“The influence of Candy in these settlements is founded on Buddhism”
“The influence of the priests is very great, even greater in many instances than that of the Modeliars themselves.”
Foremost place, Protect and Foster clauses are a disadvantage to Buddha Sasana
Above are two excerpts from two letters written by Governor Fredric North to Lord Camden in England in February 1805 and Governor Maitland to Eden, GA Matara, in January 1807, respectively.-[Candy:Kandyan Kingdom;Modeliars:means Mudliyars] –courtesy: National Archives
The guardians of ‘Sinhala-Buddhism’, though the notion itself is an anti-Buddhist phenomenon, wants the special safe guards provided in the Constitution for Buddhism intact while protesting against the laws to be enacted concerning the overall discipline of the clergy. They think these should be best left to religious leaders than the government bring about a Theravadi Bikkhu Kathikawath (Registration) Bill to help the Mahanayake Theros to discipline Buddhist monks! ‘Run with hare and hunt with hounds’? They are supporting two opposing views, causes or beliefs at the same time.
Englishmen Robert Percival’s account of bikkhus in the 19th Century Kandyan Kingdom says, “…they are called ‘Tirinanxes’ [terunnanse] and are held in high estimation at Court of Candy…the King has no authority over them, but endeavors to get their good will by respecting their immunities, and loading them with distinctions.”
Undoubtedly, growing indiscipline within the ranks of the Sangha is alarming and is a serious matter that needs urgent attention of all Buddhist. The way some monks behave is unpardonable; they bring discredit to the Sangha Sasana. The veda hamuduruwos, astrologers, car dealers, devala owners, exorcists, computer specialist, bio-chemists and tuition masters in robes all those identify themselves as Buddhist monks. There are hundreds of university teachers drawing six figure salaries out of tax payer’s money, they travel in luxury vehicles accorded to them under permit scheme. Few of them live outside the traditional temple avases in luxurious ashrams. Some are directly indulging in dirty politics while not only the poor dayakas who suffer with no proper food or shelter, but the silvath Sangha living in remote temples as well. Lot of people seem to have got unnecessarily excited over the proposals without even bothering to study them; they include columnists as well.
‘Sangha’ means community; it refers to the community of disciples of the Buddha, the bikkhus.
The Sangha is an object of veneration among Buddhists in Sri Lanka, in addition to the intrinsic importance, from the very inception bhikkhus have an indispensable relationship with the laity and state. The credit for protection of the ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ state and culture against intimidation from alien hostility and internal power struggles over the millennia had to be vested upon Maha Sangha. Though the community still enjoy substantial influence over the administration of the sequential matters of the state devoid of political office, they cannot contentedly dominate the position any more in the present political context.
Their obvious failure to realize the inevitable processes of change applicable to all ‘conditioned things’ including the Sangha sasana has created a psychological trauma in them. True, they deserve respect as monks, but the basic principles of the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha; sympathetic consideration, non-violence and compassion can be spread more effectively without using the selfish expression of ‘Sinhala Buddhist’. This unparalleled message of moral principle is of enormous value that we need to share with the rest of the world population.
Foremost place, Protect and Foster and Buddha Sasana
In the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka chapter II under Buddhism, Article 9 says, 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 Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).,and under Chapter III - Fundamental Rights;
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion., -Article 10. Says, every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.-Also in article 14 (1); (e) --Under Freedom of Speech, assembly, association, movement, &c., that, Every citizen is entitled to -the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching.
What does Protect and Foster means?
Protect: Webster says, to cover or shield from injury or destruction and Foster; it says, affording receiving or sharing nurture or parental care, while Oxford Concise explains Protect as, keep safe, defend, guard; and Foster; to promote the growth or development of, have affectionate regard for...;
By “…shall be the duty of the State to protect”; politicians have been tasked with the delight of trying to inspire discipline not only to the Sangha, but to the Sasana as a whole. The term ‘Protect’ is an appendix copied down from Kandyan Convention of 1815, which the Colonial office gladly included as article 5: “The Religion of Boodhoo…is declared inviolable, and its Rites, Ministries and places of worship are to be maintained and protected.” [State the chief whip?]
Ven Walpola Rahula Thero commenting on the clause says, ‘…the correspondence exchanged between governor Brownrigg and Colonial Secretary in regard to this clause appears to be voluminous , and reveals the concerted secret efforts of the British Government to destroy Buddhism in spite of its pledge and to spread Christianity…”—‘Heritage of Bikkhu’-1974;pp-83/84. The British Empire new that they have to have the Sangha community under control if they were to govern the country peacefully—that is why they blissfully included the clause in the Kandyan convention of 1815—Who knows, Ranil, the well-read crafty politician may have got the idea from island’s historical records.
At a time the government is busy working on compiling a new Constitution, suspicion grows among a section of people, the proposed legislation is only an attempt by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe to warn the Sangha to refrain from campaigning against specific articles already drawn up? The authorities should handle the matter with utmost care not forgetting that the Sangha boast of a long history and a reputation up for struggling against tyrannical administrations both of invading forces and post independent regimes in their own style. As long as the above clauses are included in the Constitution, the state enjoy a right to intervene in sasana affairs. The NGO brigade and its academic, the US, Asian Human Rights Commission, AI, Human Rights Watch and UNHRC are silent on this occasion does not mean all of them are ‘anti-Buddhist’ as some believe, but perhaps they do not intend to intervene or interfere in a matter purely specified in Black and White in the country’s Supreme Law!
Article 5. --Kandyan Convention of 1815
During the early stages of British rule, both before and after the signing of Kandyan Convention of 1815, the Colonial masters learnt that the unity and solidarity of the nation lies with the close relationship between Maha Sangha and people; and that it had to be destroyed if the colony was to be governed peacefully. What we have highlighted at the beginning is few examples of many documentary proof available in support of the above claim. Today the biggest impediment to sasana is generated by the Nikhayas or sects which are divided on lines of caste; The supreme council of some Nikhaya openly violate basic Buddhist principle attributed to division of human race based on caste, race and gender; how can they expect the young monks down the line to adhere to a disciplinary code?
Foremost place for ‘Buddhism’ in the context of how it was practiced today marred by divisions based on caste creed race and gender is a desecration of Dhamma as taught by Buddha. There are a few religious extremists and racists appearing in saffron robes who are madly following ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ extremism and intolerance, though the large majority are not conscious of such fanaticism. Today there is no organized strength for sangha as they are not under an authority. Scattered into numerous small groups under various labels under their own guidance they act according to their whims and fancies. There is no single authority for a monk to seek advice or accept responsibility. As expected by Buddha, observance of self-discipline the only possible answer. Was it Buddha who initiated all these vinaya rules needs thorough exploration and research–to draw just one example in favour of above idea; in the case of Sagatha Thera, who was found fallen at the entrance to Kosambi castle when Buddha happened to walk in with a team of bikkhus after pindapatha rounds.
The script says, the householders served several cups of homemade wine, an intoxicating drink on the advice of a mischievous character who tried a prank on the monk who was new to the area. Buddha added and imposed a new rule prohibiting monks from consuming any intoxicating drinks henceforth. If the fifth precept ‘abstain from substances which cause intoxication’ was already there, naturally, it should apply to Maha Sanga as well. And a comprehensive code of ethics, the Vinaya pitaka if existed this important clause cannot skip the mind of Thathagatha; which goes to prove that both presumptions are erroneous. Buddha may have added a new rule as and when he came across an instance where a bikkhu behavior called for such action apart from that a comprehensive Vinaya pitaka as found in the scripts could not be attributed to the Buddha who never believed in forming a organization or an institution to run the show. Furthermore, interpretation of the rules, differs between the Mahayana and Theravada traditions. The Gauthama Buddha specifically declared that he intends no replacement of heads to ‘run’ the sasana, instead prescribed treating Dhamma as the foremost guide.
Ananda Thero on succession
The Chief Minister of Magadha questioned Ananda Thero, while the Buddha was lying in death bed after announcing his parinibbana, if the Buddha had nominated one of them to lead the Sangha; Rev Ananda said, “No”. Next question, if the Sangha had appointed anybody for the position; Ananda replied, “No”. The CM was baffled, asked, “Then what is the basis for Sangha unity?” Ananda thero answered, “Officer, our refuge is Dhamma”, we are not without refuge. We have the refuge of the Dhamma, because the Buddha had admonished us to treat the Dhamma- Vinaya as our master. The Buddha vehemently emphasized the value of one’s own confidence rather than compliance to an established position that provide interests of an institute. The Dhamma cannot be branded with any ‘law of the land’ for it is reality comprehended by one’s own independent labors. The precepts, five, eight, ten and thricotica are nothing but self-imposed conventions of conduct for chosen practice founded on personal understanding; There is no complying with a set of rules to be observed or face consequences. Sangha does not depend on any central authority control, apart from law of the state applicable to any citizen . There are occasions of scoundrels in robes causing confusion having penetrated the sasana.
Centuries ago monks who violated rules were disrobed and palmed over to state authorities. Why is it that today there is no proper means to restraint monks when they behave in harmful unruly ways? Can we handover the task of cleaning the sasana to the state? The Maha Sangha will have to put their own house in order without seeking assistance from lay authorities. The Dhamma requires each and every individual to work out their own liberation from agony through insightful observance of the real nature of things. Critical examination before accepting was encouraged by the Buddha while addressing the young Kalamas which is well acknowledged:
“Kalamas, it is natural that you have doubts, perplexity; Kalamas, do not go by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. By the authority of scripts, nor by the amusement in speculative views, or by seeming potential, nor because of ‘our teacher’ who said that. But, Kalamas, when you realise yourselves that these are unwholesome, wrong and bad, give them up … And understand that certain things are wholesome, good, accept and follow them.”
The said Kathikawath are archaic and need amendments. People labeled as ‘low caste’ are not entertained in the Siyam Nikaya; it is compulsory that the person responsible for TOOTH RELIC has to be a Kandyan Govigama; these are just two issues to be resolved by the honorable Minister coined ‘Maha Pragnaya’ [by his supporters, I believe during election campaign] before implementing the proposed Kathikawath Bill: the State is under obligation as per the above clauses to prevent any discriminative practices within Buddha Sasana; it is also obliged to care for all religions without prejudice or unfairness and ensure the choice of religious belief to each citizen. Secularism is normal in statecraft. It is the state, not the Buddhist Order that should decide on the validity of restricting these holy positions to a particular caste-creed of Buddhists o instead of opening them for all Buddhists in the island to compete for; that is the Dhamma.