Manapa seekers, take a lesson from the teachings of Buddha

By Sita Kulatunga

Happy indeed we live
Friendly amidst the hostile
Amidst the hostile we dwell
Free from hatred
- Dhammapada 197

Ours is a time of trials, tribulations and turmoil, twisted and turned by falsehood, pretence, greed and hatred. It’s a Visala Mahanuwara, devastated by epidemics far worse. While technological advances and digital marvels grin on a side, inefficiency and poor administration and above all, lack of respect for the human being and human life mars everybody’s record. Yes, yours and mine, too, because we do nothing about it.

It needs a Buddha, a Christ to make each one of us pause a moment and look into ourselves. Character is fate and fate is character. We must take our Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or Islam conscience to task, Buddhist most of all, not because it is the state religion or the majority’s faith but because its founder was the MAN who went into the dark depths of the human mind to explore the motives behind human action and reaction, attachment and renunciation.

The shining Buddha image in the temple shrine room screens that uniquely intelligent limitlessly compassionate man who walked from village to village sleeping in the ginihalge looking for those who needed help, understanding and a bit of kindness. What I earnestly and respectfully request our venerable monks is to come forward and show our laymen and women how to walk the path of metta, mudita, karuna and upekkha.

Do this in the Buddha’s way even if you do not possess the strength he nurtured from bhavayen bhavayata. Massive, formidable campaigns are not necessary. When preaching to your upasikas do not (forgive me) use flowery or tearful stories. Preach in such a way that would appeal to the intelligent young. At least try to make potential politicians understand how vengeance, craving, lust and pride can bring ruin to the electorate.

Learn from the few young monks who are such stores of knowledge, like Ven. Adikarigama Santha Sumana and Kukulpona Sudassi or Ajan Brahamavamso. Do not take offence, be modest and self effacing like the Great Sariputta to whose creed you belong.

Another amazing aspect of these times is what some politicians ‘preach’ to the clergy as well as to the laity. They are seen (sometimes talking of Vaitulyawadaya and Mahavihara) visiting all kinds of Hindu Kovils. Are they Buddhists – why on earth are they splitting coconuts to bless some and curse others?
Is Kali Amma a Buddhist deity?

Who are these heretics with tops bare who mislead our young generations? Some who should know better, I am sure were caught in the whirlwind of hatred, ambition and tanha unleashed lately. Buddhists never think or say shapa veva even to Devadatta. Even if the one who is nearest to you is killed or tortured the Buddhist does not curse any one. The Buddhist will spread metta instead.

In the weeks to come, we are bound to be assailed by tons of crude political rhetoric and their printed versions. And they are bound to breed more and more hatred. I hope our candidates will take a little time off and read about samma vaca. I would like my M.P. (manapa winner) to be a man/woman of few words. If he must talk he must talk sense, make me feel that the man has thought about what he is going to do. I wouldn’t want to feel that he has picked up that bit of religion or history only yesterday. Do not talk of Sangha bedha and invest this political dirt with an ecclesiastic significance, it does not deserve.

We do not need a dharma sangayana now and the people would not wish the government or the ministry of Buddha Sasana to spend a lot of money in these hard times when communication technology has provided us with diverse means of clarifying the points made by atuwa acharyas (commentarial literature). Do people who talk of a sangayana know what they exactly want? It is to reinterpret Vinaya rules, perhaps to forbid the acceptance of dana such as Mercedes Benz cars.

A Mercedes is fine but if a monk would use it to visit abjectly poor villages and go talk to the people it is finer. An asapuwa (as the fashion goes) with all mod cons is fine too. The Buddha had no qualms about accepting Jetawanaramaaya, or Visakha’s Purwaramaya. That is not important - what was important was that Suneetha, the low caste as well as the princes of high castes and women had admittance to the fold.

One thing that a sangayana could do is to eliminate caste requirements for ordination which some chapters still insist on. Things change – The Buddha said and we see it, that all conditioned things are anitya - impermanent. Then why are we frightened of change, why do we hesitate to change what is wrong. With His Sarvana Gnanaya illuminating His prannawa. He said:

na jaccha vasalo hoti
na jaccha hoti brahamana,

Are we such cowards that some of our chapters ignore it? Tradition too is subject to change.
Instead of Sangha Sangayana, I suggest that some religious or lay-body in authority would call all the prospective parliamentary candidates to a workshop/meeting where they will be made to think of the responsibility they are undertaking. Let them ask themselves ‘why am I really coming forward, is it to serve the people, the underprivileged particularly or is it to amass so-called luxuries, or send children to universities etc

If he feels that he can’t resist a big hotel in a foreign land and would still like to impress his relations by taking them to a cosmopolitan one and having a party there, he or she should step out. Let them learn to respect our poor people and their money and remember that at least some villagers are more knowledgeable than they think.

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