Buddhists must strictly follow the teachings of The Buddha (AFP)
It’s the responsibility of religious leaders and authorities to spread love and peace
The Sri Lankan economy would face repercussions if the Sinhala community boycotts Muslim businesses
As mentioned in Verse 9 of the Dhammapada, a person wearing a saffron robe, carries with him a great responsibility
As of late, those donning yellow robes, seemed to have crossed paths with politics. A very recent example was the speech made by Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera, the incumbent Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter during the declaration of a Buddha statue at the Diyakelaniwala Kithsiri Mewan Temple.
Two highlights of his speech have drawn heavy criticism from many sections in the society.
A surprising speech
“I feel sorry about the future of this country. But I heard that Chamal Rajapaksa is going to contest the Presidency and that is something we can be happy about. I also invite Mayantha Dissanayake to join hands with Chamal and help safeguard this country. The future looks bleak. After Gamini Dissanayake’s era we haven’t witnessed a solid leadership. UNP members don’t love this country. The Sinhala-Buddhist community needs to be protected and that is the mission of all bhikkus (monks). We always preach so as to safeguard Buddhism. It isn’t that we were silent, but we have expressed this concern to every leader we have met. Recently I met a UNPer and I told him that the UNP has no future in this country and they are the main reason behind the downfall of this nation.
“The Muslim community doesn’t love us. In his speech Mayantha Dissanayake asked us not to ostracize this community, but I would ask you all to boycott these businesses and even refrain from eating at Muslim restaurants. It is quite evident that they were a community that planned to poison the Sinhala community. I feel that those who have had meals from those shops would not be able to have children in future. We all know the heroic deeds done by one Muslim doctor. Because of him thousands of lives our children are at stake. Such individuals shouldn’t be allowed to live in peace. Some ‘upasaka ammas’ said that he should be stoned to death. I wouldn’t agree with this, but that is exactly what needs to be done. Laws and regulations don’t apply here because if a Sinhala person did it, his flesh would have been ripped off. So we need to get together as one community and there’s no point in voting for colours and parties anymore. We need to elect the most suitable candidates to Parliament. So let’s get together to safeguard this country and protect the Sinhala-Buddhist community.”
At a time when religious hatred is pushing beyond limits to incite communal violence, it’s the responsibility of religious leaders and authorities to spread love and peace. In this backdrop, the Daily Mirror spoke to several factions who shared their concerns as follows.
Refrain from listening to such baseless preachings : Dambara Amila Thera
“I condemn this statement as it is extremely racist,” said Ven. Dambara Amila Thera. “Such statements are against the principles of Buddhism. He is the person who said that this country needs a Hitler and when the Aluthgama riots happened he also said that he didn’t like Ven. Gnanasara’s tone, but added that his mission was good. Hence, I urge Buddhists to refrain from listening to such baseless preachings.”
"We always preach so as to safeguard Buddhism. It isn’t that we were silent, but we have expressed this concern to every leader we have met. Recently I met a UNPer and I told him that the UNP has no future in this country and they are the main reason behind the downfall of this nation
- Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera
Economy would face repercussions if Muslim businesses are boycotted : Muslim Council
Speaking to the Daily Mirror , Sri Lanka Muslim Council Spokesman Hilmy Ahamed said that a very unfortunate statement had been made by a respected leader in the religious community. “This shows that he has been misled by those with vested interests. As Muslims we can’t go and speak to the Buddhist clergy, but it’s up to the moderate Buddhists to explain to him the result of such extremist Buddhist remarks. On the other hand the Sri Lankan economy would face repercussions if the Sinhala community boycotts Muslim businesses. We get petroleum from Gulf countries and if sanctions are imposed the country would face a immense loss. Hence, we condemn the statement made by him and we are certain that he has been misled.”
Religious leaders should promote love and peace : Dr. Saravanamuttu
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives said that this statement should be roundly condemned by all concerned factions. “It is unfortunate to see a key religious leader making such remarks.
There’s a rule of law in this country and we have legislature against hate speech. So whatever needs to be done, needs to be done. Religious leaders are there to spread the words of love and peace and not call upon and encourage disharmony. But this is absolute hate, in fact he’s advocating politics of hate, hurt and harm.”
"We need to elect the most suitable candidates to Parliament. So let’s get together to safeguard this country and protect the Sinhala-Buddhist community
- Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera"
Shocking to see a Buddhist prelate advocating extreme violence : Dr. Harsha
In his comments, UNP Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva said that disciples of Buddha should be spreading the teachings of the Enlightened One and advocating non-violence. “But it is really shocking to see a Buddhist prelate advocating violence and in this case, extreme violence. As Buddhists we all must exercise restraint and Buddhist priests must strictly follow the teachings of The Buddha. As mentioned in Verse 9 of the Dhammapada, a person wearing a saffron robe, carries with him a great responsibility.”
He should have promoted harmony instead of a further divide : NBF
“I was surprised to hear the Mahanayake of the Asgiri Chapter making such a statement,” opined National Bhikku Front Secretary Wakkamulle Uditha Thera. “We at the NBF are of the view that although the voice is of the prelate’s, these thoughts have been fed to him by certain people with vested interests. Although he is putting the blame on the entire Muslim community, it is those Muslim officials who provided information to our security forces and helped in locating the culprits. It was through this information that they unearthed swords and other weapons. The terrorists should definitely be punished, but not the entire Muslim community. The prelate should have made statements that promote harmony among communities rather than further divide them. We need equality and what is important is to ensure the safety of all citizens at this juncture.”
Urgent need to protect the teachings of the Buddha : Fr. Iddamalgoda
Expressing his views on the prelate’s statement, Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda representing the Colombo Archdiocese said that as a Mahanayaka he has gone against the teachings of the Buddha. “On the other hand there seems to be a strong movement to convert genuine Buddhists to Sinhala Buddhists. Therefore other religious leaders too have a tendency to fall into that trap. As such there’s an urgent need to protect the teachings of the Buddha from Sinhala Buddhist extremism.”
Activists demonstrate outside the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy (AFP)