Bhikkhus behaving badly?
Posted on November 8th, 2020

by Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana Courtesy The Island

Rather than discoursing on the profound truths expounded by the Buddha, some Bhikkhus have specialised in telling stories. Worse still, they are spreading canards the latest being that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. Though I would love for this to be true, unfortunately, there is no archaeological evidence even to support that the Buddha visited Sri Lanka, leaving aside being born here. The excellent article by Bhante Dhammika of Australia printed in this newspaper proves with archaeological evidence where the Buddha was actually born (Was the Buddha born in Sri Lanka? Sunday Island, 25 October) but I am sure these Bhikkhus and their supporters would disregard archaeological evidence and concoct their own.

Fortunately, caste is a fading entity in modern society only politicians and bhikkhus attempting to keep it alive. I need not dwell much on the utterly disgraceful practice of perpetuating the caste system by some Nikayas, as I have discussed this in detail in my article Have we let down Gautama Buddha” (The Island, 8 May 2020) except to ask the question: Is it not the height of hypocrisy to deny ordination on the basis of caste when the Buddha decreed that it is not birth but actions that decide whether one is an untouchable or a Brahmin? (Kammna Wasalo Hothi, Kammana Hothi Brahmano)

We will take trade union action in 48 hours, if our demands are not met” was the recent rallying cry of a trade union leader, in the midst of a grave national emergency, which shocked me for more reason than one. Though the initial grasp in controlling the Covid-19 epidemic seems to have been lost, for whatever reason, and the problem in Sri Lanka is nothing compared to what is happening in the rest of the world, around 300 dying daily of the deadly virus in UK, still we are facing a grave situation as our battered economy is not likely to withstand any more challenges.

In this situation an implied strike, to say the least, is grossly irresponsible. And what is this trade union? A nurses’ union. Are they not supposed to be healing angels? Who is the leader of this union? A Buddhist Priest! Has he forgotten what the Buddha said: Health is the greatest gain” and He who would minister to me should minister to the sick”? For a Buddhist priest to even suggest risking patients’ lives is the greatest insult that could be done to the ‘Compassionate One’ who introduced the concepts of ‘Metta, Karuna. Muditha and Upeksha’.

It is a great shame that nurses in Sri Lanka, who are second to none, are not able to find a member of their own profession to lead their trade union. In the country that produced the first female prime minister in the world, is there no lady with leadership qualities to lead the union of a profession still largely dominated by women? It indeed is an outrage for a Buddhist priest to be lead a trade union, nursing or otherwise. Obviously, he is politicking as his latest offer is to lead the opposition to the government! Is he trying to replace Sajith?

It is true that Bhikkhus have come to the rescue of the nation at times of national peril but that does not entitle them to play a part in daily politics, which some of them are doing in various guises. At least partly due to the efforts of one Buddhist Monk who took to a ‘political clean-up campaign to get rid of Rajapaksas’ we had to endure almost five years of a rotten Yahapalanaya, unfortunately. Now another group of Bhikkhus are attempting to dictate to the new government. In fact, one of them had the audacity to state in a press conference If they want to amend the constitution, they should get our permission first”! Have they forgotten that the government is there to carry out the will of the people, not that of the Sangha? Let them be reminded that Sri Lanka does not belong to them, nor to Sinhala Buddhists alone, but to all citizens.

Bhikkhus entered the parliament and behaved as disgracefully as other elected ‘honourable’ politicians. There were brawls in the well of the House. Disappointed Buddhists stopped voting for Bhikkhus though a party which was formed by them got a seat on the national list but the debacle that followed can only be equalled to antics of the now-doomed UNP! Did the Buddha get involved in politics? Did He go round doling unsolicited advice to the rulers? Definitely not. He maintained a distance and recognised the fact that rulers had to make unpalatable choices at times. He gave advice only when sought. In contrast, some of the modern day ‘political priests’ not only attempt to be king makers but also threaten to bring down the government when it refuses to do what they want, often personal favours. By the actions of a few, unfortunately, the entire Sangha may be tainted as there are many with hidden agendas who are keenly waiting for any opportunity to discredit the Sangha.

I have heard rumours that some Bhikkhus are charging for Bana preaching in various guises. They are selling the Dhamma! However, first-hand confirmation of this came with a recent conversation I had with one of my very dear friends who, unfortunately, lost his daughter to cancer: When the Hamuduruwo, a renowned preacher whom I invited for the Mataka-Bana sent a message that he needs Rs. 25,000 I was shocked. I had only Rs. 15,000 cash with me which I sent”. This Bhikkhu discharged his noble responsibility for a fee! I am told some others insist that they need their own sound system and charge for that; a simple ruse to sell the Dhamma! We get enraged when a Buddhist exhibits a tattoo of the Buddha but venerate and encourage these businessmen in robes!

I am reminded that Ven, Walpola Rahula accepted invitations for Bana Preachings on the express understanding that no pirikara was offered. In his writings he mentions how guilty he felt after receiving an umbrella after a Bana preaching. He feels he may have indicated that he needs an umbrella but from the time he received it, every time he looked at it, guilt overcame him, that he had sold the Dhamma. I can well understand devotees desire to make an offering as we are made to believe that it adds to our good karma. Just to satisfy that desire if a Bhikkhu accepts a pirikara, perhaps it may be construed as harmless but to preach for profit is totally despicable.

Maybe, I am paving my path to hell by writing this as some Bhikkhus say that criticizing the Sangha is an unpardonable sin. Perhaps, the Buddha may not agree with them had He been alive today. Not only that, He would have been shocked and dismayed by what some members of the Sangha is doing in His name. The greatest achievement of the Buddha is empowering us to seek our own destiny; freeing us from any supernatural overlords. He gave us freedom of thought and laid the foundation for the scientific basis of analysis of questions. He walked miles and miles, most likely barefooted, around large parts of India to pass on His message to all and sundry, explaining in terms each group understood. During his travels, on most nights, the Buddha would have slept under a tree gazing at the night sky above with the vast universe beyond. His bed would have been nothing more than a folded robe. In contrast, what do some of His followers do today? They live in opulence, boast of enlightenment, seek power and profit by selling the Dhamma. What a great shame?

2 Responses to “Bhikkhus behaving badly?”

  1. ranjit Says:

    Great article. You can write an encyclopedia about today’s Maha sanga, their behavior & also the enormous damage they have brought to this great religion. There are young monks who were not fit to be called buddhist monks at all by their looks & their lifestyles. Some were acting like Thugs, hoodlums, Union bosses trying to hijack people elected governments. Their irresponsible behavior brings shame to this great religion. Govt or Maha sanga Saba☸️🙏 should make some guidelines for bhikkhus & try to bring these Devadattayas in line to save Buddhism in this country. Majority are buddhists in this country. They always sought the blessings of Lord Buddha when they are in sorrow & happiness. People listen to Bana Pirith to get rid of their worries & troubles & to bring solace to their hearts & minds. We as buddhists must not encourage buddhist monks to come into politics as they have a very important duty to accomplish after they become a monk. Great religion must be protected at all costs from racists separatists & extremists & specially from rogue organizations who were trying to disgrace Buddhism & Nayaka Theros who were doing a great service by promoting Buddhism around the world.
    Ven Muruthettugama & Alle Gunawansa,Amila Dambala,Galaboda likes cannot be called buddhist monks but political slaves who do their businesses thru the money provided by various NGO’s around the world. Citizens who sincerely believes in Lord Buddha & his teachings must stand together to save Buddhism in the future🙏☸️🇱🇰 on

  2. Nimal Says:

    Who care where this noble person was born but it is his teachings we must respect and practice without exploiting his good name for material and political purposes. We should practice his teachings without worshiping concrete symbols which have no relevance. My wife inherited a very old temple in the Fareast where we respectfully removed the symbols and it is now a place of shelter in many ways to the people.

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