The days of cult and clan in politics


Theravada Buddhism has been with our people, strengthening our society and enriching our culture and traditions, thanks to the absence of a person with the thinking of today’s Wimal the Brave-clan, who is against all religious cults that are less than 500 years in the country.

Had such a person, who has skills in fasting near the UN office, having a ready twist of tongue, and diverse other competencies in political juggling, been in the royal court or whatever political circles there were at the time Arahat Mahinda brought the teaching of the Buddha to King Devanmampiyatissa and our people, more than 2300 years ago, it could well have been rejected as a cult – a break away from Hinduism and lacking in 500 years too.

One is not certain how this Brave-clan politico of ministerial status came to decide on 500 years as the cutoff period for a belief to be recognized as a religion and not a mere cult. If one takes the arrival of Roman Catolicism to this country to date from the coming of the Portuguese in 1505, the Catholic Church jumps the cult hurdle by more than a century. This must bring great joy to the Catholic Church, in view of the threats it now faces from the various Born-again and other Fundamentalist Christian groups that are eating into the numbers of its faithful with clear determination. 

I never imagined that Wimal Brave-clan had a soft corner for the Catholic Church  to announce such a cutoff against religious cults, but he may be rewarded if he passes this message to the Vatican, which is facing a similar problem as the RC Church in Sri Lanka, in its strongholds in South America, especially  Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Mexico – with the expanding assemblies of the Born Again and Fundamentalist Christians posing a huge challenge to the established church in those places.

Whether Brave-clan and his political allies had thought of it or not, this CCS or Clan Cutoff Strategy, which may be part of new political thinking in the country, can create many new problems to those in the less than 500 year category religions of the cult category.

It was a couple of weeks ago that there were celebrations of 200 years since the arrival of the Methodist Missionaries in this country. With the new cult thinking in politics, it would be of little concern that these missionaries, in addition to bringing Methodist or Wesleyan Christianity to the country, had also made a huge contribution to education by establishing institutions such as Wesley, Richmond, Kingswood, Jaffna Central, and Methodist, Southlands, Newstead and many other outstanding schools for both boys and girls, apart from, the many rural schools they managed from Chilaw to Panadura, Moratuwa and Matara.

It also matters little to these "anti-cultists" that it was two of these Methodist (or cult) schools – from Ambalangoda and Galle- that produced the Father of Free Education – the late CWW Kannangara.  Who cares – such cults have no place in the thinking of the National Freedom Frontage of Brave-clan politics.

This thinking would pose a major problem for the Anglican Church too, as it dates only from after the arrival of the British colonialists, who established control over the country less than 200 years ago. Does this mean that Thomians are cult school students, and does this cult rule also apply to  those who pass out of Ladies’ or Bishop’s Colleges and their counterparts in Kandy or other cities in the country? Was SWRD Bandaranaike a product of cult Christianity from S. Thomas’?

Wimal Braveclan and such political types can do much more than raise a whole can of worms with their political utterances and actions that lack in principle.  While worshippers at Kataragama and the other traditional Hindu shrines have no threat from this CCS line in political thinking, there could be others who will face major hurdles today. What comes to mind first is that of Sai Baba. There is enough written all over of how much of a religious cult Sai Baba worship and rituals are. But, there is an ever increasing number of people, especially among Buddhists, who are captivated by the Sai Baba image or spirit, with regular  "bhakthi’, ‘prayer" or bhajan sessions taking place in many  cities, just like those in the cult category of Born-again or Fundamental Christianity.    

Another interesting aspect of this new opposition to the cults in faith is the entire issue of cults in politics. Wimal Brave-clan is a break away from the more recent party of revolutionary left politics, the JVP. Taking the JVP, that led two bloody insurrections, to be the founder of revolutionary politics in Sri Lanka (even if not necessarily so), are we to conclude that the National Freedom Front of Brave-clan leadership is only a breakaway cult of JVP politics?

In fact, there is the more interesting issue of where the politics of cults begin. If it is necessary to be more than 500 years for a faith to be a religion and not a cult, what is the age required for a political group to be a genuine political party and not a political cult?  Must we go back to the time when the Ceylon Labour Party, the Ceylon National Congress, and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party began long before independence, to be recognized as true political parties? Are all parties that emerged after independence, still very much less than a century old, nothing but political cults?

The problem that we seem to have in facing the social problems today is that of the outburst of political cults that we see every day. There is a Bala Sena cult that has lost its Faceboook placing (not that it matters). Is the JHU a cult of Buddhism in politics? What are we to do with the rapidly growing political cults of heroin and ethanol smuggling, which may soon grow into religious proportions? And is the new trend of how school principals and teachers punish students, even driving them to suicide, a part of a new cult in teaching that needs nourishment or destruction?

Wimal Brave-clan has certainly opened a whole new issue to capture our interest, instead of being bothered with the boring issues of national unity or the 13th Amendment. It is an interesting diversion from the reality of politics that is becoming more of a combination of cult and clan? Will we soon hear once revolutionary voices being raised against the clan influence in politics, or will we have to suffer both the clans and the cults of politics in the new trends of political strategy in the country?  Clutch your cult, embrace your clan, and lets march forwarded as divided as we can!


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