Buddhist Organisations should clean up their own back yards!

Gamage Palihapitiya

Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA) was founded by Sir, D.B. Jayathilake, an erudite scholar par excellence. It laid the foundation for the Sinhala-Buddhists to work in an organised way and helped increase their awarness. Sunday Dhamma classes were started throughout the country and it helped disseminate the word of the Buddha. After his death Sir Cyril De Soyza, made an enormous contribution as its president. During his presidency, the YMBA building was erected in Fort, Colombo. He spent his own money to put up the YMBA Building, Borella.

After his death, party politics crippled the administration of the YMBA. At one point of time, during the UNP regime under JRJ, the president of the YMBA, Mr. Siri Perera, made some remarks against the government and as a result of this, he was forced to resign. Thereafter, several legal battles were fought in courts to capture power of the YMBA. It is so unfortunate, that the Maha Sangha, the custodians of the Buddha Sasanas were silent and didn't advise the relevant parties not to go to courts. Even if they advised, there wouln'd have been much effect. It is not only a disgrace, but also against the Buddhsit principles for the premier Buddhist organisation to go to courts. They were greedy for power and too ambitious.

These developments clearly show, that YMBA is not an organisation to promote spiritualism, protect Buddhist culture, etc. but immensely interested in earning money and promoting commercialism. Today, this premier Buddhist organisation is in the hands of some business people. It has become a monetary institution.

The mansion donated by Dr. D.J.Attygala at Castle Street, Borella on a 60 perch land is worth millions. It is a glittering ornament in the necklace of the YMBA that has to be protected and developed. The executive committee is planning to sell this property saying that they can't maintain the building. They say they can't find Rs. 75,000.00 for maintenance per month. The donor had a noble idea when this building was donated to the YMBA; to protet it for posterity. He had the immense faith in the goodwill of the organisation. He could have given it to the Public Trustee or any other organised body, but he didn't do it. The present administration of the YMBA has failed to recognise this simple truth and shown it's utter ignorance. However, this move has temperorily been averted due to intervention by some clear thinking people.

Architechts of this despicable move say that they are going to deposit money generated after the sale in a bank account and who knows what will happen to it later. So many buildings have come up in front of the YMBA building, Borella, and given on rent to non-Sinhala, non-Buddhists for the mere purpose of earning money. It is no more a spiritual organisation, but a monetary institution. Party politics, personality clashes, litigations, etc. have brought this institution with the glittering past into disrepute. How many young men and women are actively involved in this association is another fact that has to be taken into our consideration. Most of the office bearers are elderly, retired people who use walking sticks! They have failed in their duty to train and provide inspirational leadership to the young men.

All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) has been a meeting place of scholars, the educated and the virtuous. They are decent people in every respect of the word. Since it's very inception, prominent Buddhist leadrs like, Prof. G.P. Mallalasekera, Sir Lalitha Rajapaksa, H.W.Amarasuriya, Prof. L.G.Hewage, Sir R.S.S.Gunawardhana, Jinadasa Samarakkody, Bogoda Premarathne, Dr. K.T.W.Sumanasuriya, etc. as presidents, had made a tremendous contribution to the Sri Lankan society. They were eminently suitable to hold any position and qualified to be sent to any part of the world to address any international conference on any subject. They were scholars of repute. They were virtuous and worthy of honour. As a youth in the sixties, during the presidency of Amarasuriya, I also met some eminent people at the ACBC. It was an honour to meet and greet them who were role models for the younger generation, at that time. (At my village school, as a teenager, I had received prizes from Amarasuriya).

As the President of the ACBC, Prof. Malalasekera had represented grievances of the Sinhala Buddhists to the first priime minister of Sri Lanka, without any success. D.C.Wijewardhana in his book, 'Revolt in the Temple' explains how the first prime minsiter declined to listen to the Sinhala-Buddhist grievances. (This is a Lake House publication sold for Rs.1.00, when I bought it in 1963). Prof. Malalasekera and the ACBC played a vital role in supporting the free education bill in 1944; a revolutionary leadership was displayed. Thereafter, the ACBC appointed a commission to inquire into the grivevances of the nation. This Buddhist Commission Report laid the foudation for the political revolition that swept the MEP into power in 1956.

To-day, the ACBC is being run by a family famous for gambling. In a BBC interview(Sinhala Service), a social activist, Sunanda Deshapriya, admitted that this family has links with the underworld gangs. One family member is facing criminal charges in courts and the main witmnes against him was gunned down in courts premises itself by another gang member! What a compassionate Buddhist leadership!

There were so many court battles to take over the leadership of the ACBC by interested parties. The Colombo court, ultimately, appointed a committee to conduct the annual general meeting and elect the administrative council. Olcott Gunasekera, a former civil servant also contested for the presidency. He was ousted at the elction, casting votes by men and women brought by busses in hundreds. They had been traansported by buses from distant places like Matara, according to the media. What a shame, a disgrace in a so called Buddhist country! Can we call this a Buddhist country!

When I was a teenager, in the 60's, Olcott Gunasekera was the one who accompanied Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Nayaka Maha Thera to the US. However, he was not suitable to hold the presidency. Thugs, gangsters, murderers, alchoholics, drug traffickers, gamblers, sexual predators have become leaders of Buddhist socieities in the country. ' Kaduwela Vasantha', notorious gangser who was killed by an unidentified gunmen on a Vesak full moon day, was about to declare open several DANSALAS in the area! ' Moratu Saman', another notorious gagnster who was also murdered on a Vesak full moon day, was coming after attending to the opening ceremony of his own Vesak lanterns! King Kosala's dream has come true!.

Immediately after this super election, in which the gambling queen was elected over a practising Buddhist, Maduluwave Sobhitha, the so called self-appointed messaih of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation had praised the new president. According to Sobhitha, it was a 'shower after a severe drought'!

According to the Buddha's teachings in 'PARABHAVA SUTTA' one who is in the habbit of gambling, would meet his or her downfall. However, in this particular instance, his teachings have been been proved untruth; a gambling queen has succeeded over a virtuous person. Some opportunistic men in yellow robes praise the rich and not the virtuous. Our Buddhists through fear don't criticise these men in yellow robes.

This leadership provided money and materials to the JHU for their elction campaign. This is the leadership which wants our Buddhist monks to go to Parliament to resurrect the Buddha Sasana. Now, it is very clear what have they done since their being elected to office.

On the other hand, we have never heard of the Sri Lanka Buddhist Congress founded by some monks to compete with the ACBC. Severe competition among Buddhists has crippled and disunited the Buddhists.

Maha Bodhi Society was founded by Anagarika Dharmapala with a clear vision, clarity of thought, and had earned credibility. It was a pillar of strength to the Sinhala-Buddhists to fight against imperialism. Sinhala-Buddhists rallied round this great leader to listen to his speeches; a breath of fresh air. He called the spade a spade. He attacked Anti-Sinhala, Anti-Buddhist forces in the country. He didn't kneel down before the power, nor did he surrender his birth rights over a bowl of porridge.

The present president monk of the Maha Bodhi Society, Banagala Upatissa, is doing politics, supporting the treacherous MoU signed by Ranil and Prabha, travelling all over the world, running an abode in Japan, etc. He goes to Chennai to hold Vesak celebrations granted by the UNP government. His administration is a complete negation of what anagarika Dharmapala had envisioned. He is acting diametrically opposed to the very foundational principles of the Society. He has lost his credibility in the grass root level of the Sri Lankan society. It is rumoured, that he has offered the vice presidency to a notorious, non-Buddhist former UNP minister. The president, has himself involved in a legal battle for leadership. Walter Jayawardhana in one of his articles in the Lanka Web had highlighted this matter.

Sarvodaya, if it is a Buddhist organisation, has failed to gain popular recognition in the country. It is being run by one family. I visited a 500 acre project at Thanamalwila in 1982, and I found that the person in charge of that project was none other than Sarvodaya leader's cousin, a British educated engineer. ( he is the son of a novelist, A.C.T. Jinadasa, who wrote 'VAHALLU' in the late 40's or 50's). My sharp disagreement with the Sarvodaya is that, instead of promoting higher education, introducing high technology among our youth, it is still teaching manual labour work to them. In an era of high technology and communications, the Sarvodaya movement has failed to grasp the reality. This organisation is heavily depend on foreign aid in various forms. Therefore, it is not clear whose agenda, the Sarvodaya is committed to implement. Their immense interest in this so called ' peace process' is another matter that has to be studied seriously. In my opinion, it is a Trojan Horse.

This is the pathetic situation as far as our Buddhist organisations are concerned. However, we blame Christian/Cathlic Churches, Evangelists, etc. for ruining our Buddhist culture. Aren't we responsible for this mess? What steps should we take to rectify these shorcomings. If we are not redy to face the reality, these so called Buddhist leaders will do more harm to the Sinhala Buddhists, Buddha Sasana, etc. than by Evangelists. Are we going to do what? to resurrect the situation? How? and When?



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