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Violation of Buddhist precepts, Constitution

by G. H.I. de Zoysa

The Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) adopted and enacted by the Constituent Assembly of the people of Sri Lanka on the 22nd day of May, 1972 states in Chapter 11 - Section six (06) as follows:- The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Section 18 (1) (d).

The constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka which came into effect from the twenty first day of the month of July, 1977 states in Chapter II - Section 9 the same thing - the only difference being that instead of the word 'Buddhism' the word 'Buddha Sasana' has been substituted.

Therefore it is clear that the taking of life has no place in both Constitutions. The first precept in Buddhism exhorts us to refrain from takeing the life of any living being. The second precept exhorts us not to take what is not given. We have no right to take the life of any living being.

Many letters have appeared in the Press for and against the implementation of the death penalty. The leaders of almost all religious organizations have opposed its implementation. Those who are for the implementation have not given any cogent reasons as to how it would act as a deterrent. It will certainly act as a deterrent when the suspect is not given a chance to live. There is no appreciable decrease in crimes in countries where the death penalty is in existence. Many have quoted the Middle East oil rich countries where killing for wealth is not necessary. In countries like China, Russia & the USA there is no proof that it has acted as a deterrant.

Contract killings

Many have spoken of the latest phenomenon - contract killings. The contract killers who have been hired may be apprehended and executed after trial. But what about the contractors? They will never get caught. Their wealth will save them. The entire unofficial machinery of the State would be automatically put into action to save them. Some have suggested that it is only the rich who are opposed to the implementation of the Death Penalty. Professionals, academics and religious dignitaries could by no means be called rich.

They cannot even be classified as belonging to the middle class. - if such a class exists today.

Do the people who call themselves Buddhists want the State to break the first and second precepts when two Constitutions have guaranteed the observance of those precepts? Probably they wish to safeguard their lives and property by getting the State to commit murder.

One reason in my opinion for the escalation of crime is the adoption of a new religion by many people. It is the religion of consumerism. The dictum of Rene Deseartes that, 'I think: therefore I exist,' should be substituted by, 'I consume: therefore I exist'. Today the majority of the people are not worried about as to how they could obtain their next meal: they are worried as to how they could outshine their neighbour.

Finally I suggest that suspects who are convicted of rape and gruesome murders be sentenced to life imprisonment with no reprieve. As a reward for good behaviour they could be transferred to open prison camps where they would be free to meet their kith and kin.

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