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Moneypura sects new refuge: Salli Saranang

Gatchchami
THE SCENE IN THAILAND: The traditional daily pindapatha where monks stand in
dignity and after receiving alms bless the giver and move on

THE SCENE IN LANKA LAST WEEK: The new trend of the Moneypura monk
brigade, some even escorted by cheerleader women demanding the public to give
money to the monks
Sunday, September 24, 2017

SHAMING OF THE SAFFRON SHROUD


Politicians use monks to make temple tills go mobile in the vilest exploitation of
the robe of renunciatio

Perhaps, it signalled the beginning of the end for the ingrained respect the people
of Lanka have long held sacrosanct in their hearts for the sacred saffron robe.

THE SCENE IN THAILAND: The traditional daily pindapatha where monks stand in
dignity and after receiving alms bless the giver and move on
Last week, as monks took to the streets to ask the public their money to tinkle
and jingle in monks begging bowls as alms, what the nation witnessed was a
radical departure from the Vinaya Code as laid down by the Buddha for monks to
follow in their speech, conduct and behaviour; and the emergence of a breakaway
sect that seemed prepared to flout all religious norms and traditional practices in
the interest of corrupt partisan politics.
But first a little bit of history.
The Buddha Sasana, the community of monks, was first established in Lanka by
Arahant Mahinda, son of Indias Emperor Asoka during the reign of King
Devanampiyatissa who reigned over Lanka from the capital of Anuradhapura in
250BC. Unlike Winston Churchill announcing to the British Parliament at
Westminster in 1940 after the Dunkirk debacle that if the British Empire and the
Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest
hour it didnt survive the decade and unlike Nazi Germanys Adolf Hitler
proclaiming that the Third Reich would last for a thousand years it didnt last
for a decade either Devanampiyatissa Anuradhapura lasted for more than
thousand three hundred years. And whilst it flourished as the nations capital, so
did the Buddha Sasana thrive without sag.

But with repeated Chola invasions, the Sinhala kingdom was forced to abandon
the historic capital and to seek new lodgings at Polonnaruwa where hope of
resurrection of the glory of Anuradhapura bloomed for 150 years. But alas, the
promise was not to last. With the Chola onslaughts, the Sinhala kings were forced
to pack their bags and go further and further down south and set up their royal
camps in Yapahuwa; then forced to move the caravan to Dambadeniya, to
Kurunegala, to Gampola and then to Kotte and Kandy. With this migration and
with the people dislocated, the Buddha Sasana was rendered virtually extinct.

As the Sunday Punch stated on July 9th this year, From the 13th century onwards
even the Buddhist Order of Monks became extinct not once but thrice. The Order
of Monks was re-established in the reigns of Vimala Dharma Suriya I (15911604)
and Vimala Dharma Suriya II (16871707) as well. But these resurrections were
short lived and soon, once more, the Sasana ceased to exist in Lanka.
It was not until the 18th century that it was once again established on more solid
ground. The Ven. Weliwita Saranankara (16981778) took the initiative to
reestablish the Sasana in Lanka and invited a Thai monk named Upali who visited
Kandy in 1753 during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (17471782) was
invited by the Tamil king to do the needful and reestablish the Order. The
venerable monk performed upasampada, higher ordination to a group of Kandyan
monks.

THE SCENE IN LANKA LAST WEEK: The new trend of the Moneypura monk
brigade, some even escorted by cheerleader women demanding the public to give
money to the monks

Thus was the Siam Nikaya born on the 19th of July 1753 , named after Siam, now
Thailand, having a mere 264 year history to date compared to the over thousand
year history that ancient Lankas Bhikku Order had enjoyed till it ceased to exist.
Given the Govigama caste exclusivity held by the Siam Nikaya which refused to
ordain monks of lower castes, a revolt broke resulting in the establishment of two
other Nikayas the Amarapura Nikaya in 1803 at Velitota, Balapitiya and the
Ramannya Nikaya in 1864 by Ambagahawatte Saranankara, when he returned
after being ordained in Burma.

The Govigama only Siam Nikaya and all castes welcome Amarapura and
Ramannya Nikayas have for the last 200 odd years and more been successful in
not only reviving the Sasana but keeping it evergreen in the nations heart and
soul. And the monks of all three Nikayas have striven to keep true to their calling
and behaved in the noble manner the Buddhas Vinaya Code dictated.
But now theres a new sect in town, their membership drawn from renegades of
these three Nikayas, who take their cues not from the Buddhas code of discipline
but from the shifty handbook manual of political expediency; and display a ready
willingness to conceal the sins of the politically corrupt under the saffron shroud.

Meet the Moneypura Nikaya, which has dared to add a new and fourth refuge:
Salli saranang gatchchami or take refuge in money. Especially as a way of
atoning the sins of public servants found guilty by Lankas courts of misusing
public money to the tune of Rs. 600 million; and sentenced to 3 years rigorous
imprisonment and ordered to pay Rs 4 million fines for their crimes and Rs. 104
million as compensation to the plundered public.

Last weeks television news showed live footage of that nauseating and
humiliating spectacle of a few band of monks take to the streets with begging
bowl in hand to beg not for their mid day meal to nourish their bodies in the
pursuit of their spiritual quest but to ask for money from the people. Escorted by
a bevy of T shirt clad women cheerleaders shouting slogans give monks
money, give monks money they paraded the nations streets and made a
mockery of the Buddhas noble robe. Millions of Lankans would have been aghast
to see this blatant demand for hard cash to fall into an alms bowl which had only
known food before.

But these mercenary monks who have acted so and had violated the ordination
oaths to abide by the Buddhas Vinaya Code which forbids monks to handle or
accept money, let alone beg the masses for it, cannot be blamed alone; for, in
their ignorance, their willingness to be turned into a cats-paw has been made use
of in the most unscrupulous manner. And if you listen with your heart to the
temple bell, youll hear it knell the message of how Lankas corrupt politics have
succeeded in even staining the saffron robe with their own indelible blotching
splash of corruptions taint.

These dark forces, when their people have burgled your home and kitty and have
been found guilty by a Lankan court and have been fined and ordered to
compensate your loss, have the nerve, the audacity, the impunity in short, the
down right cheek to use a band of misguided monks and make them take to the
streets and ask you the money to pay the fine and compensation. And have now
stooped to use the saffron robe to do it without the slightest qualm and without
an iota of concern as to how such exploitation will serve to despoil the Sasana
robe and will inevitably lead to its ultimate demise.

Following Joint Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardenas publicly announced plan


to collect money with the help of Buddhist monks to pay Weeratunges and
Pelpita, Rs 104 million which the Colombo High Court Judge Gihan Kulatunga had
ordered as compensation, the Ven. Medagoda Abayatissa Thera took it upon
himself to blow the conch and trumpet the news of the advent of the new Nikaya
in town: the money begging monk brigade

At a press conference held last week, the monk first declared in the manner of a
court judge that Mahinda Rajapaksa was president at the time he issued the order
to his permanent secretary Lalith Weeratunga to transfer from the
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission the sum of Rs. 600 million and use
the funds to distribute sil redi to upasikavans in December 2014 whilst a
presidential campaign was in full swing with Rajapaksa as a candidate.

The opinion must be presented here that the presidential order had no legal basis
since the president had no constitutional or any other legal right to order the
transfer of public money belonging to one government entity to another for
whatever purpose without prior cabinet approval and treasury sanction.

But the monk Medagoda Abayatissas argument was that since the president
enjoyed immunity for his acts, his permanent secretary Weeratunga was also
covered and enjoyed the same immunity when he acted on a presidential order
and transferred from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission the sum of
Rs. 600 million and used the funds to distribute sil reddhi to upasikavans in
December 2014.

But with all respects to the Medagoda Abayatissa Thera, that does not seem to be
the legal thinking, as evidenced by the Colombo High Court Judge Gihan
Kulatungas judgment when he sentenced Weeratunga to three years jail. True,
the constitution shields the president in armour of immunity. But it does not
protect any civil servant, or any henchmen if he or she carries out an illegal order.

If constitutional immunity bestowed upon any president for any wrongful act, in
turn grants immunity to his subordinates, too, who follows his illegal order, then
the president can order even mass scale financial fraud to be carried out by his
henchmen who when charged can lay claim to immunity springing from the
presidential source. One does not have to be a constitutional lawyer to fathom
that. Common sense will do.
But when the Ven. Medagoda Abayatissa Thera talks of the Vinaya Code in
Buddhism, it is quite another matter. For he is no mere novice monk unversed in
the three baskets of the Tripitaka, Buddhisms guiding scriptures, namely, the
basket of expected discipline from monks: the Vinaya Piaka, the sheet anchor of
the Noble Order of Monks; the basket of discourse: Stta Piaka, the discourses
the Buddha engaged with the lay and his preaching; and the basket of special
doctrine: the Abhidharma Piaka, the quintessence of his philosophy.

He is, to his credit, a doctor of Buddhism, having gained his doctorate in


Buddhism and Jainism from the University of Delhi. . And, to boot, a professor of
Buddhism, no less, of the Sri Jayewardene Open University. But he did not see
anything wrong, in the prospect of monks taking to the streets begging for
money. He did not see that is as being contrary to the rules laid down by the
Buddha in the Vinaya code, the code of discipline by which all monks belonging to
the Order must live by or face expulsion.

Announcing that an island-wide programme would be launched from September


15 till the 18th to collect money for this purpose, he declared: As a nation we
must save these two public servants. That is why we have come forward to launch
the Sil Reddhi prisoners Salvation Fund to save them

Funny, isnt it, that the learned monk Medagoda should find nothing wrong in
monks going a begging for money? Especially when he is aware, as he surely must
be, with his Delhi doctorate in Buddhism that the Buddhas Vinaya Code forbids
monks to accept money. If the the Buddhas Code of Discipline for monks bans
monks from accepting money, how worse it is to take to the streets asking for
hard cash? For whatever reason? And whos counting?

But according to this erudite monk, Medagoda Abayatissa, this was not against
the code at all. But though he maybe a professor of Buddhism, do you think he
has the right to arrogate to himself the Buddhas Vinaya Rules and interpret it
according to his own fashion to suit the politics of his time when at the first
Buddhist convention, held shortly after the Buddhas passing away, the Arahant
Maha Kassapa held the view, and the council of Arahants accepted without
murmur, that the rules laid down by the Master, should remain untouched?

Does a doctorate in Buddhism give any monk today the right, to advocate the
transgression of the Buddhas code for monks, which a council of enlightened
monks who had lived in the Buddhas midst and imbibed the Dhamma from his
lips, decided to hold as inviolate. As the Buddha said: Oh monks! So long as you
will not enact new rules and will not abolish existing ones the Sangha may be
expected to prosper and not decline. And since then, throughout the recorded
history of Theravada Buddhism, which this nations Sinhala people have long
boasted to be the guardians of Buddhism in its pristine for form, none has dared
to change it or add a spin to it.

Ven Medagoda Abayatissa Thera also stated that the tour was organised to
ensure that the service provided by public servants does not go unrecognised. He
also stated that the organisers of the tour aimed to enlighten the public on the
injustice that was committed against two long standing public servants. Perhaps,
if he meditates upon it long enough, he will discover who was responsible for the
injustice done unto them.

But it is true; the Vinaya Code is not the eternal universal Dhamma the Buddha
preached. Even as the Buddha stated when he began formulating stage by stage
when the occasions arose to make new rules, the Vinaya is not Ultimate Truths
but subject to change. It is bound to be changed and modified in different places
at different times. The Buddha himself amended some of the rules. The rule of
communal eating was changed seven times by the Buddha himself to suit the
needs of circumstances. Some were altered to suit geographical circumstances.
Examples: the rule that an assembly of ten monks were necessary for granting
higher ordination, footwear with more than one layer of layer not be used; the
rules of bathing , to name a few, were modified.
When application of these rules needed to be changed to meet the needs of
circumstances, the Buddha did not arbitrarily change the rules he had declared.
He called the monks to a congregation and changed the original rules and then
declared that that the new rules would be valid.

The Buddhas approach to the Vinaya Code revealed the democratic spirit in him.
Just before his demise, he summoned his favourite disciple Ananda and told him
that if the members of the noble order of the Sangha wished, they were free to
abolish or alter minor rules after his passing away.

But, alas, he did not say, what rules were minor, and what rules were major and
when the First Buddhist Council met a few months after the Buddhas death, the
members admonished the Arahat Ananda for not clarifying from the Buddha what
the Buddha meant by minor rules. In the absence of that, the Sangha gathered
thereat unanimously decided not to lay down new rules and not to annul any
existing rule but to follow rules that had already been laid down by the Buddha.

From that day forth not a single vinaya rule has been officially changed. Neither
has any new rule been added. But of course, it does not mean that all monks
strictly adhere to all the rules especially when force of circumstances compels
them to make a compromise and adapt to changing times. For instance, the rule
that monks should not handle money cannot be adhered to in todays commercial
world though monks could have easily followed it as monks who have taken to
forests hermitages or atop rocks like Kudumbigala off Arugam Bay easily do. But
what are the circumstances that force monks take to the streets demanding
money be dropped in their begging bowl, if not the dictates of Lankas corrupt
politics, promoted by monks with a political bent?

And thus it came to pass last Friday that groups of misguided monks took their
positions at selected locations in the city to go from street to street, from office to
office with their begging bowls demanding to be filled not with food to nourish
and sustain their physical self to pursue their spiritual goal but crying instead to
be stacked with money, ostensibly to pay the fine a court had ordered two public
servants to pay for misappropriating public funds on the orders of their political
master to advance his own political fortunes. If the sight of monks begging for
money was bad enough what made it uglier was that the retinue was
accompanied by t- shirt clad women cheerleaders of the new fraternity, of the
new Moneypura Nikaya shouting in the most unseemly way for the public to put
their money in the monks pin kata that had gone mobile. To say that it was
unbecoming of a Buddhist monk wearing the saffron robe to put himself in that
position is an understatement.

Like beggar mudalalies collect poor from the slums and drop them each morning
at selected locations to beg on the streets and pick them up in vans extracting a
commission on their daily takings, these monks, members of the Noble Order of
the Sangha were walking city streets and suburbs to beg for money like
common beggars on the street last week in a three day marathon to raise from
the public with no receipts issued for money received.

But unlike most of the common beggars who are carefully chosen for their
disabilities or wounds which may elicit sympathy and move a soul to drop a dime
into their bowl, these men were carefully targeted by their political controllers
not for any disability but for the distinct advantage of being draped in the sacred
saffron shroud which serve to evoke ready reverence and move the heart and
impel the hand to reach for the purse and fill the mobile temple till on the street
in return for intangible merit and a better birth in the afterlife.

The saffron robe has been the designer wear of the mendicant. It predates the
Buddha. Prince Siddhartha followed the fashion of his times when he renounced
his palace pleasures and material wealth and used the white shroud that wrapped
a corpse as his lifelong attire of course, after disinfecting it with saffron, the
antiseptic herb of India which gave the robe its name. It was symbol of the truth
seeker, one who had renounced all to gain all that was worth gaining:
enlightenment.,

But sad to say that in recent times in Lanka, the unscrupulous have found many
uses for this robe for all reasons. Like wolves in sheeps clothing, every mascot of
every street protest is draped in one. And demands to be respected, to be treated
with deference and considers it to be a shield of immunity. Like a catholic priest
holding a cross to ward of the devil, street protesters believe that the mere
adorning the robe of the Sasana will keep the law enforcing authorities at bay and
that to mess around with it, even to lay a finger upon it tantamount to sacrilege.
What is not realised is that every time the robe is used in this way and cheapened
in this fashion, it loses the respect it possesses. And last week, the robe hit the
nadir when it was squeezed to the extreme to wring, even from it, a few coppers
to fill their coffers.

And the robe for all reasons has been found to be used for many foul reasons
except for one: to be the symbolic garb of the truth seeker which automatically
demands and receives the publics reverence, worship and alms.

Stark silence of Nikaya Chiefs


Siam, Amarapura, Rammannya strangely stay mum
A shroud of silence has descended upon the three Buddhist Nikayas of the land
over the issue of monks going on pindapathey asking the public to fill their alms
bowl with money and not grub. And made many wonder why the high priests
have chosen to turn askance and remain mute when a tenet contained in the
Buddhas declared Vinaya Code, described as the sheet anchor of the Noble
Order of the Sasana, is being openly violated on public streets.
Beggared beyond belief Buddhists watched aghast as the Moneypura Nikaya
where anything goes took their pin kataya to the road and made a mockery of
the respect the public hold to the sacred saffron robe of the Buddha.
All these Mahanayakes consider themselves as advisors to the rulers. They claim
that the community of monks has been so historically, though without producing
great proof of their claim. They meet the countrys top leaders and are seen on
television, accepting their pirikara, hearing their confessions and blessing them in
return by tying the traditional pirith noola on their wrist. They are quick to
advice, even quicker as the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Nikaya is to criticize
the political actions of the present government. All that is fair and well.
But when a new schism is seemingly being formed that follows not the Vinaya
Code but the dictates of politicians to be used at their whim as a rent a monk
mob, it is perhaps better if the venerable Nikaya chiefs looked inward and started
advising the truant members of their individual Nikayas first and admonishing the
laity later.
Posted by Thavam