Unethical Interpretations ofthe Buddha Dhamma

These days we notice thatthere is a tendency that some monks interpret the dhamma the way they prefer,rather than sticking to the basics of what the Buddha taught. This type ofinterpretations is common at the daily preaching sessions at the temples. Themonks who distort may not be aware of the damage they cause to the purity ofthe dhamma. However this Sri SambuddhathwaJayanthi 2600 year is the most appropriate time to discuss this issue.The Buddha was neither a god nor someone born differently tohuman beings. On the day he attained enlightenment he discovered the Law ofCausation or Patichchasamuppada acycle of twelve causes and effects conditioning the universe. This law had notbeen thought of by any philosopher except the previous Buddhas.

The Buddha preached his first sermon the Dhamma Chakka Pavattana Sutta to the Paswaga Mahana, the five companionmonks at the deer park of Isipatana near Benares. In this sermon the Buddha disclosedthe four noble truths namely the dhukka, that all in the world in essencesuffer, the samudaya the cause of suffering, the nirodha the way toget rid of suffering caused by desire and ignorance and the magga the getting rid of desire and ignorance. The way theBuddha taught to achieve this ultimate goal is the Noble Eightfold Path. Thispath is recognised as the Middle Path by many an intellectuals.

The Buddha further simplified the Middle Path by reciting‘Do not what is evil. Do what is good. Keep the mind pure. This is the teachingof the Buddha.’ However some monks prefer to deviate from His path and wish togive distorted interpretations to His dhamma.

This deviation is not something new. It started when theBuddha attained maha- parinibbana. The Most Venerable Mahakassapa was notpresent at Kusinara when the Buddha passed away. Upon hearing the news Mahakassapawas coming from Pava to Kusinara. The great arahanth heard that a monk calledSubaddha had asked the grieving monks to refrain from grieving and to think theoccasion a good riddance. Subaddha was not the only person to have suchthoughts. The Tibetan chronicles state that many others felt that with thepassing of the Master, the dhamma he taught would also disappear. Mahakassapa wasalarmed about the future safety and purity of the dhamma and the result wasthat the First Council of Dhamma or the first Dhamma Sanghayana convened at thecity of Rajagraha.

The subsequent sanghayanas were held in India, Sri Lanka,Burma and Thailand to arrest further deterioration of the purity of the dhamma.The Fourth Council held at Alu Vihara near Matale was of special significance. Forthe first time the entire Thripitaka along with the attha-katha were inscribedon palm leaves at Alu Vihare.

It is noted that some monks givetwisted interpretations to become popular among the laity. Others who are notso learned do it to compete with the learned monks. Still others preach suchdhamma for their own self interest.

Venerable Bandarawela Amithananda inhis TV program said that a monk rationalized meat and fish eating for both the sangaand the laity and indirectly encouraged the dayakayas to offer meat and fish atsangika danas. The Venerable monk referred to another instance where chickenwas cooked in a temple kitchento serve dancers participating in a perahera. This obviously is an encouragement by some members of the sangha to the layBuddhists to contribute to the meat production.

Ven. Amithananda cited a case where a wife complained to him that herhusband who was earlier a vegetarian has gone back to meat consumption afterlistening to these distortions of the Dhamma.

Most monks who distort the dhamma to suit their aims lavishly make useof the opportunity given to them by various media outlets. It seems that this is a two way game between the dhammadistorters and media outlets. Some media want project that they do not stick totraditional ways. The monks who seek publicity do not mind going out of the wayto preach the dhamma with their non traditional twists.

The learned monks and some of the responsible media are not only fullyaware of this unhealthy trend but also taking steps to counter it. The SLBCstands out in this exercise. It has already started to rebroadcast the sermonsdelivered by learned preachers of yesteryear like Pelene Sri Vajiragnana,Heenatiyana Dhammaloka and Henpitagedara Gnanasiha in order to give an idea tothe modern monks on delivering a sermon without distorting it. It is a healthysign that the monks whose knowledge of the dhamma is high have come forward toarrest this trend.

The other good sign is the younger generation. Most of the modern youthhave gone to the dhamma schools and they are capable of distinguishing theright from the wrong.

C P Kuruppu

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