What’s disturbing is the monk’s rhetoric, which he has not toned down Gnanasara’s philosophy is not a description, but a prescription He says that the role monks play in ‘historic politics’ has been handed over to the Buddhist order throughout history
For a moment this monk has forgotten that there is a pillar called law and order in the country
Ven.galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera’s early release from prison, thanks to a presidential pardon, has given the monk celebrity status. One television channel even went to the extent of giving a live coverage of his release. Whether the monk should receive such attention is a matter for debate in a country where values in humans are fast deteriorating.
We live during a time where a section of the saffron robed monks have threatened to take the law into their hands. This is to strengthen their resolve which is to control religious extremists or simply send them into oblivion.
Monks like Gnanasara Thera affirm that they are involved in a national cause. The firebrand monk in a lengthy interview with a leading weekend Sinhala newspaper, published on May 26, has said that he had sacrificed his life for a national cause; destroying himself in the process.
For a moment this monk has forgotten that there is a pillar called law and order in the country. It’s something which offers people an opportunity to lean on when they are disadvantaged, cheated on or denied of their rights as citizens of the country. What’s disturbing is that the monk’s rhetoric, which he has not toned down, despite the fact that he was released from prison just a few days ago. The monk is shrewd. Vociferous as he is, many lawyers are of the opinion
that the thera rehearses what he has to say in public and is careful because what he says, often, never breaches the law. For the record he was put behind bars for contemptuous behaviour inside the premises of the Homagama Magistrate’s Court.
Gnanasara’s philosophy is not a description, but a prescription. His call is to rally supporters in the event the Government fails in the ‘National Cause’. There is no room for anyone opposing him to compromise, argue and present logic or reasoning. He dictates and the rest must follow. Given that he has said in his recent interview with the Sinhala weekly newspaper that he destroyed himself in the process, does he care one bit if others joining his movement too get destroyed?
The monk maintains that he’s not involved in politics. But he adds that he is involved in a kind of politics which he terms as ‘historic’. He says that the role monks play in ‘historic politics’ has been handed over to the Buddhist order throughout history.
The monk came under the spotlight in politics when he teamed up with Sinhala hard liners and helped them form the political party Jathika Hela Urumaya. But he soon fell out with them and helped another group form the Bodu Bala Sena.
He has said that the majority in the country lack intelligence. But at the same time he maintains that he is not enlightened. According to Gautama Buddha an enlightened being cracks the life’s puzzle by which he finds a solution to the question of suffering in Samsara (The seemingly endless cycle of life and death). Going by the teaching of the Buddha and the results one derives from them, one can assume that those who experience enlightenment are very intelligent. Ven. Gnanasara at times can be a good example for how an individual can contradict himself!
He maintains that his focus is on putting the country in order to ensure that the next generation can live in a prosperous nation. Many support this ‘self appointed’ spiritual leader largely because the country lacks politicians who value and understand patriotism.
In this context it’s important to bring into mention the decline of the Buddhist order in the 1960s. This was a time when Ven. Kadavadduwe Jinawamsa Thera surfaced and initiated the Vanawasi Bhikku movement, also known as the Forest Dwelling Monks. Michael Carrithers writes extensively about Jinawamsa and his clan of monks in the book ‘Forest dwelling monks of Sri Lanka’ (SBN 195613899). In the book the author quotes Ven. Jinawamsa as saying, “The delusion of the Ramanya Nikaya traced back to the time when monks were given salaries at Monastic Universities’. And he goes onto to write that ‘Higher education generally leads monks away from strict observances of virtuous life’. The monk called his movement ‘The Samsthawa’ which dedicates itself to form a pure Buddhist order so that it could carry out ordinations and other acts of vinaya (Discipline). Ven. Gnanasara has acknowledged that this is not the time to be a recluse and engage in meditation. He says he has sacrificed his resolve in gaining enlightenment to rid the country of extremist religious sects.
This is a time where the country is in turmoil. Christians are still mourning the dead. All that mayhem was caused on Easter Sunday by a series of bombings carried
He maintains that his focus in on putting the country in order. Many support this ‘self appointed’ spiritual leader largely because the country lacks politicians who value and understand patriotism
out by Muslim extremists. Ven. Gnanasara says he had warned about such groups, but adds that the authorities didn’t take him seriously.
Just out of prison, this monk has had the last laugh. He is sarcastic in his comments made to the print and electronic media. ‘I told you so .... and see what has happened” he has said in the recent interview as if mocking at the leaders of the country.
There is a similarity between Ven.gnanasara and an extremist Muslim. Both are trying to reform the society which they both feel have gone off track.
The monk claims that he learned a lot while being behind bars and adds that he used this time as a period to do a self-analysis. But the Gnanasara we see today and the Gnanasara who was imprisoned, for us, remains the same!