I come from Britain. I have visited Sri Lanka several times. Some of my articles have appeared in Sri Lankan newspapers. I am a student of Law and History. Therefore the history of this island attracts me. But this time I am not writing strictly on a history-based subject. I am fascinated by the controversy that has arisen on account of certain animal sacrifices due to take place in a Kali Temple in Chilaw. I thought I would pose some questions to kindle the thought processes of your readers.
The first question that I wish to pose is – “What is the difference between killings taking place at an abattoir and at a Kaali Temple”?
I am a vegetarian by conviction. I take dairy products but not eggs, meat of any kind nor fish. In Sri Lanka I find most Buddhists (almost 95%) are non-vegetarians. Even the Buddhist clergy are meat, fish and egg eaters. I have been told by lay Buddhists that the clergy demands certain types of food when they are called for Daanas.
Most hotels are catering for non-vegetarians. There is hardly a single Buddhist vegetarian restaurant anywhere in Sri Lanka to my limited knowledge. But I may be wrong. There are of course plenty of Hindu Tamil vegetarian eating places. Yet Sri Lanka prides itself as a Buddhist country. It has been scientifically proven that human qualities could be moulded by the type of food consumed by them. Non vegetarian food could invoke aggressive qualities in Man.
Be that as it may, the majority in this country being Buddhists and non vegetarians they must want animals, birds and fish killed daily. But to my understanding the killing is not done by Buddhists. These animals are killed by Muslims generally after saying their prayers and in conformity with how such killings should be done according to their religious texts.
The Prophet was born and lived in a desert area. The Arabs had very little recourse to vegetarian food. Thus non vegetarian food was essential for them and how living beings should be killed in a religious manner had been explained in the Muslim texts. Thus the whole process of killing of living beings for food by Muslims is a religious process. I am told that Muslims believe that no sin attaches when a life is taken, if the killing is done only to provide food for humans or other living beings. A Muslim friend explained a Tamil saying among them: Kondrida Paavam Thindridath Theerum, which meant the sin of killing is negated by eating the body of the life killed.
The Buddhists would not kill. But they allow others to kill and then partake of the non vegetarian food. It is the Catholics who generally go fishing. In fact there is healthy co-operation in his regard among the various religious communities in Sri Lanka. Some religious communities do the killing. Majority of consumers of non vegetarian food hail from another religious community. But the Buddhists in Sri Lanka are hardly vegetarian conscious.
Once I had breakfast at the residence of a Buddhist friend. He gave sambol with kiributh. I asked him whether the sambol was vegetarian. He said yes. When I ate, it was found to contain dried Maldive fish! When I asked him he said, “Maldive Fish is added to all our preparations!”
So let me come back to my question in a different way, “What is the objection if such killing takes place in a Kaali Kovil?” I am told that most worshippers at the Kaali Temple in Chilaw who promote and insist on animal sacrifices are themselves Buddhists. Curiously the Hindus have come out strongly against such sacrifices! Yet other Buddhists have objected to such Kaali Temple sacrifices.I tried to find out what exactly this sacrifice means. A person takes a vow. As an example let me say this. A devotee says “Oh Goddess Kaali! I am without any children for ten years. If I am blessed with a child within the next one year from today I shall gift a well fed goat to be sacrificed to you at your Temple at Munneswaram”.The child is born as applied for after ten years and within the stipulated time of one year. The devotee is extremely happy and therefore rushes to sacrifice the goat to Goddess Kaali as Thanksgiving.
Now what takes place on handing over the goat? On the due date again it is prayers which take pride of place. The prayers go something like this: “I am handing over the sacrificial goat to you Mother! Please accept and bless our child and us!” A specially selected person conducts the sacrifice. Once the goat is sacrificed the devotee is handed over part or whole of the carcass of the sacrificed goat. They consume such sacrificial meat which is said to be normally more tastier than what is purchased in the market. The carcass is not wasted. It is eaten as “Prasaadam” (Holy Gift) from Goddess Kaali.
Let me again come back to my question. Could anyone explain to me the difference between killing in an abattoir after saying a prayer and killing in a specified Temple after saying a prayer? The only difference I see is that the one who says the prayer in the former case is a Muslim and in the latter case, a Hindu. How could those who partake avariciously of the meat sent out from the abattoir object to meat given out to the devotees at a temple? I had an interesting statement made by a resident of Jaffna. He said: “Sacrifices are an essential part of life. You sacrifice the lesser or the lower aspect to receive or attain the higher or bigger benefit. Take fasting for example. You forego your food and comforts for greater benefits. Before walking over a fire at a fire-walking ceremony you must fast and get yourself ready. Then the fire does not burn you. When you have to sit for an examination seriously you do not go for parties nor participate in serious games. You prepare yourself to do well in the exam. Thus you curtail your activities and sacrifice your comforts and concentrate fully in your studies to do well at the exam.
Animal sacrifices have been taking place for hundreds of years in Jaffna. The idea is that certain aggressive hidden forces or powers or even unfulfilled dead spirits need to be given solace and sops and propitiatory gifts in order to prevent them from causing greater calamities to the people. We believe that until around the time of Independence from the British in 1948 these sacrifices had been given in many Temples in the Jaffna Peninsula and there had been no undue calamities nor debacles faced by the denizens of the Jaffna Peninsula until then. But after Independence there was reaction to these animal sacrifices. Many Temples were forced to stop such sacrifices. What happened? We had our people undergoing immense hardships as soon as these sacrifices stopped. Many were killed and many youngsters were tortured by the state’s police and then its forces. Paramilitary forces too joined them. The Tigers and other movements too started killing.
We believe that Temple sacrifices were necessary to avoid calamities. Once the sacrifices were stopped calamities befell our people with a vengeance. Therefore animal sacrifices must continue if people are to avoid greater calamities. Furthermore the sacrificial goats, fowls and other birds and animals are dedicated to deities. Therefore we believe they would lead a better life hereafter! They would be born to better lives!”
Whether my Jaffna friend was right or wrong I cannot comment. But certainly I see no difference between goats killed in an abattoir after Muslim prayers and at a Kaali Temple after Hindu prayers. If you say Kaali Temple is a religious institution and therefore such sacrifices should not take place then what is the rationale behind non vegetarians allowing Muslims to kill after uttering a Muslim prayer and then partaking of the result of such killings? In any event what right have members of other religions to comment and prohibit the chosen conduct by devotees of another religion for centuries? In any event 90% to 95% of the persons who want sacrifices to be conducted at the Munneswaram Kaali Temple according to the Trustees of the Temple are said to be Buddhists! Non Vegetarian Buddhists! It is a pity that the so-called followers of the Buddha including their clergy in Sri Lanka are carnivorous.
Finally my viewpoint is no person who is non vegetarian, who sustains his human body through meat, fish and eggs, should comment adversely about animal sacrifices – because they are themselves partners to killing of animals and birds. I say so because I shun all forms of non vegetarian food on conviction.
Pirith: Invoking Devas For Rain
A news item appeared with a picture on a daily newspaper where the Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thero was seen conducting a Seth Pirith ceremony, organized by the Presidential Secretariat, to end the prevailing drought.
We have been conducting such ceremonies in the past too. This brings back to my mind to a conversation I had with and old Buddhist monk who had built a small ‘Avasaya’ and had moved out of several temples he had been in, due to his disgust at the manner which those temples conduct religious activities.
This monk is no more, but I remember what he told me.
He said that in the time of our ancient kings, this same ritual was conducted, and recited a poem fromBudugunaAlankaraya, where a famine stuck the city Visala and the king had got the monks to chant Pirith and the Devas had answered the prayer.
He said that chanting should be done by pious religious monks and the stanzas should be pronounced and stressed clearly, understanding the meaning too.
The rulers too should be pious, love the country, its people and genuine in their prayer, for the Pirith to be effective. He questioned whether we have such rulers and monks today? I leave it to the readers to come to their own conclusion.
It should be clearly understood this letter is not to discredit an age old effective religious practice but to expose the weakness of those who perform this ritual.
Animal Sacrifice at Munneswaram Kovil
I am a firm believer and devotee of Goddess Kali Amma. The news item in a daily paper says that the Kurukkal of Munneswaram Kovil had said he would stop animal sacrifice if the President orders. If this is true, he has placed the President in a dangerous situation as the president is made to use up and strip Goddess Kali Amma of her revengefui powers and faith on himself, such powers which will be detrimental or disastrous. This may be a bait by those against the President for his downfall. So be careful.
S. Weerappan, Osben Estste, Hatton
Murder Most Foul
The death under controversial circumstances in an apartment at Ramakrishna Terrace in Wellawatta, where the bodies of three members of the same family were found in a decomposed state, is a murder most foul committed allegedly by the son.
This tragedy draws our memory back to the Hokandara massacre where the whole family members were wiped out some years back, and later how a Burgher family of three, living down a road in Dehiwela met with similar fate as a result of a revenge killing. This is the heavy price the decent families pay when a member of the same family or hired thugs from outside go on a killing spree to avenge and revenge.
The recent series of killings of old women and mother and daughter are still fresh in our minds.
Thereby, Kahawatte grabbed media headlines. Tangalle saw a series of rape cases of teenage girls committed by influential individuals. The other day a mother and her daughter were shot dead in broad daylight in a village elsewhere. In towns and villages rape and murder are on the increase’
These stories portray how human beings can sink to the lowest levels of depravity to commit these blue murders, and then end up in remand and later as a guest in state institutions as a form of punishment. To these ruffians, human life has become so cheap and the powers-that-be views lightly on these types of serious offences. While the kith and kin of the deceased families have to grin and bear, these murderers are looked after at the taxpayers’ expense.
The tragedy becomes more poignant when a so commits the offence. What does this amount to? What has gone wrong? In today’s society, sons are at loggerheads with their fathers and most often, the parents are not given the respect they deserve. Even the elders are not treated properly. Hey all are taken for granted. This is so in some schools and other higher institutions. Etiquette and decency are heavily eroded.
It reflects a dehumanized society in which rough house tactics, if not weapons play a pivotal role. Religion and spiritual values have suffered immensely. Civilizedbehaviouris a rare commodity. Thuggery, robbery, crime and violence have taken hold along with bribery and corruption which are flying sky high.
M. Azhar Dawood