Volume 5, 1998
Echoes of Nalinika: A Monk in the Dock
Edith Cowan University
How can Nalinika, one of the Buddhist Jātaka tales, be used in the Perth District Court in Perth, Western Australia, as an illustration in the defence of a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka? In the dock sat Pannasara Kahatapitye, a high-ranking monk from Colombo, facing eleven charges of sexual assault. Was this a case of cultural, religious, and political bias and misunderstanding, or of a monk breaking monastic vows and practicing immorally? Was this man a charlatan or a genuine monk being framed by dissident Sinhalese groups in Australia? Over ten days the drama developed as evidence was given before judge and jury. Throughout, the accused sat motionless in the dock, smiling benignly at all in the courtroom. Innocent or guilty? This paper describes how the issues were resolved as seen from the author’s role as a consultant to the crown prosecutor, and examines their implications for the general Buddhist community in Western Australia.