Thursday 5 March 2015

Insulting Buddhism

Insulting Buddhism

In 2008, while attending a conference on Natural Disasters in Kunming, China, I met a Mongolian Professor who told me the following story during an over-the-coffee discussion on religions.

Long ago, there was a very clever military commander of a certain dynasty (Let me say in Meng Kingdom), Yeming, who was regarded as a key figure in the country for protecting and uplifting Buddhism. He was well known for both bravery and wisdom. 

The ruler of a neighbouring non-Buddhist state who was looking for a reason, for sometime, to declare war against Meng Kingdom, got a canny idea to fulfill his desire. He called a semi-lunatic person who was asked to go to Meng kingdom and insult Buddhism in front of Yeming. 

The man traveled a long distance to reach Meng Kingdom. Arriving at the king's palace, he walked into the vicinity of Yeming, who was at an open court in the Palace with his friends. The person then started using the filthiest language in insulting Buddhism. Everyone around was looking at Yeming, expecting him to go wild in rage and behead the insulting person. 

Surprising everyone, after listening to all sorts of screaming and shrieking in filth on Buddhism by the lunatic, Yeming stood up and asked one of his aides to give that person some food and water as he may be hungry and thirsty after a long journey and shouting a lot. 

The bewildered friends asked Yeming, why he was not angered by the outcry of that person against his beloved religion. Smile in his face and with a dignified and sedate voice, Yeming explained.

"Buddhism is a philosophy that explains the cause and effect. It is not a belief of a virtual entity which lives only in human imaginations.  Only those who worship something in imaginations get scared when someone insults their belief, simply because, they are afraid of getting their imaginations shattered".

Adding further Yeming said "If I kill that person, tomorrow there will be another one who will do the same at the outskirts of the city. If I go there and kill that one then there will be someone on the mountains doing the same. If I waste my time and energy to ride there and kill him, there will be hundreds across the border insulting Buddhism in filth. Attacking them will start a war that will kill thousands and destroy much wealth. Finally, what is the purpose of doing that? We do something totally against Buddhism and waste many resources, just because we were foolish enough to get provoked by something that someone has uttered". 

The same Yeming, fought vigorously, many times during his life when enemies attacked Buddhist monasteries in his country.

Understanding the "cause and effect", is the essence of Buddhism

We hear a similar story, much recently from the famous Buddhist Monk, Ven. Ajahn Brahm in Australia. When he was asked about his reactions, if someone tears the Thripitaka (the sacred scripts of Buddhism) and flush it in toilet, Ven. Ajahn Brahm replied with a smile..."I will immediately call the plumber".

There were many occasions, during his life-time, that Lord Buddha himself experienced incidents of insulting; 'even a woman once came with a pile of firewood under the clothes to imply that she was pregnant and the father is Lord Buddha'. Buddha was unmoved and let the truth be unveiled with time. If you are confident about yourself there is no need to bother about what the others say. 

Around 10 years of age, I had my first experience of someone insulting Buddhism. We were enjoying a cup of tea at a neighbour's place after an intensive game of cricket (in Sri Lanka even if you are a total stranger that steps into a house, you cannot escape without enjoying a cup of tea).

One of our playmates was quite elderly (in the early 20s), who was a devoted Buddhist; a daham paasal teacher at Vajira Ramaya, Bambalapitiya at that time.  Let me refer him as 'Wasantha Ayya'. 

We also had quite a number of non-Buddhist friends as well. One of them was very nice in all occasions other than in the discussions of religion. 

Unfortunately, that day the topic sailed into Buddhism due to an on-going Perahara at that time by Bellanwilla Temple. This boy gradually heated up and started telling nasty things about Buddhism. None of the Buddhists started counter arguing although all of us were not very happy about his utterance. 

Then this boy grabbed a pencil and a paper and sketched something like a Buddha statue. 

He showed his sketch to us and yelled "this is your Buddha, I hate him, hate him" and then started stabbing at the sketch repeatedly with the pencil.

One of our Buddhist friends stood up to tell or do something, but Wasantha Ayya calmed him down and raised his mild voice.

"Malli (means younger brother), you are an idiot. You drew something, defined it as something and ruined it in rage. You can do it any number of times, but please use your own pencils and papers. We will not even look at you". 

Burning with fury the boy shouted "I will go to your temple and demolish all the statues".

With a wry grin Wasantha Ayya said in a low voice "try it and see. you may order a stretcher as well; or better call an ambulance before trying that".  

Then he patted the angry boy in the shoulder and said "Malli, now you see, you spoiled the nice evening we had, developed lots of toxic in your blood and I am sure that you'll have a sleepless night today. For what purpose? It is simply because you were scared that our discussion will change your mind about your religion. You are not sure what you believe. Now take a deep breath and relax yourself. We are still your good pals".

Then Wasantha Ayya gave an unforgettable advice to all of us. 

"Buddhism cannot be insulted by any one, but a Buddhist himself. If you claim that you are a Buddhist and then violate Pansil, utter filth, act indecently and hurt others, then you are not only insulting but also destroying Buddhism".

Now those who have read some of my articles may understand why I was highly critical on Gnanasara Thero and BBS. They were claiming that they are protecting Buddhism but their behaviour was a total insult to the religion. 

It is absolutely pointless in worrying about what people in other countries do about Buddhism. They may publish articles or cartoons, display banners, operate Buddha Bars, have Buddha prints in their under garments, create songs with girls dancing around Buddha statues that they have made for the shooting etc. etc. None of those acts are stoppable and none of them have the slightest effect on Buddhism.

If someone build a statue by sand and cement, call it a Buddha Statue, insult and destroy it, then the whole process showcases the stupidity of that "someone".  No true Buddhist around the world needs to worry about that.

However, if an invader, intruder or insane destroys or deforms Buddhist artifacts or show unruly or indecent behaviour at sacred premises in the country, every Buddhist have the right to stand-up against that; not because the Buddhism was insulted but the culture and heritage of the country is challenged.  

A true Buddhist does not see any spiritual value of a statue made of rock, sand and cement other than making such object an aid to tame and concentrate the mind (clickable link). 

But they do have archaeological or national values........



  1. Excellent Article sir. It would be great if this could be published in Sinhala Language as well.

    If you were in Sri Lanka you could have been a TV star, with such wonderful vision.

  2. i agree with nalinda. Pls publish in sinhala. you may have comments with foul words as well. But pls do so.