Vesak Poya Day: True Spirit of Buddhism

Restoring the sanctity of Buddhist practices requires a collective effort to return to the fundamental principles of the faith.

3 mins read
[Illustration of Gauthama Buddha]

Editorial

Today, as we commemorate Vesak Poya Day, celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of Lord Buddha, we must confront a harsh reality: the essence of Buddhism is being undermined from within. The very temples that should embody the purity and wisdom of Buddha’s teachings have turned into commercial enterprises, and many monks, once paragons of humility, now engage in business ventures that betray the core values of our faith. Accountability is a relic of the past, and the sanctity of Buddhism is being distorted by greed and political machinations.

The transformation of temples into centres of commerce and political influence is not merely a matter of lost tradition but a profound spiritual crisis. Monks, who once led by example with their ascetic lifestyles, are now often embroiled in financial scandals and political schemes. This corruption has shattered public trust and distorted the true essence of Buddhism. The values of compassion, humility, and detachment from materialism that Buddha espoused have been supplanted by greed and power struggles.

On this Vesak Poya Day, we must ask ourselves: “Oh my Lord, what on earth have they done to Buddhism?” The lavish decorations, transactional nature of temple visits, and political entanglements starkly contradict Buddha’s message of renouncing earthly attachments and embracing inner peace. This dissonance between Buddha’s teachings and current practices within many temples calls for urgent action.

The essence of Buddhism has been distorted. Temples have become arenas for political gambles, with influential figures exploiting religious institutions for personal gain and power. The sanctity of these holy places is compromised by the very leaders entrusted with preserving it. Monks, once revered for their spiritual guidance, now often prioritise business interests over their religious duties, treating their positions as opportunities for economic and political advancement rather than spiritual service.

Restoring the sanctity of Buddhist practices requires a collective effort to return to the fundamental principles of the faith. Temples should be places of spiritual refuge, not tourist attractions driven by profit motives or political platforms. Monks must recommit to their vows of simplicity and service, embodying the virtues of Buddha through their actions and interactions with the community.

Moreover, the faithful must hold temple authorities accountable, demanding transparency and integrity in the management of temple funds and activities. This vigilance is necessary to ensure that resources meant for the preservation and promotion of Buddhist teachings are used appropriately and that the spiritual needs of the community are prioritised over financial and political gains.

Let this Vesak Poya Day be a reminder and a rallying cry for all Buddhists to reclaim the purity and simplicity of their faith. We must honour Buddha not just through rituals and celebrations but by embodying his teachings in our daily lives and ensuring that our places of worship reflect the true essence of his wisdom. Only then can we hope to preserve the rich spiritual heritage of Buddhism for future generations and restore the integrity of our temples and monastic communities.

The time has come to strip away the layers of gold and political ambition and return to the core values of compassion, humility, and wisdom. By doing so, we can begin to heal the spiritual wounds inflicted by years of corruption and commercialism. As we gather to celebrate Vesak Poya Day, let us pledge to restore the true spirit of Buddhism, ensuring that our temples are once again sanctuaries of peace and our monks exemplars of Buddha’s teachings.

The commercialisation of Buddhism is an affront to the very essence of the religion. The transformation of sacred spaces into money-making enterprises is a betrayal of Buddha’s legacy. The practice of charging exorbitant fees for access to temples, creating exclusive tiers of worship, and prioritising wealthy patrons over ordinary devotees undermines the universal accessibility that is a hallmark of Buddhism.

The political manipulation of Buddhist institutions is equally troubling. Temples have become pawns in political games, with leaders leveraging religious influence for personal and partisan gain. This exploitation erodes the moral authority of the clergy and taints the spiritual purity of the religion. Monks entangled in politics cannot fully dedicate themselves to their spiritual and communal duties, further eroding the faith of the laity.

This Vesak Poya Day, we must recommit to the principles that define Buddhism. The path forward involves a return to simplicity, humility, and a genuine focus on spiritual growth over material accumulation. Monastic leaders must distance themselves from business and politics, reaffirming their roles as spiritual guides and moral exemplars. Transparency and accountability should become the cornerstones of temple administration, ensuring that funds are used for genuine religious and communal purposes rather than personal enrichment.

Furthermore, we must educate and empower the faithful to demand and support these changes. Lay Buddhists have a crucial role in preserving the integrity of their religion. By supporting temples and monks who adhere to Buddha’s teachings and by questioning and challenging those who do not, the community can drive the necessary reforms.

On this sacred Vesak Poya Day, let us reflect deeply on the state of our faith and commit to action. By purging the commercial and political corruptions that have infiltrated our temples, we can restore Buddhism to its rightful path. This restoration is not merely a return to tradition but a revival of the profound wisdom and compassion that Buddha imparted to the world.

As we light our lamps and offer our prayers today, let them be symbols of our resolve to purify our temples and our hearts. Let us ensure that the legacy of Buddha shines brightly, untainted by greed and ambition, guiding us all towards a future of true enlightenment and peace.

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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