28 October, 2020

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What Is ‘Bodu (Buddhist)’ In The ‘Bodu Bala Sena’?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Way back in the year 2004, when the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) was formed to contest the April elections, I objected on grounds that the political/historical role of the Bikkhu was advisory. The mayor, I wrote to the Sunday Island (February 15, 2004) has to get the drains cleaned, but is not required to cover himself in muck. For all this, the key figures of the JHU conducted themselves with decorum; they made their points lucidly and treated critic with respect, opting to deploy word to counter word. That the JHU became something else later on is a different matter. The point here is that the JHU of April 2004 is a stark contrast to the BBS of April 2013.

Let’s consider the BBS. Their statements, at media conferences and public gatherings, as well as their actions describe them well. It is apparent in tone and facial expression, in word and deed. It is also apparent in the organization’s silence on or responses to actions done in its name. If there is one thing absent in all of this it is equanimity. Emotion has ruled reason. Attachment overrides all else. There is clear inciting to violence. There is fear-mongering and playing to the baser instincts of a community, a tickling of human frailty.
‘Buddhist’ is an identity tag as much as it denotes preference for a particular teaching. But if teaching is important (and it certainly is), then any organization containing the word or a derivative must be guided by that doctrine, in both word and deed. The BBS is at odds with the fundamental tenets of the Dhamma.

The most recent example is how BBS representatives behaved in Thunmulla when confronting a set of individuals who had organized an event tagged ‘Buddhists Question Bodu Bala Sena’. That particular event was either organized or hijacked by people whose political agendas are anything but innocent. On the other hand, they were not violent. They came to light a candle, recite some lines in Pali (printed for the benefit of those unfamiliar, Buddhists and non-Buddhists) and take a stand. The BBS representatives present were abusive. In word, gesture and tone, they were in clear violation of ways of conduct prescribed by the Buddha. They could have, for example, spoken to those present cordially, even while recognizing pernicious intent and mischief-maker, and invited them to chant the thun-sutra together.

That particular incident was rather mild, compared to the foul and violence-inciting language and rhetoric indulged in by the BBS leadership. The BBS can claim they had no hand in the attack on Fashion Bug, for example, but they are certainly guilty of whipping anti-Muslim sentiment and ‘Muslimphobia’ among Buddhists. The stone-thrower is guilty, so too are those who planted ‘stone-throwing’ in his mind, directly or otherwise. The BBS has deliberately distorted statistics gathered by the Department of Census and Statistics to buttress arguments about ‘Muslim Expansion’. If, as the BBS claims, Muslims are in ‘expansion-mode’ and if whatever they find objectionable is illegal, then the BBS must take to the courts.

If there’s nothing illegal but it still offends, hurts and threatens, then the BBS (or anyone else) must seek answers in the Dhamma, which prescribes as fundamental engagement factors, pragna (wisdom) and maithree (compassion). There’s a palpable absence of intelligence and absolutely no compassion in the way the BBS has conducted itself. They could find answers in the Kalama Sutra (the Buddhist Charter on Free Inquiry), use the Sapta Aparihani Dharma (Seven principles of indestructability) etc. They could find in the notion of sanvaraya (decorum) associated with the figure of the bikkhu a useful ally in conduct. They have not.

Buddhists are not Arahats and there is political dishonesty in demanding that kind of enlightenment from Buddhists in the face of aggression (real or perceived), but an organization that purports to uphold Buddhist doctrine, culture and values must consciously and actively strive to adhere to basic doctrinal tenets. The BBS is so far away from that point to justify using ‘Bodu’ in its name. If Buddhists find the BBS to be a slur on their identity and belief system, then they too should respond with the compassion, wisdom, moderation and other concepts that guide action embedded in the Buddha Vacana. This would include circumspect in who to stand with of course.

What non-BBS Buddhists and other non-Buddhists of whatever political persuasion do is their business. The BBS cannot play mirror-politics if they hope to achieve anything close to moral high ground. As of now (and perhaps for all time, given the arrogance and invective that they’ve adorned themselves with), ‘Buddhist’ is not a tag they can wear without insulting all Buddhists and Buddhism.

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

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Latest comments

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    hey leela whats this serious allegations against you for fraud ha
    and you try to act high and mighty huh damm thief!

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    Malinda’s trying to convince us that he is not a bigot!!!! Good if he has really seen the light of day but i’m not at all convinced about his stance -despite this article.

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    Shaaa Malinda, everyone loves you now. In this website you have to be pro liberal to be lauded. No conservatives or nationalist allowed. Unfair isn’t it? If I were you, I would stick to my Nationalistic guns. I actually like your nationalistic positions. Its lucid, not hateful. It gives people a different point of view so that they may disagree and engage intelligently.

    What needed to be said about the BBS, needed to be said. Let that be the end of the business. Now back to the Nationalist Papers.

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    For once a straightforward article by MS where the Left Hand does not take away what the Right Hand has given. Like DJ’s forthright speech at the Young Journalist forum, it is good to see even one time stout defenders of the regime willing to speak out for the cause of Justice, Truth, Decency and indeed in the long term interest of this country as against the short term interests of the MR regime.

    A patriot is not one who defends whichever government is in power, based on his/her ideological or traditional preferences, but someone who has the true welfare of the land and all its people at heart.

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    You said omething. There has to be a cause for everything. Buddhist monks in Chinese Turkistan (Central Asia) had to defend themselves from around the 6th /7th centuries onwards when destructive forces of Islam attacked them and destroyed places of worship. They had to learn martial arts and became great exponents of the art in order to defend themselves.If not for that threat they would have been meditating in their solitary confinement. Are we to believe that everything is hunky-dory in SL and Buddhists have nothing to fear? They shd perhaps, grin and bear when their holiest places like Mihintale is converted to Evengelical worship and Dambulla , a symbol of Sinhalese resistance against invader and a major place of Buddhist worship is converted to a Mosque yard by Wahabis!
    I am personally disturbed by evangelists coming almost everyday with loads of literature to convert me. Perhaps they have heard that two of children have gone over to R/C Church thr’marriage. I send them to the next door people who are R/C and the next who are Muslims but they would not go there!

    Malle Pol

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    Finally the Jathika Racist Urumaya appears not that bad in comparison to BBS ?

    Is that the point ? and you are the sane voice within this racist entity ?

    How dumb do you expect your readers to be ?

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    What dumbness? Ask Buddhists to grin and bear as it happened under Portuguese rule! Didn’t King Bhuvanekabahu grin and bear for a time when the Friars disparaged his religion in his presence. He listened with tears lowing down his white beard. Then he gathered courage to
    tell Fra Joao de Villa de Conde who was trying to convert him through disputation: “No.I will on no terms permit that [more disputation]. For whatever I have recieved from my parents and drunk at my mother’s breast, that I know or certaiin is most true and quite suficient to obtain salvation. I do not desire to know or understand anything else, because I judge it to be entirely superfluouss.”
    When the Friar continued to intimidate, the King said” Neither for the present king of Portugal, nor for two others like him, will I desert the law in which I was born, grew up and was educated. you may be quite sure of it. I will never embrace Christian religion, or speak in favour of it. But i I am forced I will abdicate my kingship and abandon my native land,rather than be dipped in the waters of baptism. …You and your friars may preach your religion to my people I they accept it, it will be most gratiying to me,and i will never put any obstacles to their conversion. but i they do not accept it it ought not to be imputed to me.”
    So there comes a time to say “Enough is enough!”

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      Yeah Buddy, ‘enough is enough’ of the lies of BBS. Lies, nothing but lies. You can’t justify it in any logic, religion or philosophy.

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    Writer thinks what he wrote was right. That he think according to his knowledge and understanding. Anybody who read the article will understand it according to his knowledge, expreiences and biases. But everybody must understnd that BBS also has some freedom to express their views too as Ulama, other Muslim organizations, NGOs, individuals. There can be some truth in what they say. There can be some form of hidden danger to the society from other organizations who silently and covertly carry out their activities secretly. But BBS openly say, and represent what they have to say. Those are clear to everybody. But activities of secret hidden organization activities no one knows and they are a great danger to the society. BBS has a point. There is something true in what they say.

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