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Pastor Jerome during a prayer session. (File photo)

 

A statement made by a Christian pastor, Pastor Jerome Fernando, has taken the print and electronic media by storm. Buddhist monks, politicians and media men cry foul and sanctimoniously demand immediate action to be taken against him for his heinous crime of insulting the Buddha. I have watched their antics with a certain amount of amusement and disgust. Do these self-proclaimed protectors of the Buddha Sasana have an inkling of how the Compassionate One reacted to abuse and blame?

In the Akkosa Sutta [Samyuththa Nikaya 7.2], it is stated that on one occasion a brahmin of the Baradvaja clan went up to the Buddha and abused and insulted him.The Buddha listened silently and said,” Brahmin, If you offer food to guests who come to visit you and they do not accept it, to whom does it belong? The brahmin replied: ‘”It belongs to me”. Then the Buddha stated,” In the same way when you abuse and attack us who do not abuse and attack you, and we do not accept it; then it’s all yours brahmin, it’s all yours.” The brahmin was deeply ashamed and begged for forgiveness and became a follower of the Buddha.

There were many ascetics living in India during the Buddha’s time whose views differed from the Buddha. Nigantanathaputta, Makkaligosala and Sanjaya were some of them. On several occasions these ascetics openly criticized the Buddha but the Buddha never reacted with anger. Once they orchestrated the murder of a courtesan, named Sirima, and buried her body in the premises of the Buddha’s abode, falsely accusing him of sexual misconduct and murder. Even then the Buddha did not retaliate in anger but patiently bid his time till the truth surfaced and the actual culprits were exposed.

The suttas quote many instances where the Buddha had friendly and amiable discussions with followers of other sects.

We, as Buddhists, should follow our Teacher’s example in situations such as the Pastor Jerome episode. The so-called protectors of the Buddha Sasana, namely the militant politically inclined monks and the pseudo upasaka politicians, should realize that by reacting hysterically to such statements will cause religious and communal disharmony. This in turn will develop into hatred and anger thus resulting in racism raising its ugly head as what happened in the past.

These individuals should take a leaf out of the Buddha’s book and stop behaving in a manner which is completely contrary to his teachings. By doing so they only disrespect to the Great Teacher, who enlightened the world by his boundless compassion and wisdom.

Rukmal Seneviratne

Ratmalana.

ruki_sen@yahoo.com

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