It is with profound sadness that I read about the deplorable demonstration by a group of fanatic Sri Lankans calling for a Halal boycott. There are many news and blog sites that provide the details: BBC report, the DBSJeyaraj blog, the Daily Mirror site and the Mirror site.
This ethno-religious movement has been steadily building momentum, spreading its hatred and its delusional viewpoints via Facebook and other channels. And quite disgracefully, a substantial section of the so-called (ignorant?) Sinhala Buddhist population in this country blindly believe and passionately follow the spurious statements uttered by these fanatics.
I have personally witnessed supposedly devout Sinhala Buddhists becoming agitated and needlessly upset by the fear-mongering claims of this movement. One such absurd claim is that the Sinhala Buddhist population in Sri Lanka is declining rapidly due to the rise in other religions.
My personal view is that if there is such a decline of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, it should be directly attributable to the highly dubious form of Buddhist philosophy and practices of urban Sri Lanka today. This brand of Buddhism is primarly led by Buddhist priests whose rhetoric completely contradicts the doctrine preached by the Buddha.
For example, consider the Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta (the "shorter discourse on the simile of the elephant's footprint"), Majjhima Nikaya 27 (Source: Thanissaro Bikkhu's translation). This Sutta is historically significant to Sri Lankan Buddhists, since it is the sermon that was repeated by Arhant Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa on a Poson Poya day, thereby leading to the dawn of the Buddhist era in this country.
The following excerpt from this Sutta refers to the virtues of a monk who has renounced household life with conviction in the Buddha and faith in the Dhamma:
"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.
Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large."
Are we privileged to witness this type of virtuous behavior by the monks at the forefront of the fanatical "Bodu Bala Sena" movement?
Unfortunately almost all major religions in the world today appear to be saddled with pockets of extremism. The danger is when these isolated, delusional protagonists are able to rally others to multiply in numbers. In this instance in Sri Lanka, they are doing so by igniting flames of hatred among gullible people by purportedly being the self-appointed defenders of Buddhism!
Let's wholeheartedly reject such false views which are driven by ignorance and blind passion.
Instead, let's join hands in unity by practicing Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekkha - as portrayed by the four cornerstone Bo-leaves in our Sri Lankan national flag. These practices alone, can lead our nation to peace and toward prosperity!