No doubt that Buddhism is the most flexible, tolerable and nonviolent religion in the world. Some of its pillars, known to Buddhists for more than two and half millennia, such as ‘ahimsa’ (nonviolence), ‘samanathmatha’ (equality) and ‘upekhaka’ (indifference) constitute the very basis of civilized life.
The same thing can be said about the sea too. It is vast, calm and deep. Still there can be tsunamis.
The first wave of so called ‘Sinhalese Buddhist’ talibanic tsunami hit us in 2003 – in the immediate aftermath of the demise of Ven. Gangodawila Soma thero. Racism and ethnic hatred are not uncommon in Lankan society but there were no precedents for the abuse of religion for political purposes at such low level. Not even in 1956, with the liberal unleash of chauvinism under the opportunistic leadership of S W R D Bandaranaike.
To give credit to those who deserve it, Ven. Soma thero has always been reluctant to jump to the mud hole of politics. Perhaps he realized it was not his forte. Perhaps he was not dreaming for a Mercedes Benz. In the non-materialistic universe of Ven. Soma thero the place for a Bhikku was at a higher orbit – not so close to earth. So he kept out of politics, leaving it for mortal souls like ourselves.
The politically motivated JHU Benz-wallahs were the opposite. Seeing the opportunity they jumped immediately –like bunch of pariah dogs jump for a bone or bitch under heat. They could win nine seats in the 2004 General Election – a significant number for a party born yesterday – but little did the apolitical upasaka ammas who voted under a kind of religious giddiness know what was in for them.
Ever since it was a bumpy ride. Benz-wallahs broke every possible rule in the book. They sold car permits, abducted their own colleagues, threw ‘parusha vacha’ and ‘pisuna vacha’ not only at political enemies, but also at others belong to different factions. Staged few dramas like the event at Sharuk Khan’s show. (Poor Sharuk! He never returned!) During a ‘fast unto death’ (rather fast unto hospitalization) event at Kandy JHU cheevaradharis behaved like common thugs in closing down the shops.
Still there is something called ‘karma’. We saw it at work when some of them got their testicles massaged by the good doctor Mervin Silva reminding us ‘ditta dhamma vedaniya karmaya’.
All this would have been fine. We would have been enjoyed the comedy if not the believers of other religions were unnecessarily brought in the middle of all this.
Christians and Catholics were the first victims. Overnight even the Sinhalese Christians became non-indigenous; non-Bhumiputra, ‘arrived yesterday’ outsiders. All Christians and Catholics were the target for handful of conversions that have been carried out by few non-traditional and small Christian groups. The madness knew no limits. Only God would have known how many churches have been burnt down ever since.
Then the Muslims. Courtesy of JHU , poor in Ampara were denied shelter simply because of their belief. When thousands of Muslims were unceremoniously chased off from Glennie street there wasn’t anybody even to raise a voice.
Things would not have been so deplorable if not for the Kurrakkan uncle – the opportunists’ opportunist – who saw nothing wrong in riding this racist wave for his own political gains. The outcome was catastrophic. The level of racism unleashed at the 2005 Presidential election was incredible. The divisions in society caused deep wounds, which will never be healed. All these because of the greed of one individual – to make his the royal family of Lanka.
The recent incidents in and out of the Supreme Court too are the continuation of the same drama. What Taliban wants it clear. They look for a discrimination that treats them better than the rest of the society. Muslims chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ is not tolerable; but noise pollution by temples is not only acceptable but welcome as well. No, we do not want to stand for anybody. We are supreme and above the law. See where they are leading?
As Buddhists, how long are we going to tolerate this Taliban mafia? Shouldn’t it high time that we stand up and say we are tired of all this nonsense and that as Buddhists we do not expect to be treated better than the rest – rather we do not want anyone else mistreated?
These are questions we should ask ourselves as Buddhists, Sinhalese and Sri Lankans. It is not a question of a political party. It is a question of our common future. The damage caused by these extremists to the Lankan society is no means small. We already live in a highly divided society thanks to all racist forces that divided us ever since 1956. Isn’t this the time to use our brains and not our hearts?