This is my humble response as a fellow Sinhala Buddhist to Shenali Waduge’s outbursts under the caption’ The Mythical ‘racist‘ narrative on 11/04/2013 in CDN. She has entirely missed the plot. She appears to have to gone at tangents by blaming the Media and all minorities for projecting the Sinhala Buddhists as ‘racists’. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows whom she is singing hosanna for. She little realizes that her futile attempts to whitewash the rogue and ‘racist elements among the Sinhala Buddhists were merely ’emperor’s clothes’. It is an open secret that the general media ( both print and TV)in the country has been giving more than its’ due share of publicity to these extremist elements. It is also equally known to all and sundry that the law enforcement authorities have been adopting a double standards policy for those who espouse extremism and those who stand up against them, like how they acted against those who were attempting to engage in a peaceful ‘candle-lit‘ vigil against extremism and hate mongering on the 12th April. It is therefore patently clear that when people who wanted to make their stand against this unfavourable trend in our country, are not allowed to vent their feelings and express their forthright views on this issue, they naturally resort to other online websites to air their views. A cursory glance of the many articles on these websites will show that the number of contributors from the Sinhala community, specially the Buddhists, who have begun to break their silence. stand up and be counted are steadily increasing. In a democracy, it is very important that all voices are heard and all points of views are allowed to be expressed. There are many of my Muslim friends who say that they are not been given adequate space in the Media public domain to air their views to challenge many unfair accusations and charges made against them at the BBS meetings.
The thrust of my line of argument is that the accusing finger has been pointed at the extremist ‘racist’ elements among the Sinhala Buddhists, and not at the Sinhala Buddhist people. Sinhala People have always been acknowledged all-round as a tolerant race during the course of history, accommodating the ‘other’. It is this enviable record of our proud nation that is being vilified and attacked at the roots by these extremist goons, unfortunately in the name of Buddhism. Hate mongering in the name of Buddhism is certainly a misnomer. Which ever way we may want to argue to prove that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist land, they will ultimately be an exercise in futility, if we fail to show in spirit that tenets of Buddhism pervades our way of life – compassion, love, and concern for the ;other’. What is the use of a rose if it does not look beautiful or smell nice?. When our Constitution states that foremost place is given to Buddhism( not to Sinhala Buddhist nationalism ), the drafters surely may have clearly intended that the supreme teachings of the Enlightened One should determine the basis of our actions. If only our politicians and the social reformers take note of this in the process of devising national and social policies , then other communities will not object to this Article concerning Buddhism, as it does not rule out providing adequate space for other religions as well. It is in this perspective that I reiterate the imperative need to ensure that moderation takes a dominant place over the forces of extremism and hate mongering and to strengthen those who subscribe to a notion of a Sinhala race imbibed and enriched by the Buddha Dharma rather than the vice versa- Buddhism dominated by Sinhala nationalism.
It is not the intention of my article to counter the genuine grievances of our Sinhala Buddhist community. On the contrary, we do have many of them. However, what my contention has been the choice of an explosive mode of how some elements among us are trying to exploit the baser animalistic instincts of our people and spread hate towards other communities, particularly the Muslims in recent times. Do we seriously think that our younger generation ,who are waiting in the side-lines to take over the responsibility of running the affairs of our country, will be anything different, having experienced the example set by their elders? If the under currents felt at the grass root levels are anything to go by, after the disastrous hate campaign carried out by not only BBS, but also by other satellite groups, all in the name of protecting the Sinhala race and Buddhism, then it may appear that horses may have already bolted. A story related by Mr. Imtiaz Bakir Marcar in one of the recent interviews he had on TV should raise an alarm among those who look forward to live in a future peaceful, united Sri Lanka, affording place to all, irrespective of which race they originate from. Reportedly, his Sinhala friend faced a shocking experience when he offered to buy some sweats for his neighbour’s 3 year old daughter from a nearby shop. The kid refused to go along, as it happened to be a ‘Muslim’ shop. His further inquiries revealed that the advice came from her 6 year old sister, whose tender mind has been poisoned by her school elocution teacher. In this instance, can anyone who has a semblance of love for our motherland , pat these kids on their backs, saying ‘well done. You kids are our future saviours of our race and religion’ . No! we cannot, as this incident symbolically reflects the degeneration of our Sinhala Buddhist values and shows to what extent this rot has infiltrated into our social body fabric. Can the BBS and other extremist outfits merely disown responsibility for this chain of causation?
Unfortunately, the institutionalization of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist ideology has taken root in our country, hijacking the ideals of Buddhism. Racial emotions have been raised among people with the majoritarian ethos propagated by the nationalist ideology determining the State’s policy making machinery. as reflected in the decline of secularism, the rise in intolerance, and the cavalier disregard for minorities’ human rights. Beginning around the late nineteenth century, with the Buddhist monks entering Buddhist rhetoric in Sri Lanka took on a blustering tone and promoted intolerance. Bhikkhus especially entered the political fray after Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, a phenomenon that can be called “political Buddhism.” The rhetoric has, among other things, led to the abuse of Buddhism by monks and opportunistic politicians to justify anti minority practices. Ven Gallehepitiye Premaratna Thero, in a recent TV interview found fault with the Bikkhus entering politics which in his view was the turning point of the process of degeneration of Buddhist values among our people. Most venerated Maha Sangha who were earlier treated with utmost respect lost it when some of the rogue elements among them took to the streets and begun to act like street thugs, using vulgar and filthy language.
Thus, it is left for the silent majority among us to rise up in word, deed and thought against the machinations of these elements, before our Sri Lanka, which our armed forces liberated from Tiger extremists, is handed back to another set of extremists – Sinhala Buddhist extremists. At this rate, when will Sri Lankans ever live peacefully? It is also time opportune that we Buddhists begin to look into a mirror to look into our own selves and reflect rather than look through a glass pane to look into others and correct them. Buddhism teaches that before we criticize other people for keeping dirty apartments we should earn to tidy up our own first. Before we pass judgment on the other person, we should examine ourselves and ask whether we are perfect. As the Buddha says: “Let not one seek others’ faults, things left done and undone by others, but one’s own deeds done and undone. After all , did not Jesus also say ‘And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’. My Muslim friend also said this is true of Islam too, as it emphasizes that those who want to reform the world must first reform themselves. If they want to lead others to a better world, they must purify their inner worlds of hatred, rancor, and jealousy, and adorn their outer worlds with virtue. So, this is a common call. We must lay claim to our common humanity and fraternity and admire the common-ness among us rather than laying claim to a superior nationality status in Sri Lanka, which is in effect a virus- a majoritarian virus, which eats into the fabric of our society.