Religious harmony is a pre requisite for peace in Sri Lanka

3564aab641b95ea61059545d15d2fae3Gautama Buddha has pointed out to us that sense desires are the root-causes of quarrels, contentions, disputes and wars. “Another root cause of quarrels and disputes is this distinction between oneself and others, considering them to be equal, or superior or inferior to one. One way to appease all quarrels is the knowledge that “here in this quarrel, we perish”. There is this truly awkward position, pointed out by Lord Buddha in the case of a person who has come to abuse those who do not abuse, who has come to revile those who do not revile, who has come to scold those who do not scold. All these abuses will naturally return to the owner who has proffered them, just as food offered but not accepted will come back to the owner. Lord Buddha’s attitude toward quarrels and disputes is very clear, had no quarrel with the world; preached Dhamma only to show the way to put an end to suffering. Never claimed that his Dhamma is the only truth and everything else is false; just makes it clear to everyone to come, to see and to judge by oneself”. 

In Sri Lanka, the victory engendered hatred and defeat brought up suffering, the best way is not to resort to wars to solve disputes, but to explore all peaceful means to settle differences and conflicts and this is exactly what the present rulers are trying to achieve. On best way to avoid quarrels and disputes, Lord Buddha advises, not to uphold any fancy perceptions or false views likely to arouse disputes. Even in case that these fancy perceptions or wrong views do arise, the best way to deal with them is not to take delight in them, not to welcome them, not to take hold of them. Such an attitude will put an end to quarrels, disputes, wars and all de-meritorious dhamma (actions). Any war, if breaking out, will bring in its trails, untold suffering as seen in the past decades.

In a multi-religious and multi-cultural country like Sri Lanka religious harmony by each knowing and practicing their religion and respecting the religious beliefs of others is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity. It is a concept that indicates the existence of love and affection between different religions which any citizen has the right to choose and practice. First one needs to know and practice the religion of his choice and then must learn about the teachings of other religions to respect the religious beliefs of others. In this connection it is of interest to note what the Archbishop of Colombo said to a gathering this week “the teaching of Buddha brings us relief whenever confronted with mental pain and discomfort” and a view expressed by the Chief Minister of Northern Province based on the plight of the Tamils “You look at Tamils as equals then there would be no problem”. They are two leading Sri Lankans from non-Buddhist minority communities and yet both have understand the teachings of Lord Buddha better than most legislators in parliament who represent the Buddhist and in their own way, wants to take this country forward by supporting the President and his government with their peace initiatives.

This state of peacefulness is not easy to achieve overnight, particularly after decades of living at the other extreme with total disregard for all that had been held lofty and sacred by all religions practiced in the country, where politicians let loose their political kith and kin robed in saffron who were armed with stanzas of the Dharma, fortified and shielded by the security forces of the country. The clergy that are supposed to be preaching thrifty living and discipline of the mind were the first to take to the streets and evoke satanic vengeance against the armless minority. These extreme elements did not drop from the sky, but emerged as a direct result of a campaign during the negative peace years, where patriotism was the theme and sovereignty of the nation was its bedrock, concurring with the saying of the Irish poet, Oscar Wilde who said ‘patriotism is a virtue of the vicious’. In this connection the ignorance of the Sinhala voters considering themselves as a dominating power is a cause for concern and until that situation is changed there is no hope for any harmony, until each community is treated as equal by the other irrespective of number.

This is possible if all Sri Lankans living in the country and overseas pledge to love and respect everyone irrespective of one’s religion, caste, creed, sect, colour, ethnicity, language, gender, nationality or any other difference. As the ruling Majority it is up to the Sinhala Buddhist to initiate this and the President a practicing Buddhist as head of state has set this as his goal.