The Historical Role of Buddhism and significance of Article 9 in Sri Lanka’s Constitution
Posted on May 22nd, 2013

Shenali D. Waduge

The most powerful single factor in the development of Sri Lanka has been Buddhism evidence of which is available through 2300 years of predominantly Buddhist  governance. The status quo changed only with the arrival of Western colonials in 1505 ruling, plundering and removing Buddhism from its foremost place among religions in the conquered territories of Sri Lanka, for a period of over 450 years. 2300 years of indigenous Buddhist rule against 450 years of enslaved colonial rule eventually granted independence in 1948 with the natural expectation that Buddhist national identity previously suppressed would through the newly elected Government be restored and the rightful place to Buddhism would be given while unifying and integrating the nation. The historical injustices meted out to the Buddhists and denigration of Buddhism by the colonials has to be accepted and corrected. It is histories justice to the Buddhists who looked after and preserved Sri Lanka. No one can deny the pre-dominant place of Buddhism and Buddhist rule historically and no one should demean the place of Buddhism stipulated in Article 9 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution. That pride of place cannot be usurped legislatively, constitutionally or by sporadic liberal notions out to erase historical cultural identities and change the entire demography of nations.

Buddhist Revival Movement

Let us review some historical facts.

The revival of Buddhism began in the late 19th century gathering momentum in the first half of the 20th century with Buddhist leaders like Professor Gunapala Malalsekera, and L H Mettananda among others foreseeing the opportunity to remedy the historical injustices done to the Buddhists under three western colonial powers. Thus, these outstanding figures of Sri Lanka pioneered the establishment of the Buddhist Commission of Inquiry. The aim was to collect evidence and record the grave injustices meted out to the Buddhists and thereafter proceed to rectify these historical injustices in a democratic way.

Their proposal for a State appointed Buddhist Commission to inquire into the grave injustices caused to the Buddhists was first agreed to by the then Prime Minister Mr. D. S. Senanayake but subsequently rejected  claiming it would violate the English induced Soulbury Constitution. It is said that the influential Catholic Church played a pivotal role in changing the mind of Mr. D.S. Senanayake on this issue. With no other choice, the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) under whose aegis public representations were made to the Government established the Buddhist Committee of Inquiry on 2nd April 1954 which became popularly known as the “Buddhist Commission”.

The Members of the Buddhist Commission included Prof. G.P. Malalasekera, L.H. Mettananda, Ven. Abanwelle Siddhartha, Ven. Haliyale Sumanatissa, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, Ven. Polonnaruwe Vimaladhamma, Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha, Ven. Henpitagedera Gnanaseeha, S. Kularatne, Dr.Tennekoon Wimalananda and D.C. Wijewardena.

They went virtually from village to village covering the entire country and probed the continuing system of education and other areas including employment in the state sector, the professions, the armed forces and the like  that had denied and were denying Buddhists their rightful place  in society. .

An abridged English version of the Report was published under the title “The Betrayal of Buddhism” by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress. Details of the injustices suffered by the Buddhists and the recommended remedies, particularly in the realm of education were outlined. The Schools Takeover in the early sixties was an outcome of the recommendations made in the Buddhist Commission Report.

The report was finally presented to the Maha Sangha and the general public at a Meeting held at Ananda College on 4th February 1956.

The reactions of political parties to the Buddhist Commission report are noteworthy.

While the leader of the MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) Mr. S.W.R.D Bandaranaike gave a public declaration that he would implement the Committee’s proposal, if MEP was elected to power at the forthcoming General Election in April 1956, the UNP (United National Party) leader Sir John Kotelawala was found dragging his feet on the Committee’s proposals.

It was Mr. Bandaranaike’s bold and unequivocal stand that led to the Maha Sangha coming out openly in large numbers to back the MEP.

The Buddhist monks under the banner of the Eksath Bhikkshu Peramuna campaigned from house to house in support of Bandaranaike who championed the cause of the “Pancha Maha Balavegaya” (comprising Sangha, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru). It was no surprise when Mr. Bandaranaike leading the MEP swept the polls and the UNP was reduced to just 8 seats in the House. This electoral result was a watershed in the country’s history.

It must be borne in mind that it was the guarantee of rectification of the historical injustices and the persecution of the Sinhala Buddhists by the three colonial western Christian powers (1505 “”…” 1948) rather than the promise of “ƒ”¹…”Sinhala Only’ that captured the imagination and support of the Sangha and lay Buddhist public resulting in what may well be called the “ƒ”¹…”Buddhist Revolution of 1956′.    

It was this same Sangha influence steered under the JHU and  other patriotic forces that took a very courageous and heroic stand at Mavil Aru in 2006 saying enough was enough and that the Sri Lankan State needed to finally take effective action against 30 years of LTTE terrorism that gave impetus for President Rajapakse to boldly lead the Sri Lankan military to declare war on the LTTE that liberated Sri Lanka of terrorism in May 2009. Thus, the leadership given to the country by Buddhists cannot be easily marginalized or forgotten. It was Buddhists and their undivided loyalty to the nation that led them to resist the colonial rulers even without sophisticated weaponry and became sacrificed in their numbers, justice for which is yet to come.

Sinhala Buddhist Kings

A country’s value is measured by its history and no one can deny the significant place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka’s history. We hold this premise to be true and all nations with similar history would join us in acknowledging this. Sri Lanka was led by approximately 180 Buddhist Kings who did not simply rule but left a legacy of heritage and culture that even modern engineering cannot match. The irrigation systems the manmade hydraulic water tanks and reservoirs are exclusive and unique. The Kings ruled following the Buddhist precepts (dasa raja dharma).

The 10 duties of the Buddhist kings are as follows:

Dana — Liberality, generosity, charity. (The ruler should not have craving and attachment for wealth and property, but should give it away for the welfare of the people.

Sila — a high moral character (He should never destroy life, cheat, steal and exploit others, commit adultery, utter falsehood, or take intoxicating drinks)

Pariccaga — sacrificing everything for the good of the people.( He must be prepared to give up all personal comfort, name and fame, and even his life, in the interest of the people)

Ajjava — honesty and integrity (He must be free from fear and favour in the discharge of his duties, must be sincere in his intentions, and must not deceive the public)

Maddava — kindness and gentleness.( He must possess a genial temperament)

Tapa — austerity of habits.( He must lead a simple life, and should not indulge in a life of luxury.  He must have self-control)

Akkodha “”…” freedom from envy, ill-will, enmity (He should bear no grudge against anybody).

Khanti — patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding (He must be able to bear hardships, difficulties and insults without losing his temper)

Avihimsa — non-violence, which means not only that he should harm nobody including other sentient beings, but that he should try to promote peace by avoiding and preventing war, and everything which involves violence and destruction of life.

Avirodha (non-opposition; non-obstruction) that is to say that he should not oppose the will of the people, should not obstruct any measures that are conducive to the welfare of the people. In other words he should rule in harmony with his people

The visiting Thai Prime Minister will acknowledge that the King of Thailand too follows the tenets of the Dasa Raja Dharma to this day. .

It was in 1948 after 133 years of British colonial rule and 450 years of foreign occupation that Sri Lanka was returned to the indigenous people.

The country’s demography, education system, culture had all been changed not by the indigenous people but by the foreign conquerors.  Therefore, no one can argue or oppose when the majority populace from whom the foreign invaders usurped power says they want the cultural system that existed through 2300 years to return.

On what grounds should Buddhism and Buddhist culture that existed for millennia be denied the place it held?

Sri Lanka’s Constitution “”…” Article 9

Sri Lanka’s Constitution contains a separate chapter on Buddhism. Chapter 2 / Article 9 declares ” The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1) (e).

Article 10 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion: Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. (this does not include a foreign culture disguised as a religion)

Article 14 (1) (e) – Freedom of Speech, assembly, association, movement:  the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching;

Restrictions of these fundamental rights freedoms are given in Article 15

A lot of issues that have arisen over the years are legacies of the colonial past.

It was after the arrival of the colonial rulers that Christianity and Catholic faiths was introduced and a planned and systematic conversion of Sinhalese Buddhists took place. The Muslim traders who were all male, married Tamil women and women from South India brought for that purpose and converted them to Islam thus increasing Islamic presence. This is well recorded in history books.

While the practice of conversion and blessing for such is not advocated in religions belonging to the Hindu civilization (Buddhism and Hinduism) the Abrahamic religions (Christianity/Catholicism and Islam) rewards those who convert and those helping the process of converting primarily tapping their poverty because the handouts promised have been far more lucrative than what the Buddhists could  command  monetarily or otherwise.

It is in this context that the significance of Article 9 comes in to play. What cannot be forgotten by Sri Lankan citizenry and in particular its legislators present and future is that the place of Buddhism was not diluted by the indigenous people willfully. The place of Buddhism was incrementally taken away and it was upon independence that the rightful place of Buddhism should have been restored and why Article 9 of the Constitution demands that the Buddhist faith be fostered and protected by the State and not be victim to conversions as is presently taking place.

Therefore, the State that rules Sri Lanka virtually on the Buddhist vote must clearly demarcate what violates the constitution vis a vis Article 9. Freedoms and rights cannot overstep the place historically and culturally given to Buddhism.

Whatever freedoms and fundamental rights people are given what every person needs to at all times remember is that one’s freedoms cannot be upheld at the cost of another’s loss of freedom. Therefore, there are certainly moral boundaries that people need to be constantly aware of. The pied piper multiculturalism is simply a school of liberal thought professed and accepted without argument but has resulted in disarray of cultural structures that existed.

Multiculturalism is only a single school of thought amongst many. Countries are not ready to piggybank on ideas of ONLY liberal thinkers whose experiments have proven to be catastrophic in the wider context of its applicability. These free thinkers have upset demography, created total anarchy and when indigenous cultures protest they became the perpetrators and not the victims. No religion can argue morally quoting that people should have freedom to decide their religion when these very religions have programs to convert people to their religion.

Today, traditional churches are being replaced by a new set of organizations calling themselves “faith healers” and drawing large numbers of followers who are lured and converted using various methods. These are programs devised by their respective religions and driven by their religious followers. When such an impasse exists leaders of these religions cannot claim to use constitutional provisions to argue that people have a right to decide their faith.

Kandyan Convention of 1815

By virtue of Article 9 the State has a mandate to ensure that Buddhism maintains the “foremost” place and to do so the State cannot ignore the aspect of “converting” Buddhists to different religions and the Buddha Sasana Ministry which has State patronage must effectively address this without delay. The State and the Buddha Sasana Ministry has to protect the Buddhists from being manipulated and misled into converting and this argument cannot be taken to different directions by Abrahamic religions complaining it is denying their practice of faith. This is far from the truth. The argument is that Buddhists cannot be victims to lucrative coercions to convert from the Buddhist faith. The obvious contention is that in protecting Buddhists from conversions it will expose the ulterior objectives of those converting. There is nothing in Sri Lanka’s constitution that permits conversions.

If people can practice their different faiths without issues why would they want to create issues by going after an Article that has been part and parcel of Sri Lanka’s history and given explicit recognition in Article 5 of the Kandyan Convention of 1815.

Article 5 states that the religion of the Buddha is declared inviolable, and its rites, ministers (monks) and places of worship are to be maintained and protected. The Kandyan Convention was an agreement signed on the 10th of March 1815 between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom,

The oft used arguments to denounce the majority and denigrate Article 9 is the hype associated with the slogan of “institutionalized majoritism” being chanted in cohesion to bring pressure on the State to evade their duty and to instead please the world.

There is another set of chants that say Sri Lanka’s Article 9 is not in keeping with the times and not “liberal” enough. The only message to be given to these liberalists is that Constitutions are not made to reflect the fashion of the day given that even fashions change every season! We do not want to subject ourselves to multicultural fevers that other nations now suffer so we prefer to simply throw the bathtub and the water.

The Constitution is clear. The foremost place of Buddhism is clearly defined. The Sri Lankan State and its emissaries in the form of all public officials are morally and constitutionally mandated to uphold Article 9 first.

Sri Lanka’s Role in guiding the destiny of Buddhism

Today, Buddhism has a greater appeal in the West due to an increasing number of people in these countries showing a preference for a philosophy and ethical system that places a high emphasis on peace, non “”…” violence and compassion towards all sentient beings.

In Asia, it is an opportune time for pre-dominant Buddhist populations to consider developing closer ties with each other in the spheres of economic, cultural, and trade and investment. When at international levels a large number of nations form alliances on the basis of regional proximity, common cultural heritage or common religion (ex: Organization of Islamic Cooperation “”…” OIC, World Council of Churches and the State of Vatican on behalf of the World’s Catholics) the world cannot deny a League of Buddhist Nations. In fact, Sri Lanka’s Government and the Thai Premier meeting at the end of this month must have this as a high priority item on their agenda.

In such a context the Government of Sri Lanka which is empowered by Article 9 to foster Buddhism should take an initiative towards forming a “ƒ”¹…”League of Buddhist Nations’ in the international arena to become the collective voice of the Buddhists and work to safeguard and protect the interests of the Buddhist world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.



14 Responses to “The Historical Role of Buddhism and significance of Article 9 in Sri Lanka’s Constitution”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “given explicit recognition in Article 5 of the Kandyan Convention of 1815.

    Article 5 states that the religion of the Buddha is declared inviolable, and its rites, ministers (monks) and places of worship are to be maintained and protected. The Kandyan Convention was an agreement signed on the 10th of March 1815 between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom”

    There you go. NO OTHER RELIGION was given such specific protection EVEN by the British!

    Article 9 should be implemented fully.

    Not only Sinhala Buddhist kings, Tamil Buddhist kings also served SL.

    “2300 years of indigenous Buddhist rule against 450 years of enslaved colonial rule”

    This is wrong. 2300 + 450 = 2750. Buddist era was only 2500 when Brits left. Your numbers are 500 years higher.

    It should be “1800 years of indigenous Buddhist rule against 450 years of enslaved colonial rule”

  2. Senevirath Says:

    British aggreed to article 5 because this contry belonged only to sinhala buddhists . They took over from buddhists and handed over to buddhists but encoraged their tamil servants to go against sinhalese. our kalu sudda buddhists later betrayed true buddhists and monks and by making tamil as an official language andby altering the flag…. etc etc


  3. Dilrook Says:

    A well researched article.

    As regards a League of Buddhist Nations, I think it should be backed by trade like some powerful similar groups among Muslims, Jews and Christians. Oterwise it will not be very effective. Expansion of trade between Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand is the first step towards it.

    If the much hyped Kra-Isthmus canal is built as a joint venture of all three Buddhist countries where the three nations will benefit most from it, the bonds will be unshakable. That alone is sufficient to propel these three countries into riches. It is a very ambitious project costing approximately $250 billion which must be borrowed. However, it will be paid off within a year ot two which makes it much less riskier than most commercial projects. It also gives these countries enormous geopolitical clout that can be leveraged for mutual benefit. All three countries face similar threats and a combined military operation to root out their common enemies will also benefit.

  4. herman Says:

    With Deep respect Shenali, i do not agree that we need Constitutions or any other Stipulations to uphold Buddhism but the Power of Convictions of Buddhists in SL today!

    In the past, the majority of our people had KNOWING and UNDERSTANDING of the TRIPLE GEM thus able to withstand injustices by the ruthless and unconventional foes by the Western colonial barbarians with Dignity and Nobility without compromising their characters – morally or ethically. Can we say the same today of the Sinhala Buddhists?

    Happy Vesak

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Shenali has written an article to inform us about the part played by Buddhism to shape Sri Lanka to a relatively tolerant and life supportive country, given the odds we have had to face. We thank her for her fine efforts.

    In the past, Rule by the Gun (the then Colonists) overrode practice of Buddhism in society as a whole. Commercial activity & Trade plus their own religions took the forefront for all Colonists. Thus the Cry from the ordinary people to restore time honored Life Values to society here. Shenali’s article reflects that Cry.

    All the religions, Buddhism particularly, have a role to play in restoring life values in society. The Buddhist ideals are Universal.

  6. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    bbs is the answer to restore the lost value system in heladeepa. some already have jumped the bandwagon of criticizing them labeling them as ‘extremists’, the common stupid theme of most sinha+hela people. some say they are this, that and everything, funded by foreigners – what bullshit is this???. this is the so called intellectual assessment of a group who are putting their valiant effort to fight ‘forces’ which are attempting to disrupt sri lanka, of its heritage and culture.e.g. wahaabis (not muslims! you dumb fools – wahaabis) – even we are against them. it is natural bbs take a stand to counteract the vote mongers like mahinda, ranil and wimal.
    our country must have draconian laws like Saudi Arabia so that muslims and especially wahhbis will appreciate what was before and will clamour to revert back to what it was. we must become an uncivilized country like Saudi Arabia where no other religion or a spiritual leader can be venerated. we must be-head all wahaabis in public to show them that we follow their admirers in Saudi. we must lash Wahhabis in public so that they will appreciate their counterparts in Saudi. well ben my friend we need not shed Buddhism like your stupid brain points out to but keep buddhism and lash these wahaabis so that they will never ever make a murmur in hela+deepa any more.
    long live bbs.

  7. Ben Silva Says:

    Shenali has tirelessly defended Sri Lanka. I respect her for that. However, evidence is that Buddhism has not enabled people in the silk route to defend themselves against foreign aggression. Nalanda debacle shows in a clear manner the fate of Buddhists. In fact after Nalanda incident Buddhism never revived in India. Our own fate is that we have lost most of the livinng space, at time treated loke third class citizens and we cannot even get rid of the 13A. The morality of Sinhala Buddhists are questionable.

  8. Ratanapala Says:

    Gon Silva is at it again. This is all what I can say after his repeated insults to Buddhism. Buddhism has survived for 2500 years and Buddhist Sri Lanka for over 2300 years. Sri Lanka nor Buddhism does not require Gon Silva’s stories of Nalanda Buddhists. Barbarians come and go and it happens in everywhere. There comes a time when Buddhists can be militant and they will be. Who does Gon Silva thinks won the Tamil Tiger rebellion? It was the Sinhala Buddhists and not Gon Silva’s Christian hordes who were and are for the dismemberment of Sri Lanka. So please take your story of Nalanda Buddhist elsewhere. It doesn’t sell. Go and earn your next dollar in some sewer in the Christian West!

  9. mjaya Says:

    Ben Silva,

    Get your priorities right. Been to Woolwich, London recently? If you plan to go there, better get your last will ready before going there or you may end up beheaded. :D

  10. mjaya Says:

    Ben Silva,

    I’d recommend you to join the EDL fast or else your entire country (Britain) will end up like the soldier in Woolwich…er sorry Nalanda Buddhists.

  11. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    ben – if I were you I would have left this forum long time ago, coping the flack directed at you – no person with self respect will stick on. anyway, the fool you appreciate the dumb indian, you say dumped buddhism (actually the moghuls and Brahmins saw the demise of Buddhism). well does Hinduism preaches desire? the majority of Indians are hindus and certainly they have stuck to it and you say we must follow the fool, whom you think is intelligent. well you are in par with them. your brain works in the same way as theirs. there were several nalanda stories all over the world not only along the silk route, and not confining to india. encroachers destroyed whatever they came across on their path, like the anglo saxon ungulate did in our country. glad the moghuls didn’t conquer heladeepa.

    didn’t we destroy the sakkiliyas everytime they tried to destroy us, without dumping Buddhism but adhering strong even more to this great teaching? you blame others of raw connections however I have my doubts about you now. you have no values in you the only one you possess is desire(i pity your wife who must be having a trying time at this age to go to sleep). desire to dump Buddhism and embrace development. and when do you hope to stop this boring silk route talk? whom are you enlightening? by the way did kit-atul your boy friend sexually molest you when you met him last time?. well since you have desire probably you must have enjoyed the experience.

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    Ben is wrong. BTW he is a Buddhist.

    IF they did what they did in Woolwich in SL by now 10 of them are in hell.

    In Endia the Hindus cry about MOGUL atrocities.
    In SL the others cry about 1915 atrocities, STILL.

    DON’T judge SLs by Endian or British standards!!!

    SLs are VERY VERY peaceful. BUT if you provoke them you end up in Nanthikadal.


  13. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    ben – this is my own experience with the 75 year old fool the nigantaya – kit-atul. just be careful he is full of desire like you.

  14. Ananda-USA Says:

    Sri Lanka coalition partner calls to mobilize public against 13th Amendment to Constitution

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    May 24, Colombo: The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a coalition party of Sri Lanka’ ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), said it will take measures to mobilize the public to urge the government to abolish the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    JHU parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thero said the public must be mobilized to urge the government to change its stance on the 13th Amendment.

    The Thero’s call to abolish the 13th Amendment came in response to the statement by Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa that the government would not abolish the 13th Amendment.

    At the cabinet press briefing Thursday Minister Yapa said the government has no intention whatsoever to postpone the Northern Provincial Cunicl polls, repeal the 13th Amendment or introduce amendments to the Constitution to remove police and land powers to the provinces.

    Ven. Ratana Thero has observed that the JHU’s proposed motion to amend the Constitution to abolish the provincial council system in the country is to be presented to parliament next week.

    The coalition party Wednesday revealed party’s proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution primarily to repeal the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which paved way for the power devolving Provincial Council system in the island.

    The party says 13th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted consequent to the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord being entered into between the President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of India in 1987 under duress in defiance of the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka,

    The JHU is vehemently against the land and police powers given to the provinces under the 13th Amendment and calls for amending the Constitution to take away those powers from the provinces before holding the elections to the Northern Provincial Council scheduled for September.

    Their call is supported by Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who says that he would never agree to granting police powers to provincial councils according to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    The Defence Secretary is of the view that granting police powers to provincial councils in future could pose a serious threat to national security and lead to a dangerous situation.

    Minister Yapa said if the government introduces the Constitution or amendments to the Constitution it would be through a consensus by all stakeholders.

    The government would resort to a power devolution process or introduce constitutional changes only through an extensive political interaction with all political parties and other stakeholders and that is why the government took measures to constitute a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to discuss all these issues related to power devolution, police and land powers to PCs and security issues of the provinces, the Minister said.

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