Nirvana for sale: Japanese centre closed down

The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka/September 25, 2011

A so-called temple run by two Japanese monks of the Mahayana sect at Liberty Plaza was closed down by Police yesterday after a group of Buddhist monks staged a protest against it. The foreign monks had been running the "temple" for more than five years and people had paid between Rs. 500,000 and one million with promises that they could attain enlightenment and be absolved of their sins by performing certain religious practices after paying the money.

Police spokesman Maxie Proctor said the two Japanese monks had been questioned along with a Japanese woman who acted as their manager and they were told to stop their activities. "They have not been charged with engaging in any illegal activities so far but we are recording statements from people who had sought the assistance of these monks for spiritual relief," SSP Proctor said.

A Peradeniya university professor who had gone in as a decoy to find out how the sect operated told the Sunday Times Rs. 7000 had to be paid just to gain admission to the premises. "I joined about a year ago and since then I pretended I wanted to attain 'Nirvana' and attended some of their sessions. The two monks say they have telepathic powers and when a person walks in they give some predictions about their lives. It is only if you are interested that they enrol people for the programme which they say will lead to enlightenment," the professor said.

The professor said there were no Buddha statues inside the temple but they worshipped a book written in a foreign language. He was told that worshipping the book would lead to Nirvana. The members were also served food and drink at lectures and chanting sessions.

All payments were made in cash and no receipts issued. However those who failed to contribute regularly to the fund of the temple were disenrolled, the professor said. Ven. Akeemana Dayaratna Thera who led the protest said he had lodged police complaints against this centre on earlier occasions also but no action had been taken. "We had to stage this protest to stop this fraud taking place in the name of Buddhism."

Around 60 monks took part in yesterday's protest following which the police arrived at the scene and asked them to disperse with the promise that action would be taken against the foreign monks and their manager.

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