Insensitive and Hurtful Agenda of The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka
Posted August 24, 2008
August 25, 2008
Since April this year when an â€śadvertisementâ€ť in the Sinhala Lankadeepa newspaper of 6th April 2008 with a photograph of the late Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero appeared to advertise the launching of a CD on 19th July 2008 by Apostolic Father Rev. Lalith Aponso of The Apostolic Media Office, Katunayake on â€śLife After Death and Karmaâ€ť the late Venerable Monk has become a symbol & commercial tool of the Catholic Church.
Rev.Father Lalith Aponso supposedly recorded a cassette in 1994 on â€śLife After Death and Karmaâ€ť when Ven. Ananda Maithriya Thero was still living. According to the advertisement in the newspapers, at the time Ven. Ananda Maithriya Thero had listened to the cassette and commented (English translation): â€śI have listened to the first speech made by Apostolic Father Rev. Lalith Aponso on â€ś Rebirth and Karmaâ€ť which irrespective of religious bias I think is usefulâ€ť-Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero. Although the late Venerable Monk states â€śâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ is usefulâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..â€ť he does not state whether he endorses or agrees with what the Apostolic Rev.Father Lalith Aponso has stated in that cassette recording. Except, that it is â€śusefulâ€¦â€ť
The Crux and Core Difference Between Christianity and Buddhism:
People who are well versed in the Christian Scriptures and The Buddha Dhamma are fully aware that Christianity and Buddhism are as far apart as the moon and the earth in the very essence and core doctrines of the two religions. According to the Bible it is said that God created everything and even pronounced that earth was flat. According to Christianity a human born to this human life did not have a life before this and will have no life after death in this life- except what God decides for him/her which can be either Heaven or Hell according to his conduct in this life-and that is it! Buddhism taught by Sakyamuni Gautama The Buddha, is completely different from what Christianity and The Bible tells us. Buddhism is a philosophy of life and how our lives are guided by â€ś cause and effectâ€ť and that there are many lives before this life and many lives after this life based on our own Karma we create for ourselves whether good or bad. Based on our own efforts (not dependent on a God) through self-purification of our defilements through meditation and insight we can, even in this life attain Nibbana and end our Samsaric sojourn. The Dhamma is very deep and intense and we do not hope to delve into the intricacies of The Dhamma in this article. There is no such doctrine in Christianity-everything including responsibility is placed on an Almighty God who decides for and on behalf of human beings in this life-man himself has no authority to do anything other than the will of God whereas The Buddha gave every authority to human beings to decide and do the right thing if he/she wished to attain Nibbana. The Buddhas teach and show the path to self-purification and human beings have to strive to attain it through oneâ€™s own efforts. They extol the virtues of Metta, Karuna, Muditha & Upekha towards all beings be they humans, super natural beings or animals.
The Hidden Agenda of The Catholic Church & Insensitivity Towards Buddhists Sentiments:
The Apostolic Media Centre at Katunayake under the instructions of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso has been vehemently advertising the late Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero in the newspapers, through posters which show both the Venerable Monk and Rev.Father Lalith Aponso with information about the CD launch scheduled to be held at the BMICH on 19th July 2008. The first batch of posters came out on the streets of Colombo 1 day before Wesak Full Moon Day, the 2nd batch came out before Poson Full Moon Day and subsequently until today. The poster gives a telephone number 077-1306556 for people to call in and book their seats. Callers have been told that a seat will be charged at Rs.1,000/=as the minimum on this day to listen to Rev.Father Lalith Aponso and also to receive a free CD to anyone present at the function on that day. It is quite obvious that the Catholic Church is hoping to get as many young Buddhists & Bhikkus to come because callers are constantly asked â€śhow old are you?â€ť â€"does this really matter? We can see how the Church is using the picture of the late Ven.Ananda Maithriya Thero for their commercial purposes to cover (atleast part of it) the costs of hiring BMICH plus the CDs by luring Buddhists because as far as we know, Christians will â€śnot buyâ€ť the ideas that Rev.Father Lalith Aponso wants to sell about â€śLife After Death & Karmaâ€ť which are both unacceptable to their beliefs and â€śthe word of God!â€ť
In order to advertise this event more, Rev.Father Aponso had made a TV appearance on TNL 2 weeks ago together with a Buddhist Monk who is introduced as a pupil of the late Ven. Ananda Maithriya Thero by the name of Ven. Ambegoda Kusalagnana Thero of Kettaramaya Temple, Bandarawela who also happens to be lecturer at a Pirivena in Bandarawela. The Church is now keeping this Monk at Katunayake and treating him really well until they complete their agenda of cheating Buddhists with the CD launch. During this TV appearance, it has been stated that Rev.Father Aponso has developed his super natural powers to a level where he is able to recall so many thousands of births before this life! This again seems to be difficult to believe because the Christian belief is totally contrary to this stand. Let us presume that Rev.Father Aponso truly has these special powers- in which case as a Catholic Reverend Father, it will appear to be difficult for him to have remained as a Catholic Priest without being ex-communicated from the Church for blasphemy & heresy because his revelations completely over rules the Bible and the Gospel contained therein which in turn would make it out that he is even more supreme that Almighty God!
It is on record that when someone asked a highly respected Catholic Reverend Father Earnest Poruthota about Rev.Father Lalith Aponso and what he claims, Father Poruthota has stated that had been sent out of the Catholic Church (we do not wish to insult Rev.Father Lalith Aponso by stating that â€śhe was expelled from the Churchâ€ť). We also respect Father Poruthota as a Catholic Priest who is held in high esteem in this country and do not doubt his statement if he stated so. However, if what Father Poruthota stated is correct, then we fail to understand why the Most Reverend Archbishop Oswild Gomis as Head of The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is turning a blind eye on the doings of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso? Or for that matter The Bishopâ€™s Conference which is all powerful within the Catholic Church? By both these parties turning a blind eye it means, that they directly or indirectly endorse the actions of Rev.Father Aponso.
Most Reverend Archbishop Oswild Gomis has gone on record as promoting â€śinter-religious committeesâ€ť to resolve matters related to disputes among religious groups in this country especially due to the complicated issues arising from unethical conversion activities being conducted against Buddhists and Hindus in this country. Does he hope to bring about â€śInter-religious harmony and amityâ€ť between Buddhists and Catholics in this country by permitting another Catholic Father Rev.Aponso to indiscriminately â€śsell and commercializeâ€ť a highly respected and venerated Buddhist Monk of the calibre of the late Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero to suit the hidden agendas of the Catholic Church? Another question that comes into our minds at this point is, why did Rev.Father Lalith Aponso wait 14 years after recording his first cassette in 1994 and nearly 7-8 years after the passing away of Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero to paint his picture on the posters publicising the launching of his CD? The most ethical, credible and decent thing to do if the Catholic Church truly respected Ven.Ananda Maithriya Thero would have been to get his participation in this business when the Venerable Monk was still among the living and during his lifetime instead of waiting till we have no sound proof of the authenticity of the statement supposedly made by the late Venerable Monk? With the modern technology available today, with amazingly â€ścredible sounding dubbing being possibleâ€ť- we place serious doubts as to the authenticity of sound recordings of the late Venerable Monkâ€™s voice as claimed by Rev.Father Aponso! Do all these things sound as if there is a genuine and honest attempt to maintain â€śinter-religious amityâ€ť between Buddhists and Catholics in this country? The answer unfortunately is an emphatic â€śNo.â€ť
We do not think Buddhists or Buddhist Clergy have abused the dignity of personalities/Clergy belonging to other religious groups for commercial purposes or to spread Buddhism amongst Catholics at any given time. This is the sincerity that Buddhists have shown towards other religious leaders and religions in the true sense of Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekha as taught by The Buddha. It is extremely sad that the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka and its Clergy do not reciprocate in the same vein to show their genuine intentions of maintaining â€śinter-religious harmony and amityâ€ť between Catholics and Buddhists in this country.
To achieve the hidden agendas of the Catholic Church, it is not unusual for them to approach the highest levels of government officials to twist their arm into even getting publications made in government Buddhist publications in order to gain credibility for this particular issue. We will not be surprised if an article or advertisement on the CD launch scheduled for 19th July 2008 appears in the Lake House â€śBudhusaranaâ€ť Weekly Buddhist Supplement which is issued to coincide with every Poya Day. To get such a publication done, there is no doubt whatsoever, that they would have approached Ministerial level connections as is true to their agendas.
One wonders whether the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches (including Evangelicals) are so bankrupt in their search for methods to prove their credentials and credibility without having to misuse and insult revered Buddhist Monks in this country ? Their actions certainly seem to point a finger in that direction if we are not mistaken.
Many are the instances where Buddhist sentiments have been hurt by aggressive and subtle manipulations of the Christian Churches in this country and this particular instance of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso using the name of one of our most revered Buddhist Monks who is no longer among the living, is a blaring example of the insensitivity of the Catholic Church and itâ€™s Clergy.
Buddhists and Buddhist Clergy in this country have always stretched out our arms in friendship towards all religions. This gesture of generosity by the Buddhists have often been abused, insulted and manipulated by the Christian Churches and in this instance, it is most unfortunate that the Catholic Church which is considered to be an Orthodox Christian Church in Sri Lanka should have acted in such an insensitive manner towards Buddhist sentiments and the high regard they have for the late Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero.
We would like to see true and sincere gestures on the part of Christian Churches and their Clergy towards Buddhists and Buddhist Clergy if there is any intention whatsoever on their part to respect and develop â€śinter-religious harmony and amityâ€ť between these two religious groups. To win the confidence and trust of Buddhists in this country, there are many sincere ways that Christian Churches can use to extend a true hand of friendship and brotherhood. Our tolerance should not be mistaken and understood to be a weakness.
True â€śinter-religious amity and harmonyâ€ť can be achieved only if each religious group and their leaders learn to adopt an attitude of mutual respect and understanding, learn the essence of â€ś live and let liveâ€ť and learn to act within their own boundaries without overstepping such boundaries. It will be only when this is evident and seen through example, that real and sincere amity can prevail in this country. We trust that the Christian & Catholic Church will strive to prove through their actions, that they wish to work in harmony with not only Buddhists in this country but also with the Hindus.
The Actual CD Launch on 19th July 2008 & The Aftermath - â€śChetanahan Bhikkave Kamman Vadamiâ€ť
According to The Buddha â€śKarmaâ€ť is a result of our good or bad actions based on the inner thoughts and their intentions. If we do good with a good intention then the results achieved will bring a good result but if we do evil with evil intentions, similarly the results from it will bring evil/bad results.
This was amply witnessed come 19th July 2008, when the much hyped and publicized CD launch of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso finally took place in the main BMICH Auditorium scheduled to commence at around 6.30p.m. but ultimately it was 7.00p.m. when the programme finally started. With a lot of pomp and pageantry Rev.Father Lalith Aponso was conducted into the hall to the rhythmic steps of Kandyan dancers, Magul Bera and Vannams to find that the hall was 75% empty! Only about 25 Buddhist Monks mostly small Samanera Monks and three senior Monks were present to grace this much hyped programme. As was expected, Ven. Ambegoda Kusalagnana Thero Chaired the proceedings.
The Entrance Tickets printed on very colourful glossy paper were priced at Rs.1,000/=, Rs.1,500/= & Rs.2,000/=. Those who bought Rs.1,000/= tickets and seated upstairs were later called to come downstairs and were â€śupgradedâ€ť to the more prestigious seats right in the front block downstairs to fill the emptiness in the hall. All in all, only about 350 guests including the Buddhist Monks were there which goes to show that the vast amount of money spent on the publicity did not work and that Buddhists did not buy the â€śploy to sell the prestige and high respect of the late Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriyaâ€ť for commercial purposes. Thank goodness there are still quite a lot of sensible Buddhists in this country.
To lure young Sinhala Music enthusiasts, well known famous singers like Victor Rathnayake, Sanath Nandasiri and Malkanthi Nandasiri, Dr. Dayarathne Ranatunge, Prof.Amara Ranathunga, T.M.Jayaratne, Edward Jayakody and W.D.Ariyasinghe were scheduled to perform. Although publicized on posters throughout the city, none of the above mentioned appeared except Edward Jayakody and Ishak Beig ( Mohideen Beigâ€™s son). It could be that these singers realized that they too were being dragged into a conspiracy to discredit Buddhists and the late Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero and backed out at the last minute?
In the hope that the above mentioned singers would be able to keep the audience spell bound with their famous renditions and afraid that if the CDs were distributed on arrival people would have left the hall after taking the CD, the organisers decided to distribute the CDs only on departure at the end of â€ś The Showâ€ť & that is how it happened.
â€śChetanahan Bhikkave Kamman Vadamiâ€ť (â€śKarmaâ€ť is the result of our â€śintentions & actionsâ€ť whether good or bad ) when we do something. Therefore, it is heartening to note that the intention of Rev.Father Lalith Aponso to insult and commercialize a highly revered Buddhist Monk in Sri Lanka of the calibre of the late Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero to achieve his own hidden personal agenda as well as that of the Catholic Church backfired for it to end up â€śthe failureâ€ť that it became, should certainly have proved to Father Lalith Aponso himself on 19th July 2008 what â€śKarmaâ€ť was all about- certainly not what he hoped to sermonize through his CD on â€śLife After Death and Karmaâ€ť.
â€śGood intentions- good results; Bad intentions- bad resultsâ€ť Atleast from here on, let us hope that the Catholic Church and itâ€™s Clergy will stop insulting Buddhists and Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka. Christian Clergy should stick to their own Christian Scriptures without attempting to find similarities or compare it with Buddhist philosophy because there are absolutely no similarities and comparisons between Christian/Catholic religions and Buddhism whatsoever.