CLASSIFIED | POLITICS | TERRORISM | OPINION | VIEWS





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Sri Lankan Political Discussion

Several people have emailed me with various comments to my thoughts about the Sri Lankan political situation. I've posted the two most interesting in the feedback column on the right. The top item is a reading list for recent Sri Lankan history. Thank you for that. The second item is the most complete counter-argument to my position.

I don't know how much longer I want to continue this discussion here, it may be of limited interest to other of my readers. (Although all Theravada Buddhists ought to have some interest in what is happening in the nation that was the source of our sect.) I'll address only a couple of points now.

A number of comments were to the effect that I am blaming everything on the Sinhalese majority. This isn't my intention at all. On the contrary, I know the issues behind the civil war are complex and multi-faceted. One important factor is the colonial legacy, with the British playing divide-and-conquer tactics to dominate the island, a method they used elsewhere with the same bitter legacy left behind.(Burma is the prime example)

Rather, I have chosen deliberately to focus on those aspects of the problem that the Sinhalese side can work on. In Buddhism we are taught to examine ourselves and take responsibility for our own mind-states and life situation. Although I'm not Sinhalese, as a Theravada Buddhist my natural bias is toward the Sinhalese side in this dispute, so I try and make an extra effort to see the position of the other side. Blaming others is useless and renders one either helpless or aggressive. To apply specifically to the case at hand; obviously chauvinism cuts both ways and Tamil nationalism is a major contributing factor, and if I start getting some Tamil respondents I'll speak more about that.

There are many contentious issues being raised; for example pacifism. The Buddha's teachings are very pacifist. We can find many passages like the one in Dhammapada where he says that "Hate is always conquered by Love, never by Hate, etc. " or the famous SImile of the Saw. Nowhere can we find the slightest justification for any kind of violence. Certainly the idea of crusades and jihads are entirely alien to the teachings.

In specific situations, it is sometimes hard to see the practicality of pacifism. The usual counter-example is the second world war, which was fought to stop Hitler's dictatorship from conquering Europe, and possibly the world. This is a hard example for a pacifist to deal with. No doubt at all that we are fortunate to live in a world where Hitler was defeated. Perhaps by 1940 Hitler could only have been stopped with guns and bombs. But it may also be true that he could have been stopped with kindness in 1919, by which I mean had the Allies given Germany a more generous peace, Hitler would never have risen to power.

As for the Tamil war in Sri Lanka; those who propose a military solution should ask themselves a few hard questions. A campaign to retake the rebel areas might be perfectly acceptable under international law, but more is involved than narrow legalism. Such a campaign would necessarily be destructive and bloody, with many casualities on both sides and among the civilian population. And if the Sri Lankan national army retakes the peninsula, then what? They would find themselves in the position of the Americans in Iraq or the Israelis in the West Bank, holding down a hostile population by force with no end in sight. The military solution is no solution at all.

I don't know what a final solution might look like, some form of federal arrangement I suppose. It can only come about with good faith negotiations. Time is probably on the side of moderation; Prabharakan and his fanatical Tigers are a kind of revolutionary extremism that rarely in this world last more than a generation. Eventually a more moderate, institutional kind of leadership will emerge among the Tamils that have more ability to put aside extreme ideology and look at real practicalities. The Sinhalese side can help encourage this by an honest self-examination to see if there is anything on their side which might contribute to the problem.

If all of this is contentious, one issue however seems clear, and that is the vinaya question. The third parajika forbids a bhikkhu from taking human life, or causing human life to be taken by others. The cases cited in the Suttavibhanga make it clear that this includes the case where a bhikkhu orders or even advises someone else to take life, or assists another in taking life as for instance, by procuring a weapon. A case is specifically cited of a bhikkhu who makes an announcement that he who kills such and such a wicked bandit will receive great honours from the king. The bhikkhu is judged parajika.

No allowance under Vinaya is made for the justness of the cause or whether the killing in question is legally sanctioned under the civil law of the land. Even self-defence is not an excuse. If attacked, a bhikkhu is allowed to use only such degree of force as is necessary to escape, but there must not be an intention to kill.

So, it seems clear that a bhikkhu who advocates for a war or military campaign is guilty of a parajika offence, irregardless of the justness of the war according to the standards of the world. Furthermore, if a bhikkhu in the position of a legislator votes in favour of an army spending bill, he is already in a very problematic position as this could certainly be seen as providing the wherewithal for acts of killing.

This could be avoided if the bhikkhu parliamentarians made a point of abstaining from all legislation touching on military affairs, (does the JHU do this?) but it seems far better to stay out of government altogether.

Venerable Punnadhammo
arfh@tbaytel.net

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Fri, May 20, 2005
Religious Freedom Bill in Sri Lanka
The controversy continues in Sri Lanka over attempts to curtail unethical conversions by aggressive christian evangelicals.

The problem is real enough. Sri Lanka has been the heart-land of Theravada Buddhism for centuries; it can be seen as a last lonely remnant of the glory days of Buddhist India. Sri Lankan Buddhists are justifiably leery of Christian aggression, having been colonized by Portugese, Dutch and British in turn, all of whom used state power to varying degrees to coerce Buddhists and favour Christians. And yet the Sasana survived, even revived and flourished.

Now one branch of Christians are reviving the colonialist push. Evangelicals originating mostly in the USA are descending on the island and using every kind of dirty trick to win converts. This is no trivial matter. They routinely target the children of the poor, offering bribes in the form of toys and sweets. If this wasn't despicable enough, they have preyed on tsunami victims, offering aid only to those who convert.

These are the same kind of Christians that elected George Bush and who promote far right policies in America like persecuting gays, banning evolution from the schools etc. In a sense they represent the ideological shock-troops of neo-colonialism. Their dream world is one big happy family of Southern Baptists shopping at Wal-Mart.

They may not be consciously acting as agents of world capitalism, but that is their objective role. The Protestant Reformation laid the ground-work for the rise of capitalism and trade in Europe and remains one of the best religious under-pinnings for capitalism today (Confucianism also works pretty well.) Buddhism teaches harmony, contentment with little, simplicity, generosity, non-harming and other quaint notions not conducive to the unleashed consumerist greed which drives capitalist economies.

Not surprising that Sri Lanka is reacting against this wave of pushy Americans. Unfortunately, not all of the Buddhist responses have been skilful. There has been something of a rise of Buddhist fundamentalism. The election of monks to parliamentary office is a new phenomenon that arises directly from this backlash. Even if one agrees with the positions of the JHU (the monk's party) it is still valid to question whether this is an appropriate role for a bhikkhu. There are Buddhist parties in other countries, like Thailand, which function perfectly well by running lay Buddhist candidates. Even more troubling, and certainly less Buddhist, there have been dozens of incidents of mob actions including the burning of churches and so forth.

The JHU currently has a draft bill before the parliament which would ban unethical conversions. This is a second attempt after the first try was ruled unconstitutional. The new bill seems to be more carefully worded, and may be the best possible compromise. It is misleading propaganda to portray the bill solely in terms of an abstract "religious freedom." This is the tactic of the foreign missionaries and it conveniently ignores the context of aggressive proselytizing which amounts to an attempted cultural genocide.

It is worth watching how this plays out. It is to be hoped that the Buddhists can defend themselves without compromising their own values

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From: Mohn Senaratne
To: Ven. Punnadhammo.
Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 9:46 PM
Subject: More on Sri Lankan Issue contd.. # 1

Venerable Sir,

Appreciate your kind comment in blog dated Fri, May 27, 2005 entitled "More on Sri Lankan Issue ". Thank you for the opportunity to present core causes & issues about dire predicament facing all inhabitants in Sri Lanka.

You have focussed on two specific issues ;
1.. The matter about "Buddhist Fundamentalism ".

2.. Nexus between Christian churches & the LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka.

If I may, I would like to respond to these issues in two separate messages, as some historical background information is needed to clarify the well documented nexus between the Christian churches & LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka.

Maha Sangha & the matter of Sinhala Nationalism;

Interpreters of Sri Lankan [Sinhala] Buddhism have paid sole attention to the doctrinal narrative of pacifism, thus prompting an imagined ultra-pacific Buddhism as the real one. This is as true of the European as well as some Sri Lankan scholars.
Venerable Palane Siri Vajiranana, writing around 1940 during World War II, urged pacifism as he cited H. Fielding Hall's The Soul of a People:
"There can never be a war of Buddhism. No ravished country has ever borne witness to the prowess of the followers of the Buddha; no murdered men have poured out their blood on their hearth-stones, killed in his name ...He and His Faith are clean of the stain of blood. He was the preacher of the Great Peace, of love, of charity, of compassion, and so clear in His teaching that it can never be misunderstood.

[ For the venerable Bhikku, as well as for Hall, Buddhism never has allowed -- nor ever will allow -- for the possibility of war: the example of the Buddha's life, as well as his teachings, prove as much. There are no two ways about it ".]

Fast forwarding status quo to present times, may I quote Ven Prof. Dhammananda - "What Buddhists believe - ch 14"

" Peace is always obtainable. But the way to peace is not only through prayers and rituals. Peace is the result of man's harmony with his fellow beings and with his environment.

A Buddhist should not be the aggressor even in protecting his religion or anything else. He must try his best to avoid any kind of violent act. Sometimes he may be forced to go to war by others who do not respect the concept of the brotherhood of man as taught by the Buddha. He may be called upon to defend his fellow men from aggression, and as long as he has not renounced the worldly life, he is duty-bound to join in the struggle for peace and freedom. Under these circumstances, he cannot be blamed for his action in becoming a soldier or being involved in defence. However, if everyone were to follow the advice of the Buddha, there would be no reason for war to take place in this world. It is the duty of every cultured man to find all possible ways and means to settle disputes in a peaceful manner, without declaring war to kill his fellow men.

The Buddha did not teach His followers to surrender to any form of evil power, be it man or supernatural being. Therefore just-war thinking is no stranger to Sri Lankan Buddhism, it is also obvious and indisputable that stories of pacifism abound in Sinhala Sri Lanka. "

While civilians are being killed, children forcibly conscripted, people extorted and arms amassed for destroying the country by a vicious group of terrorists, must Sri Lankans practise Metta towards the aggressors or try to find the root causes or try to save the innocents from being butchered? If Buddhism is a way of life and if that way of life prohibits any action against aggression and if the forefathers of Sri Lanka have acted accordingly, Buddhism in Sri Lanka would have vanished a long time ago.

Amidst on-going turmoil in Sri Lanka many lay leaders professing to be upholding Buddhist values under guidance of the Maha Sangha have been duly elected into power in the hope that, these leaders would restore the dignity of the majority inhabitants - Sinhala Buddhists, contain continued erosion of the sovereignty of the nation, amidst the looming threat of economical collapse. However it became evident that these leaders ultimately succumbed to pressure from anti national elements, thus current escalation of violence & the rapid breakdown of civil society.

After 56 years of independence from the British, Buddhist & other patriotic citizens of non-Buddhist systems of faith have collectively found that they have been consistently betrayed by their elected leaders who campaign on a platform on the Buddhist system of values. In desperation the idea of electing Bhikkus to at least contain unruly, boisterous & a corrupt legislature as a necessary first step was mooted. The rational was that it is difficult (in comparison) to corrupt members of the Maha Sangha( better training in matters of human nature, no kith & kin to nurture, few basic needs etc.) in comparison to the average lay person. Hence the appearance of the JHU with the concurrence of the Sangha council. Though the JHU was only around 2 months old when they went as a political entity before the people, not all votes they received were from Buddhists, from more than a 1/2 million votes polled by it.

Naturally there were many devout Buddhists who were aghast at the prospect of Bhikku MP's in the state legislature. Emergence of the JHU as political force immediately transformed the usual raucous, rowdy & foul electioneering process experienced in post independent Sri Lanka, to one demonstrating more humane & civilized behaviour by example to the others. This fact is universally excepted. Same transformation is also evident in the legislature consequent to appalling behaviour of certain govt. MP's in the beginning. So far the position of the Maha Sangha in state legislature has been consistent with to political ideology they campaigned on. The focus of the JHU could be summarized as follows;

1./ Create awareness amongst all citizens about the need to begin journey towards a Dharma Rajyaya based on Dasa Raja Dharma. Promote public awareness about the Economic Teachings of the Buddha.

2./ Urge governing politicians at present time to implement decisive course of action to mitigate current security threat to the nation, without vacillating about it.

Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta and Kutadanta Sutta (Digha N) quite clearly illustrates the current ground reality in Sri Lanka. The sutta's illustrate that violence raises its head when the economy of a country is at a low ebb and the destitute are neglected, consequently crime increases and it is the king's (the ruler) duty to eliminate it. These two suttas say that there will be a gradual loss of values due to economic instability. Men and women would resort to violence if living conditions are not conducive to preserving their lives and they would take to stealing rather than perish.

"As a result of goods not being accrued to those who are destitute poverty becomes rife. From poverty becoming rife stealing.........violence ........murder.......lying.........evil speech........adultery........incest, till finally lack of respect for parents, filial love, religious piety and lack of regard for the ruler will result "

Venerable Sir, as you have conceded Sri Lanka is indeed in a desperate situation - in many more aspects besides the violent LTTE terrorist phenominon. In fact they are facing a situation where the very nations who imposed stringent stipulations in their countries against the LTTE amongst others as terrorist groups after 9/11, who ask the Govt to equitably share resources they provide consequent to the Tsunami disaster for 'rebuilding' with the LTTE! (indebting even unborn generations of Sri Lankans). This was what former president Clinton was doing in Sri Lanka a few days ago. In response current of leader in Sri Lanka has publicly stated that she will accede to the demand of donor nations, regradless of strong public opposition to it!

So far a desperate gamble of a last resort for the Sri Lankans, to field members of the Maha Sangha as legislators appears to be on course & working. I am unable to comment on( due to ignorence) your concern about the position in regard to 'Vinaya pitaka' for Bhikkus who are in parliament, specifically when they may have to authorize the nation going to war if required at some point.

As a member of the Maha Sangha to whom I have the utmost respect, may I ask you a question? What would be the position of a magistrate passing a death sentence on an accused? Is the Magistrate violating the first precept? Can one argue that the act of causing a 'killing' does not appear in the Magistrates mind (volition) though the Magistrate is simply interpreting the law of the land ? The same line of thought is valid for soldiers & being a soldier is not amongst prohibited (that which is unskilled) professions in the Dhamma .

Venerable sir, one final thought - I am not advocating that which is known as a "just war". There is no such thing as a 'just war'. However a leader or a ruler of any nation has a bounden responsibility to secure the well-being of all citizens in that nation.

Respectfully

Mohn Senaratne


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June 3, 2005
Sri Lanka and the Tamils
Mr. Senaratne has contributed further comments on the vexed question of the correct Buddhist response to the threat of terrorism, specifically the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Please see his letter in the Feedback frame to the right.

Mr. Senaratne makes a sound point when he cites the corruption of the political process and resulting economic injustice as root causes of the conflict. One might also add here that the economic hardship of poor country people make them susceptible to bribery by foreign missionaries, exacerbating the other issue under consideration.

He cites the Kutadanta Sutta, a story told by the Buddha of his past life as a wise counselor to a foolish king. But the point of the story actually supports a non-violent course of action. The country was beset by rebellion and banditry and the king's planned response was a tough law-and-order campaign. The bodhisatta instead suggested a series of economic reforms - land grants to farmers, capital loaned to aspiring merchants and an expanded civil service. More or less classical Keynsianism in modern terms, increased public spending to boost the national economy. The result was that the people became busy with their own prosperous livelihoods and stopped rebelling.

If we apply this to the current problems of Sri Lanka, the obvious conclusion would be to discover ways and means to address any economic injustice suffered by the Tamils. Admittedly this is not easy. The whole country suffers economic hardships, and the causes are complex. There is the colonial legacy, the corrupt political scene, and the difficulties posed by globalism, which is really a form of neo-colonialism.

It is necessary here to raise what may be a touchy subject, but it needs to be carefully considered. I am speaking of the role of Sinhalese nationalism which sometimes takes on a chauvinist flavour. It is one thing to be properly proud of one's national heritage, and the Sinhala people do have a lot to be proud of in their long history of nourishing the Buddhadhamma. It is quite another to develop an ideology of national superiority over others, and sometimes the rhetoric coming from Sinhalese nationalists does cross this line. (I am not referring to the present writer here.) Anyone not familiar with the background should look at Tambiah's "Buddhism Betrayed."

This is by no means a new thing. It is found in the Sinhalese national epic the Mahavamsa. In one notorious passage a dying king expresses regret at the number of human being he has slain (the Tamil wars go back a long way) and is advised by a monk, supposedly arahant, that of all these thousands only one had taken the refuges and precepts and another the refuges only, so in reality he had only killed one and a half men! This is clearly contrary to all the teachings of the Lord Buddha, but unfortunately has contributed a militarist strain to Sinhala national identity.

To return to some of Mr. Senaratne's specific points; I do agree with him that it was criminally irresponsible of donor nations to channel some of the tsunami relief through the LTTE. I suppose the consideration was that as the need was urgent, it was faster to work through the existing force on the ground. It might have been better to send in foreign aid workers, with military units as security if need be, to get to the victims directly. I don't know if this would have been workable. It could have been a disaster had the Tigers chosen to oppose such an operation in force.

And yes, I do think a magistrate breaks the First Precept in imposing a death penalty. Capital punishment ought to be abolished wherever it still lingers, it is a relic of a more savage era. And my point about the vinaya was that any Bhikkhu involved in making a decision leading to loss of human life, no matter how defensible in coldly practical terms, is guilty of a first parajika offence and must be disrobed.

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Ven. Sir,

I read with interest your latest response to Mr. Mohn Senaratne's letter, which, if I may summarize, deal with three key aspects:

1.) what should be the Buddhist response to violence;
2.) the Mahavamsa ideology as interpreted by Prof. S. J. Tambiah
3.) "Buddhist fundamentalism" - i.e. Buddhism mixed with Sinhala nationalism

Re: 1) This is an intractable issue which can be argued on both sides, as the question of whether a Buddhist should lie down and let anyone kill him/her is fraught with controversies, confusions and complexities. If the answer is extreme non-violence where Buddhists let others kill you then it could be argued that this is another form, or the equivalent, of committing suicide. The choice is between suicide and homicide, neither of which is a part of the Buddhist doctrine. Whether the forced circumstance reduces the first parajika offence is debatable. The conventional answer is to go to the root of violence and avoid the causes that can give rise to violence. The living example, taken from Buddha's life, is the Angulimala episode where Buddha was able to tame wild/beastly nature of the collector of fingers. So Buddha didn't have to face the issues head-on.

However, when a whole society, or an individual, is confronted with violations of human rights by a force that cannot be tamed then the question of what should the Buddhist response be remains unanswered? Should the entire society - Buddhist or otherwise - bend down and sacrifice their lives to the subhuman force? Is that a moral and non-violent response that can tame evil? Or is there a moral and an ethical duty to protect the mass or individal massacres inevitable in permitting evil to flourish? The Bagavad Gita ("do your duty") and the Augustinian theory of "just wars" are two fairly straightforward answers to this question. The "do your duty" princple enunciated in the Gita raises the question as what your moral duty is, when faced with two equally immoral options. Is my duty to kill and save my life and my way of life? Or do I surrender and be killed to avoid bloodshed of my fellow-man? But in Buddhism there is no such black and white answer. Buddhists tend to take the extreme non-violent response of yielding to violence as the higher principle which can tame violence. Though there is validity in this argument in exceptional or even in seriously non-threatening situations, it is yet to be proved whether extreme non-violence can tame violent or evil forces (Example: Hitler or Prabhakaran). Isn't non-violence immoral in these circumstances? Judging from the inexorbale consequences, isn't it moral to preserve a tolerant and democratic society that is conducive for ethical living than to sustain a violent and a fascist society that breeds more violence and intolerable evil?

Resisting violence with non-violence also has many dimensions. In Japan, for instance, the Buddhist monks developed the martial arts to defend themselves against robbers and killers as they travelled across forests etc. Buddha had the extraordinary powers of taming the wild beasts. But the basic moral dilemma of a mother faced with killing a wild bear who has grabbed her child or sacrificing the child is yet to be resolved. Perhaps you, Ven. Sir, could enlighten me on this issue.

Which takes me to (2): In a sense, Dutugemunu focuses on the identical issue in the Gita when he did what he thought was his duty by his people. The Mavamsa also focuses on his agonizing with remorse over the shedding of blood. The Tambiahs, however, skip the more relevant aspects where Dutugemunu made sure that the Tamil king be honoured not only by erecting a monument but also by silencing all drums as they go pass it. That is the path that Sinhala-Buddhist history followed without lapsing into inter-ethnic violence. Denying this tolerant historical force that prevailed down the ages, the anti-Mahavamsa ideologues interpret one single statement of a monk, uttered more to ease the agony of Dutugemunu than to cover up the reality stated by the king, to demonize the Sinhala-Buddhists as descendants of an insatiable historical force craving to kill the Tamils. Tambiah propagates this myth and selectively picks quotes and incidents from the post-independent era to boost his anti-Sinhala-Buddhist theory. Without focussing narrowly on a politically convenient phase had he surveyed the entire history of inter-ethnic relations in Sri Lanka he, and his followers, would have to provide answsers as to why similar inter-ethnic violence has not been recorded in the ancient, medieval and colonial Sri Lankan history - a salient factor highlighted by eminent historians of the pre-politicised era like Dr. G. C. Mendis, a Catholic and Dr. Kingsley de Silva, an Anglican, to focus on the tolerant non-violent culture in which all communities co-existed in relative peace and harmony. Incidentally, Tambiah is not a historian but an anthropoligist who politicised the post-independent phase with pictures and selected facts and quotes supplied to him by the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist lobby in Sri Lanka. He later withdrew the blatantly propagandistic cover page picture of his book Buddhism Betrayed?

The fundamental question is: if history does not record anti-Tamil attitudes of the Sinhala-Buddhists why did the north-south communal relations deteriorate only after the the northern Tamil leadership raised the cry of 50-50 and separatism in the guise of federalism, during the dying days of the British rule? If communalism became a critical issue after the northern Tamils raised it in its most virulent form should the "Buddhist fundamentalists" be blamed for the sins of the northern Tamils? Doesn't this undermine the mono-causal theory of Tamibah and the American school of his followers? Even if the "Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism" is to be blamed doesn't the southern forces intertwine with mono-ethnic extremism of the northern electorate?

This leads to the other related question: how valid is the mono-causal theory of blaming only the Sinhala-Buddhists in the complex history of north-south relations where both parties contributed to the exacerbation of ethnic extremism on both sides of the divide? Can such a catastrophic crisis emerge only by the forces of one side? Didn't Dr. Colvin R. de Silva state clearly: "We all are to be blamed for the current crisis?" So is Tambiah then making a vain attempt to produce the sound of a clap with one hand? Last but not the least, why is the conflict confined to the north and the south and not to the other miniorities (Muslims and the Indian Tamils) ? If it is "Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism" (i.e Buddhism mixed with nationalism) it should be against all non-Sinhala-Buddhist minorities.

But the conflict originated and continues to be with only the Jaffna Tamils of the north. Even the Eastern Tamils have broken away from the north. So is this "Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism" as defined by the Tambiah school of partisan ideologues the sole cause or is it intertwined with the mono-ethnic extremism nurtured and promoted aggressively from the 1920s by the northern Tamils - the only community that has refused to co-exist in peace and harmony with the other communities as in historical times? Isn't this aggressive and violent northern force based on the ethnic superiority of the Jaffna Tamils over all the other communities, including the Tamils of the eastern province and the Indian Tamils, who are described as "coolies"?

Finally, to the point no.3 - "Buddhist fundamentalism" as defined by the NGOs and the American school of academics led by Tambiah. First, it must be noted that it is a derogatory term used deliberatelay to equate or to evoke the same responses arising in its use against the Muslims. When the Christians cry "God is great" it is considered a benign blessing to God and to humanity. But when the Muslims cry "Allahu Akbar" (also meaning "God is great") it is reprehesible fundamentalism. Clearly, it is a politically motivated definition to demonize the "other". Taking the case of "Buddhist fundamentalism", it is appropriate to ask whether its indiscriminate use or parrot-wise repetition because it has been used by the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist school of academics, is appropriate even if it is tied to Sinhala nationalism.

A nation's culture is invariably related to its spiritual ethos, whether Christians, Muslims or Buddhists. Bertrand Russell and recently Sri Arthur Clarke identified the historical violence of various societies tied to religions. They rated the Christians as the worst, the Muslims the second and the Buddhists the last among the violent societies. This is not to say that the Buddhists should follow violence of any other creed or that they can be exempted from guilt for their coming last in the list. But since we are talking of human societies (and not that of arahats or angels) it is valid to compare and contrast the impact of religion on societies. In the Sri Lankan case, there has been no comparative study of the violence of the various communities.

A partisan approach has been made (examples: Tambiah, H. L. Seneviratne, Michael Roberts et al) to blame only the Sinhala-Buddhists, confining their arguments that correspond identically to that of the political platform of the northern Tamils. One of the most striking similarities is the parallel path taken by academics and other ideologues with the northern Tamil political agenda. A close analysis will reveal that both complement each other.

To summarize, the Tamil platform blame only the Sinhala-Buddhists for not giving into their escalating demands leading towards separatism at the time they raised the issues. This is precisely the central theme running through the diverse theories, paradigms and the blame game palyed by the American school led by Tambiah and the pro-Tamil lobby in NGOs. A good example is that of Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in-law of the father of Tamil separtism, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam. Initially, he argued persuasively that democracy has succeeded in Sri Lanka, when it has collapsed in most other ex-colonies, because of the tolerant Buddhist culture. But when he aligned himself with his father-in-laws politics he reversed his theory and argued that everything is due to the "Mahavamsa mentality" and the Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism.

Ven. Sir, you will pardon me if, in conclusion, I cite our Great Teacher who taught us not to accept anything even because he says so. He taught us to question and to examine reality as it is and not through coloured lenses. I have tried my best to follow that principle here. I am sure, Ven. Sir, you will appreciate this point more than the ideologues quoted in your reply.

With metta

H. L. D. Mahindapala


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