YAHAPALANA VERSUS MAHA SANGHA Part 4
Posted on August 25th, 2019

KAMALIKA  PIERIS

Revised     14.9.19

Yahapalana’s attacks on the Maha Sangha are part of its attack on Buddhism, Buddhists and Buddhist worship. This anti-Buddhist strategy has clearly been planned well ahead and given to Yahapalana to implement.

Yahapalana decided to avoid a frontal attack on Buddhist philosophy. They  know what happened at the Panadura Vadaya. Yahapalana has preferred to hit below the belt. Yahapalana accordingly tried to silence the Maha Sangha, by putting them in remand prison and to sabotage the peraheras by removing the elephants that go in it. Peraheras have always been an irritant to the non-Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

Uduwe Dhammaloka observed in 2016 we can see that strategies are being discussed among various NGOs and the present rulers seem to be going along with them, one instance is the Katikawata Bill, the intention was to suppression of the sangha. There is no need for a Katikawata bill, the Vinaya rules are sufficient.  Kiribathgoda Ananda has over a 1000 monks under him. They conduct themselves well.”

Uduwe Dhammaloka continued, there is now a move by NGOs to say that ordaining young boys as monks is child abuse.  We know that as far as Buddhism is concerned adult ordination will never work. Monks have to be ordained when they are young otherwise they will never be able to conduct themselves in a manner required of monks. We now see subtle attempt to portray the ordination of children as child abuse. There was a video clip of a young samanera crying for his mother that was shared on social media networks some time ago. These subtle campaigns which strike at the very root of Sinhala Buddhist culture. If child ordination is eliminated the sangha will be gone in one generation.  

Derana   news on 10.9.19 showed a young man repeatedly slapping two samanera bhikkhus  for allegedly taking an item from a shop. An onlooker came forward and stopped him but only after about half a dozen slaps had been given. The next day Derana news showed the two samanera in hospital. The man was arrested and the camera showed him apologizing for his action.

Samanera bhikkhus are also featured elsewhere. The popular teledrama ‘Sidu’ features a village temple, its chief priest, his assistant Ven.  Rahula and two little samaneras, Soratha and Subhoda. ‘Sidu’ thus shows the three levels of bhikkhus in the Sangha community, senior, middle and junior, their role and the difference in attitude among them.  The samanera are shown to be normal, mischievous little boys, training to be priests. Before it became a soap opera, Sidu” was a lovely film. Buddhist philosophy was  woven beautifully into  a relaxing film which offered,  suspense, melodrama, excitement, ‘pight’, ‘comit’ and ‘luv’. 

The international conspiracy leaders have studied the Sangha as individuals and selected the most suitable bhikkus for what they had in mind. These handpicked monks talk and behave in a manner designed to turn Buddhists against Buddhism. That is the nature of the conspiracy. Getting the monks involved is part of the conspiracy. This has also happened in Burma where monks were brought into disrepute., said Uduwe Dhammaloka.

There is a small group of monks playing a major role in creating disturbances in the country.  They paved the way for the present government to come to power. These monks were completely unheard of until they started creating disturbances on the streets. This is a small minority of monks with suspicious linkages to the west. 

It is these monks who were arrested at Homagama. They were brought to court like criminals with their heads covered, Things that were not done even in colonial times are being done now. Our monks are now aware of what is going on, we discuss these matters, concluded Uduwe Dhammaloka.

The pin pettiya in temples is also targeted. Some time ago, the pin petti of Alutgama and Dambulla viharas were sealed by the Department of Buddhist Affairs. The public protested and the Department gave in. In September 2019 another round of pin petti sealing  started. The pin petti at Badulla raja Maha vihara were sealed.

In September 2019, the audit Division of the Department of Buddhist affairs had come Tissamaharama Raja Maha vihara to do a surprise check of its pin petti. The petti were sealed to be taken for examination to the Department of Buddhsit Affairs. The auditors has said that the temple had not maintained proper records of the pin petti money.

 The chief priests at Tissamaharama told Derana that they were unable to get the money they needed for the next perahera due to the bomb blast. They needed about 1.3  million .They needed  antoher 50 lakhs or so, to keep the chaitya whitewashed and  pay the workers and feed them for bout two ro three months. The Chief priest also observed that there was a Christian Church in Tissamaharama which had about three hundred acres of land. Are they checking there as well, he asked.

However, since it was best to keep on the good side of the Maha Sangha.  Yahapalana made it a point to go to Malwatu and Asgiri Mahanayakas,   kneel down, hand over baskets of fruit and  say what they were going to do next. Maha Sangha was not fooled. Some Yahapalana MPs went beyond that. Derana news 8.9.17 showed Ravi Karunanayake  visiting Elle Gunawansa and worshipping before a Buddha statue.  Then in August 2019, there was a photograph of Ravi kneeling before a bhikkhu at a function at the BMICH.  

Unfortunately for   Yahapalana, things did not go as planned. Instead of getting frightened, shutting up   and staying inside their temples, the Sangha did the opposite. They marched out en masse from their temples and confronted Yahapalana directly. We now see a re-emergence of the Maha Sangha as a   strong, formidable political force.

The Buddhist monk is fundamentally a teacher, and a counsellor to lay people, observed  Raj Gonsalkorale. They are  part of a community,  and their role is defined by the environment they live in.  I would add to this that the Sangha are citizens of Sri Lanka,  and are entitled to all the rights and privileges of a citizen of Sri Lanka. That is an inalienable right. If the  Sangha can vote at an election, they can be politically active as well.   Buddhism  is not a philosophy that shuns politics.  Buddha preached to King Bimbisara,  King Pasenadi and Anathapindika, a rich merchant and banker. In doing so, he was recognizing the   importance of political and economic power in a society. 

The  first concern of the Maha Sangha was of course, Buddhism .in June 2017 after a meeting of the Karaka Sangha Sabha, Warakagoda Gnanaratana in a strongly worded statement   spoke of internal and external conspiracies against Buddhists and emphasized the need for the Mahanayake Theras of the Three Nikayas and the patriotic people of the country ‘to act in unison to face such injustices.

The Sangha  made sure that the traditional Buddhist activities continued. A pirit chanting was organized at 600 temples  in June 2019 to invoke blessings to the country, tri-force personnel, Police, Government and the people.  The chanting  was to start  at Anuradhapura, with 500 bhikkhus chanting pirit at  Ruwanvelisaya. The annual peraheras would  also  continue.  In June 2019, chief prelates met  the Secretary of Defence to discuss security arrangements to  the annual peraheras conducted at Kelaniya, Mahiyangana, Bellanvila and  Navagamuwa.

The Maha Sangha have taken a fearless stand against Yahapalana government.  Ven.Elle Gunananda said the Yahapalana ‘lied and lied to us’ (boru kivuva).  Ven.Omalpe Sobitha said there must be a firm Sinhala leadership in Parliament. The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog.  Ven.Wattegama PItiyegedera observed that we do not have a national policy that can survive changes of government.

The Maha Sangha have made their political position clear .Wattegama PItiyegedera said that Vigneswaran had met the Malwatte and Asgiriya sangha and said they want federalism. Wattegama Pitiyegedera reported that the Sangha straightaway said they cannot agree this.

The Maha Sangha have also  made it clear that they support Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the next President of Sri Lanka. Gotabhaya   did a well planned tour of the major temples of the country. The chief priest of each temple spoke and the speeches were shown on television news. They had clearly planned their speeches  beforehand and chose their words carefully. The speeches were political statements intended for the public and Yahapalana. At Kiri vehera, the camera showed a bikkhu recording the proceedings with a smart phone.

The itinerary went as follows. Gotabhaya first went, with his retinue to Anuradhapura where he worshipped at Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruvanveli seya, Mirisavati, Lankarama and Jayanthi vihara. At Ruvanvali seya     1500 monks  conducted an adistana puja. The heads of these temples greeted him as a promising future leader.

After visiting the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, and receiving the blessing of the Sangha at Malwatte and Asgiriya temples as well as pirit nool. Gota travelled south, to Kiri vehera at Kataragama, where there was an ashirvada puja and 500 monks chanted Jaya pirit. 

The chief priest of Kiri vehera, Kobawaka Dhamminna said we will support anybody who is prepared to protect Buddhism and our land .We hope that Gotabhaya will take up that responsibility. Bellanwila Dhammaratna said the country had fallen to nought today in terms of security and economy. Mahinda Rajapaksa made [an impact]. ‘You are his brother. You have the ability to take this country out of this mess.  You have experience. Do the right thing. We will support you.’

 Uva Wellassa Sanghanayake Kandaudapanguwe Sudamma said ‘look into security,   foreigners cannot poke their noses [into our affairs]. Create a good country, a strong, courageous one where Sinhalese can live with pride. You have the strength to do this. Today Sangha lack respect. They are insulted. We cannot be expected to tolerate this.   The Maha Sangha is for the country, its Sasana, and   its culture.’

Gotabhaya then went to Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara where  Develegama Dhammasena spoke.    At Matara  Paraduwa Jinaratna, head of a Sangha organization, wished Gota  success at the elections, the  solidarity of the Rajapaksa brothers is an example to the nation, he said.  People are on fire,  he continued, they are scared the country will be handed over to a foreign power. Stop  those who are robbing the state, selling  the state, save it from foreigners, protect Buddhism, get rid of this irreligious government, which has  encouraged Sangha bedhaya .There must be a  love for the country, he concluded.

At Alutgama Kande viharaya,   Malegoda Nanda said head of state must have  ‘eveseema’. ‘As Defence Secretayr you showed that quality’. At the Kalutara bodiya Waskaduwe Mahindawansa   told Gotabhaya  ‘you gave a very good speech at the launch in Colombo  it had no mud, no division, you got your ideas across very effectively’.  There was pirit at Wadduwa bodhiraja.

Pannipitiya Rukmale Sri Dharma Vijayaloka’s chief priest, Ittapane Dhamalankara  said most politicians are busy slinging mud at each other from the mud hole they have got into. They are placing the population in danger. ‘Like you got us out of the war  you should  try to get us out of this mud hole too.  You have shown by action, not talk your ability and won the admiration and respect of the public. I   declare that you are the most suitable as our leader.’

At Mount Lavinia Dharmapala aramaya Ramannya chief prelate Kotugoda Dhammavasa said  the public hare hoping now for a good leader. They eagerly await a leader who will  provide a ‘kramavath ayurin rata hikmavagena nisi paripalanayak. ‘with help of the Maha Sangha and public  we hope that you will be able to create a country which regains its self respect and we pray that you will have the strength, power and support of the public to achieve this.’   I have given this programme at length because I wish to show  the huge , island wide support given by the Sangha to Gotabhaya and the issues the Sangha consider important.

The Maha Sangha  was aware of the animosity of  Yahapalana towards the Sangha. Keppetiyagoda Sirinimala  of Getambe temple said  in 2017 that usually when there was a crisis, the bhikkhus came forward, ‘now they are  denigrating the monks.’ A protest march and a meeting of the Maha Sangha was held in Kandy in July 2019  because  some NGOs and  other organizations  had challenged a statement made by the Mahanayake of Asgiriya .The  march  was organized by  several Sangha organizations, including  Jathika Sangha Sabha and Thri Nikayika Bhikshu Ekamuthuwa.

The Maha Sangha have emphasized their unity by appearing in formidable groups, not singly. At the National Conference on Peace, Harmony and Co existence, July 2019,  one half of the BMICH auditorium was  given over to the Sangha, who could be seen seated  en masse, in a  blaze of saffron. (See Derana news 31.7.19 at at13.53). 

There was a media conference  to report the decision of the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dhamma Maha Sangha Sabha regarding the proposed new constitution. The opening shot showed a group of 12  or so, red and yellow clad Bhikkus emerging from the discussion led by  the chief priest. The chief priests  spoke  to the camera with this group standing behind him, in full view of the camera, looking very  serious and formidable. It was impressive. (see Derana 6.55 news 22.10.17 at 15.10) Camera also showed them going into the meeting.

The third example is from the  ‘Jathika Maga’  conference  held by Maha Sangha Samuluva at BMICH   in June 2019 .  This showed three or four rows of monks, on the stage,  sitting amidst a set which included   Anuradhapura style pillars, a Samadhi statue and a Dagoba. 

The Sangha also  spoke out  regarding non-conformist bhikkhus. In 2017, after a meeting of the Karaka Sangha Sabha, the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, announced Although we do not approve the aggressive behavior and speech of Bhikkhu Galabodaatte Gnanasara the viewpoint expressed by him cannot be discarded. Insulting Bhikkhus by various groups without inquiring into the veracity of the issues raised  cannot be condoned.”

A historic agreement merging the Amarapura and Ramanna Chapters was signed in Colombo, in August   2019. The two chapters will hereafter be known as a single entity: Sri Lanka Amarapura Ramanna Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha.” The agreement was signed by the Amarapura Chapter Mahanayake, the Ven. Kotugoda Dhammavasa , and the Ramanna Chapter Mahanayaka, the Ven. Napana Pemasiri. The two prelates will hereafter function as Joint Chairpersons of the new Sangha Sabha.

The agreement marks a turning point in the history of the Buddha Sasana in the country. It was reached after years of talks. Six major aims were cited as the reasons for the merger. These included the need to take decisions jointly regarding issues affecting the Buddha Sasana and the country, building a disciplined Sangha society and providing guidance to young learned Buddhist monks to face social challenges. Ven. Kotugoda Dhammavasa said there was no reason why the two Chapters should remain separate as they were started by the pupils of the same monk. The Sangha now urgently needed a  Sangadhikarana   and  a Kathikawatha. We have submitted the recommendations,  for a Sanghadhikarana, but  nothing has happened so far, said the  Sangha.

It should be noted however, that the  three nikayas have been  working together  for a long time before the merger. For instance,  in December 2018 a decree by the tri nikaya was announced at the Jathika Maha Sangha Samuluwa led by the prelates of the three nikayas at Nelum Pokuna, Colombo.  

The Easter Sunday bombings mark a significant coming together of the Catholic Church and the Maha Sangha. The Catholic Church and the Maha Sangha appeared   together on one platform after this  sad event. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith   took the lead.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith held two joint press conferences with the Maha Sangha regarding the bomb blasts. The   Maha Sangha was represented by Ven. Ittapane Dhammalankara, Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, and chief priest of Kotte Sri Kalayani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of Siyam Maha Nikaya.   In July 2019, Kirinde Dhammakusala, chief incumbent of Sri Bodhi temple at Bopitiya and Rev Francis Jayakody parish priest of Pamunugama were special invitees to the meeting of the Pamunugama Welfare Association of Bopitiya.  

After the Easter Sunday bombings, the Sangha decided to send the Muslims, as well as Yahapalana and the USA a strong message. 50 bhikkus ,from Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara went by bus to Katuwapitiya church, and were met by the chief priest of the Church. They exchanged greetings, went into the church and surveyed the damage done. Then in a symbolic gesture of sympathy, several bhikkus took brooms and swept the compound. This is a most unusual event and it must be recognized as such. Derana television gave it   lengthy coverage. This can be seen at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ip7WwvJJL9w&t=1707s.  

Ven. Bellanwila Dhammarathana invited His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to join a pooja at Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya in August 2019  to invoke merit on those killed, which he did with all reverence.

Yahapalana  has   inadvertently, helped to establish Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country. It happened like this. Mangala Samaraweera said  on 13 May 2019 that Sri Lanka was not a Buddhist country.  There was a howl. Of course it is a Buddhist country said the Buddhists.  Yes it is, added the Hindus, Christians and Muslims independent of each other.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said it could not be disputed that Sri Lanka was a Buddhist country. Sri  Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country said Faizer Mustapha. So did Minister Mano Ganesan.. Navinda Jayasinghe speaking for Catholics said this is Sinhala Buddhist country, there is nothing to argue about it. Its identity is Sinhala Buddhism. Vadivel Suresh said there are no two words about It. Buddhism  is the senior  religion under which come the junior religions  of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

 The Sangha spoke up. The religious groups in this country should keep it in mind that Buddhists in Sri Lanka had always respected and allowed unhindered the existence of other religions, said Asgiriya in an   official statement. We condemn acts by other religious groups that insult this tolerant Buddhist ethic,”

The rest agreed. They also announced, with appreciation, that it was the Buddhist ethos that permitted them to  practice their religion with complete freedom. Faizer Mustapha said it was the Buddhist  ethos that permitted the other religions to   follow their religions peacefully and exercise their rights.

However, long before all this, In Sept 2018  Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith was present at the prize giving of Kanduboda Shri Saranankara Daham Pasala in Delgoda, organized by the Ven. Parakaduwe Sri Saranankara with Chancellor of the Kelaniya University Ven. Dr. Walamitiyawe Kusaladhamma  presiding.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said at this event that Buddhism was the backbone of this country and it was a religion which had been followed by the people in this land for a long time. People who had been shaped by Buddhist civilization do not violate human rights. He added that a society which attempts to make human rights a religion, could safeguard human rights effectively through Buddhist teaching.

Rights of all people in this country are safeguarded when Buddhist culture is safeguarded, he said. Human rights are safeguarded in our country much more than what is prescribed by the UN because of the Buddhist environment,” he added. Since we have inherited a great culture over the years, there is no need to think about human rights in a special way.  Anti-religious ideologies are being filtered into the society today. We have to put them aside and safeguard religions,” he said. ( Concluded)

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