To change or not to change the constitution does not fall within the ambit of Religion. All Religious dignitaries should be kept away from engaging directly in politics. Let’s make Sri Lanka a secular state. If we leave all religions out of our constitution, true Buddhism would flourish again in this thrice-blessed land. Politics and religion should never be allowed to mix, for it will lead to spontaneous combustion. The astute politicians makes maximum use of this situation in order to keep themselves in power.
A section of Buddhist Monks styled ‘Maha Sangha’, recently insisted on the president and prime minister not to move forward the JVP proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution calling for the abolishing of the executive presidency, arguing it was an attempt to divide the nation.
Politicians today are only concerned in holding into positions and power and will forever revere and protect the Bikkhus to show that they are with the Buddhist majority. Should religion be above the law? Buddhist monks will carry on committing all kinds of anti-Buddhist acts under the cover of the saffron robe abusing the influence of Buddhism on the political process of the country. By their actions, they are doing more harm to Buddhism and the nation.
The way Sri Lankan Bhikkhus engage in politics or political process non-Buddhists in other countries are under the impression that Buddha was a politician and Buddhism is nothing but governance.
Today a small section of the Buddhist monks seemed to be betraying the Dhamma as taught by the Enlightened One. Just a few are intelligent enough to comprehend this fact where as a significant majority are silent on the anti-Buddhist behavior by this few monks. It is the foremost duty of the Maha Nayake Theras of the four sectors, if they are unable to discipline the Buddhist monks who breach and disobey the Dhamma values and ethics, at least name them.
No person should be allowed to hold religious, political office at the same time
Religion and government can protect and encourage one another if they travel parallel tracks but not on the same. Religion and state both require to be free and independent in order to thrive. They are most successful and effective when they protect and support one another. Any religion or religion-based Parties that enters politics should lose all state privileges and be treated as a private entity. It should not be the government’s business to promote any religion. There is also the practice of making religion compulsory at exams.
Teaching Religion in Schools
The kids should be taught basics of all religions at the primary level, so that they will on their own initiative make a comparative study of religious doctrines or principles without being automatically brainwashed to accept a religion imposed upon them by others. Buddha was specific on this aspect of understanding or comprehending his proclamation. They can learn a religion of parent’s choice at home or at Daham Pasal. Answering the Kalamas, Buddha emphasized on the importance of not accepting any teaching blindly.
To summarize the engagement: Puzzled Kalamas said to the Blessed One, “There are some brahmans who expound and glorify their own doctrines—doctrines of others they deprecate them, show contempt. Other Brahmans glorify their own doctrines, but doctrines of others, they deprecate them…, this leaves us totally uncertain and in doubt: Who is speaking the truth, and who are lying?”
Buddha replied, Traditions should not to be followed simply because they are traditions; Reports, historical accounts are not to be accepted simply because the basis seems reliable. Own preferences which seem rational or resonate with one’s thoughts not to be accepted— view or faith must be tested by putting into practice; and guarded against biases or limitations in one’s understanding of results, but further checked against the experiences of wise. Even my own words, you should question and test in an appropriate way. Why not allow the children follow the Buddha word?
Who is a “Sinhala Buddhist”?
Our religious leaders’ priority should be to preach Dhamma and guide Buddhists in the right path according to Buddha’s teachings.
Buddha used the term Bhikku to call Monks in Suttas. The meaning of Bhikku is “one who lived by alms”. In Buddha’s time 25 centuries ago they had to go to cemeteries to collect cloth used to wrap dead bodies, use saffron to disinfect and dye them before stitching robes by themselves. In today’s context one cannot expect the Maha Sangha to practice such austerity. However, what we call Buddhism today is nothing what Gauthama Buddha has preached.
They must not tarnish the real Buddhism by calling themselves “Sinhala Buddhists”, which is a nonsensical combination of terms. According to Dhamma there is no race, caste or creed. ‘Sinhala-Buddhist’ is a misnomer. They confuse Buddhism with the Sinhala race, which are two different issues.
Buddhist Council--Dharma Sangayana
Time is ripe to summon Buddhist Council [Dharma Sangayana] to sort out issues mainly concerning discipline among the bikkhus. The Mahanayake Theras are either not worried or that they have no power over the young rebellious monks. This situation cannot be reversed within a short time as it is tied up with politics. During D.S. Senanayake’s time, he was able to silence even the Maha Nayaka Theras.
In 1947 December, when DS and Sir Ivor Jennings were drafting the Soulbery Constitution for Independent Ceylon, they decided to drop the article introduced by the Colonial authorities on ‘Foremost Place for Buddhism’ in 1815 Kandyan Convention. The two prelates of Siyam Maha Nikaya in Kandy threatened to boycott inaugural ceremony scheduled to be held in Kandy in protest. Leader of the House DS summoned the two Nayake Theras to GA’s resident to discuss the matter. However, upon the Diyawadene Nilame’s intervention DS agreed to meet them in the Maligawa instead, where he convinced the two Prelates on the importance of treating all religions and ethnic groups on equal grounds quoting the Buddha word on ‘equality’. Being convinced, the Malwatte and Asgiriya Prelates agreed to attend the ceremony. The spineless leaders except for a few who succeeded him gave into every irrelevant demand of the Buddhist monks.
Only a few political leaders had the foresight and the ‘spine’ to ask the Maha Sangha not to dip into politics; they were DS Senanayake, J R Jayewardene, and to a certain extent Mahinda Rajapaksa. The former two warned that the Maha Sangha should keep away from politics.
DS had the courage to tell the Maha Sangha, where to get off. Mahinda Rajapaksa succeeded in keeping the Mahanayake Theras at abeyance when the Mahanayake Theras quite appropriately, in this instance summoned a Sangha Council in support of Sarath Fonseka during his arrest and jailing. Prompted by MR, the Sangha who belonged to Siyam Chapter from the South threatened to leave the Nikaya en masse in case the Sangha council met.
A few radical monks have distorted the Buddha Dhamma with their hatred towards other ethnic and religious groups, yet the Nayake Theras and the guardians of law, have failed to discipline a few group of Bhikkus who unleash communal violence. The Mahanayakes announced their disagreement on appointing Vesak in April only a week before the appointed day, probably they have been busy meeting politicians, the rogues and those indirectly supporting rogues who come in procession to seek their blessings.
"Only a few political leaders had the foresight and the ‘spine’ to ask the Maha Sangha not to dip into in politics; they were DS Senanayake, J R Jayewardene, and to a certain extent Mahinda Rajapaksa. The former two warned that the Maha Sangha should keep away from politics"
Governments cooperate in protecting and preserving religious autonomy and in nurturing the role of religions in the social order. Most states guarantee their citizens the right to perform their religious activities according to the order of their own moral principles.
Morality plays a vital role in preserving and promoting good governance. Genuine solution to many of the grave problems facing us are not political, but spiritual. Racism, violence, and hatred are all spiritual problems. Good governance protects all religions; and good religions support good citizenship. Good governance does not promote or favour one religion over another. Similarly, good religious leaders should not take sides with any political party.
Some governments impose a state religion. Religious belief and observance separated, though, it should be protected and defended against maltreatment. Giving one religion special rights that are deprived to others can weaken sacred pluralism. The initial reference here is to Buddhist vision of an ideal state in which members of various ethnic, religious, racial, or social groups uphold and develop their conventional culture within the confines of a general society. The principle preached by the Buddha is not one founded on ‘Political Philosophy’. It is not a doctrine that encourages men to worldly delight. It sets out a way to achieve Nibbana or in other words, its final aim is to put an end to desire. If a Buddhist monk is involved in politics, he should not misuse the religion to gain the political powers.
Monk also has to maintain his duty on behalf of the state, nation and religion. They should pay attention critically without engaging in politics completely and to become the counselors of the rulers for good governance. Buddha did not envisage setting up a ‘Buddhist nation’ in any part of the globe or a Buddhist city, not even within Kimbulwatpura!