SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM

Daya Hewapathirane
Daya Hewapathirane

Buddhism has always been engaged in various socio-political contexts. The idea of interdependence is widely associated with Buddhism. Buddhism is the religion of Human Ecology. Engaging in the lives of others through compassion, sacrifice and service is the worthy spiritual path that we need to observe in the contemporary world. Both inner practice and social service are important elements of the spiritual path. Buddhist practice and the whole ancient Buddhist tradition is built upon the spirit of service. A major task for Buddhists in contemporary Sri Lanka is to organize themselves to forestall or prevent the real and potential adversities and catastrophes facing them, owing to threats and devious actions of non-Buddhists, especially the extremist Muslims, and opportunistic politicians with narrow self-interests, aimed at undermining Buddhism and the Buddhist cultural heritage of Sri Lanka founded on Buddhist norms and principles.

Our Bhikkhus, should necessarily be in the forefront in movements aimed at protecting and promoting the Buddha Sasana especially when it is under threat. Our Bhikkhus need take an open public stand on issues surrounding Buddhism and Buddhist culture which is the greatest treasure that our country could offer to the world, to humanity. Why should anyone feel uncomfortable when the traditional spiritual leaders of our country, the Bhikkhus, take the initiative and provide necessary leadership to protect the greatest wealth of this nation – our Buddhist cultural heritage.

Those who object to the initiative taken by our Bhikkhus of the Bodu Bala Sena, appear to be those with ulterior motives, those having their own self-interests to promote, those attempting to promote blind beliefs and establish unwholesome lifestyles based on such beliefs, those opposed to further strengthening and consolidation of Buddhist culture in this country, and those resorting to unwholesome activities that are contrary to Buddhist norms and principles and all those who are inclined to undermining the Buddha Sasana and Buddhist values which have been preserved and promoted for thousands of years in this country, by the large majority of its inhabitants. These undesirable elements may feel uncomfortable about the Bodu Bala Sena activities which are, on all counts, legitimate, wholesome, and timely. Non-violence and compassion form the basis upon which the programme of activities of the Bodu Bala Sena is structured. Our Bhikkhus have become a thorn in the flesh of religious extremists, the recent breed of inter-faith dialogue facilitators, those in the ethnic and human rights businesses and above all those who are funded or backed by extremist anti-Buddhist elements.

Most of the ills of our country’s political life could be attributed to the absence of genuine Buddhists in the political arena. In fact, genuine Buddhists have a duty by the nation, which is founded on Buddhist principles, to be fully involved and participating in their nation’s political life. This is particularly relevant today owing to the fact that our nation is severely threatened at present by diverse negative forces, especially by Muslim fanatics. They are trying hard to undermine the wholesome Buddhist cultural heritage and values of our nation.

It is time that more and more of our genuine and practicing Buddhists entered the political arena in various influential capacities. We are grateful to and value the initiative and leadership provided, in this regard by the highly esteemed movements such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Ravana Balaya, and Mahason Balakaya among others. Despite untold threats and challenges and various unfounded and indecent criticisms leveled against them, especially by extremist Muslims and other fanatics who benefit politically and otherwise from association with extremist Muslims, these bold, inherently national organizations, appear to be going ahead with their program of activities, demonstrating foresight, forthrightness, courage, fearlessness, and determination.

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