Part two of a series written by Dr. Sharif Abdullah.
For most of us in the world, when we think about the term “Buddhism” we picture the smiling face of the Dalai Lama. Indeed, for many of us, his stance of nonviolence in the face of Chinese aggression is the epitome of what Buddhism looks like, as practiced. The Chinese aggression made the Dalai Lama a world-class figure, and Tibetan Buddhism known throughout the world.
The Dalai Lama ACTS like being “Buddhist” is more important than being “Tibetan”.
When I ask you to think about the term “Buddhism” you probably DON’T think about Sri Lankan Buddhism.
Recently, I was in the Midwest, doing a presentation on Sri Lanka before an audience of a few dozen people. To exemplify the Sri Lanka military, I downloaded a few photos of the proud Sri Lankan soldiers in their snappy uniforms, marching. One woman raised her hand and asked, “I thought Sri Lanka was a Buddhist country. Where are the Buddhists?”
To answer, I blew up the picture of the Sri Lanka soldiers, focusing on the hand of the soldier in the foreground. Around his wrist was a telltale white band. I told her, “These soldiers ARE the Buddhists. This band is the cord [DJ: a blessing called a pirith noule] each one of them received when he went to the Buddhist temple to get the blessings from the monks, before marching off to kill human beings.”
The woman burst into tears. “I thought Buddhism was DIFFERENT!” she said between her tears. “I thought Buddhists actually PRACTICED what they talked about!”
A rude awakening.
Just like Christianity, Islam and everything else, Buddhists are just as likely to fall prey to powerful men who want to re-write the rules to suit their own agenda. Because the Buddha’s message: “Do no harm to any sentient being” is so clear, it makes the re-write so ludicrous and the attempts at manipulation so blatant and repellent.
But, if the re-write of “DO NO HARM” into “KILL OUR ENEMIES” is so obviously WRONG, what causes millions of otherwise sane and devout Sinhalese to buy into this, to revel in war and violence? More importantly, what causes them to go along with this attempt to conflate their ethnic identity with the OPPOSITE of their religion?