Sri Lanka: Urgent Revival of True Buddhism — Confronting the Rot Within

A compelling call to action to reclaim the essence of Buddhism and address the alarming incidents that threaten its core values.

3 mins read
Woman and her small son burning incense sticks in the famous "Temple of the Tooth" buddhist temple., in Kandy. Burning incenses are believed to have purifying properties. [Photo credit: istockphoto]

Editorial

Recent incidents involving Buddhist monks engaged in immoral and unlawful activities have shaken the foundations of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and beyond, yet again. The alleged sexual abuse of a young man by a prominent Buddhist monk in Japan, as well as the exposure of a monk involved in illicit activities in Colombo, highlight a disturbing trend that demands immediate attention and urgent revival of true Buddhism. These incidents not only tarnish the reputation of the Buddhist clergy but also reveal the rot that has infiltrated the temple walls. It is high time for the Buddhist community to address these issues head-on and reclaim the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings.

The acts committed by these monks go against the fundamental principles of Buddhism, which promote compassion, morality, and self-discipline. The Buddhist temple should be a sanctuary of wisdom, peace, and guidance, but these recent incidents demonstrate a betrayal of the core values that the faith upholds. Such actions not only harm the individuals directly involved but also tarnish the image of Buddhism as a whole.

The rise of monks who exploit Buddhism for personal gain is a disturbing phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Some individuals have turned the teachings of Lord Buddha into a mere tool for financial profit or personal fame. These self-proclaimed “YouTube superstars” and “businessmen in robes” have diluted the essence of Buddhism, using it as a means to accumulate wealth rather than spreading its profound wisdom. This commercialization of the faith undermines its true purpose and disrespects the teachings of Lord Buddha.

The lack of accountability within the Buddhist temple hierarchy, especially from the prominent chapters like Asgiriya and Malwaththa, is deeply concerning. Instead of addressing the internal issues and course correcting, these influential chapters remain silent, choosing to involve themselves in petty political matters rather than confronting the rot within. This apathy and indifference only exacerbate the problem and create an environment where misconduct can persist.

It is incumbent upon the Buddhist community to take decisive action and demand an urgent revival of true Buddhism. The need for transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct within the clergy is paramount. The temple authorities must establish rigorous screening processes to ensure that individuals with questionable intentions are not allowed to tarnish the sacred institution. The voices of the genuine followers of Buddhism, who respect and uphold its principles, must rise above the silence and work towards reclaiming the faith from those who have defiled it.

The reprehensible actions of a few individuals should not overshadow the contributions of the vast majority of devoted and sincere Buddhist monks. It is crucial to remember that these incidents are the result of the actions of a minority and should not be used to tarnish the entire Buddhist clergy. However, it is equally important to acknowledge and address the social stigma that arises from such misconduct. The Buddhist community should actively engage in open discussions to challenge the misconceptions and stereotypes that may emerge, emphasizing that these incidents are aberrations rather than reflective of the broader Buddhist tradition.

To prevent future occurrences of misconduct, a comprehensive system of education and training should be established within the Buddhist community. This should include teachings on ethics, morality, and the responsibilities of those entering the monastic life. The clergy should receive proper guidance on maintaining personal integrity, respectful conduct, and the understanding of boundaries. Moreover, there should be ongoing programs to ensure the continuous development and refinement of the monastic community, fostering a culture of accountability, self-reflection, and growth.

In addressing cases of criminal behavior, it is essential for the Buddhist community to collaborate with civil authorities to ensure justice is served. Transparency and cooperation are key in maintaining public trust and demonstrating a commitment to accountability. It is crucial for the temple authorities and the wider Buddhist community to actively work with law enforcement agencies, providing any necessary support during investigations and ensuring that those found guilty face appropriate legal consequences. By working together, the community can send a strong message that misconduct will not be tolerated within the ranks of Buddhism.

The responsibility of reviving true Buddhism does not rest solely with the clergy and temple authorities. The faithful followers of Buddhism also play a vital role in reclaiming the essence of their faith. It is essential for the laity to actively engage with the teachings of Buddhism, promoting understanding, and seeking genuine spiritual guidance. By fostering a sense of collective responsibility, the community can create an environment where the true teachings of Lord Buddha flourish and guide individuals towards compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment.

The recent incidents involving Buddhist monks engaged in immoral acts are yet another wake-up call for the entire Buddhist community. The exploitation, commercialization, and apathy towards misconduct within the temple demand immediate attention. It is crucial for the followers of Buddhism, both clergy and laity, to unite and demand a revival of true Buddhism. This requires a thorough examination of the clergy, stringent measures to prevent exploitation, and a commitment to upholding the core values of compassion, morality, and self-discipline. Only through such concerted efforts can Buddhism regain its true essence and continue to guide individuals towards inner peace and enlightenment.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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