LETTERS ON BUDDHISM.
Appeared in Sri Lankan News Papers - PAGE 3
LETTERS INDEX Page-3
L3.01 Why don't first Buddhists give up eating meat - a reply - Buddhists should give up eating flesh...
L3.02 Buddhists should give up eating meat - 1 - Why don't Buddhists give up eating meat...L3.03 Buddhists should give up eating meat - 2 - After contemplating the Buddha-word on animals...
L3.04 More on Buddhists should give up eating meat - There is a difference between trading in flesh...
L3.05 Death, rebirth and Karma - The article titled 'Death, rebirth and Karma: A medical scientific perspective...
L3.06 White blood cells, astral body and astrology - There are some stories of the experiences of men who passed into...
L3.07 Whose Vipassana? - So many "vipassana" meditations, that the original Vipassana, discovered only by the Buddha...
L3.08 Problems caused by history & mathematics - This is with reference to the article titled 'Peace with Honour'...
L3.09 Eating fish and flesh - Let me discuss the points on which I agree...
L3.10 The ‘Poruwa’ ceremony and ‘Popular Buddhism’ - I have read with interest SAK’s response to...
L3.11 The Panadura Debate - Readers should be thankful...
L3.12 Buddhism does not need any protection - I have heard, times without number, people...
L3.13 Consciousness, Buddhism and Karl Marx - Apropos the letters written by...
L3.14 The conscious factor and laymen - Readers of The Island would be most grateful...
L3.16 Sangha at the crossroads - There can be little doubt that in Sri Lanka today Buddhism finds itself at...
L3.17 Buddhisms betrayed : Part I - The Talibans have destroyed the Bhamian Buddha statues...
L3.18 Buddhisms betrayed : Part II - Though there are many "scholars" who are prepared to write on how...
L3.19 Buddhisms betrayed : Part III - Monks bhikkus and quantum physics
L3.20 Buddhisms betrayed : Part IV - Ex-academics and anti-intellectualism
L3.21 Averting the Erosion of Buddhist Values - Indisputably, the Buddha Dhamma is the crowning glory of the cultural...
L3.22 Why I am a Vegetarian – 1 - Certainly not to avoid worrying about cholesterol or saturated…
L3.23 Why I am a Vegetarian – 2 - Due to compassion for these helpless innocent animals…
L3.24 Vegetarianism, religion, humanity and nutrition - Many articles were published in…
L3.25 Some ethical aspects of vegetarianism - Vegetarians seem to fall into two main groups…
L3.26 Busting the myths about veganism - Veganism, the practice of eliminating the use of any animal product…
L3.27 Laughing Buddha - At one of the new year fairs I was aghast to see…
L3.28 Understanding ‘Panna’ - In almost all Buddhist literature, the word Panna…
L3.29 Woman’s place in Buddhism - Letter on "Tragic discrimination against women"…
L3.30 Dashing coconuts - Images of a politician dashing coconuts after receiving…
Why don't first Buddhists give up eating meat - a reply L3.01
I certainly agree with Mr. R. I. Samaraweera that Buddhists should give up eating flesh. I go further and say Buddhists should not even trade in flesh. According to the noble Eight fold Path, dealing in flesh is also not permitted for a Buddhist. I find most of the eating houses, tourist hotels and guest houses have flesh in their menu cards. This is certainly against Buddhist teaching.
If all Buddhists stop eating flesh and trading in flesh and if all animal lovers who are of all religions give up eating flesh 90 per cent of this animal slaughter will stop and may be selling meat will become unprofitable in Sri Lanka.
We cannot force anyone to not eat flesh. We in our Kandy Humanitarian Society hold propaganda meetings and try to convince people to give up eating flesh. At these meetings we deal with several topics:
1. We show the sufferings of these poor innocent animals in our talks and show films on cruelty to animals.
2. We show medically how harmful the consumption of meat to one's health is, leading to cancer, high blood pressure, increase in cholesterol strokes etc. These are of high incidence in meat eaters.
3. We convince them of the myth that vegetarians lack protein, and so pulses and cereals have enough proteins, vegetables have plenty of vitamins.
4. A question often asked is whether vegetarian diets have enough vitamin B12 and zinc. B12 is found in milk and milk products, zinc is found in Soya and cucumber seeds which can be roasted and eaten like cadju seeds. Besides, B12 and zinc can be obtained in tablets and we need not kill an animal for it
The elephant can carry heavy weights and the horse can run fast, though both are pure vegetarians.
5. We demonstrate how tasty dishes can be turned out by vegetables, pulses and cereals.
6. The vegetarian society will be soon catering to vegetarians by opening 'Vegan' eating houses as in Britain and America.
I think if all Buddhists and humanitarian societies have such propaganda islandwide more than 90 per cent of meat eating in Sri Lanka will come down so the suffering of these poor dumb animals who can't plead for themselves will come down appreciatively.
Dr. C. Godamunne, Kandy Humanitarian Society
The Island - 11 May 00
Buddhists should give up eating meat - 1 L3.02
This is with reference to the letter "why don't Buddhists give up eating meat - a reply" by Dr. C. Godamunne (The Island May 11). Buddhists both lay and clergy have been publicly serving and eating meat for over 2,500 years after the Buddha's death without finding anything wrong in it. They ate meat even during the time of the Buddha.
If the Buddha was against the eating of flesh, he could have expressed his disapproval or warned us of its ill-effects as he did in the case of intoxicants. But there is nothing in the Theravada texts which show that he did so. On the contrary everything points to the fact that his followers were free to decide for themselves and that the clergy could accept meat subject to the guidelines laid down.
A person may give up eating meat for reasons of health but this has nothing to do with Buddhism. Hitler was a vegetarian for this reason and he was no Buddhist.
The animal kingdom is one of the four hells mentioned in Buddhism. This explains their suffering.
Bhikkhu C. Mahinda
The Island - 22 May 00
Buddhists should give up eating meat - 2 L3.03
After contemplating the Buddha-word on animals, it becomes impossible to wind up the issue by blaming it all on karma, as Bhikkhu C. Mahinda does in his above-mentioned letter of May 22. An early instance of the Buddha's involvement is when as young Prince Siddhartha, he puts paid to cousin Devadatta's demand for the swan he had shot down, by asserting, "Say no! the bird is mine, the first of myriad things which shall be mine, by right of mercy and love's lordliness...". Then we read how often, during his wanderings before enlightenment, by sheer power of grace and compassion, he protests against animal sacrifice, so that the charmed blood devotees turn to other bloodless offerings.
After becoming Buddha, every discipline preached to his disciples comes normally after "I take the precept to abstain from destroying life". In the Noble Eightfold Path to Nibbana, under Right Livelihood, of the five trades forbidden to Buddhists, one is "dealing in flesh/rearing animals for slaughter", the others being trading in human beings, arms, poison, intoxicants.
His disciple can consume flesh, if he is certain that he has not seen, heard or suspected that the animal was killed for him to eat. If he dreams of that succulent steak, he has to either go looking for a carcass (not so difficult those days when forests encircled cities) or wait for an obliging bull to come lumbering up to him and drop dead at his feet. Contrary to Bhikkhu C. Mahinda, the Buddha has certainly warned us of the danger of eating flesh, preceded by killing.
Against the background of Buddhist rebirth, killing results in short life, ill-health, constant grief caused by separation from the loved and constant fear. Coupled with this is the hatred and terror of the animal slaughtered, which at the moment of death brings forth another miserable, traumatic rebirth. The horrendous stew-pot of evil keeps bubbling! Whereas, kamma (intention) and vipaka (feeling) in the Buddha Dhamma can be moulded each moment to pass from bad to good to better to best. The true Buddhist is master of his own destiny with the ability to alleviate the misery of others, to the extent possible.
To crown it all, can we forget the famous Buddha-word "As a mother cherishes a son, her only son, with her life, even so cherish all living beings with a boundless heart of love". After that are we next to visualize Mumsie sitting down to dinner, prodding the finger of Junior (how he had howled!) to see whether it wouldn't be better to put it back on the coals to sizzle a bit longer?
The Island - 6 June 00
More on Buddhists should give up eating meat L3.04
With reference to the letter by Prema Ranawaka - Das ("Buddhists should give up eating meat" "The Island" 6/6/2000) there is a difference between trading in flesh and trading in intoxicants. Trading in intoxicants is extended to imbibing intoxicants by the fifth precept, but there is no such extension in the case of trading in flesh.
A lay Buddhist therefore can purchase and eat meat put out for sale to the general public at various outlets. The purchase of meat does not make him a trader just as the purchase of vegetables for consumption does not make a vegetarian a trader or dealer in vegetables. And though the Buddha forbade his followers to trade in human beings, he did not ask them to emancipate their slaves. His followers were free to own slaves, if they wished to do so.
In the same way, his followers were free to eat meat, if they wished to do so and equally free not to eat meat, if they did not wish to do so.
I find that propagandists for vegetarianism ignore facts against them though such facts may stare them in the face. I find that they also suppress facts and use emotionally coloured words and imagery to appeal to the emotions overriding and bypassing the intellect.
Buddhist priests accept whatever is given to them, provided it can be accepted and can be used as nourishment to sustain life. They have or should have no craving for any particular type of food. There is a rule against the acceptance of uncooked meat by priests. Hence, uncooked meat cannot be accepted. But cooked meat can be accepted provided the rules for its acceptance have not been transgressed.
Prince Siddhartha became Siddhartha, the ascetic and finally the Buddha. Whatever he said or did prior to becoming the Buddha, does not carry much weight. And what Prema Ranawaka - Das has done is to give us a list of the ill-effects of killing and not of the ill-effects of eating meat. The ill-effects of eating meat is a health problem and not a religious one. If the ill-effects of eating anything outweigh the benefits, I expect a sensible person to stop eating it.
Bhikkhu C. Mahinda
The Island - 15 June 00
Death, rebirth and Karma L3.05
I refer to the article by Dr. Sunil Seneviratne Epa, titled 'Death, rebirth and Karma: A medical scientific perspective'. (Reference DN April 26, 2007).
It is indeed a stimulating and thought-provoking article. As a person with a scientific educational background, but admittedly a modest knowledge of both science and religion, I wish to contribute a few thoughts on the subject, which I hope will be of interest.
Dr. Epa argues that games which appear as solid nodules on chromosomes in cells of human beings are manifestations of Karma from previous births.
He clarifies as to how Karma could appear as solid matter under a microscope, in terms of the Quantum Theory, which explains the dual interconvertible nature of matter and energy.
He states elsewhere in the article that according to Buddhist teachings, some Karma, based on our actions, will invariably produce results in the next birth (or indeed in the present birth?) while some Karmic effects could get cancelled off (due to other neutralising actions?).
Scientifically it is well-known that genes control chemical and biological reactions and activities in a living being including health as well as behaviour and other characteristics. Science also teaches that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.
We also know that gene mutations or changes in genes could occur under certain conditions, including environmental conditions. I therefore strongly feel that there is a clear scientific basis to the Buddhist teaching that certain Karmic effects (good or bad) could be neutralised due to subsequent actions of a human being.
Apart from any religious belief or religious bias, we know that the Buddha after attaining enlightenment or the Buddhahood had stated that all matter consists of minute unseen particles which were called Kalpas. The Buddha had explained the dual nature of these particles by stating they were continuously becoming and unbecoming thereby revealing the true nature of existence.
Today with modern scientific knowledge we know that matter consists of atoms and sub-atomic particles. Further quantum mechanics has proven the dual nature of their existence as matter and energy.
It is therefore not amazing that the Buddha had seen after enlightenment over 2,500 years ago, what is scientifically known to be true today.
L. S. Geoffrey Tillekeratne
White blood cells, astral body and astrology L3.06
There are some stories of the experiences of men who passed into the very portels of death and were brought back to life by medical treatment.
According to their experiences it seems that they were drawn back into the body after their hearts began to beat strongly. Beating produces electrical activity of the heart and therefore an electro-magnetic field surrounds the heart.
If the astral body consists of white blood cells it can be pulled back to the blood stream by these electro-magnetic waves because the white blood cells are compounds of atoms and can be affected by the electro-magnetic waves.
According to the same theory in a foetus when its heart begins to beat an astral body can be drawned into the foetal blood stream. So the foetal blood should be free of white blood cells before the beginning of its heart beat.
Lifespan of the white blood cells could theoretically be infinitive because under suitable conditions it can grow, divide and produce offspring cells and can be grown even in a tissue culture.
It is possible that the white blood cells enter the foetus as an astral body and spread all over the body through the blood stream. Even today the exult site of processing of the B lymphocyte in man is not known.
A small lymphocyte has the largest nucleus when compared to any other cell in the body of the same size. It is very rich in DNA which forms the genetic code for the transmission of hereditary characters.
If the astral body consists of white blood cells it carries all the hereditary characters from one birth to another.
In Buddhist teaching it is said that the last thought moment of this life perishes conditioning another thought moment in a subsequent life and the new being is neither absolutely the same once it has changed nor totally different being the same stream of 'Kamma' energy which is all moral and immoral volition and intentional action mental, verbal and physical.
As long as this kamma force survives there is re-birth. The body dies and its kammic force is re-born in another life.
Memory cells derived from the lymphocytes which respond positively to the measles virus in childhood may persist throughout one's lifetime. Isn't it possible that these memory cells carry all these thoughts to the subsequent life.
Man is a compound of millions of atoms and cannot remain unaffected by changes in the solar system. Astrology records the influence of planets over the nations, individuals and environment.
IF the astral body consist of white blood cells which are compounds of atoms, it also must be under the influence of the solar system.
Therefore the astral body can find out the suitable mother according to the planetary attractions between itself and the mother.
That is why a skilled astrologer can predict the baby's character to some extent even before it is born according to the planetary influences of mother's birth chart.
Dr. D.P. Alwis
24 10 2003 - Daily News
Whose Vipassana? L3.07
There is "Goenka’s Vipassana", "Bedi’s Vipassana", "Siriwardane’s Vipassana", etc. So many "vipassana" meditations, that the original Vipassana, discovered only by the Buddha, when he attained Enlightenment, is shelved and by most of the plagiarists, hoped to be pushed into oblivion. Which, of course, is an impossibility, so long as the Buddha’s teaching exists. One reason for prefixing different names before "vipassana" is the fact that, if you say, as you should, in the only legitimately way, "the Buddha’s Vipassana", most of the Hindus, Rishi/Baba devotees, Christians, Muslims, the prisoners in the famous Tihar jail and other places will not come in droves to practice it.
Anything that smacks of Buddhism is anathema to these people, who will not want to be accused of turning their back on their own unsatisfactory religions, to sneak into a Buddhist practice, as they know what the Buddha taught goes counter to their beliefs.
Can these people who have no faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Ariya Sangha, who are disinterested in the Buddha-world - the Pali Tripitaka is now available in translation - who have no idea at all of the Four Noble Truths: Suffering, its cause its Cessation and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to its Cessation, attain to Nibbana, which is the target of the Buddha’s vipassana meditation?
You can sit for ever, breathing in and out, but if you took your seat in the firm conviction that it is your soul, created by Almighty God, by whatever name, that is inhaling and exhaling, the realisation of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and soullessness of the breath and everything else, seems rather remote! The First Step of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Understanding and it would be better for these practitioners to give up their arrogant pride which prevents them from acknowledging the greatness of the Buddha, who discovered Vipassana, and first try to learn what he taught. It is the Seventh Step of the Noble Eightfold Path, Samma Sati (Right Mindfulness) that incorporates vipassana seeing body, feeling, mental formations and consciousness - as they truly are. No one should forget that the Buddha has expressly stated that, separated from his Noble Eightfold Path, there is no attainment of Nibbana, which is the aim of his vipassana meditation. What these people are doing is like trying to sew a dress and frantically learning how to stitch one sleeve of it only, leaving the rest aside.
How can the Buddhists remain so unconcerned about every Tom, Dick and Harry trying to break bits and pieces of the Buddha Dhamma to claim that portion as their own mostly to twist and degrade its true meaning? Buddhists should be vigilant and implacable and make sure, by whatever means, that it does not happen. What is being tampered with is their most previous possession!
Prema Ranawaka Das
09 09 2003 - Island
Problems caused by history & mathematics L3.08
This is with reference to the article titled 'Peace with Honor' which appeared in the Sunday Observer on August 8.
If mankind wants to live in peace, there are two "subjects" which should be thrown out of this universe, the first one is 'history' and the next one is 'mathematics'.
Problems start from history and end in mathematics. History kindles the problems and mathematics finishes the mankind, with the use of modern weapons.
As humans are part and parcel of this universe, history works like a cane stick and like a 'cintamani' (which means a gem, from which everybody can get whatever they wants to secure).
Man has performed incredible role in the other fields such as music, fine-art, architecture, agriculture, sculpture and so on. But as far as history is concerned, it is nothing but study of killing and bloodshed. Hence, in true sense mankind cannot be proud of just quoting historical events. Take the 20th century, it is the violent century mankind has ever witnessed, still the situation endures. Mathematics, all scientific development and inventions are based on numbers, calculations, sums etc., which ultimately enables humans to kill his fellow beings by manufacturing deadly weapons even within a span of 45 minutes.
All beings and species right from the amoeba to elephant have settled down in the earth and have started living except humans. Still this species has not yet accommodated itself on this beautiful earth.
Let us stop killing each other and start living like our fellow beings and thrive in spiritual endeavour. Bhavatu Sabha Mangalam.
Bhikkhu Bodhipala,07 09 2003 - Sunday Observer
Siri Parakumba Pirivena, Etulkotte
Eating fish and flesh L3.09
I respond to Mr. A. D. Gunasekera’s letter/article titled "Eating fish and flesh" published recently (July 09, 2008) in one of our daily English newspapers.
Let me discuss the points on which I agree and those with which I disagree with him in regard to what he has ‘conveyed’ in his letter.
I concur with him that:
(1) All organisms have to eat to live;
(2) Only plants can manufacture their own food;
(3) Carnivores cannot live without eating other animals, but may I add here that ‘even carnivores never ever devour their own breed’ and
(4) One should not desist from eating fish or flesh merely because some religions pronounces it a sin.
I disagree with him. It is my personal view that if eating an animal is a sin, eating a plant also should be a sin as both are carrying out the same living functions etc.
Let me elaborate on my views. In my view it is only a religious belief because no human being certified ‘dead’ by a qualified medical practitioner has ever come back to ‘life’ again to tell what he/she experienced after death - whether he went to heaven or hell? Sin is said to be associated with ‘going to hell’, while virtue/glory with ‘going to heaven’. But where is the proof for all this? We human beings belong to different religions which are ‘man-made’ and each religion has its own ‘basic tenets’, which persons belonging to that particular religion are expected to follow. But what about the rest of the animal kingdom which have the same basic anatomy and physiological functions as the homo-sapiens (human beings), except for the faculty of ‘speech’ or ‘expression’ as we human beings understand it?
It is again my personal view that none of us has seen God and therefore it is axiomatic that something ‘supernatural’, call it ‘God’/Nature’/’Cosmic Energy/’Creator’ or ‘Whatever’, has created life on earth, the oceans, the mountains, the water falls etc.
We all know that animals neither have nor follow any religion: They do not pray to different gods as we humans do. So it is man who ‘made’ religion and the different deities according to their conceptions and beliefs.
The concept of ‘life’ should in my view be looked at from this angle - the more highly evolved animals of which the ‘most highly’ evolved being the human species, followed by those of the ‘lower’ evolved category, namely, microbes like the bacteria, viruses and unicellular organisms, both of animals and plant origin. The significant difference between these two groups, viz. plants and animals, is that most plants can ‘regenerate’ when some segment, such as a branch or part of the stem is injured or severed by injury/trauma and also, when subjected to the trauma there is no visible suffering or ‘agony’ experienced by the plant, whereas in the more highly evolved forms of ‘life’, which includes man and animals, what is witnessed is just the opposite. That is, an amputated or severed limb cannot be ‘replaced’ by nature and therefore the loss is permanent (unless of course an ‘artificial limb is fitted) and there is also immense ‘visible’ suffering/agony when animals are killed at game hunting or when slaughtered for the consumption of flesh as meat by man to satisfy his appetite.
The ‘uprooting’ of carrots/beetroot or the use of leaves, as in the case for spinach, gotukala or kang kung can in no way be equated, in my opinion, to the slashing of the neck of an innocent chicken, goat, pig or cow. A popular misconception among some Buddhists and Hindus is that the fish is not equivalent to meat. This view is erroneous: The fish is also an animal and is a cold blooded animal living wholly in water. It has been reported through scientific research that when taken out of its environment (water), the fish undergoes ‘untold/immense’ suffering prior to its death. Pathetic indeed!
Let me conclude by agreeing with what Mr. Gunasekera has stated in his letter – "One should not desist from eating fish or flesh because in religions it is taught as a ‘sin’, but because of compassion for more developed forms of life". This is exactly what the Noble Buddha taught and stressed.
May all beings be well and happy.
Prof. M. Sivasuriya
15 10 2008 - The Island
The ‘Poruwa’ ceremony and ‘Popular Buddhism’ L3.10
I have read with interest SAK’s response to Mr. CB’s inquiry, but what interests me more is his speaking of ‘Popular Buddhism’ (that is a new one on me). This apparently is a form of ‘Kavalang’ Buddhism, an admixture of Hinduism and some aspects of what is said to be Buddhist practice. I shall be much obliged if Prof. Gananath Obeyesekera would shed some light on this matter.
Meanwhile, I am indeed thankful to Mr. CB for raising the issue of the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony and seeking to find out about its origins and why there is a difference between the Kandyan ceremony and the ‘Low Country’ ceremony. I do not think that Mr. CB intended to in anyway denigrate the ceremony; he was no doubt seeking to learn more about it, which is very much a part of our culture, that was, perhaps, why he was seeking the assistance of the foremost Sinhala scholar Prof. J B Dissanayake.
In the first instance, it seems that we need to educate SAK on what the Buddha preached though he has made a reference to the Metha Suthra at the end of his article. I would in the first instance refer him to the first Dhammapada –"Mano pubbam gama Dhamma…" the supremacy of the mind and that all states are of the mind. I would next refer him to another stanza " Aththahi aththano natho kohi natho parosiya… In translation, it means you are your own salvation and there is no other. I would also wish him to read the Kalama Suthraya - there is no blind belief in Buddhism. Buddhism is essentially "Seela, Samadhi, Pagna". Seela is the practice of morality – the Noble Eightfold Path and the achievement of wisdom or understanding of reality (Pagna) through Samadhi (Meditation). Please do not confuse ‘priestcraft’ with Buddhism. Our monks have even introduced a meaningless Gatha asking the Buddha, who escaped Sansara for forgiveness! "Kaena vacha chithena pamadena mayakathang".
The discourses of the Buddha are chanted like mantra in Pali – this is like the sweet sound of birds singing, yes chanting soothes the mind, but there is nothing else to it. Take for instance the Karaneeya Meththa Suthra (the discourse on loving kindness as preached by the Buddha). It is recited as a mantra, which it was never intended to be. It must be recited in Sinhala every morning in every class in every Buddhist school and home in this country. I shall set out here its meaning for the benefit of those adherents of ‘Popular Buddhism’. The Suthra is as follows:
"May one be able upright , perfectly upright, amenable, gentle and calm, contented, easily supportable with few duties, of light livelihood, controlled in his/ her senses discreet not impudent he/she should not commit the slightest wrong that would result in chastisement, May all beings be well and happy.
"Whatsoever living beings there be, feeble, strong, short, tall, thin, stout or medium, seen or unseen, those living far or near, those born and yet to be born, may all beings, without exception be well and happy.
"Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so may I cultivate a boundless love for all beings; May these thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world above, below and across, as long as I am alive may I cultivate this mindfulness".
What can be more meaningful than that Mr. SAK? Now this beautiful Suthra of the Buddha is chanted in Pali as a mantra. Was this the intention of the Buddha, Mr. SAK? Another beautiful discourse of the Buddha pregnant with meaning is the Maha Mangala Suthra - this discourse is also chanted in Pali as a mantra. Incidentally, do you know that the Ratana Suthraya, which is full of praise of the Sangha is NOT a discourse of the Buddha. So your so-called ‘Popular Buddhism’ is a form of mantra Buddhism, somewhat akin to the Tibetan version.
To revert to the subject of the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony, SAK inquires as to the language CB would have preferred to hear the blessing done at the ceremony - I cannot answer for CB, but I would say the blessing could be in Sinhala. He also next mentions ‘Seth Pirith". Yes it is very much a part of our culture but once again this is a part of ‘mantra Buddhism’ and helps us psychologically - but we never have ‘Seth Pirith’ as a part of the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony.
We do all agree that the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony is a ceremony to bless the couple when they begin a new life together and I do believe it to be a civilized practice in any society. But once again the inquiry was why is there a difference between the Low Country ceremony and the Kandyan wedding ceremony. Mr. SAK does not answer that question. It cannot be that the South has been more exposed to witchcraft and Katadiyas and Bali ceremonies and therefore they believe in chants in a strange language. It could not be the influence of Hinduism or Hindu culture, for the Kandyan kingdom was perhaps even more exposed to Hindu culture. Therefore, why is there such a big difference between the simple dignified Kandyan wedding ceremony and the Low Country ceremony?
Which brings up another issue. SAK states that the Buddha was born a Hindu, but what he forgets is that what he preached did not have a place for any gods, be it Hindu or any other gods. This is not to insult any religion or practice but as the late Ven. Gangodawila Soma Hamuduruwo stated, "If you obtain solace and relief, by all means worship Sai Baba or the pantheon of Hindu Gods, but please understand that this is not a part of Buddhism".
We do concede that Buddhism as preached by the Gautama Buddha is no doubt difficult to practice as it requires discipline and tremendous self-control; the fact that one has to conquer one’s mind is difficult by itself and most of us find it most difficult to face the stress of modern life alone and we do seek whatever assistance we can from whatever source. In these circumstances, seeking the assistance of Hindu Gods is most understandable – but then let us be bold and honest and not call ourselves Buddhists or followers of ‘Popular Buddhism’, for there is no such thing.
Let us call ourselves what we really are - Hindus!
06 10 2008 - The Island
The Panadura Debate L3.11
Readers should be thankful to Mr. Walter Wijenayake for the excellent article on the great services to Buddhism and the Sinhala identity by the Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda (The Island 20.09.2008). This is to point out some errors, perhaps, typing mistakes, in that article.
The Editor of the Times of Ceylon (now defunct), who got the text of the Panadura Debate published was Mr. John Capper. The American who got a copy and took it to the US and published it there was Mr. Patrick Peebles. The title of the book he published at Battle Creek, Michigan in 1873 was "Buddhism and Christianity in Discussion Face to Face or An Oral Debate Between Rev. Migettuwatte and Rev. De Silva Held at Panthura, Ceylon". The demise of Rev. Migettuwatte occurred in 1891.
As for the recommendations of the Colebrooke Commission, it is not correct to say that all vernacular schools (Sinhala and Tamil) were closed in 1832. Their report emphasised the need to spread English education so that natives could be recruited to work in the lower ranks of the administration. Education in English was encouraged in the government schools and no steps were taken to open new "Vernacular" schools. But the missionaries who ran the bulk of the schools continued with both English and "Vernacular" schools.
23 09 2008 - The Island
Buddhism does not need any protection L3.12
I have heard, times without number, people and organisations saying that Buddhism should be protected. These people and organisations are downright fools. Buddhism by its intrinsic nature could attract the rational and defend itself.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake in a recent speech applauded the Maha Sangha of Sri Lanka for protecting Buddhism in this country. That is far from the truth. In fact, Buddhism in Sri Lanka is flawed. By upholding the caste system in recruiting monks to the Malwatte and Asgiriya nikayas, Buddhism in Sri Lanka flouts Buddha’s foremost tenets.
In India, the land of birth of Buddhism, it has been reduced to a nonentity. That is due to most Indians of Caucasian stock (north) or Dravidans descended from the Mohanjadaro-Harappa civilisation in peninsular India (south) or the endemic Indian tribals have an inclination to demonisation. They do not believe in a pure, almighty deity as in Abrahamic faiths. The Indians resort to sorcery and superstition and has a strong inclination for Satanic worship. Their iconic deities are rats, cats, dogs, monkeys etc. as much as the Chinese name the years after animals.
But the clear-minded people in the West is realising the potency of Buddhism as a scientific, rational way of life.
Its inherent crux is appealing to the straight thinking mind as well as defending itself from mundane threats.
04 09 2008 - The Island
Consciousness, Buddhism and Karl Marx L3.13
Apropos the letters written by Dr.Kingsly Heendeniya, Prof. Carlo Fonseka and others on the subject of consciousness which appeared in The Island I would like to say that both Karl Marx and modern physiologists may have been influenced by Buddha’s preaching on consciousness. Obviously physiological views on consciousness were not available to the Buddha at the time. He preached about consciousness 2500 years ago, whereas some knowledge of the nervous system would have been available to Marx and moreover the Buddha’s dharma was available to him. Further there is evidence that he was influenced by Buddhism particularly in the fundamental idea of socialism ( vide Heinz Bechert 1966 ). U Ba Swe a Burmese Buddhist leader held that if capitalism exists it is because man has forgotten the teachings of the Buddha. Laksmi Narasu, an Indian Buddhist leader maintained that the Buddha was anti capitalist. U Nu an eminent Burmese Buddhist statesman said that socialism is a corollary of the social and ethical principles of the Buddha and approved the law nationalizing landholdings. Our own Rev. Yakkaduwe Pragnasara Thera said that Buddhists do not need any other dogma to achieve socialism. It is even said that Marxism is a page extracted from the book of Buddhism but misinterpreted! Therefore perhaps Karl Marx cannot claim originality in either socialism or the theory of consciousness and may have learnt the fundamentals of both from Buddhism.
It is not surprising that the modern physiological view of consciousness agrees to some degree with that of the Lord Buddha. It is probable that the modern physiologists working on consciousness are influenced by Buddhism, as are many modern physicists and other scientists. (If they are not they cannot be good scientists. This is not to say that Buddhism is scientific.) However just as the Buddha’s teachings on socialism was much deeper than that of Marxism and also thorough in that it included the means of controlling greed which is the driving force of capitalism, Buddha’s analysis of consciousness is profound and far reaching compared to any other theory on consciousness. It is part and parcel of the Law of Dependent Origination (Pattichcha Samuppadaya) which attempts to unravel the mystery of the human predicament; birth and suffering. Therefore to take consciousness out of " Pattichcha Samuppadaya" for the purpose of analyzing it, is to take it out of context and is meaningless. The Buddhist concept of consciousness therefore cannot be explained in physiological terms. The physiologist’s method which breaks up a phenomenon into its components and consider each as another whole, cannot be expected to comprehend the interconnected and interdependent nature of consciousness and its related phenomena such as "avidya" "sankara" etc. without which there is no comprehension of consciousness.
"Pattichcha Samuppadaya" has twelve components and these have been analyzed basically in two modes. One is on the basis of past, present and future lives. The other is on the basis of "vedana" , "karma" and "dukka". Yet another method of analysis is on the basis of "Dhamma" theory which is an Abhidammic innovation that explores the empiric individuality and its relation to the external world. This method has five modes of analysis and consciousness appears in four of these at different levels of further analysis. What is of significance is that Buddhism does not rely on analysis alone but resorts to two complementary methods ; "bedha" (analysis) and "sangaha" (synthesis). What all of the above could perhaps mean is that these concepts (what appear to be concepts to us) cannot be comprehended by any other means but by the means adopted by Lord Buddha.
16 04 2008 - The Island
The conscious factor and laymen L3.14
Readers of The Island would be most grateful for the most interesting contributions by scholars and the erudite on the above subject. However, the readers would be further interested for contributions to the following:- eternal inquiry by mankind: -
* That only humans have the ability to be conscious of consciousness and thereby differ from all other forms of life be it, microbe, plant or animal.
* That to reach the ultimate state of sublimity the only recourse is through meditation by which the fractioned is consciously aware and detached from the natural process of consciousness in man. That the mind and consciousness exists in separate states and thereby the fractioned is in the state or substantive state of bliss.
* That this state of mind is therefore referred in religion as the state of cosmic consciousness, Presence of Christ, Satori or Nirvana?
* That having had any of the above states, the ability of man to sustain the same equilibrium of the mind during sleeping hours?
* The question to scholars, Philosophers and the erudite is- Does an all pervading, omni-potent consciousness exist? - Or higher power.
Referring to statements made by three and perhaps thousands of others, Einstein is supposed to have said that there is a higher power and a cosmic consciousness.
Arthur C. Clark, in a BBC interview, when asked, do you believe in a higher power, had said that the universe is too full of mysteries that the human mind is incapable of grasping its true meaning.
Gabriel Garcia Marques from Colombia, a Nobel Prize winner for literature in his terminally ill state says: If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life would use it to the best of my ability.
So my question is, does the state of consciousness in man overwhelmed by even a higher state of cosmic consciousness?
02 04 2008 - The Island
14 10 2003 - Daily News
Sangha at the crossroads L3.16
There can be little doubt that in Sri Lanka today Buddhism finds itself at a crossroads, its future increasingly in question. The challenge it faces is not one of numbers and power, but of relevance. Not that the Dhamma itself, the Buddha’s teaching, has lost its relevance; for neither the shifting drama of history nor the undulating waves of culture can muffle the timeless message embedded in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The problem lies not with the teaching itself, but with those responsible for bringing the teaching to life. What is lacking above all is a combination of skills that can be summed up in three simple words: comprehension, commitment, and translation. Comprehension: a clear understanding of how the teaching applies to the hard realities of human life today, to a society and world in which the old certainties of the past are being scattered like leaves before a storm. Commitment: the willingness to apply the teachings in the way they were intended, even when this means defying the encrustations of established tradition. Translation: not stereotyped "sermons," not sweet consolation, not religious lullabies, but solid, sober explanations of how the timeless principles of the Dhamma can resolve the distinctive problems and quandaries of our age.
As we stand at this crossroads looking towards the future, three choices offer themselves to us. One is simply to resign ourselves to the decay of the Sasana, accepting it as a backward swing of the pendulum of history - sad but inevitable. A second is to wring our hands and complain, shifting the responsibility to others - the government, the monks, or the minorities. A third is to ask ourselves what we can do to stem the rising tide. If we adopt the third route we might begin by noting that the Sasana does not exist in an ideal realm of its own, but only as embodied in the millions of people who call themselves Buddhists and look for refuge to the Triple Gem.
This statement might sound obvious, even trite. However, if we reflect for a few moments we will see that, though obvious, it has enormous implications, for it means that we ourselves are ultimately responsible for the prosperity and decline of the Sasana: our own views, attitudes, and conduct decide whether the Sasana is to thrive or wither. To recognize this is to see that the welfare of the Sasana ultimately rests on our own shoulders, not on some state ministry or ecclesiastical council. Just as the health of the body depends on the vitality of its cells, so the strength of the Sasana ultimately devolves on ourselves, the cells in the living organism of Buddhism.
In this article I want to focus on one particular constituency of Buddhists in present day Sri Lanka, the Bhikkhu Sangha, the Order of Monks. I intend to examine, though briefly, the problems it faces and its prospects for the future. This task is especially critical because of the central role the Sangha plays in guiding the destiny of the Sasana, and it is clear that if the Sangha does not learn to deal with the momentous forces inundating present-day society, the future will see it increasingly relegated to the sidelines.
Buddhist tradition meticulously defines the mutual duties of Sangha and laity and these roles form the warp and woof of the Sasana. The monks are to uphold the teaching by study, practice, preaching, and moral example; the lay people, to support the monks by offering them the four requisites of robes, food, lodging, and medicines. This intimate relationship between the two communities has provided a stable basis for the persistence of the Sasana through the centuries. Despite the fluctuations of Buddhist history in Sri Lanka, which at times had sunk so low that even a proper Sangha could not be found, whenever Buddhism thrived the relationship between the monastic order and the laity has been its lifeblood. This relationship of mutual assistance, however, found its supporting matrix in a stable agrarian society with clearly defined social roles and a life-style governed by common religious and ethical norms. That is precisely what has altered so radically today. A global culture, driven by exponential technological innovation and a relentless free-market economy, has made its presence felt in every corner of this land, challenging every obstacle to its dominance. In consequence, the entire social order has been shaken by upheavals that reach from the halls of economic and political power right through to the most remote villages and temples.
This modernistic onslaught does not limit itself to mere external triumphs but reaches through to the most private places in our lives: our values, worldviews, and even our sense of personal identity. The result, for the ordinary Buddhist, has been a profound disorientation, a feeling of being stranded in a strange landscape where the old familiar reference points no longer hold. Looking back, we see a past of comfortable certainties that we can never recapture; looking ahead, a future that looks increasingly unpredictable. But amidst the confusion of the present, the Dhamma still appears as a stable reference point that can provide clear answers to our pressing questions and relief from existential stress.
This brings us right to the crux of our problem: the problem of relevance, of conveying the timeless message of the teaching in a language that can address the difficult, unique, complex problems we face navigating our way through the post-modern world. The most critical challenge facing the Sasana today is that of surviving in this "new world order," and not merely of surviving institutionally, in name and form, but of contributing to the recovery of universal human values, of helping countless men and women find a way beyond the intellectual and moral abyss. It is precisely here that the role of the Sangha becomes so vitally important, for it is the monks (and, I dare say, the nuns as well) who should be capable of offering a convincing refuge to "a world gone mad" - a vision of basic sanity, selfless goodness, and serenity amidst the storms of greed, conflict, and violence. Yet it is just on this point that we face a gaping chasm: namely, that the Sangha today seems hardly equipped to respond to such a challenge.
What is needed most urgently, in my view, is not a reinforcement of Buddhist religious identity or a governmental policy that gives "pride of place to Buddhism". Nor will the construction of more Buddha images and the daily broadcasting of pirith chanting over the loudspeakers give the Sasana the infusion of fresh blood it so badly needs. What is required are monks and nuns of intelligence, insight, and sensitivity who can demonstrate, by their lives and characters, the spiritually ennobling and elevating power of the Dhamma. To produce monastics of such calibre is not easy, yet such a task cannot be left to chance. It will require, above all, deep-rooted changes in the entire system of monastic recruitment and education, and thus will call for serious thought and careful planning on the part of the Sangha elders. The task is not one to be taken at all lightly; for one can say, in all truth, that nothing less is at stake than the future of Buddhism in this country.
Just as the Sri Lankan government has recently reviewed the whole system of secular education in this country with the aim of reforming educational policy, a similar reformation will have to be introduced right at the heart of the Sangha. If one compares the system of instruction in the Buddhist monasteries with the curriculum of the Christian seminaries, the disparity is striking; In the seminaries the future priests and nuns are trained, not only in Latin, theology, and scripture, but in all the fields of modern knowledge they will need to play a leading role in today’s world, including the critical and comparative study of religion. In the pirivenas or Buddhist monastic schools, so far as I can see, the young monks (never nuns!) are trained to become village priests capable of preserving a religious culture not very different from that of the sixteenth century. One can see the bizarre result when a monk educated in the pirivena system has to give a sermon to an audience that might include an astrophysicist, a psychiatrist, several computer analysts, and even some lay Buddhist scholars trained in the methods of critical scholarship. Is it any wonder that the listeners pass the time glancing idly at the ceiling or casting weary smiles at each other?
In what follows I will merely throw out a few random suggestions. A systematic programme would have to be worked out by those more directly involved in Sangha administration and the training of monks and nuns. I will speak about monks rather than nuns, since I am more familiar with their life-styles and training. But corresponding changes should also be considered for the nuns, whose status, education, and functions require drastic upgrading if Buddhism is to present a respectable face to a world moving rapidly towards complete gender equality.
For the monks, radical change might be needed at the very beginning, in the system of recruitment. The method of recruitment that currently prevails in the Sangha is the induction of young boys who are far from mature enough to make their own decisions. Often they are "offered" to the Sangha by their parents, as a way for the parents to earn merit. If the parents would sacrifice a youth who seems temperamentally inclined to the religious life, the ultimate effect such a system has on the Sasana might be a positive one. Indeed, in the past it was usually "the best and the brightest" who would be given to the monastery. Today, however, the child selected is too often the one who appears unlikely to succeed in worldly life: the mischief-maker, the maverick, the dullard.
I am aware that this system of childhood ordination is deeply entrenched in Sri Lankan Buddhist culture, and I would not propose abolishing it. Despite its faults, the system does have its positive points. For one thing, it enables the youngster to enter the path of renunciation before he has been exposed to the temptations of worldly life; thus from an early age it helps promote the inner purity and detachment needed to withstand the rigours of the monastic training. Another advantage is that it gives the young monk the opportunity to study the Dhamma and the textual languages (Pali and Sanskrit) while the mind is as yet fresh, open, receptive, and retentive. Thereby it conduces to the wide erudition which is one of the traditional hallmarks of the cultured monk.
However, while I would not go so far as to suggest abolishing adolescent recruitment, I do think the Sangha could vastly improve its ranks by imposing more stringent criteria for admission. One measure that might be adopted at once is a longer probationary period before granting the novice ordination. For example, it might be made mandatory for boys intent on being ordained to live at training centres as lay postulants for a minimum of two or three years before they are considered eligible for novice ordination. This would give the Sangha elders an opportunity to observe them more closely, in a wide variety of situations, and to screen out those who seem unsuitable for the monk’s life. If this is not practicable, then some other selective procedure might be applied. Whatever method is chosen, the standards of selection should be fairly rigorous - though not inhumane - and the elders should not hesitate to turn away unfit applicants. For one thing has become too painfully obvious to all concerned Buddhists alike, and also to non-Buddhists (both residents of Sri Lanka and foreigners) who judge the Dhamma by the conduct of its followers: far too many youngsters are being draped in saffron robes who do not deserve to wear them. Such misfits only sully the good name of the Sangha and of Buddhism itself.
More rigorous screening of candidates for ordination is, however, only a preliminary measure aimed at sealing off the Sangha from those unsuited for the monkhood. What is equally essential is to offer those who do get ordained training programmes that will promote their wholesome, balanced development. This is truly a critical step, for if youngsters with the potential for the monk’s life fail to receive proper training they won’t find fulfilment in the monastery, and if they don’t find fulfilment their future as monks will be in jeopardy.
They will either become disillusioned with the Sangha and return to lay life; or else, from fear of the social stigma attached to disrobing, they may continue as monks in a perpetual state of frustration and discontent. This may explain why we see so many younger monks today involved in politics, business, and other activities unworthy of their calling.
What is necessary above all is for the young monk to find meaning and happiness in his chosen path of life, a path that does not offer the immediate satisfactions available to his comrades who remain behind in the world. If so few monks today seem to show a real joy in the Dhamma, I suspect this is because the Dhamma is not being presented to them in a way that inspires joy. For the Dhamma to exercise a magnetic power that will draw the young monk ever deeper towards the heart of the holy life, it must address their needs and aspirations at a deep interior level.
This means it has to be offered to them in a way that arouses an immediate, sincere, and spontaneous response.
Lay Buddhists often complain about indiscipline in the Sangha and appeal to the Sangha elders to impose stricter controls over their pupils. I do not want to slight the problem of poor discipline, and I agree that stricter enforcement of the Vinaya rules is essential, but I would also contend that poor discipline is more a symptom than a cause. What is primarily required is not so much stricter discipline as a far-reaching spiritual renewal that bubbles with vitality, and such a renewal cannot be instigated merely by imposing stricter disciplinary controls from above.
This approach might even turn out to be counter-productive. If not conjoined with other measures designed to effect more fundamental changes in the quality of training it might turn the monastery into an open-door prison, with the monk’s life made to feel like a lifetime prison sentence rather than a path to liberation. True discipline must be undertaken freely, with understanding and appreciation, and this can come about only when one sees it as a source of joy and inner freedom, not as a clamp bringing fear and frustration.
If the Sangha is to rediscover its strength and vigour, it is necessary for those who receive ordination to find a meaningful role for themselves in their lives as monks.
If the Sangha is to rediscover its strength and vigour, it is necessary for those who receive ordination to find a meaningful role for themselves in their lives as monks. Such a role has to resolve two contrary demands. On the one side, it must remain faithful to the ancient ideals prescribed for the Sangha by the Buddha himself, ideals which express the governing purpose of the monastic vocation. On the other, it must respond to the fluid realities of life in the contemporary world, enabling the monk to feel he has a truly relevant role in relation to the wider community.
This last point is especially important. In present day Sri Lankan society, as I explained earlier, tumultuous changes are taking place on every side, and one of their consequences is to place the monk in an ambiguous position, almost a "double bind." When he reviews his status from the standpoint of the Dhamma he discovers himself to be (in theory at least) the paragon of Buddhist spirituality, a living representative of the Ariya Sangharatana, a "field of merit for the world." Yet, when he considers himself in relation to contemporary society, he is made to feel like an anachronism, a relic from an earlier age, and he thus finds his status and function stamped with profoundly disturbing question marks. These contradictory messages can precipitate a state of unbearable inner tension. One outlet from this tension is to accede to the archaic status of the traditionalist and thus become a spokesman of rigid conservatism, stubbornly resistant to change. The other outlet moves in the opposite direction: towards rebellion against all authority, including that of the Dhamma itself.
Precisely this, I believe, underlies the dilemma that confronts so many young, capable, intelligent, and earnest monks once they graduate from novice status and face the prospect of a lifetime commitment to the Sangha. If one listens with one’s inner ear, one can hear their questions, rarely expressed, hanging in the air: "Are we to pass our lives as mere symbols on which others can hang their sentimental piety, pushed to the sidelines of a secularized country running in blind pursuit of economic growth? Are we to spend our days marginalized, engaged in a ritualized routine of endless alms offerings, pirith recitations, and poojas, functioning as religious decorations in the alcoves of peoples’ lives, far removed from ‘the real action’? Are we to go on preaching sermons in which we’re expected to repeat only what the listeners have already heard a hundred times before, merely to tickle their sense of piety? "The rebellious and recalcitrant behaviour of so many younger monks, I believe, should be read as a silent protest against this fate, a way of saying: "Let us not be fashioned into somebody else’s image of what we should be. Let our inalienable humanity not be sacrificed at the altar of social expectations."
If such messages are read correctly, we would see that the appropriate response should not be one of indignation but of compassion and a heartfelt desire to help. Those who wish to help the Sangha must be less quick to criticize and condemn. Instead, they should be ready to make a genuine effort to understand the aspirations of these younger monks and help them find a context giving meaning and value to their lives, confirming the correctness of their decision to ordain. The most important steps will have to be taken by the Sangha elders, who will need to review the whole process of monastic training. But one point should be clearly understood above all else. The quest for a meaningful role in relation to present-day society should never be used by the monk to justify adopting a life-style that betrays his special calling. This means that the monk must not seek to make his mark on society as a political activist caught in the interminable conflicts of party politics, nor should he be turned into a tonsured social worker or a specialist in worldly arts and sciences. The defining characteristic of the monk’s life is renunciation, and this should never be undermined by a concern to find a relevant role in society. If properly undertaken, the life of renunciation is sufficiently relevant on its own: a perpetual reminder of where the true good for human beings is to be found.
Perhaps the best way to gain an insight into the kind of changes needed in the system of monastic training is to pose the question: "What is the role the monk should fulfil once he reaches maturity?" And this leads on to the next question: "What is the proper aim and purpose of the monk’s life?" A meaningful programme of monastic education, which is at the same time a programme of monastic formation, should be formulated as answers to these questions.
When we look at the whole situation of Sri Lankan monasticism, we see that with a few noteworthy exceptions the monastic training in this country is sadly deficient. What underlies this deficiency is the lack of a clear conception of a monk’s special vocation. Admittedly, in a country where some seventy percent of the population is Buddhist, monks are needed to cater to the religious needs of the people. But, we have to ask, does this justify the almost complete neglect of the unique system of spiritual training prescribed by the Buddha for the Sangha? Did he intend the Order to consist entirely of ritual specialists and cultural custodians, and to postpone the treading of his path to liberation to some future existence? To arrive at a correct conception of the goal of monastic training we have to pierce through the established social norms and popular conventions that govern Sangha life today, not stopping until we have recovered the original conception of the monastic calling sounded by the Buddha himself. It is this conception that must be drawn out from the massive volumes of Buddhist scriptures, rejuvenated with a breath of fresh air, and placed before the monk’s inner eye as the real reason for his vocation.
It is towards the realization of this ideal that the monastic training should be directed. To work out the details of this is a task that must be given a great amount of careful and intelligent thought. Here I can only speak in generalities. The first, and overriding generality, is to recognize that the primary purpose behind the monastic path is personal growth and spiritual transformation in the direction pointed to by the Buddha: growth towards Nibbana, final liberation from suffering; transformation guided by the clear-cut steps of the Noble Eightfold Path. Stated so baldly, however, this expression of the goal may be too abstract, too remote from the everyday concerns and aptitudes of a young monk who is just setting out in his training. So let us put it differently, into a language that is more immediate and concrete: The purpose of the monk’s life is to train the mind, to purify the mind, to mould the mind in the direction of liberation from greed, aversion, and delusion; to implant in the mind the purifying qualities of detachment, loving kindness, compassion, and wisdom, and to share these aspirations with others. Whatever mode of expression is chosen is of secondary importance. What is of primary importance is a clear recognition that the guiding purpose of the monk’s life should be the spiritual growth and self-transformation of the individual monk, and all other aspects of the training should be subsumed under this.
To follow through such a suggestion will require that the Sangha rediscover a discipline that has almost been lost, namely, the practice of meditation. Meditation, the methodical development of tranquillity and insight, was the original lifeblood of the renunciant life, yet for most monks today it has become only a word, perhaps a topic of sermons and seminars, or a ten-minute silence in the daily devotional service. In my view, a monastic life that does not centre upon the practice of meditation is merely a shadow of the genuine monastic calling, an evasion of the task entrusted to the Sangha by the Awakened One.
I am aware that not all who go forth are capable of a life of full-time meditation, and I certainly would not propose that all monks be obliged to follow such a life-style. Few in fact will be able to find happiness in a life devoted solely to contemplation, and throughout its long history the Sangha has had the flexibility necessary to accommodate members of diverse skills and temperaments. Within the Sangha there must be administrators, scholars, teachers, preachers, social advisers, counsellors, ritual specialists, and others, and the monastic training must prepare monks to fill these varied niches - what the Christian monastic tradition calls the "active vocations." The more intellectually inclined monks must also be exposed to the various branches of modern knowledge which will enable him to establish bridges between the Dhamma and the intellectual advance of humankind: philosophy and psychology, comparative religion, history and literature and art. But for the monastic life to remain faithful to its original calling the practice of meditation must be restored to its rightful place: not at the fringes but at the centre.
The meditative life, however, must also be integrated with a wider sense of the universal, social message of the Dhamma; otherwise it can become self-enclosed and stagnant. In fact, one of the most regrettable turns taken in the historical evolution of Theravada Buddhism, not confined to Sri Lanka but quite pervasive here, has been the sharp division of the Sangha into meditating forest monks and non-meditating town-and village monks. This fissure has deprived both groups of the healthy balance needed to make the Dhamma a spiritually nourishing force both in this country and in the wider world. The forest monks live almost entirely aloof from society, and thus, except by silent example, rarely contribute their meditative insights and refined moral sensitivity to resolving the profound ethical and spiritual dilemmas confronting the broader human community; Responsibility for upholding the social and communal dimension of Buddhist life devolves on the active town-and-village monks, who are only too prone to assume the role of custodians of a particular social and ethnic consciousness.
Today it isn’t only Buddhism in Sri Lanka that is at the crossroads, but the Sangha as well, and the direction it takes will determine the future destiny of the Sasana. The challenges of our age are unique and unprecedented, and they require intelligent responses governed by the wide, profound perspectives of the Dhamma. Mechanical repetition of the formulas of the past simply won’t work. If the Sangha continues to adhere unthinkingly to established, self-stultifying structures and does not take up the urgent task of internal criticism and renewal, it will be condemning itself, and Sri Lankan Buddhism, to irrelevance. For both alert lay Buddhists and the world community as a whole, it will be just another antiquated institution struggling to hang on to its privileges. Today a cloud of moral and spiritual confusion hangs over humankind, a cloud that grows increasingly darker and thicker. It is the true task of the Sangha, and of Buddhism itself, to help dispel this confusion with the Buddha’s own boundless wisdom and compassion. But if the Sangha is to rise up to this challenge, it must be ready to make some radical changes in its own system of recruitment, training, and practice. True, this will be a difficult task, but it is one that must be met.
Bhikku Bodhi, from Facing the Future
28 03 2001 - The Island
Buddhisms betrayed : Part I L3.17
The Talibans have destroyed the Bhamian Buddha statues with a history of more than one thousand five hundred years. They have told the united nations that it is futile to request them to protect the Buddha statues as they have already demolished them. The "whole world" could not prevent the destruction of the statues and the sovereignty of Afghanistan has been respected. In that sense it is a triumph of the national states though Buddhisms world over have been betrayed. Unlike in the case of former Yugoslavia, the Blair doctrine which proclaims that the so-called international community should intervene in the affairs of nation states in the name of human rights has not been put into practise in Afghanistan. It may be that the destruction of Buddha statues or bombing of Dalada Maligawa has nothing to do with human rights as "idols" and not human beings are involved in these cases. In any event the human rights are defined by the politicians, political scientists and others in the west and not by the Diyavanna Oya parliament and the academics in the universities and so-called research institutes in Sri Lanka.
The academics in our universities do not define anything. They only teach the definitions given by their western masters, while I doubt whether our parliamentarians could explain what is meant by definition. This reminds me of an incident that happened about forty years ago. When the whole class could not satisfactorily define an acid my Chemistry teacher in the fourth form, according to the former British way of thinking or year 9 according to the present western practice, asked the class to explain definition. When he did not get any response he wanted us to define explanation! I did not learn any Chemistry from him but neither did I depart and he, though a Christian, more than anybody else has helped me later in life to see through the mask of the linear systems of knowledge starting with undefined elements, (modeled on an undefined God), western Mathematics being the "queen" of all such systems, and get interested in the cyclic or sansaric systems of knowledge, as I call them, through his penetrating questions and comments. With respect to western knowledge systems two suitable mottoes for the Asians, at least for the Buddhists, would be (i) neither learn nor depart, (ii) learn and depart.
It defies either or type logic of Aristotle but is in harmony with "chatuskotika" or four valued logic. Incidentally according to the definition of human rights of the western academics, politicians and the human rights groups, the poor Sinhala Buddhist villagers in places like Wahalkade do not have any rights human or otherwise.
The Talebans are considered to be fundamentalists by the westerners. However it was the westerners who promoted the Talebans against the former Soviet Union. Though there is supposed to be a civil war that has the "blessings" of the western powers, the Talebans continue to rule the country. The western powers did not do much to prevent the destruction of the Buddha statues. They were very much "concerned" and issued statements and made appeals to the Talebans but very democratically respected the sovereignty of the Afghanistan government. I wonder how they would have reacted if Christian artefacts were destroyed in some non Christian country. If they have even a fraction of that respect for the sovereignty of Sri Lanka it would go a long way towards solving the Tamil racist problem.
Instead, the Sinhala Buddhists are branded as Chauvinists who are ill treating the Tamils in the country. The ambassadors and the high commissioners go to town defining the problem and offering solutions. The definitions are neither satisfactory nor consistent with facts, and my Chemistry teacher would have asked them to explain what is meant by a definition. In their enthusiasm they go to Jaffna town, in particular, and declare that the Tamils are not treated equally in this country. Coming from ambassadors and high commissioners in countries where English is the only official language, though there are many other communities that speak languages other than English, I begin to suspect that the word equal has multiple uneven meanings depending on the sense in which concepts such as multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural are used. For example though English is the only official language of USA which is supposed to be a multi-racial, multi-cultural country, the Spanish speaking USAites are supposed to be treated equally. However, in Sri Lanka it is said that the Tamils are not treated equally, though Tamil is an official language of the country. It would not be a bad idea to request these ambassadors and high commissioners to define the term equal.
Sinhala Buddhists are supposed to have betrayed Buddhism. Sometime ago Prof. Thambiah wrote a book entitled Buddhism Betrayed. Recently another book has been written by another western sociologist Dr. H. L. Seneviratne, that has been reviewed favourably by Bhikku Bodhi, an authority on Theravada Buddhism according to scholars on Buddhistic studies and a non Sri Lankan by birth. The general idea behind all these is that the Sinhala Buddhists are not practising the Dhamma preached by the Buddha. The Sinhala Bhikkus are interested and take part in political activities and are supposed to be anti Tamil. Though I am neither a sociologist nor an expert on Buddhistic studies , there are number of questions that come to my mind, on the positions taken by these scholars. I do not want to deal with all of them but let me discuss just one of them in relation to the demolition of the Buddha statues by the Talebans. The Talebans have said number of times that their action is within their religion. In other words Islam justifies the destruction of the Buddha statues, according to them. However there are other Muslims who are of the opinion that Islam does not approve such activities. With these contradictory positions taken up by different groups of Muslims I am sure that my Chemistry teacher would have asked them first to define Islam. The moment one tries to define Islam or Buddhism or Christianity for that matter, one comes across many problems. As everybody knows there are two prominent sects of Muslims and not to be outdone Buddhism can be classified under number of headings. What does one mean by Buddhism? Is it a religion? Does one imply by Buddhism the Dhamma preached by the Buddha? If that is so then is it the Dhamma according to the Theravadins, Sauthranthikas, Madhyamikas, Vinnanavadins, Pudgalavadins or some other sect?
There may be number of definitions of religion but a religion can exist only if there are people following or associated with it. A religion is not merely the Dhamma or the doctrine of the founder(s). If one understands by religion the Dhamma or the doctrine then a religion can exist in the libraries and/or the museums of the world without a set of followers. A religion is centered around the Dhamma or the doctrine but it is much more than that. Even if one understands by the word religion the preaching of the founder(s) it is not something "objective" in the sense that the books or the diskettes containing the Dhamma or the doctrine are independent of the observers or the readers of those works. Unless somebody reads these works they have no meaning and a reader has to go through them in order to understand or give an interpretation to what is found in the books or the diskettes. As we know the readers give different interpretations and in that sense there is not one Dhamma or doctrine but many Dhammas or doctrines. One can say that only one of these interpretations, readings or understandings (they all mean the same, as by understanding something, one means creating an interpretation) is correct and that is the interpretation given by the founder(s). However it is not possible to find out the interpretation given by the founder(s) and to make it worse, in certain cases, we do not know whether the founder(s) actually preached some of the sections found in the books.
We may be able to analyse the material and find out whether they are internally and externally consistent but not all would agree with the conclusions. Even if one considers by religion the Dhamma or the doctrine or the preaching of the founder(s) one finds that there are many religions and not just one "objective" religion. In that sense there are many Buddhisms, Christianities, Hinduisms and Islams.
However a religion is not only the Dhamma or the doctrine and is associated with a culture of the people. In many cultures a religion plays a very significant part and the cultures themselves modify the religions. A religion devoid of a culture and confined to the libraries and museums, including open museums as in Egypt (pyramids) and Afghanistan (Buddha statues), could be referred to as a dead religion or a religion that belongs to history. As mentioned earlier even these dead religions could give rise to different interpretations with respect to the readers (observers). The Pharaohs when living probably had a vibrant culture associated with a religion. However as far as the whole world is concerned, at present it is a dead religion symbolised by the pyramids. I do not think that there are any practicing Afghan Buddhists and as far as Afghanistan is concerned Buddhism is a dead religion. Until recently the dead Afghan Buddhism was symbolised by the Buddha statues and some other artefacts. Even that is gone now and we can only read of dead Afghan Buddhism in the books available in the libraries around the world. A living religion or a religion for short is associated with a living culture that has given its own interpretation to the religion. Thus we have Sinhala Buddhism associated with the Sinhala Buddhist culture. Sinhala Buddhism like anything else is evolving and is not a static body of knowledge and rites.
When the Sociologists and the learned Bhikkus make statements to the effect that the Sinhala Buddhists, especially the Sinhala Bhikkus have betrayed Buddhism, they make the assumption that there is only one Buddhism, which is objective and independent of the observers (readers and the followers). They imagine (interpret) a corpus of knowledge to be Buddhism and then compare the actions of others, say the Sinhala Buddhists, with the Buddhism that they had created (interpreted) in their minds. What they fail to understand is that they are comparing the actions of the Sinhala Buddhists with "their" Buddhism and not with the Buddhism of the Sinhala Buddhists.
They consider their Buddhism to be the only Buddhism, and in the tradition of the western academics their Buddhism is presented as the "objective Buddhism". Who gave the power to these so-called authorities to take their Buddhism as the yardstick to pronounce judgement on the actions of the Sinhala Buddhists? The authority they have emanates from their degrees from the western Christian universities (that includes Peradeniya as well) and the so-called research they carry out and recognised again by the same western Christian universities. When these so-called experts declare that the Sinhala Buddhists have betrayed Buddhism they mean that the actions and activities of the Sinhala Buddhists are not in agreement with their brand of dead Buddhism that they are supposed to have come across (given an interpretation) in their libraries and laptops.
Nalin de Silva
The Island - 14 March 2001
Buddhisms betrayed : Part II L3.18
Though there are many "scholars" who are prepared to write on how the Sinhala Buddhists have betrayed Buddhism there is not much of a hue and cry over anybody betraying Islam or Christianity. Is it because nobody has betrayed these religions or is it due to the 'fact' that the concept of betrayal cannot be applied in the case of those religions. Does anybody say that the Talibans have betrayed Islam? If not why? Very often we hear of fundamentalism. One talks of fundamentalism not only with respect to religions but also in the spheres of politics, sports and others. As I understand there are two varieties of fundamentalism. Any religious or political movement that is a threat to civilisation is branded as a fundamentalist movement. It is appropriate to mention here that by civilisation what is meant is the western Judaic Christian civilisation. Civilisation without an adjective means western Judaic Christian civilisation and the other civilisations have to be spelt out.
Anything western is considered to be the norm and the others are identified by resorting to various epithets. Western man is identified as the man and western science is called science. This is nothing but cultural imperialism. Even diseases common to Europe are called diseases while those in the tropics are identified as tropical diseases. In Sri Lanka we have faculties of medicine and institutes of indigenous medicine that are sometimes headed by postgraduates of faculties of medicine. Why don't we call the former the faculties of western medicine. If a postgraduate of western medicine could be the director of the institute of indigenous medicine, to have some sort of symmetry, why not appoint a vedahamuduruwao, a vedamahaththaya or a vedahamine to direct the post graduate institute of (western) medicine. I would not be surprised if somebody calls me a fundamentalist. However, I must add that it is my training in western mathematics and western theoretical physics that has given me an eye for symmetries as well as asymmetries in structures.
Secondly fundamentalism could mean getting back to the original teachings of the founder(s) of a movement. Now this is always tricky business as identifying the original teachings is not going to be an easy task. In any event it is not impossible to give an interpretation to the original teachings so that it would either agree or not agree with what one is practising. If fundamentalism means going back to the original teachings (invariably associated with an interpretation) then betrayal means not adhering to the Dhamma or the doctrine of the founder(s) of a religion or a political movement. When the Trotskytes thought that Stalin did not follow the Marxist method they called it revolution betrayed and Trotsky wrote a book entitled "Revolution Betrayed" though Marx's revolution did not preach any kind of permanent or uninterrupted revolution in one or many stages. That was long before Prof. Thambiah wrote his Buddhism Betrayed. However there is a difference. Trotsky believed in some kind of revolution and also wrote a book entitled "In Defence of Marxism".
On closer examination one would find out that Lenin's proletariat is not the same as that of Marx and that Leninism deviates from Marx's Marxism on many counts. I have discussed some of these in my booklet Marxvadaye Daridrathavaya or Poverty of Marxism. Nobody accuses Lenin of betraying Marxism and in todays fashionable academic jargon in the west, Lenin's interpretation of Marxism or Marxism relative to Lenin would be called Lenin's reading of Marxism. Lenin is not considered to be a fundamentalist nor a betrayer with respect to Marxism, whereas Anagarika Dharmapala is branded both as a fundamentalist and a betrayer of Buddhism. One should not think that the scholars have defied Aristotalean logic or are engaged in a "dialectical discourse" in identifying Anagarika Dharmapala as a fundamentalist as well as a betrayer. They are only using the first definition of fundamentalism I have given above. It is only a case of resorting to the definition that suits one's purpose, pretending to be presenting a rigorous analysis. In the parlance of the ordinary Sinhala people this could be called the "Dambuluth gihin Thalagoyith Maragena Ena" methodology of the western sociologists.
Now before we get on to Anagarika Dharmapala and the Sinhala Bhikkus a la Dr. H. L. Seneviratne the western Judaic Christian sociologist, let us discuss whether the Talibans have betrayed Islam. I have not read the Holy Quran in full and I am unable to quote from that Holy book the Islam position on idol worshipping or destruction.
However, the following passages from Holy Quran on the Book (meaning the Book according to Moses) and the unbelievers are interesting. In Sura III we find the verse 3 in the form: It is He Who sent down To thee (step by step), In truth the Book, Confirming what went before it; And he sent down the Law (Of Moses) and the Gospel (Of Jesus) before this, As a guide to mankind, And he sent down the Criterion (Of judgement between right and wrong) Sura IV verse 56 is as follows: Those who reject Our Signs, We shall soon Cast into the Fire: As often as their skins Are roasted through, We shall change them For fresh skins, That they may taste The Penalty: for God Is Exalted in Power, Wise. Verse 89 of the same Sura says: They but wish that ye Should reject Faith, As they do, and thus be On the same footing (as they): But take not friends From their ranks Until they flee In the way of God (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, Seize them and slay them Wherever ye find them; And (in any case) take No friends or helpers From their ranks:-
I do not want to comment on these verses but it appears that the Old Testament or the Bible of the Jews is acceptable to Islam. However I must admit that the language of Quaran is not as rough as that of the Old Testament, at least in the English translations. If any parts of the old Testament, especially on idol destruction, are not acceptable then they should have been spelt out in the Holy Quaran. As I have not read the Holy Quaran in full I am not in a position to comment on the stand taken by the Holy Quaran on the demolition of idols. However in a book entitled "Islamic Fundamentalism" by Dilip Hiro I find the following paragraph. "Following a series of victories on the battlefield, Muhamed expanded his domain, and defeated the Quraish in Mecca. In January 630, at the head of an army of 10,000 strong, he entered Mecca. He had the 360 stone idols at the Kaaba overturned from their pedestals, and the pagan Quraish were forced to march past him in homage. He touched the Black Stone with his stick and shouted, 'Allahu Akbar!' (God is Great!), the battle cry of Islam." I know that I am quoting from a western publication and I do not agree with their interpretations of fundamentalism. I am not interested in any fundamentalism according to the westerners and I only want to find out whether the Talibans have betrayed Islam by demolishing the Buddha statues.
Unlike the Holy Quaran the Old Testament of the Holy Bible is familiar to the Buddhists from the days of Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thero of Panadura Vadaya fame. What follows are some quotations from the Old Testament on idols and idol worshipping. (Exodus 34:12-13) "Do not make any treaties with the people of the country into which you are going, because this could be a fatal trap for you. Instead, tear down their altars, destroy their sacred pillars, and cut down their symbols of the goddess Asherah." (Deuteronomy 4: 15- 26 ) "When the Lord spoke to you from the fire on Mount Sinai, you did not see any form. For your own good, then, make certain that you do not sin by making for yourselves an idol in any form at all - whether man or woman, animal or bird, reptile or fish. Do not be tempted to worship and serve what you see in the sky - the sun, the moon and the stars. The Lord your God has given these to all other peoples for them to worship. But you are the people he rescued from Egypt, that blazing furnace. He brought you out to make you his own people, as you are today. Because of you the Lord your God was angry with me and solemnly declared that I would not cross the Jordan River to enter the fertile land which he is giving you. I will die in this land and never cross the river, but you are about to go across and occupy that fertile land. Be certain that you do not forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you. Obey his command not to make yourselves any kind of idol, because the Lord your God is like a flaming fire; he tolerates no rivals. Even when you have been in the land a long time and have children and grandchildren, do not sin by making yourselves an idol in any form at all. This is evil in the Lord's sight, and it will make him very angry. I call heaven and earth as witness against you today that, if you disobey me, you will soon disappear from the land." (Deuteronomy 7: 21-26) "So do not be afraid of these people. The Lord your God is with you; he is a great God and one to be feared. Little by little he will drive out these nations as you advance. You will not be able to destroy them all at once, for, if you did, the number of wild animals would increase and be a threat to you. The Lord will put your enemies in your power and make them panic until they are destroyed. He will put their kings in your power. You will kill them, and they will be forgotten. No one will be able to stop you; you will destroy everyone. Burn their idols. Do not desire the silver or gold that is on them, and do not take it for yourselves. If you do, that will be fatal, because the Lord hates idolatry. Do not bring any of these idols into your homes, or the same curse will be on you that is on them. You must hate and despise these idols, because they are under the Lord's curse."
The Chinthanaya (more general than the Paradigm of Kuhn or the Episteme of Foucault. When Dr. Seneviratne visited me to research on the Jathika Chinthanaya, I found that he did not understand the concepts Paradigm or Episteme, let alone Chinthanaya. Yet he has the audacity to comment on the Jathika Chinthanaya in his new book for his western masters and I will briefly respond to them later.) of the people of the Old Testament has been identified and named as the Yudev Chinthanaya by us and is described in "Mage Lokaya" (2nd and 3rd editions). We do not know how much of the Yudev Chinthanaya is found among the Talibans and the Afghan Muslims but by demolishing the Buddha statues they have not betrayed that Chinthanaya, though they may have betrayed Islam. Neither have the Europeans, the white North Americans, the white Australians, the white New Zeelanders, the white South Africans and the white Zimbabwians betrayed this Yudev Chinthanaya during the last five hundred years or so.
Nalin de Silva
The Island - 21 March 2001
Buddhisms betrayed : Part III - Monks bhikkus and quantum physics L3.19
I have to digress somewhat from the series of articles on Buddhisms Betrayed this week and the next as I have to respond to Dr. Peter Schalk of the Upsala University, Sweden [not Prof. Peter Chalk, the expert on terrorism]. A Tamil friend of mine has sent me the following comments by Dr. Peter Schalk who is an apologist for the Tamil racists in general and the LTTE in particular, on the series of articles I am at present writing to "The Midweek Review" on Buddhisms Betrayed. He has published his comments in the website "Circle Digest -Tamil Circle" which also carried an article supporting the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Talibans.
Dr. Schalk says: 'I have a folder on my harddesk called "Sinhala ethnonationalists". There, I keep the writings of Sinhala ethnonationalists for the future. I have to objectify them sometimes for my research. Several of them are ex-academics and they behave like ex-academics. One of them is the Sinhala extremist Nalin de Silva. He has now reviewed a book written by H L Seneviratne called "The Work of Kings. The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka". It describes in detail what is called political Buddhism. It is an important book and it deserves to be reviewed seriously. Nalin de Silva has got space for long articles in The Island beginning from March 14th, 21st-etc (Midweek) on Internet to give air to his hate, frustration and anti-intellectualism. He mixes Tambiah with Seneviratne and criticises Seneviratne on the basis of a review on the book by a Buddhist monk who was positive in his review. The monk is of course also criticised-because he was not born in Lanka! Nalin de Silva heaps invectives in virulent verbal attacks on the person Seneviratne. He takes in Islam and the Old Testament for which he has no predisposition to handle. These two articles are bewildering-like the journal in which it is published. The Island is the most unsophisticated of all daily papers in Lanka. I cannot accept that an important scholarly book is distorted in such a way.'
I am not surprised to find Dr. Schalk, who advocates to the Circle Digest readers to boycott "The Island", reading its internet edition. It appears that by asking mainly the Tamil readers of the Circle Digest to boycott "The Island", on one hand, he could mislead them on its contents, and on the other hand he could have a monopoly of even that knowledge. Those who are familiar with at least some of the so-called research published by Dr. Schalk will not be surprised with the above comments. Perhaps Dr. Schalk thinks of himself as an academic and I am prepared to identify him as such albeit of below the average type that can be found in abundance in most of the western Christian universities.
They are plagued by the publish or perish syndrome and very often what is published in the so-called academic as well as other journals is not worth the paper that is bound to perish like all the conditioned things. Let us analyse the comments by Dr. Schalk published in "The Circle Digest". Dr. Schalk is of the view that I am reviewing the new book by Dr. H. L. Seneviratne in my current series of articles. I do not know how he came to that conclusion as I have no intention at all of reviewing third rate works that are authored by mediocre academics for their survival and promotions. Perhaps Dr. Schalk thinks that I am reviewing this particular book, because in my current series of articles to "The Midweek Review", I have mentioned Dr. Seneviratne's book . His logic appears to be Nalin de Silva is writing to "The Midweek Review" and he has mentioned a book in his articles to "The Review", and therefore he is reviewing the book.
I know that Dr. Schalk is capable of coming to conclusions based on that type of logic. This is a hallmark of the below the average type academics in western Christian Universities who have turned out to be apologists for Tamil racism.
For example Dr. Schalk among others have "established" that there are Buddhist artefacts by Tamil Buddhists in the Jaffna peninsula based on the facts that there are Buddhist artefacts in the peninsula, that the Tamils in Chola and other kingdoms in Bharat had been Buddhists many centuries ago and that at present there are Tamils in the Jaffna peninsula. This is certainly not the syllogism of Aristotle that the western Judaic Christian civilisation has inherited and even a very ordinary academic in the western Christian universities should be able to help Dr. Schalk to realise the fallacy of his so-called logic.
Dr. Schalk sometimes gets support from Sinhala Bhikkus to substantiate his conclusions. For example in another volume of the circle digest of the Tamil circle he refers to Ven. Siyambalagasweva Vimalasara Thero in Vavuniya. Dr. Schalk has said :"This monk is evidently a person demonstrating civil courage of a high and rare degree. He holds views that makes him an anomaly among Sinhala ethnonationalist. He thinks that Buddhism is not Sinhala only; it is Tamil also and that Kantarotai belongs to Tamil Buddhists."
To Dr. Schalk Buddhist Bhikkus are monks and Ven. Vimalasara Thero is also a Sinhala ethnonationalist. The westerners think that the world is what they have created in the sense that the knowledge (the word) of the world is their creation. They are the people who define concepts, formulate theories, and all that the rest of the world has to do is to follow them. They almost always refer to the Bhikkus as monks ignoring that the concept of a monk in the Christian tradition, is different from that of a Bhikku.
They try to understand the Bhikkus, Sinhala or otherwise, through their concept of monks and when the behaviour of the Sinhala Bhikkus does not agree with the image of the "monks" that they had created they blame the Bhikkus. As the westerners have the monopoly of knowledge, they use their concepts even to describe phenomena not found in their cultures and civilisation. They look at the world through their concepts and theories and they want us to behave according to the models that they have constructed. This is nothing but cultural imperialism and academic thuggery. I do not know how Ven. Vimalasara Thero came to the conclusion that this particular temple belongs to the Tamil Buddhists, but I can quote from the thesis of Dr. K. Indrapala, former Professor of History at the University of Jaffna on how these temples were created. "The gold plate from Vallipuram reveals that there were Buddhists in that part of the peninsula in the second century A.D.
At the site of this inscription the foundations of a Buddhist vihara were uncovered. These foundations are in the premises of a modern Vishnu temple. There is little doubt that the Vishnu temple was the original Buddhist monument converted in to a Vaisnava establishment at a later date when Tamils settled in the area. Such conversion of Buddhist establishments into Saiva and Vaisnava temples seems to have been a common phenomenon in the peninsula after it was settled by Dravidians." When one considers the fact that there were no permanent Tamil settlements in Sri Lanka or Sinhale before the 10th century, according to the same thesis, nobody other than academics of the caliber of Dr. Schalk would conclude that these Buddhist temples were built by the Tamil Buddhists.
Now what did I say on Drs. Thambiah and Seneviratne?. Did I mix them up as Dr. Schalk claims. Did I criticise " Seneviratne on the basis of a review on the book by a Buddhist monk who was positive in his review". Did I criticise the "monk" because he was not born in Lanka? All that I had said in the two articles on Drs. Thambiah and Seneviratne and the "monk" is given below. "Sinhala Buddhists are supposed to have betrayed Buddhism.
Sometime ago Prof. Thambiah wrote a book entitled Buddhism Betrayed. Recently another book has been written by another western sociologist Dr. H. L. Seneviratne, that has been reviewed favourably by Bhikku Bodhi, an authority on Theravada Buddhism according to scholars on Buddhistic studies and a non Sri Lankan by birth. The general idea behind all these is that the Sinhala Buddhists are not practising the Dhamma preached by the Buddha. The Sinhala Bhikkus are interested and take part in political activities and are supposed to be anti Tamil." "When the Trotskytes thought that Stalin did not follow the Marxist method they called it revolution betrayed and Trotsky wrote a book entitled "Revolution Betrayed" though Marx's revolution did not preach any kind of permanent or uniturrupted revolution in one or many stages. That was long before Prof. Thambiah wrote his Buddhism Betrayed. However there is a difference. Trotsky believed in some kind of revolution and also wrote a book entitled "In Defence of Marxism".
"Now before we get on to Anagarika Dharmapala and the Sinhala Bhikkus a la H.L. Seneviratne the western Judaic Christian sociologist, let us discuss whether the Talibans have betrayed Islam."
"When Dr.Seneviratne visited me to research on the Jathika Chinthanaya, I found that he did not understand the concepts Paradigm or Episteme, let alone Chinthanaya. Yet, he has the audacity to comment on the Jathika Chinthanaya in his new book for his western masters and I will briefly respond to them later."
I am writing a series of articles on Buddhisms Betrayed and in the process I have referred to Drs. Thambiah and Seneviratne. Dr. Schalk may be under the impression that I am wring on Buddhism Betrayed. If he reads carefully the title of the series of articles he would realise that I am writing on Buddhisms Betrayed and not on Buddhism Betrayed. Not only these two authors but also Ven. Bhikku Bodhi (monk according to Dr. Schalk) and others make the mistake of considering an "objective Buddhism" and then comparing the behaviour of Sinhala Buddhists with the Buddhism that they have created to come to the conclusion that the Sinhala Buddhists have betrayed the Buddhism, that these authors and others have constructed. Dr. Schalk should have waited till I conclude my series before sending his comments to the "Circle Digest".
Ven. Bhikku Bodhi may be an authority on "Theravada Buddhism", but he is not an authority on Sinhala Buddhism and it is difficult for a non Sri Lankan who believes in a Buddhism and not Buddhisms to grasp the meaning of Sinhala Buddhism. Except for some Bhikkus of German origin who lived in Sri Lanka many Buddhists including Colonel Olcott, who came from the west were unable to transcend their cultural limitations that they inherited from a Judaic Christian civilisation built around Aristotle's two valued formal logic and come to terms with Buddhisms that were constructed around "an athakkavachara Nibbana".
This limitation has to be contrasted with the involvement, in the freedom struggle, of Ven. S. Mahinda Thero, who came to Sri Lanka from Sikkhim. Ven. Mahinda Thero would not have been an authority on "Theravada Buddhism" according to the Buddhist scholars but the Ven. Thero knew the strengths and weaknesses of Sinhala Buddhism, himself becoming a Sinhala Buddhist (by culture), and was known to all the Sinhala speaking Sinhala Buddhists in the country and not only to a handful of English speaking Sinhala Buddhists. I will come back to the rational realist objective Theravada Buddhism of Ven. Bhikku Bodhi and others later in the series of articles on Buddhisms Betrayed.
Dr. Seneviratne is a western Judaic Christian sociologist and it is not a case of "heaping invectives in virulent verbal attacks on the person Seneviratne" to call him so. Dr. Schalk apparently does not know that knowledge is constructed by people and the knowledge so created is relative to the cultures and the civilisations. The western knowledge like any other system of knowledge is relative to the cultures and the civilisation in which it is created and as such all those who are engaged in creating or practising that knowledge is a western Judaic Christian sociologist or physicist or some other as the case may be. Einstein was a western Judaic Christian Physicist, who had problems with understanding Quantum Physics that defies two valued Aristotelian logic.
For the last seventy five years or so the western Judaic Christian civilisation has failed to come up with a satisfactory interpretation of Quantum Physics, which itself is more than hundred years old. Bohr, who was instrumental in formulating the Copenhagen interpretation was influenced by Ying Yang philosophy of the Chinese but even that interpretation has shortcomings. The hidden variable theory and the implicate - explicate order of David Bohm has its own problems not to mention the many world and other interpretations. There are at least six major interpretations of Quantum Physics in the west though none of them is satisfactory.
It is very unlikely that the western civilisation, with its formal two valued logic and the concept of being will produce a satisfactory interpretation of Quantum Physics without borrowing or assimilating eastern logic and Chinthanayas. Dr. Schalk could find out more about these things from his colleagues in the Department of Physics. Incidentally the Physics Department of my "ex-university" (University of Colombo) has a link with Upsala and when a Sri Lankan visits them next time Dr. Schalk could learn from him/her about Sinhala Buddhist interpretation of Quantum Physics based on Chatuskoti (four valued) logic and the concept of becoming.
I am not attacking anybody personally but only trying to expose the myth of projecting western knowledge as the objective knowledge common to the entire mankind. Rather than calling them Physicists or Sociologists I refer to them as western (Judaic Christian) Physicits or Sociologists. The moment I (or somebody else) do so Dr. Schalk gets disturbed as when the myth is debunked people like him would not be in a position to maintain the hegemony of the western knowledge systems. It is a fact that Dr. Seneviratne has commented on Jathika Chinthanaya without understanding it and if Dr. Schalk does not think so I am prepared to have an open discussion with Dr. Seneviratne when he visits Sri Lanka next time and expose him on this count.
Dr. Schalk refers to me and some others as Sinhala ethnonatinalists. This is another example of western hegemony of knowledge. There is a contradiction in the term ethnonationalism. Ethnic groups are not supposed to be nations but perhaps due to the bankruptcy in their conceptualisation the westerners have been forced to use nationalism with the prefix ethno. The westerners think that the nations came into existence only after the sixteenth century or so and they refuse to identify the Sinhalas as a nation, as their theories would not allow them to do so.
The Tamils in Sri Lanka or anywhere in the world for that matter, have never been a nation not having being able to create a Tamil state any time anywhere in the world. The westerners according to their theories consider both Sinhalas and Tamils to be ethnic groups thus denying the rightful place for Sinhalathva in the country. The problem in this country is nothing but this refusal by the Tamil racists and their apologists to accept the significance of Sinhalathva in this country.
People like Dr. Schalk are only making use of Tamil racim in this country to weaken the Sinhala nation and Sinhalathva. Next week, unless something very important happens in politics we will discuss anti-intellectualism and the role of an ex-academic.
(The writer is former Associate Professor of mathematics, University of Colombo. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in relativistic astrophysics. He completed his Ph.D in 18 months, which is a record still not broken at Sussex. He is a founder member of Jathika Chinthanaya movement. A district secretary of the Lanka Sama Samaha Party (LSSP) in early 1970s and a central committee member of the Nawa Samasamaja Party (NSSP), he left the Left movement later. He has authored a number of books including a critique of Marxism and Dialectics.)
Nalin de Silva
The Island - 28 March 2001
Buddhisms betrayed : Part IV - Ex-academics and anti-intellectualism L3.20
For the benefit of the readers of the "Midweek Review" let me repeat excerpts from Dr. Peter Schalk's article to the "Circle Digest". Dr. Schalk in his eagerness to defend Dr. Seneviratne's book which he thought was reviewed by me had said: 'I have a folder on my hard disk called "Sinhala ethnonationalists". There, I keep the writings of Sinhala ethnonationalists for the future. I have to objectify them sometimes for my research. Several of them are ex-academics and they behave like ex-academics. One of them is the Sinhala extremist Nalin de Silva. He has now reviewed a book written by H L Seneviratne .......... Nalin de Silva has got space for long articles in The Island beginning from March 14th, 21st-etc (Midweek) on Internet to give air to his hate, frustration and anti-intellectualism. ......... He takes in Islam and the Old Testament for which he has no predisposition to handle.'
Dr. Schalk describes me as an ex academic and says that I behave like an ex academic. He then proceeds to talk of my anti-intellectualism. All these in addition to his usual verbiage, ethnonationalist, Sinhala extremist etc. The concept Ethnonationalism is contradictory and as I said last week it only reveals the bankruptcy of those western academics who are involved with conceptualising. To Dr. Schalk anybody who opposes Tamil racism and campaigns for the recognition of the significance of the Sinhala language, history, culture and nation in this country is a Sinhala extremist. As I have said on many occasions the so-called ethnic problem in this country is due nothing but to Tamil racism that from the nineteenth century has refused stubbornly to recognise the significance of Sinhalathva in Sri Lanka.
I do not know in which sense Dr. Schalk uses the word ex-academic. It is true that at present I am not in the service of any one of the universities in Sri Lanka but that does not make me an ex-academic. Perhaps Dr. Schalk thinks that I am an ex academic as I do not subscribe to the western academic traditions. If that is the case then Dr. Schalk is a cultural imperialist in the sense that only western academics are identified as academics. Academic, like everything else in the academic world, including that of the postmodernists, is a concept defined in the west for us. All that we have to do is to learn their definitions and theories. As far as I am concerned there could be academics with various cultural backgrounds. Western academics are different from eastern academics just as much western music is different from Raghadari or Karnatic music. When Dr. Schalk talked about ex academics he has not distinguished between western academics and eastern academics and it is very clear from his writings that by an academic he understands a western academic true to his training in the western Judaic Christian cultural tradition that imposes its hegemony over the others. Most of our "academics" in Sri Lanka cannot think of themselves as eastern academics as they have been brainwashed by people like Dr. Schalk in the west. However, I became an ex-western academic, while I was teaching in the University of Colombo when I became involved with the Jathika Chinthanaya. One who breaks away from the western Judaic or Yudev Chinthanaya (I am afraid there is no suitable word in English for Chinthanaya - it cannot be translated as thought - it is more deeper and general than paradigm or episteme) ceases to become a western academic. However I am now an Eastern academic and in particular a Sinhala Buddhist academic engaged in research and teaching, though not in western Christian institutions.
Though I am an ex western academic it is wrong to say that I am an ex academic. When the then vice chancellor of the University of Colombo, questioned me as to why I was teaching Jathika Chinthanaya I had to reply that if others had the freedom to teach vijathika chinthanaya I should have the liberty to teach Jathika Chinthanaya also, especially in Sri Lanka, in addition to giving the vijathika chinthana point of view. Unlike the western academics who give only the version or versions based on Yudev Chinthanaya, I have given and will continue to give not only the Sinhala Buddhist theories (and Eastern versions in general) but the western theories as well.
The western academics give the impression that they follow a so-called objective scientific methodology. The western social scientists more than their counterparts in the faculties based on western natural science take great pains to state the methodology that they adopt. There are western philosophers like Dr. Paul Feyerabend who have argued that there is no scientific method in the so-called natural sciences (western) not to mention the western social sciences. His book "Against Method" is a pioneering work along this theme and in a later work "Farewell to Reason" he has developed his arguments further.
The western natural scientists as well as the social scientists do not follow a so-called scientific method and their theories are accepted not because of rational arguments and agreements with observations. As Dr. Feyeraband has shown even Galileo, the so-called father of experimental sciences in the west had hoodwinked his peers. It was not with rational arguments or agreements with experiments that Galileo was able to "convince" the others but with "tricks". Newton's gravitational theory was accepted though there was evidence that contradicted the theory. The planets do not move around the sun in fixed ellipses as Newton's theory predicted (or postdicted). The "ellipses" themselves rotate (in fact the paths of the planets are not closed curves) but the western scientific community did not hesitate to accept the gravitational theory as formulated by Newton. ( In a review of a recent book, Newton's Tyranny: The Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of Stephen Gray and John Flamsteed by David Clark and Stephen P. H. Clark, published in the New Scientist under the title "Bad Apple", Dr. Allan Chapman mentions that Robert Hook had a stake in formulating the inverse square law) When the western scientific community accepted Einstein's general theory of relativity there was hardly any experimental (or observational) evidence in support of the theory.
Western academic tradition is part and parcel of the western Judaic Christian culture and the "status" it enjoys today in the entire world is due to the hegemony of the western culture especially in the universities and the other research institutions, and is not due to any specific methodology. However, in order to hide that fact they have created a myth of methodology. As far as western natural science is concerned there is a tendency to produce theories and concepts that are as far as possible consistent with "facts".
The "facts" are also theory laden, and the theories, concepts and facts combine to form sub systems of knowledge. Western social sciences are far behind the western natural sciences, in this regard, and thus they even have theories on praxis having not understood the relationship between theory and experiments in the western natural sciences. It is through those inadequate and biased theories in western social sciences that people like Dr. Schalk want us to see the world, including the so-called ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.
The Yudev Chinthanaya, which the western academic tradition is based on, is restricted to the two valued formal logic of Aristotle. The Yudev Chinthanaya is also reductionist, and believes in an objectivity or an external objective world independent of the mind. The western culture that is based on the Yudev Chinthanaya may have displaced the God. However, the western Judaic Christian civilisation has not displaced belief. Instead of an external God now they have an external objectivity or objective reality and the belief in a God has been replaced by a belief in an (objective) western science with the western scientists (including doctors engineers and other professionals based on western science based technologies) replacing the priests in the Christian religions.
Priest and God
If the priests were in between the God and the laymen, now the western scientists are in between the external objectivity or objective reality and the laymen. The God in the Judaic Christian civilisation has been bifurcated. The laymen are always laymen and they either believe in an external God or believe in a Science that tries to understand an objective reality. They find it difficult to believe in an external objectivity or an objective reality unlike in the case of an external God and the belief in an objective reality has been left to the western scientists. The laymen have been left with a belief in a western science that is supposed to be objective and true.
Even in the west people like Dr. Feyerabend questioned the so-called objectivity, rationality etc., of science. Quantum Physics has challenged the Newtonian world view and with that the entire western science enterprise is being critically examined by some in the west itself. Very often they are called anti-science academics and their attitude towards western science is branded as anti-intellectualism. The west also has a habit of calling anything that is not compatible with their "rationalism", mysticism. We in Asia should not be guided by the definitions and categories of the western academics. It is time we ended the monopoly of the westerners in constructing knowledge.
The easterners, especially the South Asians have their own logics and we should not be afraid to get back to these rich logical systems. The westerners may brand us as ex-academics, anti-intellectuals, mystics and what not, but we should not be bothered with this western academic thuggery. The west could not understand the great Tamil and South Asian mathematician Srinivasan Ramanujan who did not feel at home with the concept of a proof in western mathematics. The ancient mathematics in Bharat was different from the western mathematics which is a linear system based on definitions, formal logic and so-called proofs. Even in the west there are intutionists and others who are not happy with this formal system.
Brig. B. Munasinghe writing to the "The Island- Saturday Magazine" on 24th February 2001 had wanted to find out how the ancient Sinhalas measured atomic radii etc. The Sinhalas, Tamils and the South Asians in general would have had their own methods of constructing knowledge.
The word used in Sinhala for academic studies is adhyayana, which has a Sanskrit origin. In ancient Bharat, adhyayana was used in opposition to dhyana which was also considered to be a method of gaining (constructing) knowledge. In fact in early periods adhyayanikas were not rated high as dhyanikas and it is quite possible that the dhyanikas were responsible for most of the knowledge that was created in ancient Bharat. The present day western academics would call these dhyanikas mystics but that should not deter us, meaning the Sinhalas, Tamils and the others in South Asia in investigating into these South Asian, shall I say Sansaric, dhyanika and adhyayanika ways of creating knowledge. It is becoming increasingly clear unless we create our own systems of knowledge there would be no end to us being manipulated by Solheims and Schalks. Solheims and Schalks have no love for the Tamils but for themselves and for their Judaic Christian civilisation.
Finally Dr. Schalk says that I have no predisposition to handle the Old Testament and the Koran. What does he mean by this? Does he want me to get a degree in Theology from a western Christian university before I quote from the Old Testament. This is nothing but western Judaic Christian academic arrogance. Dr. Schalk who quotes from Mahavansa, and Buddhist texts questions my qualifications to quote from the Old Testament. I must inform him that I have studied the Old Testament and more than one hundred years ago a Bhikku by the name of Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thero quoted extensively from the Old Testament and if Dr.Schalk is interested in testing my knowledge of the Old Testament I would only be delighted to organise another Panadura Vadaya (debate), where his knowledge of the Buddhist texts would also be tested.
Nalin de Silva
The Island - 04 April 2001
Averting the Erosion of Buddhist Values L3.21
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Indisputably, the Buddha Dhamma is the crowning glory of the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. The Buddha's teachings and Buddhist values are the greatest inheritance of the large majority of the Sinhala community living in the Western world. This inheritance continues to have an overpowering influence in shaping the lives of many Sinhela Buddhists, wherever in the world they choose to live.
A good number of Buddhist parents have attempted with varying degrees of success to share this inheritance with their children. They did not wish their children remain rootless in the Western world. They genuinely wanted to make it possible for their children to reconnect with the culture that they inherit, however embattled it may be.
Initiating Children into Buddhism
The most effective way of initiating their children into Buddhism is by the example set by parents by living their lives according to Buddhist principles. This will be reflected in the way how family issues and commitments are handled. Also, in the nature of relationships that are developed and maintained within and outside the family. Alongside such influence, parents need to provide right opportunities for their children to gain increased understanding of Buddhist teachings. Of course there is an abundance of readily available Buddhist literature, and website information for grown up children.
Exposure to Buddhist Practices
As the children grow up and their inquisitive spirit widens, they should be exposed to meaningful Buddhist practices and training that lead them to higher levels of emotional maturity and inner development. In particular, opportunities should be made available for them to practice Buddhist meditation under the proper guidance of monks and grown-ups who are knowledgeable and experienced in, and dedicated to such practices. These practices need to be organized and conducted in ways that are appealing to the young minds. By continued practice and regular training, children will be able to realize the benefits of mindfulness training and meditation in developing their capacity to better understand their lives. They will begin to appreciate how meditation can help them to find effective ways of dealing and coping with issues and problems that they face in their daily lives, including those encountered in their academic lives. They will find useful ways of overcoming stress and pressures of modern existence, and developing and leading a happy life.
Lack of Opportunities
Opportunities to expose our children to relevant and worthwhile Buddhist practices are to a great extent lacking in Western countries. Most Buddhist temples established in these countries under the patronage of Buddhists of Sri Lankan origin focuses more on a system of reverence and rituals. They are not organized as centers of learning of relevant Buddhist practices that help the younger generation to enrich their lives.
As in the case of typical Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, the temples in most western countries are popular places for Buddhists to gather and participate in traditional Sri Lankan Buddhist rites and rituals conducted by Sri Lankan monks. They provide opportunities for Sri Lankan Buddhists to organize and participate in customary Sri Lankan Buddhist celebrations and to personally interact with Sri Lankan monks and obtain their services to perform traditional Buddhist rites and rituals both in the temple and in private homes. They provide opportunities for Buddhists to socialize and get to know each other.
Relevance of Programs
Most children find it difficult to relate to and understand the relevance of what is happening in Buddhist temples established in the West under the patronage of Sri Lankans. Programs and practices of these temples are focused on grown-ups. Temple activities are no different to those prevalent in the large majority of temples in Sri Lanka. Essentially, they are a duplication of popular rites and rituals practiced in temples in Sri Lanka. Often, many children accompany their parents to these temples merely to satisfy their parents, with the minimum of interest in participating in the activities that take place in these temples. Most temple activities in any event are conducted in Sinhala language and most children are not able to follow or fully understand the proceedings.
Particularly the mid and late teenagers and other more grown-up children, shy away from temples because they see little meaning in temple programs, little value in terms of providing them with anything worthwhile, let alone spiritual satisfaction and inspiration. Most of what is offered in temples have no bearing on the spiritual, intellectual or emotional needs and interests of those who are serious about learning and practicing the Buddha's teachings.
Most monks and parents, who organize temple activities, tend to overlook the fact that these children live and operate in a socio-cultural environment that is different to that of Sri Lanka. The environment they live in has a strong influence on their attitudes, values and priorities. Their medium of communication is not Sinhela or Pali. They communicate, think and formulate ideas in a ?foreign? language. Under the circumstances, most Buddhist temples and organizations established by Sri Lankans in the West, cater little if at all, to the spiritual needs of Buddhist children. Once the present generation of adult Buddhists who faithfully patronize the prevailing temple rituals are no more, the need or relevance of these temples will diminish greatly.
Higher Forms of Inspiration and Training
Some adult Buddhists in the western world are also faced with a similar kind of dilemma and frustration. They look for higher forms of inspiration and spiritual satisfaction from the programs organized and offered by their temples. Often they shy away from temples because their needs are not served. Besides, they are discouraged by the highly commercialized nature of most temples.
There will be many participants and potential donors for Buddhist activities if they are focused on the core values and practices in the Buddha's teachings that are of direct relevance for inner purification and development and increased understanding of the Dhamma. Temples rarely offer opportunities for mental training that helps one to grow to higher levels of emotional maturity where one can be free of normal unhappiness.
Buddhist meditation in particular, helps to free the mind of all forms of mental distortion such as stress, worry, strain, anxiety, sorrow, depression, despair, displeasure, frustration, and exasperation. It helps one to overcome the many pains and pressures of modern existence and to develop the capacity to better understand ones life. It helps one to live peacefully and happily.
The aim of Buddhist meditation is to raise the human consciousness to a higher level, to bring ones mind to a state of equilibrium. It is an effort to change ones thinking, feeling and behavior through the constant practice of introspective awareness of ones thoughts, feelings, speech and action. Meditation provides the greatest single capacity for improvement and fulfillment in life ? spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically.
Need for Change
If monks and temple programs are to make a difference in terms of making the Buddhist message relevant and meaningful to the contemporary western mind, a certain degree of tailoring of the Buddhist message and practices to match the socio-cultural conditions of recipient communities is a necessary strategy. It is by adopting such an approach that Buddhist monks can establish a fruitful dialogue with those in the West, including children of Buddhist parents, on the core values of the Buddhist faith.
What goes on in our temples do not convey to our children or help to convince them of the psychological flavour of Buddhism, that it is an ever-ongoing investigation of reality. That it is a microscopic examination of the very process of perception and that its intention is to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through which we normally view the world, and thus to reveal the face of ultimate reality. They fail to reveal to our children that Buddhism presents them with an effective system for exploring the deeper levels of the mind, down to the very root of consciousness itself.
It is a fact that the large majority of Sri Lankan monks are not well versed or well equipped to serve any of the non-traditional spiritual needs of contemporary times. This is true not only among monks in the west but more so among those living in Sri Lanka.
Ways to Change
Irrelevant and inadequate training and exposure are among the most serious challenges faced by Sri Lankan monks who operate in the Western world. The kind of monastic training that our Bhikhus receive in the tradition-bound centers of learning in Sri Lanka, has to be drastically restructured and improved to make it relevant in terms of realities of contemporary life and social value systems.
Firstly, Bhikhus need to be conversant with modern disciplines and their diverse perspectives, especially disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, cognitive psychology, logic, neuro-physiology and so on. They should necessarily be conversant with other Buddhist traditions - Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Zen in particular.
Secondly, they should be well conversant with other religions, related practices and their approaches to the dissemination of religious knowledge.
Thirdly, as far as places like North America, UK and Australia are concerned, fluency in English is an essential prerequisite. This is for the mutual benefit of monks and the international community that they can serve. For those who are competent in these languages, the facilities and opportunities to further advance their knowledge is enormous in North America.
Fourthly, they should be conversant with the reasons behind the interest in Buddhism among the westerners, and the spiritual needs among some of them. Such knowledge and training will allow them to better interpret and convey the Buddha's message in the idiom that the contemporary folk in the West can empathize with.
Why Turn to Buddhism
People in the western world have turned to Buddhism for different reasons. The interest of refined intellectuals and scholars appear to be an academic one, at least initially. Their interest is largely the outcome of the influence and motivation of their own academic disciplines and related research perspectives. Their interest largely focuses on the Buddha?s interpretation of some deeper aspects of life.
There are others in the west who are spiritually destabilized and yearn for inspirational strength from Buddhism. Their interests could be served satisfactorily only if our Bhikhus can convey the Buddha's message in a way that is intelligible and comprehensible to the Western mind and adopting methods that the westerner can identify with and relate to fully.
Buddhist monks are faced with the dilemma when it comes to explaining the impact of Buddhist teachings on the affairs of Sri Lanka and on the lives of people who inhabit it. The prevailing political, economic and socio-cultural conditions in Sri Lanka are largely contradictory to Buddhist teachings and practices. Sri Lanka is a house tragically in disarray. It cannot be a wellspring of inspiration to nations and peoples who are more fortunately circumstanced. Our monks have a hard time explaining why our Buddhist land is such a crucible of misery. It does not reflect any strong influence of the Buddha's teachings.
It is a fact that Buddhism draws strength from enlightened leadership. Such leadership should be exemplary in terms of its devotion to Buddhism. It has to be a leadership that moves the ordinary people to heights of religious devotion through concern and compassion. Such leadership is generally threefold ?secular Buddhist leadership of the political elite, religious leadership of the Buddhist Sangha, and People's leadership mostly through organizations.
All three aspects of this leadership must be healthy for the ?florescence? of Buddhism. But today, all three parts are in a very sick condition. We continue to have a political leadership in Sri Lanka that has forfeited its moral and ethical leadership in order to promote the cause of globalization and a corporate culture system that does not accommodate Buddhist principles.
We have a Sangha community that contributes little in the form of meaningful leadership, to say the least. Some are busy serving their worldly self-interests, leading lives that are in total contradiction to what they preach. Their influence is no different to that of the political elite of Sri Lanka. Concerned people have reacted to this trend by distancing themselves from monks and temples. Some monks fail to earn the respect that they use to earn, and most appear to be not accepting responsibility for this sad trend.
The greater mass of lay Buddhists regard the Buddhist faith as an end-game strategy and a preparation for death. Their interests in temples and monks are virtually confined to the participation in rites and rituals. Monks continue to encourage and propagate these rites and rituals, performing them with much vigor. These practices have become lucrative sources of material benefits for monks and temples. With very few exceptions, rituals form the primary basis of interaction of monks and people.
There is a great need for the caring and sensible Buddhists within and outside Sri Lanka to organize themselves to avert the erosion of Buddhist values occasioned by the lack of enlightened Buddhist leadership. A realistic strategy and approach need to be developed, to directly address the glaring problems facing contemporary Buddhists and ways of helping to reform and re-invigorate the Sangha need to be identified in a pragmatic manner.
We have to be protective of our culture. It is time that we made a determined effort to reclaim our cultural heritage. We know that it is in our own culture where we instinctively feel most comfortable and where we are ourselves.
It is by sharing and helping to incorporate its values to shape their lives that this great cultural inheritance can be sustained for succeeding generations. In promoting it among our children, the realities of the times and environment in which they live should be essential considerations. In contemporary times, with its special cluster of bafflement, discord and uncertainties, the relevance of the Buddha's teachings, cannot be overemphasized.
Material contained in this write-up is based not only on my own experiences and observations during my stay in Canada, USA and UK, and travels in a few other English speaking countries, but also on information drawn from relevant readings and communications with several well-known Buddhist monks and many lay Buddhist friends who have lived in the west for long periods of time, and who have closely interacted with Sri Lankan Buddhists
Dr. Daya Hewapathirane, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 18, 2004
Why I am a Vegetarian – 1 L3.22
Certainly not to avoid worrying about cholesterol or saturated fat, or, not to look sober and mild mannered and non-aggressive. The discipline religion gives me is sufficient to meet threats, worries and difficulties in life.
Buddhism does not ban the eating of flesh. However, it teaches that taking life of any living being (sentient animal) is a sin. For taking life to be a sin it must satisfy five conditions. They are, (1) that animal should have life, (2) the one who intends taking its life should know that it has life, (3) he should have the intention (mens rea) to kill, (4) he must plan out a plan to kill it, and (5) it should die as a result of the execution of that plan.
Otherwise it may lead to any other sin but not to the sin of taking the life of a living being.
Eating flesh itself is no sin. However, eating flesh of an animal slaughtered by another person could be an indirect promotion of animal slaughter. However, absence of intention to promote slaughter could minimise the gravity of committing a sin.
Why I am vegetarian is because I do not want to nourish and fatten my body with the flesh of an animal which loves to live, screams in fear of death and runs to save itself from slaughter. To deprive that innocent animal of life which it loves so much as we ourselves do, is against my conscience.
E. M. G. Edirisinghe
21 04 2010 - The Island
Why I am a Vegetarian – 2 L3.23
I read the above article in the Island newspaper by Mr. Ediriweera and think his reasons for being a vegetarian are correct. Due to compassion for these helpless innocent animals he desists from eating their flesh.
All animals want to live and be happy and killing them for sport or food is very wrong. Buddhism is against the killing of all sentient beings. The first precept is Buddhism is not to kill any living being. Eating the flesh of "murdered" animals encourages the butchers to kill more for the market. Greater the demand for meat and fish greater the numbers that are killed.
Animals are killed in the most horrendous manner. Before slaughter, they are handled most cruelly. Crcustaceans like lobsters, prawns and crabs are boiled alive in heated pots. Pigs are hammered and battered with poles to death. Their piteous cries can be heard for miles. Cattle, buffaloes and goats have their throats cut and if they do not lie down for slaughter, their legs are broken. Often they are skinned alive in their dying agony.
How can any humane civilised person eat the flesh of these animals?
Fish are suffocated to death when they are removed from their watery realms to dry earth. Why all this cruelty? Because the greedy human being wants to devour their flesh. Intellectuals and compassionate men like Krishnamurthi, Mahatma Gandhi, Bernard Shaw and Pythagoras were vegetarians. In our society too we have many good Buddhist priests and educated citizens like Dr. D. P. Athukorale, the Cardiologist who are vegetarians.
In this month of Vesak, we hope many more compassionate people will become vegetarians and stop devouring meat. Fish and crustaceans.
Sri Lanka offers a good range of grains, cereals, vegetables and fruits for a healthy diet and long life.
Dr. Eileen Pethiyagoda
04 05 2010 - The Island
Vegetarianism, religion, humanity and nutrition L3.24
Many articles were published in your newspaper related to above noted subject by many eminent personalities including religious scholars, animal welfare activists and medical doctors etc. Vegetarianism is promoted or encouraged by these authors mainly quoting one or more of the following reasons:
1. On religious grounds where the consumption of meat promotes volitional killing of the living and therefore, it hampers the purification of mind.
2. On humanitarian grounds where killing another living being is inhuman or evil conduct.
3. On medical grounds that pure vegetarian diet is a sure way for healthy living and even for longer life.
With due respect to those who argue against vegetarianism one can imagine that the above noted reasons are undisputable facts and these reputed personalities are carrying out a commendable campaign against non-vegetarianism that requires slaughtering of animals or harvesting of fish.
The crux of the matter here is why then the majority or approximately, 95% of the total world population defy such worthy advice of these experts and continue to carry on with the consumption of meat and fish. Are majority of them non-religious, inhuman or not health conscious?
I can offer the most probable answer to this question as follows:
1. All major religions including Christianity and Islam with the exception of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism etc. do not prescribe vegetarianism to their followers. Therefore, vegetarianism does not derive wider support from major religions.
2. In ecological system, to maintain the food chain herbivorous feast on plants whereas carnivorous feast on herbivorous. Therefore, killing for food is not evil and it is not treated as wanton cruelty Man, being created as omnivore in this ecological system does not carry the culpability for slaughtering animals for food.
3. In nutritional science it has been proved that eating in moderation of any edible nutritional foods including meat & fish can provide reasonably healthy life and sustain the life for a reasonably long period. Therefore, vegetarianism does not merit a serious consideration for healthy living.
In conclusion, it can be said that slaughtering of animals and harvesting of fish are the necessary evils during the existence of mankind on this planet and non-vegetarianism shall be exercised in moderation and with responsibility towards other sentient lives that are slaughtered or harvested for food.
In Sri Lankan context it is necessary to make a clear distinction on why Muslims and Christians practice non-vegetarianism while a good number of Buddhists, Hindus and free thinkers are vegetarians.
The permission to use cattle for both carrying goods and eating their flesh is given in Quran as follows:
Chapter 6 Verse142 "Of the cattle are some for burden and some for meat: eat what Allah hath provided for you, and follow not the footsteps of Satan: for he is to you an avowed enemy".
The warning of the Satan (devil) followed by the permission to eat meat is to remind us of our responsibility not to abuse the power vested in men. Following the footsteps of Satan means slaughtering the animals in any way other than what is prescribed in the religion, transporting them in appaling conditions and killing them for sports etc.
Therefore, it is important for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians to realise and respect each others practices and sensitivities in this matter.
Nakeeb M Issadeen
Some ethical aspects of vegetarianism L3.25
"The eating of flesh and fish involves the taking of life, often with cruelty; and an attitude of mind which tolerates this wholesale slaughter of millions of defenceless creatures in order to satisfy a barbarous craving which has become a need through custom, must eventually induce a callous indifference towards suffering as a whole and deaden the tender compassion which always characterizes the spiritual man." - Krishnamurthi
Vegetarians seem to fall into two main groups depending on their respective attitudes to vegetarianism. They are scientific vegetarians as opposed to ethical vegetarians. A scientific vegetarian may be described as a person who has chosen vegetarian diet in the belief, expectation, hope or conviction that it is nutritionally superior to the one that involves the consumption of fish, flesh or fowl. Many are the intellectual, philosophical, medical, historical and the anthropological arguments that can be adduced in support of scientific vegetarianism.
Ethical vegetarianism on the other hand does not draw its strength from an elaborate mass of intellectual considerations. It is based rather on one's sense of aesthetic and moral revulsion at the slaughter of animals. Some of them are influenced by various religious taboos against such foods. It is more a way of feeling than of concept. Ethical vegetarianism in other words originates in the heart and not in the mind. This is not to say that ethical vegetarians are more unthinking and sentimental people.
There are many scientific vegetarians who also have love and compassion towards animals. My opposition to meat, fish and fowl springs primarily from compassion. No compassionate person can possibly be a party either to the torture or to the slaughter of any animals for purpose of food, by the same token, neither will he or she participate in wicked recreational activities such as hunting and fishing not to mention the use of animal products that necessitates the harm or killing of any living creature. We have no right to ill-treat animals let alone kill them for food. Their right to live is their most precious possession.
Taking my own case, I started as an ethical vegetarian who is now convinced that vegetarian diet is far superior to diet involving consumption of flesh, fish and fowl. I am scientifically convinced that a vegetarian diet, to a large extent prevents many chronic deadly diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
In Sri Lanka one common misconception among some medical and non-medical people is that vegetarian diet causes certain nutritional deficiencies. Such misconceptions are ill-founded because there is nothing in the meat and fish diet that cannot be derived and indeed derived in a pure form from vegetarian food.
It is interesting to know that certain outstanding men in history such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Plato, Pythagoras, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Socrates, Ravindranath Tagore, Francois Voltaire, H.G. Wells, Horace, Field Marshall Lord Montgomery, Pope Alexander and Wilcox Ella Wheeler were vegetarians.
Plutarch (46-120AD), Greek biographer and historian most famous for his "Lives" has said "Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh to fatten our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies to have one living creature fed by the death of another".
Religious edicts do not necessarily ensure that animals are well treated. In Islam, for example, prohibition of animal consumption is confined to swine. The Christian injunction that 'Thous shall not kill', is generally misinterpreted to exclude animals and includes only humans. Genuine morality does not have to originate in religion; there is no religion higher than compassion. Therefore, ethical vegetarian derives his or her inspiration and strength from tenderness in the heart that is overflowing with compassion for all living beings and not only to human beings.
Compassion to animals cannot be confined to abstention from flesh or fish. Vivisection inflicts unimaginable cruelties on animals in the name of 'scientific progress.' Dumb animals cannot protest over their plight nor take part in demonstrations. When we were studying Zoology in the University Entrance Class in 1956 and in Science Faculty Colombo University, in 1957 in Physiology and Pharmacology labs in the Colombo Medical College in 1959 to 1964, large numbers of animals were 'sacrificed' in the name of science.
As far as I know this cruel practice has been given up in our schools and universities. Animals are not tortured for demonstration purposes in most of the developing countries and developed countries like USA. In the majority of universities in the USA, vivisection is not carried out as far as I am aware.
So called civilised societies have sanctioned certain sadistic sports such as hunting, fishing and cock-fighting. Children are encouraged by their thoughtless elders to participate in these perverted forms of recreation. Some people don't realise that the callous treatment of animals is only another manifestation of violence in this monstrous world of ours. The first step in the creation of a new society which is truly peaceful and free of terrorism should be to ensure that no killing, cruelty or any form of violence is perpetuated in the production of the food we eat.
Animals are beings who like human beings are also capable of a very wide range of emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress and affection and so forth. Our vanity and mistaken sense of superiority prevents us from facing the startling biological truth that after all we also are animals.
Since we ourselves are animals why do we practise double standards when it comes to other animals? Because we refuse to distinguish between human and animals we cannot possibly be a party to murder of animals in the same way that we will neither discourage nor condone the killing of human beings for meat or for any other purpose. Therefore, is not the eating of animals a most vulgar, immoral and degenerate form of savage cannibalism that is unworthy of supposedly civilised people?
Finally let us take heed of the Buddha's famous words as given in the great classic Dhammapada.
'Him I call a Brahmin who casts aside his rod, who neither kills nor assists another person for the purpose of killing'.
Dr. D. P. Atukorale
02 09 2003 – Daily News
Busting the myths about veganism L3.26
Though former president Bill Clinton isn’t technically a vegan, his embrace last year of a “plant-based” diet with “no meat” and “no dairy” — and his accompanying 24-pound weight loss — made headlines for a small but growing movement. After all, only 3.2 percent of Americans are vegetarian, and just 0.5 percent fly the vegan flag, eschewing all animal products and byproducts in their kitchens and closets.
Veganism, the practice of eliminating the use of any animal product, is already a major movement across the world but is becoming even more popular. Adherents to this way of life claim that a well-balanced vegan diet has been found to help prevent obesity, heart and renal conditions. However, there are plenty of myths surrounding veganism and vegans. But is veganism healthy? Emasculating? Difficult? Let’s bust few myths here:
1. Vegans have trouble getting enough protein.
“Where do you get your protein?” is probably the top question vegans get. But protein doesn’t have to come from animals. Plant protein is neither incomplete nor inadequate — and it’s high-fiber, low-fat and cholesterol-free. Animal protein, which does not contain fiber, is high in fat and cholesterol, and it is associated with increased risk of heart disease, loss of calcium from bones and poorer kidney function.
Nutritionists agree that adults who consume about 2,000 calories per day should get about 50 grams of protein. What’s a vegan to do? Well, a half-cup of chickpeas contains 6 grams of protein. A half-cup of firm tofu contains 20 grams. A veggie burger has about 15 grams. We can get to 50 grams pretty quickly without meatloaf or bacon.
Any vegan diet that includes a variety of plant foods provides all the protein an individual needs. This is true for adults, teens and, according to pediatrician Benjamin Spock, even children. As nutritionists Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina explain in “Becoming the answer to that often-asked question is: “from all of the whole plants I eat.”
2. Vegans have countless rules about what can be eaten.
To vegans, it appears that meat-eaters are the ones with lots of rules. In the United States, people eat cows but not horses, and chickens but not cats. But among Hindus in India, cows are verboten, and in the Philippines and Korea, Lassie is on the menu. Some religions forbid eating pigs, while others don’t. In the face of these varying, often contradictory norms, vegans have only one rule: We don’t intentionally eat, use or wear anything from an animal — whether meat, leather, eggs, milk, wool, silk or honey.
If veganism seems to need an instruction manual, it’s because dead animals turn up in unexpected places. Most marshmallows contain gelatin, derived from animal bones. So do gelcaps and photographic film. Hostess fruit pies (but not Little Debbie’s) are made with beef fat. Dryer sheets have animal fat, too. Toothpaste may contain bone meal. And shampoo may have egg protein.
Sure, the list seems to go on and on. But at your chain supermarket, more products than ever are vegan-friendly. In 2011, it’s not hard to live up to veganism’s one simple ideal: trying to do the least harm possible.
3. Veganism is emasculating — real men eat meat.
In 1990, I wrote a book called “The Sexual Politics of Meat” to dissect the idea that eating animal flesh makes someone strong and virile. The myth gained steam in the 1960s when anthropologists Desmond Morris and Robert Ardrey attributed the advancement of civilization to “man the hunter.” Today, cultural messages — from Burger King’s “I am Man” ad campaign to a Hummer commercial implying that a guy who buys tofu must “restore the balance” by buying a huge car — reinforce this myth. Even Michael Pollan, who details a boar hunt in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” falls prey to the idea that men must fell prey: “Walking with a loaded rifle in an unfamiliar forest bristling with the signs of your prey is thrilling.” For vegans, this cartoonish hunter porn is ridiculous. What Pollan sees as a dilemma, we welcome as a decision.
But if real men once ate meat, it’s not so any longer. Olympic track legend (and New Jersey state Senate hopeful) Carl Lewis is a vegan. Former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson is a vegan. Outkast’s Andre 3000 is a vegan. In Austin, a group of firefighters went vegan. But beyond the famous names who have embraced veganism for ethical or health reasons is the incontrovertible fact that eating meat doesn’t increase libido or fertility — and a vegan diet doesn’t diminish them.
4. Vegans care more about animals than humans.
Veganism is a social-justice movement that includes concern for animals but also many issues that affect humans. The food choices vegans make address the environmental costs of meat and dairy production, heart disease, public health crises tied to obesity, and, as Eric Schlosser pointed out in “Fast Food Nation,” poor conditions in slaughterhouses, where workers suffer more injuries than in any other industry. In fact, eating vegan one day a week lowers your carbon footprint more than eating local every day of the week.
The economic cost of systemic animal cruelty transcends shocking undercover footage taken at factory farms. Eating grain-fed cattle helps push corn prices up; high prices contributed to 2008’s food riots in Haiti, Bangladesh, Egypt and elsewhere around the world. Industrialized meat production allows infectious bacteria such as salmonella to sneak into our food supply. And treating a generation raised on cheap Big Macs will prove a fiscal challenge to Medicaid.
Caring about animals means caring about people, too.
5. It’s expensive and inconvenient to be a vegan.
Try veganism for a day and see what happens. Is it so difficult to substitute marinara sauce for meat sauce? To get a pizza loaded with veggies instead of cheese and meat? To fix a big salad and add garbanzo beans to it instead of turkey? To order a vegan dish at any of the ethnic restaurants rich with vegan foods — Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Italian?
One reason Patti Breitman and I wrote “How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One” was to show people how easy it is to be a vegan. If you’re used to a steady diet of beef, chicken and pork, veganism can expand your options. You’ll start discovering the variety of ways to prepare tofu, seitan, tempeh and textured vegetable protein — along with more greens, grains and beans. In some parts of the country, some of these products might be harder to find than hamburger patties or sirloin steak, but they’re not necessarily more expensive. And if they are, they may save medical costs in the long run.
Non-vegans think change is hard. Not changing is even harder.
Carol J. Adams
24 04 2011 – The Washington Post
Laughing Buddha L3.27
At one of the new year fairs I was aghast to see a whole host of imported metal images of different sizes for sale which are being described as laughing Buddhas. Needless to say they don’t have the serenity, the dignity, or the tranquility that is commonly found in the normal Buddha statues.
The laughing Buddha is based on an eccentric Chinese Ch’an (Zen) monk who lived over 1,000 years ago and depicts a stout, smiling or laughing bald man in robes with a largely exposed pot belly stomach. His large protruding stomach and jolly smile have given him the common designation "Laughing Buddha".
Some of the gullible Sri Lankan Buddhists under the misconception that this statue brings luck are prone to buy and exhibit it at homes, shops and restaurants and a wrong message is being sent around.
This is a matter which calls for the attention of the Maha Nayakas, Department of Buddhist Affairs and Ministry of Religious Affairs.
C. B. Punchibandara
13 04 2010 - The Island
Understanding ‘Panna’ L3.28
In almost all Buddhist literature, the word Panna (or Pragna) is given the meaning "wisdom". Sometimes it is also described as "insight", "intelligence" or "possessed of the highest cognition". The word wisdom in English means experience and knowledge, the quality of being wise, having good judgment, and common sense, wise thoughts etc.
The word Panna was extensively used by The Buddha in most of his discourses. The word "wisdom" was introduced by lay (Putujjana) teachers in translating Panna to English, less than 200 years ago. So, it seems useful to correctly understand what The Buddha really meant by Panna.
That the full development of Panna is essential to enlightenment is a view shared by all Buddhist schools. In the Theravada tradition The Buddha and an Arahant have both have fully developed Panna. In Mahayana, Pragna Paramita is one of the fundamental teachings.
Panna consists of right view (Samma Ditti) and right thought (Samma Sankappa) in the three main subdivisions of the Eightfold Path viz. Seela, Samadhi, Panna. Since the Eightfold Path is the only path to attaining Nibbana or enlightenment it should be realized that proper understanding of Panna is critical to all Buddhists.
The Buddha had clearly declared his teaching is only for those who have Panna (Panna wantassa maya dhamma) and not for others. A Buddhist is a person who follows the Noble Eightfold Path and having Panna. Therefore, the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is nothing but the art of development of Panna.
Keerthi Wijayatunga email@example.com
29 03 2010 - The Island
Woman’s place in Buddhism L3.29
G.A.D. Sirimal’s letter on "Tragic discrimination against women" in these columns of The Island (of 7th. November) prompted me to write this reply to correct his wrong interpretation of Buddhahood and womanhood. These are his words: "What about Buddhism? Can any woman become a Buddha? From what I have heard in Bana preaching by Buddhist monks, a woman could become a Buddha, if during her journey through Sansara, she accrues sufficient merit, to be born as a man and then attain Buddhahood."
A Buddha aspirant has to be born as a male in his last birth, not because man is superior to woman. A Bodhisatva’s journey to Buddhahood or Enlightenment in his last birth, is a trying experience, a woman is not equal to. For instance, the six year period of austerity Prince Siddhartha practiced, prior to attaining Buddhahood or Enlightenment, is not something that a woman, tender and physically weaker than a man, could withstand. According to the Buddha’s teachings, gender is not considered a taboo to attain Nibbana (Eternal Bliss) . The Buddha’s retinue (Parivara) consists of four divisions - Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni ,Upasaka, Upasika. Anyone who belongs to one of these divisions can attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana in this very life, if one follows His teachings (the Four Noble Truths and the Ariya Atthangika Magga) diligently. There is no discrimination whatsoever against a female.
All beings are equal. One is not superior to another by birth. race ,caste, creed or gender. That is the Buddha’s teaching. Of the three Compendiums (Thripitaka), Vinaya pitaka (Book of the Discipline) was recited by Arahat Upali Maha Thera, a great Disciple of the Buddha who was born to a so-called low caste (scavenger) family. There was no discrimination in His Order (Sasana). Limited space here does not permit me to further elucidate my point that there is no discrimination against women in the teachings of Gauthama Buddha. Patachara and Kisagothami are two famous ladies who entered the Order of Bhikkhunis at the feet of Buddha before attaining the blissful state. Sujatha and Visakha are great names associated with Gauthama Buddha’s life time. One should not rush to hasty conclusions, and pass judgment on anything, without knowing the facts.
10 11 2009 - The Island
Dashing coconuts L3.30
Images of a politician dashing coconuts after receiving less number of preferential votes than expected, were broadcast by the media.
Dashing coconuts is a ritual in Hinduism and is performed in the belief that the act of dashing coconuts helps get rid of one’s egotism, jealousy and lust - a good exercise for a noble purpose.
Misguided Buddhists and politicians perform the Hindu ritual expecting to win over enemies, obtain favours or have those whom one dislikes, punished through the intervention of the Gods.
The coconut dashing ritual is alien to Buddhism and has no place in the Buddha Dhamma.
Upali S. Jayasekera
02 11 2009 - The Island
American Judge, Learned Hand who said,
‘I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much on constitutions, upon laws and upon courts.
These are false hopes; believe me they are false hopes.
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it’.