15 December, 2017

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When Government Plays Enlightened One

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

There are moves to bring in new laws to define what is kepa (permissible) and what is akepa (prohibited) for the Buddhist clergy, i.e. the Bikkhus. Whether or not this has been prompted by requests from the Buddhist Order as represented by the Maha Nayaka Theros of the three Nikayas, we do not know. In any event it is an initiative that resurrects the old discussion about the relationship between state and religion, whether the relevant institutions should operate independent of one another or, if not, what the rules of engagement should be.

There are some primary objections and these should be dealt with first. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri has made a relevant observation drawn from the notion of citizenship rights and the principle of equality (in a Facebook post): “All those who value religious freedom should unconditionally oppose the proposed laws related to the conduct of Bhikkus. It is the particular religious community that should decide on the affairs of that particular religious community, subject to the laws of the country. For example, it is not the state but the Buddhist Order that should decide whether or not a Bikkhu can apply for a driving license. If the state rejects the application for a driving license submitted by a Bikkhu it is simultaneously a violation of that Bikkhu’s rights as well as the Bikkhu’s rights as a citizen. What is important here is his citizenship and not his status as a member of the clergy.

In other words, the state cannot set the rules and regulations of any organization, be it religious or otherwise, and can intervene only if these are out of order in terms of the overall legal framework of the country. The state will not and cannot move to amend the rules and regulations, the articles of faith if you will, the articles of association etc., of scout troops, welfare societies, trade unions, blue chip companies or the bulathvita kade tucked into an alleyway off a busy street. The state will not and cannot dictate to the Chairperson or CEO of a company what the dress code ought to be. As such this move is an infringement of and an affront to the basic principles of freedom enshrined in the Constitution, for example, Article 10 of Chapter III, ‘Freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

The state can and does set general rules for various sectors, for example companies (and within them sub-sectoral institutions such as banks and insurance entities for example) and cooperatives, but does not and cannot interfere with the details of the particular organizations with respect to behavior. It cannot specify the menu for lunch, whether women can or cannot drive, or determine that only men can hold positions in the top management. That’s silly, unethical and violates fundamental rights.

Perhaps a counter-example and the objections it could prompt might help. Suppose an Act is presented to Parliament to say that the Catholic Church or any other church of a Christian denomination cannot own or run a school? Suppose there’s an Act proposed to bar clergymen of such institutions from applying for a driving license? Suppose there’s an Act to open the Catholic priesthood to women? What would we have? First there’ll be howls of protest from the Religious Freedom NGO brigade and it’s academic and other adjuncts. The US Embassy will express grave concern. The Asian Human Rights Commission will issue a statement as would Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Permanent Representative of the country’s mission in Geneva would be summoned by the head of UNHRC and perhaps even Ban Ki-moon. That they are pretty much silent on this occasion tells of their selectivity and their mostly unspoken but clearly evident anti-Buddhist sentiments.

Nirmal, in a phone conversation, brought up the valid issue of the insertion of ‘Buddhism’ into the Constitution, i.e. Chapter II (Article 9), regarding the foremost place given to Buddhism and the ‘duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana’. Nirmal argues that this is an invitation for interference of the kind that he objects to. Well, firstly, it is one thing to ‘protect and foster’ and quite another to play class monitor, head mistress, ombudsman and the Vinayarakshaka Sabha. Also, just as there are constitutions and laws, there are also things like culture, history and heritage which inform their making. “Secular” is not god-given, after all and neither is a constitution (or state) culture or religion free in word or application.

Anyway, since the issue is discipline and applies only (therefore selectively and illegally) to the clergy of a single religion, Buddhism, there are legal as well as political and doctrinal objections. The movers of this Act are assuming to have knowledge superior to the Buddha on matters pertaining to Bikkhu Vinaya or discipline. Whether or not the Buddhist Order and its membership in word and deed subscribe to the relevant tenets is of course something that the Buddhist Order should discuss, but it’s all there in the Vinaya Pitaka.

The basic rules of conduct for bikkhus and bikkhunis (Patimokkha) are set out in the Suttavibhange and these are complemented in the Mahavagga and the Cullavagga with relevant elaboration for instructional purposes in the Parivara. Whether or not the clergy abides by these or violates beyond the point of what is accepted as permissible in today’s context either through ‘error’ of omission or commission, is a matter for the Maha Sangha to deliberate and act upon. It is NOT the business of the state, NOT the business of legislators.

Law makers, whether Buddhist or otherwise, in addition to recognizing the fundamental error of this move in terms of articles enshrined in the Constitution, would do well to reflect on the arrogance of assuming equality or even superiority to the intellect of Siddhartha Gauthama, especially on matters of the Order he founded.

*Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malindasenevi@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    //In any event it is an initiative that resurrects the old discussion about the relationship between state and religion, //

    Buhaahaahaa… Is this guy suggesting that there is no relationship between religion and the state, and the change of law would bring it in? Can you stand up and argue that ‘special place’ for Buddhism in the national constitution to be removed, rather than giving a petty excuse to maintain it?

    • 0
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      [Edited out]

      • 8
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        If the state cannot set the rules and regulations of any organization, be it religious or otherwise, then the first thing that the state should do is to remove Religion completely from the constitution. The state has no right to decide a foremost place for any religion.

        • 7
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          Religion should be taken out completely from the constitution. If Religion is included in the constitution, then all the four religions (none of them originated in Sri Lanka) should be given equal status.

          If the reason for giving foremost place to a religion is due to period (ancient) then both Buddhism and Hinduism should be given the foremost place.

          If the state gives foremost place for any religion, then the state has all the rights to interfere or set rules and regulations to make sure it is not misused.

    • 5
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      Malinda Seneviratne

      RE:When Government Plays Enlightened One

      Keep Separation of Church, Temple and Mosque and State.

      Stop the Monks and Priest running Amok and committing crimes. Save the Alter boys!

      Buddhist Meditation Monk in London Sentenced to 7 Years for Child Sex Abuse

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/?s=Pahalagama+Somaratana&x=7&y=2

    • 2
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      Hey people,

      pleae let this go through your head in a sensitive manner please.

      “ll those who value religious freedom should unconditionally oppose the proposed laws related to the conduct of Bhikkus. It is the particular religious community that should decide on the affairs of that particular religious community, subject to the laws of the country. For example, it is not the state but the Buddhist Order that should decide whether or not a Bikkhu can apply for a driving license. If the state rejects the application for a driving license submitted by a Bikkhu it is simultaneously a violation of that Bikkhu’s rights as well as the Bikkhu’s rights as a citizen. What is important here is his citizenship and not his status as a member of the clergy.””.

      If this is the case, why those monk leaders were KIRIMATI GILAPU kimbulas – as crocodile fed with clay behaved during the high violent days of BBS ?
      With all respect to prelates, but I do feel – that their dedication was questionable specially during the last few years – BBS aggressively behaved so violently sometimes as no laymen would practise it – with police backbornelessly stood next to them. These were the acts patronaged by ballige putha administration – by being unable to tame his brother Gotabaya. Gotabaya behaved himself as if he was above law. Today, he goes to criminal investigation bodies, more than he goes to his toiletting for all the curseful done to the nation.

      • 5
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        It is tragic to see that the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka is dragged down to such a low level by non-other than the members of the Buddhist clergy. These Buddhist monks (hora ganayas or cheevaradharis) are exploiting the respect that the Buddhist society has for the saffron robed Sangha (one of the triple gems/jewels mentioned by Buddha) and not only misleading some of the gullible Buddhists but also betraying Buddhism and insulting the Buddha.

        Even during the 1950s, we have seen Buddhist terrorists among the Buddhist clergy such as Buddhrakitha Thero and Somarama thero assassinating Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranayake. Today we have the extreme version of them in the Buddhist clergy known as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Sinhala Ravaya, both behaving violently and exhibiting barbarism, and now there is another new addition, Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa. President Maithree and Prime Minister Ranil should take extra care and precaution against these Buddhist Terrorists who will not hesitate even for a moment when it comes to assassinating our leaders.

        What is the point in having a Buddhasasana Ministry if it is only a silent observer to all the anti-Buddhist acts committed by the Buddhist monks? The new government under President Maithree should think of forming a Buddhist Disciplinary Commission/Committee under the Ministry of Buddhasasana and Religious Affairs to maintain the Buddhist Vinaya (disciplinary code) among the Buddhist clergy. Respected Buddhist monks of the Maha Sahgha can chair such a committee. All the rouge Monks (hora ganayas or cheevaradharis) who are hijacking the Buddhist religion with their anti-Buddhist activities and disrupting the peace in the country should be subjected to disciplinary action and should be disrobed. Buddhist disciplinary laws should be enacted specially for the Buddhist clergy who violate the Buddhist values and principles. This has become a very urgent need in Sri Lanka.

  • 1
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 8
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    Malinda,
    A simple question. Does the Sangha need reforms? Ms.Serasinghe has made it clear in another thread that it does. There should not be men of the likes of Gnanasara, in the Sangha. There should not be men who hold Golden Key accounts in the Sangha. Monks should not be engaged in politics. Monks should not be members of parliament. Monks should not be such that they are prosecuted , convicted and jailed for various offences including those of a sexual nature. Monks should not be preaching hate and advocating violence.

    What has the Sangha or the Mahanayakes done to discipline or expel such monks ? Are monks exempt from the discipline and obligations law imposes on all citizens? Are the robes a passport to lawlessness? Are the monks permitted to be a law unto themselves?

    Did not out Kings of old take steps to reform the Sangha? If the monks cannot live in accordance with the Vinaya and cannot be disciplined from within the Sangha, I think, the State is obligated to treat them as it would treat any other citizen and professional who has become a menace to society. If special laws are required to do this, so be it? They should not be permitted to abuse the respect accorded to them, on account of the robes they have chosen to wear. I had to once tell a thuggish monk who came to my gate asking my contribution to what was obviously a fraudulent charity and called me a ‘ Para Demala’ for refusing, that I will disrobe him and beat him. He ran! Was I wrong?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 5
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    Malinda

    I heard that you have crossed over to the MS camp and congrats.

    High time the monks are asked to follow some rules.

    Did you know that a monk was even trying to intervene in the trnsfer of the Principal of your old school?

    Jagath

    • 3
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      Malinda Seneviratne

      RE:When Government Plays Enlightened One

      “There are moves to bring in new laws to define what is kepa (permissible) and what is akepa (prohibited) for the Buddhist clergy, i.e. the Bikkhus. Whether or not this has been prompted by requests from the Buddhist Order as represented by the Maha Nayaka Theros of the three Nikayas, we do not know.”

      1. Malinda, nice to hear from you. We had our battles, when you were shilling and white-washing for MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa Amana MaRa Dhushana MaRa, but it is history now.

      2. When are they going to hang the Rajapaksa criminals, killers and murderers? The Ghosts of Lashtantha, Ekliyagoda, Thagudeen and many other’s ghosts Amarasiri does not recognized, keep bugging, and can’t even have a good nights sleep.

      3. With the new rules, do you think the Monks will be able to have boys? Women and girls? Booze? Otherwise, what is in it for them. Ganasara Thereo and many others will derobe. Will they become politicians, criminals or rapists?

      Child Abuse by a Monk in Habaraduwa

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNSC93mPs4I

      Uploaded on May 29, 2010

      She sent her grandson to school with the idea of providing him with proper education to make him a good person. The Buddhist monk in charge of the temple asked her to send the child to the temple and she sent him there because they were poor. There was no possibility for them to pay the money for tuition fees. That was the reason why they sent the boy to the temple school.When the child began to refuse going to the temple school so adamantly, grandmother had to look for the reason. It was then only that she discovered that the child who was sent to learn good behavior, ethics and Buddha’s Dharma from the monk had in fact been abused by the monk.

    • 4
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      ” I heard that you have crossed over to the MS camp and congrats.”

      That’s no great surprise! Maybe he can add “frill” to MS’ boo-boos and get back to his comfort zone!!

  • 3
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    This is a tricky situation, but I would agree with Dewasiri’s (and Malinda’s) position.

    The “tricky” part of this involves the Sangha and whatever ‘process’ it has with regard to disciplining errant monks who are clearly abusing their roles by virtue of their behaviour and practices. The fact that men like Gnanasara and organizations like the BBS are allowed to function under the label of ‘Buddhism’, does not speak well for the Sangha and the problem, which is diametrically opposed to what the Buddha taught, remains.

    Maybe the solution would be for all ‘intelligent’ Buddhists to recognize these frauds and boycott them, denying them any support, whether it be financial or moral. The other solution (which is NOT exercised by the State to any great extent) would be to apply the law and punish the wrongdoers whether they are in robes or not.

    Observing the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path is the obvious answer, instead of pandering to ‘religious’ mumbo-jumbo!

    • 1
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      Josie

      “The fact that men like Gnanasara and organizations like the BBS are allowed to function under the label of ‘Buddhism’, does not speak well for the Sangha and the problem, which is diametrically opposed to what the Buddha taught, remains.”

      How are the Monks in the Mahayana Branch doing? Are they doing any better?

      Let’s see, below.

      Buddhism The Great Evil — Part 1

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

      Buddhism The Great Evil — Part 2

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcs2PSze0I

      The Case Against Buddhism — Part 1

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

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSQwPXpz0Oo

      The Case Against Buddhism — Part 2

    • 1
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      Jossie:

      Don’t talk like an idiot.

      Don’t mix buddhism and individuals who follows buddhism.

      I think, buddha had told ill will (vyapada, anger0 exists even among anagamins. that is how samsara is.

      govt can not control it because they want it that way.

      • 0
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        Softy, it is obvious that your powers of comprehension are sadly inadequate judging from your idiotic response.

        I’m not “.. mix(ing) buddhism and individuals who follows buddhism”, as you would have understood from my last paragraph (if only you understood what it meant)!

  • 7
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    Dear Mali boy,

    I used to love to read your insidious little pieces under the previous regime and comment. I was not alone – there were several who loved to hate you. But of late you seem to be fading into oblivion. You gained visibility because you chose to defend an indefensible regime and you made easy pickings. You helped to galvanise opposition to the dictatorial, fascist and racist regime with your convoluted and illogical arguments. A few things irk people as much as a sanctimonious little chap who thinks he’s smarter by half and enjoys the patronage of a villainous regime. When you are just rambling from the sidelines no one gives you two hoots.

    Anyway for old times’ sake let me make a point about your insidiousness. You want to ensure the continuity of the BBS types. So you decide to take a “principled” objection to the regulation of Buddhist monks. However, you realise that Nirmal Dewasri’s argument is too principled. It would allow Buddhist hegemony to be eroded. You want to deny that Sri Lanka has a multi-religious and multi-racial polity. You want it in the Constitution in black and white. So what do you do? You say “Well, firstly, it is one thing to ‘protect and foster’ and quite another to play class monitor, head mistress, ombudsman and the Vinayarakshaka Sabha.”

    Let us take this slowly and step by step. How can you give someone the power to “protect” something if they are not allowed decide on what the danger is? How can they “foster” something if they don’t know what the direction towards which they should foster something? What does the State do if there are different bodies giving different interpretations? What if one Mahanayake says driving licenses are a must and another denounces it as a primeval sin? How does the State act? How can it discharge its responsibility to protect? (I love using R2P against you – ironic, isn’t it?) You can’t have it both ways old chap. Either you go with the good Prof. or you say that the State has the power to set out the law relating to monks.

    Anyway, am bored with you and I don’t think I can be bothered with your little exercises in insidiousness any more.

    So long and thanks for all the fish.

    S

  • 1
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    Batalanda Ranil wants to ditch Buddhism from Constitution.

    So how come he now wants to pass legislation to control it.

    Once jettisoned , aren’t the Monks allowed to do their own thing?.

    How can a Government pass legislation to not give driving licences to Monks?.

    Isn’t Yahapalanaya all about restoring HR?.

    Does it apply to the priests of other religions?.

    National Bikku Front says Ranil hates them and hold a grudge because the NBF defeated him in 92-94.

    And the BF is ready to do it again..

    Wonder whether JVP Prince join the National Bikku Front.

  • 2
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    The very best of an academic education does not guarantee wisdom. Malinda is a classic example of one.

    He remains a racist, through and through.

  • 1
    1

    It is political. Maithripala’s govt is doing what CBK says. Younger ministers are only ambitious scape goats.

    Ranil wickramsinghe is not a leader. He is just a floater. For him, existence is far more important that governing.

    Misbehaving buddhist monks is not a new phenomenon. But, still they are good humans.

    They are only materialistic. They don’t preach for Jihad or there are no no HIV-Positive cleargy.

    Govt wants monks’ voice controlled because the govt want theri way.. There are so many outside forces, including india who desperately want to make Sri lanka just one like India. West wants some how China moved away from Sri lanka.

    So, this is that direction, just one step.

    • 2
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      Another idiotic comment from Softy, who says that ” Misbehaving buddhist monks is not a new phenomenon. But, still they are good humans”.

      To make a statement and immediately contradict it indicates just how stupid he is!

  • 1
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    Law makers, whether Buddhist or otherwise, in addition to recognizing the fundamental error of this move in terms of articles enshrined in the Constitution, would do well to reflect on the arrogance of assuming equality or even superiority to the intellect of Siddhartha Gauthama, especially on matters of the Order he founded.

    Last paragraph is great.

    Sinners in the govt and CBK can not understand.

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