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The BBS that my mother likes

by ratnawalli - March 19, 2014 at 11:42 am

By Darshanie Ratnawalli

Published in my column in The Nation and in Colombo Telegraph on Sunday 5th May, 2013

I am the legitimate issue of a woman who unabashedly claims to admire the Bodu Bala Sena. This affords me a critical perspective into the issue, without which everyone is floundering like headless chickens. There may be other people, whose mothers etc. harbor soft spots for the BBS. But because they are not me, they would either try to keep these mothers in the closet or, in contradistinction, empathize with these soft spots; whereas I…Well you shall see.

My mother represents the Sri Lankan equivalent of Middle America and, as such, the demographic bloc that makes or breaks any movement dependent on mass support for its success. In Middle America (SL), one becomes a Buddhist by being a stakeholder of the Buddha Sāsana (deliberately called henceforth, the Buddhist Church of Lanka) and by emotionally aligning oneself with the age-old mission of fostering this Sāsana on this soil for the allocated five thousand years.  Once one has fulfilled this basic requirement adherence to Buddhism proper becomes peripheral and is largely left to personal discretion.

This is the context which empowers my mother to look pityingly at anyone who’d urge her to shift her alignment and allegiance from the Buddhist Church of Lanka, where the religion stands together with the State and the people forming the famous ‘Loka- Sāsana’ axis, to Buddhism (stand alone, nonaligned to any worldly axis). The pangs of allegiance towards the BBS felt by Middle America (SL) would be silenced only if and when voices genuinely identifying with the Buddhist Church and its Mission are raised against the BBS. Spokespersons for Buddhism not aligned with the Sāsana will not have the credibility and be dismissed as naive.

A very good example is Rev. Galkande Dhammananda, whose message of tolerance presented as two video clips on the web became an instant hit in certain circles, with monks of his ilk hailed as what this country needed in thousands. According to Prof. Sudarshan Senevitatna, ‘Rev. Dhammananda has been extremely concerned about the subversion of a doctrine of peace for destructive parochial ends and is committed to what he believes as re achievement of peace and understanding, a sentiment that comes from his heart’. Well and good. The only problem is Middle America (SL) will instantly spot the ‘missing ingredient’ in his message. The missing ingredient is the Sāsana. Why is there an implicit as well as an explicit absence of this entity in his message? Why does an overwhelming concern for the Church (the Sāsana) fail to find expression in his message? Perhaps the Rev.Dhammananda thinks that all Churches are parochial institutions that subvert peaceful doctrines. But the Sāsana is not a dirty secret nor is Middle America (SL) going to disown it no matter how many protégées of Sudarshan Seneviratne do it.

Supposing another erudite monk came forward and put forth a parallel message; A) frankly acknowledging the challenges encountered in the present day by the Sāsana, with its inbuilt drives for maintaining a certain brand identity for the country (These drives are by no means criminal or unique to this Church, nor is this brand identity non inclusive- being merely asymmetrically inclusive or differentially incorporative); B) emphasizing the need to find modern and non-regressive ways of countering these challenges, drawing on this particular Church’s rich heritage of tolerance compared to all the other Churches; C) stressing the critical need for Bhikkhus with the intelligence, education and the exposure to the wider world to be at the helm of these counter moves; D) admitting that the degenerate, debased and degrading nature of the BBS movement reflects the overall deterioration of the entire Sāsana; E) reiterating nevertheless that live seeds of resurgence still exist.

If such a message could be put forth on behalf of the Buddhist Church of Lanka, it will be heard. At the moment, with everyone mouthing platitudes about Buddhism, BBS stands tall as the sole champion of the Sāsana, heir to its legacy, executor of its mission and the focal point by default, of Middle America (SL)’s allegiance.

Another toxic ingredient is the absence of true redemptive intent in the current civil initiatives against the BBS. What The Hour demands of these initiatives are clinical, secular perspectives (in contrast to the wet schmaltz aspired to by the Candle People) that can spotlight and challenge all negative patterns in the fabric. Every Buddhist archeological site in the North and the East obliterated by a bulldozer, built upon or otherwise encroached into under the aegis of uncouth, unscrupulous and unethical Muslim and Tamil politicians, whose regional political clout earns them Government sanction, deserves a candle. We need to searchlight the literal excrement dumped into the Dighavapi site (the encroachment into this ancient archeological site also consisted of building toilet complexes on it[1] as well as the metaphorical excrement dumped by the BBS upon the Lankan social fabric. Every ancient landmark such as Matota(Manthai)[2] and Kuragala targeted by obliterative agendas should be co-candled with every Muslim enterprise threatened. The psychical darkness[3] that begets all brands and hues of intolerance should be switched off equally. –Courtesy of The Nation, 5 May 2013





[1] This tidbit was shared by Dr. Nimal Perera, Deputy Director General, Department of Archeology at a Royal Asiatic Society Sri Lanka lecture (24th September, 2012) on ‘New discoveries from Deeghavapi and Nilagiri sites’.


[2] Matota (Maha-Thittha) is an ancient port in Lanka and archeological landmark, which is currently being effaced through the over enthusiastic building activities conducted on behalf of the Tiruketiswaram temple.


 [3] Note the staggering degrees of ignorance (that can truly be called illiterate and uncouth without prejudice) that characterize the two opposing poles generating the present climate of tension. One pole exemplified by Face Book hate speech groups hold fast to the belief that underwear sold in Muslim owned clothing stores are lined with chemicals that can cause sterility. The other pole includes journalists such as Dharishna Bastians and  Latheef Farook who recently wrote articles propagating the belief that the Sinhalese Brahmi rock inscriptions(which are typical of garden variety cave donations to the Monastic Buddhist Church of the 2nd century BC Lanka, that are found all over the island except the northernmost extreme, where there are no caves.) of the now famous Kuragala are Arabic inscriptions. Farook actually went so as far to state that the only evidence that Kuragala was a Buddhist monastery of the 2nd century BC is a board placed by the Archaeological Department in 1972. Compare this ‘native ignorance’ with the presentation by British Civil Servant, C.H.Collins in Journal R.A.S (Ceylon) Vol. XXXII, No 85 of 1932.



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