The mission of Buddha Dhamma propagation
Extracts from an interview with Ven. Polgampola Piyananda Thera, the Viharadhipathi of Sri Lankarama Viharaya, Singapore.
Interviewed by Dharma Sri Thilakawardena.
Q. There is a discernible increase in the interest among people the world over to study Buddhism. At the same time the general opinion is that there is a dearth of personnel to undertake the mission of propagation of Buddhism globally. What is your view on this condition?
A. This condition is an absolute truth. In spite of tremendous heights man has climbed in various fields, he is not mentally at rest. Ultimately man turns to Buddhism as a means of solace. Our Buddhist monks are confronted with certain handicaps to undertake this mission. They lack the knowledge of international languages as well as the wholesome knowledge of Buddhism itself. This drawback is specially felt by Buddhist monks who are young but they do not show any interest to overcome these shortcomings. That is our misfortune. As a Theravadi Buddhist country, Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka must become more enthusiastic to improve their knowledge of Dhamma and foreign languages, in the face of the great demand for them internationally. It is useless to blame others for this shortcoming. Each of our monks in the younger generation should strive to understand this situation by himself and remedy the situation.
Q. The Buddhist clergy of the younger generation in Sri Lanka, is more prone to politics than to the religion. Is this notion factually incorrect?
A. Young Bhikkus of Sri Lanka should rid themselves of politics. If they do not give up politics, that is the end of the Buddhist order or the Buddhasasanaya. They themselves are sure to perish. Let politicians do their politics without involving the young Bhikkus. Young Bhikkus should concentrate on improving the knowledge of Buddhism to serve mankind.
A practicable system should be adopted to impart knowledge of English from Pirivena level to University level. Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera was a Bhikku of the young generation, who built up a dynamic personality by mastering the knowledge of the thripitikaya. He became renowned and commanded high respect of the people because his knowledge of Dhamma was wholesome.
Some Buddhist monks of our country are in the habit of comparing facts of Buddhism with the factors of modern science.
This is an absolutely vein exercise. The philosophy of Buddhism far exceeds the boundaries of modern science.
But the modern scientific developments can be made use of to communicate Buddhism.
On this point there is another matter to be emphasized. The preaching by monks should pacify the stress in the minds of our people. The minds of present day people are riddled with miscellaneous problems. We have to understand this reality. Instead of delivering a sermon, certain Bhikkus utter something to make people laugh or be cynical of somebody and rouse hatred. This way of preaching has come to be a fashionable art today and strangely called “popular Buddhism”.
Q. Venerable Sir, if you are to touch on the ways of practicing Buddhism in Singapore where you live?
A. In comparison with what is obtained in Sri Lanka, the Singaporean ways of practicing Buddhism are amazingly methodical. Singaporean Buddhists, soon after the death of a person, summon the monks and get them to chant Sathipattana Sutra. In Sri Lanka funeral rites include speeches by monks and laymen like an oratory contest. In Singapore it is not so. Funeral rites are confined to religious activities only.
Young Buddhist men and women do not spend a vacation by making rollicking tours. Instead they spend most of the days in temples engaging themselves in religious activities. Lankaramaya temple in Singapore has organised special facilities for these young men and women. They are taught to meditate and chant pirith according to the Theravadi system during the vacation.
Often these programmes are organised by Mr.Vajiro Richard Chi, a Chinese national who studied Buddhism under Ven. Bhikku Narada of Vajirarama Temple, Bambalapitiya and Ven.Bhikku Pallekele Amatha Gavesi.