President approves bill to empower Maha Sangha to discipline wayward monks

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Ranil Wickremesinghe 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said for the first time, he gave approval to a bill to register a discourse that empowers the Maha Sangha to protect Sangha discipline.

Speaking during the debate on the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs in Parliament, the President pointed out that many problems arise when the Sangha does not act according to the Dhamma, and it has been happening since the time of the Buddha.

President Wickremesinghe said there are many problems in the Buddhasasana and when the Maha Sangha does not act according to the Dhamma, many problems arise.

“That is why for the first time we have approved a bill to register a discourse to give powers to the Maha Sangha. After receiving approval from the Legislative Department, we will present it to this House. Because there must be some control,” he said.

Pointing out that in the past, the kings made certain reforms to the Buddha Sasana, the President said the bill is necessary since there are several issues that need to be paid attention to with regard to religious affairs.

“During the reign of King Parakramabahu, some members of the Ven Maha Sangha were sentenced to death. We cannot do that as we do not have the power for that under the Constitution. Article 09 of the Constitution refers to the conduct of the Sangha. We also have three chapters namely Siam, Amarapura and Ramangna. This draft is necessary because we have several issues that need to be paid attention to with regard to religious affairs,” he said.

“I saw an undergraduate monk scolding and blaming our Most Venerable Malwatu and Asgiri Mahanayaka Theros. We have to ask who these people are. Are they real monks or impersonators?”

The President said it is not possible to gain special protection by merely wearing robes and acting against the Dharma. Sometimes, through this behaviour, the issues of the Sangha society are raised by the lay people and that’s why the bill is necessary.

He further pointed out that today, a large number of people enter universities as monks but end up as laymen.

“Initially, we must decide that if we enter the university as monks, we will be awarded the degree as monks, and it will not be transferable. If they need to de robe they should discuss it with their Maha Nayake Theros. 

The behaviour of the monks in universities should also be linked to these discourses. If the existing method continued, our order will be lost. That’s why I raised this issue today.”

The President informed the House that the government will also look at how to preserve and also to show the distinct nature of Hinduism in Sri Lanka as compared to India. Many Hindu Gods are worshipped not only by Hindus but also in Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. “Shiva worship is prevalent in Jaffna while Vishnu is worshipped in the Southern part of the country. We worship many Hindu gods like Vishnu, Skandakumara, Katharagama, Pattini and Vibeeshana,” he noted.

The President said he asked the subject minister to compile a report on the distinct nature of Hinduism in Sri Lanka as compared to the Hindu worship in India, where again there is a difference in North India and South India. The others too can help in this effort.

President Wickremesinghe told the House that the Government also has decided to set up a separate institution to study the history of Sri Lanka as the history of the country has been forgotten.

“One objective of the institution is to conduct research on the history of the country. The history that we know today is different to what we have in the Mahawansa. It comprises the views of one side whereas there are other views.”

“Hence we would look into them and expect to move forward,” the President said.