Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Anunayake Thero of The Amarapura Dhammarakshitha Nikaya
Explains "Difference Between Buddhist Monks & Clergy of Other Religions"

--------Translated By The Centre for Buddhist Action----

Brief Explanation:

For too long Buddhists in Sri Lanka have been watching how our Buddhist Clergy has been duped into believing that Clergy of all religions are the same & it is no secret that this idea has been "marketed to them" by anti-Buddhist Christian sectors in this country. They abhor the supremacy offered to Buddhism & Buddhist Clergy in this country and the high respect with which they are treated which naturally offers a very special place to them in Sri Lankan society. It is no secret that with the arrival of Ven. Mahinda Thero from India to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka during King Devanampiyatissa's reign that the entire Island Kingdom went through a process of transformation which brought tranquillity and peace together with which ancient kings also became righteous rulers during whose reign this country became a prosperous country which produced many marvels which even today awe many a foreigner who enters and sets foot on our soil.

This transformation began to crumble after the entry of western colonial powers commencing from the arrival of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British because they began their systematic conspiracies to convert Buddhists to Christianity by instilling fear and through acts of favouritism towards those who embraced Christianity. It is the colonial powers that left this island divided and in conflict with their "divide and rule policies" to hurt Buddhist feelings in the country.

Since 1977 after the JR Constitutional changes and the "open economic policies" whereby he gave a free hand to Christian or Church backed organisations to enter this country and engage in a free for all unethical conversion campaign against Buddhists and Hindus, Christian elements in society have been gradually marketing their hidden agenda of making all religions the same or still better "multi-religious" and "multi-racial" in this country. Unfortunately for Buddhists, there are some Buddhist Monks who have deemed it fit to hob-knob with these anti-Buddhist and anti-National elements and think it is fashionable to be seen in the midst of Christian gatherings. Knowingly or unknowingly, these Buddhist Monks have begun to "dance to the tunes" of Christian & Evangelical tunes" and become their cat's paw and mouthpiece. This is exactly what the anti-Buddhist Christian elements want( we make a difference here because there are still wonderfully decent Christians in our midst)- that is to create dissention among our Buddhist Monks by creating controversial issues by which divisions among the Maha Sangha will be created with an eventual obvious split.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka under Rev.Father Sarath Hettiarachchi's authorship has also compiled books for Dhamma School children (this implicates specifically to Buddhist children because Christian Scriptures cannot be considered "Dhamma" even though they make this attempt) called "Bibalayen Saha Jathake Pothen Mathuwena Lama Katha "( English translation would be " Children's Stories Arising from the Bible and Jathake Stories") the intent and objective being to thrust Christian stories on our unsuspecting Buddhist Dhamma School children with their slogan of " building inter-faith understanding and harmony among the younger generation in this country."

Another insensitive attempt this time by the Catholic Church was the recent much publicized and hyped up CD launch of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso of the Apostolic Media Centre, Katunayake where he aggressively "sold the honourable name and image of late Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero" on all his advertisements and posters throughout Colombo and outside to announce the launching ceremony held at BMICH on 19th July 2008 through which he hoped to draw large crowds of young Buddhists into BMICH and distribute his Christian Sermon on " Life After Death and Karma" by inviting very well known Sinhala singers to perform at this function.

In this backdrop, the interview given by Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Anunayake Thero of The Amarapura Sri Dharmarakshitha Maha Nikaya on the difference between Buddhist Clergy and Clergy of other religions is extremely timely,vital and revealing. It is also very much appreciated and we are grateful to the Venerable Monk for taking the decision to make public clarification on a topic which is very much misinterpreted today. We trust that Monks reading this article will understand that they have been misled by "their Christian brethren" who truly do not have sincere and honest feelings of good-will towards the Buddhist Clergy. Our Buddhist Monks do not need to "feel privileged" by towing the lines of Christian Churches. They must maintain their self-respect and dignity at all times and also maintain the high respect the command in our society.

A translation of the interview /discussion made by Ven. Ananda Thero is given below by The Centre for Buddhist Action for the information of readers be they Buddhist Clergy/laymen or representatives of other religions in Sri Lanka as it appears in the "Dinamina" Sinhala daily newspaper of 28th July 2008.

Translation of "Dinamina" Sinhala Daily of 28th July 2008 (page 14) :


In the face of modernization in today's Sri Lankan society is it necessary for the Sangha community of this country to make changes? What are the problems facing the Maha Sangha in our society today? The right for an individual to follow a religion of his/her choice and whether or not a Buddhist Monk must stand up when the National Anthem is being sung? This article is a documentation of a discussion held with Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Thero on the aforementioned themes.

Q: In the history of modern day Sangha Society, the late Ven. Palane Sri Vajiragnana Maha Thero was a highly respected and pioneering Monk. In the background of The Vajiraramaya concept which he nurtured, pioneered and established was born a noble Sangha culture to which highly respected Monks such as Ven. Narada Thero, Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Thero, Ven. Piyadassi Thero, Ven. Ampitiye Rahula Thero and Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero belonged. They were able to further develop this Sangha culture of Vajiraramaya to which you Venerable Sir also belong. Could you kindly explain this Vajiraramaya Bhikku concept please?

A: Venerable Palane Mahanayake Thero after completing his Pirivena Education at Vidyodaya Pirivena, Colombo Dayakes of Bamabalapitiya invited and conducted him to a place then well known as "Dharmasalawa" and established him there. Vajiraramaya started from thereon. He had great expectations to establish a disciplined Sangha community which strictly adhered to the Vinaya rules. He placed a lot of attention and importance on The Vinaya. He was able to train a highly disciplined Sangha community subsequently due to the fact, that he himself led an extremely exemplary life Among the contemporary Sangha community of the times, to have such disciplined Monks within one Temple/ Aramaya was a special feature. The general public at the time were able, not only to witness the disciplined and distinct style in which he walked, spoke, conducted Dhamma discussions, and chanted Pirith but also the special manner in which he wore The Robe

They had a tradition of following a written set of Vinaya rules in the footsteps of their senior Monks.. The idea of a Vajiraramaya concept due these reasons.

Q: Is this tradition being practised even today?

A: These rules and traditions are yet largely applicable even today. To state honestly, it is a common practise which existed within the Sangha community and is not something special. After Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Thero and Ven. Ampitiya Rahula Thero started the Maharagama Bhikku Training Centre, this tradition was further strengthened and developed. In more recent times, Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero was able to make a special contribution towards this tradition.

Q: Is it not true that in today's Sangha community, there is a tendency to go beyond this tradition and move towards a more modernized concept?

A: This aspect is not relevant only to the Sangha community but also to the entire society at large. We do not necessarily need to be stuck in traditions. When I say this, I do not mean the Vinaya traditions. There is no harm in modernizing according to the acceptable norms of the lives of the Maha Sangha. In terms of education, computer training and other social and cultural aspects there is a necessity to look beyond traditions and adjust accordingly. The important thing is to be able to find a balance between modernization and Sangha traditions and ensure that one does not over-ride the other. We must always keep in mind that we belong to TheMaha Sangha. We must always keep in mind that it is our prime duty and responsibility to remember that we need to protect our special Sangha traditions and identity.

Q: Is Justice Being to Done to The Facts Stated Above With the Current System of Education for Bhikkus?

A: This is a very complex topic. Even today Vidyodaya, Vidyalankara and similar Pirivenas follow a course of studies suitable to Bhikkus by placing importance of what is suitable for Bhikku education. It is a heartening fact that these institutions place importance on Pracheena subjects. Even in the Bhikku Education system there is a need to make some amendments. It is important to give priority to the study of The Tripitaka. It is necessary for us to return to a path of education which will help to enhance the role of Bhikkus and their duties and responsibilities towards the Bhikku community and makes it more meaningful. It is also important to give priority to Bhikku Vinaya and related concepts. It is only then that the character building of a Bhikku will be successful. Today when we pursue higher education and university education we tend to forget the role of a Bhikku. Some young Monks are caught up in political storms and get pushed away. This is the fault of the education system. They get carried away into the commercialized / materialistic world of the layman. This happens due to the deterioration of Vinaya. We have to acknowledge the fact that this deterioration accelerated after Bhikkus became involved in party politics. It is indeed heartening to note that there still is a section of the Bhikku community that is not caught up in this.

Q: Apart From The Above Mentioned Aspects, Are There Any Other Problems That Have Arisen?

A: What do you mean by that?

Q: For Instance, What Must a Monk Do When The National Anthem is Being Sung and Similar Issues?

A: That is a issue that has cropped up very recently isn't it? It is only after we gained Independence that we got a National Anthem, isn't it? No leaders or responsible members of The Sangha Community, has ever stood up for the National Anthem up to the current day. It is important to understand why this is so? It is not because a Bhikku does not have patriotic sentiments or loyalty towards our country. It is because of the respect shown toward the more important role played by a Monk.

There are two reasons for this new idea. One reason is that there is a tendency to think that while the Clergy of other religions stand up when the National Anthem is being sung that is a demeaning act for The Maha Sangha to remain seated. The other reason is the thinking behind the fact, that when Monks live abroad and the National Anthem in those countries are sung they are required to stand up. In that case if Monks must stand up for the National Anthem while they are in foreign lands, why is it that they cannot do it in our own country?

Numerous are the things done by the Clergy of other religions which the Maha Sangha do not follow. They not only stand up for the National Anthem but they also sing along with the others. When invited guests light the traditional oil lamp at a function, when silence is observed on behalf of our brave soldiers, when a State Leader arrives or departs they also stand up. As an accepted practise they also shake hands when they meet someone to welcome them for a function. At this rate, it might be required for the Maha Sangha to conform by those practises as well. The confusion has been caused because even some members of The Maha Sangha have not understood the difference between the words "Puujake" and "Puujya."

Q: Can It Be Considered a Wrong Act for A Bhikku to Stand for The National Anthem? Isn't He Patriotic?

A: No, it is not considered to be a wrong act for a Bhikku to stand up but there is a tradition which needs to be followed. The life of a Bhikku is one which conforms to certain disciplines or norms. Partaking of meals or drinks whilst standing, is not against the rules. That is done while being seated because it is important to remember to maintain a discipline and proper behaviour. Even the laymen when they Observe Sil, they too follow the same practises. There are some rural folks who will pay homage to a Bhikku only after he is seated. It is clear then, what the laymen expect of the Bhikkus.

The second reason is that, it is not that a Bhikku doesn't have patriotic feelings. It is only an accepted practise. When a person gets ordained and enters Monkhood, he leaves sheds everything in his lay life behind him such as his name, caste ,creed etc.(" Purimani Naamagothani Jahanthi"). Thereafter, he takes on the name of a "Sramana Shakya puthra" That was the decision of The Buddha. After entering Monkhood, we do not even worship our parents, we pay homage and worship only The Triple Gem. There is no worship for the Motherland. A Bhikku leads a life far removed from lay life and leads a much more elevated life than that of a layman. Therefore, it is not suitable to coin a "patriotic terminology" around a Bhikku. It is therefore necessary to rethink how accurate and relevant terms like Jathika Bhikshu Peramuna and Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya are.

This must not be misunderstood. Even though patriotism related to a Bhikku is thus, today the responsibility of inculcating a sense of patrtiotism and loyalty towards one's Motherland has fallen on the shoulders of Bhikkus. It has become essential that a Bhikku advises the laity on good social behaviour such as morality, education, economics and health. This is done like a Lotus Flower coming out of the muddy waters. It is done through a process of mental, verbal and physical disciplines.

Recently, The Vice Chancellor of the Sabaragamuwa University who is a Venerable Monk has stated that it is alright for a Bhikku to stand up and greet a State Leader. This is not in-keeping with the role of a Bhikku, it is an act of wilful undermining of the respect, Buddhist traditional practises and due respect commanded by a Bhikku in this society. In that case, why is it that the State Leader worships even a small Samanera Bhikku? Even though small, the exemplary character/ personality exhibited by Nigrodha Samanera by remaining seated on King Dharmashoka's Throne, is a good example for our Bhikkus of today to think about.

Q: According to the UN Charter on Human Rights, A Person Has The Right to Follow a Religion of His Choice. Therefore, Within One Country If Many Religions Are Being Propagated- There is Nothing Wrong- Is there?

No matter what is stated in the UN Charter on Human Rights, it is quite evident that preaching religions have other hidden agendas to it. A good example is how those human rights organisations are working in this country regarding the terrorist problem.

Anyone is permitted to follow one's own religion. That has been stated even in our Constitution. However, this is not what is happening in our country today. What the Portuguese, Dutch and British during the colonial eras did to convert Buddhists through cruel and suppressive methods, today is being done shrewdly in the name of "relief operations." There are certain western powers that are engaging certain NGOs and Christian Multi-national companies to expand conversion activities in the entire Asian region. Even countries like China, Korea and Japan which claims to be Buddhist culturally, are today being caught up in this conspiracy. Sri Lanka and India are two big targets that they have. What human rights is there when Buddhists are being converted by cheating them, lying to them and by using forcible conversion methods? This is why it is necessary for Buddhists to rise up against unethical conversions of Buddhists in this country.

The only country in the world that has a Sinhalese Buddhist cultural discipline is Sri Lanka. There are many countries that follow other religions in the world. Therefore, it is also a just cause of human rights, for us to prevent anti-Buddhist forces that enter our country in their attempts to destroy our Sinhalese Buddhist heritage. It is very important for us to be alert because there is a conspiracy against us to conduct unethical conversions coupled together with Tamil terrorist activities and destroy this country. Many of those who champion the cause of human rights in this country are themselves involved in this conspiracy. They call themselves peace brokers, human rights activists but tThose who oppose them are termed as extremists, nationalists and those with an "island mentality. This is the situation in this country today.

Reported by: Iroshini Deepika

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