Buddhism in Practice?

If there is one thing i believe about religion in general, its that people should have the freedom to practice it to the satisfaction of their conscience. This makes sense as long as one group’s practice of religion does not interfere with another group’s right of freedom. When religious freedom gets curtailed, I get real panicky about the state of a country. All religions have aspects and principles of righteousness, justice, and kindness in them, but sometimes people grab it and twist it and pervert it to cater to their own mixed values and malice.

I have admired the philosophy that is Buddhism for some time. The concept of temperance, of a middle path, of kindness and tolerance are all things i admire and try to follow myself in some form. I don’t kill, I don’t eat meat, I don’t drink; and yet these very traits are found strange in a country that should be upholding the principles of their ‘State’ religion. Instead, the ones who should be leading and guiding the people in their way of life are instead dirtying their hands in secular politics, playing power games, and of course beating up practitioners of other religions.

Tamils get the brunt of the bad feelings here in Sri Lanka, the Muslims their share, but the Christians are not far behind. Preachers have been beaten, churches damaged, worshipers abused, and threats tossed around for many years now. I personally know Sinhalese Christians who have been beaten up by gangs lead by monks solely for the crime of having worship in their homes, I know of buildings that have been burned for the same reason. On the 6th of this month, the Calvary Church at Thalahena was the latest victim of Buddhist violence. Four Buddhist monks led a mob into the church, vandalizing it and beating up the preachers and elders and threatening to burn the church down with the members in it. I wonder how much merit a dead preacher would get them? Normally I would try to write neutrally about religious issues, and try not to focus too much on the religion but rather on the issue. In this case however, the mob was LED by monks and there is no hiding the fact that this attack is religiously motivated. The violence here was premeditated and unworthy of what is principally a peaceful way of life. (Needless to say to say the police were reluctant to keep the peace in this situation)

What is as disturbing is the blatant display of hate by certain monks with no thought as to how they portray Buddhism to the world. At the Thalahena incident, the monks boasted of having attacked some 23 churches already and also stated that

..it was they who made the laws in the land and it would be they who would break the laws

One of the monks even admitted to having underworld connections.

Consider the words of the Ven. Thero of Bhodirajaramaya (during an interview regarding the Middeniya rally) when asked if the mob burned a picture of the Virgin Mary he said:

If The Sunday Leader wants a news story I could set fire to a cross with Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary’s photos and send it to your newspaper.

If religious leaders like the ones mentioned have no peace and tolerance in their heart how can we expect the public to learn proper precepts from them? They should either reanalyze their beliefs or start a whole new religion of violence altogether because at present there is not even a pretense of piety in the violence they commit.

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7 comments
  1. Old man said:

    State patronage is the root of the problem.

    If the law is applied fairly and equally to all then those who commit crimes run the risk of facing the consequences. This will generally make them think twice before breaking the law.

    When there is corruption of the system (meaning the law does not work due to either money or political influence) those who commit crimes have little to fear and soon crime multiplies and society degenerates.

  2. I highly doubt ur claims of Buddhist monks leading mobs (Which there have been no independent (or biased) reports of)

    The Problem is with Christian Extremists… Recently a lot of Buddhist places of worship were attacked by Christian Extremists..the Extremists preach that every one of their new converts should stand on the Dammapada and swear his/her alliance to God…

    And Why does most of the followers of Jesus support the LTTE? (A Group with the sole aim of Ethnically cleansing the Sinhalese) (eg. Bishop of Mannar)

  3. Interesting point Acromantula, when did these attacks on temples take place?

  4. janusis said:

    @ Acromantula – You speak of unbiased reports, yet provide no evidence of your claims. You’ve got some pretty big leaps of logic there..

  5. Dinu said:

    @Acromantula My pastor in Kandy was beaten by a mob at a temple (after being invited there on the pretense of a meeting). Another Buddhist monk in the area once commissioned a mob to attack a church and to disrupt meetings. This incident is common knowledge, and no Buddhist denies it.

    I seriously doubt your claim of “Christian Extremists” who go around attacking churches. Sri Lanka is not Ireland.

    Some over-zealous Christians have been known to do some crazy things, like standing on the “Dammapada and swear his/her alliance to God”. However, that cannot be equated with physical violence, or used to justify it. That’s just plain stupid.

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