Mihintale sermon

- island.lk

Wednesday 21st September, 2022

On seeing how politicians are deified in this country despite its relatively high literacy rate, one wonders whether power politics has evolved into a religion of sorts here. It is not only the ordinary people who touch their forelocks before politicians; many religious leaders also make a public display of their servility when they meet the ruling party grandees, and at times their conduct could be unforgivably cringeworthy. But all is not lost; there are still some outspoken prelates who dare speak truth to power and even give the powers that be what for.

An instance of two prominent Buddhist monks shining a light on the self-aggrandisement of politicians and censuring them has been reported. What these prelates have done is as uplifting as the recent victories clinched by the national cricketers, netballers and cricketing legends.

Chief Incumbent of the Mihintale Rajamaha Viharaya, Ven. Walawahengunawawe Dhammaratne Thera deserves public plaudits for having told some home truths to a group of ruling party politicians led by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, on Sunday. He did not mince his words when he said the present-day rulers were responsible for the country’s predicament, and the people’s suffering. He urged them to get their priorities right and do their utmost to resolve the crisis and grant relief to the public instead of busying themselves with party reforms. He also asked them to learn to let go of power, and hold an election in six months.

If Mahinda Rajapaksa had retired as the President at the right time, he would have become a national hero, the Thera said, condemning dynastic politics and stressing that the practice of sons inheriting leadership from their fathers had to end, and the current leaders were mistaken if they thought they would be able to continue it.

Dhammaratne Thera must have struck a responsive chord with the public when he told the PM and others that they had to bear in mind that the people were so fed up with politicians that they were asking all 225 MPs to go home. There was absolutely no need for more ministers, he said, asking politicians why they could not practise austerity during the country’s worst ever economic crisis. Politicians had all the luck, and the public was being burdened with taxes, he pointed out, blaming them for engaging in all kinds of business activities such as running liquor bars. A slogan coined by the advocates of anti-politics comes to mind: Amathilata kaar, golyanta baar, janathawata soor — cars for ministers, liquor bars for their henchmen and inebriation for the people’.

Chief Incumbent of the Mirisawetiya Temple Ethalawetunawewa Gnanathiklake Thera also said a mouthful when the PM, accompanied by a group of ruling party politicians, visited him, in Anuradhapura. Pointing out that one should not live beyond one’s means, he called for an austerity drive. It is however doubtful whether he succeeded in knocking any sense into the government bigwigs.

Meanwhile, the members of the Maha Sangha who are raking the unscrupulous politicians and their cronies over the coals for ruining the country and inflicting suffering on the public should lead by example. They themselves must adopt the austerity measures they preach, scale down religious functions and consume electricity sparingly in view of the present crises. Some of them are seen moving about in flashy gas guzzlers while the country is pinching and scraping to pay for fuel imports. Example is said to be better than precept.

Unless politicians got their act together, the religious leaders would be compelled to take the lead in getting rid of them by mobilising the masses, the Mihintale Nayake Thera warned. The ordinary people battling the pangs of hunger and gnashing their teeth on seeing the government politicians and their kith and kin leading the life of Riley at their expense must be looking forward to that day!

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