Response of Sinhala Buddhists to the Muslim Menace
Posted on April 25th, 2019

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

The Bodu Bala Sena is a movement under the leadership of group of distinguished, academically accomplished, and deeply patriotic Bhikkhus and lay Buddhists, dedicated to the task of revitalizing and reinforcing cultural nationalism in Sri Lanka, the only motherland of the Sinhala community. In spite of varied challenges and threats to which they were subject in the recent past, it continues to have a steadfast support base among concerned Buddhists both ordained and lay, 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 and to peacefully counter the varied local and foreign forces  that are hell-bent on undermining Buddhist culture and related heritage of Sri Lanka. 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.

Sri Lanka’s Bhikkhus, should necessarily be in the forefront in movements aimed at protecting and promoting the Buddha Sasana or the historic Buddhist establishment, 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 Sri Lanka could offer to the world or 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 should be closely and actively involved in politics. They have a duty by the nation, which is founded on Buddhist principles, to be fully involved and participating in their nation’s political life. Most of the ills of our country’s political life could be attributed to the absence of genuine Buddhists in the political arena. 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  among others.      

SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM

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 the overall development of our motherland, to the varied social, economic and political issues that have implications for the short and long term welfare and development of our motherland, the only country of the Sinhala  community.              

The great mass of Sinhala Buddhists continues to be lethargic and appear to be adopting an indifferent attitude towards the plight of their fellow Buddhists. It is a pity that today, being a Buddhist is of secondary importance to many  Sinhala Buddhists. This explains the lack of unity and a common stand when it comes to matters pertaining to securing and promoting the rights and privileges of Sinhala Buddhists. They get together in temples to perform common Buddhist rituals, but are reluctant to join forces when it comes of securing or promoting the legitimate rights of Sinhala Buddhists of this nation. They show indifference to the idea of joining hands as Buddhists, in an organized manner, to deal with forces that violate Buddhist rights and are a threat to Buddhist culture and values.  As long as this prevails, they will fail to become a force to counter the threats and violations of their legitimate rights in their only homeland. It is their motherland whose cultural foundation has been inspired by Buddhism.

Buddhist cultural norms and values are being threatened today by Muslim extremists. The violation of the historic rights of Sinhala Buddhists by Muslims is clearly evident today. Under the circumstances, the initiative of some of our Mahasangha, providing leadership  to the Bodu Bala Sena organization is timely and most admirable.  In spite of challenges from various quarters, they are determined to provide a genuine leadership to this movement to save the Buddhas Sasana and the Buddhist heritage of this country.  This is demonstrated well by the courage, forthrightness, fearlessness, determination and foresight that they have shown.

THE BUDDHA SASANA

Of all the institutions and organizations of the country, the Buddha Sasana is the oldest and the most fundamental of organizations of our country for over 2200 years. It is this institution that promoted and protected the Buddha Dhamma and fostered Buddhist culture and values among us. It is this institution that formed the foremost advisory body of our kings, royalty and leaders. It is this institution that was instrumental in laying the cultural foundation of our country. It is this institution that endured the harshest of punishments and atrocities during invasions of our country by the South Indian Tamil-speaking Pandyans, Cholas and others, and the Christian Portuguese, Dutch and British. It is this institution that endured the murder of Bhikkhus, the burning of Buddhist scriptures, the destruction and demolition of Buddhist shrines, monasteries and stupas. It is this institution that helped to develop and enrich our language – Sinhala which is spoken only in our motherland. It is this institution that produced the greatest of our Sinhala scholars, writers, poets, artists among other leaders in various fields.

It is this institution that salvaged and protected the priceless ola books and scriptures containing valuable information for eternity when the country was under threat by ruthless foreign invaders and ethnic and religious terrorists. It is this institution that provided us with the Mahavamsa, Chulavamsa, Deepavamsa, Thupawamsa, among many other chronicles and works that outline the history of our country, making our country one of the very few countries in the world with a well-recorded history that extends to over 2500 years. It is the structures and historic sites connected with this institution which have preserved for us the rich, exquisite and most fascinating collection of our indigenous sculpture, paintings, architecture, wood carvings, and unique fine arts. It is this institution that was instrumental in the preserving for us one of the greatest cultural events of the country – the Dalada Perahera, which has been able to preserve for us the richness and uniqueness of our indigenous visual culture and most enchanting heritage of performing arts. It is this glorious and invaluable historic institution of ours, the Buddha Sasana,  that is being threatened today by the extremist Muslim menace. 

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

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