Buddhism needs to be saved – from what?

Buddhism needs to be saved – from what?

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This is a somewhat ambivalent response to the letters published on the subjects of violence against Muslims and Christians and the need to save Sinhala Buddhism.

Let me emphatically state that Buddhism needs to be saved not merely by according to it primacy of place in the Constitution, but by several other ways. I am a great admirer of the philosophy of Buddhism. The only point of disagreement with the tenets of Buddhism is in regard to the existence of an omnipotent God.

Why I say that Buddhism needs to be rescued is because the precepts and practices as manifested by its adherents in our country are poles apart. Listening, off and on, to the weekly discourses held by the Buddhist Forum, from the time that Prof KN Jayatilleke chaired the meetings and the sermons of the late Rev. Soma and Ven. Dammavihari (our former sub warden of Jayatilleke Hall, Peradeniya), I cannot understand how figures of Hindu deities can sit along with the figures of the Buddha and His disciples in Buddhist temples. The same goes for the observing of Hindu customs by Sinhala Buddhists like the strict adherence to auspicious times, beliefs in horoscopes-even when admitting boy Samaneras, the Hindu caste system which is a vicious form of discrimination against fellow human beings, the GBS syndrome-Govigama Buddhist Sinhala-syndrome still evident in matrimonial notices coming from English educated Buddhists, and the caste based Buddhist Nikayas (one Nikaya is exclusive to a so called high caste).

At least on two occasions, in 1958 and 1983, the nation showed to the world outside the atrocious and inhuman behaviour of the lower segments of the Buddhist public against our brother Tamils. It must be admitted that many good Buddhists sheltered many Tamils in their homes at great risk to themselves from fellow Sinhala Buddhist goons. There is mounting evidence (vide the recent letters from Prof. GH Pieris published in The Island that both Mosques and the newly established Christian churches have been attacked by mobs. As Prof Ekanayake implies in his letter to The Island, these newly founded churches have an equal right to conduct their business, I mean their church activities, as the long established Christian Churches as they believe in and glorify the same God. If one reads the book “God’s Secret Agent” authored by Hermon Gunaratne, a Buddhist, one would be able to understand the miraculous work of another Sinhala Buddhist, the late Nissanka Wimalasuriya, an electro medical engineer, performed through divine intervention.

Now to the other side of the coin (with reference to the message from the Chief incumbent of the Asgirya Chapter) where I have to report some information received incidentally from a Catholic nun of Sinhala-Burgher parentage living in the Wanathuvillu area who happened to meet me, now living in a village close to Negombo, seeking funds to improve the orphanage there. She mentioned the incidence of illicit house constructions going on there by a section of the Muslim community. I wondered whether they were the members or their children who got evicted from Jaffna by Prabhakaran in the Nineteen eighties.

As always in matters of religious and ethnic conflicts, we have to tread extremely carefully. What seems important and urgent now is to strengthen the mode of reconciliation by engaging the leaders of the religious bodies, under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious affairs in a continuing/ perpetual dialogue seeking ways and means of healing the wounds and averting violence and disaster.

 

Leo Fernando

 

Pitipana

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