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Please, take charge of Poson celebrations: A proposal to Mahanayake Theras

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Rohana R. Wasala

The following is a public proposal respectfully offered for what it is worth by a senior Sri Lankan to the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras of all Nikayas on behalf of all Sri Lankans of like mind:

I believe that the Mahananayke Theras have been alive to the events of the past few weeks that bear upon the survival of the 2,270-year-old Buddha Sasana in our country. The facts are obvious for all to see; so, they need no explicit elaboration. The threats to the Buddha Sasana are both external and internal.

The Buddhist religious establishment is being  internally undermined by conscienceless Sinhala politicians who champion legitimate Buddhist causes only to grab power by deceiving the majority Sinhala Buddhist voters with attractive promises, which they have no intention of fulfilling for reasons best known to themselves; they are assisted by a set of politician monks (as supporters or opponents) who use the yellow robe as a means of gaining some stature in the public eye; disrobe them, they will never regain the semblance of imagined political relevance that they have. Such political monks are only a handful among the forty thousand+ strong Maha Sangha. The vast majority of the Maha Sangha serve the Sasana by fulfilling their ministerial obligations with great sanctity. But it looks like they don’t have the opportunity to form themselves into a single coherent body under a single leader. Meanwhile, there is a new breed of maverick monks who offer their own arbitrary interpretations of the Buddha dhamma and create divisions even within the nikayas, endangering the unity that still exists among the lay Buddhists, who do not observe nikaya distinctions when interacting with monks, as far as I know. Also, a couple of smart fakes are virtually usurping Your Reverends’ historic role. They are probably doing the greatest harm to the Sasana.

The external threats come from agents of the global hegemonic powers, who exploit the handful of still lingering separatist ghosts and the few religious extremists that haunt the body politic, to pursue their separate geostrategic agendas in our region. Those foreign powers are each acting in their own respective national interest. The Mahanayaka Theras or the Buddhist public cannot say or do anything about that, except when their activities affect the Buddha Sasana. It is entirely the responsibility of our politicians to handle the problems that arise from superpower interventions or interferences that threaten our national interests. But Your Reverends can do something about the internal challenges outlined above, using the greatest asset we have. The greatest asset I mean here comprises the calm and composed general public, disciplined by the dominant culture of this country who believe in democracy, who grin and bear the severe economic hardships that they are currently experiencing with characteristic fortitude. They still remain united and hopeful despite the diversity of political opinions and affiliations among them. However, it should not be forgotten that Sinhalese Buddhists have completely lost faith in their parliamentary representatives who fight among themselves for power, wealth and personal glory, having conveniently forgotten their inescapable obligation to provide solutions to issues concerning the Buddha Sasana, which best accommodates the demands of a modern secular democracy.

Only the Mahanayakas can save the Buddha Sasana from valueless opportunistic politicians and the few errant monks who are at present doing great harm, having strayed into politics. The upcoming Poson Poya provides an excellent opportunity for the Mahanayake Theras to assert control over the whole of the Order/Maha Sangha, at least symbolically, to begin with. Please, take the first step towards that end by taking charge of all Poson celebrations held across the country this year, with one of the Maha Nayake Theras appointed through common consensus as the single leader of a united Maha Sangha, free from Nikaya divisions that are based on caste distinctions which the Buddha unequivocally rejected as in the Vasettha and Vasala Suttas. Considering Poson, the historical Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya is of national importance. We need not dwell on that subject now, because it is too well known. Please intervene to put an end to the unseemly dispute between the Mihintale Nayake Thera and the Minister of Power and Energy over the disconnection of its electricity supply to the Raja Maha Viharaya due to an accumulation of unpaid overdues as soon as possible. Please also help resolve the issue involving the impending coincidence of the annual Poson programme at Anuradhapura and a previously scheduled public examination arranged to be held in adjacent venues.

I leave this humble public proposal subject to rational disagreement, wide discussion, or reasoned rejection, as the case may be. I hope I am not being presumptuous in addressing the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras thus.

(The writer can be reached at rrwasala@gmail.com)

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