The Vinaya Pitakaya is the sheet anchor of the Buddha Sasana: the Noble Order of Bhikkhus. It’s a book containing club rules which new initiates to this elite preserve that commands the respect of the laity are duty bound to adhere. It’s the compelling Code of Conduct the Buddha laid down and declared all monks [...]


‘Cheevara Saranang Gatchchami’ BBS boss in jailbird’s ‘jumperey’


The Vinaya Pitakaya is the sheet anchor of the Buddha Sasana: the Noble Order of Bhikkhus. It’s a book containing club rules which new initiates to this elite preserve that commands the respect of the laity are duty bound to adhere.

It’s the compelling Code of Conduct the Buddha laid down and declared all monks must follow; for if they transgress, they may well end placing the honour and patronage extended liberally to the entire Buddhist clergy at risk. But it was not limited to that alone. It was also a manual for the moral development of a monk’s mind.

Its importance in Buddhism is marked by its presence in Buddhism’s Basket of Three, which forms the complete collection of the Buddha’s teachings. The first being the Sutta Pitakaya, containing the sermons the Buddha preached during his 45 years of missionary work; and the third the Abhidharma Pitakaya which holds the deep philosophy the Buddha expounded.

The second book, the Vinaya Pitakaya is solely for monks, for those who had entered the order and are disciples of the Buddha, rules which the Buddha gradually devised twenty years after his enlightenment when the occasion so arose and the need to instill discipline into the order became necessary. For without discipline no order can survive for long and no monk can achieve his final goal of attaining enlightenment.

It has 227 rules and amidst it are rules as to how a monks should conduct himself vis-à-vis a woman. Though codified in the Vinaya Pitakaya, the following will serve to illustrate how a Buddhist monk should conduct himself in the presence of the opposite sex.
The Venerable Ananda was held by the Buddha foremost amongst his disciples and valued him for his erudition, his retentive memory, his ministering care, his steadfastness and his good behaviour. The Venerable Ananda was also the chief proponent of women’s rights who persuaded the Buddha to admit women into the Order.

TRENDING STYLE: Protest held at Fort on Tuesday to demand convicted Gnanasara’s release from jail

One day he approached the Buddha and asked,
‘Lord, how are we to conduct ourselves as monks with regard to womankind?
The Buddha replied: “By not seeing them, Ananda.”
“But if we do see them,” Ananda asked, “what are we to do?”
“Do not talk to them, Ananda”
“But if they should speak to us, Lord, what are we to do then?”
“Be very watchful, Ananda,” the Master replied.

And it was this failure to follow the advice given by the Buddha to Ananda and abide by the rules of conduct to be followed by all Buddhists monks as laid down in the Vinaya Pitakaya that landed Bodu Bala Sena chieftain Galagodaaththe Gnanasara in jail last week convicted of the offence of criminal intimidation against a woman.

Not that Gnanasara was any stranger when it came to the use of expletives to express his rabid thoughts and racists emotions. Pampered as he had been during the last regime, it had become second nature to him and he had grown accustomed to flinging abuse like confetti to foul the air against all who stood in his bigotry’s path. He had used it as a verbal weapon against the Muslims in his rampage against them; he had used it against politicians, against lawyers and even against other Buddhist monks. Now he had done it against a woman who had come to court seeking assistance to find her missing husband.

He sought refuge neither in the Buddha, the founder, nor in the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings nor in the Sangha, the Arahants who had followed the Buddha’s philosophy and attained enlightenment but refuge in the ‘cheevara he wore — the sacred robe of the order of monks — to conceal his second skin and serve as a shield and an armour of immunity from prosecution whilst spouting filth on others not knowing, perhaps, he was spitting on his own shroud; and revolting the reverence of the robe he so frequently sought protection and refuge in.

Like the proverbial koka or crane which, cocksure of beak, knocked on countless sturdy trees and flew away uninjured till it pecked on the seemingly malleable plantain tree and came a cropper, so did Gnanasara get his pecker inextricably entangled when he unwisely chose to knock his bill against a middle aged woman desperately seeking information about her journalist husband who had mysteriously vanished without trace eight years ago during the Rajapaksa regime.

BODU BALA CHIEF: Out on bail pending appeal

On January 25, 2016, the Homagama magistrate heard a habeas corpus case regarding the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda six years before. The wife of the missing man, Sandhya Ekneligoda, duly attended the proceedings in court. She had every reason to be there. After all she was the main petitioner in her quest to discover the whereabouts of her husband. But what was the Bodu Bala chief Gnanasara doing there? Of course he had every right as any member of the public has the right to attend any court proceedings as a spectator. But this was not his usual patch of turf, now was it, to haunt unbidden.

Shortly after the hearing was over, Mrs. Ekneligoda left the court room and stepped out to the precincts of the court. She was accosted by the Bodu Bala chief Gnanasara who let his venom pour – for reasons still unknown – and gave her the best of his foul tongue that may have sent shivers down Mrs. Ekneligoda’s spine. She filed a complaint alleging criminal intimidation.

Gnanasara’s words itself “your husband is a LTTE Tiger, you go now and beg on the streets’ uttered in the choicest Sinhalese, may seem not to have per se amounted to assault or criminal intimidation but, perhaps, considering the evidence presented before his court during the last two years of the trial, the Homagama Magistrate, in his wisdom, deemed it fit to find Gnanasara guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation on May 24th this year; and, ten days ago on June 14th, sentenced him to a year’s term of rigorous imprisonment, reduced to six months as punishment.

But if Gnanasara had been harmless as a neutered pussycat whilst roaming free in the island’s broad acres during the Yahapalana three years, he was turned overnight into a pseudo Sinhala lion when caged behind bars on judicial orders ten day ago.

Never mind his conviction. Never mind his sentence. Never mind that it was a competent Sri Lankan Court of Law which heard the case against him for over two years and pronounced judgment and sentence, a certain radical sect of Buddhist monks cried havoc and dared to unleash on the streets the brutes of anarchy, in the name of Sinhala chauvinism and Buddhism.

But in so doing, they also helped raise many questions as to the role and robe of a thoroughly modern day monk. Whether the robe is a licence to challenge the law of the land with impunity and scarce regard to the rule of law?

The first issue stems from the Vinaya Pitakaya, which holds that if a monk does not wear the robe for a continuous period of ten days, he relinquishes his right to don it thereafter.

A hue and cry was raised over whether Gnanasara being forced in prison under the prison ordinance to shed his saffron robe and wear the prison uniform jumper instead, was a done thing to do to a member of the Order of Bhikkhus. And whether it was a conspiracy perpetrated by the government to disrobe him and deny him of his one and only refuge, the cheevara, if not for which he would have, most probably, been behind bars a long time ago for his rabble rousing seditious talk and his seeming participation in attacks on Muslim business establishments.

No wonder the faithful Bodu Bala cadre made such a fuss over Gnanasara being compelled under the law to forego the privilege of wearing the robe even though they had not uttered a word in protest when the fifteen or so Buddhist monks presently in prison for various offences had been forced to comply with prison rules and exchange their robe for the jailbirds’ jumpers. So why the exception? Why the kid glove treatment to Gnanasara? What made him special? The flavour of the month?

As Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Atukorale said on Tuesday any person convicted by Court should wear the prison jumper as provided by the Prisons Ordinance.

She said: “As far as I understand, under normal circumstances a monk can be disrobed at his own will. The sole authority to decide on such a matter lies with the specific monk or the relevant Nikaya such a monk belonged to. The Government has no authority to decide on such matters. All citizens should abide by the law under an independent judicial system. The Prisons Ordinance provides the means of dealing with those who are sentenced to prison followed by a Court verdict. The Prisons Department is governed by the Prisons Ordinance. Under the Prisons Ordinance, any person serving a prison sentence followed by a Court verdict should wear the prison jumper and it was in no way connected to any religious bias.”

Correct. And if anyone holds otherwise, it is the one who holds that the laws of the land should apply on a selective basis and not equally. But that is really not the problem here in this instance. It is from where did those monks who pronounced that Gnanasara would lose his right to don his robe at the end of the prison term get the notion from? They say it’s from the Vinaya Pitakaya. But does the Rule Book say so?

Pardon for asking, but do these self same monks have ever read the 227 rules in the Buddha’s Book of Code of Conduct for monks and if they have done so, do they follow it or only pay lip service to it in the manner today’s Parliamentarians do to their own nonexistent Parliamentary Code of Conduct?

For whilst the Vinaya rules may well indeed say that if a monk who does not wear his robe for a continuous period of ten days he will lose his right to wear it thereafter, pray say where the rules state that the same will hold true and apply even in instances where forces beyond his control deny him the choice?
Take for instance the present case of the chief incumbent of the Kataragama Kiriwehera Rajamaha Viharaya Ven. Kobawaka Damminda Thera who was shot twelve days ago and who is presently warded at a private hospital after undergoing surgery and now recuperating, dressed in sanitary clothing on doctors’ orders. Has he lost the right to wear his robes on complete recovery? Of course not.

Or take the case where a monk is kidnapped and stripped of his robe and held for ransom for more than ten days. Does he lose his right to resume wearing the robe upon release? No.

Take the case of the monk who having transgressed the law of the land and is condemned to prison and compelled to shed his robe and instead don the prison jumper, lose his right to wear the robe after serving his sentence? No, unless the Sangha Sabha determines he is not fit to be an accredited member of the order and strip him of his robe.

The rule only applies when one gives up the robe on his own accord, on his own volition and not when some external event beyond his power compels him to shed it. But today, with the court granting bail to Gnanasara pending his appeal against his conviction, the issue, for the moment, is only academic now.

The second issue concerns the example set by the Bodu Bala priests following their chieftain’s incarceration for intimidating a woman outside court for no reason. Their reaction was to travel to Seenigama Devalaya, which lies off the coast of Seenigama, situated on a small rocky islet. It’s a Devalaya where Devol Deviyo is the reigning deity. Apart from its other merits of providing succour to those in need, it has also gained a reputation as a place where many come to seek vengeance against their enemies.

The Bodu Bala monks arrived there this week with one singular purpose in mind. To curse and damn all those who had been involved in jailing their beloved burly leader. It was a repugnant spectacle to see photographs of Buddhist monks dashing coconuts cursing all who had played a hand in sending Gnanasara to jail. The question that must be asked is whether this is an action worthy of monks who seek refuge in the robe and profess to practise Maithree or Loving Kindness even to one’s own enemies and show Karuna or Compassion to all beings as the Buddha extolled.
But neither must the Homagama Magistrate or the state counsel who prosecuted or anyone else who had a hand in the Gnanasara affair need worry. Those who come seeking vengeance to this island shrine must come with clean hands for their curses to bear fruit or else it will only boomerangs on the one who curses sans justification.

The third issue is the question of all citizens, irrespective of their race, religion, creed, caste, colour or the attire they wear being equal in the eyes of the law. Many tended to hold that the mere fact of Gnanasara being a Buddhist monk had no bearing on the legal issue at hand. But some held otherwise. And one notable monk was no less than the Secretary General of Asgiriya Chapter Venerable Dr. Medagama Dhammananda Thera.

He was to have told a deputation from Bodu Bala Sena organisation last Sunday that the views of Asgiriya Chapter regarding the imprisonment of Venerable Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera the government had taken such severe action against the monk to satisfy international forces and the non-governmental organisations.

According to him the Roman-Dutch law that existed in Sri Lanka could be twisted according to whims and fancies of the rulers. It was a serious matter in a Buddhist Country which had given pride of place to Buddhism, Ven Dhammananda Thera was reported to have told the BBS.

With all respect to this venerable monk, does he think that all laws of whatever brand or origin are not subject to interpretation that English law in England is not interpreted. That American law in the States is not interpreted. That the home baked indigenous mother of all laws, the Sri Lankan Constitution is not interpreted as a matter of course in the Supreme Court of Lanka. But they are all interpreted according to established rules, procedure and precedents. Unlike the Buddha’s laws on how a monk should conduct himself as contained in the Vinaya Pitakaya is not only interpreted but twisted today to suit the needs of the times, one notable example being the Buddha’s strict rule that no monk should accept money, not even to buy a robe to wear – a vinaya rule now blatantly ignored and generally observed in the breach.

Perhaps the Venerable Asgiriya monk should have told the Bodu Bala delegation that if a monk does not violate the laws laid down in the Vinaya Pitakaya for monks to abide by, no monk will ever find himself accused, placed in the dock, convicted and jailed for violating the laws of the country.
And that it’s the inner conviction he bears that makes a man a monk, not the outer vestment.

Buddhism knows no Popes: Lanka welcomes no HitlersSirisena saddened by Asgiriya monk’s call for a dictator


There are no Popes in Buddhism and each monk is free — whilst being a member of the Noble Order of Bhikkhus — to find his own path to gain the ultimate. Provided, of course, he remains true to his upasampada vows and follows the Code of Conduct the Buddha laid down in the Vinaya Pitakaya for his disciples two thousand five hundred years ago.

As with this overall freedom for monks within the confines of the rules of discipline, so it is for the laity. For the lay, Buddhism knows no blasphemy. No burning at the stake for daring to question the Buddha’s theory of life. On the contrary, the Buddha exhorts all to question his teachings and then and only then, if convinced of its truth, to follow his doctrine. No gulps forced down the throat with hell fire at the end if one is not convinced. No sin attached for questioning. No barbequed corpse for the crime of entertaining even an iota of doubt.

In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha makes this explicitly clear.
He says:
“Come, O Kalamas, do not accept anything on mere hearsay (i.e. thinking that thus have we heard it from a long time). Do not accept anything by mere tradition (i.e. thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations). Do not accept anything on account of rumors (i.e. by believing what others say without any investigation). Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything by merely considering the appearances. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your preconceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable (i.e. should be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (and therefore it is right to accept his word).


“But when you know for yourselves — these things are immoral, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to ruin and sorrow – and then indeed do you reject them.

“When you know for yourselves — these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness – then do you live and act accordingly.

“As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it (on a piece of touchstone), so are you to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me.”

So much for there being no popes in Buddhism who can speak for the entire Buddha Sasana. But do Lankans welcome the prospect of being governed under the jack boot of a local Hitler?

Thus it was indeed surprising that a Buddhist monk belonging to the Asgiriya Chapter should make a call in the midst of his senior brethren to state that Lanka needs a Hitler who with the aid of the military should usurp power from a democratically elected government still to run its course and, ruling with an iron fist with the power of arms, make the land a better place to live in. Thankfully he did not say that in order to dawn a new thousand year Lankan Reich, what he thought the final solution should be.

Informed of it, President stated he was indeed saddened by the call of Ven. Venduruwe Upali Thera, Anunayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter, who sought a return to an era when citizens were deprived of their basic human rights and any dissent was immediately crushed.

“We have restored the freedoms of the people, and media freedom. In fact, these freedoms are being abused and we are attacked without any fear of reprisals, unlike in the past.”

Perhaps this monk, too, should find in the scriptures, the spirit of freedom of thought and action that exists in the philosophy and teachings of the Buddha.
For his easy reference, here is a quote from Lord Zetland who wrote in his book The Legacy of India: “And it may come as a surprise to many to learn that in the Assemblies of the Buddhists in India two thousand years and more ago are to be found the rudiments of our own Parliamentary practice of the present day.”

The Vinaya Pitakaya cannot but be impressed by the democratic constitution of the Sangha, their holding of possessions in common, the exceptionally high moral standard of the Bhikkus, and the unsurpassed administrative abilities of the Buddha, who anticipated even the present Parliamentary system.

How sad indeed that a member of the Noble order should go against the democratic tradition of Gautama the Buddha’s philosophy and instead call for a military dictatorship to replace it. And, simultaneously, whilst he’s at it, instead of the many Mahanayakes of various Nikayas, would he also call for a single Buddhist Pope at the Sri Dalada Maligawe to lord over the entire Sasana and to wield an iron fist and bring discipline to the Order of monks?


Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.