Protest for ending the cease-fire, from my office
Once, cause Amma told me to, I went to a monastery. It was only one and a half days, nothing in terms of meditation, but it changed the way I saw everything. I’d learned about Buddhism since I was young and respected it as a philosophy, but I never really understood it as a practice until I meditated. And then I understood a lot better, and loved it. After that I meditated every day, until that and my general focus disappated. However, what I do remember, longingly, is that when I meditated and really tried, I could feel connected to and even love everything around me, including the bad. And by love I simply mean understand, not judge, but to simply accept, without fear or reservation. I’ve started meditating again, to get through some stuff but there is one thing I don’t understand. I don’t understand how Buddhism can justify violence in any form, and how monks could ever take a political stance calling for outright war.
I’m not the best Buddhist by far, but I do remember at least the first precept. Do not kill. Specifically, to refrain from taking the life of living beings. This, like most things in Buddhism, is intensely personal and not really political. Going out and protesting against a cease-fire is a very worldly position (and defendable in that context) but in no way does it flow from Buddhism. The Buddha was pretty clear about the non-violence bit, and the right speech. Monks themselves don’t go to war, but I don’t see how they can advocate a violent situation. Again, note that I’m not saying war isn’t a defensible solution, I’m just saying it has nothing to do with Buddhism.
Another bit of cognitive dissonance is the fact that the National Bhikku Front (another WTF in itself) calls this a Satyagraha. Now, Satyagraha is a philosophy of non-violent resistance pioneered by Mahatama Gandhi. I’m no expert, but here’s what he had to say,
In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For, what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one’s own self.
Now, um, correct me while I wrap my brain around this, but these monks are staging a Satyagraha for… violence? As far as I can tell these protests are just that, garden variety protests. They aren’t a social movement in any sense, it’s just political pressure on the President, who isn’t really the opponent here. If they wanted to stage a real Satyagraha of self-sacrifice they’d go peacefully to Killinochi and take whatever comes with love and humility. Instead they’re advocating bombing the shit out of the place. By this definition a General could be staging Satyagraha if they don’t shout their orders.
Satyagraha is actually a holistic movement towards broad social and spiritual change, it’s not a simple tool to be used for whatever political means come along. It’s certainly not a means to violence.
The National Bhikku Front is a betrayal of both Buddhism and Satyagraha. Both are words and ideas deeply rooted in non-violence, and they have made them into so much cannon fodder. I do not object to their desire to end the cease-fire, I think that’s a defensible position. Not one I agree with, but defensible. However, I deeply object to their corruption of language, common sense and the Buddhist faith in order to advance political ends. In this world violence is a political reality and abrogating the Cease Fire may be a good idea. However, these are political positions and they have nothing to do with Buddhism and they have nothing to do with Satyagraha. In fact, they run contrary to the very spirit and letter of both. True Buddhism and true Satyagraha is a noble and effective path which we do not have the courage to walk in Sri Lanka. The least we could do is respect the names.