THE BODU BALA SENA MOVEMENT:  SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM 
Posted on June 29th, 2018

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

With the emergence of the Bodu Bala Sena”  initiative, our motherland is witnessing a strengthening of the Sinhala Buddhist revivalist movement which was spearheaded  by the late, Most Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera. The Bodu Bala Sena is a movement  under the leadership of a highly distinguished, accomplished and deeply patriotic group of Bhikkhus, dedicated to the task of revitalizing and reinforcing cultural nationalism in Sri Lanka – our only motherland. It has a rapidly growing steadfast support base among concerned lay Buddhists across the country and overseas.

Its aim is to save our nation from spiritual decay and disintegration, to halt the erosion of Buddhist social values, to peacefully counter the varied local and foreign forces that are hell-bent on undermining Buddhist culture and related heritage of this Dharmadeepaya.  It aims at directing society towards a cultural rejuvenation based on traditional Buddhist norms, principles and values which have been the foundation of this nation for over 2200 years.

Our Bhikkhus, should necessarily be in the forefront in movements aimed at protecting and promoting the Buddha Sasana especially when it is under threat. Bhikkhus of the Bodu Bala Sena have voluntarily made their choice to take an open public stand on issues surrounding Buddhism and Buddhist culture which is the greatest treasure that our country could offer to the world, to humanity.  Why should anyone feel uncomfortable when the traditional spiritual leaders of our country, the Bhikkhus, take the initiative and provide necessary leadership to protect the greatest wealth of this nation – our Buddhist cultural heritage.

Like anyone else, under a democratic system, Bhikkhus are eligible to exercise their rights, including political rights. They are traditional leaders of this nation.  Those who object to the initiative taken by our Bhikkhus of the Bodu Bala Sena, appear to be those with ulterior motives, those having their own self-interests to promote, those attempting to promote blind beliefs and establish unwholesome lifestyles based on such beliefs, those opposed to further strengthening  and consolidation of Buddhist culture in this country, and those resorting to unwholesome activities that are contrary to Buddhist norms and principles and all those who are inclined to undermining the Buddha Sasana and Buddhist values which have been preserved and promoted for thousands of years in this country, by the large majority of its inhabitants. These undesirable elements may feel uncomfortable about the Bodu Bala Sena activities which are, on all counts, legitimate, wholesome, and timely. Non-violence and compassion form the basis upon which the programme of activities of the Bodu Bala Sena is structured. Our Bhikkhus have become a thorn in the flesh of religious extremists, the recent breed of inter-faith dialogue facilitators,  those in the ethnic and human rights businesses and above all those who are funded or backed by extremist anti-Buddhist elements.

Genuine and practicing Buddhists of our country, or those who strictly follow, at least the Five Precepts, should be closely and actively involved in politics. There is no sound reason for such Buddhists to stay away from politics. Most of the ills of our country’s political life could be attributed to the absence of genuine Buddhists in the political arena.  In fact, genuine Buddhists have a duty by the nation, which is founded on Buddhist principles, to be fully involved and participating in their nation’s political life. This is particularly relevant today owing to the fact that our nation is severely threatened at present by diverse negative forces, especially by Muslim fanatics. They are trying hard to undermine the wholesome Buddhist cultural heritage and values of our nation.

It is the Buddhist perspective to public life and decision-making, that is most needed today in the country’s political domain. We need compassionate politicians with unselfish and mindful interest in the welfare of the country. This alone can bring about needed positive changes in public life which at present is infected with dishonesty, crime and corruption. The impact and influence of such people can make a big difference. They can help to generate a wholesome political culture, that is characterized by Buddhist approaches and attitudes and a truly Buddhist atmosphere, conducive to the development of a healthy political climate in our nation, so that all nationals will benefit irrespective of their diverse origins and cultural-religious inclinations.

Politics in actual fact is simply about deciding how to live together peaceably while bringing together the wide variety of perspectives available in the human realm. It is something necessary and something creative.  Politics is part of our life. If we regard all life as sacred and politics is a part of life, then politics must be sacred. Politics is not an inherently unclean and base activity. It becomes dirty in the way that everything else becomes dirty. That is, through lack of attention, through lack of mindfulness, through ego, all of which resulting in greed, hatred and delusion. The best kind of politics can take the profound viewpoints and virtues of spiritual practice and apply them in the public realm. Buddhism can be of fundamental help in this regard.

If we do not bring spiritual virtues to the public arena, we are destined to both a selfish kind of spirituality and a selfish kind of government, devoid of vision and meaning. It is time that more and more of our genuine and practicing Buddhists entered the political arena in various influential capacities. We are grateful to and value the initiative and leadership provided, in this regard by the highly esteemed movements such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya,  and Mahason Balakaya among others. Despite untold threats and challenges and various unfounded and indecent criticisms leveled against them, especially by extremist Muslims and other fanatics who benefit politically and otherwise from association with extremist Muslims, these bold, inherently national organizations, appear to be going ahead with their program of activities, demonstrating foresight, forthrightness, courage, fearlessness, and determination.

Buddhism has always been engaged in various socio-political contexts. The idea of interdependence is widely associated with Buddhism. Buddhism is the religion of Human Ecology. Engaging in the lives of others through compassion, sacrifice and service is the worthy spiritual path that we need to observe in the contemporary world. We need to expand our approach or shift somewhat away from those traditional customs that excessively promote monasticism and individual salvation, and become more socially engaged and be more concerned about service to the community, the human habitat and the environment in general.  We need to broaden our spiritual practices to include both family and community and the social and environmental concerns of the broader world. We need to approach meditation not as a way of escaping from society or getting out of society, but to prepare us for a re-entry into society so that we will be better able to identify and understand social hardships, misery and perils, and be able to do something tangible to relieve them.  It is time that we as Buddhists involve ourselves in an organized manner, become socially engaged and apply Buddhism to matters of everyday life, individual work, family, politics, and the community.  It needs to be a direct application of Buddhist principles and concepts to social and political issues and areas.

SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM

The term “Socially Engaged Buddhism” refers to active involvement by Buddhists in society and its problems. Both inner practice and social service are important elements of the spiritual path. Buddhist practice and the whole ancient Buddhist tradition is built upon the spirit of service. A major task for Buddhists in contemporary Sri Lanka is to organize themselves to forestall or prevent the real and potential adversities and catastrophes facing them, owing to threats and devious actions of non-Buddhists, aimed at undermining Buddhism and the Buddhist cultural heritage of Sri Lanka founded on Buddhist norms and principles.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) is a nonsectarian international network of engaged Buddhists participating in various forms of nonviolent social activism and environmentalism. It is headquartered in California USA. The BPF works toward global disarmament and peace, helping individuals suffering in places such as Myanmar, BangladeshTibet and Vietnam. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship was founded in 1978 to bring a Buddhist perspective to the peace movement and the peace movement to the Buddhist community. Drawing on the teachings of nonviolence and compassion, and recognising the essential unity and interdependence of all beings, BPF members and chapters seek to awaken peace where there is conflict, bring insight into the institutionalized ignorance of political systems, and offer help in the Buddhist spirit of harmony and loving kindness where it is needed. Aware of the interconnectedness of all things, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship cultivates conditions for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability within our selves, our communities, and the world.

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

[email protected]

12 Responses to “THE BODU BALA SENA MOVEMENT:  SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM ”

  1. Christie Says:

    I do not believe late, Most Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera did what the above organizations did.

    He saw the threat to our religion from Hinduism and India.

    The so called social revival of Buddhism by:” We are grateful to and value the initiative and leadership provided, in this regard by the highly esteemed movements such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya, and Mahason Balakaya among others”.

    Unfortunately who provides funds for their activities and what is the final result of their activities?

    You can see from the last presidential election results how these organizations managed to alienate the Muslim and Christian votes who are Sinhalese from Mahinda and with the Indian Parasite block vote managed to elect Sirisena.

    Thanks to these organisations financed by Indian and Indian Colonial Parasites the impact of Indian Empire on its colony is massive.

  2. Vaisrawana Says:

    Dr Hewapathirana,

    Grateful thanks to you for this very bold piece of writing. Yours are sentiments that nowadays even some of our patriotic writers do not express for fear of being censored. Only one other local writer in English has written in support of the Bodu Bala Sena and other smaller nationalist Buddhist groups and their ideology based activism, as far as I know. I particularly appreciate the ideas articulated in the following sentences which I take the liberty of extracting from your article.

    QUOTES
    Our Bhikkhus have become a thorn in the flesh of religious extremists, the recent breed of inter-faith dialogue facilitators, those in the ethnic and human rights businesses and above all those who are funded or backed by extremist anti-Buddhist elements.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    In fact, genuine Buddhists have a duty by the nation, which is founded on Buddhist principles, to be fully involved and participating in their nation’s political life. This is particularly relevant today owing to the fact that our nation is severely threatened at present by diverse negative forces, especially by Muslim fanatics. They are trying hard to undermine the wholesome Buddhist cultural heritage and values of our nation.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    We are grateful to and value the initiative and leadership provided, in this regard by the highly esteemed movements such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya, and Mahason Balakaya among others. Despite untold threats and challenges and various unfounded and indecent criticisms leveled against them, especially by extremist Muslims and other fanatics who benefit politically and otherwise from association with extremist Muslims, these bold, inherently national organizations, appear to be going ahead with their program of activities, demonstrating foresight, forthrightness, courage, fearlessness, and determination.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    The term “Socially Engaged Buddhism” refers to active involvement by Buddhists in society and its problems. Both inner practice and social service are important elements of the spiritual path. Buddhist practice and the whole ancient Buddhist tradition is built upon the spirit of service. A major task for Buddhists in contemporary Sri Lanka is to organize themselves to forestall or prevent the real and potential adversities and catastrophes facing them, owing to threats and devious actions of non-Buddhists, aimed at undermining Buddhism and the Buddhist cultural heritage of Sri Lanka founded on Buddhist norms and principles.
    END OF QUOTES

    I venture to suggest that ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ is what the great Anagarika Dharmapala initiated in colonial Sri Lanka in association with theosophist Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, his mentor and senior activist in Buddhist revival work in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Certain native social anthropologists of a colonial clone mentality misrepresented and discredited it as ‘Protestant Buddhism.’

  3. DAYA HEWAPATHIRANE Says:

    Dear Mr. Vaisrawana,

    I am pleased to read your positive comments and yes, I agree that the great Anagarika Dharmapala,Colonel Olcott along with several other patriotic members of the Mahasangha at that time, were pioneers in Socially Engaged Buddhism. I hope the Bodu Bala Sena would seriously consider the possible mutual advantages of linking up closely with other international Buddhist organizations involved in Socially Engaged Buddhism, in view of strengthening its action program.

  4. DR M D P DISSANAYAKE Says:

    The initial formation of BBS and spontaneous popularity of BBS showed that the grass root buddhists were waiting for such a campaign. Soma Thero who travelled with me from Singapore to Sri Lanka once had long term plans to take a peaceful but forceful campaign to protect the rights of Buddhism.

    Galaboda Gnahasara Thero spoilt the campaign. He is unfit to be a buddhist, let alone to be a buddhist monk. He should be replaced immediately as he behave like a thug. He ought to be sent to a Rehabiliation Centre.

    Moving forward, BBS name is no longer appealing to the buddhists because of bad work of Galaboda. Most of the popular Buddhist monks are aligned one way or another with political movements.

    Soma Thero was exceptional. Sobhitha Thero was also exceptional, except errors of judgement late.

    We need to find a Buddhist Monk or Buddhist Scholar who speak at least all three languages fluently, to communicate with the multi ethnic communities. Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Universities were formed late Great SWRD to find versatile monks to promote buddhism. That also has not been achieved.

    Now we don’t Welivita Soratha, Walpola Rahula, Kotagama Vachissara, Bambarende Siri Seevalee.

    If there is a suitable Monk, I am sure he is not popular and not in the front line. Such potential leaders are sensitive and prefer a quite life. This is a sad situation.

  5. Charles Says:

    Those who insist that the Buddhist Monks, as much as the Priests of other religions should be treated as any wrong doer by the courts, should know that it should be different in case of Buddhist Monks. Why ?
    Buddhism has a special place in Sri Lanka with its 2600 or more years of history. There is no other country in the world that had been nurtured by its religion for such a long period of time. It is our duty to protect it.
    The Buddhist monk had been and is the protector of Buddha Sasana. It is the the Buddhist Monk who protected Buddhism for such a long time and it is they who will protect it in the future. The legal system in Sri Lanka is a remnant of the British Colonial System. It does not keep with that special situation Buddhism has in Sri Lanka. Therefore it has to be changed to adopt it to Buddhism without which Sri Lanka would not be what it is. Rhys Davis says that democracy before it came as a political theory, was practiced by the Buddha in the administration of his large Order of Sangha.
    If a Buddhist Monk commits a crime it is for the Maha Sangha to remove his robes before he is sent to be tried in a court of Law of the Country. The Maha Sangha should adopt themselves to perform that essential duty.
    Venerable Gnanasara thero did not commit a crime. He did not kill any one !!!

  6. ranjit Says:

    Personally I like bodu bala sena not as a political party but as a movement fighting to safeguard our sacred religion Buddhism and the buddhist culture in Sri Lanka. Their leader Ven.Galabodaaththo is a deeply patriotic no nonsense buddhist monk who talk his mind without fear of none. If he stays independently and fight for the rights of the Sinhala buddhists many will follow him. Some hates him because of his foul mouth and for his unacceptable behaviour in public.
    We need individuals like him to fight the evil conspirators within and abroad who has come to destroy our sinhala buddhist culture and the civilization which we cherish so much for thousands of years. He must work independently with his other buddhist monks to promote Buddhism more vigorously around the world and fight Muslim and Tamil extremists who makes unnecessary problems to poison the minds of the rest of the population in this country. The bodu bala sena movement must educate the public what is good,bad and ugly than going behind treacherous uneducated politicians in this country. They should work independently as per the teachings of the lord Buddha with kindness and sincerity.

  7. Christie Says:

    We need a Buddhist movement to unite Sinhalese.

    In doing so we should not alienate other Sinhalese like Sinhala Muslims and Sinhala Christians.

    In a country where India and Indian colonists control us we will be finished soon whether we are Buddhist, Muslim or Christian Sinhalese.

  8. Charles Says:

    I normally agree with Dr.MDP. But on the present issue on which he writes I disagree with him. I disagree with what he says about Ven.Gnanasara Thero and BBS. We had great Buddhists and Buddhist monks who spoke fearlessly in defence of Buddhism and the Sinhala Buddhists. We have few or none today.

    Every one fights shy of speaking up for the Sinhala or the Buddhism. Instead there is “ do not want to hurt the feeling of the non-Buddhists” in most speakers and writers. The Muslims in Sri Lanka are fast changing from what they had been to dictating terms to the Buddhists. Dr. Daya Hewapathirana speaks out fearlessly in defence of what he thinks is right and we need more like him. Politics and Buddhism in Sri Lanka are not distinctly apart ,but welded together.

    Venerable Gnanasara Thero of BBS had been erratic in his political views, but that is another matter, but basically he is the only one today capable of speaking out his heart in defence of Buddhism and the Sinhala Buddhists. Anagarika Dharmapala also spoke out,his heart and people disliked him for that , but he was the one who came forward to defend the Sinhala Buddhist at that time. When Catholic Action was at its heights in Sri Lanka we fortunately had people like P de S Kularatne, to defend the Sinhala and the Buddhism.

    But the Muslims and the Tamil politicians do not think twice before they condemn Buddhism and the Buddhists out right. They openly speak against putting up Buddha Statues or building temples in the North or East. They even refused the funeral ceremony of a Buddhist Priest in the North. In the televisions the Muslims who conduct political programs openly criticise the Buddhists and Buddhist Monks. The Muslim Politicians allow building Mosques in Vihara Land, and clear forests for Muslim only settlements.

    The Sinhala Buddhists are not against the Muslims or even the Tamils but they only come out against them only when they trespass the rights and the priviledges of the Buddhists . What is wrong in that ?

  9. Charles Says:

    2018 ජුනි 30වන දින ආචාර්ය සුරිය ගුණසේකර විසින් ලියන ලද බෞද්ධ භික්ෂුව හා උසාවි අධිකරණ බලය නමැති ලිපිය කියවන්න . http://divaina.com/daily/index.php/visheshanga3/13622-2018-06-29-14-12-26

  10. Randeniyage Says:

    Charles,
    I agree Bodu Bala Sena had done a great service to Sinhala Buddhist and Sri Lanka. I also agree sending him to jail is not warrented based on the charges ( while murderers are in the Parliament).
    However, Ganasara Thero’s language and behavior ( even though his fights are 100% necessary) has done more harm to Buddhism than benefit.
    But it is impossible to justify different laws to Buddhist Monks and others. Serious crimes need serious and uniform punishments regardless of priesthood. Our country cannot be allowed to be isolated in the world.

  11. Dilrook Says:

    I agree with Dr Dissanayake. 2015 August election results prove it.

    BBS is not the group Sinhalese have been waiting for. They are playing a political cat’s paw role. BBS has not taken up real issues affecting Sri Lanka – Tamil and Hindu extremism. In fact a Hindu group with no following supports BBS! They are utterly useless in an election though some foolish Sinhalese seem to like them for sweet talk. After their sweet talk they are trying to split Sinhala votes (92% of Christians are Sinhalese) and Muslim votes.

    Gotabaya is clever. He has reached out to Muslims and Christians ignoring Hindus. No patriot has ever won Hindu votes in sizable numbers and never (emphasised) will. Muslims and Christians are winnable votes and must be won over. BBS is a hindrance.

    It is best Gotabaya keeps BBS away from him. BBS action put Mahinda in a very difficult position in 2014 Aluthgama riot. Despite enormous amount of work, Muslims in Muttur rejected Mahinda with a historically low percentage of 9% at the 2015 presidential election thanks to anti-Muslim sentiments from pro-Mahinda people. Patriotic ranking of voters in all national elections is as follows.

    1. Buddhists (70%)
    2. Sinhala Christians (5%)
    3. Tamil Christians (2%)
    4. Muslims (10%)
    5. Hindus (13%)

    Get this ranking wrong, you lose. End of story.

  12. Charles Says:

    BBS may not be useful as a political partner, but they are a voice against anti Buddhist activities of the Tamil and Muslim Communities. BBS is a voice that is been heard and to a certain extent feared by the anti Buddhist activists. That is what Dr.Hewapathirana points to in his article. Ven.Gnanasaara ‘s character is what it is , but he does not behave as a thug but he speaks out with lot of feelings. Listenings to the words used by Anagaraika Dhammapala to awaken Buddbists some may have said he was speaking the language of a thug !!!

    I have not met Ven Gnanasara but I have met some of the Monks of the Ravana Balaya and Sinhala Ravaya and they are very good monks with great patriotism.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2018 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress