Pitiduwe Siridhamma aka Siri Samantabhadra Thera of the Siri Sadaham Ashram of Bellantara is well known as a controversial Buddhist monk in the country. The Thera caused a sensation recently when he reportedly served a variety of meat at a massive alms giving held at his Ashram as part of his birthday celebrations. Following are excerpts from an interview our sister paper Sunday Lankadeepa held with Siri Samanthabhadra Thera.
By Tharindu Jayawardene
Q : How should we identify you?
You may describe me anyway you please. They normally call me Siri Samanthabhadra Thera.
Q : You became the talk of the town recently because of an unusual Dana you had offered to mark your birthday. The birthday means that you have grown older by yet another year. Some people say that it is not proper for a Buddhist monk to indulge in extravagance to celebrate his birthday.
Whether it was proper or improper warrants some explaining. Is it wrong for a layman or a bhikkhu to conduct a Pinkama in keeping with the Dhamma and the culture? People normally confine their birthday celebrations to merry making. Why don’t we conduct an alms giving to mark our birthday? We also can help poor children and also attend on the sick. We carried out such a program for about one month at our Ashram. We attended on about 1,500 patients and distributed baskets of essential goods to 350 poor families from various parts of the country. The Dana we offered, marked the climax of our month-long program. But the mass media gave negative publicity to this event.
Q : There was a variety of meat served at this Dana. Those critical about serving meat at the Dana concede that eating or offering meat produced with no direct knowledge or involvement of the self in the commission of killing the animals is permissible. This kind of meat on offer is described as Thrikotika PaarisuddhaMamsha. However, they point out that meat required to cater to such a large crowd is not normally available in sufficient quantities in the market for ready purchase. This means, they say, that animals should have been slaughteredsolely for the supply of a sufficient quantity of meat to be served at this alms giving.
Completely wrong. If you visit a super market, you will find fish and meat available for purchase in any quantity. Suppose that we had to serve about 1,500 people at this Dana. There were more than 100 different dishes. There were very rare kinds of foods among them. A food acquires an added value when it happens to be a rarity.
It does not behove a disciple of the Buddha to kill animals for food. But the Dayakas provide the kinds of foods people normally take. Both meat and fish figure among such foods. It is Jainism that advocates vegetarianism. According to Buddhism killing is wrong. It is a sin. It would be wrong for me to ask anyone to kill an animal for my food.
One could say at least 100 kilos of meat should be cooked when catering for about 1,500 people. But I must say that three kilos would suffice. Our people mostly eat vegetables, not meat. You can come and see for yourself.
Q : Our understanding is that the Buddhist monks are expected to partake of any food offered to them by the Dayakas. But isn’t it against the Buddhist tradition for the monks to demand a particular kind of food?
There are a large number of Dayakas attached to our Ashram. It is they who organise the almsgivings. They form themselves into several groups to take charge of different tasks involved. I don’t go to the kitchen to take an active hand in cooking meals. I must add that the negative publicity given by the media to us did not lead to a drop in the supply of Sivupasa (four-fold requisites) to the monks in our monastery.
Q : Some people describe you as Maithri Bodhisatwa - the great human being aspiring to attain Great Enlightenment in ages to come as the Maithri Buddha as prophesied in certain Buddhist works.
Yes, I know. Anyone can say anything. Some have described me as the Maithri Buddha in the Facebook. Some others have called me Devadatta. Nowadays, people enjoy easy access to mass media. This has enabled them to express their views for a worldwide audience. You can even announce that you are a Buddha. You have to say what you really feel. There is no purpose in repeating something you have heard from another person. Our purpose is take the Buddhism in its pristine form to the people in this country. What has prevailed in the guise of Buddhism in our society so far is Jainism.
Q : Does it mean that it was Jainism you had been professing for the last 15 years?
We carried out research. We looked for the flaws while remaining in the Buddha Sasana.
Q : Some people maintain that you have attained Arahantship. We have heard that liberating from the DasaSanyojana is a prerequisite for attaining Arahantship.
I said categorically that I am (an arahant). People were under the impression that an arahant is one who usually levitates – moves through the air. If one reads the Susima Sutta that comes in the Samyukta Nikaya, one could form an idea about what an arahant is. It explains that anyone following the Patisotagami Arya Magga could achieve the mental plane called Nibbana.
Q : When did you attain the Arahantship?
I have claimed for the last two years I am a person who has banished all mental defilements.
Q : How can the lay community ascertain that you are an Arahant?
The lay community cannot ascertain my status. May I refer you to a certain Sutta – Rajja Sutta that comes in the Samyukta Nikaya? One day when King Kosala was in conversation with the Buddha, he saw Ajeewakas and Niganthas moving through the air. King Kosala who mistook these Jain monks moving through the air as Arahants would move away from the Buddha from time to time to pay respect to them. After respecting them, he would tell the Buddha, “Most Venerable Sir, they are also Arahants like you.” Thereupon, the Buddha asked the King how could he, being a layman enjoying all sensual pleasures distinguish an Arahant from an ordinary layman. The king replied: “Yes, Most venerable Sir, a person like me certainly cannot tell an Arahant from others.”
Q : Isn’t it possible for other Buddhist monks to ascertain whether you are an Arahant or not?
Well. Why don’t they come to check my status as an Arahant? A great human being who has attained Enlightenment should be able to explain to others how he realized the sublime truth. Every human being is capable of gaining emancipation – liberation from the suffering in Samsara. Besides, the Dhamma loses its purpose if it cannot lead one to Nibbana. Buddha Dhamma is not a dead doctrine. It is quite live. Satipaththana Sutta says if one cultivates Satipaththana with diligence, one could attain the sublime plane of Anagami or Arahantship.
Q : There were certain individuals who described the Tripitakaya as three pages and also claimed that they turned the entire Chandrika wewa into one spread of ‘Pirith-water’. Is it unfair for people in a society with such dubious characters to raise doubts about your claim that you are an Arahant?
True. There is justification to doubt what I say. Sri Lankans have been living for centuries in an island. Thanks to the Internet, this island has now become a continent. This island is not good enough for the arising of a person like me. Perhaps I may have been born in this island because I was to become a ‘continent’ here.
Q : You had said earlier that you experienced certain changes in your physique at the time you attained Enlightenment. But we can’t see any changes in your physique.
Examine my figure in TV programs aired about 7-8 years ago. Compare it with my present day figure. Reach your own conclusion after making this comparison. In a sense, your body is an image of your mind. The body softens when the mind softens. The body turns rough when your mind turns rough.
This is a reality you can observe in your day-to-day life.
Q : If you are an Arahant, you ought to possess the paracittavijanannana (psychic power to perceive others’ minds) and pubbenivasanussatinana (psychic power to perceive the previous births). Do you possess such powers?
Do you want me to reveal what goes on in your mind? You may come for a chat with me one day. On that occasion, I will come out with the questions you propose to ask me. I do not wish to say anything more. Because I do not want to become a prophet or a soothsayer.
Q : Some people charge that you are following the Mahayana traditions.
Consumption of fish and meat is prohibited in Mahayana. But we offered fish and meat at our birthday Dana. Even consumption of garlic and red onions are barred in Mahayana. I correctly follow the Theravada Buddhism.
Q : You say that the Pinkamas should be colourful and impressive. You also insist that the place where you live should be kept spick and span. Don’t you think that colour and beauty meant for attraction only enhances your feeling of attachment which is a defilement?
There you are wrong. The Migaramatu mansion was a beautiful temple in the days of the Gautama Buddha. One day a certain ‘situwaraya’ (banker) had taken a very valuable doormat to be placed inside the mansion. But he could not find a place to put it as he found the doormats already available were much more attractive and expensive. Buddhist monks are expected to keep the places where they reside neat and clean.
Q : If you are an Arahant, why do you want to operate bank accounts?
Bank accounts are a great facility. Ours is a large establishment. We have to settle electricity bills. What is more important is how much is deposited in the bank accounts. Monies are meant for spending on deserving causes for the wellbeing of all.
He says he has overcome defilements but his replies are full of self and ego. Is he not basing things on nonsnese?
ranjith Chandrasekera Friday, 20 March 2015 06:53 PM
As a laymen reached end of my life time bare bit of experience and knowledge to understand people by their principles, behavior, personality etc. I have watched this person on the TV and listened to what he preach. I would like to refrain from calling him a Bikku, because he is not impressive to me as a holy person.My main concern is about consumption of animal flesh what we commonly call meat. Fish is also flesh of an animal, therefore there is no difference whether you eat land animals or the ones live in water. In his interview he has mentioned that he does not kill animals for his consumption therefore it is acceptable for him to eat meat. This person supposed to be having some academic knowledge cannot understand the fact that if he gives the message to his dayakas that he would not consume animal flesh, then they would not offer meat at all. Dayakas must understand that when purchase meat that create a demand for meat and supplier kill animals according to the demand.
Ahimsa Friday, 20 March 2015 12:44 PM
Sad state of affairs.It would be worse in time to come.
This man defends himself like a layman .These are not the words of an Arahath. The new world so called Arahaths promoted by women.
mirrorpond Saturday, 21 March 2015 10:36 AM
This so called monk is unbelievable, and has an uncanny resemblance to the infamous Buddharakkitha thera from the 1960s, see the image at the link below:http://sangam.org/2009/10/Bandaranaike_Assassination_3.php?uid=3710
nim Saturday, 21 March 2015 10:42 AM
If this guy is enlighten why does he want to brag about it. He still has a big ego. This man is a crook.Trying to get material benefits.Soon there will be claiming they have attain nirvana may be someone might say he is Pase Budhu.
Anil P Friday, 20 March 2015 05:21 PM
I am very much in line with the monk, Buddhism in current situation must offer comfort to all, Sri Lanka has the largest society of hypocrites in the world and in my estimation, 90% of Buddhist consume fish or meat. This is a much larger argument if you need to address. But when these proteins are served at an ashram, people have an issue. If these media personal are Buddhist, I want to know their status in fish/meat consumption? I am a Buddhist and eat fish/meat in moderation.
nikki Saturday, 21 March 2015 06:57 PM
Eating, drinking and married life are normal part of human life. This is the reproduction system of whole universe. Even Siddhartha was born for married parents, and he, himself had a married life. So any ideology against human nature is not practicable, and it is against the universal system.
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