Are Buddhism and Its Clergy, the Root Cause of Sri Lanka’s Problems?

A response to the response by Sanjeewa KarunaratneAre Buddhism and Its Clergy, the Root Cause of Sri Lanka’s Problems? Sanjeewa’s response is found at


Are Buddhism and Its Clergy, the Root Cause of Sri Lanka’s Problems? I don’t think so!

Anyway, I am thankful to Sanjeewa for reading the long essay on religion and governance. Although it is doubtful whether Sanjeewa read it in its entirety, it is understandable not having the time or frame of mind to read all of the rants.

Few things need to be corrected quickly. You have chosen a discursive heading that says “Are Buddhism and Its Clergy, the Root Cause of Sri Lanka’s Problems?” I have to point out that it is not a question answered in my essay. I wasn’t interested in finding root causes. Any one thing cannot be the root cause of all the issues. IMO the causes are multifactorial and trying to find “root causes” is a futile effort. In my essay I am not trying to blame anyone or anything for the problems that we face. It is rather a suggestion about way-forward regarding one aspect (one out of many) -the connection between religion and governance.

Also you have purposely or unwittingly distorted a few claims in my bigger essay posted at I will come to that point little later.

On the outset let me re-emphasize that I do not have strong convictions regarding any of these topics that I cannot let go of. Trying not to cling hard on to anything (ideologies in particular) is perhaps a value that I borrowed from Buddhism. I do understand that people who are more educated and knowledgeable than me hold different opinions to that of mine regarding these topics. If those more enlightened people read my rants and if they care, they are bound to respond, convince me, and free me of my wrong opinions. Even during the short period between starting the essay and publishing it, I changed some of my opinions slightly. However, at the moment I am ready to passionately argue this opinion, as I have not seen anything convincing yet to change.

When someone challenges the opinions stated, they can take many approaches. (a) Some will take each point carefully and dissect the point logically. (b) Some will come to the table with a hardcore conviction that they will not change no matter what. They will argue passionately to convince themselves of their own opinion with less regard to the actual points discussed. This may include deliberate distortion of facts presented; in order to prime them for attack (c) Some will try to find ways to personally attack the authors, if they are not agreeable to what is being said.

I thank Sanjeewa for not taking the approach (c) but staying somewhere between (a) and (b) which is a very good start. In any case, reading the essay and caring enough to respond is something I am grateful of.

Seeing “mud slinging” exercise everywhere in Sri Lankan political arena, I am not surprised that you used the word “mud slinging” in your response to describe the purpose of my article. There is a not so obvious difference between mud-slinging and critical analysis. I hope you can take a step back, and define this difference yourself.

You also have committed the sin of distorting the claims made in my essay in order to make them an easy target for attack. I am not saying that you did this intentionally; it could be an oversight in your hurry to respond. You have quoted from the essay “socio-economic status of a country improves when the religiosity drops”. Where did you find that in my essay? I have written “It seems to tell us that when the socio-economic status of a country improves, the religiosity drops!”. So you have quoted exactly the opposite of what I said. My claim was that religiosity of a country seem to drop when the socio-economic conditions improve. That is a simple analysis of the available data. I have not argued, and in fact it will be silly to argue that dropping religion will improve the socio-economical status. This is simple logic stuff. A -> B (A implies B) does not mean B -> A.

In order to prevent any future readers from mixing up the logic, I have reworded that part of the article so that it is crystal clear.

You bring in an interesting point regarding relative nature of the claim that “democracy being perceived as the best form of governance”. I cannot agree with you more! In fact I myself am not convinced that democracy (“majority opinion rules”) is the best form of governance. I need to underscore again that my article is not about finding ultimate truths. It is about doing practical improvements to what we have today.

The “happiness of life” argument is also an important one. In fact, that is the single most important yardstick that I like to use for measuring quality of life. However, I would vehemently argue against your claim that if we use “happiness” as the yardstick for “development” then the most religious countries will top the list (if that is what you meant. It is not very clear what you mean by “lists would have been reversed.”). For example do you see Sri Lankans as a “happy” bunch of people?

If you want to argue that “happiness” can be achieved not by materialistic means, but by letting go of desire to cling on to materials; then that would be a whole new topic, and a one that I am very supportive of. In fact, I would also like to remind that just like material things, clinging on to opinions is also not good for “happiness”. I would like to take a Buddhist stance here (in bit of a lighter vein) and point out that you seem to be clinging on to current implementation of the Buddhist institution in Sri Lanka so dearly, that it can affect your happiness. What is the possibility of ‘letting go’ that dearly held opinion, and look more openly at available options?

Again I hope you will not misread my request for letting go of the passionate clinging to the institution to be synonymous with dismantling the actual institution. When you are deeply embedded in something, it is difficult to see the light outside. So my request is a very Buddhistic one of "letting go"; One that Lord Buddha himself advised.

Lastly you have gathered some interesting data points that correlate 'religiosity of a country' with 'the duration of independence'. However, I am not clear enough of your conclusion. Perhaps you need to expand on that idea. Having said that, thanks Sanjeewa for engaging in this dialog. Although it may seem that I am coming down hard on your opinions, I am certainly glad that you are interested in dialog.