Gautama Buddha or his Dhamma cannot be subverted by anybody; but by the members of the Sangha community themselves; and today, a few among the Sangha community is quite enthusiastically engaged in this exercise; details are too shocking and appalling to pen; [for latest Ref. DM -19/05/2023], they are the worst conspiracies against the Buddhist order.
Pastor Jerome, during a sermon to a large congregation of his followers, was alleged to have made several controversial utterings about other religions, specifically Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The President has already instructed the law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute him, if he had violated the law of the land. The investigators should focus their attention on multiple angles to ascertain any hidden objectives to deliberately insult religions causing a violent backlash, as part of an international or local political conspiracy, and also on; ‘money laundering.’
There are books written by foreigners as well as local Buddhists espousing hypothetical theories on the life and times of Jesus Christ. – “Jesus Lived in India” by Holger Kersten, speaks of a place on the Pakistan’s border marked as the tomb of Jesus. Two “Sinhala-Buddhist” have co-authored a similar text saying Jesus was a Buddhist disciple. Quite a few books on the hypothesis, ‘Buddha a Sri Lankan, and a Sinhalese’. According to the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, Buddha, is the ninth among the ten avatars of the God Vishnu. Some members of the Sangha, politicians, and lay ‘Buddhists,’ who castigate Jerome, do worship God Vishnu statues erected within temples. Speech and expression are rights; one can reject, accept or criticize them. No issues here; for issues are created by publicity-seeking monks and Politicians.
The Panaduraa Vaadaya has taught us lessons on taking a harmonious approach to ideological differences in religion.
The “saviors of Buddhism” who rushed to the CID office to make allegations, and another group of ‘Buddhist’ monks calling on the Mahanayake Theras of Kandy urging them to intervene to stop the campaign by Pastor Jerome against the Buddha Sasana, which usually maintain stoic silence over horrendous criminal acts committed by a few Buddhist monks. They must take up the numerous issues of sexual misconduct alleged to have been taking place within sacred walls involving little samaneras and underage girls.
The Buddha did not show any hatred or deception, to Devadatta, Cincha, Nalagiri, etc. Eight stanzas in Jayamangala Gaatha, says, “The Lord of Sages defeated him by means of well-trained endurance: — The Lord of Sages defeated him by sprinkling the water of goodwill: — The Lord of Sages defeated her with peaceful, gracious means: – The Lord of Sages defeated him with the light of discernment: — The Lord of Sages defeated him by means of his words of knowledge etc.
Explaining how ICCPR applied in ‘Pastor’ Jerome Fernando’s case, Gammanpila MP said that if found guilty, he could face a prison term of up to 10 years. The former minister urged the police to take a court order to ban ‘prayers’ at the Miracle Dome. Will any politician call for the imposition of stern punishment on the monk for the alleged crime he committed, just seven days after Pastor Jerome’s statement?
The religious dignitaries, instead of demanding tangible action or eye-for-eye against, Pastor Fernando’s demeanor, they should educate their followers on the values of the anti-hatred, compassionate approach based on the teachings of sages. The laws against defamation and subversion became the British Empire’s suppression tools in the subcontinent. Indian Penal Code 295(A), which was passed in 1927, at a time of strong conflicts between Hindus and Muslims became crucial. The cases that followed were protesting insults against Islam, and some defending Catholics—that is, defending religious minorities against Hindus.
Religious freedom is the foundation of independent conscience. Belief about the transcendent inspires backing for any political, social, or economic order. Regimes alone cannot bar people from responding to an intense and powerful spiritual call delivered with grandiloquent and rhetorical oratory using hypnotic powers.
The great debate
Our good Buddhists and Christians have taught us generous lessons on a harmonious approach to ideological differences in religions — the best example being the Buddhist-Christian debate conducted in Panadura, exactly 150 years ago [August 1873] popularly called by the press, “Pantura Controversy” or Panduraa Vaadaya.
The Dutch who arrived in the mid -17th century, were ardently Protestant – Calvinist—they made an effort to restrain the activities of Catholic clergy and spread the Reformed church. Missionaries enacted laws banning the practice of Buddhism and Hinduism naming them as ‘cannibal faiths. Roman Catholic clergy were deported; Calvinist pastors lead the congregations. Many Catholic priests received refuge from Buddhists and settled in Kandy.
The Revivalist Movement gathered momentum in the mid -19th century. Migettuwatte Thera was joined by others countered missionary propaganda through leaflets, posters and other material. They challenged the Christian missionaries to open debates. The Church of England joined the Wesleyans during this time, while Catholics reintroduced their struggle against Wesleyans along with Buddhists.
Saner counsel prevailed and they decided to meet ‘face to face’ and debate it to an end. The Christian party wrote in June 1873 to the Buddhists under the signature of Mathes Gunawardene (letter is preserved in Archives). The letter requested a venue and date and agreed to the proposal and recommended they meet to discuss the arrangements: The accord Signed on July 24, 1873 says,
“August 26 and 28 were fixed for the debate. Nominated one from each party to record the proceedings of the verbal debate. All points raised had to be backed by references. A speaker allowed one hour at each turn, with the first hour restricted to a Christian speaker to make statements adverse to Buddhism, to which the Buddhist would reply at the second hour. There should not be any disturbances or interferences; maintenance of harmony, decorum and peace was the responsibility of the signatories. Times – 8.00 am to 10.00 am and 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm. –Mathes Suwaris Gunawardene – On behalf of Christians: Kurukulasooriya Cornelis Perera – On behalf of Buddhists.
A foreign Christian priest, who attended the debate, wrote, “The most remarkable incident in my first three months of missionary experience and one of the most remarkable things I have ever witnessed was the great controversy, Christianity versus Buddhism. …when we arrived at the place… we found that thousands had got there before us; as we sat on the platform…the clock struck nine, the priest, Ven. Migettuwatte, [a Christianity and Latin scholar] arose and commenced his address on the Buddhist side. …his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home… His powers of persuasion show him to be a born orator.”- Father S. Longdon; ‘Ceylon Friend’ – September 1873 – [Nat. Archives]
Main speaker for Christianity, Rev. David de Silva was a scholar in Pali and Thripitaka. Among those who converted to Buddhism, after reading Peables’ booklet on the debate were Col. Olcott from America and Ms. Petrona Blavatsky and Prof. Evan Pavulavich from Russia. Dr. J. M. Peables, visiting from America during the debate, returned home and published a manuscript titled ‘Buddhism and Christianity Face to Face,’ in 1875, based on a text he borrowed from John Capper, the Editor of ‘The Ceylon Times’. It was titled ‘A Full account of the Buddhist controversy held at Pan-tura in August 1873.
The Dhamma, is not a doctrine, a philosophy or an ideology for scholarly or academic studies, or for that matter, for debate. In Kalama sutta, Buddha said, ‘Do not believe just because something fits with the reasoning of logic.’ It is to be realized by oneself through one’s own efforts. A matter of ‘proving or disproving’ in a debate does not arise. In Cricketing parlance, what is important is not ‘who won or who lost’, but the exemplary manner in which the game was played. The debate was conducted under the highest standards, and more significantly the exemplary behavior of the 6000 crowd with only 30% literate was amazing.
[–Extracts from writer’s article- Migettuwatte Gunananda & “Pan-tura Controversy”: Daily Mirror – August 29, 2016]