Buddhist Institutions Should Contribute to Economic Upliftment of Buddhist Villages
Posted on July 23rd, 2017

By Anil Perera

Buddhist monks and activists are carrying out a campaign against threats to our religion and our culture by Muslim and Christian extremist groups. While the threats may be real or perceived, we have not taken any meaningful steps to counter that threat by helping impoverished Buddhist villagers. Christian and Muslim religious organisations help fellow Christians and Muslims with financial support when they are in need. But is there any Buddhist organisation in Sri Lanka contributing to economic upliftment of our villages?

Buddhist places of worship, especially the famous ones, earn a huge amount of money through donations and through charges levied on foreign visitors. The management of the income of these temples is carried out by the temples without any auditing or transparency. It is not a secret that only a part of this income is spent on the maintenance of the temples with the rest pocketed by the people managing the temples for their personal benefit.

This is a blatant violation of the second Buddhist percept – adinnadana veramani sikkapadam samadiyami. Use of income of temples for personal benefit of monks or lay custodians is nothing other than sacrilege and fraud.

If we use at least a part of the income of Buddhist religious places to help Buddhist villagers, not to  give them handouts, but to provide them with vocational training and also to give them micro loans for self-employment activities, then the money would be spent on helping our fellow Buddhists.

It is time that Buddhist temples take leadership to help the Buddhist population to become economically more powerful. The time and effort spent on campaigning against extremism by other religious groups are better spent on helping poor Buddhists to lift themselves up. Buddhists have the financial resources and organisational capabilities to do that. What is lacking is the leadership and the will to use our resources to help our fellow Buddhists.

Income and expenditure of all major Buddhist places of worship should be audited by an external Buddhist organisation. Any surplus income after the spending on the maintenance and upkeep of the place should be diverted to a Central Buddhist Fund managed by Buddhist monks and lay leaders who will decide on how to spend the money to uplift the poor Buddhist villages economically.

As the Buddha said in Sedaka Sutta, looking after others one looks after oneself. By looking after fellow Buddhists, we look after and protect Buddhism.

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