In an interview to Sri Lanka’s Daily Financial Times, the Chief Executive Officer of Bodu Bala Sena has stated that his group’s aim is to ensure “true Buddhism” is practised in the country, adding that the presence of Buddha statues across the island and Buddhist symbols in government logos was not enough.
The group, a Sinhala translation of ‘Buddhist Power Force’, is a “civil society movement led by monks”, claimed Dilantha Withange, stating in his interview,
“According to our Constitution, Buddhism should be given foremost priority. But we believe this is not practiced in Sri Lanka at present. Buddhism is not given due recognition in this country. We may have the dharma chakra in our national emblem; there may be Buddhist statues in every corner in the country; but the question is whether Buddhism is properly practiced in this country.”
Since the end of the war Sri Lanka has rapidly escalated its construction of Buddha statues and other Buddhist sites across the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island. Withange also commented,
“Our country was under imperialists for a long period of time. They ruined the roots of Buddhism in this country. Although they left, our leaders continued their agendas. Various leaders come into power labelling themselves as Buddhists and patriots, but they all follow what the British and others did. Then the war worsened things. Our prime objective is to put an end to this and establish a Buddhist society in our country once again.”
“Meanwhile, although the Constitution says foremost priority should be given to Buddhism, it doesn’t say anywhere that Buddhism is our State religion. Countries like Bangladesh clearly say that Islam is their State religion. We need to put things in the right place. That is what we want. This is a country that doesn’t even practice the five basic principles of Buddhism. We need to change this.”
Withange went on to say the blame for the state of Buddhism today lies with all the rulers of Sri Lanka, but mentioned Mahinda Rajapaksa as showing “more support towards Buddhism”. He stated,
"I can’t blame just one president or one government. All rulers should be blamed. They are all responsible for the situation in this country today. But I have to say that the present President has shown more support towards Buddhism. Unfortunately, he has no proper power to exercise his wishes."
"I read the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’. It is a good document. But whether it is implemented properly is the question. We can clearly see that the benefits of the development programs carried out by the Government do not go to the grass root level.
The BBS CEO also added,
“Let me tell you one thing, because of Bodu Bala Sena the so-called Buddhists who never talked about Buddhism now talk about ‘true Buddhism’. We are happy about this change. It is a win for us. The Buddhists who were asleep all this time have woken up today – especially the Colombo Buddhists who were afraid to tell the world that they were Buddhists are suddenly claiming to be the best Buddhists in this country. We are happy about these developments. This is what we expected; this is what we wanted.”
Read the full interview here.