Buddhism in paradise isle

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Avasarai Nayaka hamuduruwaney,

I thought I must write to you this week because Buddhism and issues around those who are supposed to follow it, both among the lay people and clergy, are very much in the news these days. Not a day seems to go by without one issue or the other related to Buddhism becoming a controversy!

If I remember correctly these issues began in recent times when someone whose main role was providing commentary on social media made some derogatory references to the sacred tooth relic. Many were offended and the commentator was promptly charged with inciting religious hatred.

That chap apologised after spending some time in remand and was released. If we thought that was the end of controversies related to Buddhism, we could not have been more wrong. What we also did not know then was that charging people with inciting religious hatred was soon to become the fashion.

It was after this that self-proclaimed ‘pastor’ Jerome made a statement claiming that Lord Buddha was ‘searching’ for Jesus Christ. How one can search for someone yet to be born baffled us but it did anger many Buddhists at that time. Initially at least, a battle between the religions seemed imminent.

The Catholic Church quickly disowned this ‘pastor’. That defused any tensions that could have arisen between the two religions but Jerome showed us that he can indeed perform miracles: he left Paradise when there was a travel ban against him. Now we know he was more a businessman than ‘pastor’.

Next, we had the Natasha saga. The lady was put behind bars for saying that Prince Siddhartha was King Suddhodana’s son, albeit in less regal language. We still do not know who took offence more, whether it was Esmond’s ‘podi eka’ or Principal Alles’s ‘podi eka’ whose Police detained her.

Then there was a lot of discussion as to whether the few sentences that Natasha uttered at a comedy show was the greatest crime committed against Buddhism in Paradise. We certainly see many others who engage in behaviours that do not enhance the reputation of Buddhism, but they still roam free.

The learned gentleman on the bench who eventually granted Natasha’s bail application said that imprisoning people who have a poor taste in humour was not a good practice. Indeed, those who asked her to be detained seemed determined to incite more religious hatred than Natasha herself did!

Just when we thought the dust was settling on all these issues centred on Buddhism in Paradise, we heard the story from Japan of a person in robes acting in a manner unbecoming of a monk. In this age of social media, a video went viral and needless to say, it didn’t enhance the reputation of the person.

Ironically, he was the same person who wanted ‘One Shot’ Ranjan prosecuted for contempt of court- and succeeded in doing so. He was among the dozen or so who donned robes and sang the praises of the ‘R’ clan a few years ago. So far, we haven’t heard of any action being taken against him.

Hot on the heels of that controversy, we now have one more video doing the rounds of yet another person in robes engaging in conduct that one wouldn’t expect from a monk. Goons taking the law into their own hands and dealing with them is not acceptable, but the original act was no less tolerable.

On a lighter note, there is now a song that is becoming more of a hit than Yohani’s ‘Menike Mage Hithe’. It shows a lay person literally singing the praises of another saffron robed individual who sits calmly and listens to the song which proclaims the saffron robed individual as an ‘Enlightened One’.

This individual changed his name too. When it was said that he has become an ‘arahat’, he hasn’t objected. How that can go hand in hand with running a highly productive venture which operates like a business is beyond me but then, we are lesser mortals who cannot grasp such complex matters.

He is not the only such person. There are plenty of people in saffron robes whose idea of success is enlarging the boundaries of their respective temples and travelling in the latest luxury vehicles. Who can forget the trade union leader who was in a dispute over a V8, presumably taking him to Nirvana!

Nayaka hamuduruwaney, Buddhism is in the limelight after these events for all the wrong reasons. The sanctity of the saffron robe is questioned because of the actions of a few and also because nothing is being done about them- either by the law or by those of you who are supposed to discipline them.

Most of us in Paradise, including those in saffron robes who follow the Buddha’s teachings are appalled at this turn of events. Even more worrying question is your silence about all this. If you can rush to defend the ‘rata, jaathiya’, shouldn’t you defend yourselves first, hamuduruwaney?

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS- You will be aware that elections need to be held next year. That is when Buddhism and defending it will become a political tool again. Thankfully, people haven’t risen to that bait so far. That is why you need to act soon. Surely, you have heard of ‘appamaado amathapadam’, hamuduruwaney?


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