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Woman with the Buddha tattoo: Much more

economics in episode than religious


sentiments
An apology to the deported woman by tourism authorities-Monday 05th May 2014
Two weeks ago, a British woman tourist sporting a tattoo o the meditating Buddha on her
upper arm was deported rom !ri "anka on the orders o the #ourts$ %nterestingly, the order had
been sought rom the #ourts not by the Tourist &oli#e or the %mmigration Authorities but by the
ordinary &oli#e$ A##ording to reports, the learned magistrate had deli'ered the order o
deportation on the ground that her presen#e in the #ountry will hurt the religious sentiments o
the ma(ority aith in the #ountry$
The (udgment, one may ponder,
would ha'e been made to a'ert two
disasters) sa'e the tourist rom
possible atta#ks by the enraged
Buddhists and pre'ent it rom
es#alating to 'iolent agitations in
the #ountry$ %t that were so, it #ould
be #onsidered a pre#autionary
a#tion taken by him$
%t was also reported that ater she
was #onined to a prison #ell, !ri
"anka*s Tourism authorities had
'isited her and oered her return
(ourney in business #lass and a ree
'isit to !ri "anka on a uture date
sin#e she #ould not en(oy her 'isit
to the #ountry this time$ The
apparent damage #ontrol mo'e by
the Tourism authorities implies that
they are not in agreement with the
a#tion by the &oli#e or the lowest
#ourt in the #ountry$
An appeal to the #ons#ien#e o
Buddhists by +hie !anga ,ayaka
o Ameri#a
The rea#tion o the lo#al population
to this episode was mi-ed$ !ome
had e-pressed their anger at the
authorities, while some others had
appro'ed o their a#tion$ But e'en those who had disappro'ed o her deportation had not raised
the issue rom the point o 'iew o the arbitrariness o the a#tion or 'iolation o human rights or
disregard o the .ule o "aw$
/'en the learned Buddhists had been silent on whether there is any truth in the #harge that the
tourist had insulted Buddhism by ha'ing a tattoo o the Buddha on her body$ %t was only the
+hie !anga ,ayaka o Ameri#a, 0en 1alpola &iyananda, who had raised the issue rom that
point 2a'ailable at) http)33www$island$lk3inde-$php4page5#at6arti#le-details7page6arti#le-
details7#ode5title61028829$
The 0enerable !anga ,ayaka ha'ing appealed to the rational side o the !ri "ankan Buddhists
had asked the :uestion whether the Thai Buddhist monks with similar tattoos on their bodies
will also be returned to Thailand in the e'ent o their 'isiting !ri "anka$ ;e had also asked !ri
"ankan Buddhists to #onsider how they would eel i a Buddhist monk wearing a saron robe
is thrown out o <!A on the ground o being disrespe#tul to so#iety (ust be#ause they look
dierent in their dresses$
The appeal by the 0enerable !anga ,ayaka to the Buddhists ba#k at home has been that they
should #ome out o their #hildish world outlook and learn to appre#iate and tolerate emerging
global dieren#es in religion and religious pra#ti#es$
The British woman with a tattoo o the Buddha on her upper arm should be #onsidered a rebel
in her pro-+hristian #ulture$ A##ording to reports, she had been a nurse or mental patients and
she had been bold enough to display her new religious aith without the ear o being
perse#uted by a predominantly-+hristian so#iety$ This is possible only in #ultures that tolerate
opposing 'iews and re#ognise di'ersity in aiths$ The non-tolerant aith and emotion-dri'en
Buddhist #ulture o the day in !ri "anka is ar rom these ideals =
The deportation is not (ust religious
Many might #onsider the in#ident as an e-treme rea#tion by authorities dri'en by religious
sentiments$ But that is not so when one looks deeper into it$ %t raises se'eral issues rom what is
known as >e#onomi# so#iology* that dates ba#k to the time o the British /#onomist 1illiam
!tanley ?e'ons who #oined the term in 1@AB$
Ma- 1eber, the late 1Bth #entury Cerman philosopher,
later e-panded the rontiers o the sub(e#t by analysing
the relationship between e#onomi#s and religion and
#ultural disen#hantment whi#h the modernity had brought
to so#iety in the #urrent era$ %n a path-breaking book
titled >The &rotestant /thi# and !pirit o +apitalism* and
published in Cerman in 1B05 and in /nglish in 1B80,
1eber argued that modern #apitalism and its
entrepreneurship were born ater indi'iduals were reed
rom the #rut#hes o the #hur#h and se#ularism was
propagated in so#iety$
%t #aused the pri'ate enterprise to lourish, the ba#kbone
o modern #apitalism-based e#onomi# de'elopment$ %n
the same book, 1eber argued that so#iety gets disen#hanted rom old traditions, 'alues and
emotions as moti'ators o people*s beha'iour and embra#es, instead, rational approa#h to lie$
.ulers don*t ha'e absolute powers
%n traditional so#ieties, authority is deri'ed rom
traditions D whether it is rom royalty or rom religious
power$ 1eber argued that in modern so#ieties, it is the
legal power guided by rational thinking that gi'es one
authority to rule others #on#eptualised as >rational-legal-
authority*$ ;e identiied three important #hara#teristi#s o
modern states that are guided by this rational-legal-
authority$
Eirst, there is an administrati'e and legal order that has
been #reated and #an be #hanged by legislation$ !e#ond,
the ruler has authority o'er #itiFens and their a#tions
within its (urisdi#tion$ Third, the ruler has the right to use
physi#al or#e >legitimately* within its (urisdi#tion$ Thus,
the rational-legal-authority is not absolute but bounded
by laws that pres#ribe airness and (usti#e$ And these
laws are also not un#hangeable but #ould be amended or
abolished i they do not adhere to airness and (usti#e$
Eairness and (usti#e lead to another #on#eption in so#iety
D the .ule o "aw D that no one is abo'e law and e'eryone is e:ually sub(e#t to law$
.ule o "aw is twisted in so#ieties ruled by religious leaders
!o#ieties ruled by religions or religious leaders are not guided by rational-legal-authority but by
traditions, pra#ti#es and un#hangeable #ustoms$ The .ule o "aw in su#h so#ieties is twisted
sin#e the religious #lergy holds a superior position o'er the rest$ ;en#e, the law pro'ides a
distin#ti'e impunity and power to those who belong to the ruling religious #lass$ This #lass
en(oys the same powers and pri'ileges e'en when a #ountry is ruled by lay rulers who are
guided and dire#ted by religious leaders$ %n su#h #ountries, laws are ena#ted by lay legislators
or go'ernment organs are #reated by rulers purely on the ad'i#e o religious leaders$
There #ould be two types o oppression in su#h so#ieties$ Eirst, i so#iety is #omposed o people
o the same religion, those who are #riti#al o religious leaders or their pra#ti#es are oppressed$
!e#ond, i so#iety is pluralisti#, both the dissenting indi'iduals in the same religion and those
who belong to other religions, ethni# groups or #lasses are oppressed$
%n other words, e'eryone in su#h a so#iety is #oer#ed to ollow the rules ramed by religious
leaders without e-#eption$ !ome do so willingly be#ause they are materially rewarded by the
religious establishmentG some others do so be#ause they ha'e been emotionally brainwashed o
the beneits o ollowing those rules$ But many others do so be#ause they do not ha'e any other
alternati'e sin#e disobedien#e results in harsh punishments$
Eaith leading to identiy dissenters as enemies
.eligion addresses to the spirituality o people whi#h #annot be per#ei'ed ob(e#ti'ely$ ;en#e, it
belongs to the emotional side o human beings who, unlike animals, #an imagine things in their
minds$ These imaginations, then, in#ul#ate aith in people and aith is guided by emotional
build-up o indi'iduals$ Eaith and emotions nourish ea#h other$ Thus, a so#iety ruled by
religions or religious leaders is ull o #olle#ti'e aith and #olle#ti'e emotions$ This #olle#ti'e
aith and #olle#ti'e emotions immediately #lassiy people into two groups$
Those who adhere to the same #olle#ti'e aith and #olle#ti'e emotions are
re#koned as riendsG those who do not, as oes$ 1hen emotions run high, the
use o 'iolen#e to subdue oes is (ustiied though the basi# tenets o the
underlying religion may unders#ore pea#e, pea#eul #oe-isten#e and non-
'iolen#e when it #omes to dealing with other religions or ethni# groups$ At this
stage, rationality is o'er#ome by insanity$ The appeal by the +hie !anga
,ayaka o Ameri#a to Buddhists ba#k at home was not to allow insanity to rule
o'er rationality$
Hisagreements) Iey to progress
%n a pluralisti# world with di'erse ideas, it is :uite natural or people to
disagree with ea#h other$ %n a#t, su#h disagreements are benei#ial or
mankind to gain wisdom and attain enlightenment$ !o#ieties ha'e mo'ed
orward and #i'ilisations ha'e lourished not by agreement but by
disagreement whi#h leads to ree in:uiry, #riti#ism and :uestioning the
pre'ailing knowledge$
This was beautiully put by the ounding 0i#e +han#ellor o the ormer
0idyodaya <ni'ersity, 0enerable 1eliwitiye !ri !oratha Thero, in his ad'i#e to students o that
uni'ersity$ The learned Thero said that >uni'ersity students should be probing, #riti#al and
rebellious*$ %n other words, uni'ersity students should not a##ept anything without e-amining,
should #areully e'aluate both pluses and minuses and :uestion the pre'ailing knowledge i
they were to be useul members o so#iety$
The ,obel "aureate in e#onomi#s, E$A$ ;ayek said the same in a slightly dierent way in his
1BJ0 book, The +onstitution o "iberty, that) =% we are to ad'an#e, we must lea'e room or a
#ontinuous re'ision o our present #on#eptions and ideals whi#h will be ne#essitated by urther
e-perien#e$K
The Buddha wel#omed disagreements
Buddhism is a uni:ue religion be#ause its Master, the Buddha, wel#omed disagreeing 'iews$
;is method was to #lariy, analyse and establish with a#ts and logi# what he prea#hed instead
o #oer#ing his ollowers to a##ept them$ /'ery dis#ourse made by him starts with an in:uiry
rom the Bhikkus in the audien#e what they had been dis#ussing beore his arri'al at the
!ermon ;all and asking them whether they would wish him to #lariy the issue$ ;e prea#hed
only ater the Bhikkus in'ited him to do so$
%n Brahma(ala !utta in Higa ,ikaya, he ad'ised the Bhikkus not to get angry e'en when others
ha'e insulted him or the Hhamma or the !angha or not to get elated when others ha'e praised
him or the Hhamma or the !angha$ The Bhikkus were ad'ised to #lariy the position without
getting angry or o'er(oyed, as the #ase may be, be#ause both anger and (oy disturb the pea#e in
mind and be#ome an impediment to attaining enlightenment$
Hisagreements to be resol'ed through open dialogues
Thus, when there is a disagreement, what is ne#essary is an open dialogue but #ondu#ted using
ethi#al and moral means$ %n Iatha'atthu !utta in Anguttara ,ikaya, his ad'i#e to the Bhikkus
was that when a :uestion is asked o them, not to wander rom one thing to another, not to pull
the dis#ussion o the topi#, not to show anger, hatred and displeasure at his opponent, not to
seek to #rush the opponent by ridi#uling him or grasping at his little mistakes or not to #ome up
with irrele'ant matters$
%n Ialama !utta in Anguttara ,ikaya, he ad'ised the Ialama #lan that they should not a##ept
anything as true be#ause it has been repeatedly said, in a##ord with tradition, in a s#ripture,
heard as rumour, related by a tea#her or in agreement with reasoning and logi#$ %nstead, they
should ponder on it and a##ept it i they ind it benei#ial and good or someone$ ;is ad'i#e to
all was that they should not a##ept his Hhamma until they ha'e personally 'eriied its
truthulness$ Thus, in Buddhism, (udgments are not made through emotions but by applying
rational thinking$
The Buddha image) <ni'ersal symbol o wisdom, enlightenment and inner pea#e
The Buddha did not appro'e o anyone worshipping his body or materials he has used in a bid
to attain enlightenment$ They were, a##ording to him, atta#hments that impede one*s (ourney
toward attaining enlightenment$ ;en#e, he ad'ised e'eryone to ollow his Hhamma and not
him$
%n 0akkali !utta in !amyutta ,ikaya, he ad'ised Bhikku 0akkali who had been enamoured by
the Buddha*s body and #ould not keep his eyes o him that i the latter desired to see the
Buddha he should ollow his Hhamma aithully$ Eor about 400 to 500 years ater the Buddha*s
passing away or &arinibbanam, his dis#iples ollowed this wise #ounsel and Buddhism was the
only religion whi#h did not ha'e an idol to worship$
This was to #hange ater the Candhara s#ulptors who had been inluen#ed by the Creek
s#ulptural and art traditions #reated the Buddha statue around the se#ond #entury B+/$ %t was
not the e-a#t repli#a o the Creat Master who had li'ed some 400 years ago but a representation
o Hhamma he had prea#hed$ The beauty o the Buddha image #reated by these artists is that
when one sees it rom any angle, one sees the ingenuous smile o the Buddha that represents
his wisdom, enlightenment and inner pea#e$ Thus, one who worships the Buddha statue is
e-pe#ted to a#:uire these :ualities whi#h in'ariably help him in his mar#h toward
enlightenment$ Today, the Buddha image is uni'ersally used in this sense$
Thais with the Buddha image as amulets
%n dierent #ultures, the Buddha image is used in dierent ways to support one*s aith in the
religion$ %n Thailand where about B5L o the population are Buddhists, it is #ommon among
the Thais to wear amulets o the Buddha images around the ne#k and ha'e su#h images tattooed
on the upper part o their torso$ The emotionally dri'en belie here is that i the Buddha is #lose
to someone, he is #lose to his path as well$ Thus, it is not #onsidered as an insult to the Creat
Master or the Hhamma he has let behind or people to ollow$ %nstead, it is #onsidered as
supporti'e or one to in#ul#ate his aith in the Hhamma the Buddha has prea#hed$
The 1esterners who ha'e embra#ed Buddhism too ha'e ollowed this greater #ultural tradition
to display their aith in the Master$ ;owe'er, aith is emotional and when indi'idual aith
de'elops into a #olle#ti'e aith and #olle#ti'e emotions, it also brings orth the notion o enemy
who does not ollow the tradition as one has ollowed$ That is what has happened to the !ri
"anka*s Buddhists today$
The woman with the tattoo is a rebel against +hristian #ulture
The British woman with a tattoo o the Buddha on her upper arm should be #onsidered a rebel
in her pro-+hristian #ulture$ A##ording to reports, she had been a nurse or mental patients and
she had been bold enough to display her new religious aith without the ear o being
perse#uted by a predominantly-+hristian so#iety$ This is possible only in #ultures that tolerate
opposing 'iews and re#ognise di'ersity in aiths$ The non-tolerant aith and emotion-dri'en
Buddhist #ulture o the day in !ri "anka is ar rom these ideals$
!ri "anka*s shame) +allous system inested with #orruption
But what she re'ealed ater she returned to the <I should be an eye-opener or all !ri "ankans$
!he #harged that the &oli#e had attempted to e-tort money rom her, the lawyer she had
retained had not supported her, there were open se-ual gestures by some when she was in the
#ell and the Magistrate did not gi'e an opportunity or her to e'en e-plain hersel$ All these
point to #orruption in the system and absen#e o the .ule o "aw, whi#h does not bring any
#redit to !ri "anka*s Buddhist led system o go'ernment and go'ernan#e$
These are serious issues whi#h !ri "anka has to resol'e on a priority basis i it wants to assure
progress, pea#e and harmony among dierent ethni#, religious and so#ial groups in so#iety$ !ri
"anka is mo'ing away rom rationality and embra#ing emotionalism as its 'alue system as
posited in e#onomi# so#iology$ ;en#e, there is mu#h more e#onomi#s in the in#ident in'ol'ing
the woman with the tattoo o the Buddha than religious sentiments$
21$A$ 1i(ewardena, a ormer Heputy Co'ernor o the +entral Bank o !ri "anka, #an be
rea#hed at waw1B4BMgmail$#om$9