“All things foul would wear the brows of grace, yet grace must still look so” -William Shakespeare, Macbeth-
Attaining Buddhahood or Arahathood is not a work of a day. Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka, the mushrooming of Bodhi Satvas has gone out of control. There is no village in the map that has not bred at least one such extra-ordinary creature.
Though the accuracy of the Dhamma they propagate is very much in question, they do not seem to be short of followers. The protest that was held in Wanduramba against a religious centre headed by a so-called Buddha, was dispersed with a tear gas attack. Yet, like in the aforesaid incident, both the clergy and the laymen who see through these follies have no other option than taking to the streets to express their opposition, when ideally there should be legal or disciplinary provisions to keep imposters at bay.
True enough, anyone has the right to preach and assemble as long as he/she does not become a threat to society. Resorting to violence to control crowds or to define what is right, is neither the way of the Dhamma nor that of the country’s law. As in any other case, lack of unitary authority to regulate such practices should not turn the followers into ‘Angulimalas.’
While the major portion of the blame lies in the hands of the authorities and higher religious bodies that have, so far, not taken prompt action to curb the disturbing trend, the people who blindly rally behind such quasi-Buddhas too have contributed to it.
As Lankan Buddhists, we tend to talk highly of the purity of the Dhamma we follow, which unlike other forms of Buddhism does not lay much emphasis on worshipping the Bodhi Satvas. Its emphasis is on concluding the endless circle of samsara and distancing oneself from materialism. Ours is a doctrine, which if followed properly, talks to the inner bliss than to the eyes. Agreed! There aren’t any miracles to sensationalize the follower, nor are there goodie-bags in waiting.
In a country where every television channel starts its day with a Buddhist sermon, it is sad that the followers are unable to differentiate between what is proper and what looks like proper. It is more terrifying than surprising the magnitude of public ignorance that comes to light with these kinds of incidents.
A religion, be it Buddhism or any other, is preached and practised with the ultimate purpose of attaining inner-bliss. It should not be violated by farces and misinterpretations of individuals who crave for limelight and crowds rather than comforting and enlightening people.
It is in fact the duty of the preachers of the Dhamma to show people the way and help them choose what is right, without waiting for legal provisions to see the light of the day. After all, preaching the correct doctrine and inculcating proper ideas in the minds of the follower is far more important than erecting massive concrete structures in the name of the Buddha and the Dhamma.