Twice this week I was surrounded by intellectual and affluent people casually throwing the phrase “Buddhist terrorism” around. First time I heard it, my heart sank. It was embarrassing in the context they were using it. Worst of all, there was nothing I could say to oppose the phrase as they were right in doing so. It was painful because I watched a part of my identity – perhaps, the most integral part of my identity – being demonised, and unfortunately for me, they were justified in doing so. It broke my heart to hear the most peace-loving, non-violent term i know annexed to the suffix, terrorism.
This rant will be touching on three points;
First and foremost; I am not a Buddhist because the Sri Lankan social structure deems that a child is born in to a religion. I am not a Buddhist because my parents are Buddhist. I am not a Buddhist because my education background is predominantly Buddhist. I consider myself a Buddhist because the philosophy is what helped me rationalise the world around me and embrace both the beauty and impermeability of life with an open mind. You won’t see me at a temple every fortnight but rest assured my day to day life is very much in line with the teachings of the three pitakas and philosophy of Lord Buddha. My connection with my philosophy being one that I arrived at, and not one that was forced on me makes it an even more personal one that I hold dear and near to me.
This brings me to my second point; the reason as to why it was gut wrenchingly painful to listen to the phrase “Buddhist terrorism”. Lord Buddha’s philosophy was built on the pillars of moderation, impermanence and non-violence. If you were to ask me to summarize what I’ve learned reading the three pitakas, it would boil down to the aforementioned three concepts. Buddhism is a philosophy that promotes non-violence; to oneself, and all living beings including and animals and trees! In the spirit of keeping the rant concise, simply put, loosely translating what every other tuk-tuk has quoted right above “amma budu weva” and now increasingly (unfortunately) “Sinha-le”, Lord Buddha says in the dhammapada, “hatred doesn’t cease by hatred, but only by love” expounding on the values of non-violence.
And that brings me to my third point; I am ashamed of us. I’m ashamed of you and I. No, I’m not ashamed to be Buddhist. But I am utterly ashamed by those of us who know the true essence of Buddhism and are practitioners of the great visionary’s philosophy. I am ashamed because we are staying silent as few robed rogues are robbing us of our faith, robbing us of our identity and hurting our souls in the process. At this point, it’s not longer Gnasara, BBS or the Sinha-le that’s at at fault. It’s us. We are at fault for not defending our identity and watching silently as a few people – yet again – skew an integral part of our identity in their favour. Please, I implore, tell our brothers and sisters that it’s okay that they speak differently, dress differently, worship to another God. Our Buddha taught us to coexist, to respect, just like your God. We are all worshiping at different platforms, to different monuments, praying for the same things. Let’s show them what we are made of, let’s show them what we’ve been taught. Before it’s too late, before Buddhist terrorism becomes a household term that no longer surprises us.
In conclusion, to quote my favourite poet, “the darkest place in hell is reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri .
May the power of Metta heal us.