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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2736

Challenges confronting Buddhists in Asia, with special reference to South Asia and South-East Asia

By Shridhar Prabhu - Advocate, Bengaluru, India

Speech delivered by Indian lawyer Mr. Shridhar Prabhu entitled ' Challenges confronting Buddhists in Asia, with special reference to South Asia and South-East Asia ' at the Ariyapala Hall, All - Ceylon Buddhist Congress on December 29, 2017.

Venerable Dhamma Teachers, Respected Dr. (Mrs.) Anula and Dr. Ajita Wijesundere and all other Office bearers of the National Joint Committee, Respected Mr. Jagath Sumathipala, Hon’ble Vice President of World Fellowship of Buddhists, and other WFB Bearers, Mr. Senaka Weeraratna and Dignitaries on and off the dais, and my dear Dhamma sisters and Dhamma brothers of Sri Lanka!

Ayubowan from all your Dharma tradition sisters and brothers of Bharat.

It fills my heart with and untold joy to be amidst you on this august occasion.

We are on our pilgrimage in Sri Lanka from 23rd December, 2017. I cannot possible describe about the solace that we have experienced from our visit of to the holy city of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and then Maha Nuwara. Being amidst you all, who are dedicated to the cause of Dhamma in itself is a pilgrimage.

Today morning, we had been to a very special place called Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, arguably, the largest elephant orphanage in the world. It was indeed a heart melting moment for all of us to see the baby elephants. Pinnawala is a classic example as to how much compassion is filled in the heart of Sri Lanka.

It is such great endeavours by a Buddhist nation that makes all Buddhists across the world proud of our Dhamma and our people! The greatest contribution of Buddhism to the world is Metta and Karuna with which the Buddha encompassed not just mankind but the whole of creation all in all its forms and manifestations. Pinnawala is living monument to this great Buddhist tradition. I once again reiterate that I am proud to be from India, homeland of the Buddha and proud to be a Buddhist and proud to be in Sri Lanka, a leading Buddhist Nation and Polity.

I hope I would not be exceeding my brief if I touch upon the aspect that Chapter II - Article 9 of Sri Lankan Constitution provides that //The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e).//

My humble request to you is that please preserve this great provision in Sri Lanka’s Constitution in letter and in spirit. Please don’t allow yourselves to be led astray by the insincere influence of foreign ideologies. By foreign I don’t mean from other countries, I mean that ethos that is foreign and alien to the scheme of Buddha’s teachings.

The architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a great Buddhist and proud son of India has made the following provisions:
Aspect Articles and provision

PART IV: DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY, 48: Organisation of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and 48A: Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life Per 48, the Constitution requires the State to “take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves in other milch and draught cattle.”

Per 48A, the Constitution places a duty on the State to “endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.”

Per List III, Both Parliament and the legislature have the authority to make laws on the following: “[p]revention of cruelty to animals,” “protection of wild animals and birds,” “[p]revention of the extension from one State to another of infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants.”
PART IVA: FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES, 51A (g): Fundamental Duties Per 51A, the Constitution places a duty on every citizen to “protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Though Directive Principles are directional in nature our Supreme Court has held that they are binding on us as polity. In fact, 24 of 29 States in India, including the State of Jamu Kashmir have laws and regulations banning cow slaughter or sale of cows. This is because of the Buddha’s influence on our jurisprudence and constitutional framework. I would like to see, being a historic Buddhist nation respected throughout the world for spreading Buddhism, you too would incorporate provisions in any reform of your Constitution to impose a moral duty on all persons inhabiting in Sri Lanka to have compassion for living beings, including non – human animals. The quality and esteem of a Constitution is enhanced when it also extends protection and care for the welfare of members of other species that share this planet with human beings.

Ban on Liquor - In fact, there is a liquor prohibition in the State of Gujarat ever since continuously from 1958. The State where the Buddha attained enlightened namely Bihar, too has done it recently and the same is a great living example for rest of India and the world.

Answer to the present distortions of History

I come from India, the land of The Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana. But unfortunately, Buddhists are minuscule minorities in this holy land! How!

There has been humongous amount of historical research on the decline of Buddhism. Three eminent personalities, who are responsible for the modern revival of Buddhism in India, have thoroughly researched on this subject and have authoritatively concluded that it is the Islamic advent that resulted in the decline of Buddhism.

This became pertinent for these three scholars to dispel untruths because a systematic Goebbelsian propaganda was unleashed by the pseudo secularists in India that it was the philosophical victory of Hinduism over Buddhism that led to the decline of Buddhism. In fact, many of the misinformed Hindu researchers themselves claimed that Adi Sankara defeated the Buddhists in Dialogues and Buddhists accepted defeat and quit India!! This is part of the systematic effort by the imperialist forces – both Arab and European – to pit Hindus against Buddhists and absolve themselves from having to account for their crimes against Buddhism on Indian soil.

First and foremost, of the scholars who brought out truth – much before the two – was Anagarika Dharmapala. He worked with the oppressed masses of India decades before Ambedkar. While taking the Buddha Dhamma to the oppressed, he never pitted Dharmic traditions against one another. I would request you to kindly read this important article written on the occasion of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala.

I would leave you with an article http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140914/plus/taking-the-dhamma-to-the-dalits-11...

The second eminent scholar was VIshwaratna Dr. Ambedkar.

Of all these three scholars It is utmost important to quote Dr. Ambedkar for important two reasons. Firstly, a vast majority of Buddhists in India are followers of Dr. Ambedkar. Secondly, Ambedkarism remains the most distorted ideology today in India. Thirdly, because Ambedkar, known for his acidic polemic against Hinduism, never compromised on the narrative of truth. He never mixed his personal feelings when it came to academic research. It is Dr. Amebdkar who smashed the pseudo theory of Aryan invasion and Aryan and Dravidian divide and the pseudo secular theories perpetrated by the Stalinist historians.

Ambedkar’s ideology was totally distorted by his later followers. The concept of ‘Bahujan’ was ‘lifted’ from Buddhist teachings and was used for petty political gains in India. In the name of Bahujan Samaj, Buddhists, especially the former untouchables, were asked to forge camaraderie with Muslims and Christians and destroy Hindus! In fact, Dr. Amebkar was falsely projected as an espouse of Abrahamic religions! But please note what he has to say in this regard:

//There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans. Islam came out as the enemy of the 'But'. The word 'But' as everybody knows, is the Arabic word and means an idol. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went. Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar, and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia.

XXX

The Mussalman invaders sacked the Buddhist universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Odantapuri to name only a few. They razed to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders. How the Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves. Summarizing the evidence relating to the slaughter of the Buddhist Monks perpetrated by the Musalman General in the course of his invasion of Bihar in 1197 AD, Mr. Vincent Smith says, "....Great quantities of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the 'shaven headed Brahmans', that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries, not a living man could be found who was able to read them. 'It was discovered,' we are told, 'that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindi tongue they call a college Bihar.' "Such was the slaughter of the Buddhist priesthood perpetrated by the Islamic invaders. The axe was struck at the very root. For by killing the Buddhist priesthood, Islam killed Buddhism. This was the greatest disaster that befell the religion of the Buddha in India....

~ Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, pp. 229 and 338

These opportunist elements should better read the following passage by Dr. Ambedkar:

//Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast Islam is said to bind people together. This is only a half-truth. For Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is a very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity, but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity. The second defect of Islam is that it is a system of social self-government and is incompatible with local self-government, because the allegiance of a Muslim does not rest on his domicile in the country which is his but on the faith to which he belongs. To the Muslim ibi bene ibi patria [Where it is well with me, there is my country] is unthinkable. Wherever there is the rule of Islam, there is his own country. In other words, Islam can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland and regard a Hindu as his kith and kin.//

(Source: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partiti...)
For detailed reading:
- http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/
For a brief overview
- https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/04/14/ambedkar-on-islam-the-story-that-...

In sum, Dr. Ambedkar was very critical of Hinduism but he never ever advocated destruction of Dharmic tradition of India. He never wished to join hands with the Abrahamic traditions and pit Buddhists against Hindus.

It is on purpose that I have dedicated a good part of my speech on Dr. Ambedkar because he is the most respected and most popular Indian Buddhist personality today. Political parties and ideologues across the spectrum – from ‘Secularists’ to ‘Communists’ – Nationalists to Internationalists - swear by his name and claim to be the successors of his legacy.

You may be a little irritated, if not confused as to why am I wandering on the peripheral issues instead of straightaway coming to the core issue of Challenges confronting Buddhists in Asia, with special reference to South Asia and South-East Asia.

In fact, the decline of Buddhism from its motherland India, is central and most critical to the inquiry on ‘Challenges confronting Buddhists in Asia’. The enquiry of decline of Buddhism in India is nothing but an inquiry on Indic-ness and ingenuousness in India. And as long as India ignorant of this reality, Asia will also be in a blissful slumber. As long as Hindus and Buddhists in India are busy with their infighting, India will never be able to forge an alliance with the rest of Buddhist world. This is not a theoretical proposition. In fact, this was practically and successfully achieved by the enemies of Dhamma for the last one hundred years!

This harmed Hindus and Buddhists in equal proportions. Hindus within India because of their numerical strength, military might and other historical advantages Hindus could successfully thwart some of the external aggression to their Dharma and Nation. However, Hindus outside India in rest of Asia especially in Pakistan, Bangladesh are so much affected that they are now almost on the verge of extinction within a few years.

The challenges of Buddhists are even more critical because we neither have numbers on our side nor do we have the military might to counter the external aggression. Most importantly, we have not even realised that we are in danger of history repeating itself in the remaining Buddhist countries.

Bangladeshis camouflaged as Rohingyas

Let us take the concrete case on hand - the Rohingya issue. I personally feel that we should shun the usage of the term ‘Rohingyas’ – because they are basically Bangladeshis using the smokescreen of the label ‘Rohingyas’. Thus having said that, I agree that there are multiple dimensions to this issue. I also agree that it is against Dhamma to compartmentalize human suffering into Muslim suffering and Buddhist suffering. But let’s examine the harsh truth.

As per the undisputed official census records of Myanmar, when they gained independence in 1948, there was very few Muslims in Arakhan State. By 1973 Muslims were about one million. In 1983 Muslims constituted about 19% of the Arakhan State in Myanmar. In 2014, Muslim Population grew to 56%. And today, more than 80–96% of the population near the border with Bangladesh and the coastal areas is Muslim.

I would like to ask the International Media, which is branding the Buddhists of Myanmar as Terrorists, a simple question. Today, officially, there are about 10% Muslims in Germany, France and Netherlands. What will this international media do if this population increases up by 80% in say twenty years from now, as it has happened in Myanmar.

Why is the western media not writing about Arunachal Pradesh, in North East India, wherein once indigenous religions were a majority and today the population of Buddhism has been reduced to 11% in last two decades!

Now, let’s not dive into the number game. Let’s see, at a thematic level, what challenges we, Buddhists are faced with.

Let’s begin with Bangladesh, the home to Chakmas or Sakhyas, the community to which Buddha belonged. It is the Sakhyas residing in the northern hills of Bangladesh who have kept the ancient Buddhist culture alive. That is why this Sakhya community is being systematically chased and attacked. Take for instance, the Kathina Chivara Dana ceremony of Chakmas. For the first time I had the good fortune of seeking this unique festivity in October, 2014. It is at this juncture that I realized that if Chakmas are extinct there will be no bestowal of cloths to our Venerable Bhikkhus. If Sakhyas die, the most basic and sacred Buddhist traditions will be extinct.

India has helped provide citizenship to Sakhyas. The recent initiative of Citizenship Act by Assam is an endeavor by the present Central Government of India to help Hindus and Buddhists of the region.

Wherever Buddhists are ruled by authoritarian regimes – China, Cambodia, Vietnam and to some extent Nepal etc., we have immensely suffered. But these issues are beyond us to resolve. So, it is better that these issues be addressed as national issues of their respective regimes. Hence, I would not wish to touch the controversial Tibetan issue and problems of other Chinese Buddhists.

India and Sri Lanka – Our Constitutional Issues in a democratic polity

Let us now consider India and Sri Lanka together.

Constitutions of India and Sri Lanka guarantee fundamental rights to citizens as well other persons. Consider Article 12 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka

Article 12.

(1) All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.

(2) No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any one of such grounds.

This Article is pari materia to the Indian constitutional provisions:

Article 14.

The State shall not deny to any personequality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

19. (1) All citizensshall have the right— (a) to freedom of speech and expression; (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) to form associations or unions 1[or co-operative societies]; (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India; (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; 2[and] 3** * * * (g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

Utilizing these rights guaranteed to the non-citizens, in India, series of cases are being filed on behalf of the foreign nationals – especially, Bangladeshis (so called Rohingyas included). Constitution is being invoked to seek residence and then slowly citizenship. In India, as per Union of India’s official statement there are about 20 Million Bangladeshis illegally residing in India. This is equal to the total population of Sri Lanka!

Both Sri Lanka and India have acceded to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice for dispute adjudication. This will also be used against us in so far as the foreign elements will invoke various Human Rights Conventions and institute proceedings against us before the ICJ. This is likely to be the future. Constitutional and International Jurisprudence will be the two biggest armories in the hands of adversaries of the Dharma traditions. While they would deny fundamental rights to their own citizenry, they would be very prompt in demanding all kinds of rights from us. The western world, being solely interested in arms trading, will always encourage violent conflicts within a nation and between nations and in the process cause the destabilization of Asia.

So-called liberals in India make so much about Article 370 in India. Thanks to this Article, notwithstanding the fundamental rights on residence guaranteed to Indian citizens, the citizens residing elsewhere in India can be permanent residents of the State of Jammu Kashmir. However, it is estimated that in Jammu City (the Winter capital of Jammu Kashmir – wherein lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits are forcibly living under displacement from their homes in Kashmir Valley) alone, around ten thousand Bangladeshi Muslims are staying there under the garb of Rohingyas. How can this be permitted?

Small and Subtle- which we can’t ignore.

Ladakh sector of Jammu Kashmir is dominated by Buddhists. However, in Kargil Town, Buddhists are struggling to construct a temple. Forget Sri Nagar, we are not able to construct a small temple in Kargil! The whole world speaks about Kargil victory of India. But how many of us know that Buddhists are living as outcastes in their own hometown in Kargil? While Leh is 80 per cent Buddhist and 20 per cent Muslim, the numbers are exactly the reverse in Kargil, which is predominantly Muslim now. It is estimated that 90% interreligious marriages in Kargil are between a Muslim boy and Buddhist girl. A new term called Love Jihad has come to be coined in India, wherein, it is suspected that boys from their own religions are brain washed to seek and marry a non-Muslim girl and convert her to their faith. Many liberals have denounced it as a hoax until the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had directed the apex investigating body National Investigative Agency to conduct a thorough investigation into the ‘Hadia matter’. See http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sc-orders-nia-probe-into-kerala... for more details.

There are small and subtle challenges in our regions. I have carefully observed certain things in Sri Lanka. Buddhists here worship Hindu gods such as Ganesh, Velu Murugan etc. While I see one positivity that both Dharmic traditions are being respected. However, Buddhists of Sri Lanka will be neither here nor there if such blind practices are perpetrated. This seems to one of the core but subtle challenge that Buddhists in Sri Lanka need to resolve internally. Though these issues are very small but we can’t ignore the same.

I being an outsider, may be pardoned if I have overstepped my brief in sounding instructive in my approach, particularly when such scholarly and erudite people are amidst us in this audience.

The way forward

I am a total novice to the affairs of Sri Lanka. However, in my estimate, Buddhists in Sri Lanka may be far less than 70% as is being claimed on the basis of 2011 census. Even presuming without admitting that Buddhists are in such big numbers, mere numerical majority does not guarantee any safety.

The whole of organised media conglomerates in most of Asia including Sri Lanka are controlled by non-Dharmic forces and they are hell bent upon denigrating and lowering the image of Dharmic nations such as India and Sri Lanka, through a sustained campaign of vilification of Hindu and Buddhist monks and their leaders.

Recently, I read an article in ‘Christian Today’ bashing Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

The article us titled “The World’s Biggest Christmas Tree Hasn’t Helped Sri Lankan Christians”

Read: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/december/sri-lanka-guinness-w...) and claims that Christians in Sri Lanka are persecuted in huge numbers. The author with a Sikh name (ghost-writer in every sense of the term) goes on to defame Sri Lanka in general and Buddhists in particular. Any onlooker of international affairs would think that Sri Lanka is a gas chamber for Christians! Now, the so-called liberals and intelligentsia are fast to grab this opportunity to attack the Dharma as the cause of all the trouble in these respective countries.

As an interesting aside, let me tell you that as practicing Buddhist, I have always been skeptical of prophecy and astrology. However, on a jocular note I must confess that, whenever I read Mr. Senaka Weeraratna’s articles, I revisit my views on astrology. It is astonishing that about four to five months before the last Indian General Elections in 2014, Mr. Senaka Weeraratna had predicted in an analysis of the Indian political landscape, that Mr. Modi will be the Prime Minister of India and it would be great opportunity for Sri Lanka in particular and the Buddhist world in general to take stock of this possible change in the Government of India and act accordingly. Though a popular opinion was already in favour of Modi, there were several influential sections within India who had seriously doubted Modi’s ascendance to power. Being so much far away and being a distant observer of Indian politics, I am amazed at the acumen and commitment of such personalities in Sri Lanka. Whenever I see Mr. Senaka Weeraratna’s writings, I am enthused about the future of the Dhamma in Sri Lanka and in rest of India.

It is largely because of Sri Lanka that Buddhism is alive in India and rest of the world today. It is Venerable Anagarika Dharmapala who played the pioneering role in the revival of Buddhism in India. It is primarily Sinhalese monks from Sri Lanka who gave Deeksha to Dr. Ambedkar.

To understand the appreciate the phenomenal contributions of Sri Lanka to my India, please see what Acharya Buddharakhita has written about the birth of the Maha Bodhi Society in India

//On the occasion of 2500 Buddha Jayanti I decided to resign from Nalanda Post Graduate Institute, went to Buddhagaya to meditate and offered one lakh deepa puja for one full month. I got a clear mind about future activities. That is how, when Mrs. Bianca Moonasinghe the niece of Venerable Anagarika Dharmapala, and the wife of the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Maha Bodhi Society, and the head of Mahabodhi ladies committee, approached me saying that she got some land given by Maharaja of Mysore which was lying idle and some people had encroached on the land and nothing is happening, etc. I accepted the offer with the condition that I will not be another bhikkhu employee as in other centers of Maha Bodhi Society. Ours will be an independent society, and as President I will conduct activities in a practical way through seva and sadhana programs. She was more than happy and that is how I came to Bangalore on 5th June 1956.

Today, am before you as a Upasaka associated with Maha Bodhi Society, one of the largest Buddhist organisations in India. (Ref: http://www.mahabodhi.info/). //

In fact, it is our Dharmic brothers, the Hindus, who helped Maha Bodhi society. In fact, it was Mr. Shyamaprasad Mukherji, founder of Bharatiya Jan Sangh (predecessor of BJP the party of Mr. Modi) and India’s first Industry and Supply Minister, who helped Anagarika Dharmapala to build a glorious temple in Buddha Gaya and that’s how Buddhism was revived.

Mr. Shyama Prasad was also affiliated with the Buddhist Mahabodhi Society. In 1942, he succeeded Dr. M.N. Mukherjee to become the President of the organisation. The relics of Gautam Buddha's two disciples Sariputta and Maudgalyayana, discovered in the Great Stupa at Sanchi by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1851 and kept at the British Museum, were brought back to India by HMIS Tir. A ceremony attended by politicians and leaders of many foreign countries was held on the next day at Calcutta Maidan. They were handed over by our first Prime Minister Nehru to his cabinet colleague Mr. Mukherjee, who later took these relics to Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. Upon his return to India, he placed the relics inside the Sanchi Stupa in November 1952. Mr. Modi regards Mr. Mukherji as his revered Guru in every sense of the term. So, you may imagine in how much high esteem Mr. Modi holds Buddhism.

As an interesting aside, if I may share with you that Mr. Senaka Weeraratna had written an article on the need for a noise free environment at the Maha Bodhi Temple at Buddha Gaya – the centre of Buddhism where the Buddha attained enlightenment. A serene and peaceful atmosphere conducive to deep meditation and contemplation, is no longer possible at the Maha Bodhi Temple because of the constant disturbance of calls to prayer (Azan) emanating from a loudspeaker(s) at a newly constructed mosque just 60 meters away plus other mosques in the Buddha Gaya temple complex.

Now, that’s a very small matter as compared to this narrative: In July, 2008, a series of 21 Bombs were blasted in Ahmedabad killing 56 people and severely injuring 200 and more. Now, these terror suspects were arrested in Buddha Gaya in September, 2017!! What were these dreaded terrorists doing in Buddha Gaya? Tausif Khan, the master mind (called as Master ji) was the main person accused of these blasts! Now, we have to ask, how safe are our holy places?

Of course on the Azan problem, one needs to remind our Muslim brothers with great compassion that even before the loud speaker was invented, Islam was the second largest religion in the world. Hence, they need not place such heavy reliance on UnIslamic means (constantly disturbing non – Muslims by use of loudspeakers attached to Mosques built in close proximity to major centres of non – Muslims religions) to spread their religion.

Success Story of Jains – Numbers never matter

The biggest challenge faced by the Sri Lankan (mainly Sinhala) Buddhists seems to be akin to that of Hindus in India. Buddhists seem to be in blissful complacence rejoicing their so called ‘numeric majority’. In fact, we should draw lessons from miniscule minority Dharmic Traditions such as Jainism in India.

There are around four Million Jains in India. This constitutes about 0.032% of the Indian population. Thing being the case, the largest political Party in India BJP, which is the ruling Party of India is headed by a Jain called Amit Shah! One of the largest industry conglomerates in India – Adanis and Sun Pharama are owned by Jains. Largest circulated English Daily in India – Times of India is owned by Jain Family and Malayalam Daily Matrubhumi is by a Jain. Governor of Gujarat and Chief Minister of Gujarat are Jains. Acharya Rajanish or Osho was a Jain. I can go on and on.

Jains in India have shown as to how their strategic alignment at the political and industry level can work. Jains have shown the way forward for the Buddhists across the world. We have to politically, strategically, economically align with the Dharma traditions – with Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Indigenous religions across the World. This seems to be our future. And there lies our capacity for preservation and fostering of our religion.

Only with strategic alignment Dharma will survive and be Victorious

Be that as it may. Let’s leave the past to take care of itself. Buddhists of India and Sri Lanka should make most of the benign regime of India today. Modi government wants to take the message of Dharma across the globe. India, as the able successor and leader of Dharmic traditions is now fostering Buddhism. We should join hands in two ways. One at an idea level, we should support the international endeavors of the Indian Government. As a small contribution, I must share with you, I am already in talks with the office of the Additional Solicitor General of India South India and Indian Law Ministry. They are very keen to come to Sri Lanka. We can propose to hold a conference of Lawyers of Indic and Indigenous faiths and religions to chalk out an international strategy in our common interest.

Now, apart from these kinds of endeavours to be initiated at personal levels, there is something we need to do collectively. One thing is for sure. Dhamma can only be practiced and protected collectively. When the whole world is antagonistic to you, how can you individually remain Dharmic? Hence, practicing Dharma means growing more and more strategic at macro level. This is more crucial and vital task than personally observing Dharmic rituals and faiths.

World has always been skewed and strategic. Neutrality, non-alignment and secularism are always for others consumption and never for self-practice. Only Dharmic people are advised to be secular. In fact, the world has never been ‘secular’ and will never be in future.

As individuals, people may be atheists, rationalists, irreligious. However, as polity they are always religion minded or strategically aligned to one religion or the other. It is a popular misconception that the world is growing less and less religious today. This is a popular myth perpetrated to confuse and mislead the Dharmic people.

Out of the 7.6 Billion people living in the world today, nearly 2.1 Billion people are Christian and 1.3 Billion people follow Islam. Now, we tend to think that the west has grown less religious. It is not true. The UK officially is a Christian country even from the ancient times. The USA has huge tax exemptions and encourages free contributions to church. In fact, but for the USA the ‘conversion shop’ of the missionaries would have been long closed. It is a popular myth that Nordic countries are non-religious. The official religion on Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Estonia is (Lutheran) Christianity.

Russia is a very rigid follower of Orthodox Christianity. About 70% of church revenues come from church tax (Kirchensteuer). Apart from a lot of major cantons of Switzerland, the official religion of Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco is Roman Catholicism. Greek Orthodox Church and Finnish Orthodox Church are official religions in respective jurisdictions. Church of England is established by law. Queen is the official head of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

The members of Church of Sweden pay church fee, which varies between municipalities, but can be as much as 2%. Church and state are separated as of 2000; however, the burial tax (begravningsavgift) is paid by everyone regardless of membership. Italy pays 0.8 percent Church Tax. In Austria, it is compulsory to pay church tax at the rate of 1.1 percent.

In short, EU, NATO etc., are nothing but de facto Christian strategic alliances.

About 57 countries today are members of one of world’s largest and most strategic organisation known as Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The bond between the Islamic countries is so much strong and cemented that Article 3(e) of the Conditions for Accession to Observer Status at OIC says:

“A state applying for observer status shall not be in conflict with any of the OIC member states.”

While none of the member states of OIC is secular in any sense of the term, they always pressurise a non-Muslim country to observe secularism. Islamic world always acts strategically and collectively. From smallest to the most critical of the issues confronting Muslims, they speak in one language and they are always on one page!

Now, communism itself is a State religion. Thus, China, North Korea have their respective gods, popes and pupils. Nepal, the only Hindu country, was turned into a secular state.

In short, only Dharmic States that are forced to go secular. In fact, secularism is a tool and subtle ploy to kill Dharma. If all these rationalists and intellectuals really intend to promote ‘secularism ‘ let them start with the NATO and OIC Nations. Why target the unorganised ones such as ours?

It is precarious reality that Buddhism today is the most unorganised religion in the world. Except Sri Lanka I don’t think the very thought of organising ourselves at a strategic level has come to the mind of any other nation with a Buddhist population.

In 1950s Sri Lanka gave to the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), the most revolutionary and strategic development of its time. The Buddhist Flag adopted during this time is also the most important development. But. World has become much more strategic ever since then but we, unfortunately, have remained stagnant ever since then. We either progress or perish.

In my humble opinion, the Buddhists of the world today have to strategically align with India. When I say align, it does not mean efface our identity and merge. It means only align with consciously retaining our identity and interests.

Due to a variety of conspiracies, there is large scale misunderstanding about India. We think, India is all about Tamils and that all Tamils are against Sri Lanka. It is not at all true. An overwhelming majority of Indians, Tamils included, we love Sri Lanka. We are spiritually indebted to Sri Lanka in so many ways. If not for Hindu leaders such as Shyamaprasad Mukerji, the Mahabodhi Temple could not have been constructed by Anagarika Dharmapala.

AIADMK, the party in power in the province of Tamil Nadu for last ten years or so has been deadly against LTTE. It is only a few fringe elements within small pockets of India who have had a temporary misunderstanding with Sri Lanka. Now all that is a thing of the past.

In fact, I must share with you, C. Iyothee Thass (20th May, 1845 – 1914), a leading Tamil spiritual leader, was the pioneer of Buddhism in India. Even before Dharmapala and Dr. Ambedkar, it was Thass who pioneered the efforts to revive Buddhism. Iyothee Thass met Colonel H. S. Olcott with his followers and expressed a sincere desire to convert to Buddhism. According to Thass, the Paraiyars of Tamilakam were originally Buddhists With Olcott's help, Thass was able to visit Ceylon and obtain diksha from the Sinhalese Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Hikkaduwe Sumangala Nayake Thero. On returning, Thass established the Sakya Buddhist Society in Madras with branches all over South India. The Sakya Buddhist Society was also known as the Indian Buddhist Association and was established in the year 1898. Even today, there is a Buddha Vihara in Wheelers Town in Bengaluru started by Iyothee Thass.

Modi regime today is aggressively pushing for Buddhist unity. In fact, India has been strongly supporting the International Buddhist Confederation. It is being supported right at the level of Prime Ministers Office. India’s approach today is wholly changed. Modi’s first visit round of when he assumed office as PM was to a series of Buddhist countries. India is not playing big brother but a caring mother for Buddhist nations. We, the Buddhists, must make most of this. We must strengthen the hands of Modi regime in our own best interests.

We must engage India to promote global strategic cooperation inter se the Dharmic World. The heart of India will always remain Buddhist. Our national emblem, Ashoka Chakra in the centre of our flag symbolises that India is predominantly Buddhist within its heart. This is what a leading journalist had to say some time ago:

//Why was the code word to announce the success of Pokharan-1 in 1974 “Buddha is smiling”? My friend and former colleague Vinay Sitapati (look for his fine biography of P V Narasimha Rao, Half-Lion, next week) finds the answer in his research. It seems Raja Ramanna was also aware of the history of Vaishali’s destruction by Magadha. The legend is, Buddha was upset about it and thought the war could have been avoided if Vaishali too had deterrent military power rather than its so-called direct democracy so nobody would take hard decisions. “You can only have peace between equally strong or equally weak nations,” he is supposed to have said; that’s why Ramanna told Indira Gandhi “Buddha is smiling” as India had acquired its deterrence. //

India without Buddhism will always be incomplete. Hence, India and Sri Lanka are natural allies. The bonding of Dhamma between us has always remained and will ever remain.

I take this opportunity to offer my salutations to Venerable Mitirigala Dhammanissanti Thera with whose blessings I am sure that the cause of Dhamma is being espoused in the rightful manner by Mr.Senaka Weeraratna. I must tell you that I am here before you only because of him and I wholeheartedly owe this all to him.

I am deeply indebted to the National Joint Committee for providing me this opportunity. Dr. Wijesundere family has been a constant source of inspiration in the Dhamma work. My sincerest gratitude to Jagath Sumithipala, Vice President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists for taking out time from his busy schedule. I once again seek blessings from all Dhamma Teachers.

I pray that may Lord Buddha shower his choicest blessings on the people of Sri Lanka. Let the cause of Dhamma be victorious. Let the Buddhist Brotherhood and Dharmic Unity of Sri Lanka and India be victorious!

Bharat Mata Ki Jai! Vande Mataram!! Jaya Jaya Sri Lanka. Long live the World Fellowship of Buddhists Long Live National Joint Committee of Sri Lanka!! Long Live the Unity and Integrity and Sovereignty of Sri Lanka!!

Buddham Saranam Gacchami!
Dhammam Saranam Gacchami!
Sangham Saranam Gacchami
Metta!!

Bio Sketch of Mr. Shridhar Prabhu

Shridhar Prabhu is the Managing Partner of Navayana Law Offices, a Bengaluru based niche’ law Firm specializing in Energy Laws. Mr. Prabhu though based in Bengaluru practices in various High Courts and Tribunals throughout India.

Shridhar Prabhu was born on 25th December, 1976. He completed his Pre University education in Karnataka College Dharwad and obtained his Bachelor of Academic Laws and LL.B (Five Years Integrated) Degree from Bangalore University Law College (BULC).

He was a leading student activist during his undergraduate days at BULC. He was an Executive Committee Member of the BULC and Chairperson of the Model Parliament Committee of BULC.

After graduating in 2001 Mr. Prabhu had worked under leading lawyers practising in Delhi handling work in the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court and Central Administrative Tribunal of India. He returned to Bengaluru in 2002 and after a brief stint of working with the private sector, Mr. Prabhu branched in to and specialised in Energy Laws. He holds a string of appointments as a Legal Advisor to a number of Industry Associations and trade bodies.

Mr. Shridhar Prabhu has been associated with the Maha Bodhi Society, Bengaluru, as legal advisor. With his team of like minded Lawyers in High Court of Karnataka, Mr. Prabhu has been active in the Advocates Association Bengaluru, organising a Dhamma Discourse Programme High Court of Karnataka with Venerable Bhante Ananda and Venerable Bhante Sugatananda involving the Judges of High Court of Karnataka and Advocate General of Karnataka State. Mr. Prabhu writes in Kannada language on contemporary social and political themes to various online and offline publications.

He is a practising Buddhist and is associated with various organisations involved in the dissemination of Buddhism.
He is happily married to Mangala Prabhu, an Advocate and is blessed with two sons - Manthan (12) and Bhuvan (5).

- Asian Tribune -

Challenges confronting Buddhists in Asia, with special reference to South Asia and South-East Asia
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