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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anti-Conversion Bill in Sri Lanka.

An anti-conversion law titled, "Prevention of Forcible Conversion Bill," is being considered in Sri Lanka's parliament. It is a bill that I generally disapprove of because I believe in the freedom of religion and while I don't personally like proselytism I think it should be included in a country's freedom of religion rights. In a country, which is 70% Buddhist (Sri Lanka) I do not understand how Christianity is such a threat that it needs to basically be outlawed.

In addition, the structure of "Buddhism" itself can be yet another attachment. Without practice and mindfulness a Buddha statue is nothing but another chunk of wood or stone and temples become glorified houses. I'm not saying that such things aren't beneficial and needed but that Buddhism will evolve how it will and if it disappears in a free world then so be it.

Besides, some say that Buddha himself said that one day Buddhism will no longer be taught in this world. Even if I am the last "Buddhist" on Earth I worry not for the Dharma as it will always be reborn in one form or another either here and/or on other planets. And if not then I am confident that it will have served its purpose. I have faith that karma and change will take the course that it must.

Now. That said I do agree with a limited version of this bill if it simply bans using humanitarian aid, education and health care as a tool to force people to listen to sermons/scriptures and be converted. If these services can not be donated without stipulations then I consider that using unethical behavior. It is taking advantage of the needy to forward your religious ideology instead of giving because it's the right thing to do--period. After all my years of reading the Bible and practicing Christianity I do not believe that Jesus would condition help to proselytism or conversion. It is pure manipulation usually of those whom are vulnerable both spiritually and otherwise. It is not right for religions (whether Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc.) to use peoples' suffering to advance the interests of their belief system.

Also, I wonder if these Christian organizations will now stand up for the freedom of non-Christians here in America to be free of Christian influence in government such as prayer in school, nativity scenes on government property, etc. As a Buddhist I stand up for them to have the right to proselytize in America and abroad but they need to back off a bit on some of the demands that they are placing upon the American government and other secular based governments. There is no reason that religions can not exist together nor is their any reason that religious people and non-religious people can not exist together. I reject extremism on either side of the spiritual spectrum. Whether it is fundamental Christianity (or fundamentalist Buddhism) or militant atheism.

~Peace to all beings~

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30 comments:

Kamacharya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kamacharya said...

From my own experience (and even a brief view of the history of Christianity will prove) "Christian tolerance" seems to be tolerance only of fellow Christians (but even that is a bit iffy... the recent scuffle between Orthodox Greek and Armenian clergy in Jeruselem is small example), not tolerance of other religions.

It is an interesting point that you make James when you say,
"...using humanitarian aid, education and health care as a tool to force people to listen to sermons/scriptures and be converted. If these services can not be donated without stipulations then I consider that using unethical behavior."

I agree, but though this looks quite anti-Christian behavior on the face of it (and probably not something Jesus would do), Christianity is first and foremost a religion of salvation.
And the Christian method is purely utilitarian - The greatest good (salvation) for the greatest number - generally by any means necessary.
There have been many casualties along the way, but what of that? According to utilitarianism, the end justifies the means, and the "end" in Christianity is the Greater Glory of God!

Still, I don't think the anti-conversion law will work in the long run. Rome tried to keep Christianity down, and look at what happened to them!

anonyrod said...

Such a law may not may not work in the long run because government aid from the west is often tied to easy missionary visas and access (usually much easier than say for when a foreigner wants to get a visa for studying Buddhism in some Asian Buddhist countries believe it or not).

However, obviously there are and have been issues regarding conversion that have prompted the initiation of such a law.

While there are good people among all religions the tactics of many missionaries need to be addressed. This became evident during the recent tsunami, and even the western media, like CNN, often jumps on the bandwagon to support fairly irrelevant causes with huge amounts of money just because they happen to be Christian.

As for 'something that Jesus would not do', you mean the guy that threw a fit with the money lenders and whose teachings (what original teachings?) are now used to condemn people with different leanings as abominations and deserving of suffering and hell?

Early North Korean thought (the Holy Roman Empire and its descendents, not forgetting the evangelicals and the greater glory of primitive ways) needs to be checked, and such laws while possibly ineffective in the long run will at least highlight this issue.

Kamacharya said...

"As for 'something that Jesus would not do', you mean the guy that threw a fit with the money lenders and whose teachings (what original teachings?) are now used to condemn people with different leanings as abominations and deserving of suffering and hell?" - Anonyrod

My beef is not with Jesus but his fanclub. But you're right, who knows what that man was capable of? He certainly didn't care for other people's livestock (or the animals themselves) when casting out demons:
Matthew 8:32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

anonyrod said...

Apologies for being a little off topic, but carrying on with this other rather interesting thread.

Middle Eastern religions seem to have a thing about pigs, which don't particularly like living in dirty places but rather end up being penned up in such places by humans.

Also, I have never met a demonic animal of any type, instead, being demonic seems to be a somewhat favorite attachment within the realm of humans. I once saw a TV evangelist who was saying that god had told him to buy a particular type of private jet, and the short TV clip of him revealed that he really did look like a demon.

Unfortunately, many examples of being demonic are often by those who claim to be ultra religious, and for demons such people are probably the ideal targets.

As demons are of a higher level than animals anyway, it is unlikely that they would even bother to try to influence lower level beings who have no authority in this world. Thus, demonic possession, or temporary attachment and birth to such a level within their own mind, is something that quite a few humans habitually enjoy.

As for the Middle Eastern situation and the general lack of vegetation in many places, then the real problem is goats.

They call him James Ure said...

Kamacharya:

You're right that they are a religion of salvation, which demands a religious zeal for conversion. Often this means using some questionable tactics.

Anonyrod:

I agree that this missionary issue needs to be addressed but I wonder how we can be accepting of other beliefs without giving away our own religious beliefs.

By the way, I don't mind a little off topic discussion. :)

anonyrod said...

I think that part of the problem stems from the government support that usually accompanies such missionary zeal. This often leads to a certain amount of arrogance and disregard for local cultures (just look at what it says on your money).

Having worked with governments who have been dependent upon military deals or assistance from the west, the unwritten aspects of such deals have generally remained secret.

The US in particular has for a long time had a form of bug-o-rectomy regarding one of the native plants that grows in Asia. While such a plant was never originally illegal as it grows everywhere, the pressures on Asian governments to make it illegal has actually had adverse effects. In India for example, most of the local government shops that sold this no longer exist, making it now within the domain of organized crime and encouraging corrupt cops. Another disastrous change being that in many places the street kids now use paint thinner, glue and heroin due to these bright ideas.

Even Trekkies are aware of the prime objective.

anonyrod said...

50% apologies to the good old US of A. This weed phobia, while actually begun by the US, has also been adopted by Japan, as many students started going to India and not returning for their studies.

They call him James Ure said...

Anonyrod:

I totally agree. It's ridiculous to me that a weed is illegal.

anonyrod said...

As for how we can be accepting of other religious beliefs, I think that we can do so because they are not really a threat.

In places like Africa, South America, and most of The Philippines, then colonial influence (the big nudge), lack of basic mecessities and the the lure of shiny technological stuff made it easier to convert people who in most cases had barely organized beliefs to begin with.

In Asia, the local cultures usually have more of an effect on the missionaries than anything they can do.

It's interesting how Buddhism became so popular in the West; not by missionary conversion but mainly because people started to wake up to the fact that their cultural beliefs did little for them, other than brainwash them with fairytales. Plus, the history of their religion never quite matched up to these stories.

The emphasis in Buddhism is not conversion, no one really cares what you call yourself. The emphasis is on getting people to help themselves (or should be).

One of the dangers at the present time among western Buddhists is that they are liable to miss out on what Buddhism has to offer, namely how effective it is providing you practice correctly.

This danger arises. strangely enough, because they are already quite used to following a belief system that does not work (other than experiencing basic happiness as a result of leading a relatively virtuous life), so can easily follow some aspect of Buddhist culture that appears neat yet in the big picture is irrelevant to what Buddhism is all about.

While there is obviously a lot of sympathy for the Tibetan situation, and Tibetan culture is certainly interesting in its uniqueness, culture, whether it be Tibetan, your local therapist, or any other, is not the part that we need to be interested in; we need to keep sucking on the practice of following the breath, watching the mind and letting go, until it kills us (literally), without the need for beliefs.

I don't think that Islamic conversion is a great threat either. More Muslims usually means more immigrants who come from cultures that usually have lots of kids, not more conversions.

They call him James Ure said...

Anonyrod:

Indeed. Many initially come to Buddhism through it being a "fad" in some circles. Or because it appears "exotic" and such. Though many of these people leave once they realize that you have to actually do some work--meditation.

You are also right that the culture itself is like a spice to an overall 7 course meal. The spice is tasty but without the greater meal it leaves you with a great feeling of emptiness.

anonyrod said...

Off topic again:
As my day time job is involved with logical solutions I wanted to wrap up what had been said regarding demonic behavior as it also comes in contact with another touchy subject, karma.

One of the things about true nature, Buddhism, that people often have problems with is the explanation that everything that transient beings experience is karma. I also have a problem with this, in that such an explanation, on the surface at least, does not explain why someone we could describe as ‘harmless’ should end up by being tortured and beaten to death.

Thus, I sought counsel on this particular paradox, and here is what I learned. My teacher said that the short and simple explanation does not cover every aspect of karma and the issue of external intent. Does the karma of an innocent or harmless person warrant such a conclusion? No, karma covers a being’s moment to moment consciousness, it does not include external intent, although in a loose sense due to the way that this word karma is used within society we may also say that the final result was karma. In the case of Mathew Shepard we could say that the fact that he was gay was part of the cause and resulting outcome due to the prevailing social ignorance that reacted to this.

He said that using the word karma to describe natural outcomes or results has its problems. He said that what really happened in this case was that the force of ignorant or dark intent overcame someone who did not have enough light to survive, or in common language the fact that he perished was karma, but not personal karma, simply due to the prevailing social ignorance. As in the animal world, it is not that some rabbit deserves to die when it comes face to face with a fox, but rather that the instinctive skills and intent of the fox are often too much for the mind of the rabbit to deal with in certain situations.

As for the demonic intent that was used in this case, My teacher pointed out that sickness, alcohol, perhaps, but that demonic possession is basically just another story, and that it is more a case of elements going together. People with dark minds would naturally attract such other dark minds that we classify as demonic, but in this case it would be a place in the mind that the perpetrators had created themselves, and enjoyed. As for the idea of ultra religious people becoming demonic, he said that they would be easy marks for attracting demons because they often have little awareness of their own minds, but tend to focus upon printed words, and their attachment to ignorant thoughts and ideas could easily lead them to creating and focusing upon darker areas within their own minds.

He said that the main point to acknowledge is that we are the creators, we can create darkness or we can create light. If we create sufficient light within our minds then we can get to the point where no amount of dark intent can overcome our being.

They call him James Ure said...

Anonyrod:

In the case of Mathew Shepard we could say that the fact that he was gay was part of the cause and resulting outcome due to the prevailing social ignorance that reacted to this.

Well said and I think that really digs deeper in the concept of karma. I also think that you're right that sometimes things just "happen" as nature's course of cause and effect.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. I think I'll be back. As a devout Christian, I'm going to borrow a phrase that I heard another use; "Everyone has the right to be wrong", ("wrong" defined by each person implementing this principle). I fully support Sikh's right to wear their turbans, even as police officers (an issue that came up here in Canada), Wiccans' right to practice their rituals, and Muslims the right to talk openly about their religion and yes, even proselytize. If us evangelicals (gulp... dare I say it... fundamentalists?) believe in freedom of religion, let's honestly support it. As for the right to put up a nativity scene or whatever is it the death knell of your religion if we do? I'll put up my nativity set (with apologies to Adventists) and you put up your Buddha. We all have the right to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am a Sri Lankan Christian (a convert by conviction from a traditional Buddhist family) and I agree with the author of this blog. If any religion needs laws to protect it even when it has majority status, then it must be bankrupt! Christianity has faced challenges before and we will face this one too - unfortunately, the type of Buddhism that exists in Sri Lanka today is not the gentle philosophy a great sage taught. It is violent, unable to tolerate criticism or other religions and is more ethno (Sinhala equals Buddhist) based than one can imagine. Freedom of worship is a basic fundamental right. I can go to my church and worship my God - and maybe if someone asks me about Him, I have the right to tell about Him. If you don't want to hear about Him or don't like Him, tell me and I'll shut up. No law can take that right from me. The fact that the Indians abolished their Anti-Conversion Bill is proof enough.

They call him James Ure said...

Anonymous:

For me it's not about the nativity scene threatening my religion but the danger of mixing religion and state.

I don't have a problem with people putting their religious symbols up at home, on their car, etc. but not on public property unless we allow all symbols of the holiday season to be put up.

Anonymous said...

I think that the buddhist are just trying to stand against christians and conversion because they know the Power that is behind it. They think they are standing against people but they are standing against the living God. The buddist are just frustrated that they serve only an idol and no matter how much they worship, they have no improvement in life. Plus the people are now realizing the true difference that takes place when they recieve salvation and so the number of followers of Christ are increasing rapidly. This law will never be passed because the ways of God are higher than the ways of man. In the recent past Buddist have percecuted many christians and chrches in Sri Lanka. The question that I have is, where is the non-violence that Buddha instucted his followers to have? When it comes to persecuting the church, where is the love for their enemies that they are supposed to show? If buddism is the solution for this nation and for all man's problems, then why is Sri Lanka in this state today spite of being a buddist nation? Day and night, there are prayers, petisions and offerings given to idols but why isn't there any result if buddism carries the power they proclaim to carry? Even after being strong observers of the buddist faith, why are people so wicked and not changing? These are questions that we should ask ourselves before we support or oppose this bill....

Anonymous said...

The main situation here is that the buddist monks know that their religious practises have failed and is not helping the nation at all. People are realizing this and they are coming out of this dead religion, so the monks are loosing their significance. Well,by joining parliment, being a part of thug and gang groups, raping children....ect have already made evn buddist hate their own religious leaders.. so they are so angry that they are loosing their place. Even though buddism is known as a religion to be peacefull, not harming animals, loving your enemy and all that, in Sri Lanka, even the buddist monks kill and persecute people simply for standing up for their faith. Actualy there are no complains from the public that they have being forced to be converted but these monks are making it up to use it as a weapon against the church. Apparently they are very depressed and frustrated living in the temples and following a dead, useless, man-made system, so they try to put a stop to the real thing. Buddism is a failed religion and has very primitive practises. Many people who follow it also say that they have not got solution to their problems by following it. So fighting against the church and trying to keep people following buddism, is a vain effort and at the end, these monks themselves will find their mistake and be put to shame by their own people..

They call him James Ure said...

Anonymous:

I agree that there shouldn't be an anti-conversion bill but I disagree with much of what you say. You're not going to win over too many Buddhists to your cause if you keep insulting the religion and saying it's a dead religion and brings no one benefit.

That is all false as it is growing rampantly in the west. And as for bringing no benefit I can attest to the opposite because it has greatly helped me live a better life. You should have seen the horrible state I was in before I found Buddhism.

Most Buddhists do not worship idols as we do not believe Buddha to be a god. We bow to the Buddha statue in reverence and paying honor to his teachings.

It is truly sad to hear of cases of Buddhist monks using violence or insult other religions.

However, it does not mean that such actions are condoned overall. Nor that all Buddhists and certainly not all Buddhist monks act and feel this way.

Non-violence is still a major tenet to Buddhism and just because some violate that major tenet does not mean that Buddhism itself is bad. They are the actions of rogue monks who are following their anger and hatred more than the Buddha's teachings.

If Buddhism is a primitive religion then so is Christianity. Read some of the stuff in the Old Testament about stoning children and such.

So yeah, both religions have things that aren't congruent with modern life but that doesn't mean that there isn't some good in both. Because there is a lot of good in Christianity.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka may seem corrupt and not in keeping to the Buddhist values but please don't paint all Buddhists with such a broad brush. Most of us are very kind and willing to share this world with Christians. :)

AP said...

Hi!

The essence of spiritual conversion is as St. Francis of Assisi said " Preach the Gospel, in the field, workplace, in the home and evetywhere you go, and if necessary use words" (Paraphrased in my own understanding) If a spiritual path (I omit religion since Christianity is not a religion but a fellowship with a living God) cannot bring you victory in this world then it does not have any value. The best testimony of this is by your own life being an example to others. They may see your walk and be inspired to follow it.

When such a "spiritual path" cannot demonstrate this in the lives of its believers then such a walk is dead, only followed by people blindly mostly for the sake of tradition.

I know many Buddhists who sincerely desire to walk this path and I know many Buddhists who don't. Sadly for Buddhism in Sri Lanka the majority of those who don't are the loudest and most visible to society (leaders, priests, followers).

Since most of them have dictated the past of this land, we are now in a situation where we are listed with states like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran etc.....

The anti conversion bill is nothing but an attempt to protect those who call themselves Buddhists but arent acutally Buddhist.

The Christians in Sri Lanka have there own set of problems and unity is the biggest one at the moment.

We know that God cleans His own house first before He puts the land in order. So maybe the Anti Conversion bill......

Well I know what God has for Sri Lanka so I rejoice, not in its conversion per se but its Blessing, so that all may see and praise God in heaven.

They call him James Ure said...

AP:

It's too bad that some Sri Lankan Buddhists don't see the wisdom of living in harmony with all religious traditions. It is unbecoming of a Buddhist in my view. I doubt Buddha would be acting in such a manner.

Live and let live I say.

AP said...

Hi! James Ure,

We Sri Lankan suffer from the malaise of trying to put others people's houses in order without trying to put our house in order first.

It seems be that all the "paths" suffer from this problem.

Obviously the first one that does will flourish.

I just don't see man being able to do this, except through divine intervention, which I know is coming to the Christian "House".

At the end we must decide from our own hearts the path we want to follow, and this involves listening to other's paths.

I have listened and found a Loving God for myself, that is who I will follow till I die in this earth, and will tell all, of Him, whom I can tell, but they must follow from their own hearts or my telling is in vain.

For as you know a man who follows a "path" out of greed, fear or vanity will bring destruction on himself and others around him.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,
I'm happy to write this comment through real life experience about the violence and ugliness of Buddism. I have over and over heard and seeing the torcher and abuse caused by the Jathika Hela Urumaya and their monks to the churches. In the year 2004, even our church was attacked by these people who claim to be peacefull followers of Buddha. There were some people in our area who had seen all the unlawfull acts being done in the temple by the monks and so they realized that if Buddism can't help it's own leaders to live a righteous life, it is useless following. On their own they came and sought solutions from the church. When these monks who had being raping wemon and being involved in homosexuality, got to know about the conversion of these people, they came and asaulted the pastror, and abused the wemoan in our church. They forced themselves into the church at night and stole things. Once questioned by the police about their actions, they boldly said, "this is our nation and we Buddist have a right to do what we want". These stupid monks can fight against people, but they obviously can't stop the message of Jesus Christ going forth and transforming lives. The church suffered violence but people started coming more and more dispite all of this. Now these same monks and JHU is trying to pass this bill in parliment. I wonder why the Buddist followers aren't realizing the true picture of their leaders? Why are they just following blindly like people who have no common sence and sence of reality? I asked this from a Buddist friend, and he said "we know Buddism is not the solution, for our lives or for the nation. But since our anccestors followed it, we are continuing these religious practises"... Doesn't anyone agree with me that this is utter stupid thinking??????????

They call him James Ure said...

Anonymous:

I agree that what those particular Buddhists are doing is inexcusable but not all Buddhists are acting like them. They are doing a disservice to all of Buddhism.

I understand your friend's opinion about Buddhism not being a solution for him but for many it certainly is a solution to problems in their lives. It has literally changed my life for the better. As I know Christianity has for many.

I just hope that these Buddhists can learn to live with the Christians and vice versa. There is plenty of room for all.

AP said...

Hi! Anonymous,

As Christian to another Christian, I understand to a certain extent your experience and your anger.

But it is very important we understand the Word of God and how it shows God's understanding of these events.

Remember our war is not against man but against powers and principalities of evil. It maybe manifested through man but we are not to go against man.

Jesus Christ died for all the sins of mankind irrespective of any persons belief or following.

There are many things that go on in this country which makes me extremely angry but I need to walk in love else I end up becoming the very thing I hate.

Forgive them that have hurt you and pray that the eyes of their understanding may be opened. Ask Jesus to help you to forgive and let go of the hurt.

In the end if God is for us then who can be against us. Though a thousand may fall at my side and ten thousand at my right hand it shall not come near me.

Free-man said...

There must be religious freedom in Sri Lanka; must be free to worship. Its in the UN charter too.

Western countries also must stop the temples converting Christians to Buddhism. What do you say to that? Will the foreign embassies stop visas to the Buddhist monks?

machisen said...

Thank you for a balanced approach. We often hear of fears of "forced conversion" by Christians of others. That kind of widespread practice basically disappeared after the Middle Ages, and good riddance. Education, food and other benefits should indeed be given simply because we are to love our neighbor, as Jesus clearly taught. I ask your readers not to label Christians in general with the "Christian Right" and their lust for power. They do not speak for the large majority of Jesus' followers. All faiths have those who use religion to their own purposes. Jesus calls us to love God, and our neighbor as ourself; these, He said, are the greatest commands.

enochindi said...

Here lot of arguments and discussions.Whatever happened,I can say only one thing.That the predictions of Jesus has becoming true.If these things would not happen,the Bible becomes false.We can expect more persecutions too on Christians rather than the upcoming bill.But these all things are useless.Christians have to proclaim their Jesus' salvation until their death.It is their duty what has been ordered by God in order to save all human beings from the eternal punishment and destruction.But some things are true,that few number of miserable people are doing this third-class conversions.But more than 80% of conversions are not by unethical ways.That is the truth.It is according to the conscience's conviction of the people that Jesus is true.But however this type of bill is unnecessary as the religious freedom should be in our country.Even Buddha has preached in "Kalama Sutta" that no one should accept any thing because of Buddha,or because of others,because if they are seems to be true.So,anyone should have this freedom if this is a real Buddhist country.That's all.

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