Religious Bribing Attempt Exposed

Topic started by VP (@ on Wed Aug 21 05:43:33 .
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Mr Ananda Fernando, an ex-Police officer, is residing at 8/4, Samudra Mawatha, Panadura. He is 54 years old, married, and living with his wife and two sons.

Ananda hails from a respectable family from Moratuwa, and the former MP for Nuwara Eliya, Mr T William Fernando was his uncle. Ananda's caring wife, Asoka, is the daughter of a well respected educationist, the retired Principal Mr M M M Fernando of Panadura, and a Grand Daughter of the legendary K T Cornalis Peiris Loku Iskole Mahattaya, one of the Head Masters of Upadhyaya Vidyalaya, the first ever Sinhala Buddhist School in the country to be registered with the Government.

With the above family background, both Ananda and Asoka had naturally been brought up in a strong Sinhala Buddhist environment. They are very good Buddhists and maintain a very close rapport with the temple of the area, Abhaya Karunaratne Mudalindaaraamaya of Welipitiya, Panadura.

Ananda developed a cancer a few years ago, and has been undergoing treatment for some time. His condition had been particularly bad towards end 1999. He later switched over to Ayurvedic medical treatment, which he says, has helped him to significantly improve his conditions.

Ananda was a train traveller during his working days. As it is quite natural, there have been many who had befriended with him during his daily train rides to and from Colombo. One such friend was a lady called Kumudini, whom Ananda knew as a Buddhist. It was this lady who called upon at Ananda's residence in the first half of 2000, having heard of Ananda's illness.

Being a very charming and friendly family, Ananda and Asoka received Kumudini, and discussed with her his illness and also the progress Ananda has been making since switching over to Ayurvedic medical treatment. It was at that time, the offer came up from this friend that God would be willing to cure Ananda's cancer. It was further pointed out by Kumudini that there was no point in obtaining medicine without developing the "right belief in God" !

Ananda could not understand this because he had known this lady as a good Buddhist a few years before. He asked, in return, from Kumudini as to what happened to her, and what made her follow God and the Bible, as she used to be a Buddhist ! Then came the reply that she also went through a difficult period in her life, and a group of Christian friends managed to convert her to Christian belief, which gave her relief ! She offered her services to Ananda also, saying that the family would not have to worry about anything, including resources, and that God will look after all such needs. She only wanted Ananda's consent !

By this time, the financial situation of Ananda's family had been badly eroded. The illness had already dried off the only spring of family income, which was Ananda's job. Even the donation amounting to Rs 150000 raised by relatives, villagers and friends to meet Ananda's medical expenses, for which both Ananda and Asoka are still very grateful, also had been spent.

When this "God sent friend" left promising to return, Ananda and Asoka had a detailed discussion. The Sinhalese Buddhist philosophical foundation laid in them by their parents had been too strong to be broken by the hammers of this "newly converted servant of God". But, on the other hand, they found no reason to refuse the offer to cure by this evangelical missionary, if such is without any obligation by Ananda's part, as stated by Kumudini. Buddhist philosophy had provided them an extensive margin of freedom to decide what was correct and incorrect, and they finally decided to let their "friend" to continue, but with no obligation whatsoever from their part.

Kumudini, visiting them once more, had agreed to proceed. She had come with another companion, who knew more details of what was to be done. They prayed at Ananda's residence for his recovery. Ananda was given a Bible to be kept with him continuously, when the next visit was made in a few days, this time accompanied by a Pastor as well. Ananda was requested to read the Bible in Sinhala when he had time. The Bible was to be kept at his bedside. Ananda found nothing wrong in any of those, as reading any material would only enhance one's knowledge. He wondered, though, in his mind that the freedom he enjoys being a Buddhist, as for a follower of another religion this would have been a "sin" and also a possible reason for punishment by "the almighty", and sufficient grounds for excommunication by the fellow followers !

A group of five, including two leading and experienced Pastors, visited them a few days later. They started praying aloud. They called upon the God to look at his "creation" and "cure his son". They claimed that the blood circulating in this poor son is the same as that of the God. They appealed to the God that Ananda be cured. After praying, they said they were happy with the progress, and went away promising that they would come back to start the healing process. In the meantime, Ananda was to do nothing other than keeping the Bible and reading it at his wish.

The day arrived, when a van stopped in front of Ananda's residence. Two Pastors with a group of people, together with Kumudini, were there. They were ready to start the process of curing. They told Ananda and Asoka that Ananda would be definitely cured if they act as advised by the God. Ananda was a bit concerned hearing this, as he had been told earlier that there would be no obligation by his part, and wondered what they would ask him to do next, but decided to observe further. The person who appeared to be the leader of the group told Ananda that he need not worry any longer about financial problems of the family, as God will take care of all their needs. Almost at the same time, a member of the visiting group came into the house with a big bundle wrapped in brown paper and tied with rubber bands, appearing to anyone as a bundle of currency notes. The bundle was kept on the main table of the house. Ananda and Asoka, quite naturally, had a look at this apparently sizable "gift of God", and it was only they who would know what went in their minds.

Having placed the "bundle" on the table, the group started praying. They prayed looking up and raising their hands towards the sky. They called upon the God to grace his "human son" with good health, and with prosperity. After prayers of about half an hour, the leader turned to Ananda and said that the God had heard the prayers, and was willing to cure him. He said, though, that the God wanted Ananda and his family to follow him, and act as he said.

Ananda's house has a main living room. A statue and a picture of Lord Buddha are placed at a prominent place in this living room. The family lights a coconut oil lamp in front of this Buddha Statue every day. By the time of this latest round of prayers of the "God's agents", this oil lamp was already brightly lit. The leader of the evangelists turned to this statue and lamp, and Ananda was asked to go and put off the flame of this lamp, "Budu Pahana", before they proceed with any further curing effort !!!

Guess what would have happened next. Here was an offer for a "guaranteed cure" of Ananda's cancer. The possibility was that the entire expenditure on medicine would be saved from that point onwards, even if the family could still be suspicious about the "promised cure". In any case, there was not even a "promise for such a cure" outside the framework of these evangelists. Moreover, a big bundle of "appearing to be" currency notes was placed in front of the eyes of the family, amidst their already poor family economics. Even if no more monies would be given, this much alone would be more than something. Materials for religious bribes of all kinds were there. Would any lay human being resist such a possibility ?

These are the "bribes" the evangelists offer to prevent, as best as they could, any "resistance" by the Buddhists when they are asked to perform acts breaking emotional attachments towards Buddha. In this case, they attempted to get Ananda to put off the Budu Pahana, in another place it would be getting the Buddhist to break the head of a Buddha statue, or to stand on a picture/statue of Buddha and jump over it. Possible bribes include bundles appearing as huge sums of money, promises to cure illnesses, jobs for youth, marriage proposals for unmarried in their late 30s or 40s, babies for married couples who have been unable to conceive so far, good Christian schools for children, etc. Such are offered to Buddhists, particularly to those who are badly in need. When they succeed in getting the Buddhist to jump over the Buddha statue, brake its head or put off Budu Pahana, they believe that the "psychological bond" the Buddhist had towards Buddha and Buddhism would be lost for ever, and that such people would never go back to Buddhist way of thinking. This was exactly what they tried with Ananda, by asking him to put off the Budu Pahana, while ensuring that the material required for "religious bribing" were made available.

Well, how did Ananda react ? There may be lay Buddhists who are the poorest of the poor in this society and left in isolation, who would fall pray, willingly or unwillingly, to such unethical "religious bribery". But, the true Sinhala Buddhists would not sacrifice their most venerated Buddhist philosophy, way of life and patriotism, even for their lives. Ananda and Asoka are living examples for such calibre. Having realised that the evangelists were trying to get over the most difficult hurdle in their process of conversion, Ananda asked the leader of the group of evangelists why cannot the process of curing continue without putting off the Budu Pahana ? Answer was that " God could not cure in the presence of Budu Pahana".

Ananda's moral strength being a Buddhist, which all our Buddhists have in us though we do not realise, came into surface. He was quite determined in his reply: "There cannot be any reason why your God could not cure me in the presence of Budu Pahana, if he is all powerful and ready to help the mankind without expecting anything in return". "I can only think of two possibilities", Ananda said, in front of all. "One is that our Budu Pahana is more powerful than your God so that his forces are unable to enter our house in the presence of Budu Pahana. If so, I better seek cure from our Budu Pahana, which then logically becomes more capable than your God". Ananda continued : "The other possibility is that your God is so unkind to demand as a bribe that the people should do exactly what he wants them to do if he is to help them in return. How can such a God be good and loving ? Our Buddha did not expect anything in return when he realised someone was in need of something. He helped, cared for and treated both enemies and friends. I better seek relief from such a kind heart than a bribe-seeking selfish and cruel heart". Everyone appeared stunned. None of the evangelists had any answer. Ananda proclaimed : "If your God is capable and willing, let him cure me, but I am not going to put off our Budu Pahana" !

Saadhu .. Saadhu.. Saadhu !!!

Defeated evangelists did not stay there a minute longer. They vanished together with Kumudini, who never returned. By the way, they had taken with them the "bundle" also, may be to offer as potential "bribing material" for another similar attempt !

What about Ananda and family ? Yes, Ananda is still battling with his malady, but says he is much better now since he started obtaining Sinhala medicine from a Veda Mahaththaya. Ananda and Asoka did not expect anything from anyone when they resisted the attempted conversion quite bravely, even ignoring the promises to cure Ananda's cancer, and to financially assist them. There may be thousands of other strong and brave Sinhala-Buddhists who resist such unethical evangelical activities. Such people are our assets. We need to take care of them, and promote them. We also need to inculcate such values in our present and future generations. We need to educate our Buddhist youth. We need to develop Buddhist brotherhood networks to financially, morally, medically, socially and professionally support our fellow Buddhists. We have to take action to establish Buddhist social development funds, and a possible source of money may be a certain percentage of collections received at Buddhist Temples and Sacred places. We have to teach correct history to our future generations. We have to re-establish Buddhist education in Sri Lanka, as those Buddhist schools taken over by the Government have now become breeding grounds for generations without Sinhalese-Buddhist roots or values. We have to strengthen the village-temple relationship. Relevance of Buddhist teachings to meet the needs of today's society, not fairy tales, should be taught through Buddhist sermons. Then only can we ensure that there will be more and more Buddhists of Ananda's calibre in our future generations !

It is time for action. The story of Ananda and Asoka further highlights the urgency.


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