|Buddhist ideals and musician monks
The other day, I was aghast to watch a television discussion among some music personnel including a Buddhist monk. Lately, there have been similar talk shows with other Buddhist monks taking part in them and hence the last one was not an unprecedented one. However, it is a recent phenomenon in our country that Buddhist monks are involved in this kind of mundane matters like composing lyrics of songs, etc., and furthermore in extolling their virtues in glorified terms describing them as even of religious value.
At the risk of being branded an abnormal freak by all involved - and they include by far the vast majority in over country as well as overseas - I dare to state that such worldly arts are not meant for Buddhist monks which very term by definition connotes renunciation of worldly attachments and commitment to a higher spiritual goal on their part.
Now, do attempt a minor survey. Choose any one hundred popular songs at random of whatever language. Is not the underlying theme of over 90 per cent of them the libidinal love, the natural culmination of which is sexual gratification? Are the Buddhist monks not supposed to endeavour to suppress, control or overcome such carnal propensities? If so, how can one reconcile their supposed commitment to spiritual targets with their involvement in such mundane arts at the same time, the latter of which promote carnality?
Sri Lanka did not have a tradition of such arts, music in particular, over the countrys history of 2500 years unlike in the Indian sub-continent. What passes off as our national music today is patently Indian stuff with Sinhala phonation, which is propounded by Indian-trained Sri Lankan artistes. Some of our men went to India in the last decades and imbibed on Hindu Indian traditions. After coming back home, they made every possible attempt to transplant those traditions in Sri Lanka. Mark it, all this happened in the last less than 50 years. Prior to that, over the millennia we had no music, drama or such mundane arts as those terms are understood in their present day sense.
But why is this contrast in the affairs of India and Sri Lanka? That is because of the differences in cultures of the two countries based on their respective religions. Hinduism promotes sensuality and all that goes with it, namely, mundane arts such as music, drama, etc. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has had a culture shaped and moulded by Buddhist ideals. Sikha Valanda Vinisa of antiquity of many centuries refers to these mundane arts as deserving to be condemned. Even at present, those Buddhists who observe Eight Precepts (Ata Sil) on poya days endeavour to refrain from getting involved in Nacca, geetha, vaditha, visuka dassana mala etc., that being the 6th precept, because Buddhist traditions deem them to be non-conducive to the path leading to higher goals. By some strange coincidence, Muslims the world over are enjoined to be just that by their religious scripture, the Holy Koran, at least in the holy month of Ramazan, if not all the while. Thus, incidentally, I see a close relationship between the pristine Buddhism and the fundamental Islamic tenets.
Therefore, I implore that not only Buddhist monks but even discerning lay Buddhists ponder over this solemn matter. I am of the considered view that most of the todays social evils such as criminalisation of the society, moral degradation, loss of social values, mans beastly manifestations, etc., all have their origin in these un-Buddhistic developments, namely, the popularization of these mundane arts. I am not too sure, however, if this global trend is beyond redemption or not.
During their heyday in the Afghanland before the noted September 11, you will recall,
Talebans banned all kinds of music, television, cinemas, videos, etc. in their country.
Although it may sound extremist to you and me yet they had a mass following all the world
over including some sections in the United States and the Muslim world in particular.
While condemning their violent propensities in the strongest known terms, I do resonate
with them in their ideal of such banning.
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