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Extravagant ‘Katina’ processions Stop this squander in the name of the Buddha

24 November 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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“Good  it  is  to  restrain  your eye,  good  it  is  to  restrain  your  ear.  Restraint  in  the  nose  is good,  good  it  is  to  restrain your tongue—Bhikku  vagga,  
 Dhammapada (verse 360).   




 Today is the last Full Moon of the ‘Wassana’ [Rainy Season], Il Poya. It is a significant day in the Buddhist calendar for a number of important happenings on this day. The writer lives in a famous Buddhist town where there are 31 Buddhist temples. At least seven of them are within half a mile radius from his residence. The authorities have mutually drawn up a schedule for the Katina dates so that they do not clash, presumably, in an attempt to stress their importance over others. For the past few weekends the noise that emanates from extravagant Katina pageants has caused severe discomfort.

 
Vas and Katina
  Why the offerings made during the rains retreat bring more merits? It has to be evaluated from the point of view of climatic situation which existed in India in the sixth century BC. The Sangha who had abandoned the lay life to homeless life had to get about their four-fold necessities, alms, robes, shelter and medicine. The monsoon rains made their life enormously hard. There were only uncleared forest tracks compelling monks to stay indoors and often they were deprived of the above basic requisites including alms. Hence assistance made during Vassana gained a greater consequence and merits. Ven. Nagita, who was an Arahant during Buddha’s time stated that even if 84,000 Viharas are built, a mountain of silver offered or a stupa of gold is constructed the virtues of one Katina-puja supersedes all that. The Buddha praised the Katina, ‘Sanghassa-Dinnam Katinam Aggam, Buddhena Vannitam.’

  It is time we stop wasteful, extravagant perahera conducted for carrying the Katina robe in massive processions with a few elephants hired at 60,000 rupees per animal, and enormous  fees spent on drummers dancers, kasa karayas[whip crackers]professional boru kakul, fire-ball acrobats and numerous other variety show types added at high costs. According to reliable information two famous temples in my area, each one had spent a few million rupees during the past few years on conducting the ceremony. I wonder why all the efforts could not be put to better use. We have several shortcomings in our society that needs urgent attention. There are hospitals with no medicine, children’s homes struggling to find funds for upkeep. Elders homes which lacks basic facilities; poor families living in rented houses being thrown out by landlords [who sometimes happens to be chief dhayakes of temples].


Extreme poverty verses hidden psychic disorder
  Majority of the villages are living in extreme poverty; the moneys collected for organizing wasteful spectacular pageants could be diverted to worthier causes in improving the living standards of the poor. The chiefs and Nayake theros should take serious note before the Dhayaka sabha organize their next Katina ritual and cut down on lavish spending. Today, people spend millions to perform several rituals and they expect to get mercy from Gods in return; they are competing to sponsor costly shows at temples. These festivals, ceremonies and other religious events are crossing limits most of the times when there are underprivileged people suffering without proper food, shelter, clothes and proper treatment. The motive remain behind these behaviour is to get a desired objective and expectation. Psychologists attribute this type of activity as a kind of hidden psychic disorder and nothing else.

   A German statesman once remarked that ‘church-bells are the artillery of the Christian clergy’.  As human beings all have the right to perform religious rituals, but it should not be done by forgetting the tears of other human beings. If we fail to appreciate the problems of the poor, it is time for us to rethink about the significance of our sacred and religious beliefs. The ceaseless disharmony of drums and reciting of recorded pirith with the use of blaring loudspeakers late at night and intermittent lighting of crackers creates a repulsive experience. We should  endeavour to wipe away the blind beliefs borrowed from Hinduism.


Have Buddhists thrown their sacred deeds and principles into the dustbin of absurdity? 
   A few years ago the writer happened to be at a Katina pinkama in a Theravada temple at Dandenom in Victoria. The simple procession moved peacefully with around 500 flag carrying Sri Lankan Buddhists joined by a handful of Australians shouting Sadhu, Sadhu. There were no hired drummers, dancers, horns, whip-crackers, fireball acrobats and lighting of crackers. A few kids rode their bicycles with flower decorations adding colour to the procession, while two of them cracked whips. They started at 10 am and reached the temple in 30-40minutes, where offerings of alms and the Katina cheewara was made. However, the following year back home; and around  3.45 am, in wee hours of morning; a stream of unbearably loud sound of drums, horns whip cracking and crackers got me up on my feet out on the road. I saw a Katina pageant- few elephants, loud-speaker-mounted van announced the names of organizers. 

  Who beat the drums and light crackers when the Buddha delivered the Dhammachakka pavattana Sutta, the first sermon to five ascetics at Isipatana, Migadaya? Were there any Tom Tom beaters at Jetawanaramaya when Gods descended to inquire about Mangala karana; ‘good omen’ or ‘auspices factors’, which prompted  him to preach Maha mangala Sutta? When Buddha preached the Abhidhamma to Mathru Divaraja in the high heavens of Thusitha,  Panchasika, the divine musician was not there to create nuisance by playing his instruments; though the Buddha  had spoken appreciatively of his music on another occasion when the celestial musician sang a song while playing the lute [veena] in front of him on a serene night at his abode inside a cave.   King Devanampiyatissa ‘imported’ drummers from South India, under the influence of Hindu priests, for offering thevawa to Sri Mahabodhi. Since then we have got accustomed to the bad habit of beating the skins extracted from Monkeys, goats, monitors especially killed for the purpose. Why cannot we recite pirith, preach dhamma or conduct processions without making unnecessary noises. Clearly the noise we create is beyond tolerable limits and in complete violation of noise pollution norms of Buddha Dhamma.


Noise pollution –Buddhist norms
  The Buddha’s stance to noise is quite clear from the Pali canon.The Bhayabherava Sutta illustrates how even the crackle of leaves by a falling stem in the forest trembles an impure heart. Paritta chanting through loudspeakers for the whole night is a common practice. The deliberate sound pollution caused by Buddhists is in contradiction to the Buddha’s word; he trained his pupils in being quiet. Once Buddha was living at Sávatthì… A group of six bhikkhus was going among the houses making a loud, great sound. ’How can the sons of the Sakyan go among the houses making a great sound?!’ people complained; The Buddha called the monks, and said, ’Foolish men, how can you go among the houses making a loud, great sound?! It will not lead to faith in those who have no faith; it will not lead to the increase of those who have faith’… In  Majjima Nikhaya -89, King Pasenadi says that he was highly impressed by the discipline of a large assembly, there was not a single sound. In the Dìgha Nikáya-25 the Buddha contrasted: “Different are the wanderers of other sects, who are noisy,…. And different is the One who uses remote forests, woods, and groves, which are quiet, free from loud voices.  In the Catumaa Sutta, a group of monks headed by Sariutt and Mugalan visited the Buddha.— the monks made some noise  greeting resident monks and setting up their accommodation. Hearing the noise, the Buddha inquired from Rev Ananda, “Who are these loud and noisy men? They are like fishermen hawking fish.” 


Health  impact and legal implications
 According to WHO, noise pollution has harmful effects on humans: interferences with social behavior , speech communication affects performance at work, hearing impairment, hearing fatigue,  sleep disturbance and many other consequences.    On 9 November 2007, the Supreme Court gave its decision in a case where, in simplified terms, the right of one party to use loudspeakers was weighed against the annoyance, disturbance and harm caused to those other parties who are compelled to listen to the amplified sounds which emanate from these loudspeakers.  The issue of permits  under Section 90 of the Police Ordinance does not mean that the dhayaka sabhava can distribute the noise through amplification equipment fixed at every electric post in the area—it should not extend beyond the temple premises.


  For those Buddhist who fail to understand Dhamma, let us quote Mother Teresa…
 “We  cannot  find  God  in  noise   and  agitation.  Nature  trees  flowers  and  grass  grow  in  silence,  the  stars,  sun  and  moon  move  in  silence.  Silence  our  eyes, silence  our  ears,  silence  our  mouths,  silence  our minds,  in  the  silence  of  hearts  god  will  speak”     --  [from  her  book ]  - ‘Silence’…and a relaxing Buddha, inside the cave on that tranquil night when the moon was rising serenely, bathing the landscape with its radiance, he listened attentively and mindfully to Panchasika.  Sakkapanna  Sutta -Deega Nikaya, says he was sent by Sakkra to ask for an appointment for an audience. The celestial musician played the Veena and sang in praise of Theruvan. Buddha said, “Panchasika, when did you create this song?”, and continuing he praised his melodious skills,
     “Your instrumental music mingled well with your song”  
May all beings be free from sound pollution!-
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