Disgraceful behaviour of Buddhist Monks in Universities, and the role of the Maha Nayaka Theros. (Updated)
Posted on October 29th, 2010

by Charles.S.Perera

Sri LankaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  being a Buddhist country ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the Theravada tradition allowing the Buddhist Monks into Universities after removal of the Pirivena system of Buddhist education ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ,was the greatest wrong done to Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. We are reaping the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-sinsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ of that act to-dayƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  with ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the Buddhist Monks in the roleƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-hooligansƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-street riotersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ What are our Asgiriya andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Malwatta Mahanayaka Theros going to about this disastrous situation ?ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Mahanayaka theors are quick to step in to make statements when it concerns politicians, such as their demand ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ for the release of Sarath Fonseka from the prison, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ but when the Buddha Sasana is in peril, with the young monks in universities who are looked up to by the Buddhists as the protectors of Buddha Sasana are behaving disgracefully without any respect to the yellow robe they wear.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Mahanayaka Theros have not made any statementsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  so far or made a request to the miscreants to behave according to the calling of their vocation. The Mahanayake Theros are absent in an hour of need when the Buddha Sasana is in danger.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ On the other hand the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is becoming more authoritative and begins to speak loud on matters that do not even concern them, with a Cardinal named by the Pope to give them moreƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  weight in theirƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  effort to dictate terms to the government and WesterniseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the poor Tamils in the North and East. Christianising is westernising, because Christianity is notƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  indigenousƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to our country, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ other than it being a remnant of the Colonialism.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In that situation it is sad to see that the Buddhist Order of the Sangha in Sri LankaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  seem to drift without a proper leadership. TheƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  most offensive behaviour ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ of the youngƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddhist Monks is the failure of the Mahanayaka Theros to organise the Order of the Sangha, byƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  calling the three Nikayas to Unite to ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ findƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ways to put an endƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  to the indiscipline of the Student Monks in Universities who left to themselves will ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ destroy the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If the Buddhist monks had been properly educated at the feet of a preceptor as it had been done before, even a Monk entering a Universities will behave as expected of him keeping the patimokkha-the vinaya rules.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The monks in the universities should be theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  buffer against unruly indisciplined lay students, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ keeping them in check advising them to respect their elders, the professors and the Vice Chancellor, and maintain decorum .

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ But what is happening is quite the opposite. The Buddhist priests according to the teachings ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ should be worthy of the offerings of the laity, their devotion ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  respects. The lay Buddhists prostrate at their feet as the disciples of the Buddha. But these monksƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in the universities do not behave as the disciples of theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddha.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Buddha expected from his disciples a very high standard tolerance. In one of his discourses he says:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ “Even, o monks should robbers and murders saw through your limbs and joints, whoever should give way to anger thereat would not be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves: ‘Undisturbed shall our mind remain, with heart full of love, and free from hidden malice; and that person shall we penetrate with loving-thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed from anger and hatredƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (Majjhima Nikaya 21).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ How can this great lesson of patience be related to these most ignobleƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  trouble making university students in yellow robes ?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The aggressive University monks, are far from what we expect of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ them as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Buddhist monksƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. They are different inƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  their physical appearance withƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  unshaven ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ heads, improperly clad ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ in robes of varied colours. The Buddhist monks in the Sri Lanka Universities do not even lookƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  like ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the Hindu Sadus at the Ganges river.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Among these ignoble yellow robed men in universities, there may be a handful of good student monksƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  brought in ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ through force or fear to the rank of the unruly.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Are these ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ unruly university monks the disciples of the Buddha orƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  those of Devadatta ?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The JVP is responsible for making this ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ sad situation where the monks in the universities have become un-Buddhist, not ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ fit to receive the devotion and the respect of the lay Buddhists. In a village in Kandy aƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  politically active person wasƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  believed to had been shot deadƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  by aƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  young Buddhist monk who was a member of the JVP.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Nayaka Priests of the Temples from which theseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  student monksƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  come are partly if not wholely responsible for the scandalous behaviour of the student monks in the Univercities.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Venerable ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Maduluwawe Sobitha thero ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the monk who wanted to go to prison with five hundred other monks in place of Sarath Fonseka, does not seem to be troubled by the misbehaviour of the monks in the Universities.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhita theroƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s duty is to the Buddha Sasana and the Order of the Sangha,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  and not to meddle in matters best left to the lay people.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A Buddhist monk is a lay person who has given up his household comforts ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to follow the path of a Buddhist MonkƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  detached from the burdens of a layman and devote his life to learn the scriptures and to meditate.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But unfortunately today a large numberƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of theseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  BuddhistƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  monks have come from discomfort of their homes to seek comfort, to enter universities not to learn the Buddhist scriptures, but ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ study more lucrative ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ worldly subjects , economics, lawƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  etc., and get employed, and while in Universities join the trouble makers to imitate them, making manifestations and beat the Vice Chancellors, the Lecturers and the University employees.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ What an example for ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ a Buddhist Country known to be the treasure house of the true teachings ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the Buddha ?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If this trend is allowed to continue we will soon have no real Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the Sri Lankans ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ may have to go abroad to learn Theravada Buddhism from Western monks more devoted and following more assiduously the vinaya rules, robedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  and move like ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Buddhist Monks during ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the golden age of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ As a young man interested in Buddhism I once askedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  a Village Monk to explain to meƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  the practice of Buddhist meditation .ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But he was very frank and told me that he cannot help me as he had not meditated and referred me to another.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  But for that matter that priest was notƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  less Buddhist, because he was piousƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  very helpful to the villagers who treated him with greatƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  respect. He was always well shaven correctly robed.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  When the Priest of the temple went out they went one following the other according to their seniority.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It was a very pleasant sight that inspired respect and devotion. Those sights are perhaps rare now ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ in our Buddhist Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is time that the government looks into reforms of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. The first step in this respect is ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ to re-establish the Pirivena system of education.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Buddhist monks should not be mixed with the lay students. They should not be put together with women students.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  One important training of a Buddhist priest is to live a life of chastity, ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ avoiding ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ sexual temptation.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is possible to avoidƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  sensuous lust through meditation, and concentrated ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Buddhist scriptural studies. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Shortly before the Buddha died, Venerable Ananda asked him a question concerning women: “How shall we relate to women, Master?” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ “Do not look at them.” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ “But if one sees one, Master?” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ “Do not address her.” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ “But if one talks to us?” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ “Keep mindfulness and self-control.” (DN 16).ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This is in the training of a Buddhist disciple.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Meditation practice enables one to subdue and ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ keep away arising of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ lust and sensual desire.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Therefore the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who isƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  also the Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, should ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ provide facilitiesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  for every temple in Sri Lanka to create a monastic environment for the monks to make meditationƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  an essential part of their life, with individual kuties for the resident monks to meditate.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The GovernmentƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  is ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ preparing to introduce IT trainingƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  to Buddhist monks. It should not be made another means for them to seek employment out side the vocation for which they have don the priestly robes.. It may ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ distance the religion from the Monk, unless ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ the training and the experienceƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  gained by such training ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ isƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  used in a completely Buddhist environment.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Buddhist discipline should be inculcated into a priest from the time he enters the order as a novice. If one takes a walk around the Asgiriya temple,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  it is likely to see young priests smoking behind the temple and pass their time indulging in small talk and gossiping among themselves, bothƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  of which come under prohibited way of passing time- idle chatter.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Idle chatter has to be understood in the following sense : ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…- The fourth statement of the Buddha about Right Speech was to abstain from idle chatter. In other words, to avoid frivolous speech and pointless talk that has no depth. Instead, one should speak appropriately at the right moment in accordance with the facts, saying what is useful, speaking of subjects like the Dhamma and the discipline.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ One should abstain ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ from talking and listening to chatter which is shallow and only stirs up defilements and restless thoughts which can lead one astray. One should abstain from any sort of loose talk or valueless patter which leaves the mind vacant and sterile. This is especially true of frivolous entertainments which block development on a higher, spiritual, aesthetic, contemplative level.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The opposite of idle chatter is to make every word have meaning, so that speech becomes like a treasure, uttered appropriately, at the right moment, accompanied by moderation, reason, and good sense, inspiring listeners in matters of good conduct and the pursuit of the path. Another thing to remember is that while speech has its place, meditation leaves the limits of speech behind. Calm is the opposite of restless chatter. Thus ends the discussion of Right Speech. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ On the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ full moon days and the new moon days the Buddhists monks meet to recite the Vinaya rulesƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  . Those monks who have broken any ruleƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  confessƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  it in open assembly of monks. This ritual should be strictly imposedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  including monks in universities.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This may be an encouragementƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  to keep within theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  strict Buddhist vinaya, and keep away from mixing with unruly lay elements in Universities. An essential quality of a monk is also to practice ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-alonenessƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ , not mixing freely with the others, thus avoiding involvement in un-priestly chatter orƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  activities.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A Buddhist Monk is a symbol of our Buddhist culture, our civilisation, our relation with all Communities with whom we live. That important position a monk holds in our society should be instilled into the minds of the Buddhist Monks in the Universities.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If they do not respect this situation and continue in their rebellious attitude they should be disrobed. It is time that the Maha Sangha of the three Nikaya, take that responsibility in the name of Theravada Buddhism.

4 Responses to “Disgraceful behaviour of Buddhist Monks in Universities, and the role of the Maha Nayaka Theros. (Updated)”

  1. herman Says:

    I agree that the Maha Nayaka Theros in particular and the government in general must take immediate drastic measures to take action against these aggressive Universities “monks”. Failing which the public should “boycott” these “monks” and not respect and feed them just as the people did during the time of the Buddha.

    We cannot compare Buddhism to Christianity since we do not have a “Shepard” to lead the “sheeps”. The Maha Nayaka Theros can do very little given that each monk is answerable for his actions and is “free”. However, the way the Maha Nayaka Theros can help is to refrain from politics and instead concentrate in the propagation of the Buddha Dhamma so as to ensure that they train these young disciples under their care to be Good human beings to society and to uphold the Noble doctrine – Buddha Dhamma.

  2. Siri Says:

    I congratulate you on a very well written article. I can add nothing more than what you have said. However, being a Sinhalese baptised Catholic, I agree with you about the Clergy getting into the role of advisor to the Government. Especially a Cardinal should know that running of a country and questioning decisions of the high court is not his business. He should know that even Jesus Christ has said give unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s and unto God what is his. I am a Sri lankan first and a Catholic next. Even after emigrating over thirty years ago I still remain loyal to my motherland Sri Lanka. This is something all Sri Lankan Catholics should keep in mind if they want to live peacefully, and not think that their allegiance lies with the Vatican which is a part of the Western Powers.

  3. Raj Says:

    Self appointed advisers to the politicians must disciline their own creed before telling the government what not to do.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    The Buddhist Elders in each Province should form Committees to decide on a course of action to clean up the Sasana. The Elders should work together with the Buddhist Temples in their Provinces, and together with the ACBC & other Buddhist groups, they should arrive at a island wide consensus on a course of action to strengthen the Sasana according to the Teachings of the Buddha. The Elders & the Buddhist Temples in each Province should be held answerable to the behavior of each Buddhist monk in that Province.

    Meantime, Meditation should be made mandatory for all Buddhist monks. With proper Meditation, Wisdom will arise in our Buddhist monks, and then they may be able to teach the lay people the art of Meditation.

    Please don’t forget the 500 yrs of Colonial Rule in Lanka, as opposed to only 52 yrs Independence, it is hard to erase foreign negative influences, whilst keeping in the positive ones.

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