Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 05 June 2015
Child-Monk & Child-Soldier
(Picture by nihal Chandrakumara)Included in the article ‘Child ordinations and the rights of children’ by Professor Gananath Obeyesekere
The article ‘Buddhist Violence in Burma & Sri Lanka’ by Barbara Crossette, published by The Nation in 2013, was shared with me today by a fellow Sri Lankan. I take that as information I ‘need to know’. Why did I need to know today? I feel it was because of responses from a Sinhalese to my yesterday’s article about Majority-Minority Relationships. Truth invokes true responses in support – sometimes from within the same group that opposes my expressions.
In her article, author Barbara Crossette concludes ‘In Sri Lanka, Buddhism is a faith that defines society for the Sinhalese, and it becomes the identifying characteristic when they feel threatened.’ I identify with this conclusion and see nothing wrong such conduct. It’s like the average person ‘staying at home’ when there is violence on the streets. But the problem arises when they assume authority over those who are not within that cultural circle, to enforce their views – as did a Sinhalese in response to my article. Below is the early morning communication with this Sinhalese:
Sinhalese: Do you agree that Tamils need a country to call their own, and that country could be (should be) Tamil Nadu? Shouldn't the world Tamil community try to find a way to make it a sovereign country? It is more than 130,000 sq.km and has only 72 million inhabitants, out of which 62 million are Tamils. There are about 77 million Tamils in the world.
Gaja: Tamils of Sri Lanka are entitled to call Sri Lanka their home. It is my home and I am a Sri Lankan Tamil. YOU seem to have a problem with it. If there are some who feel they would be better off in India – they would go there. Some of my relatives are there. My grandmother settled down in India after World War II when they were displaced from Burma. There would be Sinhalese also to whom India would be home. By limiting homeland definition to majority race – you are diluting their opportunities towards ownership outside Sri Lanka.
Sinhalese: The Jews would do anything to keep Israel developing, while the world Tamil population doesn't want to free Tamil Nadu from India, but would try to make a Tamil state in small Sri Lanka. Hence, discussion such as this comes about time to time.
Gaja: I have Jewish friends to whom Australia is home. Those who USE Jewish State to show off – would promote war. I work against such in terms of Sri Lanka. I am driven by my Truth. Looks like YOU are promoting war in Sri Lanka. If there are no Tamils those forces would turn against other minorities and against your own race. Are you then suggesting that Muslims go to Middle East and Burghers become stateless? What kind of solution is that? We have to be a model globe – with Sri Lanka being a Nation of multicultural communities. When we emigrate – we need to become global. When we then interact with those who continue to reside in Sri Lanka – we help them become global without needing to leave home. If you also did likewise – you would identify with my contribution. If you want me to be like your Jews – you are promoting Tamil Eelam. Tamil Nadu is not home to majority Tamils in Sri Lanka. Our specialty is that we make a home of the place we emigrate to. I believe that the sacrifices we made to invest in higher education contributed strongly to this.
To me God created man with Divinity, the identity with which elevates human to Sovereign State. Family, Community, Country – help us get there. I explained this as follows to the Sinhalese:
Sinhalese: Do you find yourself as a member of the whole in Australia and as an Australian?
Gaja: ‘When a family feels a part of one section of community – it merges naturally to form community. Community likewise merges with other communities to form nation. Some take the direct path of an individual.
I took that direct path here in Australia and yes, I do feel common with all Australians. I feel fellow Australians’ pain as mine. I now share this with the Tamil Community of which I am a natural part – so that the Community could naturally merge to form / expand Australian Nation.’
I believe that for most of us realizing our Sovereignty starts with family. The Mother is the first service provider to the child and hence the Mother-Child relationship is the most Natural example from which relationships flow. The Mother who provides the service does so through her natural abilities. When she so provides without expecting material returns from the child – the Mother feels happy and complete in terms of the relationship. But with time, the child is able to look after her-himself. Then the positions have to be firmly identifiable and the gap between ‘service provider’ and ‘beneficiary’ is filled by the beneficiary expressing appreciation and/or showing respect. That is the natural way of maintaining the Sovereignty of any relationship.
As the ‘family’ expands, developing the structure needed to maintain this ‘Sovereignty’ of the whole – becomes more and more challenging. But one who paid her/his dues to service providers naturally merges with wider community/society. Likewise a service provider who is satisfied with gratitude and/or respect from the beneficiary/child, progresses to become a natural leader of the community. Those who expect material benefits as settlement – stagnate at the local / primary level, without the forces that influence Natural Family support. They tend to use money as the measure and hence develop the tendency to separate as individuals.
One who has realized Sovereignty through parent-child relationship would be a good governor with the ability to develop structures to maintain the Sovereignty of the Nation. In terms of True pathways – the pathway through which this person travelled defines the most natural structure for that person and those who believe in that person. They usually are the Spiritual Leaders of a Nation. Their blessings naturally fill the ‘gaps’ in the structures of the official systems that their believers are part of. I believe that Religious leadership was based on this in most countries. It went wrong when instead of ‘filling’ the gaps they became the Government – as is obvious in Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka where Buddhist monks continue to be considered as leaders by Sinhalese-Buddhist politicians and where Buddhism has been given high status in the Constitution, the risk is that monks who have not realized their Sovereignty as individuals and/or through their Buddhist Institution, would have a big gap between their True status and their allocated status. The risk of this being the case is high where children are recruited to become monks. In religions like Buddhism and Catholicism priests do not marry and hence parents do not have the right to enroll their children in these institutions. As per the laws of Sri Lanka – citizens must be of voting age to express their own independent decisions. It should therefore be unlawful for a child to become a Buddhist Priest or a Catholic Priest until 18. Hindu Priests do marry and therefore they have the right to groom their children to become priests. When parents push children for whatever reason into environments that are alien to the parents when they were children – the parents lose their connection to Sovereignty. Until the child becomes an independent adult – the child is part of the parent. If separated prematurely – the Sovereignty of that Relationship is damaged and therefore the Sovereignty of that family, community and country. Professor Gananath Obeyesekere, in his article ‘Child ordinations and the rights of children’ has stated in relation to Sri Lanka:
‘Recent newspaper articles, photographs and reports in our newspapers have given prominence to massive campaigns to recruit thousands of children to the Buddhist order with the Prime Minister himself urging the recruitment of two thousand children as novices.’
The criticism of Sri Lankan Government in relation to child-soldier recruitments by Tamil armed groups is of negative value due to the Government’s own promotion of child-ordinations. That leaves the problem in the hands of Tamil leaders to lead Tamils out of such practices. A Politician has the duty to groom politicians and not rebels. Sri Lankan Rebels who fought on the basis of personal belief and have now accepted Political positions have the duty to groom Politicians and NOT rebels. Until Sinhalese address the child-ordination problem – and Tamils address child-recruitment problem – neither has the right to claim nationalism status.
Once we take a ‘position’ the duties as per that position may require us to act against our own personal Truth. During the Great War of Mahabharatham, Prince Arjunan lost heart at the beginning of the war – because his beloved grandfather Beeshmar was the leader of the Opposition. That was when Lord Krishna gave us the Bhagawath Geetha through which we learn that a person who is born a warrior and has received grooming as one – has the duty to fight to protect the Sovereignty of his nation/people. By duty Beeshmar was the head of the army of the opposition. Hence Arjunan had the conflict between his personal Truth at family level and his duty as per his position. Likewise Buddhist Politicians who are bound by the voting age has the duty to oppose child-ordination in Buddhism.
In her article Buddhist Violence in Burma & Sri Lanka, Ms Barbara Crossette highlights in relation to this:
[In Burma, missing from the reaction to the gruesome scenes of terrified Muslims killed and displaced are an unambiguous condemnation and moral leadership by Aung San Suu Kyi, whose father, Aung San, founded the Burmese army, with which she now works in transforming her country. While known around the world as an outspoken champion of democracy, she has now become a Burmese politician, careful not to take on the ethnic Burman Buddhist majority, the powerful monks or the military.
Monks were also fearless defenders of democracy, but the question that now arises is, Democracy for whom?]
When Ms Aung San Suu Kyi fought for democratic rights they were based on her personal beliefs and that is the parallel of Prince Arjun’s affection for his grandfather. Once Ms Suu Kyi took on the official position as a political leader – she has the DUTY to express as per that position. This is also the case with many of us in relation to the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka. An outstanding example is the position of Hon Wigneswaran – the Chief Minister of Northern Province of Sri Lanka – who is now being accused by some as being pro-LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and also pro-Tamil Nadu in India. Once we take on leadership roles - duty must come before personal beliefs. In that duty we would be facilitating majority in the group to achieve their goals through their own beliefs. All beliefs merge at the destination of Truth. Hence the partiality is temporary for a greater purpose.