By Lalith Dhammika Mendis
Controversy surrounding whether Buddhist Monks should enter politics is a hotly debated topic today. It is a sensitive matter, since majority of Sri Lankans are Sinhala Buddhists who hold the order of Buddhist monks in high esteem.
Post independent politics of Sri Lanka has witnessed profound changes in outlook of the body politic, which was once represented by the intellectual elites of gentlemanly demeanour, who conducted themselves with great finesse and decorum. It has over the years degenerated to the level of divisive politics of hatred—characterised by confrontational posture among groups, displaying little or no respect and zero tolerance to dissenting viewpoints. The unwritten principle of “agreeing to disagree” through mutual respect and consensual engagement, being the hallmarks of democracy, are sadly lacking.
Buddha preached Paticca Samuppada or the doctrine of dependent origination showing the path to deliverance from sorrow. It is the path that Buddha preached his disciples to follow. Buddha through his supreme intellect has expounded in great detail the code of disciplines the Monks are expected to adhere to in their conduct. These principles are of universal application and timeless relevance.
In dwelling upon today’s controversy relating to the involvement of Monks in politics, there is absolutely no need for bitter arguments or acrimonious debates. It does not call for the need to cast aspersions on one another as Monkhood is not meant to be a source of disharmony. Monkhood should radiate compassion and not hatred. Its mission is deliverance of mankind. In this endeavour there is no room whatsoever for discrimination or bias based on race, caste, creed, political affiliation or any other criteria as Monkhood is an embodiment of compassion for everyone alike.
Monks are required to view the worldly affairs through the Three Fundamental Characteristics of Greed, Hatred and Delusion and abstain from indulgence therein considering the transient nature of worldly things. The Buddha has clearly proclaimed the path that Monks should follow to accomplish the ultimate aim of enlightenment.
Buddha very clearly advised that when he, the Enlightened Teacher is no more, it is Dhamma which should be paid utmost veneration as the supreme unsurpassed teacher in seeking relief, advice and guidance. Politics are worldly affairs. Today’s selfish, divisive, wheeler-dealer political culture is characterised by acrimony, disharmony, hatred and deception which sometimes border barbarism and brutality. It was not so long ago when a Monk who was elected as a people’s representative became the target of verbal abuse ending up being manhandled by his lay counterparts, in the glare of the public eye when the august assembly was in full swing. It was a sad moment which demonstrated the inhuman facet of today’s politics, where dissent was manifested through aggression disregarding the saffron robes. It brought a political career to an abrupt halt with a journey straight from the temple of democracy to infirmary for obvious reasons. Conduct of a Monk that complies with Buddhist principles and teaching would evoke veneration and respect not acrimony. The obvious deviation caused pain and suffering, uncalled for.
It is very hard to comprehend how Buddhist Monks, whose purpose should be the achievement of enlightenment could, devote their lives to play an active role in the arena of divisive politics of aggression pursued by laity in hot pursuit of their selfish interests, as it goes contrary to the essence of Monkhood. Politics sometimes witness opposing factions dealing with one another through simmering hatred that runs totally counter to the Buddhist philosophy of compassion.
Monks are required to follow the path of austerity and renunciation and nothing that leads one in the diametrically opposing direction of self-aggrandizement. Their lives are simple with possessions being confined to eightfold-requisites. The existence of Dhamma could be perpetuated by pious devotion and steadfast adherence to the principles, practices and disciplines proclaimed by Buddha and handing such virtues down from one generation to another. The edifices of worship and statues of veneration would serve little purpose if there is failure in adherence and observance which would lead to moral decadence.
That was a very good read Mr. Lalith Dhammika Mendis. Being a Monk and entering politics is a contradiction.
Sammy Friday, 13 July 2012 06:04 AM
The fact is that people should first have a yearning for liberation and realization of the Truth or NIrvana before becoming a monk, like The Buddha. What we witness today is that many people enter "The Order" of monks for reasons other than this. The cause for monks going astray and foraying into politics etc. is their failure to follow through this yearning and feeling complacent and secure in belonging to "The Order".
buffaloa citizen Thursday, 12 July 2012 07:28 AM
There are countries that follow buddhism such as China, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan etc...where criminal behaviour is zero among the monks and is totally unaccepted by the buddhist followers. What we see practiced in SL is the usage of buddhism as a weapon towards meeting ulterior motives totally insulting the teachings of Lord Buddha. The silence of the so called SL buddhists is further deafening leading to the argument whether this country and her population are the worse example in the world for buddhism.
buffaloa citizen Thursday, 12 July 2012 07:30 AM
There are countries that follow Buddhism such as China, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan etc...where criminal behavior is zero among the monks and is totally unaccepted by the Buddhist followers. What we see practiced in SL is the usage of Buddhism as a weapon towards meeting ulterior motives totally insulting the teachings of Lord Buddha. The silence of the so called SL Buddhists is further deafening leading to the argument whether this country and her population are the worse example in the world for Buddhism.
Shan Friday, 13 July 2012 04:38 PM
Not a very buffalo like comment :)
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