Reflecting on ‘Clergy in politics’

29 October 2019 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The role played by monks in politics has been condemned

 

The above headlined editorial in The Daily News of 15th Oct., should be considered very important and noteworthy and action by authorities, wherein it says “Two leading members of the clergy of the country’s main religions have frowned on members of their flock taking to politics. The Viharadipathi of Mihintale Rajamahaviharaya Ven.Dr.Walawahengunawewa Dhammarathana Thera has enjoined all Buddhists in the country not to even entertain any member of the Sanga when approached seeking their votes. The Sanga has no ‘Paksha’ [Political Party]. Their only ‘Pakshaya’ is Poojaka Pakshaya [Religious calling] …..views in this connection were echoed to a degree by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith who said he was looking forward to the day when religious leaders would not be seen seated like flower pots at political events”. I would also add His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had arrogantly said that no political leader should meet him and all 225 members in Parliament should be sent out. Whether these statements boarder on politics is another matter. As for refusing to meet political leaders it could be called as unbecoming or not expected of a spiritual, but his abhorrence in the clergy taking to politics should be admired.

 

To buttress the statements, it is considered best to quote from a book ‘Sir D.B.Jayatilaka Biography’ by Dr.Nandana Wijesekara where that famous national and Buddhist leader had said of monks taking to politics –“ When he was informed that there were such stories of Bhikkhus entering politics he said ‘ I cannot believe the news that the Viyalankara Pirivena would be a party to such an unbecoming effort. I cannot even believe the story current in the country that any monk associated with Viyalankara Pirivena were hoping to enter the State Council. If the Pirivena gets mixed up with politics, the strong bonds of my firm trust and devotion binding me to the Pirivena would be severed”.

 

Do we not see the deplorable situation when Buddhist monks are charged in courts for criminal offences, such as illegally retaining a baby elephant, as alleged, allowing temple premises to be used as political offices

 

Now attention to the provision the Constitution regarding Buddhism which says – Chapter II- BUDDHISM – 9. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Article 10 and 14[1][e]. Though the intention is good, what has happened in practice. Buddhist prelates, have made this provision a political issue to seek personal favours, as politicians know the Buddhist monks have influence over their devotees to win at elections. This has resulted in Buddhist monks neglecting their religious duties and going behind politicians. My personal experience is that when I went to a famous Rajamaha Viharaya in my locality and complained to the Chief Incumbent, who is no more after a tragic death, and a state recognised one as that, a monk in his temple refused to issue me a Pirith Noola. He to my horror said that tying Pirith Noola has become a nuisance and hinders other work. What other work, I could not understand, but it could be indulging in politics as he was one who distributed Sil Redi and conducted Bodhi Pooja at the last Presidential Elections, supporting a particular candidate. This shows to what extent Buddhism has fallen into and also the Sasana, so much so that some call them ‘Men in Yellow robes’. It is a hilarious sight when politicians attend temples, kovils, Churches and mosques, the monks or priests bless them by placing holy relics on their heads, in case of Buddhists and place shawls round them by other priests, knowing fully well that the politician is only acting to show that he is religious and the ulterior motive to get the priests to canvas votes in his favour. Would it therefore not be prudent for the Government to delete this provision from the statute, and allow religions to be safeguarded, fostered by respective religious dignitaries, such as Mahanayakas, Archbishops, Kurkals, Imams etc.

This provision also makes the monks to place the onus on the state to promote and foster Buddhism and wash off their hands of that responsibility. Do we not see the deplorable situation when Buddhist monks are charged in courts for criminal offences, such as illegally retaining a baby elephant, as alleged, allowing temple premises to be used as political offices, encouraging strikes by nurses in hospitals who care for helpless patients , rousing communal feelings and flout the laws of the land. It is hoped that religious dignitaries pay heed to what Ven.Dr.Walawahenawewa Dhammarathana Thero and His Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith plea is seriously considered to give religion its revered rightful place, by which the people could be disciplined, thus leading to a peaceful and prosperous country.

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