Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vandals In Sandals - And Robes

Recently two Sri Lankan Buddhist monks led an unruly crowd to the Jesus Never Fails Good News Centre in Battaramulla on the outskirts of Colombo and after a noisy protest, proceed to smash the place up (see video). The monks were, (I will not use the honorific ‘Venerable’) Athraliye Ratana and Ellawala Medananda, both of who also happen to be members of the Sri Lankan parliament. What on earth, you might ask, are Buddhist monks doing sitting in parliament and inciting vandalism? Well, some monks in Sri Lanka are quite literally ‘looking for a role’. They want to retain all the respect and privileges due to monks while having all the advantages of being lay. They find Dhamma study dull, sermon-giving not very lucrative, they have no interest in meditation, and social work would involve a bit of self-sacrifice so of course that’s out. So politics is a way of making a ‘role’ for themselves and it has the added advantage of being exciting as well. Most Sri Lankans were appalled when Ratana, Medananda and another monk, Sobitha, stood for election and even more so when they actually won. They were elected on an anti-Tamil, pro-war ticket which was, admittedly, quite popular with a lot of people. But now the war is over they are stuck with the problem of finding another role for themselves. So now they have turned their attention to the evangelical Christians. Since the 1980’s evangelical and Pentecostal Christians have literally pored into Sri Lanka, sensing that they can take advantage of the disruption and despair caused by the war. As in other places, they are aggressive, insensitive to local customs and norms and make no secret of what they think of other religions. This, and their practice of offering ‘inducements’ to win converts, has made them rather unpopular, including amongst more long-established churches in Sri Lanka. So now Ratana and Medananda are trying to win support for themselves by posing as saviors of Buddhism. In the process they are betraying the longstanding and noble Buddhist tradition of gentleness and tolerance. Unruly behavior, provocative language, flinging accusation, let alone vandalism, goes against everything the Buddha ever taught. As if to emphasize his complete repudiation of any ill-will for any reason whatsoever, the Buddha said, ‘Even if bandits cut you limb form limb with a double-handled saw if you aroused hatred in your mind towards them you would not be my disciples’ (M.I,129). And how about this? ‘Earth, water, fire and air cannot make the good Dhamma disappear. But foolish men right here might make it disappear’ (S.II,224). Could those ‘foolish men’ (mogha purisa) right here have the names Ratana and Medananda?


aah-haa said...

Looks like the Bad News was Jesus Failed and the two Sri Lankan Buddhist monks Never did practised the precepts. What brings the church gate down is why the majority Singhalese Buddhists does not know that monks are supposed to be in monastery, not parliament. And if they take to the streets, it is for the purpose of receiving alms. How is the Sangha in Sri Lanka reacting? Don’t tell me Silence is the Wise Answer. If Buddha is alive, will the Vinaya be revised?

Unknown said...

i feel embarrassed by their actions. no wonder some buddhists discard their beliefs and join other religions.
the lay men should have stopped the monks from inciting such aggression.

Buddha said...

Even in a 3 Day Retreat i find it difficult to control the Mind.
The Mind always wants to Grab something , external.Thats why we are averse to Meditation in isolated Cells.

Only those who can continuously or for a Greater Passage of time or at critical situations,Observe the rising and passing of sensations without reacting to them can be very gud Monks.

Well thats all abt Monks...

But the Christian Missionaries also have to play fair...When the Tsunami Struck in Tamil nadu, they held lot of Foreign Aid and used the Aid to convert People, Which is even Worse.

yuri said...

Dear S.Dhammika,
A clear example of non-buddhist behaviour of buddhist monks. But that is the problem all religions face. Religious organisations simply cannot be perfect as long as they are too much involved in wordly issues. And that is what happens with all of them. And that is why I am not religious. You quote wonderful words the Buddha said about tolerance. But strong words about the monks in question, or sometimes about Thai buddhists make me feel somewhat uneasy. I mean the words... Yes, I have read your older post about the strong words the Buddha sometimes allegedly used. But even the authority of Tipitaka cannot make me believe that those were the words the Buddha actually used. Probably you wanted to show he was like another human being, but he definitely was not. Sorry, I am somewhat critical in some of my comments. But, of course, it is for you to decide whether they are helpful or not.