Thursday, 28 October 2010

Disgraceful behaviour of Buddhist Monks in Universities, and the role of the Maha Nayaka Theros.

Sri Lanka being a Buddhist country of the Theravada tradition allowing the Buddhist Monks into Universities after removal of the Pirivena system of Buddhist education ,was the greatest wrong done to Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. We are reaping the “sins” of that act to-day with the Buddhist Monks in the role of “hooligans” and “street rioters”.

What are our Asgiriya and Malwatta Mahanayaka Theros going to do about this disastrous situation ?

The Mahanayaka theors are quick to step in to make statements when it concerns politicians, such as their demand for the release of Sarath Fonseka from the prison, but when the Buddha Sasana is in peril, with the young monks in universities who are looked up to by the Buddhists as the protectors of Buddha Sasana are behaving disgracefully without any respect to the yellow robe they wear.

The Mahanayaka Theros have not made any statements so far or made a request to the miscreants to behave according to the calling of their vocation. The Mahanayake Theros are absent in an hour of need when the Buddha Sasana is in danger.

On the other hand the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is becoming more authoritative and begins to speak loud on matters that do not even concern them, with a Cardinal named by the Pope to give them more weight in their effort to dictate terms to the government and Westernise the poor Tamils in the North and East. Christianising is westernising, because Christianity is not indigenous to our country, other than it being a remnant of the Colonialism.

In that situation it is sad to see that the Buddhist Order of the Sangha in Sri Lanka seem to drift without a proper leadership. The most offensive behaviour of the young Buddhist Monks is the failure of the Mahanayaka Theros to organise the Order of the Sangha, by calling the three Nikayas to Unite to find ways to put an end to the indiscipline of the Student Monks in Universities who left to themselves will destroy the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka.

If the Buddhist monks had been properly educated at the feet of a preceptor as it had been done before, even a Monk entering a Universities will behave as expected of him keeping the patimokkha-the vinaya rules. The monks in the universities should be the buffer against unruly indisciplined lay students, keeping them in check advising them to respect their elders, the professors and the Vice Chancellor, and maintain decorum .

But what is happening is quite the opposite. The Buddhist priests according to the teachings should be worthy of the offerings of the laity, their devotion and respects. The lay Buddhists prostrate at their feet as the disciples of the Buddha. But these monks in the universities do not behave as the disciples of the Buddha.

The Buddha expected from his disciples a very high standard tolerance. In one of his discourses he says:

"Even, o monks should robbers and murders saw through your limbs and joints, whoever should give way to anger thereat would not be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves: 'Undisturbed shall our mind remain, with heart full of love, and free from hidden malice; and that person shall we penetrate with loving-thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed from anger and hatred” (Majjhima Nikaya 21).

How can this great lesson of patience be related to these most ignoble trouble making university students in yellow robes ?

The aggressive University monks, are far from what we expect of them as “Buddhist monks”. They are different in their physical appearance with unshaven heads, improperly clad in robes of varied colours. The Buddhist monks in the Sri Lanka Universities do not even look like the Hindu Sadus at the Ganges river.

Among these ignoble yellow robed men in universities, there may be a handful of good student monks brought in through force or fear to the rank of the unruly. Are these unruly university monks the disciples of the Buddha or those of Devadatta ?

The JVP is responsible for making this sad situation where the monks in the universities have become un-Buddhist, not fit to receive the devotion and the respect of the lay Buddhists. In a village in Kandy a politically active person was believed to had been shot dead by a young Buddhist monk who was a member of the JVP.

The Nayaka Priests of the Temples from which these student monks come are partly if not wholely responsible for the scandalous behaviour of the student monks in the Univercities.

The Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha thero the monk who wanted to go to prison with five hundred other monks in place of Sarath Fonseka, does not seem to be troubled by the misbehaviour of the monks in the Universities. Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhita thero’s duty is to the Buddha Sasana and the Order of the Sangha, and not to meddle in matters best left to the lay people.

A Buddhist monk is a lay person who has given up his household comforts to follow the path of a Buddhist Monk detached from the burdens of a layman and devote his life to learn the scriptures and to meditate. But unfortunately today a large number of these Buddhist monks have come from discomfort of their homes to seek comfort, to enter universities not to learn the Buddhist scriptures, but study more lucrative worldly subjects , economics, law etc., and get employed, and while in Universities join the trouble makers to imitate them, making manifestations and beat the Vice Chancellors, the Lecturers and the University employees.

What an example for a Buddhist Country known to be the treasure house of the true teachings of the Buddha ?

If this trend is allowed to continue we will soon have no real Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lankans may have to go abroad to learn Theravada Buddhism from Western monks more devoted and following more assiduously the vinaya rules, robed and move like Buddhist Monks during the golden age of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

As a young man interested in Buddhism I once asked a Village Monk to explain to me the practice of Buddhist meditation . But he was very frank and told me that he cannot help me as he had not meditated and referred me to another. But for that matter that priest was not less Buddhist, because he was pious very helpful to the villagers who treated him with great respect. He was always well shaven correctly robed. When the Priest of the temple went out they went one following the other according to their seniority. It was a very pleasant sight that inspired respect and devotion. Those sights are perhaps rare now in our Buddhist Sri Lanka.

It is time that the government looks into reforms of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. The first step in this respect is to re-establish the Pirivena system of education. The Buddhist monks should not be mixed with the lay students. They should not be put together with women students. One important training of a Buddhist priest is to live a life of chastity, avoiding sexual temptation.

It is possible to avoid sensuous lust through meditation, and concentrated Buddhist scriptural studies. Shortly before the Buddha died, Venerable Ananda asked him a question concerning women: "How shall we relate to women, Master?" — "Do not look at them." — "But if one sees one, Master?" — "Do not address her." — "But if one talks to us?" — "Keep mindfulness and self-control." (DN 16). This is in the training of a Buddhist disciple.

Meditation practice enables one to subdue and keep away arising of lust and sensual desire.

Therefore the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who is also the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, should provide facilities for every temple in Sri Lanka to create a monastic environment for the monks to make meditation an essential part of their lives, with individual kuties for the resident monks to meditate.

The Government is preparing to introduce IT training to Buddhist monks. It should not be made another means for them to seek employment out side the vocation for which they have don the priestly robes.. It may distance the religion from the Monk, unless the training and the experience gained by such training is used in a completely Buddhist environment.

The Buddhist discipline should be inculcated into a priest from the time he enters the order as a novice. If one takes a walk around the Asgiriya temple, it is likely to see young priests smoking behind the temple and pass their time indulging in small talk and gossiping among themselves, both of which come under prohibited way of passing time- idle chatter.

Idle chatter has to be understood in the following sense : “ The fourth statement of the Buddha about Right Speech was to abstain from idle chatter. In other words, to avoid frivolous speech and pointless talk that has no depth. Instead, one should speak appropriately at the right moment in accordance with the facts, saying what is useful, speaking of subjects like the Dhamma and the discipline.

One should abstain from talking and listening to chatter which is shallow and only stirs up defilements and restless thoughts which can lead one astray. One should abstain from any sort of loose talk or valueless patter which leaves the mind vacant and sterile. This is especially true of frivolous entertainments which block development on a higher, spiritual, aesthetic, contemplative level.

The opposite of idle chatter is to make every word have meaning, so that speech becomes like a treasure, uttered appropriately, at the right moment, accompanied by moderation, reason, and good sense, inspiring listeners in matters of good conduct and the pursuit of the path. Another thing to remember is that while speech has its place, meditation leaves the limits of speech behind. Calm is the opposite of restless chatter. Thus ends the discussion of Right Speech. “

On the full moon days and the new moon days the Buddhists monks meet to recite the Vinaya rules . Those monks who have broken any rule confess it in open assembly of monks. This ritual should be strictly imposed including monks in universities. This may be an encouragement to keep within the strict Buddhist vinaya, and keep away from mixing with unruly lay elements in Universities. An essential quality of a monk is also to practice “aloneness” , not mixing freely with the others, thus avoiding involvement in un-priestly chatter or activities.

A Buddhist Monk is a symbol of our Buddhist culture, our civilisation, our relation with all Communities with whom we live. That important position a monk holds in our society should be instilled into the minds of the Buddhist Monks in the Universities.

If they do not respect this situation and continue in their rebellious attitude they should be disrobed. It is time that the Maha Sangha of the three Nikaya, take that responsibility in the name of Theravada Buddhism.

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