SPIR­I­TUAL VI­SION

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

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - POINT OF VIEW - By Ravi Na­ga­hawatte

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.

CON­TRA­DICT­ING HIM­SELF

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!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Sri Lanka

© PressReader. All rights reserved.