Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Lanka Web" Forum is really opened for discussions or for what?

Make Buddha Jayanthi an occasion to ask, after 2600 years what have we accomplished as Buddhists ?
Posted on April 11th, 2011

By Charles.S.Perera

 The Queen Mahamaya Devi while on her way to  her parental home to have her baby  according to ancient custom, gave birth to a baby boy in the Lumbini Park in Kapilawattu .  The father  the Sakyan King Suddhodana  was overjoyed with the birth of a son.
 But the king’s joy did not last long as  the Queen Mahamaya Devi died seven days after the birth of the Prince.   The baby was placed in the care of  his step mother Maha Pajapati Gotami, the younger sister of  the late queen. 
 The Ascetic Asita  Kaladevela  came to  pay respect to the King and to see the new born little Prince.  Having seen the baby the great Ascetic predicted that the Prince will  be enlightened  becoming a Buddha, but regretted that he would not be there on the  blissful day  as he would be dead by then.
At a naming  ceremony five days  after his birth the little Prince was named Siddhattha Gotama . One of the eight Brahmins Kondanna , who had been invited for the ceremony seeing the characteristic marks of the child said with certainty, that he would be the future Buddha.
The story of the life of the Buddha  recounts different incidents of significance , one of which is  a ploughing festival at which the  baby Prince Siddhartha was placed in a screened canopied couch under a rose apple tree in the care of the nurses while the king and his retinue  participated in the ploughing festival . 
 At the height of the festivity  the caring nurses had left the baby prince alone in the couch and moved away  to watch the festivities.  When they came back to the canopied couch they found the little Prince Siddhattha seated cross legged in deep meditation.   The King Suddhodana who was informed of the “ miracle” hastened  to the place and surprised, made respectful salutations to his son.
 His childhood and youth were spent in royal luxury . At the still youthful age of 16 he married his young cousin Princess Yasodhara who was of his own age.  After 13 years of  a happy married life , he had a baby son Rahula .
 By then several incidents he had observed  from his chariot when he ventured out side the palace gates deeply saddened him, making him aware that his blissfully happy royal life, is a contradiction of  the reality of the life of the people out side the walls of the palace. Intrigued by the suffering  of these people  the Prince Siddattha decided to renounce his royal life to follow the life of an ascetic  to  search for the truth of  suffering,  the cause  of suffering,  a way out of suffering, and  a state of non-suffering.
 Then after six years of relentless effort, he finally attained enlightenment of an all knowing purity of mind of a Samma Sam Buddha on a full moon day of a month of May about 2600 years ago.  Thereafter, he began dispensation of the truth he discovered to the world until his death at the age of 80 years.
 But what is relevant to ask ourselves  on this “holy Wesak day” falling 2600 years after the Birth of the Prince Siddattha ,which the Prime Minster of Sri Lanka as the Minister of Buddha Sasana  proposed to celebrate in a grand scale, (along with  non-Buddhists), is whether the Buddha during the 45 years of  his dispensation  of  the  teaching to escape from the cycle of death and birth-the Samsara , had at any occasion celebrated the anniversary of his birth, an anniversary of his first discourse to the five monks,  or the death anniversaries of his disciples Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Mogallana who had pre-deceased him ?
 The Buddha did not celebrate any anniversaries nor did he in any of his discourses said that his followers should celebrate  the anniversary of his Birth , enlightenment or death.  But what he exhorted to his followers just before his death- parinibbana, was:
 “Handa dāni bhikkhavē āmantayāmi vō: Vayadhammā sankhārā appamādēna sampādētha.
 “You should accomplish all that you have to accomplish without allowing mindfulness to lapse!”
But is far from demanding of them  to celebrate his anniversaries for the continued existence of Buddha Sasana. 
The Prime Minister D.M.Jayaratne, who is also the Minister of Buddha Sasana , has to be informed that the celebration of the Buddha Jayanthi is purely among Buddhists, and that it should not be an occasion to  mix politics with religion  by setting up  Regional Committees as proposed to Organize  Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations, along with non-Buddhists including as it has been  said the Catholic Malcolm Ranjith, the Hindu Pujaris and Muslim Mollahs.
In order to explain the reason why the Buddha Jayanthi is purely a Buddhist  celebration  for which  other religious groups should not be invited, I quote the Buddha’s teaching to Subaddha who became his last disciple during his life time.  The Buddha  told Subaddha ,
 “…..In whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there is not found the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is there found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, or fourth degree of saintliness. But in whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline there is found the Noble Eightfold Path, there is found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness. Now in this Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, is found the Noble Eightfold Path; and in it alone are also found true ascetics of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness. Devoid of true ascetics are the systems of other teachers. But if, Subhadda, the bhikkhus live righteously, the world will not be destitute of arahats.
“In age but twenty-nine was I, Subhadda,
When I renounced the world to seek the Good;
Fifty-one years have passed since then, Subhadda,
And in all that time a wanderer have I been
In the domain of virtue and of truth,
And except therein, there is no saint
(of the first degree).
“And there is none of the second degree, nor of the third degree, nor of the fourth degree of saintliness. Devoid of true ascetics are the systems of other teachers. But if, Subhadda, the bhikkhus live righteously, the world will not be destitute of arahats.” (Maha Pari Nibbana Sutta  Translated by Sister Vajira and  Francis Story)
If the Minister of Buddha  Sasana is unable to understand the uniqueness of the teachings of the Buddha and that, « …. Devoid of true ascetics are the systems of other teachers. », he should hand over his Ministry to a Buddhist who knows his religion better to organize the celebrations of the Buddha Jayanthi with Buddhists.
But it is also worth asking ourselves whether in Buddhism that we practice to-day with the rank indiscipline of  the Student Bikkhu population , “.. there is found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, or fourth degree of saintliness .“  ?  If not we are no better than, “..  the other systems of other teachers, devoid of true saints.”
With regard to the Celebration of the Anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, it is worth quoting again from the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, in which it is stated that ,  « …. Now the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: “It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: ‘Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.’ But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone. »
Hence in reality Celebrating the Buddha Jayanthi  is not organizing festivities, but by getting each and every Buddhist making an introspection on the day to  understand to what extent each one  is to day  a true follower of the teachings of the Buddha. If  in such a search we find that we lack the quality of  a true follower of the teachings of the Buddha, then we should, leaving aside the celebrations, interrogate, discuss and redefine how to become true followers of the teachings.
Let us also examine, when we are preparing to celebrate the Buddha Jayanthi, how much of  the Buddhism brought  to Sri Lanka by Venerable Mahinda thero remains to-day. 
When the King Devenapatissa accepted the teachings, he  proclaimed Buddhism the state Religion of Sri Lanka.  He then set up many places of worship and Centres of Buddhist education.  When all that had been done he  asked venerable Mahinda whether the Buddha Sasana is now established in Sri Lanka.
The Venerable Mahinda said most significantly: Great King, the Sasana is established but it has not taken root.”  He then explained  to the King, how it would take root; “ When a person born of parents who belong to Thambapannidipa, enters pabbajja in Thambapannidipa,learns the Vinaya in the Thambapannidipa, and recites the same in  Thambapanni dipa, then will the Sasana take root in the Island.” ( Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon by E.W.Adikaram) 
It was then  found that Bikkhu Maha-Aritta  was possessed of the qualification for the purpose and recited the Vinaya at Thuparama, thus  making the Buddha Sasana, “  firmly established and well rooted in the Island”.
This shows to what extent the Vinaya is important for Buddhism to continue its existence.  It is therefore necessary to ask to what extent the Buddhist Bikkhus today keep their Vinaya precepts and how many of them could recite the Vinaya Pitaka by memory.
It would therefore be appropriate that the Vinaya Pitaka is recite by Buddhist Monks in every temple in Sri Lanka on the 2600th Buddha Jayanthi.
The Sacred City of Anuradhapura was said to have been yellow with the robes of the Maha Sangha.  There were Monasteries, Temples , Shrine Rooms, Meditation Huts, and  Halls for the gathering of  Bikkhus.  There were no Churches, Mosques and Kovils . 
There were Monasteries from which the sounds of the words of the Buddha were heard through out the day.  The Buddhist Bikkhus learnt the Buddhist Canonical texts which they could  recite by memory. In  the mornings there were  the Buddhist monks  coming out of temples and Monasteries in a disciplined  order  one after the other  according to their seniority with their begging bowls in hand  going for  their alms round. The nights were calm with monks sitting in deep meditation.
There were  Stream Entrants, Once returners, No Returners and , Arahants the Noble Ones who had reached the highest purity of mind.  But disciplinary laxity set in gradually and the Bikkhus were divided into two categaries those who were engrossed in books-Grantha Dura, and others that followed the Dhamma- Dhamma Dura and practiced Meditation.  The last Arahat is said to be Venerable Maliyadeva who lived  in the second century before the current era.  Since then Buddhism declined.
Later on with the coming in of the Colonial West we have Churches every where.  The Sinhala Buddhists were converted to Christianity.  Our villagers were slowly drifting away from the temple. There were Mosques, Hindu Kovils  and  Sinhala Kapuralas with their  Pitiye Deiyo and Huniyam Devathavo.  The Sinhala Buddhists got mixed up with Hinduism, and studied in Missionary Schools and  learnt about Chritianity and attended the catechism classes. 
Still later with the Muslim advent foreign teachings ate further into our culture and the Muslims came to our villages and they set up their Mosques, and made all people get up in the mornings  to the sound of the  Muezzin calling the Muslims for their prayer. 
Instead of the Buddha words recited in Temples and Monasteries  we hear the Muslim children learning their lessons in Arabic, hear the Church bells, and the calls of Muezzins, the noisy rituals of the  Kovils and Bhajan recitals coming  with the Saibaba Cult.
We have come a long way destroying the purity of the teachings of the Buddha.  The yellow robes of  Buddhist  Monks have taken different hues from yellow, to orange, brown and black.   We see no more the pleasant view of  well shaven yellow robed  monks going for their alms rounds. 
[Of course the village roads also have buses “bigger than the roads”, that make it impossible for even an ordinary man to walk, leave alone a monk going for his alms round.  The Minister of Buddha Sasana should ask the Minister of transport to have small size buses on village roads, to make life a little more convenient for both, bus drivers and pedestrians.]
Then the  Buddhist Bikkhus learnt at the feet of an elderly teacher, a senior monk.  They were very learned and disciplined.  They had to keep 227 disciplinary rules. Every 15th of the month they gathered to recite the Vinaya Pitaka , to examine the extent of the discipline kept by them, and make  confessions of their  breaches. Then there were Pirivena schools strictly for the Buddhist Bikkhus, where they studied Buddhist texts to become monks well learned in the teachings of the Buddha.
Even these are today  the relics of the past, the Pirivena system of education disappeared.  The Bikkhus began to sit along with the lay students in University auditoriums, learning no more the Buddhist texts, but geography, economics, law, and political science.  They studied not to be great teachers of Buddhism, but to do a government job, earn money and become independent. Or eventually disrobe, marry and  bring up a family. The Buddhist Priest even  go to foreign Universities to obtain Doctorates in Buddhism to be in par with the intellectuals of the West.
The admission of the Buddhist Bikkhus to lay Universites, was the final nail on the Buddhist education  and  the  privilege of having learned  Buddhist teachers  respective of Buddhist discipline.
And we also have Buddhist  Bikkhus who forget their “station in life as Buddhist Monks” like Bogoda Seelawimala thero  who has  proudly accepted an invitation to a royal wedding.  It is perhaps a sort of attaining  a social « Nibbana » for him.  A highest possible social achievement being the first Buddhist Monk invited to a Royal Wedding.  And we had  also another Bikkhu  who had the great privilege once to ”kiss” the Pope’s ring in the Vatican.
The young Buddhist Priests gave up shaving hair on the head, quoting Buddhist texts that the Buddha had not prescribed shaving the hair of the  head, but to cut the hair short.  They wear the robes any way they want , resulting in many young Buddhist Bikkhus, unshaven, unclean, “badly” dressed in their  robes of different hues.
The Buddhist Bikkhus in Universities are  a disaster to the Buddha Sasana.  They go on manifestations on the roads out doing the lay students in their aggressive behaviour , and abusive language.
The Wesak day has turned out to be a period of Carnival, a commercial event putting up pandols or Wesak thoran to  compete with  one another.
Less and less families go to temples on the poya days.  There  are  Buddhists Bikkhus who cannot recite  the Buddhists texts by memory.  Meditation- the heart of Buddhism is forgotten in most temples, giving place to Bodhi puja, Kavi Bana -discourses recited in poetry form.
Now after 2600 years of Buddhism we also  have Buddhist monks who are Company Directors, one even a  President of a  Nurses Trade Union,  Buddhist Monks as Administrators in  Government Service, Lawyers and Parliamentarians,  Buddhist Monks who ride motor cycles, drive cars.
 There were Buddhist monks arrested for digging temple Statues in search of treasure, and  selling Buddha Relics, and arrested for various crimes.
 There is conversion of poor villagers by different  Christian Missionaries going unchecked. Sri Lanka being a Buddhist Country could not even pass a Parliamentary Bill Against Conversion.
 The Catholic Church has established itself well in the country dictating terms to the Government. They Build Churches any where with out the consent of the Government .  They bury metal crosses in Buddhist sacred areas and dig them out to exhibit as archeological relics.
 They are so powerful the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka cannot even organize a  purely Buddhist function like  Buddha Jayanthi without bringing in the most anti-Buddhist Catholics to be in the Organising Committee. 
 When Sri Lanka celebrated another Buddha Jayanthi  many years ago, we had Buddhist Giants like ,Prof. G.P.Malalasekera, L.H. Mettananda, Venerable Abanwelle Siddhartha, Ven. Haliyale Sumanatissa, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, Ven. Palonnaruwe Vimaladhamma, Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha, Ven. Henpitagedera Gnanaseeha, P.de S. Kularatne, Dr.Tennekoon Wimalananda and D.C. Wijayawardena, who were prepared to come forward to protect Buddhism.
 To-day unfortunately we seem to have  none to defend our Buddhist values, and the Catholic Church  has taken over a greater role, and the Buddhist revival  faces many challenges.
 This is the situation of the  Buddhism of the Sakya Muni Gautama Buddha now  in Sri Lanka, but we  are still going to celebrate the 2600th Buddha Jayanthi this May, without addressing ourselves to the more important question of  how to stop further degeneration of the Buddha Sasana.
 To be continued………..

2 Responses to “Make Buddha Jayanthi an occasion to ask, after 2600 years what have we accomplished as Buddhists ?”

  1. Nanda Says:
    Please , Charles , do not use the word Buddhist Bikkhus to those people who hiding in robes.
    It is the time that the Government should pass legislations to disrobe all these people who are a disgrace to Buddhism.
  2. Ben_silva Says: 
    It is a good question to ask, after 2600 years what have we accomplished as Buddhists ?. Sunil has explained well how we lost our villages and how our people got converted and how our villages are woken up in the morning. I may add, we have lost the North, the North East, the hill country and now even the Capital. Rich people (considerable number of non Sinhalese ) live in isolation, surrounded by high security walls to prevent intruders, economic power in the hands of non Sinhalese, Rampant corruption, thefts, deception, indicating general lack of values and morality. Old people and disabled people, homeless and begging in the street. Lawlessness in the streets, where cars, driven by well to do people, disregard safety and even decency. We were also living as second class citizens in our own country under Western imperialists for over 200 years and at times under Tamil invaders. If RW was allowed to run the country and Praba given a place, we would have been pushed to the sea and made extinct. Have we got our mission correct ? Shame Nalanda Buddhists managed to beat us. Only consolation is Indians usually do things better.

    Following was posted by me with a pseudonym, two days ago and it was available till last night (12th April 2011).

    Quote:

    After reading the first part of the letter (how many parts more there I wonder), I was wondering whether we should wait to respond to the letter until we read all.

    I think NO.

    If the so-called Buddhists have failed to follow the teachings, then why should we drag people of other faiths in to the forefront?

    I think it is to cover our own weakness / failures than anything else.

    According to records (almost) 70 percent of the population in Sri Lanka are Buddhist.

    But look at the number of Meat & Liquor shops, Bars, Big and Small time Gambling dens available in every town.

    See the number of  murders / rapes cases etc happening in a day in the country.
    Not to mention the incidents of bribes giving and taking.

    The only reason I see for this failure is that we are not ready to practice the teachings but willing to hide behind Labels and blame others for our own failings.

    Unquote:

    However mysteriously it has disappeared this morning (13th April 2011) and to make the matter worse that I am unable to login with that name either now.

    Appreciate if someone can explain this as the above is not offensive material.

    But if the forum is not opened for discussion then it is a different matter.

    Good Luck & Jaya Weewa.

    Wishing Everyone a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

    This was again sent to them but no response so far from them.

    Now I wonder whether the "Lanka Web" Forum is really opened for discussions or it is there to propagate only one-sided views suit to them. 

    Over to you Mr. Editor.