses to individuals of other faiths who give without question, lest they earn the wrath from these goodsamaritans. Then there are the Sinhalese Buddhist businessmen indulging in nefarious businesses from drugs to contract killing who also lavishly contribute to show the world their piety. The Kaputu Bo Pansalas thrive during Wesak Illuminating the whole area at no expense to them patronized by the local Politicians of all hue. There are Pandals erected with some mediocre artists depicting some fib of a Jathaka Story, highly illuminated with coloured bulbs, again free of cost, gazed at by hundreds of people who just stare at the flickering bulbs and the mediocre paintings for hours on end blocking roads. Then there are Dansalas catering from Noodles to fried rice to Ice Cream and people flock to get anything free, a trait common to the Ordinary Sri Lankans. There are lanterns from Pahan koodus to Aeroplanes to Ships all illuminated are displayeed and what significance the latter has I do not know. Then there are Puppet shows and Olubakkas dancing on make shift stages all to entertain the Wesak viewers. These Commercial Buddhists in this country are great copy cats. There has never been Wesak Cards and Bakthi Gee in the past according to Buddhist Tradition. But now there are Wesak Cards to imitate Christmas Cards and Bakthi Gee to supliment Christmas Carols. After the Wesak is over these Wesak Cards with Buddha pictures are found in dust bins and rubish heaps. Just like the generosity of those who run the Dansalas who try to force feed the passers by, revert back to their normal self of greed and selfishness. The amount of electricity wasted seems to be no one’s concern. This is all done to show the solidarity of the so called pious Buddhists in this country who wear the label for identity to feel they are the majority. What a mockery they make of Wesak as it is not an occaision to merry make and enjoy. It shows how starved the people are for entertainment. Quite in opposite to what others do, I light one lamp within me, that only I can see and it is not for public display but for my salvation alone. May all Beings be Happy and Healthy.

      • 0

        Gamini, the Muslims too have caught the FLU. The Prophets birthday is not even celebrated in the land he was born. To be grateful to GOD he fasted on Mondays, the Day of Week, he was born. But the Muslims in Sri Lanka have borrowed from the Buddhists and celebrate in a somewhat commercial style ( sans the pandas etc) but having “kanthuris” the equivalent to the dansala. How can the BBS say we are not integrating???

        • 0

          Wahabis detest the local versions of islam,puritanical wahabis treat non muslims inferior,this brand of islam is catching up in sri lanka,financed by QATAR and SAUDI ARABIA ,many buddhists are not aware of the different sects of muslims and think all are alike,WAHABi islam is spreading around the world,and it has reached sri lanka,This brand of islam is the most radical version,they oppose the local variations of islam and even demolish shrines of islamic sufis,they frequently refer non muslims as kaffirs and are religious fanatics.

          • 0

            @sanath, why don’t you do your research properly and then straighten your logic. I think you have confused ‘puritanical’ for ‘pristine.’ True Wahabism or Salafism is against any Terrorism and violent regime change. Hijacked Wahabism is what has to be deplored and this is the brand that is making headlines. They preach radicalism. Sufism is a form of mysticism and the followers give precedence to their Sufi Sheik and their interpretations of the scripture. There are many Sufi Orders. There have been differences between them and have resulted in litigation, violence etc. I presume you to be a Buddhist so you need not worry what the Muslims believe in. You have the beautiful Dhamma to understand and absorb .

            THE Buddha said:

            “All acts of living creatures become bad by ten things, and by avoiding the ten things they become good. There are three evils of the body, four evils of the tongue, and three evils of the mind.
            “I exhort you to avoid the ten evils:
            Kill not, but have regard for life.
            Steal not, neither do ye rob; but help everybody to be master of the fruits of his labor.
            Abstain from impurity, and lead a life of chastity.
            Lie not, but be truthful. Speak the truth with discretion, fearlessly and in a loving heart.
            Invent not evil reports, neither do ye repeat them. Carp not, but look for the good sides of your fellow-beings, so that ye may with sincerity defend them against their enemies.
            Swear not, but speak decently and with dignity.
            Waste not the time with gossip, but speak to the purpose or keep silence. Covet not, nor envy, but rejoice at the fortunes of other people.
            Cleanse your heart of malice and cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all living beings with kindness.
            Free your mind of ignorance and be anxious to learn the truth, especially in the one thing that is needful, lest you fall a prey either to scepticism or to errors. Scepticism will make you indifferent and errors will lead you astray, so that you shall not find the noble path that leads to life eternal.”

            These are lovely moral points to ponder for anyone instead of trying to dig for dirt where there is none.

    • 0

      Question? Who is Funding and Promoting the BBS?

      Answer: Who has to gain from this?
      1. Norway, West, USA, some others.
      2. Christian Fundamentalists and Other Christians.
      3. Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists.
      4. Sinhala Buddhist Traders
      5. Tamils Christians.
      6. The current regime.

      Who Loses: The Sinhala Buddhist people, the Muslim People, and the country as whole.



      Western role in the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) of Sri Lanka
      Posted on May 18th, 2013
      by Anura Alahakone, USA
      It is well-known that US has taken a lead role in combating, and sometimes fostering Islamic extremism in many parts of the world. Its support for the Taliban in Afganistan by arming them against the Soviets is well known. The US has also supported Islamic groups to create tension is some African states to counter other tendencies.

      In many of these moves, and in some of its UN lobbying, the US uses third parties to cover its hand. Norway has figured prominently as one of the not-so-hidden hands of Western foreign policy in this regard. Canada and Britain have figured in extraordinary renditions of prisoners who were whisked away for torture by US agents operating in other countries.

      In Sri Lanka, Western policy was directed through the secessionist politics of the Tamil Nationalism. This provided a stage for global capitalism to move in, with Ranil Wickremasinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga willing partners. However, this agenda was thwarted by the rise of the Rajapaksa government which exploited the growing anger of the majority of the country that realized that the carpet is being pulled from under them, with the sovereignty and decision making in the country passing into the hands of Norway, Japan, India and internationally funded NGOs.

      Rajapaksa used a policy of dividing up the opposition and offering perks to woo support, to bring most of the Sinhala polity as well as the Muslims behind him. Using a large cabinet to shield the weakness of his minority government, Rajapaksa won a war that had been declared `un-winnable’ by the West which funded the Tamil Tigers, and harboured individuals like Anton and Adele Balasingham who openly supported programs declared by the UN to be crimes against civil societies.

      Western analysts realized that until and unless the Sinhala polity is divided, the Western program cannot go ahead. The Tamil nationalist program thrived in the last three decades only because the Sinhalese were divided equally between the United National party (center right) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (center left). The US keeps track of Islamic groups and knew of the Wahabist-Islamic incursions in Sri Lanka, and the growing resentment against it among certain nationalist sections of the Sinhalese.

      The strategists in the Pentagon invoke their standard formula for situations like this. It lines up its defense establishment with the defense establishment of the target country (Sri Lanka), and gets one of its henchmen (e.g., Norway) to support the anti-Islamic radical groups at a variety of levels. This has been done not only by the so-called “one-shot” support given to the BBS, but also by giving financial aid to selected Buddhist temples. This is the standard approach to buying up political support where there is none.

      In effect, the West needs a Buddhist NGO in Sri Lanka, just as it needed an Islamic NGO in Afghanistan against the Soviets. However, here it is playing a more subtle game, check-mating the Wahabi Islamists in Sri Lanka, gaining support from a section of Buddhists, while alienating and diminishing the power of the Jathika-Hela Urumaya that led the vanguard against Norway at Mavil Ara, and actually fielded Buddhist monks at Sri Lankan elections. Thus the rise of the BBS fits in very well with the strategy of the West.

      However, some members of the Rajapaksa government, as well as some leaders of the Buddhist political program are clever strategists. They have realized that they too can use (the covertly western-supported) anti-Islamism of the BBS to their own advantage in winning back some of the assets that have been encroached upon by Islamist expansion. This is of course a popular move among the Sinhala nationalist merchant class which is prepared to compromise on Buddhist teachings for a bit more of Buddhist hegemony.

      Sri Lankan Buddhists do not have a strong moral figure like the Dalai Lama who successfully maintained the Tibetan effort against China on the high moral road for many decades. Now, the Dalai Lama has retired from that struggle and how it will spiral onwards is any-body’s guess. The Dalai Lama has expressed his sadness about the events in Sri Lanka and Burma, but it is easy to dismiss him as being mis-informed. Indeed, he is not informed about these events per se. He is making his statements based on the general principles of Buddhism that demand that every matter be solved by discussion, compromise and compassion, without violence. That is the high moral road that the Buddha indicated to the Lichchavi kings in regard to governance, some 26 centuries ago, with his seven rules.

      The BBS is a militant group which in effect implies that Buddhist principles have to be re-enforced by strong-arm tactics. Some church fathers as well as Western anti-Islamists who have been irked by Islam’s inroads all over the world are delighted by the new developments. They don’t have to openly sully their hands!

      The withdrawal of Muslim support from the Rajapaksa government is also attended with glee by Western strategists who noted how Rajapaksa had used such support in UN fora for thwarting international sanctions against his government.

      The western NGOs that existed in Sri Lanka so far have been headed by Tamils, Christians, or noted international wheeler-dealers. If the BBS can become a Southern Sinhalese NGO that can be manipulated by the West, an immediate objective of the West would be achieved.

      However, some of the leaders of the BBS may prove to be artful individuals who may not necessarily tow the line of the West, just as the Taliban NGOs created in Afghanistan by the West some decades ago morphed into anti-Western agents. However, the Taliban had enough middle-eastern financial backers when the West withdrew its support. In contrast, the BBS will dry up and loose steam, as soon as it looses its financial backing.

      Here we have to look at the JHU that has become a dormant entity when its financial support dried up with the JHU becoming a compliant partner of the Rajapaksa politics of accommodating all and `shaping up’ problems instead of solving them according to the rule book.

  • 0

    I am a Muslim and I love the teachings of ‘Gauthama Buddha’ barring one. That is the ‘Creator’ concept. I believe in a creator or many creators or all of us as creators. My own view is contradictory to my faith that I inherit through birth. It is not neccessary that I have to follow the religion of parents. I have the freedom for choice. After studying about religion for so long, I did not find one true but came to a conclusion that every religion teaches to do the right thing. Therefore, all the religions are true or untrue.

    • 0

      Your knowledge of Buddhism seems to be superficial.

      Buddha did not DENY a creator. Nor did he ACCEPT one. Because who created the creator is unanswerable.

      Therefore Buddha focused on the “creation” instead of the “creator.” Hence “Sansara” and “impermanence” theory

      • 0

        CM., I have copied and pasted the following from the BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL by Paul Carus

        “It is hard to realize the essential, the truth is not easily perceived; desire is mastered by him who knows, and to him who sees aright all things are naught. There is, O monks, an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed. Were there not, O monks, this unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed. Since, O monks, there is an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated and unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed.”

        I would like to know your comments, Thanks!

  • 0

    Vesak: What The So Called Buddhist Balavegaya Is Doing In Sri Lanka?
    That is none of your business Basil. Youbetter myob close to Hong kong and your paymasters. That is why you are there…………

    • 0

      Dirty Saththu.;

      YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND that,it is everybody’s Right,
      I mean Every buddhist’s Right to ask “What is so called Buddhist BALUVEGAYA DOING IN SRI LANKA?.
      Not Only Basils, But also every buddhist’s right as it is every believers responsibility to give correct advises if some one or any orgnized group violating buddhist principals and giving a bad impression to the HONOURABLE BUDDHIST PHYLOSOPHY.

      We feel sorry that you may not get enlighten your knowleadge on HONOURABLE,SACRED BUDDHIST PHYLOSOPHY.

      Do you feel jeleouse of Basil be in Hong kong.

      Please be enlighten and follow the Buddhist principles to be good budhist ot synthetic one.

      But there are BUDDHIST SINHALESE with other buddhist nationalites.

      I wish That;


      a Buddhist Sinhelyek.

  • 0

    RE: The Enlightened Birthday and Morality.

    “The Chinese are imbibed with the philosophy of Confucius who helped them to develop their moral principles. These principles are very deeply embedded in the Chinese mind. In Buddha‘s Birthday too, what they see are the important teachings relating to morality.”

    Even the other primates have a sense of morality, of what is fair and what is not. The Enlightened Buddha tried to teach those Mara morals.
    Unfortunately, still in Sri Lanka there are a quite a few Mara Morals, like the BBS, the representatives of the Devils to blight Buddha’s Moral teachings.

    They need to learn morals from Confucius, Ven, Dalai Lama and even our cousin primates.. See below.

    Capuchin monkeys reject unequal pay


  • 0

    It is amazing how much time and effort our non Buddhist Srilankans put in to make us inhabitants true blue Buddhists to the fine print.

    Poor old Ambedkar’s contribution didn’t cut the mustard in his own homeland.

    In fact the Shiva Lingam worshippers in Tamil Nadu have given it a new twist perhaps, attacking our poor Sinhala Buddhist devotees and their monks when they travel to pray at the Buddha’s birth place.

    Our own Shiva Lingam worshipping politicians haven’t even said a word even to sympathize with our poor pilgrims.

    All Temples from North to South and East to West will be chokkers with our devotees mainly our rural poor in their crspy clean whites on Buddha’s Birthy Day.

    They will observe “Sil”.atleast for twelve hours.

    Their beloved children will bring them lunch.Vegetarian of course.

    What would the BBS do?.

    Basil should direct that to their handlers in the Norwagian Embassy.

    • 0

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “attacking our poor Sinhala Buddhist devotees and their monks when they travel to pray at the Buddha’s birth place.”

      Your Sinhala/Buddhists have been attacking, killing, …..your Tamil brethren for decades.

      Your Tamil brethren in Tamilnadu have just started to mimic what you have taught them from this island. After all they have only been attacking their poor Sinhala Buddhists brethren.

      Remember you share your stupid DNA with your Tamilnadu brethren.

      What else could one expect from stupid people?

    • 0

      aiyo aiyo how can you call yourself a true blue Budhist Leela aka Sumansekera,when the Buddhism that you practice has no tolarence and is full of racism how can that be the Buddhist way of life that Buddha taught what you jokers practice is ‘non buddhism’!

    • 0

      ah Leela uncle (K A Sumansekera) so you continue you ramling huh…good good keep rambling uncle like an old radio !

  • 0

    As a Hindu, I tell FULL moon days are holy days for Hindus too. The Bo Tree is venerated as a tree of fertility by Hindus. Many baron Hindu women going around the bo tree and pray for children.

    The demise of Buddhism in India due to the arrogance of Buddhist monks not by Brahmans.

    Hindus never destroyed Buddhist culture or stupas in India. But Muslims and Christians destroyed the Hindu and Buddhist monuments. Recently the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed by Taliban!

    BBS is now functons with foreign funds.

    Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhism created Somaramas and Buddha Rakkitas. Buddhism is good for people but “Sinhala Buddhism” always creates problems!

  • 0

    Basil Fernando article is full of weighty matter but equally misleading. Buddhism as we know has already been founded on the teachings in the tripitaka scriptures and suddenly we are guides to be inspired from Dr. Ambedkar’s teachings from this Veask day in Hong Kong onwards (which as the article says falls not on the Full Moon but on this 17th, before the full moon)is obviously a deliberate approach for an emergency landing on the wrong detination!Hijacked perhaps simply to find some fault with a Buddhist revival if any in Sri Lanka which in the face of various threats to the Sri lankan state’s dignity while being a predominently Buddhist country of the world of today.

  • 0

    There is an interesting documentary ‘National Geographic Bones of the Buddha’, which can be Googled and download using torrent.

  • 0




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