RITUAL IS DESTROYING BUDDHISM (A Letter, Island)
On Saturday, October 15, I read an article in the ‘Island’ by Dr Upul Wijayawardhana on “Is rains retreat redundant?” that struck a chord in me. The essence of the article was that Dr W. deplored the over-ritualisation of Theravada Buddhism in this country.
I do not claim to be either a Buddhist or a Christian, although my parents were devout Buddhists. For many years I have been an Atheist but I have great respect for Buddhist philosophy. I think what is happening today to the Buddhist religion here is a great tragedy. Monks, supported by Sinhala political leaders (in their quest for votes) have exaggerated the importance of Ritual. The propagation of the wonderful Dhamma has taken a back place to the observance of ritual.
Politicians crave photo-opportunities showing them offering flowers at temples or tying ‘pirit nool’. They engage in foolish, superstitious practices such as dashing coconuts to persuade deities to do something they desire. These are harmless but foolish superstitious practices. But they do not stop at that. They go on to erect statues of the Buddha wherever they can find a vacant spot of land. This is an undesirable and dangerous practice because it can be provocative to other religions while doing Buddhism no tangible good. It smacks more of idolatry than Buddhism. I am certain that the Buddha would have disapproved of these activities. Unfortunately building Buddhist statues is one of the ‘Eight Great Merits – Ata Mahal Kusal’ that Buddhists are urged to pursue. As Dr W. has cogently pointed out, all those merits recommended by priests are designed to benefit themselves. Much of what is happening today is part of this scam.
Image added by TW from internet
Genuine Buddhist scholars like Raja Kuruppu would be doing a great service to the cause of Buddhism if they were to decry superstitious activities that bring Theravada Buddhism into disrepute. What they should continuously urge is the pursuit of ‘mindfulness, kindness, compassion, truth and wisdom’ to quote Dr W. Among the most heinous of the crimes committed by ultra-nationalists is the continuous replacing of long-standing road-names of one or two syllables with Sinhala names of more than four syllables. The longer the name the more their hearts swell with pride.
Those who initiate and implement these projects do not realize the cost of their activities in the form of new name-boards and stationery for the businesses that are located on those unfortunate roads. Road maps and tourist literature are rendered obsolete. Who has benefited from these name changes? Has Sinhala culture been miraculously enhanced? The ultra-nationalists who have had their egos boosted by these activities are damaging their poor country that cannot afford these silly extravagances. It would be futile to expect our political leaders to do anything to curb these costly frivolities because it would not garner them votes – their main aim in life. -Charitha. P. de Silva (Island)
An appeal to all our politicians – how can I be good and serve others?
Cartoons added by TW from internet
This is a treatise on how one can become a good and humble person and serve others if one is a politician.
This world we live in is an absolutely fantastic and thrilling place if one looks at it in the right way.
If one thinks in the wrong way contentment and happiness will evade you.
If one thinks about one’s big car or one’s big house or his pretty wife or her handsome husband or all the money he has and how important he or she is, then you are on the way to disenchantment and discontent!
I believe that the way to distance oneself from these unimportant things is to see and consider the wonder of this life of ours and the wondrous world we live in.
Here below are some thoughts which can make you a good and kind person and one who will serve others in humility.
Think for instance of what happens in a leaf on a tree, with all the millions of cells in that single leaf exposed to the sun and making sugars and carbohydrates, and the self same tree making fruits and seeds from the energy stored in its leaves. What happens in that leaf is so fascinating and unbelievable as we are still ignorant and cannot emulate photosynthesis! How does this happen? Have you watched a fruit grow, a papaw for instance and wondered how it becomes larger and change its colour and ripens? Have you thought about that?
Think of a bee, leaving its hive and flying into the sunlit air and humming away to settle on a flower which opens its petals for pollination; and the same bee finding its way back to the hive it left after flying hundreds of meters from it. Reflect and think on how it does just that, and the wondrous world will take hold of you! Think of the compound eyes the bee has, and all the pictures it gives to its brain? Who made that brain and that bee?
Think of a salmon who is hatched from an egg laid in a stream somewhere in the world. That self same fish grows bigger and then finds its way though all the streams to the river and then to the sea, where it grows larger over the years, and finally finds its way back into that self same river and then to that stream where it was born, only to die after it lays its eggs at the same place it was hatched! How does this happen? Does it not seem almost a miracle, and is there a power organizing all this?
Think of a millipede with its hundreds of legs, all moving in a beautifully synchronized fashion to propel it forward! Every one of those legs controlled by its brain, and for what reason? Why are they there and what is the purpose of their existence? In fact what is the reason for our existence?
There are myriads of examples of the wondrous world we live in and interact with if you only have the time to think about it. A good time is just before you go to sleep and you are lying in your bed to consider and reflect on these stupendous things so commonplace all over our world!
How do thoughts originate? Can a piece of flesh which we call the brain by itself give rise to a thought? Or does it come from somewhere or from outside? And what is a thought, does it have any size or substance? If one thinks about all these things and the unbelievable everyday fascinations, one will tend to be humble and good and not think about impressing others with petty big cars and idiotic big houses and bright clothes!
One will be happy then to make others happy! This is what all politicians should think about for you have taken the responsibility of making the country and its people happier by asking and getting their vote of approval!
Please live up to your ideals Ladies and Gentlemen, be honest and true and make this country a better place. I know you can do this! –Humbly, Gamini Samarasinghe
These gems of wisdom expressed by the humble author are like pouring water on the duck’s back as far as the “jokers” concerned. The wisdom must be addressed to the clergies of the three religions, as well -Islam, Buddhism and Catholicism. To be fair by the religion Hinduism, the Hindu priests never go after or accommodate politicians unless they are forced to perform rituals. This trend is only in Sri Lanka; in India it is different story.