I wrote this article following the interesting, well researched article by Mahinda Weerasinhe, who exposed how vulnerable Buddhists in the silk route were. Millions of decent peace loving people, living in harmony with nature, around the globe have been murdered by greedy hostile aggressive but more technically able nations.
There are about 40 organised religions and faiths in the world. ref :http://www.religioustolerance.org/var_rel.htm
Religious practices often involve rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life. There are many Buddhists, Christians and Muslims, who follow the code of ethics given by their respective religions, who are kind, good human beings. At the time Lord Buddha formed Buddhism, there were other religions such as Jainism and Hinduism that also had evolved concepts of Karma, rebirth, Nirvana etc. It is possible that cross fertilisation of concepts may have taken place between religions.
There are common features in Jainism and Buddhism which amazed me.
Religion has been a creation and a main part of the ancient world. Indians, Egyptians, Aztecs, Mayans and many other groups practiced religion, generally to do with betterment in the life after death. Some people, such as those following the Muslim faith, believed in one creator God whilst some believe in many Gods. Many religions had concepts of heaven and hell. The equivalent concept of heaven in Buddhism appear to be Nirvana and that of hell appear to be Sansare. The concept of Nirvana is an ancient Hindu concept, along with the cycle of death/rebirth. The man made concepts of heaven, hell, God, Nirvana, Sansare, rebirth appear to have no verifiable evidence, yet billions believe in such concepts Many science thinkers say religion is a thing of the past, ancient world.
Sikhism also had its roots in Hinduism, but later Sikh Gurus, learnt from Muslim threats and developed the militant version of Sikhism, where followers were guided to become soldiers to defend their faith physically.
Followers of various religions believe that their religion is the truth. Christians believe that the Bible is telling the truth, whilst Muslims believe it is the Kuran and Buddhists believe that Buddhism is the truth.
Many ancient believers made offerings at the temples to Gods. This practice can be seen in Kovils and Temples even to day in Sri Lanka. and in other Buddhist countries in the world. Some ancient South American tribes even made human sacrifices. People made offerings to Gods to get various favours from Gods. Religion is associated with Spirituality. A spiritual person may be described as some one who is more aware of things that are not simply physical. Ancient people, who did not have an understanding of nature wanted answers to questions such as “Why I am I here “,“ Where did I come from? “ , ‘Who created the earth ?“and so on. Ancient Indians believed in rebirth and sought ways to end the cycle of life and rebirth. It was a fashion, at the time of Buddha to seek means of salvation.
Religion has many uses such as it brings tranquillity and a peace of mind at times of distress, provides therapy, provides hope, provides possible answers to why some one is disadvantaged, disabled or ill, provides hopes of after life and so on. Religion also perform the useful function of providing guidance on morality and values to its followers. Many religions, specially the Christian and Muslim faiths, promote social interaction and provide a support network to its followers. The community spirit provided by Christians and Muslims appear to be a source of great strength to the followers of the respective religions. I observed that such organised community activity lacking in Buddhist organisations in Sri Lanka, but found in Buddhist orgs in Malaysia. Buddhism has good guidance on morality, such as the precepts. Further, meditation, mindfulness and the middle path are good things in Buddhism. However, concepts such as Nirvana has become questionable for its usefulness in a modern highly competitive world.
Religion has negative effects such as being treated as the opium of the people, its effect as a mind virus and so on.
I would like to respect peoples beliefs, provided religion is not used as a weapon. Muslims have killed Millions of Buddhists. Muslims have killed even fellow Muslims belonging to different sects, on the belief that killing non believers will enable them to go to heaven. Clearly in such circumstances, it would be fair to challenge such beliefs. In fact for non Muslims in Lanka, it is a time bomb, wafting to explode! and both Christians and Buddhists need to be aware of the threat from Muslims who believe that non believers should be killed.. Religious tolerance is important for peaceful co existence in Sri Lanka.
It is also well known that imperialists used religion as a weapon. Imperialists on a grabbing spree for land and resources, used the bible in exchange for land and as a means of subjugating the natives. Again it is fair to challenge beliefs, when religion is used as a weapon. We also have Buddhists who are brain washed to seek extinction and encouraged to give up desires. In a nutshell, we have one group, say group A, who will kill non believers and get their land, we have another group, say group B, who exchange a bible for land. We have a third group, say group C, seeking extinction and encouraged to give up desires. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to work out who will be the loser and who will fight against each other. Evidence shows that Buddhism has been wiped out from most of the previous Buddhist countries. Further evidence is that group A and group B have waged war for dominance.
Buddhism has certain things common with Hinduism, such as Nirvana and rebirth, although Buddhist version of Nirvana is different to that of Hinduism. Sikh religion also has roots in Hinduism. When Sikhs found that Muslims were threatening them, they modified their beliefs to deal with threats from Muslims. Sikhs are now developed as soldiers to fight physically for the faith. This development is due to Muslim aggression. Buddhists could learn from Sikhs.
Arabs have been credited with he development of Al gebra, an important branch of maths. As for the so called Arabic numerals, which were used by Arabic traders, the origin is now thought to be India, along wit development of Zero. The invention of zero is a major event in science, maths and business. Arab scholars are also credited with documenting knowledge originating from Europe and Asia. It has to be acknowledged that modern day scientific knowledge originated from Europe and United states and a large contribution coming from Jews. Vast bulk of discoveries and inventions have been made in the West (Europe and USA). In comparison, the contribution by Arabs is tiny. Europeans advanced in science and technology and the Arabs didn’t. Neither did the Chinese nor the Indians, as long as they hung on to ancient belief systems. The moment, Indians and the Chinese became secular, they have made tremendous progress The progress of Europeans is thought to be due to their better thinking methods and better proving methods..
Is this lagging behind the West due to the influence of religion?. In the ancient world, China was the main source of discoveries and innovation. The reason why China lagged behind the West was researched by Needham, an Oxford academic. Needham accused the belief systems in China, which included Buddhism, for the decline of China.
Since the dumping of religion by both India and China, they have made tremendous progress. This phenomenon cannot be surprising as religions create a biased mind and stop people thinking rationally.
As the law of nature is “survival of te fittest “, it would appear that those seeking extinction, do not want to compete, want to kill off ambition, and will automatically not survive as a result. Nalanda Buddhists did seek extinction and thought it was karma and did not even fight back. They got the extinction they wanted. I hope the Sinhalese think twice before seeking extinction. If Prabakaran had his way, we would have been pushed to the sea and had our extinction. Tamil problem has been there for the past 2500 years and unless we have a strategic survival policy and means to survive, then the future may be bleak. Further those Norwegians and Tamils promoting Buddhism, probably want the Sinhalese to do their own extinction without the assistance of Muslims, Tamils or even without the help of the Western imperialists. Western imperialists have killed millions of natives around the world, made natives extinct and it is crazy to seek extinction ourselves, instead of developing survival skills and fighting spirit..
Many scientists are of the opinion that religion n is a thing of the past. The views of well known thinkers are given below.
The famed science fiction writer, Arthur C Clark, who once denigrated religion as “a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. He was so anti religion that he did not want any religeous rights at his funeral.
Russell:. I regard it as a disease born of fear
Einstein: A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary
Buddhists in the silk route have achieved their objective of seeking extinction, as now only a few Buddhists are left in the silk route. The Muslims that killed the Buddhists may have thought that they are doing the Buddhists a favour as the Buddhists did not fight back or run away. Do Sinhalese in Sri Lanka want to follow Buddhists in the silk route and seek extinction so that Tamils and Muslims can have Sri Lanka ? Seeking extinction (Nirvana) has a number of disadvantages in a highly competitive world, such as making a person less competitive (Why bother to compete if one is seeking extinction), less ambitious, more passive, more meek, an easy victim as a sitting duck, an easy push over and so on. I believe, this Nirvana is a suicidal dangerous concept and should be avoided. In the modern world, which is highly competitive, when organisations fine tune processes to win, seeking extinction appears to be suicidal. If we ourselves seek extinction, it will be less effort our enemies will have to spend on eliminating us. Further, Nirvana seekers may end up being poorest of the poor due to their lack of competitive spirit. Extinction seeking may be attractive for cowards who are afraid to face the challenges in the real world. Smart people will take Nirvana with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, blind followers may end up as the most economically weak group. There is a grave danger that, whilst the Sinhalese aim for extinction, the rest aim for survival and winning. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to predict who the losers will be. There are good things in Buddhism that could be used and dangerous things such as Nirvana that could be dropped, just as Sikhs did to their religion. There are already several versions of Buddhism in the world.
If people learn to think rationally, instead of seeking extinction, then the potential is enormous. For the success of anything, clarity of the mission is vital. In life, the mission should be to overcome obstacles and win and not to seek extinction. If Sinhalese continue to seek extinction, then it is likely that they will automatically reach their target. They were nearly there before MR saved them from Praba. If the Tamils make another attempt, we may not have MR to save us, and we have to think for ourselves on how to survive. After all ,Sri Lanka is the only home country we have and we have to save our selves from going extinct, rather than seeking extinction.
1. ‘Religion is a mind virus’ “http://home.comcast.net/~plutarch/MindVirus.html”