Sunday, June 16, 2024

Buddhism should be given priority in accordance with Constitution

by damith
June 9, 2024 1:19 am 0 comment 578 views

  • Responsibility entrusted to the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary
  • Failure to support this priority constitutes a violation of the Constitution
  • People’s Sovereignty, Priority to Buddhism and Preservation of Territorial Integrity, hallmarks of Constitution

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week said that according to the Constitution, prioritising Buddhism is imperative. He said that the responsibility of upholding this principle is vested in the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. He said that this was non-negotiable.

The President said that if anyone seeks to alter this principle, he or she should endeavour to amend the Constitution accordingly.

President Wickremesinghe was participating in the inauguration ceremony of the “Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre” constructed in Kiriwatthuduwa, Homagama.

The President said that all three branches of the Government, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary should accord priority to the Buddhist doctrine within the country. He underscored that failure to support this principle constitutes a violation of the Constitution itself, saying that all Members of Parliament (MPs) are obligated to uphold and protect the Constitution.

The President said the Constitution of this country outlines people’s Sovereignty, prioritisation of Buddhism and preservation of Territorial Integrity as its core principles. He stressed the importance of consistently advancing while safeguarding these principles, saying that any opposition to them constitutes a breach of the Constitution.

The President said he was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the treatment of a critically ill patient, which was the country itself. He sid that the patient, who was on the brink of death, is now showing gradual signs of recovery. The President conveyed his heartfelt appreciation in advance for the invaluable guidance and support provided by the Maha Sangha throughout this endeavour.

As per the suggestion of the late Chief Registrar of Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, and the Chief Incumbent of Sri Dhathumaluwa Vihara Kohuwala, Ven. Mapalagama Siri Somissara Nayaka Thera, and upon the recommendation of current Chief Incumbent of Sri Dhathumaluwa ViharaKohuwala Ven. Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thera, the “Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre” has been established to cater to the needs of bhikkhus locally and internationally.

The “Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre” comprises a five-story building and a three-story building, facilitating simultaneous treatment for 50 bhikkhus. Its amenities include 20 rooms, a ward yard, an alms hall, medicine stores, emergency treatment units, office rooms and hostel for doctors, ensuring comprehensive care and accommodation for those in need.

Under the supervision of qualified medical professionals, facilities have been established to provide treatment for sick bhikkhus. A conducive environment has been created to accommodate 500 bhikkhus for meditation practice.

The construction of this Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre has been accomplished through the labour contributions of the Sri Lanka Army, supported by both local and international donors.

Buddhist hospital

Ven. Bhikkhuni Neunghaeng, the Chief of the Buddhist hospital in Ulsan, South Korea, and SinDaw, a Bhikkhuni Kaushon from the Long Fong Monastery in Taiwan, have generously contributed to the medical equipment of this facility. Their contributions were made in response to an invitation extended by Ven. Katuwana Wijithawansa Thera, Sri Lankaramadhipathi, Hethu, South Korea.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe presents the ‘Siri Someswara Vangshalankara Sasana Keerthi Sri Lokathakari’  honorary title to Ven. Pitigala Sonuthara Nayaka Thera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe presents the ‘Siri Someswara Vangshalankara Sasana Keerthi Sri Lokathakari’ honorary title to Ven. Pitigala Sonuthara Nayaka Thera

The President, after unveiling the plaque and inaugurating the Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikshu Centre, inspected the facility.

During the ceremony, homage was paid to the current Chief incumbent of Sri Dhathumaluwa Viharaya Kohuwala Venerable Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thera, for his national and religious service. Acknowledgment was extended to him for his dedication to establishing the Gurudev Suva Arana Gilan Bhikkshu Centre, catering to bhikkhus both domestically and internationally. This gesture served as an expression of gratitude from the Sri Lankan Ramayana Maha Nikaya. Following the conferral of the Sri Sannath Patra honorary title, the President presented the Vijinipata (Citation) to him.

The President also bestowed a commemorative gift upon Venerable Neunghaeng, the head of the Buddhist hospital in Ulsan, South Korea, who generously provided the essential medical equipment for this hospital. Additionally, a commemorative gift was presented to Sandhya Kantilatha, who donated the land for the construction of this Hospital.

President Wickremesinghe said: “This marks the establishment of the first dedicated hospital for bhikkhus in Sri Lanka. While our country’s hospitals have traditionally accommodated bhikkhu wards, this facility is distinctively reserved solely for the care of sick bhikkhus. The Government extends its gratitude to all contributors, particularly the efforts led by Bhikkhuni Neunghaeng of South Korea.

I wish to say that we have sought on-going support from the Ministry of Health – Indigenous Medicine section to sustain this endeavour, and I assure you that such assistance will be forthcoming. The Government is also committed to providing resources for the continued development and enhancement of this hospital. Moreover, situated in a stunning natural setting, it is imperative that we prioritise the protection of this environment as we progress forward with this project.

An argument has emerged advocating the separation of Government and Buddhism. However, considering the legal framework, every citizen in our country has the right to practice the religion of their choice, or to hold no religious beliefs at all.

Moreover, our Constitution mandates that any Government should accord priority to Buddhism. This responsibility is not solely vested in the Government but extends to the State as a whole. Therefore, the support of all three branches of the State—the Executive led by the President, the Parliament led by the Speaker and the Judiciary led by the Chief Justice—is essential to uphold this principle.

Failure to provide this support goes against the Constitution. As Members of Parliament, we have all taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and it is incumbent upon us to adhere to its principles. Despite the conflicts experienced in our country, such a request has never before been raised or discussed.

It is essential to recognise that the three branches of Government, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary should prioritise the Buddhist doctrine within our nation. While debate may arise regarding the specifics of implementation, the fundamental principle remains indisputable. As a Government, it is imperative that we adhere to it. If there is a desire to amend this principle, it must be done through Constitutional amendments.

The Constitution of our country underscores three fundamental principles: People’s Sovereignty, prioritising Buddhism and maintaining Territorial Integrity. It is imperative that we uphold these principles as the basis for our actions. Any opposition to these principles is deemed a violation of the Constitution.

At present, our hospital is caring for numerous patients, and I have been entrusted with the responsibility of treating one particular patient. We are making gradual progress in treating this critically ill individual, engaging in on-going discussions to ensure the best possible outcome. Healing a patient is not an instantaneous process; it requires time and dedication. It is estimated that it will take another three to four years to fully treat this patient. However, we are grateful for the opportunity to undertake this important work. I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Venerable Maha Sangha for their invaluable support in this endeavour.”

Profound difficulty

Chief incumbent of Sri Dhathumaluwa Vihara Kohuwala Ven. Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thera said: “There was a time of profound difficulty in our country, characterised by long queues and numerous challenges. However, since assuming leadership, the President has guided our nation to the position we are in today. This is an undeniable reality that all must acknowledge. It is his efforts that have afforded us the opportunity to convene for this religious ceremony today, a fact we are deeply appreciative of and will always remember with gratitude. Despite the demanding nature of his current responsibilities, the President’s participation in this endeavour is sincerely appreciated and acknowledged.”

President Wickremesinghe unveils the plaque to mark the opening of the Bhikkhu Centre. Ven. Pitigala Sonuthara Nayaka Thera and Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena look on

President Wickremesinghe unveils the plaque to mark the opening of the Bhikkhu Centre. Ven. Pitigala Sonuthara Nayaka Thera and Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena look on

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said: “Throughout history, there exists a record of special hospitals being established in ancient times to cater to the needs of the Maha Sangha, who devoted themselves to safeguarding and upholding the Buddhasasana in our country. Following Independence, various Governments have allocated separate wards for bhikkhus within both local and foreign hospitals. While three Ayurvedic hospitals and numerous local Western hospitals have accommodated bhikkhu wards, the recent history of our country has not witnessed the construction of a dedicated hospital for bhikkhus.

In light of this, Chief incumbent of Sri Dhathumaluwa Viharaya Kohuwala Ven. Pitigala Sonuttara Nayaka Thera, has made a significant sacrifice amid numerous challenges to realise this noble endeavour. With the assistance of the Army and contributions from local and international donors, this admirable act of charity has been made possible. Upon explaining the purpose of this initiative to the President, he instructed us to extend full support, recognising it as a constitutional responsibility to nurture and preserve Buddhism in accordance with the Constitution of our country.”

The event was attended by numerous dignitaries, including Mahanayaka Aggamaha Pandita Most Ven. Makulewe Vimalabhidhana Nayaka of the Maha Viharavanshika Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Most Ven. Dr. Niyangoda Vijitasiri Nayaka Thera of the Malvathu Vihara Sect of the Maha Viharavanshika Shyamopali Maha Nikaya, Rajakeeya Pandita Atipujya Galapitiyagama Vimaladhamma Nayaka Thera, Chief incumbent of Nikaveratiya Samadarapitiya Sri Palitha Vidyatana Piriven Vihara of the Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Rajakeeya Pandita Atipujya Matale Dhamma Kusala Nayaka, Deputy Incumbent of Mattakkuliya Sri Wickramadhapati Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Anunayaka Dr. Atipujya Valegoda Gunasiri Nayaka Thera of Thalangama Mayurapada Piriven Maha Vihara, Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Judicial Sanghanayaka Aggamaha Pandit Professor Most Ven. Attangane Ratanapala Nayaka Thera, incumbent of Tambuttegama Samadhi Buddhist Centre Sri Lanka Ramanya Maha Nikaya, Deputy Incumbent of Udarata Amarapura Nikaya, Most Ven.Nikapota Chandajoti Nayaka Thera, Mahanayake Aggamaha Pandita Most Ven. Trinikamale Ananda Thera and Bambalapitiya Siri Vajiraramadhipati Sri Lanka Amarapura Dharmarakshita Mahanayake Thera.

Among the distinguished attendees were politicians, including State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Sisira Jayakody, a group of esteemed guests comprising foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Army Commander Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage, Diyawadana Nilame Nilanga Dela of Sri Dalada Maliga, and local and foreign devotees.

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