Conflict and Buddhism

by Charles Perera, Lankaweb, Aug 12, 2006

Charles Perera looks at war and Buddhist teachings against the backdrop of the Sri Lanka conflict

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Buddhism had been mentioned in some news reports, in reference to the situation in Sri Lanka. The Buddha is also called the Compassionate One. He was against destruction of life in any form. It is often said that he intervened to stop a war. But they were not “wars”in its modern sense.

The first such incident in which the Buddha intervened, was not a war but a dispute between two clans related to each other and to the Buddha himself, about the sharing of water of a river. It cannot therefore be called a war, but a dispute among kinsmen, which Buddha settled before any one would have been hurt.

The second incident was in Sri Lanka at Nagadipa, where the Buddha settled a dispute over the ownership of a bejewelled seat. Thereafter, again in Sri Lanka the Buddha prevented a noisy yakkha tribe causing annoyance, and performed a miracle to bring them under control and to make a discourse in which Saman became a stream entrants. And came to be called, Saman Deiyo. Things were different during that time and the Buddha was not an ordinary person.

Therefore, it is wrong to bring in Buddha or his teachings, to draw parallels to the terrorism we are witnessing in Sri Lanka, in the world. When King Dutugamunu waged a war against King Elara, the Buddhist priests are said to have given their blessings and some of them is said to have accompanied the army.

King Elara was reigning in Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura was then a city, sacred to the Buddhists, as there were many monasteries, temples and shrines, precious to the Buddhists. No body wanted the place to be desecrated by building places of other religions, and conduct ceremonies and rituals not in keeping with the purity of Buddhism. Therefore the war conducted by the King Dutugamuna had the support and blessings of the Maha Sangha.

In the North and East there are many ancient ruins of Buddhist Monasteries and other monuments, unique among the ancient ruins in the world. Therefore the Buddhists have a fear that these ruins, which are a heritage of the present generation of Sri Lankans of all denominations, may be destroyed, like the Talibans in Afghanistan destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha Statutes. Therefore, the Buddhists would like to eliminate this destructive element-the uncivilized brutes the LTTE terrorists, from causing damage to our common heritage, apart from brutalising, killing and displacing the innocent civilian population.

Another reason why the Buddhists following a religion of love and compassion, writes virulently against the terrorists is not through hatred, but because of their helplessness in making the terrorists understand a civilized form of language. Even if we were to plead with them, with all the love in our hearts to lay down their guns and come in peace to find an acceptable solution to their problem, they will only shoot at us.

In that situation we have either to keep quiet, and let them have their way and destroy every thing that we respect and believe in, and say that is how things are, or stand up and say NO - loud and clear, even if they would not pay attention.

Another reason why Buddhists would like to stop terrorism in the North at any cost is that Sri Lanka is where the true words of the Buddha, as recited by the monks exist. This land has been sanctified five times by the visit of the Buddha. He had been in the North, the South, East and the West of this Island. Therefore, they believe that this Island should continue to exist as a whole undivided, with the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malays and others, united as one Nation.

The above article is written based on the author's own opinion