Monks futile march against Valentine?

by ASOKA S, Lanka Daily News, Feb 17, 2008

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Buddhist monks recently marched in Colombo protesting Valentine Day Celebrations by some Sri Lankans. They are against Sri Lankans embracing so called Western practices, so it is said.

This brings laughter and indeed anger to my mind.

Before I explain why, I want to go on record to say that as a Buddhist I salute and respect the vast majority of Buddhist monks who practice this great religion according to Vinaya Pitakaya. I wholeheartedly endorse their contribution to Sri Lanka and this Great Religion of Peace.

I fully respect the monks right to protest in a democracy. By my anger is over two issues.

One is that when monks protest wearing the saffron robe which represent a great religion that preaches tolerance and loving kindness, I believe it tends to distort the fundamental philosophy of Buddhism.

According to teaching of Gauthama Buddha one is to seek his or her own salvation by eliminating desire. This is the whole essence of Buddhism. So anybody who become a monk and take to the saffron robe is to seek his salvation through a set of standards set forth in Buddha's teachings. Instead in this instance a group of monks decide to march to protest a so called Western practice contrary to monks' disciplinary realms.

Yes, historically monks have protested and even sacrificed their lives to protect Buddhism from powers that wanted to destroy it. This I see as a justifiable deviation as protecting a great religion is a prerequisite for practicing it. For this the Maha Sangha deserves all the credit and respect.

The second reason for my anger is that in a free world people do make decisions based on their exposure to a free world. The world is getting smaller and more integrated. This process started with the original human settlements and will continue till the abyss. In today's day and age this process is much faster thanks to the technological advances.

As a result nations continue to intermix, interact, intermarry and so on. So one really cannot stop human beings copying each others' practices, values etc. This is a fundamental right of a people of a free world. At the rate the United States is embracing Buddhism a significant percentage of Americans will be Buddhist in a few decades but I am yet to see Catholic priests on the streets against it.

If I feel dedicating a day of the year to express love and feelings to our near and dear ones is a fair enough practice I will embrace it. On the other hand if I feel it is silly I will disregard it. End of story. But I do not want to protest against those who do, wasting my valuable time on this earth.

If some monks feel a tendency to protest I can offer some real deserving issues. How about protesting against corruption by politicians, having 107 cabinet ministers, Non Cabinet ministers, ministers without portfolios, deputy ministers, chief ministers, provincial council ministers, provincial council members and scores of more elected members, a good majority of whom don't even know what they are supposed to do but the poor people of Lanka pouring in billions of dollars to sustain them.

Moving on, how about the local beraucracies who are paid to provide people a service to get a permit, license, a rebate, a plan approval are not even showing up in their work place, let alone helping the public. I can list a lot more but they all fall to the same category which is rampant waste of public money going down the drain.

Finally if some monks have too much time and energy on their hands and really want to express their patriotism, I can suggest that they consider enlisting on the Sri Lankan forces and take a post in the Jaffna front. If any one of them do this I am willing to bow down and kiss their boots for unquestioned patriotism for a just and fair cause.

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