Preparing for the Challenges to Buddhism and Buddhists
Posted on October 13th, 2012

Shenali Waduge

 The recent spate of violent attacks on the most tolerant of religions needs greater attention and must generate significant reaction from Buddhists the world over. Despite Sri Lanka being a majority Sinhalese Buddhist nation in terms of tolerance the Buddhists have faced and continue to face alarming setbacks and discriminations. Sadly tolerance shown by Sinhalese Buddhists have not been reciprocated.   

When 25,000 Muslims mobs attack over 27 Buddhist sites and homes destroying historically valuable artifacts and treasures across 5 towns and over a dozen villages, it clearly shows that it was no spontaneous attack. How could 25,000 Muslims gather if it was not planned? The damage is colossal. Gold Buddha statues, Tripitaka, ancient temples the very places that Muslims taken refuge in during 1971 to escape the wrath of the Pakistan army. Of the 153m Bangladesh population Buddhists comprise less than 1% though it was one time a Buddhist country.

Sri Lanka as a proud country feels insulted for the incident in Bangladesh and we show solidarity with all other countries where Buddhists are being discriminated against.

Perhaps Muslims may like to answer what the difference is in feeling insulted for defaming the Koran or the Prophet and their own reaction of destroying other religions and their historical value? Should Buddhists not feel insulted as well? Is it ok for Muslims to react with anger and take to the streets when a cartoon or video emerges but not ok for Buddhists to cry foul when the Bamiyan Buddha was blown up despite repeated requests appealing not to do so? Buddhists have never posed a threat or threatened Islam and even otherwise no religion has any right to violently silence other religions. No one should also expect Buddhists to remain tolerant simply because it has been a religion of peace and philosophy when its existence is currently being challenged.

The politics behind religions is not without bias. It is why the US went out of its way to apologize profusely for a video that resulted in wide scale violence by Muslims over a movie that none of the mobsters probably had even watched. Yet, when the incident in Bangladesh occurred to a religion that is arguably the most peaceful religion on earth not much prime time coverage was given and hardly so in the mainstream media. Ironically, Sri Lanka’s own Buddha Sasana Ministry was quick to issue a statement deploring the video against Islam but the same Ministry appears to have forgotten to issue a statement on the Bangladesh violence when it is a Ministry specifically mandated to take care of the interests of Buddhists.

In a country with over 74% Sinhalese Buddhist the level of tolerance is certainly something that needs far more attention than given. Is it not obvious that the electronic and print media are controlled by non-Buddhists who take every turn to admonish and humiliate Buddhists? Can the editorial board deny that they give unbiased coverage and allocate space for all religions alike? Why was it obvious that the incident in Dambulla was articulated in such away to project that the Buddhist priest erred and many editorials were dedicated to this isolated incident whereas not a single editorial has mentioned at length the historical tragedy that took place in Bangladesh or the issues Buddhists have faced in other South East Asian countries again as a result of Islamic fundamentalism? Does everything have to be about power and money? The Muslims cannot deny the violence. Is it something that can always be blamed on the Jews or the West? Islamic imperialism stretched over Africa, Asia, Middle East and even part of Europe and these conquests lasted far longer than the Europeans and reaped far more success than the Christian conversions. But over the years it has shown to be self-destructive but like all of us Muslims have the power to make choices yet Jihad has become a socially accepted channel for the present wave of violence taking place and brewing and it is for the Muslims themselves to ask why they would tolerate such if they reject violence.

This is not to blame Muslims en masse and certainly not to engage anyone to hate another religion or to create any type of dissent but the simple argument that needs to be conveyed is that if one’s religion is sacred so to is another’s. If one’s religious rituals and nuances are to be tolerated then it is natural that tolerance must reach out to accept other religions as well. It is when there is an imbalance that statements like the one made by Australia’s PM Ms Julia Gillard giving ultimatums emerges:

 ‘Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.’

In the same context the Japanese Government has taken many measures to keep Muslims, Jihadists and even Missionaries at bay. Japan is the only nation that does not given citizenship or permanent residentship to Muslims only temporary residentship is given and they must speak Japanese and can carry out Islamic religious practices at home. Arabic or Islam is not taught in the University of Japan, the Quran (in Arabic) is prohibited from import. Islam is prohibited from being propagated. Getting a house on rent is an almost impossibility. It is prohibited to start Madrasa’s. Similarly, Japan has strict restrictions on conversions to Christianity, those that convert and who help convert are severely punished, a foreign national involved in conversions if found guilty is asked to immediately leave Japan “”…” as a result Christian missionaries have failed miserably in Japan as there is no rise in number of Christians in Japan. A good lesson for all is that Japanese do not convert to other religions for money, they remain loyal to their religion and refuse to convert even if tempted with large remunerations!

Unlike most Muslim dominated nations, Sri Lanka’s Muslims are currently facing challenges themselves. The once conservative Muslims are today being influenced by a wave of radicalism that is forcing them to change their attire and promote Sharia laws “¦. Who or what is promoting this and what are the dangers that are likely to slowly arise is nothing that should be ignored and nothing that a Government should silently watch and not do something about. Many Muslims reluctant to go with the trend have little choice and needless to say must silently accept this new influence taking place. We are well aware that groups of radical teachers are streaming in to lay the backdrop.

Let the Sri Lankan Government remember that it is with the Sinhalese Buddhist votes that they come into power and continue in power but tragically these very elected parliamentarians have preferred to depend on the sources that funds their power sideling those that brought them into power.

Would silence not lead to the eradication of Buddhism as has happened in Bangladesh? Is it not time to galvanize a new force of Buddhists from across the world in a non-violent movement that would negate the current wave of discriminations Buddhism is suffering from as a result of the natural nature of the Buddhist religion/philosophy? Can we trust in the present Buddhist moderate leaderships to deliver such a global endeavor? Those that many looked up to have fallen prey to the vagaries of politics with power and good living coming above the vision to protect the future of a historic and noble religion. Is it not for this reasons that a new emergence is taking place with a Buddhist revival bringing Buddhists together without any political flavor? Is this not the right way to go? Why is it only Sinhalese and Buddhists who are accused of triumphalism? Is tolerance equated to mean that Buddhists tolerate in silence while all other religions can promote and progress their religion and progeny only? Would this silence not lead in time to the ultimate cleansing of an entire religion and possibly an entire indigenous race from Sri Lanka?

If Buddhism has spread throughout the world it has been not through force but by virtue of people understanding and accepting the precepts under which Lord Buddha offered his teachings. As a religion of personal acceptance it naturally faces challenges. With Asia seeing significant political and social change the importance of maintaining the significance of Buddhism is nothing that needs to be reinforced. For the West having undergone the severities of modernization the rise in Buddhist worshippers are on account of spiritually reawakening themselves from the intense social and political changes they had gone through. When the West is embracing Buddhism it would be tragic if Asia does not protect what it already has “”…” no religion can afford such internal harmony. What must not be done is to commercialize and co-opt Buddhism with capitalist ideology.

Nevertheless there is a growing emergence in not only thought but of the need for action bypassing the moderate Buddhist guidance through a bala senawa that is building a greater need to re-assert the place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka which had been sidelined for the lack of personalities such as Anagarika Dharmpala in the present context. It is gathering formidable force in a non-violent message to say that the place of Buddhism enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka needs to be not simply a beautifully worded document but given the scenario of what is taking place Buddhism must be protected, preserved and promoted and the excuse of tolerance need no longer be reason to exclusively sideline Buddhism into oblivion while other races forge ahead with their agendas silencing those that are Sinhalese and Buddhist tapping man’s weaknesses.

So long as policy prevails for all religions alike the present feeling of discrimination, bias and violence would not be taking place. It is when tolerance for some and not tolerance for others that has led to the natural rise in Buddhists now gathering together to create a formidable force in Sri Lanka and possibly around the world and that will be a force to watch out for in view of its peaceful and inner spiritual nature giving people the salvation that they now require.

 


14 Responses to “Preparing for the Challenges to Buddhism and Buddhists”

  1. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    Timidity and tolerance are hall mark qualities of all Buddhists. Most Buddhists in Sri Lanka are ‘labelled’ Buddhists. A Buddhist by definition is one who take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sanga at inception and practice the 5 precepts. A person who consumes alcohol, a practice most Sri Lankan Buddhists do, cannot be called a Buddhist and hence the real percentage of Buddhists fall from 74% to a very low level. Sometime ago Dham’s friend Ben S observed that we Buddhists are foolish and someday we would lose Buddhism in Sri Lanka as it happened in India thanks to Moghuls and Brahmis. His stupidity is that the panacea for all this is to DROP Buddhism and follow the path of defence and prosperity. In my opinion, one of the most effective approaches is what currently Japan does, as Shenali rightly observes here, to bring in a ‘lega;’ clout and make our stupid fools in our government to adopt darconian laws to stop propagating other religions in Sri Lanka and to put and end to force and subtle conversion as practiced by Christian Missionaries, Wahabis and NGOs in the island. Most Sinhalayas can be bought with money as we observed during the bombings in Colombo by Tiger outfit. Our politicos are far more ‘occupied’ in development both the country and their bank accounts. Corruption is the root cause of most problems in Sri Lanka, including the failure of protecting Buddhism.

  2. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    Typo above correction to ‘legal’

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    Most Sri Lankans believe in Buddhist teachings. This is not some right wing, nationalist, chauvinistic, political push, but a fact, because Buddhist men and women, on Buddhist principles, founded this nation, and this is VERY clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If Buddhist teachings offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because Buddhism is part of our culture, nation and soil.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    Tamil EXTREMIST Tamilnet LIES to create war.

    “Poor Saiva families subjected to Islamic proselytism

    [TamilNet, Saturday, 13 October 2012, 19:02 GMT]

    Administrators of mosques in Ampaa’rai district are engaged in converting members of poor Tamil Saiva families to Islam with financial inducement, civil society sources in Ampaa’rai said. Poor Tamil families from Chiththa’ndi, Mu’rakkottaancheanai, Chanthive’li, Kiraan and Ko’rakkallimadu who go work in rice mills, textile shops and brick making centres owned by Muslim businessmen are being coerced with inducements from the business owners according to sources.”

    Divide and rule!!

    TNA has no future in East but SLMC is dangerously growing.

    If TNA wants to save Saiva families from this, GIVE UP Tamil demands and join govt. Otherwise lose.

  5. nandimitra Says:

    The problem of Buddhists is the lack of wisdom in their dealing with governance . Tolerance has been their forte. This has made the supporters of other religions dominate buddhists in every sphere. To overcome this Buddhists must have a think tank and advice/demand from the government real justice. Stop Saudi Arabia and Arab states building mosques every 2 miles in colombo, stop christian evangelical churches buying poor sinhalese into their religion. Justice and fair play is the answer not the servility of the rulers who send our men and women for slavery to the middle east.

  6. HussainFahmy Says:

    The message of Islam denounces demolition of all religious places of worship. Religious Faith/Belief is Personal; and the choice is of Free Will. Implementing harsh legislation to stop choice of worship or restricting building of places of worship is not in keeping with the freedom of worship. This sounds like Taliban. (Misguided so-called Muslims). Yes strict laws should be in place to counter forceful or financial incentive geared conversions. Saudi / Japan are free to curb freedom of worship in their land as the population of their respective faiths are almost a 100%.

  7. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Dear Hussain Fahmy
    Do not compare Wahhabi House of Saud to Japan.

    During the Tokugawa period Japanese Buddhism was formally incorporated into the feudal administrative institution known as danka seido, a system that required every household to be affiliated with a particular Buddhist temple.

    Following the collapse of the Tokugawa regime, the Meiji government integrated emperor-centered Shinto beliefs into the power structure by giving its priests and institutions privileged status and financial support and State Shinto became a government institution and its priests government officials.

    At the same time, steps were taken to weaken the culturally superior position of Buddhism because, as an international religion, Buddhism appeared less amenable to the nationalist goals of the Meiji leadership. In 1872, the Grand Council of State issued an edict allowing Buddhist priests to eat meat and to marry. Although these practices were traditionally forbidden to the Buddhist priesthood, the majority of priests followed suit, indicating that most Japanese Buddhist groups viewed state authority as superseding the authority of their own religious tradition.

    Japan embarked on a war of aggression against Asian countries in 1937 and against the United States and their allies 1941. The wartime regime was built upon the foundation of pure religious statism by elevating State Shinto to the position of the “only religion” which provided a spiritual basis for Japanese ultranationalism. The emperor was vested with both sovereignty and divinity, and the entire country was forcibly converted. All other religions were either persecuted or subordinated to the cult of emperor worship.

    Under the revised Public Security Preservation Law of 1941, the state could and did destroy any religious group for preaching beliefs that simply varied from emperor worship. Some Christian teachers and students were arrested and died in prison. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, the cofounders of Soka Gakkai, were imprisoned as “thought criminals” by the Special Higher Police, militarist Japan’s equivalent of the Gestapo. Their “crimes” were that they had rejected the compulsory worship of the emperor and State Shinto and thus resisted the wartime regime. Makiguchi died in prison in 1944. With such exceptions, however, the overwhelming majority of religious bodies, including Buddhist and Christian denominations, adjusted to the statist policy and thus escaped direct persecution.

    Today Japan almost 50% of Japanese are Shinto, 40% Japanese are Buddhist and the rest are Christian,Tenrikyo, Seichounoie, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, Perfect Liberty etc. The 2 major schools of Shinto are Jinjahoncho and Kyohashinto.The 6 main schools of Buddhism are Tendai, Shingon, Jōdō, Zen (Soto and Rinzai sects), Nichiren, and Narabukkyo. Also there are a number of Buddhist lay organizations, including Soka Gakkai, which reported a membership over eight million.

  8. HussainFahmy Says:

    Nalliah – Appreciate Japanese History. The House of Suad is widely believed to practice a feudal System of Governance. You may call Wahhabi or whatever they are labeled. You may not see a comparison but those who have lived in the Arabian Peninsula would surely see a strong relationship between the two ideology.

    The comparison is invalid if the writer of this article’s info as copied below is false.

    In the same context the Japanese Government has taken many measures to keep Muslims, Jihadists and even Missionaries at bay. Japan is the only nation that does not given citizenship or permanent residentship to Muslims only temporary residentship is given and they must speak Japanese and can carry out Islamic religious practices at home. Arabic or Islam is not taught in the University of Japan, the Quran (in Arabic) is prohibited from import. Islam is prohibited from being propagated. Getting a house on rent is an almost impossibility. It is prohibited to start Madrasa’s. Similarly, Japan has strict restrictions on conversions to Christianity, those that convert and who help convert are severely punished, a foreign national involved in conversions if found guilty is asked to immediately leave Japan – as a result Christian missionaries have failed miserably in Japan as there is no rise in number of Christians in Japan. A good lesson for all is that Japanese do not convert to other religions for money, they remain loyal to their religion and refuse to convert even if tempted with large remunerations!

  9. Dham Says:

    Hussain,
    What is wrong with protecting heritage and lifestyle of Japan ?
    SriLanka must do the same.
    We must maintain our racial and religous balance. Should not let any outsiders to come and change that.
    Unfortunately there is no law to protect Sri lankan heritage.
    Mosques sprang up everywhere. No ther contry has so many Jesus statues like Negambo.
    This statue business on very corner should come to a stop, including Buddha statues.
    On the other hand , in Colombo , you wake up in the morning to feel like Middle East !
    Which conttry in the world has so much freedom ?

    Why talk about Saudi only. You go to Qatar,Dubai, Saharjah and place where are places of worship other than Mosques ?
    Sri Lankans have plated a Bodhi Tree in a pot in the embassy premises in Doha. That is all.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    In Sri Lanka Buddhist practices have been weakened due to some 500 yrs of foreign rule and invasions by South Indians, particularly Tamil invaders. However, it is true to say that there are a few Tamil Buddhists too, and Tamil people are welcome to be Buddhists.

    What is Buddhism ? It is Guidance to live Life in a life supportive (self & others) way. It is similar to the Core Teachings of other religions too. Good values to living have to be taught in homes & schools. If good values are taught to children at a young age, they will never go astray or forget those teachings. If taught good values at a young age, even a weak charactered person will recognise that he/she must correct their thinking/behavior patters. Therein lies the beauty and value of Buddhism.
    We have to also make sure that drugs & narcotics are never brought into Lanka, as these are the main sources for crime. Excessive consumption of liquor too is a grave danger to society. None consumption of liquor should be encouraged. Liquor dulls the thinking abilities of a person – the frontal lobe is numbed.

    It is true to say that Buddhists appear to be overly tolerant compared to others professing religions where aggression is accepted. Buddhism has been lost to entire countries because of lack of laws to protect the Sasana in those places. Money, jobs, education have been used to convert people to other religions. Conversions have little to do with being convinced. Almost all conversions are due to inducements. Induced conversions to any religion should be punished by law through confiscation of property (or parts of it), of the inducer.

    In earlier times, Buddhist priests of both Japan & China have practiced the martial arts for self protection. Japan is smart to protect her Buddhist heritage through strong laws. In Sri Lanka too Buddhist priests should learn these ancient arts to maintain the spirit of self defense. Buddhist Monks & priests carry with them the duty to maintain the laws of the Sasana. If they cannot keep to the law, they must be free to disrobe and carry on a lay life without being branded as a ‘lowly person’. Buddhist priests should also be free to learn the Sciences and contribute to the human pool of knowledge.

    Do we not have enough places of worship in Lanka ?. Stop building all places of worship. The Buddha said : “Truth is within YOU” – our true Temple is within us. The existing Buddhist temples and all archeological artifacts should be under the protection of the police & the armed forces of Lanka.

  11. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Saudi Arabia has no religious freedom in theory or practice. The public practice of non-Islamic religions is prohibited and Saudi officials regularly raid private non-Islamic religious gatherings. In Saudi Arabia, where the law is not equal for people of different religions. For example, a Christian or Jew gets 50% of the compensation for the same injury incurred by a Muslim and all others including Hindus and Buddhists would get only 6%.

    Converting to another religion from Islam is considered apostasy in Qatar and is a capital offense. According to the Criminal Code of Qatar, persons caught proselytizing for any religion other than Islam, may be sentenced to a prison term of up to 10 years. Holding a religious meeting without a permit is illegal in Bahrain.

    2,500 years ago Judaists fleeing from persecution in their homeland settled in India. Freedom of religion edicts have been found written during Asoka the Great’s reign. Religious freedom for Muslims, Jews and pagans was declared by Muhammad in the Constitution of Medina. Religious freedom existed in classical Islamic ethics and Sharia law, as the religious laws and courts of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, Al-Andalus, Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system.

    The constitution Modern Persia (Iran) recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their status are formally protected. Freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected obligation in Syria. Due to Wahhabi extremism in Universities funded by Saudi Arabia, in July 2010 Syria banned face-covering veils including burkas and niqabs in public and private universities.

  12. Dham Says:

    Burqua aka Gonibilla dress is foreign to Sri lanka and shall be banned ASAP. Wearing of these nonsence is not a religious right, it is sepratism from Lankan culture. It never existed until recently and our Appuhamy should take immediate action to ban it.

  13. HussainFahmy Says:

    Thanks Nalliah – Your observations are spot on. My point is the revival of the authentic Message of Islam is crucial to world peace and happiness. This statement does not mean everybody should convert. Faith is personal and it is between ones heart and his Creator. A choice of Free-Will. We are the sole owners of our hearts and souls. Unfortunately the non-Muslims are in the habit of judging the Islamic faith with practices of a country or it’s misguided people. I say, Seek the authentic source and find the jewels of living this short life to the fullest.

    “When truth is hurtled against falsehood, falsehood perishes, for falsehood, by its nature bound to perish” (The Noble Quran 17:81)

  14. HussainFahmy Says:

    Setting Buddhists Worldwide against Muslims

    http://www.latheeffarook.com/index.php/my-articles/regional-articles/329-buddists-against-muslims

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