Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Is BBS An Existential Threat To The Dharma?

By Vishwamithra –

"As fire, though one, takes the shape of every object which it consumes, so the Self, though one, takes the shape of every object in which it dwells."  ~ The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is not a representation of the Dharma as preached by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. BBS consists of some erratic persons robed in saffron and backed by some unruly groups of laymen, mostly of youth. They pretend to be the sole saviors and guardians of the great Dharma that had been passed down from generation to generation. On the contrary, they are an existential threat to the serenity, purity and sublimity of the teachings of the Enlightened One.courtesy Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page

Gnanasara/Photo courtesy: Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page

Buddhism is the embodiment of some of the greatest teachings that mankind has known; teachings that, in his first sermon, the Buddha said, elucidate the very essence of life in general: "I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering, which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The Buddha presented and explained this very doctrine in his major discourses. The teachings have expanded and evolved since the Buddha's time, thanks to his closest disciples. Yet the doctrine still underlies the core Buddhist teachings. In his first sermon at Deer Park, he taught the Four Noble Truths: the existence of suffering, the cause of suffering, that the cause of suffering can end, and the path to the end of suffering." (Source: Venerable Walpola Rahula's article, The Buddhist Review Magazine).

Taken against the perspective of the first sermon of the Buddha, the self-proclaimed disciples of the Great Teacher are a long way off the nobility of the teachings. It is not only Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, one of those imposters whose sole and exclusive motive seems to be making political capital out of the general suspicions that exist between ethnic groups and turning that suspicion into support of a particular political cabal, but the lay followers of that school of thought are as guilty in flaming communal fires. There is no dispute that the conduct of a person in leadership this cabal is a gross contamination of the Dharma. It is even more astounding that the so-called 'Maha Nayakes' who are presumed to be presiding over the 'Order of the Monks' have opted to remain mute over a very fundamental violation of the great Teachings.

In such a disappointing circumstance, the average Buddhist whose isolated faith alone keeps him or her adhering to the Teachings is much more noble and honorable than those who parade the streets in yellow robes. Unlike other religions, Buddhism does not revolve around a rigid hierarchical system in the order of the clergy. At the pace temples are springing up almost every street corner in the urban areas and every culvert in the rural hamlets, a foreign visitor may wonder how religious the average Sri Lankan is. An old woman whose children have gone away after marriage to their own homes, who is attending to the needs of the temple and its caretaker Monk, who is waking up each morning with the first rays of the sun and picks out the jasmine flowers in her own humble homestead to offer to the shrine in her one-room home, is lost in a maze of uncomfortable choices. Her universe has become substantially small; it has shrunk to the size of her immediate environment; even her immediate family is outside her little universe now. But her faith in the Dharma has grown; it has grown with each passing day not because she is beginning to understand the nuanced incomprehensible 'abhidharma' but for her fear of losing time with its passage on her own age.

Whether this old woman is at the threshold of attaining a blissful state of a sublime mind or not, her blind faith in the Dharma keeps her from doing any harm to another individual. An iota of that faith is worth a thousand sermons preached by a corrupt monk. It is that faith that has been desecrated by these hoodlums in saffron. Such crude violation of man's faith in a religion is a mortal sin. While I, the writer, am unwaveringly opposed to what Indian thinker, Jiddu Krishnamurthy called 'organized religion'. The traditional 'custodians' of the Teachings of 'Tathāgata', the Buddhist clergy, though not so rigidly regimented like Catholicism or the Anglican Church, are increasingly looking antagonistic towards other faiths and embracing the 'fundamentalist' character of Buddhism; such tolerance of perverted versions of the Dharma is utterly 'unBuddhisttic' in the least and dangerously debasing the core teachings.

Galagoda Atte Gnanasara is conducting himself in the most disgraceful manner; his guile and the very persona that is reflecting that guile do not seem to have been scrutinized and investigated in a sensible and acceptable way by the Nayake Theros of 'organized Buddhism'. What is particularly harmful to the notion of sublimity of this great philosophy is when such a hoodlum pretends to be a sacred one in a yellow robe pontificating to gullible yet wholly faithful followers while in his own lifestyle alleged to be far from the sacrosanct quality of Buddhism. The core teachings of Buddha is not in danger; it was never in danger for such an unassailable teaching cannot be erased from the memory of man, nor could it be corrupted by mere mortals whose worth is not comparable even to the dust and soil the Great Teacher trampled upon. What is being corrupted and defiled is the popular version of the philosophy that is catering for the millions of followers and thereby making it incomparable to the core values and morals of Buddhism. Karuna (Loving-kindness), Metta (Compassion), Mudita (Sympathetic Joy) and Upekkha (Equanimity) seem to have had no influence over these monks who have chosen to lead the lay public along a destructive path of hate and vengeance.                   

When yellow-robed charlatans desecrate the minds of the lay public, greedy and opportunistic politicians gather around these hapless men and women like hyenas gather around a prey made immovable and helpless by a cruel predator. The lamentable tale of human misery continues in the most sordid manner. Public at large do not seem to care. They are not made aware of the dastardly behavior of the thugs in saffron; they are not informed of the ruthless manner in which they accumulate wealth and power by way of greedier politicians; they simply do not know the price of the whiskey these robed thugs consume with roast chicken as a bite during the hours after dusk. In effect, the public so misinformed and misrepresented are the bite for a hungry pack of political hyenas who roam the jungle of politics in Sri Lanka.

Re-emergence of the BBS is not imminent. Yet the tirades of Galagoda Atte Gnanasara can be heard and felt. They say terrorism is an attempt at government by the nationless. They know no borders and they know no morals. Basic human principles have been sacrificed in the name of the most scientific and rational teachings man has ever known, Buddhism. While those principles, precepts and deep philosophy would remain untouched- for they are untouchable- the mundane man is gripped by the wicked soldiers of the Senaas and Balakaayes. 

Buddhism has been corrupted by the invasion of gods and demi-gods from popular Hinduism; the sacred sanctity of the core and profound philosophical principles of the universe and man have been lost in a haze of superstition. These gods have come to occupy our temples. What is even more harmful and atrocious is the spoiling of the mind, the ultimate temple of man. Matters of mind have been corrupted, soiled, debased and defiled by these foreign elements of other religions. Mindless march of Aameesa Pooja has overtaken the still, unspoiled, incorrupt and tranquil Prathipatthi Pooja. The mind of man that was primarily responsible for landing a man on the Moon; that was responsible for the wonder of modern age, computer and the social media also made the most mindless and ruthless weapons man has known, the atom and hydrogen bombs. The environment created these demons or the demon created the environment is the most inscrutable question for which an answer is still abegging.

A very few have had the courage of conviction to challenge the onslaught of the kinds of Gnanasara and other charlatans. It is of paramount significance that the so-called Mahanayakes of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters confront Gnanasara. It is time we, as a nation and as sensible and reasonable men and women, allocated precious time to find timely remedies for a malignant tumor that is Gnanasara and his disgraceful clan. In April 2014, under another pseudonym, I wrote in an open letter to the Maha Nayakes thus: All you may be able to do is make an appeal. I fully realize that, in terms of the Order of the Buddha Sasana, individual Monks are not subject to any hierarchical disciplinary action. But what would stop Your Reverence from making an appeal in the name of humanity, in the name of the Dharma that you are purported to protect and disseminate and in the name of the continuation of the Buddha Sasana? Standing in the middle doesn't get you anywhere. You have to take the turn in the right direction.

It still rings true.

*The writer can be contacted at