Closure of the modern day Arahant case?
Posted on October 17th, 2017

By Rohana R. Wasala

16-10-2017

The media reported today (October 16, 2017) that Ven. Pitiduwe Siridhamma Thera  (self-styled  Arahant Siri Samanthabhadra)  called on the Ven. Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and formally apologized to him over his recent offensive conduct, and insulting remarks attacking the Dalada and criticizing the Mahanayake Theras. He said he sincerely regretted it if he knowingly or unknowingly offended those Theras or others by his conduct. The controversial monk, it was revealed, had been written to by the Karaka Sangha Sabha of the Malwatte Chapter of the Siyam Maha Nikaya on October 1st warning him that he would be excommunicated from the Nikaya if he failed to abide by its ruling, according to which he had to tender this formal apology. The Ven. Mahanayake Thera stressed that this was the second time he was pardoned, and that there would no leniency if he committed the same offence a third time. Ven. Siridhamma Thera pledged to obey those injunctions. The Ven. Mahanayake Thera pardoned him and wished him success in his religious life. However, the Karaka Sangha Sabha members had decided that a verbal apology was not enough, and that a written undertaking had to be made. Accordingly, they produced a written declaration and had  Ven. Siri Dhamma Thera sign it. We offer our respectful thanks to the Ven. Mahanayake Thera and members of the Karaka Sangha Sabha for their compassionate but firm assertion of their legitimate authority in this case. It is too early for one to be sure that Ven. Siridhamma is not going to make a similar volte-face in the future .

Addressing the media soon after, he said that he was not ashamed about making apologies to the Ven. Mahanayake Thera. But there is no doubt that the majority of his followers, fans and well wishers were thoroughly embarrassed that their Arahant Samanthabhadra has all along been an impostor. Arahants are not known to commit mistakes like those that he offered apologies for. He asserted unashamedly that he never uttered any insults against the Dalada or the Ven. Mahanayake Thera of Malwatte (He may be technically true concerning the charge of insulting the Ven. Mahanayake Thera, for he didn’t mention him by name though he made a contextually explicit reference to the Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera). He further said it was a section of the media that took something he said out of context and made a video to implicate him in such an offence. But the truth we know is that it was a video posted on the You Tube by his temple Sirisadaham Ashramaya at Naedimala, Dehiwala; the authenticity of the video is not in question; the voice of the monk is unmistakable. So, for him to deny those allegations is plainly mendacious. He has forfeited all his credibility.

It will be an uphill task for Ven. Pitiduwe Siridhamma Thera to refurbish his image, but he doesn’t have to worry if he is sincere in his efforts to cultivate the special virtues that characterize the disciples of the Buddha that make them worthy of offerings, hospitality, gifts and reverential salutation from the laity. The compassionate teaching of the Buddha will show him the way. He won’t face capital charges of blasphemy or apostasy, for these are non-existent, even unthinkable, in Buddhism, which allows maximum freedom of thought for the individual, and perfect democracy for the Sangha (community), and these are applicable to the laity as well (however, these must be accompanied by wisdom). There is ample opportunity for reform. The traditional lay Buddhist community whom he too harshly denounced as foolish and superstitious over their ritual practices have been very patient with him. But there has been a growing suspicion among the discerning Buddhist public including the monks that he is probably being made use of by some anti-Buddhist subversive agents to create internecine conflicts within the Buddhist establishment.

The wise Malwatte hierarchy seems to have decided on a kind of rehabilitation regimen for Siridhamma Thera under the learned Nayake Theras of the Chapter. The Mahanayake Thera said that luckily for him one of them, Ven. Diviyagaha Yasassi Nayake Thera, was present on that occasion. Those who are concerned about the future of the Buddhasasana in Sri Lanka will be pleased by this. At the same time, it is to be hoped that the legitimate criticisms that Ven. Siridhamma Thera raised, in his role as Arahant Samanthabhadra, both about obvious deviations from the rational pristine teaching of the Buddha found in the present day popular practice of Buddhism and in the unBuddhistic behaviours of some members of the Sanga will also receive serious attention from the Maha Sangha hierarchy and the lay Buddhist leadership of the country.  However, they must be even more mindful of the fact that seeking Nibbana is not the real burning issue before the Sinhalese Buddhist majority community, but the internal and external conspiracies that threaten the very survival of their homeland as a unitary state and their distinguished cultural identity. Because of this, it needs to be impressed on Ven. Siridhamma Thera that though his criticisms of some established Buddhist cultural norms and practices (which  clearly clash with the authentic Buddhist teaching) are valid, the problems have to be addressed in a way that does not render the majority community even more vulnerable to attack and aggression from outside and to internal disharmony and disintegration.

One Response to “Closure of the modern day Arahant case?”

  1. Vaisrawana Says:

    Perhaps we have to thank Pitiduwe Siridhamma (Samanthabhadra Himi) for at least partially contributing to the coming together of the two Mahanayakes of the Siam Nikaya, with enhanced prospects for pan-Sri Lanka Sangha unity. (Ref. Asgiri and Malwathu Joint Council says no to new Constitution in the Lankaweb, posted on October 18th, 2017)

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