Report of the LLRC - A Buddhist Response


by Rajah Kuruppu

A recent event of much significance was the release of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation "Commission (LLRC) on 20th November 2011. The full report was placed before Parliament on the 16th of December 2011.

The Commission was appointed by H.E. The President to investigate and report on the lessons to be learned from a conflict lasting around three decades and submit recommendations for reconciliation between the different communities, ethnic and religious. It took the Commission around 1-1/2 years to investigate, discuss and formulate its report. The Commission set about its task in a professional manner accepting representations from various segments of the population. More importantly, the Commission gave an opportunity for the voice of the people of the North and the East, who suffered the most from the conflict to express their views regarding this conflict. The Commission took great care to visit the main areas of conflict so that the victims of the conflict could narrate their experiences in familiar surroundings.

In its report, the Commission mentioned the important role that could be played by religious organisations in the reconciliation process stating that Sri Lanka is blessed and enriched by the four great religions of the world, namely, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. The Commission reported that these four religions could unitedly encourage their devotees to act with wisdom and understanding. By so doing they could add their weight to ensure that there is no repetition of the brutal violence that dominated the affairs of the country at great cost in terms of life, physical assets and development foregone due - to the unstable environment that-harmed economic progress.

In the editorial columns of this journal, we have earlier referred to the valuable leadership that could be given by the religious leaders of the country, especially the clergy that is held in high regard by their devotees, to promote communal and religious harmony and to arrest the deteriorating moral standards of the country.

The report of the Commission has been hailed by the moderate sections of the people, both local and overseas. The fact that it has been criticised for condemned by extremist elements, local and foreign, is also perhaps a reflection of the moderate nature of the report.

For monks and lay Buddhist scholars and preachers to appeal to Buddhists to adopt an attitude of generosity and consideration towards minority communities and religions is no difficult task. There are many sayings of the Buddha which support such an approach to minorities.

The Buddha did not refer much to communal, national, race, ethnicity and such differences, since they were not that relevant to the society in Northern India at that time. The main factor that divided that society was the caste system where one is born to a particular caste which remains so for life. Under this system different kinds of work were assigned to different castes and one could not pursue work in other areas. With time, there was ‘flexibility and people began to pursue other activities. However, some castes continued to- be considered higher and others lower.

The Buddha led a frontal attack on this system and declared that one should be judged not by birth but by ones conduct. In this connection the words of the Buddha recorded in the Suttanipata, Vasala Sutta, Verse 21 is most relevant and are as follows,

"Na jacca vasalo hoti na jacca hoti brahma Go kammand vasalo hoti kammana hoti brahma

Not by birth is one an outcaste,

Not by birth is one a brähmana,

By deed is one an outcaste,

By deed is one a brahmana".

Moreover, the great Buddhist qualities of Metta, loving kindness; Karuna, or compassion for those in distress; and Mudita, joy in the success of others, are extended to all without distinction. The words of the Buddha as recorded in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, a very popular Sutta often recited on religious occasions, are as follows in Verses 5 and 8.

5. "Those visible, and those invisible,

Those dwelling afar and those near by;

Beings already born, as well as beings seeking birth;

May all beings be well and happy!

8. Cultivate unhindered, without anger,

without malice, loving thoughts towards

all the world and a boundless heart, above, and below, and all around.

The arguments of the Buddha to demolish caste would apply with equal force to ethnic, religious and such differences.

The Orders of Bhikkhus and Bikkhunis were open to all people irrespective of caste, wealth and social status. Actually, some of the distinguished members of these orders were from the so-called low castes. In fact, those entering these Orders had to change their names and titles so that they did not indicate their rank and birth in lay life.

Buddhism should and can be a unifying force. The Buddha urged his disciples to promote concord among people and not to sow discord and—dissension In fact, a King who was regarded as a most just, wise and benevolent ruler of all times is Emperor Dharmashoka, who ruled a vast empire in Northern India about 200 Mears after the time of the Buddha. He advocated goodwill to all in accordance with the Dhamma and this is reflected in his edicts, inscribed in rock, where some survive to the present day. Some of them read as follows:

"Just as I want my own children to enjoy all prosperity and happiness in this life and the next, so I want the same for ally men."

"The world should be comforted by me. From me the world should receive happiness not sorrow."

"There is no duty higher than to promote the happiness of the whole world."

These indicate the emphasis placed in the practice of Buddhism regarding the happiness of all people.

Another important recommendation for reconciliation in the LLRC report was for political parties to apologise to the general public of Sri Lanka for mishandling the ethnic problem for which all these parties were responsible one way or another. This is a worthy recommendation that is in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha which recognises ones unwholesome actions and conveys regrets to the adversely affected people. It also advises them to make a determination not to repeat them in the future. It is sad to note that none of the political parties, including the small parties that - are sometimes disparagingly referred to as three wheel parties, had recognised and endorsed this recommendation. The two leading political coalitions in the country were largely responsible by their acts of commissions and omissions for the neglect in solving the ethnic problem of the country with disastrous consequences.

An argument in Buddhism against differences between the mankind is biological. It has been pointed out that there are differences between various species of plants and animals. The foot of an elephant is different to that of a horse or deer. Thus, there are differences between animals as well as among plants.

On the other hand, the feet of men are not different despite differences in caste, community, nationality, religion or social standing.

It is further argued that the generative organs, the colour, the odour of different animals such as the buffalo, the horse, the elephant and the monkey furnish further support to separate the various kinds of animals. However, on all these counts, different castes and communities and religions of humans resemble each other.

The Buddha led an exemplary life treating all people alike and extending goodwill and compassion in equal measure. He did not discriminate even between the good and the evil and helped them all wherever feasible to traverse on the path to liberation.

There have been rare instances where dissension and discord has been spread in the name of Buddhism. Such—actions are totally contrary to the fundamental teachings and the spirit of this great religion.

Our nation has witnessed 30 years of war, which caused untold misery and a sense of deep insecurity to a large number of its people. The recommendations of the LLRC regarding the important role that could be played by religions should be supported by the Buddhists for the welfare and progress of all people that comprise this country.

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