The Sunday Leader

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Standards

Every time we pass the Kanatte roundabout under the spreading Banyan tree, our eyes go to the four white boards placed around It: Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Muditha (sharing one’s own joy as well as of other’s too) and Upeksa (equanimity – learning to accept loss and gain). These are four basic principles in Buddhism and said to represent the core of Buddha’s teaching.
The traffic going around it certainly does not exhibit loving kindness, compassion, or anything of the sort. While the plight of drivers can be understood because of the severe pressures brought on them by heavy traffic, do Sri Lankan Buddhists, even when not under intense pressure – extend that loving kindness and understanding expected of Buddhists?

Bestial behaviour

The hard fact has to be admitted that we are being noted as an increasingly intolerant and bestial people. How else could a father throw his two children over a bridge into a river known to be teeming with crocodiles or a father tying his little daughter to a tree and placing a nest of vicious red ants on her as punishment for refusing to go to school be explained?

True, such beastly acts – even worse – happen in other societies as well. But these are instances that we have not heard of for over seven decades of living in this island. Is it that such cruelties were perpetrated before but the media coverage was so lax that they went unreported?


The paradox is that we claim to be a very righteous and religious nation. We get up in the mornings with radios and TV blasting away religious sermons. Our religious leaders with their families clad in spotless white, carry trays of jasmines to offer at temples while TV cameras of state-owned channels record the events and broadcast them faithfully. Mahanayakes are visited quite regularly and their advice listened to but rarely followed.

Do our political leaders abide by the law of the land quite apart from the teachings of the Buddha? Crimes committed by some of our politicians have attracted international publicity. Some behave like cowboys of yore in the Wild West chasing out those ‘varmints’ who have dared to cross into their territory.

On Full Moon days we are a pious people with every single licensed bar and liquor outlet closed but the moonshine joints are having booming sales. Any move to open a licensed liquor sales outlet causes a public uproar with chief monks in the area at the fore and kasippu dealers behind them.


Now there is a national debate on whether international casinos should be opened here. Following strong resistance from Mahanayakes, Archbishops, Hindu and Muslim dignitaries, President Mahinda Rajapaksa firmly declared that no new casinos will be opened. But the public feels that there is some hanky-panky matters underhand. The fact that three government regulations under the Strategic Development Projects Act were passed in parliament in the teeth of strong opposition have left many doubting whether casinos would emerge inside the multi-billion-dollar hotel projects.

Casinos will meet the foreign exchange requirements, it is said. Others doubt taxes being collected as expected from casinos when the Inland Revenue Department’s tax collection from Sri Lankans have been on the steady decline – from 19 per cent of the GDP before 1995 to 11.5 per cent of the GDP in 2012.

Buddhists have closed ranks against opening of the proposed casinos but the ruling party had adopted the three regulations on Strategic Development Projects with a simple majority in parliament.

Buddhist prelates have clearly pointed out that gambling is against the Buddhist way of life. In the Sigalovada Sutta the Buddha has said that gambling is one of six ways to squander one’s wealth. He has declared the six dangers inherent in gambling: Winning breeds resentment; the loser mourns the property lost; the gambler loses credibility among his fellow beings and earns contempt from his friends and colleagues.

Yet there are staunch Buddhists who support gambling. Well known bookies running betting shops are not only leading politicians but heading organisations for the protection and propagation of Buddhism!

The lack of a Buddhist consciousness among Buddhists in this country is no better illustrated than the arrest of a woman British tourist, a practicing Buddhist, for having the figure of the Buddha tattooed on her arm, throwing her into a remand jail in an extremely deplorable state and finally deporting her. Where was the Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksa?

Much will have to be done to convince non Buddhists here and even Buddhist foreigners that this is the land where the teaching of the Buddha flourishes and it is indeed a Dhammadveepa.

7 Comments for “Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Standards”

  1. Jigsaw Jakson

    Sir, you have just articulately put forward a vital message i hope the learned mahasanga and the readers of this bold writing (learned we believe)will take to heart when the next BBS drama or un Buddhist like conduct of a so called monk who was found guilty of a DUI and many other accolades in this line to his credit chargers out like a mad bull in a china(piganbadu)shop.

  2. pragmatist

    What about the sheer thuggery displayed by some buddhist priests against people of other faiths. I think by now many people around the world have come to know that a bogus form of buddhism is being practiced in the island of Sri Lanka.

  3. When will we practice “what was preached?”
    Will we ever abide by what we claim to be?
    This is the curse of our nation.
    Very sad but quite true!!

  4. RT

    As ruthless LTTE terrorist leader once said in an interview with Anita Pradap of CNN in early 1980′s “if Jayawardene is a true Buddhist, I wouldn’t be brandishing a gun today”. Yes he was megalomaniac but one cannot hide the fact as articulated by Gamini.

  5. Rajitha

    Articles such as this from people of this writer’s standing are essential, to try and make a difference to the distortion of Buddhism that has taken place in this Country.

    Unfortunately current editors of newspapers seem to value their jobs more than their ethics or even the welfare of the Country they live in or the survival of this doctrine, in our thrice blessed land !

    • Colombo Athiest

      Thank you for your rational thinking. I hope your writing will have some impact on those monks and stop causing harm to the teaching of the Great Teacher.

      In my long experience I have come across only a handful of Budhist monks in Sri Lanka who had any respect for the minority communities and their faiths.It may be because vast majority of them are far away from a cultured and civilised human life. They may even be educated but if religious priests in any religion are grounded only in their religion they remain only as frogs in the well. They cannot see beyond.

      We expect the heads of Budhism to have broad visions. I was astonished to read even the Mahamayake of the Asgiriya Chapter had approved and welcome the behaviour of the BBS Thug Rev. Gnanassara saying that he was doing a service to Budhism and the country.

      While the Rajapakse family and the mahanayakas provide encouragement and implied support to this kind of anti Budhist behaviour which has brought about international condemnation I do not believe the behaviour of these monks can even be influenced to bring any change in their behaviour. The worst scenario is even the law of the land does not apply to them.

  6. Karthik

    We have failed as a nation by legalizing Buddhism and not practising it. The Priests ,Teachers and elders are responsible for the present plight. By building a statue of Buddha on every fork on the road and under a bo-tree we cannot achieve anything. As long as we have corrupt people governing the country foreigners have to propagate the religion!.

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