On Monday, Lanka’s second largest monastic order for Buddhist monks, the Amarapura Maha Nikaya, banned all monks belonging to its Chapter from engaging in any form of political activity forthwith. In a far ranging decision taken by its Executive Sangha Council, Buddhist monks of the Order will no longer be allowed to participate in protests, [...]



Amarapura Nikaya bans politics for rebel monks


On Monday, Lanka’s second largest monastic order for Buddhist monks, the Amarapura Maha Nikaya, banned all monks belonging to its Chapter from engaging in any form of political activity forthwith.

In a far ranging decision taken by its Executive Sangha Council, Buddhist monks of the Order will no longer be allowed to participate in protests, satyagrahas, demonstrations and any other activities that may possibly involve clashes with the police, unless special permission has first been obtained from the Council.

This is welcome. With the advent of the Jathika Hela Urumaya into the nation’s political scene in February 2004 certain Buddhist monks have deemed it fit to step into the hurly burly arena of political mud wrestling and have not emerged from it smelling of roses. While portraying themselves as the guardians of Sinhala culture and religion they have succeeded only in besmirching the cultural tradition of according to the saffron robe the highest honour and respect. They have exploited the reverence to the robe to further advance their own life styles led contrary to the Buddha’s rules for monks. All they have to show are the privileges steadily acquired and the perks earned steadfastly guarded by joining hands with the government.

They opened the floodgates and with their foray into politics have made other monks more militant in their outlook, more demanding in their manner and more impatient to achieve their ends, step outside the civil perimeter of social norms and laws and use violence as a justifiable means to achieve their objectives contained in their own secret political agenda with the robe as a protective cover to escape retaliation.

The last three years have seen the rise of organisations such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Sihala Ravaya and the Hela Bodu Pavura who arrogated to themselves the right to be the moral police and the self appointed watchdog of Buddhism and to inflict criminal damage to property and assault and battery upon people of other religions with brazen impunity. For far too long has the Government remained apathetic over this saffron terror, the Police remained inert over the blatant violation of the criminal laws of the land, and the Maha Sangha stayed silent over the debasing of the noble Buddha Sassana.

Finally the elders of the Amarapura Nikaya have had the courage to lay down the Vinaya rule as decreed by the Buddha, “the monk must not involve himself in activities of the laity’ and may the elders be blessed with the fortitude to implement their decision no matter the opposition from any quarter.

And opposition has already arisen. On Wednesday the JHU held a news conference and a monk contesting the western provincial council elections this month defended the right of monks to engage in political activity, stage protests and contests elections by referring to the days of ancient kings. Without inquiring as to whether instances of monks staging demonstrations or attacking shrines of other religions are recorded in the Mahawansa or not, suffice to say follies committed in the past do not justify its present repetition.
The people do not revere the monk because he is championing a political cause however great and noble but solely as a person trying to become the master of his ego and transcend the limits of his conditioned fate. It is for that reason that the laity see to the materialistic needs of the monk and provides him with alms for his sustenance so he could, in solitude’s joy, untouched by the mundane chores of daily existence, be free to probe the nature of all life’s terrible woe and, following unhindered the path of the Buddha, discover eternal bliss.

But what does the rebel monk do driven by the political beast in him? He squanders the opportunity presented before him in this birth, which so few merit and gain. He mocks the good fortune bestowed upon his unworthy self. He rejects it in disdain. He spits on it with contemptuous scorn.

Like pearls before bovine he derides it for he cannot fathom its inestimable value and, like a blood sucking leech, craves, grasps and does not let go the perpetual sorrow found in desire’s web of delusion; and despite the once-in-a-birth chance proffered on a merit filled platter to find welcome release, creeps back to the condemned habitat ensnared by its deceit, enticed with its goblet of intoxicating desire and enthralled by the grandiose spectres Maya creates to beguile him with transient sensual pleasures. In the process he defames himself and defiles the Buddha’s sublime message.

The wisdom of the Buddha’s decree that a monk should pursue his calling and leave the laity to follow their vocations shines with the light of truth when one considers the obstacle course the layman’s life insidiously holds to bar one’s spiritual progress. For the life of the lay is the breeding ground of desire which sprouts sorrow and, irrigated by temptation’s waters, the flesh eating plant’s vicious tendrils flypaper trap all who visit it. Those few fortunate enough to find release from its binding sticky grasp should be wise not to return to become once again samsara’s prisoner.

If the monk is not happy being a monk and he believes that his calling lies elsewhere he is absolutely free to leave the robes, and still has the option of rejoining the order at a later date when he is ready.

But will these rebel monks leave their robes to take up political activities or to contest elections? Never. They know that shorn off the reverence and awe the robe garlands them with, devoid of the aura of infallibility and immunity the robe cloaks them with, they are nothing but sallow faced men trying to tweak their political gibberish with a smattering of incomprehensible Sanskrit stanzas for which no one would give a fig leaf let alone a meal.

Bereft of the robe their violent actions would immediately result in them being rounded up by the police and locked up without anyone shedding a tear or feigning an outcry. The robe is their sword which they use to attack without fear of reprisals; the robe is their armour of immunity which they prostitute without remorse; and, without it, revealed in the raw will be the naked hollowness of what they have to offer for society’s benefit.

The Amarapura Nikaya which was established in 1803 came into being as a protest against the Siam Nikaya’s decision in 1764 of granting ordination only to those of the Goigama caste. It was the first monastic lineage that did not owe its creation to royal patronage and was both independent of government and royal power unlike the Siam Nikaya which was founded with the blessings of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe in 1753.

Closely tied as it had been historically to its patrons in the middle class, today the Amarapura Nikaya has answered the call of all right thinking Buddhists of Lanka by issuing a decree banning politics for its member monks and thus ensuring that the Vinaya Rules as formulated by the Buddha are strictly adhered to.

The Siam Nikaya, the largest sect which comprises the powerful Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters, and the Ramanna Nikaya should follow suit at their soonest and thus ban wayward monks, emboldened by the boundless respect the laity confers upon the saffron robe, from usurping with impunity the privilege to attack other faiths and places of their worship in the name of protecting Buddhism.
Continued silence and failure to issue such an edict would be tantamount to tacit approval of a political role for monks and all the attendant vile consequences that will flow from it in direct contrast to the teachings of Gautama the Buddha.

The charge of Lanka’s heavy brigade


Lanka begins her Geneva charge with her heavy brigade of ministers, MPs, top civil servants and the President’s secretary to counter the US sponsored assault on her human rights record with the result of its mission a foregone conclusion.

Carrying the flag will be the External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris with the leader of previous delegations to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe demoted to carrying the baggage; glad perhaps he would not be the harbinger of the inevitable bad news that awaits the Geneva outcome on March 28.

In what has become an almost annual religious pilgrimage to the Mecca of the world’s human rights shrine, the progress of the pilgrims will be hampered by the failures of the foreign ministry to lay the ground work vital to make the journey worthwhile, a task made more difficult by the reluctance and procrastinations of the government to implement recommendations of its own home grown LLRC. The world has grown weary of hearing the repetitious hymn; and the long litany of excuses droned out in supplication have fallen on plugged ears deaf to pious prayers made without repentance.

No doubt the Lankan Heavy Brigade to Geneva faces a formidable challenge, nay, an impossible mission, and any harboured pipe dreams of returning home from Geneva with Pillay’s scalp in the hand luggage are doomed even before the Geneva flight takes off from the KIA tarmac tomorrow.

This year Navi Pillay has issued an ‘explosive’ report after her visit to the island in August last year and has reiterated the call “to establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged violations of International Human Rights Law”

Lanka’s reply has been to state that Pillai’s reiteration “reflects the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which she has relentlessly pursued with regard to Sri Lanka” and that it “demonstrates her persistent efforts against Sri Lanka.”

Be that as it may that Navi Pillay is possessed by a hate obsession towards the Lankan Government and is driven by a demonic force to crucify the nation’s leaders at all cost, what is clear is the ever-present danger of the US including her call in their resolution.

Only once in the history of the United Nations have an international inquiry every been held and that was against Israel in 2009. With the powerful Jewish lobby in the US, the Israelis managed to weather the storm. But does Lanka have the wherewithal to endure a protracted battle against the international community?

Can she even get her message through to those who matter?

This serious drawback was glaringly revealed when Lanka’s eleventh hour envoy, the President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunge no less who flew three weeks ago to Washington found to his utter dismay that all doors to the high offices had been closed to him and how the LTTE had hired the Podestal group with John Podestal having the ear of the President and the administration. “So the LTTE is well placed. No question about that. The Government is unable to come to terms with that,” he said.

While a US blacklisted terrorist organisation could inveigle its way using front organisations to hire the best firm in the business the Lankan embassy could not do so not because the sovereign government was destitute of finance but because her ambassadors were bankrupt of vision.

With such a terrible handicap which the Tamil Diaspora has gained by its astute choice of hiring a top lobbying firm with direct access to the Oval Office, Lanka’s chances of getting our own message through and receiving a sympathetic hearing seems slim, nay nonexistent. That is the price we have to pay for wasting time playing to the African gallery attempting to persuade the domestics in our favour while the enemy sits in the royal box with the master and his closest advisers, pouring in their ears the black vitriol of anti Lankan propaganda.

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