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Friday, October 22, 2010

Arya Nikethanaya: The mission of restoring the old glory of the saffron robe

Arya Nikethanaya: The mission of restoring the old glory of the saffron robe

By Dawpadee Kawshalya

Today, many more aeons after the establishment of Buddhist monasticism and thousands of years after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, the country that boasted of an Order of ‘Maha Sangha’, probably of its purest kind is taken by a storm when it was revealed that annually about one thousand Buddhist monks leave the Order and return to the laity.

The high prevalence of disrobing among the present day Buddhist monks and its possible alarming consequences drove Ven. Mawarale Bhaddiya Thera look into a lasting solution to the problem. The result was his brain child, ‘Arya Nikethanaya’ that is being built in Mullegama, Homagama.

Elaborating on the issue Ven. Thera said today the Buddhist monks who are more open to material world with the educational and social opportunities do not know where to draw the line between the clergy and the laity.

“In some tuition classes and universities, we have come across instances where the students share their lunch with the monks. This diminishes the respect people have towards the Buddhist monks,” he added.

According to Ven. Thera, all of them who decide to leave the Order have one thing in common; their inability to understand the power, responsibilities and obligations bound to them with the saffron ‘cheevara.’ Various researches conducted across the country for the last five years revealed that those who decided to disrobe were mainly the ones who entered the Order due to poverty, malefactions, parents’ persuasion, depression and other family issues.

High prevalence of disrobing

Those who become Buddhist monks for all the wrong reasons, do not understand the gravity of that life, the importance of simplicity and the need to be exemplary characters to society. More often than not, after the initial stages of their life in a temple or in a pirivena, they begin to see the conflict between what they want and what they already get. The decision to leave the Order comes at a great cost. In most cases the parents urge their children not to disrobe until they finish their education. From the moment the idea of disrobing crosses their minds, they do not act like monks anymore. Their behaviour is constantly questioned, criticized and looked at with wonderment and disgust by the general public.

“This not only tarnishes the image of the Buddhist monk but also people begin to lose the faith they had on them,” Ven. Thera adds.

“When you look at the subject selections of some of the Buddhist monks who have enrolled themselves to state universities one can get a clue as to where their interests really lay. For examples, some of them go for subjects such as Political Science and International Relations,” he further said.

Stressing on the importance of remedying the current plight of Buddhist monks in the country, Ven. Thera said even though there are a numerous programmes being conducted islandwide to reduce the alarming numbers, they are only knowledge-oriented and that they do not focus on enhancing positive attitudes. Their priority is all on academic side which does not even offer different subject selections for the monks which can help improve the quality of their clergy life.

Arya Nikethanaya

“We are hoping to complete the construction of the foundation building before Sambuddha Jayanthi,” said Ven. Thera talking about the progress of the foundation.

Once complete, Arya Nikethanaya will conduct various programmes and training sessions for the Buddhist monks and those who wish to enter the Order.

First phase would be to train the youth who are intended to become monks. The incumbent monks of the temples can direct the youth who are intended to enter the Order to the foundation. The one-year residential training would provide them with an adequate knowledge on the essential ‘dhamma’ and ‘vinaya’ and will also raise their awareness on the responsibilities of a Buddhist monk.

At the end of the training, a complete progress report of the trainee, including his strengths and weaknesses, will be submitted to the incumbent monk of the temple leaving the final decision freely at the hands of him and the trainee.

The second type of training would be for the monks who are currently in the Order. The programme prepared for them mainly aimed at training them to lead a time-tabled life and thereby improve discipline and punctuality among them.

It will also focus on studying the ‘Thripitaka’, enhancing preaching skills which includes a complete training on conducting preaching programmes over television and radio channels and conducting ‘dhamma talks.’

Emphasizing the significance of learning international languages, Ven. Thera said the students at the foundation would be taught six languages, namely Tamil, English, Chinese, Japanese, German and Italian. They will also be given the much needed IT knowledge to keep themselves updated and thereby improving their preaching skills.

Training the Buddhist monks as counsellors is another modern feature brought forward by the Arya Nikethanaya. Here, the monks will be trained to help out and solve people’s problems, using both the Buddhist Methods and modern methods.

Their awareness will also be awakened on the two important areas such as human resource Management and physical resource management. “This will be of great help for them once they come to a stage where they have to manage a temple,”

According to him, meditation would be part of daily life in the Arya Nikethanaya. “The much needed curbing of mind would be one of the key points the instructors would be working on,” he added.

Apart from giving them the much needed academic knowledge, the monks will also be given a complete training on ‘Buddha vandana.’

The Buddhist monks who successfully complete the training will be sent across the world as ambassadors and to the North and East, where the citizens are in much need of food for their intellect at moment they are recovering themselves from the disruption caused by the thirty-year-old war.

Your contribution

More than monetary assistance it is building material we need right now, says Ven. Thera talking about the progress of the construction. “We would request the donors and philanthropists to donate building material such as sand, bricks, cement and granite.”

“Consider this your obligation to save the noble words of the Buddha to be heard by your children and the generations to come after that,” he added.

Those who wish to contribute can forward their donations to Abhimani Development and Education Foundation, A/C no. 0860-00041911-001 of Seylan Bank Millennium branch.

Further details can be obtained from 077-3846827 or 071-4027441.

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