Bhikkhus role in politics would weaken interest in education - Malwatte Mahanayake Thera

by L. B. Wijeyasiri, Lanka Daily News, Nov 6, 2004

Kandy, Sri Lanka -- Bhikkhu's getting involved in politics would weaken their interest in education. Lack of knowledge and the decrease of interest in educational research has brought about this deplorable situation, said Most Ven. Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Mahavihara Chapter.

The Thera was addressing the general convocation of the Buddhasravaka Bhikkhu University of Anuradhapura at the new wing of Dalada Maligawa, Kandy.

The Chancellor of the University, Most Ven. Weweldeniye Medhalankara Mahanayaka Thera of Sri Lanka Ramanna Nikaya presided and the Vice Chancellor Ven. Dr. Godagama Mangala Thera was also present.

An honorary degree of "Dharsana Suri" were conferred on Most Ven. Udugama Sri Buddharakkhitha Mahanayaka Thera of Asgiriya Maha Vihara Chapter and Ven. Sid Pungchul of Korea.

Honorary degree of "Sahitya Suri" was conferred on Most Ven. Bellana Gnanawimala Mahanayaka Thera of Kotte Kalyani Samagri Dhamma Maha Sangha Sabha and Ven. Liu Chu the Head of the Sanchuang University of Thaiwan.

The Mahanayake Thera said: "Throughout our history Bhikkhus had a proper and stable system of education. Even the Lord Buddha has pointed it out in His first sermon. The Thera added those who followed Buddha's path ended in the bliss of Nirvana.

The Buddhist education system is divided into two main sectors namely writing and memorising. Studying Dhamma books and preaching Dhamma to the public helped the people develop their behaviour which aimed at being an Arahat, the Thera said.

"With the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka Buddhist clergy were in a position to spread and educate people in Dhamma.

They were able to put those into books. Maha Viharaya, Abhayagiriya and Jethawana became Buddhist institutions. Even now any person can unearth the service rendered by these institutions where we go through the ruins of Buddhist culture and Ayurveda helped the Buddhist monks to improve their intelligence.

Due to this immense service rendered by the Bhikkhus they were considered as great gods of the nation, their behaviour and greatness were due to educational service of Buddhist monks.

Such great people as Thotagamuwe Rahula who were able to send message through their books and monks such as Widagama Maithri who helped people improve their minds by way of meditation were responsible for the improvements of Buddhist education among villagers.

"Educational institution called "Pirivena" was responsible mainly for the Bhikkhu education and created intellectuals. According to the requirements of the society the educational system was organised into a syllabus. After Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pirivenas were converted to universities the standard of education of monks also came down.

"At present there is only Pali and Buddhist education each at Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Sri Jayawardhanapura and Ruhuna University. It doesn't seem that there is inter-connection among the four universities because of that Buddhist intellectuals are faced with a very bleak future, he said.

There were four higher educational institutions where only the Bhikkhu was allowed. But now these four institutes are grouped into one and named as Buddhist and Pali University. At the start it was reserved for Bhikkus only and at present even laymen were given chance to enrol into it.

As such the only higher educational institute for Buddhist monks is Buddhasravaka Bhikkhu University situated in Mahamevuna Uyana at Anuradhapura. The ordinance of which shows that the aim of this institute is to produce well learned Buddhist monks who may have been talented to be authours of Buddhist publications.

"By now the academic knowledge of Bhikkhu students have been challenged. Doubts arise with regard to their knowledge of Dhamma and foreign languages. The permanent and continuous heritage of the system of learning by heart is dropping off from him and the entrance of the Bhikkhus to the university has weakened the historical personal development and continuous heritage are dropping off.

Mahanayaka Thera added that suitable measures were necessary to be taken without further delay by Bhikkhu society and by the State as well to improve Bhikkhu education which is gradually deteriorating.