Communal and religious reconciliation in the future
Posted on March 12th, 2018

By Rohana R. Wasala

I was prompted to write this short piece as a complimentary (and complementary, perhaps) comment on Shenai Waduge’s excellently informative article titled Power of institutional religions – Christianity and Islam against Buddhism and Buddhists” (12/03/2018).

Religion usually involves absolute belief in and mandatory worship of/praying to some mysterious supermundane/supramundane power (that happens to be interested in the day-to-day affairs and the ‘moral’ conduct of human beings/ worldlings (other apes, even the chimpanzees who share over 99% of the human genes, are excluded). The ultimate purpose of religious faith and worship is the postmortem emancipation of each individual from the alleged unsatisfactoriness of or suffering involved in worldly existence. So, religion is ultimately concerned with the ‘spiritual’ goal/s of the individual, which cannot be shared or jointly experienced, just as you can’t eat for someone else. But the everyday experienced reality is that religions are usually manifest or active more as political than as spiritual systems. Christianity and Islam  are typical examples of religion as politics; they are the most widely professed religions in the world today. These two intrinsically political religions have been responsible for much conflict, hence much suffering, in the world for many centuries. Though Buddhism is wrongly considered and observed as a religion at a popular level, the greater its intrinsic insistence on the self-realization of the ultimate truth within the existing lifetime itself, the less it resembles a religion. It represents a nonviolent but formidable challenge and an effective antidote to the immoral destructive power of fanatical religion. Religion is not a mode of knowledge, it is instead pure obscurantism; science is the only way to knowledge. Spirituality is to do with psychology and hence it is a subject of science. Meditation is practical science. At any age, science represents empirical  knowledge about what lies inside the human mind and what lies in the rest of the universe outside it, which is infinite.  Buddhist spirituality recognizes this. The formula of the Four Noble Truths is one of the earliest examples of the scientific method in the history of knowledge/science (i.e., in terms of epistemology). That life is suffering is scientifically true; but, it is also true that the suffering can be overcome. Religion, however, offers no solution. But religion is a strong political force. Hence the politically and militarily powerful Christian West and fanatical Islamic sects in certain economically powerful Gulf states are hell bent on destroying Buddhism and peaceful Buddhist nations.

As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, though Christianity  or Catholicism is not close to Buddhism, Christians and Catholics undoubtedly are, on the average, friendly towards Buddhists under the prevailing nonaggressive  Buddhist culture. Unlike Islam in general, Christianity lost its original violent intolerant nature inherited from primitive Judaism under the osmotic influence of Indian spiritual traditions over the centuries, as has been recently discovered, as well as through deliberate reform. But Christians could be stronger ‘spiritual’ allies of Muslims as the latter include them among the ahl-al-kitab (People of the Book). Hindus are not greater enemies of Buddhists than are Christians and Muslims. Actually Hindus and Buddhists are greater friends as fellow non-religionists. (Buddhism is not a religion; Hinduism has lost most of its ‘religion’ under the influence of Buddhism. The reader may listen to Indian ‘Mystic’ Sathguru on You Tube, if they have not done so already and hear why he says Hinduism is not a religion. He says that Hindu sacred texts are characterized more by philosophical debate than by religious faith. ‘Mystic’ is an entirely non-descriptive name for Sathguru; probably he hates being called that.) However, in the past Hindus were instrumental in driving Buddhism out of India, in fact, more so than the invading Muslims, who were mortal enemies both of the native Hindus and Buddhists.

The fast growing Islamic fundamentalism in Sri Lanka is likely to be recognized as the common enemy of the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Catholics, and even the majority of ordinary Muslims, and they will all be required to make a common stand against it. Right now, ordinary Muslims are being used to support the Tamil separatist cause and a few of them to embrace the fundamentalist ideology. But in the long run, Sri Lankan Tamils who are more than 90% Hindu and the Sinhalese who are similarly predominantly Buddhist, supported by traditional Christians and Muslims, will be united as one camp against the great evil of Islamic fundamentalism,  thereby immensely contributing to the reestablishment of accustomed communal and religious harmony.

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