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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

Speak Up Before It Is Too Late

November 19, 2012 1 comment

I wrote an article the other day about religious intolerance around Asia and it prompted discussion both online and among friends. 

One of the interesting comments, which can also be seen on the article, was that I had been making “a mountain out of a mole-hill”. Now obviously I do not agree with this otherwise I would not have written the article in the first place. 

But I will admit that while religious violence in Sri Lanka is not a grave issue it certainly is something that is unfortunately sprouting up from time to time. Furthermore for those who live in the country would no doubt be aware of the growing sense that a section of the Buddhist population are looking to overshadow the other religions. 

Last Tuesday was Deepavali and when I was driving around the city in the morning I was treated to a sight of a temple hosting a Perahera. Now these are usually held back for Buddhist religious occasions  so I was a little confused as to why this priest decided to hold one on this day of all days. 

The fireworks and colourful celebrations seen in the Kovils was my answer celebrating Deepavali.

This is of course not the first time I have seen this. Last year on Christmas the temple near my house decided to hold a Perahera. Earlier this year before Easter, a section of Mount Lavinia was decorated with Buddhist flags.

So while religious violence is thankfully not a major issue in Sri Lanka, all signs are pointing towards a growing degree of dominance by the majority. I am not saying that all Buddhists in the country support this, or even the majority of them, I am saying that a section does. This needs to be countered and quickly otherwise we could open ourselves to situations as is seen in Pakistan and other such countries. 

The complaint of me making a mountain of a mole-hill reminded me of a quote by Martin Niemoller, a Pastor who opposed Adolf Hitler.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

What is Vesak?

I went to see Vesak the other night and really couldn’t recognise it. The crowds were massive, the lanterns and kuduwas numbers and for some reason everybody was wearing masks.
I would really like if somebody could explain that part to me, last year when I went the crowds were big but the number of lanterns and kuduwas was higher. And most importantly there were no masks. I asked a friend the other day and she agreed that this seems to be a new tradition that is going hand in hand with the celebrations.
It is ironic that a religion, or philosophy as some would argue, which has nothing to do with devils and demons sees people celebrate its birth by wearing such masks. But that seems to be the way stuff is going now, a religion misinterpreted and people losing the essence of an event.
Not to mention it is damn scary to see men in devil masks tearing down Havelock Road on a motorbike in the middle of the night. Of course seeing the crowds in their thousands is something worth noting, not a site many us would have seen 7-8 years ago.
Of course those on twitter will know there is a certain member of the Presidential staff that continually reminds us of the great job done by the government in allowing us to celebrate Vesak. Funnily enough they don’t seem to want to remind anyone of the actual meaning of the day, but rather choose to show off.
No expenses have been spared this year the entire city has been lit up, government departments and the armed forces have contributed to this event. Of course that all came out of public funds.
Yet does anyone remember what Vesak is about, from a day of site-seeing we have now been presented with a carnival. Music blaring through the night, food stalls set up to rival the traditional dhansalas. Within the madness there is a Pandol which reminds us of the actual meaning of Vesak, too bad not many people are spending time reading the stories depicted.

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