Apparently a new set of legislation that will prevent cults from spreading their beliefs is in the offing! Now what is the official line of any religion? Then what is a cult? Can a cult be defined broadly or narrowly?
This proposed legislation is fraught with danger, and with everything Sri Lankan, it will never see the light of day, because people will never be able to agree on what is and what is NOT a cult. Who is going to play GOD over 4 main religions?
Is BBS a cult? After all it spreads hate against any other belief, and whilst NOT completely disowning any bias against a religion, wishes SL to be only a Buddhist Country, where other religions and beliefs can only be practiced by a sort of permission. I must be free to engage in Devil Worship without getting permission from the Minstry of Religious Affairs, as long as it does not frighten others, or interferes directly with the way others carry out their lives. Will all the “hooniyang practices” in Sri Lanka, be banned?
The world is full of different belief systems, within each overall doctrine. Even with the Catholic Church there are organizations such as Opus Dei, which some even within the Church may wish to disown themselves from, on the grounds of it being too persuasive and forceful in spreading the Catholic Faith amongst non-believers. The Catholic Church has agreed to many anti-conversion proposals because they see a fall of their following in Sri Lanka! If they were spreading their word more forcefully, and gaining converts, they would sing to a different tune and are thus engaging in hypocrisy.
It seems to me that the established religious leaders wish to use this means to prevent any other off-shoot from encroaching on their turf.
Whilst I am aware that the BBS is gaining ground rapidly, by focusing on the insecurity of ignorant people easily fooled into believing a problem exists when one does not, it should not be stopped by legislation, but by the Senior Clerics of Buddhism, meeting them and agreeing to either tone down their rhetoric, or to work within certain parameters of acceptability. If it is to extricate itself from this cult status, they must do what is necessary to enhance Buddhism from within, and not prevent others from practicing theirs, exposing the failures of Buddhism as currently practiced in Sri Lanka instead.
The BBS by picking on other practices is getting attention, publicity, attendance and untoward acceptance, as they have taken advantage of the Buddhist pacifist approach to wrongdoing. Anyone seen attacking BBS will then be seen to be attacking Buddhism itself, just like the Govt. has played the same card of “if you are not with us, you are with the enemy!”
It is important that we take a commonsense approach to radicalism and fundamentalism. We must not let it overwhelm us but take steps to prevent the relevant believers from straying, by staying true to one’s religious beliefs, not giving ample reasons for people to adopt cultish fads just because they are brainwashed into believing that it is the order of the day.
It must be remembered that some belief systems are actually detrimental to society, and if we permit freedom of religion, we have to handle it delicately without raising the ire of the believer, but gently try by other means to reduce its popularity by appealing to people’s fears in reverse, or confidence in the established order in being able to confront any challenge they are faced with.
Religion is fraught with danger, as believers supposedly have faith in what they believe in and act with that fate despite the obstacles placed before them. Therefore many are NOT open to reasoning and compromise.
Will banning religious cults however defined, lead it to go underground, and then suddenly emerge as a threat to the Country? There is a likelihood of that happening if bans are strictly enforced and are harsh on those believers. It is important not to overlook this possibility.
Finally in conclusion, I do believe that if one is sufficiently confident in the power of one’s religion, and the strength of the following there is NOTHING to fear from cults or other religions. Only those who fear their status as being possibly suspect have any fears due to their beliefs being usurped by an upstart offshoot.
It is important that religious freedoms are preserved, but the practitioners are informed quite clearly what their boundaries are, before they could be subject to ban. Many cults appeal to some of the weakest people in a community, and use their personal problem or low self esteem to rapidly gain their confidences. It is only through experience over how people behave in such circumstances, can one tackle the problem head on and find an acceptable compromise solution. It is time someone asserted one’s leadership, and gives confidence to established religions to face any threat to them from within or without sans the need to protect themselves.
It is time we all grew up and learn to tolerate other beliefs which are compatible with ours, and which do not directly threaten us. All religions are indirect threats, but the art is being able to permit all sorts without fear. The external financial power on these beliefs is very real, but can be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.