“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is a simple game involving kids holding hands in a circle and moving around to the first verse, which is alternated with the specific verse, where the players break up to imitate various appropriate actions that includes “we all fall down”. Earlier the misled Maha Sangha gave notice to the Unity Government not to introduce the new constitution mandated by the 2015 General Elections; this objection was baseless as on many such instances in the past Sri Lankan history, where the government in power proposes something only to get it opposed by the opponents, no matter what was proposed. The Maha Sangha, Trade Unions and Gangs and Murderers have been used by opponents in playing these undemocratic games from the days the country gained independence, similar to the kids going round the mulberry bush; where all fall down preventing the government from accomplishing their plans. Once again the sound of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is heard in parliament, but with a difference; the Unity Government made-up of the two major political parties who had opposed each other in the past, intend getting the New Constitution approved by two-third majority in the house to accomplish their mission without being unduly pressurised by the Maha Sangha or others dragged in into their scheming by the opponents.
In many countries throughout the world, there has been a close relationship between ‘Church and State’; the largely unwritten constitution of England, gives the foremost place to the Church of England and although the USA is considered by many to be a secular state, the Dollar Note carries the words ‘In God We Trust’. In Sweden the Lutheran Church is the official religion, while in Norway it is the Evangelist Lutheran Church, whereas in Pakistan, Iran and many other Islamic countries in the Middle East, their constitutions state that their law and administration are based on Islamist teachings. In Thailand the King is a Buddhist and is the protector of the religion and Russia, except during the communist rule, considered Orthodox Christianity as the most important institution in their identity.
Also Lord Buddha himself have advised kings and their ministers and was also the first religious teacher on record to have gone to the battlefield personally to prevent the outbreak of a war. Thus Buddha himself had not confined himself only to preaching the Dhamma and although monks renounce worldliness they have from time immemorial, maintained close relationships with the community, society and the government. It was the same with Sinhala rulers and Sangha; but that historical bond between the rulers and the Sangha, got weaker and changed during the period of colonization. In particular the British took away the special status that Buddhism had and established a new administrative structure. With independence, there was no need to prop up Buddhism or protect the Dhamma for both would have flourished in a true democracy, with the public declaration issued in 1946, by the Vidyalankara Pirivena titled Bhikkhus and Politics to identify themselves with activities conducive to the welfare of the people. Thus based on history of our land the role of the Sangha in politics is nothing new and there was no objection, provided they follow the democratic norms, giving due respect to followers of other faiths.
Unfortunately, corrupt or power hungry politicians had exploited this facility to gain access power by giving special provisions in the constitution for Buddhism; whether such activities are labeled politics or not, with time these activities caused to deviate from the Dhamma and did impede the religious life of many monks. Thus in keeping with this tradition, the Maha Sangha have issued their statement on the New Constitution, based on hearsay, fed by malicious politicians to discredit the government, who had earlier turned the entire parliament into a constituent assembly; obtained views of the public, thereafter made their recommendations public and the draft bill is under preparation based on those recommendations. Sadly, the Sangha is used for their political advantage by opponents of the government that would endanger the very existence of the Dhamma and therefore is not acceptable. Hence, it is not advisable for the Maha Sangha to fall into this trap set by the opponents, sooner they realise it the better. The plight of these monks is reflected by their action taken without waiting for the draft of the New Constitution; appears to be on an extreme political mission and not a religious mission, for it is premature as the draft bill on the constitution is not yet released for review.
It is obvious, that the opponents of the government did not miss the opportunity to put fears into the minds of the people, including the monks and that resulted in this negative reaction Maha Sangha. This situation could have and should have been avoided by both parties; either the government should have taken bold decisions from 2015 to enlighten every sections of the population on the need for making the New Constitution or the Maha Sangha should have held discussions with the government to give their thoughts on the subject. But all is not lost on realising this error, the President promptly met the monks to clear their minds of any fears that the new constitution would endanger the Dhamma and that views of the Maha Sangha on the draft would be sort and taken into consideration in the preparation of the final version of the New Constitution. It was also encouraging to have the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Chief Minister of Northern Province all making a point to share their views with Maha Sangha on the need for a New Constitution. More should join them, for the opponents all-round the island irrespective of which community they belong are playing the kids game “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” raising the roof to make the government fall down with their proposal. It is up to the people to put an end to these horrendous acts of deceiving power hungry political vermin; by backing those leaders attempting to put the ‘House of Parliament’ to recover the lost paradise island.