Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Religion and faith

The transformation of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the Dhamma preached by the Buddha has gone through many transformations.

First we had the Hinduization, bringing in Hindu deities into our temples, sometimes converting them to ‘Buddhism’.

Next came the Christianization, which led to the coining of the term ‘Protestant Buddhism’. This was influenced more by Christians who turned to Buddhism, than from a direct influence of the Christian church. We saw this with the start of ‘Sunday Schools’ instead of teaching the Buddha Dhamma to the children on poya days. We saw the Bhakti Gee, Wesak Cards, Schools on the lines of the Missionary schools. Saying ‘Theruwan Sarani’ for ‘God Bless’. Even performing marriages in temples, officiated by Buddhist monks, even though there was no legal status in the ‘temple marriage’.

Now we are seeing the Islamization of Buddhism. It too had begun gradually, almost unobtrusively, like the proverbial camel getting into the tent. Some of the first changes happened in ‘Buddhist schools’, where mothers of students were compelled to wear a sari, when they came to the school. Why the Sari, is it because the school authorities believed that the mothers could corrupt the young girls and boys if they came in trousers, or skirts or cloth and jacket? Couldn’t a woman wrap a saree around her, but appear more naked than if she was unclothed? Couldn’t a woman wear a shirt and trouser and be the most decently dressed, if by the standards laid down by these schools, ‘decent’ meant not flaunting the women’s assets?

Now we have Buddhist monks, threatening to issue a fatwa against a political opponent. This thera was called a ‘Sangha Angawa’, what ever it could mean. If a Buddhist monk, or should we call him a ‘Mufti’ or a ‘Mullah’, issues a Fatwa against a person, then could a Buddhist kill this person and attain Nirvana?

Even if we consider the ‘Sangha Angawa’ as a form of ex-communion, it would be interesting to see how a follower of the Buddha Dhamma could be excommunicated. A true Buddhist does not belong to a church and he can be a Buddhist, all by himself.

But a true Buddhist could not also violate the First Precept, under any circumstance!