Which travesty is worse?


The GMOA has done itself in, meaning committed hara kiri in the manner in which opinion of them by the general public has hit rock bottom. They are now thought of as killers, not healers; totally uncaring when caring for the sick is their duty; their prime and probably only concern seemingly being earning money and not spending their time and effort on the poorer segment of the population who go to government clinics and hospitals. And this multi-pronged crime in the face of them, the GMOA doctors, having had their entire education from Grade 1 to the MBBS degree free of charge. Additionally, many of them would have benefitted from Mahapola and other scholarships and bursaries; and specialization abroad, all expenses paid. Can anything be crueler and stamped over with ingratitude writ large as they announce breezily that the next day there will be staged an island-wide strike. They desert their posts and patients so casually and all smiles as if they said they were just going out for a cup of tea after much strenuous consultation with patients. They really do not seem to care a jot for the sick and now, even about public opinion. And what is the great crime against them that push then to breaking the Hippocratic Oath so breezily? Worse, actually causing the death of patients? The continuation of SAITM that is a boon and mercy to so many clever students who were shut out of the government medical faculties by a couple of marks at the competitive AL exam.

All the above is known by all, including the GMOA members. What is not known is that the people are really getting very angry. There is a limit to the forbearance of even the most underprivileged and mildest of persons. We witness this vituperation on TV from all parts of the country. Just you listen to a person or two who have been turned away from a hospital on a routine clinic day or have gone to consult a doctor. They bitterly spit abuse and scold the doctors and some rain curses on them. Soon one day these verbal curses will metamorphosise to action. Either the doctors’ cars or homes will be stoned - and worse. The doctors asked for it and they will get it!


People don’t just vituperate against the GMOA doctors. The compare them to former healers of the sick. Oft repeated is the saying "we had so much respect for the doctors of a couple of years ago and now we treat the present striking lot less than dogs. They are killers not healers."

How true that is. The GMOA was the most powerful trade union in the country but they never frivolously struck work and if they dissented on some issue, they would work it out not take it on poor patients. This was just a couple of years back. I cannot help but intone the addendum: until Padeniya and his band of merciless doctors took hold of the doctors’ Association. Not all who are forced to strike work are with them. They have to make themselves sheep and follow the herd.

It was sad, very sad, hearing a specialist pediatrician who dedicatedly loved her work saying she looked forward to retirement. Being a doctor was not what it was, she said, and added that money seemed to be the only concern of the many. She added, "But when a child you are treating gets well, that’s reward enough."

We still revere doctors as we leave a consultation room or hospital; fortunately them being out of reach of the GMOA. They may charge a fee but their giving you the impression they care for their patients and they have time, energy, skill and knowledge to attend on you and heal you sends you home blessing them.

The Sangha

It takes much effort for me to pronounce the fact that the Sangha has been disgraced woefully and its very name tainted by the group of yellow clads who went pinnapatha for money to pay the fines imposed on two civil servants who acted unlawfully and were proved to have done a mighty wrong by carrying out an illegal order by their Big Boss. We could have tossed the slur off and consoled ourselves that it was a temporary blot which would erase itself or at least have its stink reduced. This we said and thought when Gnanasara Thera with his Bodu Bala Sena played havoc. "Young monks unheard of before just trying to draw attention to themselves," we thought. But they being political and cat’s paws encouraged by a powerful political Tom cat started the destruction of the Sangha from within. I have heard respected monks declaim at bana preachings that Buddhism is being made to disappear fast from this land. As a corollary, the Sinhala race was also in danger of disintegration and disappearance. Stuff and nonsense! The religion is being truly degraded and to be thought of less than its real worth by the yellow robed themselves. The disgraceful monk-beggars stretching out their bowls for money to be dropped in was a travesty and corruption of the act of pinnapaatha. Don Manu in the Sunday Times of 24 September succinctly named them the Moneypura Sect. He said they had added a sixth precept; namely Salli saranang gatchchami’ We laughed but it is no laughing matter. It is a business to be taken note of and nipped very early: this changing of the vinaya rules to be observed by monks.

A worse blight is the total silence of the Mahanayakes of the different sects. It looks to be that the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter holds similar views to those of the Joint Opposition, so he may well hold his tongue on the pinnapaatha issue; but the other VVIP monks? Except for the Mahanayke of the Malwatte Chapter the other Mahanayake Theras were in India at the time. We expected their condemnation on their return. None on this low down adulteration and degradation of the purity of the Sangha. This last week a senior monk said the government should listen to their advice, while some juniors attacked a UNHRC safe house for Rohingya refugees in Mt Lavinia.

A vinaya rule

Monks are not supposed to handle money, leave alone possess it. Foreign monks often abide by this vinaya rule, so also nuns and even ten preceptors. An Australian woman who was ordained in Sri Lanka and lived here never possessed money. She came to our country on pilgrimage and for a holiday a couple of years ago and to meet her former supporters in gratitude for what they had done for her. She left for Australia from my home. As she was stopping over in Singapore, I slipped a fifty dollar note in her bag, "just in case you need to hire a taxi or some such." "No, I don’t ever carry money. I cannot take yours."

This sort of vinaya rule can, we all agree, be changed somewhat as times have changed so drastically from the setting up of the Sangha by the Buddha. But the rule of pinnapaathe to be so maligned as to use the hallowed habit for the collecting of money to pay the fines of persons who were proven guilty is beyond belief. Present day monks restore this pinnapaathe advice of the Buddha during the vas season. The collected food is brought back to the temple where it is mixed and shared with those who were unable to go on the alms round due to sickness or old age, and eaten with no regard for the six senses, but merely for nourishment.

Thus the sacrilege of this practice of the Sangha that has been practiced since Buddha himself went on pinnapaathe, has cost the Sagnha much as regards respect for it. There still are excellent monks, both forest meditators and those in temples, but an indelible stain has been smudged on the Saffron Robe.

Many have written on these two issues. I did likewise because I wished to weigh one travesty against the other and judge which was worse. They both are ugly and should never have occurred: reckless, thoughtless doctors’ strikes and monks twisting a Buddha-advised habit for political mileage.

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