Both politics and religion have one common objective: that is to obtain power and use it to realize their aims. However, to accomplish this object, their method of approach are different. Religion muster emotional response of people in order to obtain power; while politics uses diplomacy, deception, and makes effort to win people’s opinion either democratically, or undemocratically depending on the prevailing systems and circumstances. Therefore, in struggle for power, both religion and politics undermine each other, some openly others covertly.
DS and Maha Nayake Theras of Kandy
In drafting 1947, Independence Constitution, the two partners in progress, D.S. Senanayake and his Constitutional expert friend, Sir Ivor Jennings, shielded the drafting from nationalists forces and religious bigotry: DS excluded Article in 1815 convention that read, ‘The religion of Buddhoo, professed by the chiefs and inhabitants of these provinces is declared inviolable and its rites and ministers and places of worship are to be maintained and protected’. DS was under pressure from the two Mahanayake Theras of Asgiriya and Malwatta who threatened to boycott the independence inauguration ceremony in Kandy scheduled for February 1948, if the clause is not incorporated in the new constitution. Prime Minister DS did not give in but had to travel up to attend an official functions. When the Diyawadane nilame [DN] pleaded with the PM to meet the two Mahanayake Theras on the issue, he agreed and wanted the two Theras to be present at GA’s bungalow/office. However, the DN convinced the PM that it was not proper to summon them to a private residence and suggested his office at Maligawa as alternative venue for the summit.
DS was successful in convincing the two prelates on the importance of not introducing special provisions on protection or foremost place to Buddhism in the new Constitution. Quoting a few stanzas from Tripitaka, he said, “If equality, as pronounced by the Buddha is a provision, then you cannot give primacy to one religion.”
The Mahanayake Theras realised the basic Buddhist principle ingrained in the above statements; they gave up all protests and attended the ceremony. [Times of Ceylon - 9/1/1948 to 12/1/48]. The Independence Constitution did not carry the foremost clause; Buddhism thrived from 1948 to 1972. Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many religious institutions and clergy are highly politically active. As important as religion is in politics, Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the US, had to fight his way into office owing to his controversial opinion about religion.
D. S. Senanayake never encouraged direct or indirect involvement of clergy in politics or State affairs, but religious dignitaries represented their sectors as invitees. Bandaranaike however, aroused religious sentiments to the maximum using Bikkhus for his nationalistic approach during 1956 election which he swept the board.
Buddharakkitha - Bandaranaike love-hate relationship
Seventh Annual conference of SLFP was held on May 17, 1959, at Kurunegala,61 years ago, under the auspices of founder SWRD Bandaranaike, the PM. There had been signs of factional struggles, within SLFP/VLSSP coalition that formed the MEP.
Ven. Buddharakkita Thera, a powerful force behind the regime wanted Philip Gunawardene, who introduced several socialist measures such as the Paddy Lands Act, Co-operatives etc., out of Cabinet. The high priest who financed 1956 elections for Bandaranaike arriving late to the sessions, walked right into the hall in a hostile manner commanding attention. Bandaranaike was on his feet– the entire audience stood up. The monk who usually did not care about the opinions, rights, or feelings of others focused pompously at the figures seated on the stage. PM interrupted his speech walked up to the priest to pay his obeisance, but continued his speech in a gentle tone saying, “We are opposed to both Communism and Fascism to Capitalism and Materialism. Our party stands against any attempt to impose any of these on the people of this country” as he was under pressure by the Monk to make that declaration. Ven. Mapitigama Buddharakkita, the chief incumbent of the historic Kelaniya temple, was the leader of the influential Eksath Bhikku Peramuna, which played a crucial role in mobilizing support for Bandaranaike.
Buddharakkita, the ‘businessmen’ had been in import and export trade was responsible for staging a satyagraha with 200 monks at Prime Minister’s Rosemead Place residence in 1957, compelling the PM to abrogate the pact he signed with the leader of the Tamil community aimed at devolving a reasonable power-sharing between Sinhala and Tamil speaking communities.
The government’s left wing opposed the granting of a shipping tender to Buddharakkita. Then the monk wanted to import rice from Burma (present Myanmar) through his shipping company. SWRD respected his minister’s advice and refused to grant the money-spinning shipping contract too.
Buddharakkitha, the local Rusputin saw the Left wing in the Cabinet led by Philip Gunawardene, a threat to his personal interests -- pressure made PM to take away several important departments from Philip compelling him to resign. A few months later, SWRD, the first head of the state to bow down to every demand of Monks, was assassinated by a ‘Buddhist monk’ following a conspiracy led by Buddarakkitha.
Grigori Rasputin (1869 –1916) was a Russian mystic monk and self-proclaimed holy man who closely associated the Monarch of Russia, Emperor Nicholas II. He gained considerable influence over state with the help of Emperor’s family. With a religious conversion experience, Rasputin described as a monk or as a wanderer or pilgrim, he captivated a few influential social leaders, and became a society figure before meeting the Tsar and his wife Tsarina Alexandra in 1905.
A year later Alexei, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II, was suffering from haemophilia an inherited genetic disorder which impaired the boy’s ability to make blood clots, causing fatalistic internal hemorrhage. Rasputin, the ‘mad monk’ undertook to act as a healer; Alexei recovered. The Tsar wrote in his diary, that he and Alexandra had “made the relationship of a man of God”, which brought him substantial status and power at Tsar’s court.
Grigori Rasputin is probably one of the best known but least understood figures in the events that ultimately led to the downfall of the Russian Tsars a century ago. His political role as the power behind the throne is not known today, as it was then, by the fascination with his morality and private life. Rasputin who took care of Tsar Nicholas II, helped destroy the Russian Empire. World’s leading authority on Rasputin, has drawn new information on Rasputin’s relationship with Alexandra, revealing sensational things about his sexual conquests.
He was proved a political threat. The murder of the monk Rasputin on December 17,1916 seemed extraordinary: he was poisoned, then shot and drowned in a river by Russian aristocrats fearful of his influence on Tsar and especially, Empress Tsarina Alexandra.
The truth is extraordinary and disturbing!