Bodu Bala Sena and the “ƒ”¹…”Bodu’ Buddhists
Posted on April 23rd, 2013
C. Wijeyawickrema, LL.B., Ph.D.
It is amazing that an idea that began with relatively unknown four monks and a layman one year ago has become a movement with world-wide publicity and jealousy. Malinda Seneviratne, the young journalist is correct when he said at the Young Journalists meeting that there must have been a fertile ground developing in Sri Lanka for years for BBS idea to take root this strongly and this quickly. Every entity is scared: from Dayan Jayatileke to Jehan Perera, from Kumar David to Sarath Amunugama. Politicians of all colours are getting exposed like the proverbial cat due to BBS actions. The power of BBS is its Lichchavi principle: come and discuss. Those who do not like BBS for whatever reasons are afraid to meet with them face-to-face and discuss!
One can ignore Mangala Samaraweeras, SB Dissanayakas or Vasudevas as irrelevant noise. But a young journalist like Malinda needs our help because he is honest but confused when it comes to his understanding of BBS vision, mission and actions. He thinks BBS does not deserve the Bodu word because of its leaders’ actions, words and reactions. I can remember the days when my parents were looking for a Bodu-Govi bride for me and when I later tried to apply the same BG rule to find a bride for my son. I found that almost all of the responses/contacts I had lack the Bodu part. It was because I was looking for an integrated-holistic meaning of Bodu and not Simplism. If we think with integrity we can see the idea of BBS is a paradox (for details on simplism and paradox refer to Scott Peck’s,The road less travelled and beyond, 1997, page 58). Bodu has multiple meanings. Or Bodu means different things to different people.
Malinda’s confusion is understandable because for decades so many tried to confuse the world on the word Bodu. It was like the fencing in and fencing out idea in the American West. Cattle ranchers (cow famers) wanted free access to land for cattle to roam. But cultivators (wheat farmers) wanted their land protected from cattle. So a farmer can have a barbed-wire fence to prevent cattle coming in. Often this led to gun battles as cattle was fenced out. Purposely or foolishly it was this fencing in and out that non-Buddhists and even some frustrated Buddhist leaders were trying to do with Buddhist people. What a Buddhist can do or cannot do was defined by mostly non-Buddhists. For example Carlo Fonseka after he got a master’s degree in Buddhism became a Pase Budu or a modern day Anagarika Dharmapala. But the attempts to fence in Buddhism of Buddhists did not work because it was like security inside a gated community. Once you go out of the security gate you are exposed to real world phenomena, bribes, pickpockets, prostitutes, NGOs, corrupt officers and politicians. A fenced in Bodu, is expected to wrap his/her hands with a Navaguna-vala, internally as well as externally, no matter what happens outside the fence, smashing and then urinating on Buddha statutes or bulldozing ancient Buddhist ruins, just to give two examples. This is where Malinda gets into trouble or gets confused: what can a Bodu sprat do when Islamic and Christian sharks come with dollar power? He could perhaps throw a copy of Dhammapada at them?
I can cite four examples of indirectly trying to define the term Bodu. One was a history professor who was funded by the Marga (mara) Institute to write a booklet on Buddhist fundamentalism who suggested that young Buddhist monks be educated not to become fundamentalists (a kind of Eurocentric Buddhist madraasi). Since he is no longer in this business I do not want to give his name. But the three others did so much damage to Sinhala Buddhist heritage from their jobs at American universities that their books gave distorted even dishonest picture of reality. American ambassadors Blake or Sison and thousands of other western white non-Buddhist students’ perception of Bodu were based on these books. All three were arm-chair anthropologists such as the type who stay in the Queen’s Hotel in Kandy and write about the worshippers of God living in Kataragama. Stanley J. Tambiah, a Tamil Christian decided to go to study Theravada Buddhism in Thailand in the 1960s and produced a book, Buddhism Betrayed, 30 years later. In this book, funded by Lal Jayawardena of WIDER, Norway Tambiah asked a simpleton question, “Why do Buddhists kill?”
The next one, the son of a village Ayurvedic physician from Galle, Gananath Obeysekera, identified Buddhist revival that began in the 1840s and 1860s as “Protestant Buddhism.” This Eurocentric label gave a western materialistic European religious wars kind of twist of meaning to the non-violent Buddhist struggle for survival in the face joint Christian and colonial assault. The third one was the best. H. L. Seneviratne (HLS), a famer boy from Millava, Horana, showed signs of his bad childhood experience in his theories. He says Sinhala people originated from Tamils! More importantly, in his widely read book “the work of kings” (1999), HLS alleged that problems of Sri Lanka today, especially Tamil terrorism, was a result of the “bad work” done by two monks, Ven. Yakkaduwe Pragnarama and Ven. Walpola Rahula. I asked HLS by e-mail, whether he gave an opportunity to Ven. Rahula to explain or answer his allegation because in his book HLS thanked Ven. Rahula for helping him with documents and ideas! I never heard from him. I asked this question especially because, I heard a story that Ven. Rahula told both Mrs. B and JRJ at a public meeting that the UNP and the SLFP ruined the country.
The bug that gives fever to concerned people like Malinda and a simple-sharp edged weapon to be used by anti-Buddhists to try to fence in Bodu is S. J. Tambiah and his Boston group’s simplistic question, “How come believers of a religion that preaches ahimsa kill?” How come Buddhists betray Buddhsim? Tambiah was in Thailand studying this question 30 years ago and Gananath Obeyesekera is an expert on this subject. But Tambiah was deliberately fooling the international readers of his book by this irresponsible question. The entire English-speaking crowd in Colombo, the Taliban demonstrators in London, Azaath Salleys, Mano Ganeshans, Sarath Amunugamas and Vasus and Bahus and the white Christian world is agitated, excited and rattled by the arrival of BBS because, BBS ignored Tambiah’s trick to get fenced in.
Using the late Buddhist philosophy professor W. S. Karunaratne’s formula presented at UNP election platforms in the 1960s a two-part explanation can be used to kill Tambiah’s question now copied by the BQBS kind, Christians in Colombo with candles: Bahira Viplavaya and Santanagatha Viplavaya.
1.—Bahira Viplavaya (external revolt against the material world)
Christianization of the world and Islamization/Shariasization of the world are billion person, million dollar projects. Theravada Buddhists are such an insignificant minority (50 million?) in this seven billion-world. In Cambodia and Thailand they eat rats, snakes, ants and dogs and therefore, the number can be even smaller. Powerful and rich countries in the world are Christian or Islam and Islam has oil and cruel dictatorships. My Christian American professor friend has a small ranch where he raise cattle for sale as beef. He uses all possible strategies to maximize his profit margin. Can I tell him about my Buddhist nonviolence and ask him to grow corn or cotton instead of the violent killing of cattle? Tambiah, HLS and GO all forgot this simple reality and hold only Buddhists to a high religious/moral standards? Mother Teresa sent a letter of support on behalf of Keeton who provided her with planes to travel and lots of money. The California district attorney traced Keeton money trail and found some of the money that he stole from the retired and poor Americans went to Mother Teresa. He asked her to return this money, but got no reply. Boston archbishop finally resigned after hiding for so long the sex acts of his priests still the whole truth is not out.
Buddhism was wiped out from India by the Hindus and Muslims because Buddha did not teach how to use guns. As Nanda Malini sings one cannot take the navaguna vala to the battle field. You take the sword and later when you have peace with no enemies coming to kill you then you get back to the navaguna vala. According to Tambiah there is no need to guard the Dalada Maligawa or the Siri Maha Bodi! Monks disrobed and went to war during King Dutugemunu’s time. Ven. Elle Gunawansa did everything at the battle front except taking a gun during the Prabakaran killing. When army was fighting to free Marvil Aru anicut then Mervyn Silva with his Muslim wife was on stage preaching Sudu Nelum peace. It was a young monk Galabodaatte Gnasara who went to stage and removed the microphone from his hand. Ven. Soma came to save Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist heritage when no layman or woman was willing to come forward for fear of death! Where were the now rattled establishment Bodus then? I question famously Bodus such as Susantha Gunatileke, Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva, not the category of Dayan Jayatileke or Jehan Perera, who are known 13-A Eelamists.
The point is that we are forgetting that God’s standards are set by the human agency? The documents we see the Bible or the Koran are human made. Once I read the Koran up to page 70. Page after page it says, “Help the poor and kill (?) the infidel.” I got sick of reading this and stopped reading it. Take for example the concept of self-defense and three religious approaches.
(1) If my life is threatened, I can kill the attacker – no legal liability, no sin (Christian, Jews, Islam believers?)
(2) Even if my life is threatened, try to run away or die rather than killing the attacker – no legal liability no sin (Buddhists?)
(3) Try to run away, avoid confrontation, be humane and humble (or escape even I have to kiss the a..) to avoid killing the attacker, but if I have no other choice then totally and completely annihilate the enemy (Bhagavad Geeta’s advice to Arjuna)
When Prabakaran kills only the Catholic archbishop of Colombo could say P is a humane person. Because, P helps Christianity and P wants to destroy Buddhism and Buddhists. Catholic bishop Ryappu allows P to take the Madu goddess with his guns.
The society has become so corrupt over the past 25 or 40 years because of politicians. It will not be easy to introduce Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka that soon. First you have to get rid of the guns and bombs in the hands of so many. The names of Vessantara and Siri Sangabo are used in Sri Lanka today in exactly the opposite way the meaning of those names described in the Jataka stories. For example people today call a husband a vessantara, if his wife is sleeping with another man, knowingly or unknowingly to him. A siri sangabo is one who stupidly puts his neck out and gets it cut. Today there are no morals in the country. All running like mad dogs thinking the mirage they see is water.
The strangest thing I saw in this regard is what one Dr. Zakir Naik, and Islam preacher in India has said (ref You Tube). He says the Bible has 50,000 errors! He says that the advice “if slapped on one cheek, offer the other cheek” cannot be possible in modern world because he asks what if thousands of people would take the opportunity and slap the other cheek! In a Buddhist Jataka story we have a better approach described: The behavior of Bodisatva Nagaya in an old woman’s kitchen. The real world is a cruel struggle as the saint and the devil both reside in human mind.
2.— Santanagatha Viplavaya (spiritual/internal change)
The Buddha did not try to enfoce the Tambiah type (or Malinda) of Bodu on Sitanos (rich traders) and kings of His time. They had many wives and fought wars. The Buddha showed a path and that was all. There was no Bodu versus anti-Bodu separation simply because they did not follow the Eight-Fold Path one hundred percent or ten percent. Even King Dharmasoka was not a Bodu if strict doctrinal rules were applied. There were no such strict rules in Buddhism. A Christian like Tambiah cannot comprehend this. King Dharmasoka’s kitchen was killing hundreds of animals and it was gradually reduced to a few. The king did not become a pure vegetarian. But he was a Bodu.
The internal purification for a Buddhist is stated simply in the formula: 4NT+8NP (MP). Namely, the Four Noble Truths+ Eight-Fold Noble Path (the Middle Path). Buddhists accept that the human is part of the animate and inanimate world and his or her salvation from Dukka (suffering, impermanence) is in his or her hand. Human life is not linear as in God-based religions, but cyclical. The Eight-Fold Path is divided into three (right) stages, Seela (speech, action, livelihood); Samadhi (effort, mindfulness, concentration); and Pragna (understanding, thought). Since each human being is unique, each person’s mixture of Seela-Samadhi-Pragna is varied and diverse. This is why the one eating beef and drinking arrack, the one not eating beef but lying, the officer who takes bribes and the husband who cheats his wife are all have a place on the Bodu stage. Otherwise, Angulimala or the King Ajasath who killed his father in a horrible manner cannot be part of the Buddhist heritage.
Because some Bodus in politics have been cheating other Bodus, because the black-white Bodus and non-Bodus were continuing white colonialism from Colombo, there is a need for a group of Bodus to do the “ƒ”¹…”dirt game.’ That is what BBS is doing as the ghost of Ven. Soma who faced a tragic death because of his Buddhist innocence. If a monk spearheading this movement had committed a sin in the past is no reason to kill the messenger. If they went to Norway is no reason to kill the message. BBS did not say go and burn NoLimit store. But BBS cannot be silent if young Sinhala girls are used as slaves in Islam stores. When police has become a boru (fake) police what Bodus are there to protect Buddhists? The laws are for the rich and the crooks. The rule of law, abide by the law kind of talk as reasonable limits. The country was going to dogs for decades. People thought that MahindaR will stop it, but other than the end of war the same old road map is on with black-whites as yes men. Mismanagement is continuing.
During the WW II time attempts were made to produce food locally or a few industries to produce consumer items difficult to import due to war hostilities. But otherwise Colombo-centered, a Colombo paradigm controlled the country. At the time of 1948 or in 1931 the need was:
- diversification of economy
modern plantation sector but neglected peasant sectors
grow food crops and non-traditional export crops
develop an industrial sector (agriculture and industry are two legs of a country)
develop import substitution
new economic sectors-limited tourism sector, export of gems, flowers
- reduce the gap between Colombo and rural areas
- reduce the gap between the rich (Colombo) and the poor (rural/urban, just 10 miles out side Colombo)
- reduce the existence of two countries (English language (5%) vs Sinhala/Tamil language country (95%), two nations)
- reasonable and fair readjustment of the effects of the divide and rule colonial policy (minorities vs majority)
- wisdom in dealing with the separatist movement in the Tamilnad (Valvetithurai smugglers of goods and people)
- reasonable and fair readjustment of victimization of Buddhists by a Christian government.
Now in 2013 we see Buddhists under attack with a weak government afraid to act with reasonableness. The Jataka Story-based Sinhala Buddhist heritage of 2500 years old is eroding just like the democratic rights of people in general. In the 1850s Buddhists began a revival struggle. It culminated in 1873 with the Great Panadura Debate. In 1940s Anagarika Dharmapala fought for Buddhist survival. He was called a “thief” by a person like D. B. Jayatileke, who was called an abittaya by the Marxists (because he studied under Buddhist monks in the Kelaniya temple). Some even tried to sling mud at Anagarika Dharmapala hinting that he had gay tendencies! Thus, the history teaches us that BBS has nothing to be afraid of its work. Yes, it is a kind of Bodu. Good and timely Bodu for some, bad and ugly Bodu for some others with or without hidden agenda.