Prominent bhikkhus criticise ‘healer’ Deegoda Kumara | Sunday Observer

Prominent bhikkhus criticise ‘healer’ Deegoda Kumara

On the first Saturday of September, nearly 35,000 people had packed into the grounds of Horowpothana Ruwanwella Maha Vidyalaya to attend a ‘healing service’ for the ill conducted by supposed spiritual healer Deegoda Kumara. Many had traveled from afar to attend the service, which commenced in the evening of that day. It was to last till the evening of the following day. But exposed to the elements, inevitably the heat and other severe conditions led to the deaths of three attendees because their illnesses were aggravated, leaving another 13 in serious condition.

As the Police commenced investigations into the deaths, the incident not only thrust Deegoda Kumara into the limelight but also earned him widespread criticism for the ‘healing services’ conducted by him. The man was a fraud and con- artiste, many claimed.

Nevertheless, within the last three years, Deegoda Kumara has gained a reputation as a healer of the incurable with a widespread following among Srilankans, both locally and abroad.A one time writer of children’s books, a cartoonist, even a seller of Buddha Puja books, and a former journalist, Deegoda Kumara had turned healer seven years ago.

Promoting his “healing camps” on his Youtube channel ‘Dew Suwa Seva’, he claims in a video that a girl born with only one kidney gained another through his blessings, within a week while a child whose testicles had not descended was also cured through his powers. By his own admission, he could restore sight to the blind, make cripples walk, and cure numerous other illnesses through the power of the Lord Buddha and the universe. Kumara claims he had cured 900,000 patients since he started healing.

But Deegoda Kumara is not alone in his claims. In recent times a number of similar self-proclaimed healers, preachers and prophets have cropped up in society using recruits gathered from main stream religions.

Deegoda Kumara’s healing services are held free of charge often consisting of a number of elements. Attendees are often led through the maithree meditation and requested to seek the healing of others. At some, he would criticize the government health services claiming he was doing their work. He would preach to those attending asking them to focus their minds and energy on healing as he would go to some and bless them personally. While none of this appears to be harmful, the recent deaths, however, led to his tall tales being scrutinized. “A bus driver in the parking lot was cured of back pain even though he was not attending the service” he once told the attendees.

Going even further while conducting his healing services, Deegoda Kumara appears to mention the names of prominent Bhikkus in the country to draw the trust of the crowd. At a recent service, he told his followers that the Mahanayaka of the Malwatta chapter was attending the service while also claiming the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Chapter Ven. Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera was healed by him. A claim the Thera has vehemently denied since.

“A man visited me once claiming he had cured Bandarawela Amithananda Thera of his ailments. He then asked if I was being troubled by any illness. I replied I was only troubled by old age. I did not receive any treatment from him” the Thera revealed.

According to the Thera, many individuals are now using the names of prominent people to attract people to their fraudulent activities, simply in order to trick them. “As the Buddha preached, some people do not have foresight,” he said adding that the government must look into these matters.

Commenting on the controversy the Cheif Incumbent of the Mirisawatiya Vihara, Rev. Eethalayawatunawewe Gnanathilake Thera noted that despite the government spending a vast amount of money to create a doctor, the people instead of trusting this doctor go in search of these healers. “They go behind these fallacies instead,” he said adding that people must be more practical in their approach to life.

Meanwhile, Rev. Prof. Induragare Dhammaratana Thera also cast doubts on Deegoda Kumara’s claims. “We can somewhat believe in spirituality but there is no proof to place one’s trust on unseen powers,” he said. Noting a number of instances where Sri Lankans had been taken for a ride, he said people must be more pragmatic in these modern times, and make their decisions based on science and logic. Appearing on a media outlet recently Dr Yaminda Jayaratne from the Sri Lanka Rationalist Associations challenged Deegoda Kumara. “We challenge him to heal the patients we present before him,” he said.

But responding to his critics, especially media reports surrounding his healing services and the incident, Deegoda Kumara claims someone powerful is funding this negative campaign against him. “I respect both Bhikkus and Doctors who are criticising me, however, the media is being manipulated by money and power” he alleged. According to him, the ongoing media campaign against him could only stem from two reasons. “Either it is for power and money or they are afraid of me” he said.

Despite the brickbats and recent deaths, Deegoda Kumara also swore to continue his healing services. “We have come on this journey and we will continue despite the obstacles” he assured his followers. His next healing service is scheduled to take place in Kurunegala while preparations are already underway.

However, despite Deegoda Kumara being determined to continue, concerned by the tragic event and calls from Bhikkus to inquire into these healing services, Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religous Affairs Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said the government has decided to take action against possible fraudsters in the guise of spiritual healers.

According to the Minister, a decision has been taken to discuss at length the future steps to curb these issues. “These must be stopped” he stressed.

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National Christian Council cautions against wolves in sheep’s clothing

Recently yet another figure and organization emanating from a faith, albeit different to that of Deegoda Kumara was brought into question with a number of religious leaders expressing their concerns. This time on the receiving end was self-proclaimed pastor and self-acclaimed Bishop/ Prophet Kirby de Lanerolle, head of the WoW life church.

Releasing a statement the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), recently said it takes serious note of the activities and recent developments of the so-called ‘WOW Life Organization’ led by the self-anointed “Bishop/Prophet” Kirby de Lanerolle of the so called Apostolic Diocese of Ceylon.(ADC).

“Whilst affirming the religious liberty to study, interpret, preach, and teach the Holy Scripture we are deeply concerned and disturbed at the misinterpretations of the Holy Scripture and the propagation of erroneous teachings based on such misinterpretations by Kirby de Lanerolle,” it said.

The release also called upon the ‘Faith Community’ in Christ to be fully aware of the danger and life-destroying nature of ‘cult movements’ in our times which are centered on personalities, as in the case of Kirby de Lanerolle and the WOW Life Organization, and to exercise utmost caution and discernment in associating with such fabricators of the ‘truth’.

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