The number of Buddhist monks who are giving up their robes has increased rapidly during the past five years with nearly 2,500 leaving the Sangha between 2007 and 2011, a census has revealed. The census which began in 2007, of monks who have left the priesthood, has shown that in 2007, 73 had left but the number has increased steadily going up to 516 in 2008, 728 in 2009 and 940 in 2010. Within the first three months of 2011, 230 had given up their robes. Among the reasons listed for the exodus include giving up the Sangha after graduation, due to conflicts arising among brethren monks, to seek foreign employment, to join the armed forces during the war period, due to a father’s addiction to liquor, death of a father and economic difficulties, to care for an elderly spouse left behind at time of ordination, lack of a permanent temple for residence and uncertainty about their future. The number of Buddhist monks in the country who are registered with the Department of Buddhist Affairs between 1993 and 2011 stands at 42,803 novices with 16,538 monks having received higher ordination (upasampada). These details were revealed in response to a question posed by UNP Kurunegala District MP Gamini Jayawickrema Perera to Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratna who is also the Minister of Buddha Sasana. It was also revealed that between 2005 and 2010, the Departments had 9,654 temples registered with it. The Government has put in place several programmes to help under-privileged temples with monies being allocated according to recommendations of the relevant Divisional Secretariats. A subsistence amount is paid to monks in selected temples that face severe economic difficulties in the North and East and other areas. The monthly subsistence paid to temples range from Rs.300 where there is one monk, Rs. 450 for two monks, Rs. 600 for three monks, Rs. 800 for four monks and Rs.1000 per month if there are five resident monks. Temples that need assistance that have six resident monks are given Rs.1,200 monthly, Rs.1,300 if there are seven monks, Rs.1,350 for eight monks and Rs.1500 if the number is nine or more. The UNP MP had requested that at least Rs. 5,000 be paid to temples that are facing economic hardships, particularly in rural areas.
Chandani Kirinde in the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka.