Why Are Buddhist Monks Attacking Muslims? A Response…..
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
Translation: May veneration be presented to the exalted one who is a Buddha and has achived enlightenment by himself righteously. X3
It would seem as if the purpose of this piece that we are to discuss, is to give the answer with the statement that all religions are just about as violent or peaceful as the next. Not only is this incorrect, but the usual simple-minded answer for simple-minded people. I’m going to give a link to the article in question at the start of the reference section in case anyone should think that I’m trying to deceive by omission, or that I’m simply making ridiculous statements. We shall leave that to the likes of Mr. Strathern, as he spills forth with his attempt of academic journalism that I’ve recently come across published under the banner of the B.B.C. The title itself can deceptively lead one to believe that it has become fashionable for Buddhist monks to walk around Sri Lanka physically ‘attacking’ members of the Muslim population, and It’s noteworthy as the kind of thing that many like to propagate when they wish to convince themselves and others that a religious teaching itself can’t be the problem but rather only politics or economics or something else of the sort. Politics as an example, can be an issue that is worth looking at when many adherents of a religion are being used and manipulated for political interests. It is certainly much easier to manipulate others into killing, when your religious scriptural standard of authority o.k.’s it for certain people, all you have to do is convince them that those being killed are ‘those’ kind of people. When it comes to talk of what a religion itself teaches it is then best that such start making excuses for the religious teaching being discussed, if not just outright ignoring the issue of a religions teaching entirely. Dr. Alan Strathern I believe prefers the latter. One thing that you will notice is that with this type of piece there are NO references given what so ever, and that the reader should apparently just believe the validity of what this man chooses to spout off with. Not only is this irresponsible, but a typical propaganda style that comes of necessity when you write the things that he has written here. Accordingly, this article has been copied and pasted a good deal by those who are either gullible and or just wish from the start that his perspective is in alignment with what is objectively the most reasonable view. Due to the nature of this article that is being reviewed, I will use it’s critique as a platform to further discuss some of what has been happening in Sri Lanka, with a bit of historical analysis. I shall give these memorable moments with some commentary directly following each utterance before we proceed further…..
Why Are Buddhist Monks Attacking Muslims?
“Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So
why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?
This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean – Burma and
Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in
both places are a generally peaceable and small minority”.
“It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat”.
This is simply a lie or Mr. Strather’s own ignorance talking here. At least as far as Burma is concerned, it is a documented fact that as far back as 2002, (from what we now know) that the so called “Rohingya” Muslim have been receiving both military and financial assistance from a long list of some very well known Islamic terrorist groups (1).
“While no Muslims have been killed in Sri Lanka, the Burmese situation is far more serious. Here the
antagonism is spearheaded by the 969 group, led by a monk, Ashin Wirathu, who was jailed in 2003 for
inciting religious hatred. Released in 2012, he has referred to himself bizarrely as “the Burmese
The “Burmese Bin Laden” title isn’t something from what I’ve been able to tell that he created and propagated himself, but something that, even according to the Time magazine article of July 13, 2013 (international edition) that upset many people for being biased, was a title that was ‘given’ to him.
“March saw an outbreak of mob violence directed against Muslims in the town of Meiktila, in central
Burma, which left at least 40 dead.Tellingly, the violence began in a gold shop. The movements in
both countries exploit a sense of economic grievance – a religious minority is used as the scapegoat
for the frustrated aspirations of the majority”.
OOPS! Does he tell you that the second wave of riots in Meiktila started when a Muslim man poured gasoline over a Buddhist woman’s body and set her on fire? Or that the riots started when the dispute that started in a gold shop elsewhere, later was carried on further when a group of Muslim in front of a mosque pulled a Buddhist monk off of his bike and after pouring petrol on him before setting him on fire?(2) None of this has been disputed by anyone, although Dr. Strathern is mouthing it off here as if this were pre WWII Germany all over again.
“But aren’t Buddhist monks meant to be the good guys of religion”?
“Aggressive thoughts are inimical to all Buddhist teachings. Buddhism even comes equipped with a
practical way to eliminate them. Through meditation the distinction between your feelings and those
of others should begin to dissolve, while your compassion for all living things grows.
Of course, there is a strong strain of pacifism in Christian teachings too: “Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you,” were the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
But however any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power.
Buddhist monks looked to kings, the ultimate wielders of violence, for the support, patronage and order that only they could provide.Kings looked to monks to provide the popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vison can confer”.
“Through meditation the distinction between your feelings and those
of others should begin to dissolve”…,
Where does this man get this? Certainly not from any Buddhist scripture that I know of. This is only one spot of several where he, as mentioned previously will just say stuff that you’re supposed to believe because he says it!
“But however any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power.
Buddhist monks looked to kings, the ultimate wielders of violence, for the support, patronage and order that only they could provide.Kings looked to monks to provide the popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vison can confer”.
This may sound chock full of history wisdom, but it is not true, and a serious error to just make this blanket statement regarding religion. A statement like this totally ignores the fact of the matter, as examples, that Christianity was co opted by the Roman empire beginning with Constantine’s conversion (3) and for where Christianity stood at that moment, I doubt highly that the emperor of Rome at the time felt that the Roman Empire needed the “popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vision can confer”, or that Islam established it’s own state power with its victory at Mecca (4), which is why year 1 of the Islamic calendar begins with that military victory and not as an example, when Muhammad the Muslim prophet purportedly received his first ‘revelation’ from the angel Jabreel (Gabriel). The latter is also one reason why many consider Islam to be a political ideology as well as if not instead a religion.
I will also make a note here that king Asoka after his conversion to Buddhism became known as a very fair and compassionate ruler, as opposed to an “ultimate wielder of violence” (5).
The result can seem ironic. If you have a strong sense of the overriding moral superiority of your
worldview, then the need to protect and advance it can seem the most important duty of all.
Christian crusaders, Islamist militants, or the leaders of “freedom-loving nations”, all justify what they see as necessary violence in the name of a higher good.
Buddhist rulers and monks have been no exception.
“So,historically,Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity”.
So historically, this is an outright lie…..
We will look over why after these next few statements from the good Dr. Alan Strathern.
One of the most famous kings in Sri Lankan history is Dutugamanu, whose unification of the island in
the 2nd Century BC is related in an important chronicle, the Mahavamsa.
It says that he placed a Buddhist relic in his spear and took 500 monks with him along to war against
a non-Buddhist king.He destroyed his opponents. After the bloodshed, some enlightened ones consoled
him that the slain “were like animals; you will make the Buddha’s faith shine”.
Burmese rulers, known as “kings of righteousness”, justified wars in the name of what they called true
What he does not tell you is that…
Various writers have called into question the morality of the account given in the Mahavamsa, where Duttugemunu regrets his actions in killing the Chola king Elara and his troops. The Mahavamsa equates the killing of the invaders as being on par with the killing of “sinners and wild beasts”, and the King’s sorrow and regret are assuaged. This is considered by some critics as an ethical error. However, Buddhism does recognize a hierarchy of actions as being more or less wholesome or skillful, although the intent is as much as or more important than the action itself. Thus the killing of an Arahant may be considered less wholesome and skillful than the killing of an ordinary human being. Buddhists may also assert that killing an elephant is less skillful and wholesome than killing an ant. In both cases, however, the intent must also be considered. An important thing to note is that Dutthagamani regretted his act, and this was also true of King Asoka, who became a pacifist after a series of bloody military campaigns. (6)
“In Japan, many samurai were devotees of Zen Buddhism and various arguments sustained them -killing a man about to commit a dreadful crime was an act of compassion, for example. Such
reasoning surfaced again when Japan mobilised for World War II”.
I would be very interested in this type of talk if someone could find me a Zen Buddhist priest that actually condoned this way of thought.
– “killing a man about to commit a dreadful crime was an act of compassion, for example”.
Usually this would be understood as a matter of self defense by proxy, or put more simply, coming to someone’s aid.
“Such reasoning surfaced again when Japan mobilised for World War II”.
The fact that there were some who used the terminology of Buddhism to help propagate the war effort for Japan during World War II I don’t believe is much of a mystery now a days.
“Buddhism took a leading role in the nationalist movements that emerged as Burma and Sri Lanka sought
to throw off the yoke of the British Empire. Occasionally this spilled out into violence. In 1930s
Rangoon, amid resorts to direct action, monks knifed four Europeans”.
Can a Buddhist monk become misguided and do something wrong? Of course, but there is a difference between that on the one hand, and on the other saying that the Buddhist religion historically has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity.
“More importantly, many came to feel Buddhism was integral to their national identity – and the
position of minorities in these newly independent nations was an uncomfortable one.
In 1983, Sri Lanka’s ethnic tensions broke out into civil war. Following anti-Tamil pogroms,
separatist Tamil groups in the north and east of the island sought to break away from the Sinhalese
“In 1983, Sri Lanka’s ethnic tensions broke out into civil war”.
Precisely. These were ethnic tensions, not Buddhist’s warring with Hindu because they weren’t Buddhist. From the ideal perspective, they should have not cared whether they were Tamil or not, but this in no way can make Buddhism a violent religion. For that discussion we need to examine a particular religions scriptural standard of authority, as to what it does actually teach as a religion.
During WWII most of the combatants on all sides were Christian, should we blame WWII on Christianity and declare it as evidence of the violence of Christianity historically? Christian scripture may have made it easier for some, but I wouldn’t get carried away. Can anyone show me any Buddhist scripture that would have encouraged any monks to knife four Europeans?
Violence has left many Burmese Muslims homeless
“During the war, the worst violence against Sri Lankan Muslims came at the hands of the Tamil rebels.
But after the fighting came to a bloody end with the defeat of the rebels in 2009, it seems that
majority communal passions have found a new target in the Muslim minority.
In Burma, monks wielded their moral authority to challenge the military junta and argue for democracy in the Saffron Revolution of 2007. Peaceful protest was the main weapon of choice this time, and monks paid with their lives.
Now some monks are using their moral authority to serve a quite different end. They may be a minority, but the 500,000-strong monkhood, which includes many deposited in monasteries as children to escape poverty or as
orphans, certainly has its fair share of angry young men.
The exact nature of the relationship between the Buddhist extremists and the ruling parties in both
countries is unclear.
Sri Lanka’s powerful defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was guest of honour at the opening of a
Buddhist Brigade training school, and referred to the monks as those who “protect our country,
religion and race”.
“But the anti-Muslim message seems to have struck a chord with parts of the population.
Even though they form a majority in both countries, many Buddhists share a sense that their nations
must be unified and that their religion is under threat”.
I will stress that none of this in any way can make Buddhism a violent religion. For that discussion we need to examine a particular religions scriptural standard of authority, as to what it does actually teach as a religion and why. This is why the “Buddhist extremists” aren’t allowed by way of ruling party influence etc. to display this sort of behavior in but the most isolated of a circumstance, if our scripture taught such ignorance or in any way encouraged it, this would be a world-wide phenomenon. It amazes me to see that someone so otherwise intelligent, insists on not recognizing the difference between what a religion teaches as its religious teaching, and what some adherents of that or any other religion may choose for whatever other reason to do, whether god or bad. he acknowledges the teaching of Buddhism to be peaceful, but then attempts to supersede that by comparing Buddhism to other religions ‘historically’ by giving his take on the few examples that can be found capable of associating violence anywhere near Buddhism. If he should try to choose the way out by saying that the above statement :
“So,historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity”,
is qualified by the word ‘historically’ as regards the practice of Buddhism historically, he still errs by A. considering it the practice of Buddhism, and B. even if that could be considered true, there is still I would have to say no competition at all in the department of sadistic cruelty and murder when it comes to a religions like Christianity or Islam. Since he decides to compare the two, and this is a slick way of saying that Buddhism is and has been as violent as Christianity, check out this link given in the reference section for a taste of just what I’m talking about. (7)
Mr. Strathern does not give any room in this type of discussion for what a religion’s standard of authority has to say about violence.
I must wonder, just how it is that some people otherwise so very intelligent can talk with such an ignorance that they ignore the importance of one’s religious scripture and it’s impact on the what a religion can justify as acceptable ?
This is why when Buddhist’s act violently in this way they are going against the teaching of our scripture, not in accordance with it.
It is because a religion such as Christianity or Islam can’t say that there is not a single verse that encourages or mandates violence in their respective scripture and that truth be told the opposite is true, that the history of both Islam and Christianity have a history of an incredible amount of more violence and blood shed. Just one example of this scriptural encouragement would be the New Testament Book of Acts Ch.10 where the Christian’s “holy Spirit” murders a husband and wife for not coughing it all up so to speak to the apostle Peter after having sold some land. If this is the type of example set by their ‘loving’ God, whom they consider the pinnacle of righteous morality, how can we wonder why there has been so much more torture and cruelty and killing, with the history of such religions?
“The global climate is crucial. People believe radical Islam to be at the centre of the many of the
most violent conflicts around the world”.
“They feel they are at the receiving end of conversion drives
by the much more evangelical monotheistic faiths. And they feel that if other religions are going to
get tough, they had better follow suit”.
Just who is he calling ‘they’? It would be nice if he were to at least try to substantiate this statement somehow, but of course, as mentioned, he doesn’t even try.
So what of Sri lanka today? Should anyone be concerned about Islam and what it teaches as a religion? I don’t see any reason why not.Throwing stones may be another religion’s best shot, but this can’t be said for Buddhism.The best advantage for the religion of Buddhism is the using of our intellect,not the lowering of our minds to the behavior of a simple animal.
I would suggest that as it is common with this sort of thing, there is another side to this issue as to why the Buddhist community feel threatened by the Muslim religious community. For an example of this, take a look at this short excerpt of an interview with Zemira Eli Natan of the organization International Unity for Freedom & Equality.
“Other areas I have watched with this organization is Sri Lanka, where we have the Buddhist communities. They basically had monks killed while praying in their shrines, when they politely asked the Muslim community to not build a mosque next to their holy shrines.”
But if you get all of your news information from the popular propaganda being fed, you would think that the Sri Lanka Bodhu Bala Sena (B.B.S.) who are all a bunch of rabid religious bigots, are just encouraging the Sri Lankan Buddhists to reject any Muslim influence for sheer ignorance of the peaceful and loving religious culture of Islam that is more than willing to coexist peacefully with all other religious beliefs!
Now I know that what I’m about to say isn’t considered the most ‘politically correct’ thing to acknowledge, but the simple fact of the matter is that Islam by the virtue of its own religious standard of authority (Qur’an and Hadith) isn’t something designed to be compatible with a multicultural society where all religious cultures are to be treated equally (an example would be Surah 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”). Of course, this is only if they are to be considered lucky enough to be thought of as “people of the book” in the first place. All of the mass media propaganda fed storytelling and self-denial to the contrary will not change that fact. The Buddhists of both Burma and Sri Lanka are well aware of that fact. It is not merely a coincidence that every single country on the face of the planet that claims Islam as its religion makes sure that every other religious culture knows damn well what second class citizens they are. Take Malaysia as an example, where the government likes to tout itself as an example of the modern, moderate Islam that exists in its multicultural society. If one were to consider it a true Islamic society (many don’t because all of the financial and political power aren’t in the hands of the Muslim) it would have to be seen as the most liberal Muslim country ever known to humanity’s history. With that in mind take a look at this Wikipedia page concerning the freedom of religion in Malaysia. (8) Due to its innate aggressive nature even the countries of the world that profess a secular and democratic society have the threat of fundamentalist Islam knocking at their door on a constant basis. Are the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and Burma, where the anti-Muslim riots in 2013 started after a Buddhist monk was set on fire by some Muslim nearby a mosque (9) willing to wake up one day and find themselves more and more the second class citizen to their Muslim neighbors? Apparently not. So when the Buddhists express that fact, they are of course chided for not being spiritually mature and humble styled enough! Have the Muslim suffered unjust persecution? I’m sure that they have, but considering everything I believe they should be considered an unfortunate victim of their own predatory religious culture more than anything else.
Some people are good for telling me that I’m just taking scripture out of “historical context”, which basically means that “That was then and this is now”. If a Muslim admits that indeed there are scriptures that are perhaps out of date for today’s world then this can be seen as an affront to Islam, because the supposedly “timeless” and “divine” application of the Qur’an and for many the credibility of Islam itself is therefore brought into question. This can place them in danger of feeling that their lives and general well being are in jeopardy as an “apostate” for daring to seriously consider such a thing. This is why many Islamic apologists and Muslims in general wish to have it both ways at their convenience. if we should think it possible that some of this scripture can be considered the eternal word of “God” but other part’s should be considered in it’s “historical context”, then what should be used as a criteria to distinguish between the two? There’s nothing that I can figure here but someone’s subjective opinion, which as a subjective opinion is just about as good as anyone else’s subjective opinion including the people who enjoy killing for the love and devotion to Allah, as their Qur’an mandates them to do so. The only exception would be entailing the concept of abrogation given in Surra 2:106, that is that a later ayah (revelation) cancels out a previous one of the same topic. If anyone can find a violent revelation that was cancelled out and replaced by a peaceful one, please do let me know! You can not as they say, have your cake and eat it too!
This is an excerpt of a piece that discusses some of the history of religious discord and conflict in Sri Lanka, and something that I would recommend for further reading for those wishing to objectively study this matter. Buddhists’ in Sri Lanka have suffered just as any one else, and often at the hands of whom you might not expect.
“In 1983, the Sri Lankan Tamil minority instigated open conflict with the Sinhalese majority, taking the lead in fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the northern region. Tamil groups, most notably the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), waged guerilla warfare against the Sinhalese. In 1988, the former Northern Province, inhabited almost completely by Sri Lankan Tamils, merged with the Eastern Province, populated by equal numbers of Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. Yet, violence has spread from the northern provinces to the South. Amnesty International reports that since mid-1983 the Sri Lankan government has committed extrajudicial executions and orchestrated the disappearances of many Buddhist monks. Until July 1987, recorded “disappearances” were confined to the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Since 1987, however, Amnesty International has recorded “disappearances” in Southern Provinces as well. In 1989, at least 3,000 people in Southern Sri Lanka “disappeared” due to government action. In 1990, the government announced its decision to base its employment determinations on the country’s ethnic composition. This gesture failed to stem the tide of violence. In May 1993, President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by a bomb. Government officials believe that a militant Tamil group was responsible”.(10)
While we listen to the Dali Lama pontificate on his throne somewhere as to what he thinks of the situation in Sri Lanka and Burma, I believe that we can all learn a lesson from the way that the concerns about an aggressive and proselytizing religion have been dealt with before in Sri lanka’s past….
Panadura Debate -The Buddhist Christian Debate
An Inaccurate Prediction
With the authorities’ increasingly unfriendly attitude towards Buddhism, and the missionaries’ aggressive and incessant attacks on their religion, the monks eventually started to defend their faith against the Christians.
Their response however, was disorganized and ineffectual and limited to their sermons on holy days. The Buddhist community also petitioned the government to stop or moderate these attacks, but to no avail.
The view of the authorities was that Buddhism was doomed in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, well-known figures such as the Sinhalese Christian scholar, James D’Alwis, and the Methodist missionary, Spence Hardy, confidently predicted that it would soon be replaced by Christianity.
The missionaries had acquired a printing press around 1820 which they used to churn out pamphlets and tracts denigrating Buddhism and promoting their own religion. Many of these publications were written by the Methodist minister and scholar, Rev. Daniel Gogerly, who was also an expert in the Pali language. The missionaries even distributed their materials at Buddhist events and started to challenge the monks to public debates.
The Buddhists finally bought a press of their own in 1855 and a second one was acquired in 1862, financed by King Mongkut of Thailand. Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda, a forceful and articulate monk from Colombo, and the more renowned Ven. Hikkaduve Sumangala in Galle, wrote most of the Buddhist tracts and pamphlets.
The monks at first ignored the missionaries’ challenges to debate. This was a disappointment to the Christians as they hoped to humiliate the monks in public, and thus hasten the downfall of Buddhism. However, the monks eventually accepted these challenges, to the glee of the Christians.
Three debates were held, in 1865, 1871 and 1873 and were formal affairs with ground rules established before-hand, and proper exchanges between the parties. They culminated in the last and most famous one known as the Panadura Debate. The Buddhists were led by Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda and Ven. Hikkaduve Sumangala. The Christians were represented by Rev. David de Silva, the Sinhalese protégé of Rev. Daniel Gogerly, and Rev. F.S.Sirimanne, a catechist of the Church Missionary Society.
The local population took great interest in the final debate which lasted for two days. It had very much of a festive atmosphere with the crowd swelling to more than 10,000 people by the second day. The final debate, one of the most important events in Sri Lanka’s Buddhist history, was covered by the Sinhalese and English language newspapers.
The proceedings were also published in book form by an American scholar, Dr. J. M. Peebles, who was present at the debate, and who ended up very impressed by the performance of the monks. Another American, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, chanced upon a copy of this book in America, the result of which was to have far-reaching effects for the future of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and beyond.
The Lion’s Roar
Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda and Rev. David de Silva, the two main protagonists in the Panadura Debate, had very contrasting styles and characters. Already a seasoned debater, Gunananda was able to play to the audience, standing up and dramatically gesticulating as he spoke. He also addressed the audience in everyday Sinhalese, whereas de Silva used many Pali and Sanskrit quotes which they could not understand easily. Having received a Christian education, Gunananda also knew the Bible very well.
On his own, Gunananda was more than a match for the Christian debaters in terms of oratorical skills. It was his Lion’s Roar which dispelled the fear and shame imposed on the Buddhists by the missionaries’ continual disparagement of their religion, and it reawakened the country’s pride in its religion.
After much arguments and counter-arguments, the turning point of the debate was when Ven. Gunananda pointed to the verse at Judges 1:19 in the Bible. The verse states : “And the LORD was with Judah, and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”
Gunananda said that this showed clearly that the God could not be omnipotent as claimed, if he could not even overcome iron chariots. Rev. de Silva tried to explain that the reason the God did not overcome the chariots was because Judah did not have enough faith in him. However, Gunananda countered by asking, if Judah did not have enough faith, then why was the God with him in the first place?
Many Sri Lankans believe that evil spirits are afraid of iron. In fact, they commonly hang a piece of iron up on their homes to keep evil spirits at bay. Gunananda’s point thus made sense to the audience because of this.
Although there were more arguments, the debate was effectively over by the first day. The victory for the Buddhists could not have been more resounding and emphatic, with the crowd shouting and cheering for Gunananda and the other monks. The Lion had Roared.
Word of the triumph spread rapidly throughout the island with temples, villages and towns breaking out in open and joyous celebration. Reflecting the open and tolerant nature of the people, the festivities were free from hostility and anger towards the defeated party, even though they were boisterous and happy.
Mohottiwatte Gunananda was born in 1823 in the village of Mohottiwatta to a prosperous Buddhist family. Monks in Sri Lanka, after ordination, commonly affix the name of their village to their own name. Gunananda had been in close contact with a Catholic priest in his youth and received his education in Christian schools. He had at one time, even considered becoming a Christian priest.
However, he changed his mind after associating with some monks from his village and ordained at the age of 20, becoming a member of the Amarapura fraternity. His oratorical skills soon became apparent and he started to also acquire great proficiency in the Buddhist teachings.
After learning that Buddhists in Colombo were being subject to pressure from the missionaries and discrimination by the government, he moved there and began defending Buddhism with his publications and speeches. In 1862, he formed the ‘Society for the Propagation of Buddhism’ to organize resistance against the missionaries’ attacks, and to publish tracts and pamphlets to counter the anti-Buddhist materials distributed by the Christians.
Gunananda then led the Buddhists in the momentous series of debates with the Christians, which culminated in the famous Panadura Debate of 1873. His outstanding performance and convincing victory sparked off the island-wide revival of Buddhism, and he was hailed a national hero.
Before his death at the age of 67 in 1890, Gunananda continued his efforts in helping to revitalize the Sasana. He published many works and also served on the committee that designed the Buddhist flag.(11)
The Christian and Muslim need to be challenged not with violence, but with intellect, and if they don’t like a discussion of what it is exactly that their religion does teach according to their own scripture, well then, that should be considered just too bad. An open and honest discussion should be allowed, not the violence of a riot. However, in today’s time if this is done I’m sure that some will want to have someone else put in jail for some sort of crime entailing the charge of spreading religious hatred. Section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that prohibits speech which ‘causes or intends to cause commission of acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups’ (12) is what has been used in the past to the advantage of Buddhists.
It is exactly this that inhibits the free dissemination of one’s point of view and then can lead to the onslaught of violence, once many figure that there is no other way of addressing the matter without someone looking to put you in jail for it. This is just another reason why when we seek to legally gag free speech in the name of tolerance, we end up promoting intolerance for another point of view. If someone is concerned about any possible disorderly conduct or the like while exercising a promotion of their point of view, then certainly there are laws on the books to help prevent that sort of thing that are available to be enforced. If any society or religious group were really looking to encourage tolerance then we should be able to tolerate the point of view of someone else, instead of promoting intolerance … in the name of tolerance.
I wish everyone a totally peaceful day!
Bhikkhu aggacitto a.k.a. Brother Mark:)