Somaratna v. Jinaratna.
1941Present: Howard C.J. and Soertsz J..
SOMARATNA v. JINARATNA.204—D. C. Galle, 37,738.
Buddhist ecclesiastical law—Pupilage constituted by robing—Senioritydetermined by robing and not ordination—Disrobing on account ofillness—No forfeiture of rights—krutiya Adikari.
Under the Buddhist ecclesiastical law pupilage is conferred by robingor by ordination and a robed pupil is eititled to succeed to the incum-bency of his tutor, whether he has been ordained or not.
Robing precedes ordination and the pupil who is the first to be robedis the senior pupil who is entitled to succeed unless there are otherdirections given by the tutor, or forfeiture or surrender. Temporarydisrobing in the emergency of a grave illness does not involve forfeitureof rights.
HIS is a dispute between two Buddhist priests regarding theincumbency of the temple called Raja Maha Vihare situated
in the Galle District The plaintiff and defendant are both pupils of thelast incumbent Kalahe Sri Ratnajoti. It was admitted that therule of succession for this temple was Sisyanusisya Paramparawa.
The learned District Judge held : —
that the plaintiff was not robed by Ratnajoti or presented forrobing as his pupil ;
that both robing and ordination being forms of pupilage acceptedfor purposes of pupilary succession the defendant having beenrobed by the deceased incumbent Ratnajoti prior to theplaintiff’s ordination by the said Ratnajoti the defendant’sright is superior;
that the defendant did not forfeit his seniority by disrobing inview of the fact that he gave up the robes temporarily on theadvice of his tutor and physician in order to obtain propertreatment for his serious illness.
M.T. de S. Amerasekere, K.C. (with him R. N. llangakoan) forplaintiff, appellant.—The appellant was actually robed at the Maliduwatemple by Dhammapala at the instance of Ratnajoti Guneratana as theformer was an older and more respected priest than the latter. Moreoverit. is customary for a priest to be robed in the temple attached to hisnative village and the Maliduwa temple serves the appellant’s village.Robing by delegation is sufficient. See Saranankara Unnanse v. IndajotiUnnanse The appellant’s robing being earlier he is entitled to succeed.
The appellant was ordained by Ratnajoti prior to the respondent’sordination and ordination being a more important ceremony than robinghis rights are superior. See Woodhouse on Sishyanusishya Paramparawaat page 32 and Ceylon Antiquary, Vol. 3, Part 4, p. 285, Siriniwise v.Sarananda *, Hayley’s Sinhalese Laws and Customs—p. 557.
I 20 N. L. B. 3S5.
* 22 N. L. R. 318 at 320
Somaratna v. Jinaratna.
Even if the respondent is senior he has lost his seniority by reason ofdisrobing. Once a priest disrobes he ceases to be a priest, and if he re-robes he starts anew and he is not entitled to take into account forpurposes of seniority the period of his priesthood before disrobing. Hisact of disrobing was a voluntary act and this is not a case where a priesthas been compulsorily deprived of his robes. The case Premaratne v.Indasara 1 can be distinguished. There the priest concerned had removedhis robes for an immoral purpose. It does not follow that he did sowith the intention of disrobing himself. The circumstances in this caseare different. His act of disrobing was voluntary and it amounted to arenunciation of his rights. The voluntary disrobement even for illnessmakes a priest a layman however short may be the period during whichhe had divested himself of his robes. If the respondent could haverelied on his earlier robing there was no necessity for a second re-robing.
The fact that at the meeting the respondent was appointed “ krutiyaAdikari ” is significant. The term “ krutiya ” shows that his dutieswere restricted to the management of the temporalities of the templewhile the plaintiff was incumbent proper.
H. V. Perera, K.C. (N. E. Weerasooria, K.C., and S. R. Wijaya-tilake with him) for defendant, respondent.—The evidence in support ofthe contention that the appellant was robed at the instance of Ratanajotiis very meagre. In fact there is a volume of evidence to the contrary.There is no such custom that one should be robed in one’s ftative village.Ratnajoti himself was a distinguished priest and there was no point inrequesting another priest to perform a function which he was quitequalified to carry out himself.
There is no authority for the proposition that ordination is a moreimportant ceremony than robing for purposes of pupillary succession.It is well settled law that either robing or presentation for ordinationis sufficient to constitute the priest who is robed or ordained the pupilof the priest who so robes or presents. Therefore the fact that theappellant was ordained prior to the respondent cannot be availed ofto show that the appellant’s rights are superior:
The respondent’s disrobing under the circumstances does not amountto a renunciation of priesthood as he was compelled to do so on accountof his serious illness. It was not a voluntary act on his part and heresumed the robes when he was well enough to do so. In GooneratneTerunanse v. Ratnapala Terunanse *, a priest although he was compulsorilydeprived of his robes while in prison when he came out of prison he wentabout for sometime in layman’s dress before he re-robed. It was heldthat the conduct of the priest did not amount to such a deliberatevoluntary act as that the intention of renunciation could be inferredtherefrom. In Premaratne v. Indasara (supra) the priest divestedhimself of the priestly robes for an immoral purpose but it was heldthat he did not cease to be a member of the Order as he intended toresume the robes. It is the mental element that is of primary importance.
The terms “ krutiya Adikari ” cannot be differentiated, from the term“ Adikari The functions of a “ krutiya Adikari ” are both temporal1 40 N. L. R. 235 at 238.* 1 Matara Cases 227.
SOERTSZ J.—Somaratna v. Jinaratna.
and spiritual, and are in no way different from those of an “ adikari ”.The appellant was appointed “ adviser ” in view of his age find his beingthe eldest pupil of Ratnajoti.
Cur. adv. vult.
June 24, 1941. Soertsz J.—
This is one more of those perennial dissensions with which we areunfortunately so familiar among Buddhist Monks in regard to the rightof succession to an Incumbency, and to the Temporalities connected withit. One would have thought that in these days of delegated Tribunal sfit would have been considered desirable, at least, in the interests ofproper discipline, to constitute Ecclesiastical Tribunals to deal withsuch matters, particularly in view of the undoubted.fact that there are,among the Buddhist clergy, many learned Priests competent, in everyway, to decide these disputes. But in the present state of things, itfalls to the over-burdened Civil Courts of this Island, unversed thoughthey be in Buddhist ecclesiastical law, to pronounce on the questionsinvolved in these contests.
Some of the questions that arise in this case are not free from difficulty.Plaintiff’s counsel presented a very impressive argument in support ofhis appeal, but, after careful consideration, we are of opinion that thelearned trial Judge came to a correct conclusion. There is a great volumeof evidence to support the view he took that the plaintiff was robed notby Ratanajoti Gunaratana, the deceased Incumbent, nor at his instance,but by Somaratna Thero of the Maliduwa Temple, and that Ratanajotionly presented the plaintiff for ordination. The defendant was, admit-tedly, both robed and presented for ordination by Ratanajoti.
It was, however, contended that despite the finding by the DistrictJudge, the plairttiff’s claim to the Incumbency was superior for the reasonthat Ratanajoti presented him for ordination at a date long anteriorto his presentation of the defendant. But the defendant was robedbefore the plaintiff was ordained, and in my opinion, that fact is decisiveof the question. It must now be regarded as settled law that pupilageis conferred either by robing or by ordination, and that a robed pupilis competent to succeed to. an Incumbency whether he has been ordainedor not. Now, robing in the very nature of things precedes ordinationand it follows logically, in the absence of a rule to the contrary, that thepupil who is the first to be robed is the senior pupil, and is entitled tosucceed to the Incumbency unless there is other direction,. given by thetutor, or forfeiture or surrender. In that view of the matter, it is clearthat the defendant occupies a superior position.
But again the point is taken by Counsel for the appellant that thedefendant lost his seniority when he disrobed some time in the year1917, in order to obtain medical treatment and nursing attention in aserious illness. It is conceded that on recovering from his illness, thedefendant resumed his robes, but it is urged that this resumption hadno retrospective force and must be postponed to the plaintiff’s ordination.I cannot accept that submission. Not only does it seem wrong, but itis also contrary to the view taken by Bonser C.J. and Withers J. in thecase of Gooneratne Terunanse v. Ratnapala Terunanse In that case
1 1 Matara Cases 227.
Fernando v. The Commissioner of Motor Transport.
it was held that for disrobing to produce such a result as is here claimed,it must be voluntary and with a clear intention to renounce the priest-hood. It follows that -a temporary, and obviously pro forma departurefrom the priesthood in the emergency of a grave illness cannot producesuch a result. See also Premaratne v. lndasara
Lastly, Counsel for the appellant submitted that the plaintiff wasentitled to succeed to the Incumbency by right of election by competentmembers of the clergy and laity interested in the affairs of this temple.This matter was not put in issue at the trial, but quite apart from that,it is, by no means clear that there was an election of the plaintiff asIncumbent at the meetings referred to. The evidence discloses that theconnection of the defendant with this temple was continuous andintimate from the time of Ratanajoti himself, whereas the plaintiff hadonly an intermittent contact with it, and such as was to be expected ofone ordained by the priest of the temple. Although the documentsbefore us to attest the decisions taken at these meetings are not free fromambiguity, it appears to me that the correct inference from them is thatthe clergy and laity present acknowledged and affirmed the defendant’sright to the Incumbency when they described him as the KruthiaAdikari, but that in recognition of the age and eminence of the plaintiffwho had been himself presented for ordination by the deceased In-cumbent, they deemed it fit and proper to accord to him a place ofhonour, to confer on him an honorary rank. It was, if I may say so,a highly diplomatic move to prevent a contest which, they must havefelt, the plaintiff was inclined to raise.
For these reasons, I am of opinion that this appeal fails and that itmust be dismissed with costs.
Howard C.J.—I agree.
SOMARATNA v. JINARATNA