Muslim man, Buddhist elephant (insomuch as that is possible). Via Fear Of A Muslim Island
I was heading towards Dematagoda and I saw some Muslims protesting down the street. Apparently they were joining a bigger group around Town Hall. I don’t think the mob evicition of a mosque in Dambulla is a good thing at all, and it’s got to hurt. Whatever’s said and done, to accost someone while worshipping is pretty terrible. I mean, you don’t do that. The government seems to think that moving the mosque solves the problem, but it doesn’t.
This is not to say that Sinhala Buddhism is a bad thing, or that this is Sinhala Buddhism. Or Buddhism. I’m Sinhala and Buddhist, which should show you how diverse the sort is. I honestly don’t think these categories are the best way to look at a diverse island.
On the contrary, Sinhala Buddhism is great. Whatever the blips and blurps, this culture has still preserved a remarkable, simple and lucid form of Buddhism which has great value to both the spirit and science. What I mean is that Buddhism is a boom to me and millions like me, and basic mindfulness meditation has proven neurological effects and is a part of mainstream cognitive behavioral therapy.
Underneath all the rituals and symbolism this practice and therapy is best preserved in Sri Lanka (and Burma I suppose). I’m not personally as into the Temple Of The Tooth and the various rituals, but I’m aware that without this culture (and without the patronage of the state) this valuable knowledge and practice might not be here.
So Sinhala Buddhism is not a bad thing, and I don’t think it’s really the problem here. SB is both older and more diverse than these particular monks in Dambulla, though I understand that ‘extreme’ element has actually been fairly mainstream at various points in time. Or seemed so.
What is going on, I think, is more attachment to this particular concept of self or community. As in, the type of attachment that leads to anger, hatred and suffering. Though I dunno, perhaps I doth project too much. Those acting and reacting so aggresively towards Muslims are a shame to Sinhala Buddhists and Sri Lankans in general, and the governments coddling of these sectarian forces is an embarassment. I’m Sinhala and Buddhist (not a racial posterboy, I know) and I don’t condone this shit at all. Neither, I suspect, do most Sinhala Buddhists.
I mean that in the sense that most Sinhala Buddhists don’t have decisions driven by that identity. We’re not a monolithic lot, and human decision making is anyways driven by multiple factors. People look at ‘extreme’ elements and presume that they’re acting out of that identity, but that’s a fallacy. They’re acting out of immediate territorial issues, political stuff, social, and also religious and cultural concerns. There’s honestly more going on at a territorial ape level here than the spiritual.
So, while I condemn any offense to Sri Lankan Muslims, I also – in the same spirit – think we should respect Sinhala Buddhists as well. Insomuch as any of these identities exist, it is a small island and we know all too well how small extremists can drive otherwise diverse people apart. So not again, not ever. Muslims are cool, Sinhalese are cool, Tamils, Veddahs, whatever.
For me, one of the most important insights in Buddhism is that all identities are transient. They have a purpose, but even the dhamma is like a raft across a river. Once you cross you don’t need to keep carrying it on land. In meditation, what remains after these sensations pass away is a feeling of connection and love. That is always there, even if we forget. I hope you can remember it now.