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Sunday, 31 May 2015

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Politics and parting of ways:

BBS not created to facilitate political aspirations - Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thera

In a dramatic move, Venerable Kirama Wimalajothi Thera, last week publicly announced his desire to relinquish the leadership of the controversial Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). Alleging his party had deviated from its original purpose, Wimalajothi thera said given the serious differences in opinioned approach, it was best to part ways.

Q: You have suddenly decided to step down from the BBS leadership. What made you take this sudden decision?

A: This is not at all a sudden decision and I am in no way running away from my responsibilities as a Buddhist priest. I am now away from the politically-influenced chaos. I will continue my work for the betterment of the Buddha Sasana and the devotees, as I always did.

I reached this decision almost six months ago, after observing the path BBS was taking and seriously analyzing it. When two parties cannot agree and work as one, it is best to part ways and continue on separate paths.

After observing a long spell of silence, I sent my letter of resignation to the Secretary of the BBS, requesting not to use my name for anything, hereafter. I have been very quiet about the resignation until the media began questioning. I was unaware of the involvement of the BBS in the Beruwala Aluthgama incidents that took place in June last year, causing tension between the Buddhists and Muslims. The last BBS event I attended was the 2014 Sangha Council meeting, held in Colombo. It was attended by Ven. Ashin Wirathu Thera of Myanmar.

I felt I could not agree with many of BBS decisions. My dayakayas are from all political parties and there is no difference. I believe that I should not be biased towards a particular side. I havenít had any links with the BBS for over six months. I read in a newspaper that the BBS will soon be reinvented as a political party and members will content the upcoming elections. I am glad to have left before this change in stance.

Q: Then, why did you join the BBS?

A: At that time, the requirement was different.

Many lay people closely working with me, used to frequently complain about the malpractices that were committed using the Buddhist identity. Those conmen, they said, were tarnishing the image of Buddhists who were truly practicing the religion.

They wanted to put an end to such activities and the negative publicity given to Buddhists and Buddhism, and implored that I take some action. I am a Buddhist priest and fighting and arguing is not part of my Buddhist discipline. I was very disheartened to see what was happening, and I felt the need to do something.

Thatís why I joined the BBS and I clearly stated my stance at the beginning. BBS was not created for members to come into politics. It was to address incidents that disgraced the reputation of Buddhists.

Q: Yet, by resigning, arenít you letting down those who would have wanted you to protect the true image of Buddhism and Buddhists?

A: Not really. By being in an organization of this nature, makes it difficult to work towards that aim.

Religion-based political parties and other organizations work with a particular frame of mind, with motives that are often fuelled by the whims and fancies of individuals. This is a deviation from the true objectives.

All these long years, I have been working to promote the teachings of the Buddha, with great difficulty. I used to conduct meditation programs for thousands of youth, imparting the values of self-discipline. I returned from overseas, some two decades ago, to serve Buddhism and the Buddhist community.

Q: Do you see a nosedive in Buddhist priests, at present? Often, people critique that Buddhist priests are less disciplined than laymen. What is your response?

A: Yes, I agree. Before the early 1970ís, there was solid priestly education at pirivenas that moulded the character of priests. They were ordained, not just physically but also spiritually.

That made a huge difference. Educated and trained for about 10 years at the pirivenas, a priest true to the essence of Buddhism was produced. The Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara pirivenas played a major role in this. When the pirivenas were converted to universities, young Buddhist priests got entangled with the material world and the political controversies of the lay world.

All these polluting factors filled their minds with anger and hatred, instead of instilling peace and loving kindness. Today, we see the ultimate result.

Buddhist priests are expected to advice the leaders and communities. To do that, they should be self-disciplined.

As a country, we are losing the essence. For an ordinary mother and a father, offering a child to the Buddha Sasana is the most respectful and meritorious act. If those samaneras turn out be indisciplined bhikkus, would it not break the hearts of those parents?

Q: Now that you have quit the BBS, what are your next steps?

A: To serve the country and my religion better, as I always did. After serving overseas - educating people on Buddhism - I returned to Sri Lanka to serve my country and to help create a peaceful environment for people to live in.

I donít need to belong to a political group to serve the country and the Buddha Sasana. I was doing that long before joining the BBS and I will continue to do so.

There are about 4000 Bhikkunis and many dasa sil mathas in Sri Lanka who need support for their education and advancement.

Therefore, I have now started an advanced education centre for the Bhikkunis - both local and foreign. They will be taught to lead the life of true Buddhist priests and to be of great service to the communities.

These nuns are educated and willing to learn more and be true Buddhist practitioners and I will support them in their spiritual endeavour, irrespective of any obstacle I may have to face. There definitely will be roaring opposition to this. I will not bow down to hateful sarcasm but continue with this meritorious deed.

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