The Curse of the Swamis of Kataragama
An Open Letter from Siva Kalki Swami
I have the honour to inform you that quite recently a group of fifteen swamis appeared in Kataragama and solemnly invoked a terrible mantra on certain authorities and individuals, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. I am indebted to a pilgrim for a translation of the sentiments expressed, which are as follows:
"Cursed shall they be in the city,
The names of several people in public life, as well as those of foreigners figured prominently in the proceedings. I made inquiries of the swamis and learned the following. It seems that one of their number and been found by two policemen smoking kansa. He was assaulted, and the assembled swamis were attacked with batons and fists. The police then turned and assaulted the first Swami, and dragged him by his beard. Both policemen were under the influence of alcohol.
This type of thing is becoming increasingly frequent, and so the swamis have become exasperated. Their point of view is simply stated.
"We have our own books; books of ancestral knowledge (Guru Paramparawa) handed down from generation to generation. Now these people are bringing new books that call our ancestors fools or liars. Our traditional medicines are now called narcotics, and those who use them drug addicts. We do not believe these new books. We do not believe that the Gods reveal them to the Rishis. We believe that these now books are from the Asuras. They condemn our medicines and our traditions, while flooding our country with dangerous drugs - many of which are forbidden in their own country because of unforeseen side effects. If we do not accept their books and their laws they beat us and imprison us, while they themselves are drunk and corrupt. This is why we have cursed these people, and anyone that supports them, We have our own traditional laws and anyone that votes to change them or pervert them will feel the effect of our curse." Apart from the complaint of the above swamis, two other cases in particular have been brought to my attention.
Swami was arrested by two young policemen and charged before the Kandy magistrate with smoking a kansa cigar.
He was sentenced to a Rs 600/- fine or six months imprisonment. Being unable to pay, he went to prison.
Swami was 76 years old at the time. He passed away in prison. Ibrahim Bawa is a Muslim saint of high spiritual lineage, highly regarded by the Muslims of Sri Lanka, and a close associated and friend of Nettle Bawa and Guru Bawa. He is a faqir - that is, a Muslim recluse and religious singer. Like a Buddhist bhikku he goes from house to house invoking blessings on the household by means of his songs and his baraka, or Soul Force.
On November 14th 1978, Ibrahim Bawa was returning to Colombo from the Kataragama Mosque, and stopped at Hikkaduwa where he spoke to some tourists who questioned him on his life. Bawa was sitting and speaking to these people when two policemen entered the restaurant, and questioned him in a rough and aggressive manner about another group of tourists Bawa is a simple man, and unused to this type of behavior. His bewilderment increased the anger of the policemen who were under the influence of alcohol. When Bawa left the restaurant he was stopped by three policemen - pushed and manhandled, and finally stripped of his clothes in the open street before the eyes of hundreds of tourists.
His belongings were taken and the contents of his bag spread on the road. When he protested he was dragged to the police station and badly beaten. He was kicked several times in the groin the generally assaulted. This treatment continued on and off for two days and two nights. By this time his beard had been literally torn out by the roots. The Muslims of Galle, who soon learned of this atrocity, endeavored to have him transferred to Galle. He remained in remand at Galle until the contents of his Fakir's bag had been sent to Colombo or analysis as possible "dangerous substances". No "dangerous substances" were found. No charge was proffered against him. He was released on December 1st, 1978 and has been in poor health every since.
It is general knowledge among informed people that thee smoking or ingestion of herbs for religious or medicinal reasons a very ancient tradition, and is held to be sacred to Lord Shiva and his consort Kali or Bhairavi. Nowhere in the traditional literature, Buddhist or Hindu, is the plant or its uses condemned in all cases the tradition calls it a "blessed plant and a sovereign remedy". The anti or pseudo tradition - what the Buddha calls the Counterfeit Dhamma - is significant by its refusal of the Earth's growths to man on the grounds of Dhamma or the Law. Such refusal - far from being Dhamma - is considered demonic or asuric, especially if it is accompanied by unjust imprisonment or harassment of those that hold to the belief in the truth of the tradition (paramparawa) rather than submitting to the anti-tradition masking itself as tradition and coming from outside the country. At some point or another, he swamis and the Rishis as their ancestors did in the past - call upon the Gods for protection, and the Gods then smash the anti-traditional and pseudo-traditional forces to pieces. This has always been the method in such cases, because of course this is not the first time that this has happened in Sri Lanka, and the swamis know just how to deal with it. In any event, I gather that this was the view of the angry swamis, and I pass it on because I think that you should be fully aware of the facts. I consider the matter is very serious indeed, and I hope that you will accept this in the spirit in which it is given.
The last time that I spoke to the Honorable Prime Minister, he voiced his concern about the low morale in Sri Lanka. The swamis say that any punitive, foreign directed or inspired legislation concerning the use of herbs which are sanctified by traditional will make many lawful people criminals overnight, and deny that paramparawa is worthy of respect. The swamis say that people who drink or earn revenue from alcohol and cigarettes and put people who use kansa in jail are unjust. The State, which intends passing punitive laws, is, in absolute truth, dealing in dangerous narcotics when it sells alcohol and cigarettes to the people of this country while knowing full well that both substances are toxic and deadly Poisson. It tends to sell them in increasing volume. It gives as its excuse the fact that it needs the money, and people will drink anyway, that the taxes on these poisons provide revenue for development etc. Anything rather than admit that the greed for money has overcome its 'principles'. So greedy is the State for money that it is willing to poison its citizens, and deny the very truth taught by the Buddha and the Sangha, which it claims to reverence. Yet it claims enough purity to judge others and to punish them for "addiction", Quite clearly this is both hypocrisy and tyranny of the most devilish order because it clothes itself in principles of a higher morality, and wisdom, as it meets out punishment to the "less pure".
The swamis say that there are many addictions, addiction to power, to money, to women, to alcohol, to drugs, to religion. There are many addictions, and only those who are completely free of all addiction ca safely cast the first stone although they never would. For others let it be quite clearly understood that from now on anyone who does cast a stone at the swamis or the tradition (parampara) will get a mountain cast upon him in return. This is no idle statement - it is the promise of the God of Kataragama, and the swamis have asked me to emphasize this to you.
The Buddha has said that trees, plants and living things should not be harmed. The foreign financed and inspired proposal to spray poisons over the countryside will certainly rebound on those who advocate or execute it. Every sickness, every illness experienced by the people: ever crop failure, or illness to animals, all misfortune, big and small, is, rightly or wrongly, going to be blamed on those officials who advise, support and perpetrate it. Politically it is a grave mistake, and there will be a grave political accounting required of those on whom he responsibility rests. The kamma vipakka will be heirs alone, so the Buddha tells us. And there will be kamma vipakka. Bad advice is being given, and it is being accepted without discussion or thought about the full consequences of the actions suggested. Nor have the motives of those advocating this contemptuous action been fully understood for there are deeper hidden motives behind those that are offered as the reason for their intense desire to finance and guide all aspects of this anti-traditional and evil work.
… British colonial policemen were excellent at keeping the natives in their place.
Sri Lanka is of course in a highly strategic position in the Indian Ocean - an area considered top priority by all the super powers. The swamis would like everyone in public lie to consider the following question: If you were a super power, how would you gain a foothold on that highly strategic island, what method and techniques would you employ to establish and increase your influence in that vitally important little place?
You can't offer to protect them from the other fellow because they are non-aligned: indeed they are founders of the nonaligned movement. How to do it when they know the dangers of alignment with any super power? The only way to do it is to convince these people that they need protection against something. Narcotics has proved very successful in the past let's try that. We'll convince them that they have a narcotic problem. Not only that, if there is no problem we'll create one. Then they will really think that they need us. We'll tell them that we have a problem, and they must help us to fight it, and when they agree we will thank them with clasped hands and tears in our eyes. In other words the swamis ask, can anyone be so naïve as to doubt that there is a connection between Sri Lanka's strategic position and the almost rabid desire of certain states to help Sri Lanka fight the 'menace' of kansa, and with it any tradition that support its use. Why else should they, the swamis ask, put the money, their resources, their helicopters and radio sets, their poisonous spray and their shining guns, at the disposal of the local police - who of course must be trained, often abroad in the new techniques. A little thought will show that this is at lest one method of gaining a firm grip of an important part of the body politic and through that the political life of the country. The stakes are very high, and in this manner has the fourth invasion of this country been launched. None of these forces mean any good to the tradition or to the Buddha Dhamma. They are anti-Buddhist. They are asuras, titans of demonic temperament.
Many senior people in public life will bear witness that the British colonial administration taught their police force to treat kansa harshly. Not only kansa; he British taught their police to be harsh with anything or anyone that questioned their right to plunder the country, and ride roughshod over the traditions held by the people. Many of these senior men have scars or bruises that are the rewards of their patriotism, and their courage to speak out. They know that the swamis are not exaggerating when they say that there was harshness taught to the police. This included harshness has been continued since colonial times, and it has now become second nature to the police. It is, as it were, part of being a 'good policeman", For the model of what constitutes a good policeman is a British colonial policeman and British colonial policemen were excellent at keeping the natives in their place. This is what has come down to us, and this rigid conditioning has been and continues to be the cause of much injustice to the traditional people that is 99% of the population and their Ancestors whose ways like the Sangha, the swamis and Guru Paramparawa the country people chose to follow.
We in Sri Lanka have suffered much for over four centuries of being forced to adapt ourselves to other cultures the latest of which is your own. We have suffered, and are continuing to suffer, the sodomizing of our young men, and the increasing prostitution of our women, venereal disease, alcoholism, tobacco addiction, addiction to tranquilizers Librium, valium and sleeping tablets; the use of our country as a vast hotel which the people themselves can no longer afford and in which they are sometimes made to feet unwelcome; the beaches have been lost and every where greed and corruption, lust and perversion increase day by day.
Now all these things come form your culture, not ours. Massive drug addiction is your problem, not ours. Heroin is a product of your own culture, not ours. Morphine is a product of or culture, not ours. Large-scale promiscuity and sexual deviations, large-scale pornography of the vilest kind, freely available, is a product of you culture, not ours. The manufacturing and sale of arms literally traffic in murder is a product of your culture, not ours.
In which way then, do you imagine that your culture can instruct us? Do you really mean that we should believe you when you tell us that you know more about he truth of things than we do? Do you really think that you have the right and moral?
In which way then, do you imagine that your culture can instruct us? Standing to come here and tell the Sinhalese villager that he must stop using kansa because it is bad for him? And do you dare to demand that our authorities taken a harder line in their treatment of the traditional user? You insult our intelligence. While you do not assault the swamis or the people yourself directly, you encourage our police to do so. We believe in fact, that it is your policy to encourage the police to assault the swamis and other traditionally religious people, whose ways you neither understand nor love. It is a matter of record that you constantly urge the government to 'get tough' on kansa and the tradition that supports its use. Ayurveda. We believe that you have done immense damage with your half-truths, and that you have misled many into agreeing with you to the general detriment. You have also used corrupt means to gain influence in this country.
Now here is a question for you. Do you know any thing about he God of Kataragama, about his devotees? Who they are for example, or where you might expect to meet them? We are fairly sure you don't. Let us enlighten you - Kataragama is a place visited by most people in Sri Lanka. The President comes to Kataragama; the Prime Minister comes to Kataragama. Most politicians come to Kataragama. Most policemen come to Kataragama. Most soldiers, sailors and airmen come to Kataragama. Virtually the entire population comes to Kataragama. The hold it in the greatest respect. It is a tradition. Anyone who is in difficulties comes to Kataragama. Tinker, tailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. At Kataragama the swamis meet them all. And we make no distinction between them for they are all fellow devotees and suppliants under the protection of our God. We treat all with an equal mind and with kindness, for this is required of us; therefore most of the people visit Kataragama from time to time. The relationship between the swamis and the Kataragama devotees is a close, and often of a lifelong duration. The swamis function as counselors and doctors, and as reliable people with whom personal and private problems may be safely discussed and solutions found. Clearly, everyone has problems. Politicians have problems - wives have problems - husbands have problems - and all of them are discussed inevitably with their Swami or Kapurala. Thus the swamis know everything that is going on in Sri Lanka. They are noted for this. In your case of example, they know what you are saying, and to whom you say it, and can even deduce your motives for doing so.
Please be clearly informed that the swamis are not little boys that need to be instructed by you about what is right and wrong. You yourselves do not know what is right, and what is wrong, so how can you teach others? Our aboriginal people and the American Indians were both traditional people as we are - and the whole world knows how people like you treated them. How you are still treating them. Your deeds in destroying these traditional people in order to steal their land and their resources - stinks upon the nostrils of the world and in the heavens. We do not believe that you have any more respect for our tradition than you had for theirs. If it stands in your way you will try to destroy it - and do so legally. We know the methods you use, and you should know that we know. We are not Aboriginal or American Indians. If you want to destroy our tradition, you will first have to destroy Kataragama, its swamis, its devotees and its God.
In conclusion, many things in nature are considered worthy of respect by the wise. The Bodhi tree is sacred to the memory of Lord Buddha. The banyan tree is sacred to Lord Siva. Lord Vishnu is personified in the tulsi; and just as Vishnu is personified in the tulsi, so a Goddess is personified and worshipped in the Kansa plant. She is the Green One, and her name is Valli. The Goddess Valli is the consort of our God, who lives and respects all things that refer to Her, So beware of how you treat Her.
The Lord of Kataragama and the swamis will bless those who preserve and transmit this message, and most of all, act upon it. But to those who twist or pervert the meaning - those who misrepresent or willfully malign an auspicious thing - upon these people we say, will great ill fall. The God has spoken to us and there is no further need for debate. Out God has struck off the yoke.
My name is Siva Kalki, and my parampara is the Kataragama Yoga Sangha.
With our respectful salutations to the feet of the Maha Sangha, this has been composed for the benefit of good people every where, and for the serene joy of the pious.
Remember, all things are impermanent.
Sarvamangala. May all creatures be well and happy.
"The Curse of the Swamis of Kataragama" was first published in Home Grown International, Volume 1 No 10, Winter 1981.