Sunday, 18 August 2013

Changing Face of Islam in Sri Lanka- A reply to Editor of Ceylon Today.

The Ceylon Today of the 17 August,2013 carried the Editorial, “ Changing face of Buddhism”.  The Editor is an uninformed moron. The Buddhism has not changed its face for  more than 2600 years.  It will remain the same for another 2600 years or more.  But what the editor tries to  hide is the fact that it is  Islam in Sri Lanka that has changed its face from what it had been before.

The Editor of Ceylon Today says, “Not so long ago, when the religion was described as a cause for conflict, Buddhists begged to be different. Buddhist devotees pointed out that Buddhism was not a religion, but a philosophy.”

Buddhism is neither a religion nor a philosophy. Oxford Dictionary defines Religion as “one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods.”  The Buddhism in that sense is not a religion.

The same Dictionary defines Philosophy as “the study of the nature and meaning of the universe and of human life ”, and again as “a particular set or system of beliefs resulting from the search for knowledge about life and the universe.”.  That too does not define Buddhism.

Any one who wishes to criticise Buddhism takes the liberty to define Buddhism as it suits him without knowing  what exactly is Buddhism.  This is what the Editor of the Ceylon Today has done in writing his Editorial of the 17 August, 2013 on Changing Face of Buddhism.

The Editor says, “At the heart of the Buddhist teaching are benevolence and tolerance. No time in the history Buddhists resorted to violence to  propagate the message of the Lord Buddha.”  
Mr. Editor the Buddhist teachings by itself is benevolent and tolerant, but the heart of the teachings is more profound and sublime. Buddhism now needs no propagation as persons of intelligence  accept it willingly as a teaching without parallel.

The Editor continues that, “  It is in this historical context that the spiral of violence that we have witnessed recently is disturbing, and in fact, insulting towards the very message of Buddhism. ” 
There is here  a distortion of facts when the Editor alludes to  Buddhist teachings as violence which he had, “ witnessed recently as an insult to the  message of the Buddha.”

The Editor states that, the   “….recent violence, such as the recent attack on a Muslim prayer centre in Grandpass and the cacophony of voices of religious ultra nationalism have now  called into question the authenticity of the very message of Buddhism.” 

In making that statement  the Editor has come to a  wrong conclusion. There are two aspects of  the situation the Editor is trying to deal with in his Editorial. One is the violence itself,  and the other the  “insult to the  authenticity of the very message of Buddhism” .

Unfortunately the Editor of Ceylon Today has mixed up the two issues thereby  casting aspersions  on the great teachings of the Buddha.  What happened in Grandpass has no connection to the teachings of the Buddha.  Therefore, it had better be left out.  If it is  violence by persons it has to be spoken of as such without contriving to bring in the teachings of the Buddha to distort  the issue.

The Buddha Dhamma the teachings of the Buddha is also the Buddha Sasana, which is  more than 2600 years old.  All  other religions except Hinduism are of recent evolution.  The Buddhism had not been an organised religion like the Church, but the teachings of the Buddha had been  carried without interruption through word of mouth from teacher to disciples in the most democratic system of an Order of Sangha (the Community of Monks) with its own rules of discipline. 

This ancient order of Sangha or  Community of Monks  is which continues even today.  These monks had not only to carry the teachings of the Buddha from word to mouth until it came to be written down in the 1st century, but also to protect the Buddha Sasana from its enemies.

It is this Order of Sangha (the Community of Monks) which protected the teachings and brought it to this day intact  “without changing its face” since its inception more than  2600 years ago.  These monks still continue to play the role of the  protectors of  the teachings and thus the Buddha Sasana, with its temples, monasteries, lands offered to the sustenance of the temples and the monks, while at the same time instructing  the followers and propagating the teachings-the Dhamma, and will do so for years to come. 

The Buddhist monks cannot depend on the government for the protection of the Buddha Sasana, because it is primarily their duty.  The government has a duty not only for the  Buddhists, but also for the  non-Buddhists. Therefore if what belongs to Buddha Sasana is in peril it is the Buddhist monk who has the right to bring it to the notice of the Government and demand protection.
If such protection is not forth coming from the government, the Monks have to find out other means to solve the problem and protect the Buddha Sasana of which they had been the protectors for more than 2600 years.

The Editor of the Ceylon Today has to understand the reasons behind certain “violence” taking place and analyse the reasons for them with wisdom after studying the whole question putting it into its correct perspective, without jumping to conclusions.

Now from what follows we see that, the problem the Editor of Ceylon Today has is not with the teachings of the Buddha but the Bodu Bala Sena. 

He writes, “Today, the mention of the three words,  Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) which is a “Buddhist Organization”, drives fear even into the minds of some Buddhists leave alone the followers of other religions like Christianity, Islam and Hinduism .”  

Neither the Buddhists nor the  followers of other religions should have fear on the mention of the words  “Bodu Bala Sena”.  They are not an extremist group or terrorists. They are merely trying to high light matters concerning the Buddha Sasana that had been neglect by the government and taken for granted by non Buddhists, due to inaction by any one responsible. Buddha Sasana also comprises the Buddhist Culture of the followers of the teachings of the Buddha.

The Sangha as pointed out earlier, has a duty to protect the Buddha Sasana.  Due to lethargy of the Government, inaction of the Buddhists, and taking things for granted by those followers of other religions, matters concerning Buddha Sasana had been long neglected. Due to the absence of any one moving in to protect what belongs to the Buddha Sasana, some monks have organised  themselves to point out to the authorities where wrongs which have a direct effect on the Buddha Sasana have or is being committed by others with the motive to weaken the Buddha Sasana.

Muslims for instance since of late  have developed a great desire to build mosques all over  Sri Lanka, (perhaps to out do the Buddhist Stupas by number), for that they use mean subterfuge such as building boutiques , warehouses, and shops in areas often close to Buddhist Temples or sometimes even on Temple land leaving them empty and use them as Muslim prayer houses, with the secret motive of later declare them mosques and build a large mosque in place of the derelict buildings originally constructed as, shops, boutiques or warehouses.

The Editor of Ceylon Today before writing Editorials on the Changing face of Buddhism should have investigated the changing attitude of Muslims in Sri Lanka and highlighted that as a responsible Journal.

The Editor points out that, the “Rhetoric that emanate from Bodu Bala Sena and Sinhala Ravaya therefore give a bad name for Buddhism. In fact, many hard line groups that are spewing violence and religious disunity are not about the religion at all. Those groups are  about power,  politics and money. ” 

The arms of the Bodu Bala Sena and Ravaya are not guns but words, arguments, and counter arguments. It is listening without being prejudiced that will help in such situations to find a solution to the problems over which rhetoric emanate. In defending the Buddha Sasana of Buddhist Sri Lanka, power, politics and money naturally get involved.

The Buddha Sasana had no rival religions at the beginning, but with the colonialism the Budhha Sasana received a hard blow.  It is only since 1956 that Buddhism and Buddhist Culture are being rediscovered.  The Buddhists , Muslims and Christians lived  peace  without interfering into each other’s religious devotions. 

But now the world itself is changing and there are competing foreign  power blocks, some using wealth and others religion.  The non-Buddhist religions in Sri Lanka have come under foreign influence,  and are being secretly financed  and infused with new religious fanatism which make them  take different political, and social moves that had not been evident  before.

The ordinary lay Buddhists are concerned with their day to day living.   The Government overlooks certain developments in order not to be partial to one community against others. Therefore, if there is danger to the Buddha Sasana the Order of Monks cannot wait  until the lay Buddhists or the Government come forward to safeguard the interest of the Buddha Sasana, therefore they Organise themselves, to draw attention of both the lay Buddhist followers and the Government to the dangers they foresee to the Buddha Sasana.

Perhaps the Editor is not aware that there was a period when there was what was called  Catholic Action that had interfered in the administration of the Governments causing considerable difficulties for the Buddhists not only in Sri Lanka, but also in many Asian Buddhist Countries. 
During the period there were very active lay followers of Buddhism who organised themselves to fight against the Catholic Action.  They, led by L.H.Mettananda formed into an organisation called Bauddha Balavegaya which put an end to nefarious activities  of the Catholic Action.
These foreign manoeuvres against Sri Lanka and the Buddha Sasana had taken place from time to time.  Thanks to the vigilance  of the Buddhists and Buddhist monks great dangers to the Buddha Sasana had been averted.   
Why does not the Editor of Ceylon Today ask himself,  why Muslims are under attack not only in Grandpass but in countries the world over, for instance  in USA, UK, Germany, France, Netherland, Denmark, Sweden and so on ?

Even in Sri Lanka the sudden upsurge of anti national activities of some sections of the Muslim 

Community is a new phenomenon.  Many fingers are being pointed at Saudi Arabia for promoting Wahibism and promoting the rise of  extremism  amoung the Muslims in the world. Halaal, Shariah Law, and Quazy Law courts   have now taken an importance of  immense dimension whereas they were not even heard of before.

How is it then that the Editor of Ceylon Today gives such importance to what happened in Grandpass which had been settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, without having at no time informed of the sinister developments taking place amoung the Muslims in Sri Lanka ?

In such a situation we should be thankful to the Buddhists monks for their vigilance making a hue and cry when necessary to draw attention of the people to disperse the danger.  Such foreign influence does not auger well for Muslims in Sri Lanka as well , as their being unnecessarily forced to create dissension amoung the communities  with whom they have lived for generations. Such foreign fanatism seeping into Sri Lanka Muslim Community will thwart the unity  and reconciliation of the Communities and hamper development which is of greater value to every one of us.

The Buddhist Monk is the pulse of the Nation, which could detect the dangers coming from other religions and from outside and give timely warning.  As Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan are Muslim Countries, Sri Lanka is a Buddhist Country.

The Editor  writes in his Editorial that , “ Buddhism has a long standing reputation as  a “tolerant religion”. The present day keepers of Buddhism should not desecrate that premise.  In the true spirit of Buddhism, their concerns about the wellbeing of the bulls and cows are well received, But, above all, they must respect the human life.”

It appears now with considerable interference in to  the affairs of Sri Lanka by some of the foreign countries after the elimination of  ruthless terrorism, the, “the long standing reputation of Buddhism as a tolerant religion”  has given easy access to those taking advantage of that reputation of  tolerance to spread their own religious extremism.

Buddhism is concerned not only of the wellbeing of the humans, but of all beings.  The present day keepers of Buddhism, as the Editor says are well aware of it and  their effort in that role of  keepers of Buddhism is to look after its welfare of all beings.  It is because of the tolerance of Buddhism and its keepers that the Muslims had been living amoung the Buddhists building their villages and mosques in complete freedom and acceptance.

With regard to the wellbeing of animals, the Muslims living in a Buddhist country which had accommodated them should in respect to the country they have made their  home,  stop  killing animals for food and to celebrate their religious functions.

In Peru virgins and physically unblemished young men were sacrificed at a religious festival.  But it was stopped after its conquest by the Spanish.  Can one imagine what would happen if  similar religious customs are perpetrated today ?

That is to emphasise what ever were  the religious practices of ancient times, they  need not be carried on now  just because they were written in the Koran and the Muslims have made it a custom,  when there are so many other things to offer to Gods, eat, and with which to celebrate festivals. 

According to the Bible the followers of the  God had made blood sacrifices and peace sacrifices smudging the altar with blood, but now the only sacrifice the Christians make is eating a Turkey for the Christmas dinner.  In the Munneshwaran Kovil thousands of innocent animals are killed to please Kali. Is this savage custom necessary in the present time ?

Why cannot the Government put a stop to animal sacrifices at the Munneshwaran Kovil forth with like the Spanish did to Peruvian human sacrifices ?.

These are the themes on which  the Editor of Ceylon Today  could if intelligent write his Editorials.

The Buddhist monks had always advised the rulers and the rulers of Sri Lanka had always sought the counsel and advice of the  Buddhist monks.  Therefore it is an exaggeration on the part of the Editor to say, “ It is also important that they comply with the modern tenets, which evolved over centuries and are now playing a pillar in the modern state system. That is the separation between the Church ( or to that effect Temple) and the State. ”

The Editor of Ceylon Today states, “Those hard-line followers should not tell governments how to run the country.  They should be cognizant of the fact that many great states in today’s world are  secular in character, including our neighbour India. They should be mindful and respectful of the sentiments of the followers of other faiths. ” 

In Sri Lanka as in many countries the  role of the State and the religion is well defined.  But it is often the Islamic fundamentalism that infringes into the secular Character of the State, by imposing their  religious customs such as wearing the Shawl or the Burkha in public.  In France where the children from Catholic families do not even wear the cross around their neck when attending school,  the Muslims demand the  schools to accept the shawl (a religious identity) worn by Muslim girls.

The Editor writes, “The government should safeguard Buddhism and its righteous values. It should fend off attempts to distort Buddhism and to give a bad name to the religion and its followers. Also, It should not use religion as a measure to  garner support to cling on to power.” 

The Buddhist Monks have a role to play vis à vis the Buddha Sasana.  That role also included the protection of the Buddhist culture which forms the life of the individual.  The Buddhism is  well known as a great teaching, and the  Order of the Sangha is known as the protectors of that great teaching  and its actions  is a necessity and the followers of other religions should understand the role of the Buddhist Monk in a Buddhist country-Sri Lanka, and  consent to a healthy dialogue in place of vindictive actions and  distortion of facts through media.

The Grandpass event had been settled in a peaceful manner, which the Editor has failed to take in to account .  The most importantly at the meeting held on the dispute that arose over  the Grandpass Mosque, the Buddhist monks agreed to chop off the Bo tree so that the trustees of the mosque could use the space to build an  extensions to the mosque. Also in an unprecedented gesture of religious tolerance and amity, the Monks had  also invited the trustees of the mosque to use the temple Dharmasala any time they wanted extra space for prayers.

Editor Ceylon Today please note the  above and understand for yourself that the Buddhist monks are generous and tolerant contrary to the image the Editor is projecting of the Buddhist monks.  Their actions seem harsh and intolerant  only when their role as protectors of the Buddha Sasana is misunderstood, and they are portrayed as intolerant gangsters by the media such as yours- Ceylon Today.

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