The Sunday Leader

Celebrating And Observing Vesak

On festivals of great religions, people sincerely wish the world: Peace, joy, happiness and other good sentiments though knowing very well that some kind of horrendous human massacre is happening near or far. It is a tragedy that even though today, where most countries are democratic and the great majority of people are against such horrendous crimes, they do take place.

The crimes committed are by leaders elected by people desirous of peace and harmony. But yet, the converse happens and it is done in the name of security.

Today is Vesak Poya Day and the United Nations has recognised it to be a Day for Vesak. Yet however much the United Nations has endeavoured to maintain peace and protect human rights during its entire existence, it has been unable to do so.

The hard fact to accept is that man is a tribal animal and many of us possess bestial instincts.

Buddhism is a philosophy whose main feature is loving kindness to all living beings –maithree. May all beings be free and happy are the watchwords of Buddhism. But most countries that identify themselves as Buddhist countries have to live up to bad reputations. At times, Sri Lanka had been faulted. Myanmar, another Buddhist country which had been under the jackboot of military dictators for over half a century, but a few years after being freed from military rule, violent inter-religious clashes have occurred.

Recent years have witnessed what has been called the ‘Clash of Civilisations’, a perverted form of Islam being used to unleash deadly violence against whom they call to be non-believers.

Clashes between different sects of the Christian faith seems to have abated with the end of the Northern Irish conflict but much more remains to be done within the organisation itself, particularly among the clergy. In the treatment of black youth by the American police is taking America back to the dark days of slavery.

It was thought that with the end of the Cold War and the death of atheistic communism,  there would be the flowering of religious and intellectual thought and the world would a happier place free of war crime and violence. That obviously was not to be.

On Vesak day most Buddhists think of ways and means of spreading the Dhamma – the Buddhist doctrine to those who are unacquainted with it.  Buddhism, like all religions, calls for a degree of self-restraint of one’s desires and passions. Its deep intellectual philosophy involving meditation and the control of mind is now of growing interest but whether it will be a passing fad among foreigners or one that will gather momentum is hard to say.

However, it would be of tremendous benefit to Sri Lanka itself if there is greater attention paid to gaining insight to the deeper doctrines of the Buddha rather than becoming extroverts or political Buddhists.

It is a sad but correct admission to say that today in Sri Lanka Buddhism is being exploited for personal, commercial and political gain by unscrupulous people. To observe the basic precepts enunciated by the Buddha at a temple one does not need a TV camera crew in attendance and the proceedings to be shown on prime time TV. This is debasement of the Dhamma and such practices should be halted forthwith by TV companies themselves even if they are participants at such farcical shows.

Televising cricket and teams of other sports at religious ceremonies make the game of cricket a joke and Buddhist ceremonies comedies. Those who shout about protecting Buddhism from roof tops should call a halt to such comedies. If this practice continues unabated we may find monks blessing chips at casino tables!

Like in all religions adherents often get out of hand often because of their over enthusiasm. We have senior monks call to those going out of step.

Vesak 2017 is being celebrated with great enthusiasm and this augurs well for Buddhism.

A leading monk on TV on Thursday morning advised all: Practice of religious principles is the best way of demonstrating the Buddha Dhamma.

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