Buddhist Priest and the Law.

By Charles.S.Perera

There was a news item that a monk had been remanded for the violation of the ban of the use of loudspeakers, by Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, and that bail had been refused to him for the violation of court ethics by a number of monks present in the court who did not get up from their seats when the Judge came into the Court House.

This raises the question of Buddhist Monks and the application of Justice to Monks who have been charged for violation of the law of the land. The norm is that in the eye of the law all citizens are equal and justice should take its course no matter who has been presented in Court for breach of the law.

The subject that caused the violation is noise pollution which should be the concern of every one. In Sri Lanka it had been a cacophony early in the morning with the loudspeakers blaring from the Mosques calling the believers for prayers, and along with it the Chanting of Pirith to compete with the Muslim muezzins call to prayer. It is good to have enacted laws to stop this which instead of being a normal religious practice, had become a nuisance that desecrates the religious motive behind the practice.

We should practice our religion without making that practice a nuisance to others who are not of the same faith. I think in every country in the world any noise that disturbs the neighbourhood is interdicted after ten in the night. Any excessive noise beyond a certain decibel count any time of the day is considered a nuisance, and the police could intervene to stop it.

It is salutary that such laws have been enacted in Sri Lanka. If such noise disturbance emanates from a temple the Chief Priest of the Temple is responsible. In the case of a Mosque , Church or a Hindu Temple the persons in charge will be held responsible.

In this particular case in question, it was the responsibility of the Police Officer who intervened to stop the noise disturbance, to have settled the matter with the High Priest then and there without bringing him before the Court of Law. A Priest in such a situation should not be high handed, as it is his piety and respect which is in question. However, if for what ever reason an action had been filed and a High Priest had been summoned to the court, the law should takes its normal course, and the Chief Justice who follows the "letter" of the law cannot be blamed for the consequences.

A Buddhist Monk is one of the Triple Gems whose blessings are sought by all Buddhists. Therefore, a Buddhist Priest aware of that respectable position in which he is held, should avoid confrontation with the law, and avoid being brought before a Court of Law. He should be a respecter of law, and not a breaker of it.

A Buddhist Priest is one who follows the greater law-the Vinaya, set by none other than the Sublime Buddha himself. In being venerated for that, it is his duty to respect the law of the people who venerates him.

If he is in breach of that law, he has to suffer the consequences as much as he has to follow the consequences of the breach of the disciplinary law set by the Buddha.

Then there is also another punishment of refusal of bail in this particular case, meted out to the defendant for the reason of the priests present in the Court House not standing up to pay respect to the Chief Justice when he entered the Court House.

A Buddhist Priest being a venerated person, who receives respect from others, is not expected to pay respect, by standing, bending, keeping the palms of the hands together, or kissing the ring of a pope. He pays respect only to the Buddha and the Dhamma.

In this particular instance the Chief Justice should have applied the "spirit" of the law, and not the "word" of it. The spirit of the law could have been, a piece of advice that the Buddhist Priests should avoid any confrontation with the law as the consequence of it is that they be treated less respectfully as breakers of law !

If permitted I would continue the discussion in another article.

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