In an excellent article in the Democratic Voice of Burma Alex Bookbinder reports on the visit of the Burmese Nationalist monk U Wirathu (prominent in the Burmese nationalist and anti-Muslim ‘969’ movement) to the the ‘Buddhist Power Force’ (Bodu Bala Sena) in Sri Lanka. He is due to give a keynote speech on Sunday 28th September to an audience affiliated to nationalist Buddhist sympathies in Sri Lanka.
On the one hand, a Theravada Buddhist monk visiting and giving a lecture in a fellow Theravada Buddhist country, between which there have been stong religious ties for centuries, should not deserve the most obscure footnote in Buddhist history. However, given the so-called 969 movements anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the similar arguments by the Bodu Bala Sena, eyebrows will be raised. Are these monastics planning political participation:
In contrast to Burma, where monks are constitutionally barred from running for public office, a group of Sri Lankan monks formed the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), or National Heritage Party, to contest parliamentary elections in 2004. The JHU was a vocal supporter of Rajapaksa’s no-holds-barred assault against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, which ended the country’s 26-year civil war amid international condemnation and allegations of war crimes.
Political participation by Buddhist monastics is an extremely divisive issue. Should a monk be devoted to escaping from the cycle of existences, of which politics is a part, or should social injustice be envisioned as the one of the causes of suffering, therefore making it a legitimate target of Buddhist doctrine? These questions are brought into sharp focus by the dialogue between the Burmese 969 movement and the Sri Lanka Bodu Bala Sena.
It will be of some interest what U Wirathu says in Sri Lanka.
Edit: ‘Ven. Ashin Wirathu from Myanmar will participate in the Bodu Bala Sena’s Maha Sangha Council meeting at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium at 1.00 p.m. today (Sunday 28t/09/14).’ Reported Here.
And some film of U Wirathu’s arrival in Sri Lanka: