In response to article published on : “no UNHRC when Portuguese destroyed Buddhist temples and erected Catholic churches on top of destroyed Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka during the Portuguese era (1505 – 1608).
Posted on March 10th, 2014

By Bernard Wijeyasingha

Recently I had a phone conversation with a dear American friend of mine. He and his wife are devout Christians and they belong to a particular sect of Christianity. My conversation started on the geopolitics of the world and as I talked to him he introduced the Christian God into the picture. I have no problem with his belief but I did find this subtle change of subject from geopolitics to religion a bit unsettling.

By now he was in command of the conversation as we debated the pros and cons of Christianity. In the process of this conversation I was led to believe only his sect of Christianity is valid and all other sects of Christianity are wrong in one way or the other. The concept of the Catholic church bordered on blasphemy to him. Being a good debater I used every method of logic to point out that his stand is that of pride and arrogance for he is quick to condemn not only all other faiths but also all other Christian sects as blasphemes. During the debate over the phone he stated that if any faith has even one percent that is wrong then the 99% that is right is of no relevance, thereby insinuating his concept of Christianity is without flaw and cannot be debated. I questioned him what if he were to have a Buddhist or a Hindu go to his house and preach to him their doctrines. Would he dismiss them as “pagan sinners” who should embrace HIS version of Christianity? he fell silent on this question.

During the debate what entered my mind was it is people like him in the past who would take a passage from the Bible as he was doing throughout the debate, to support their belief that all other faiths are wrong. These Christians do not need to read the holy books of other faiths and come to the conclusion that all religions have plenty in common than what separates them. For example all religions do consider killing and lying to be either sins or wrong behavior. It dawned on me that my friend as descent a man as he is, is the 21st century version of those Christian marauders who invaded my father land of Sri Lanka and vandalized the religion not because they found the Buddhist teachings wrong but because a passage in the Bible told them it was wrong. I was able to point to my friend that if he will not even take the time to read a bit of the holy books of other faiths and simply reach for a passage in the Bible to condemn them that is an act of pre judging other faiths or prejudice against them. I also pointed that other faiths do the same to Christian beliefs.

The new wave of conversions occurring in Sri Lanka by both the Christian faith and the Islamic faith follow this pattern. If one questions any one of these Christian evangelists about the veracity of Buddhism or even the basic of that faith they would either not know what they are condemning or condemn what they consider non Christian and therefore pagan and therefore evil. It is so easy to break down their defenses that it strikes me how amazing it is that they have made so much inroads into Sri Lanka. I am of the firm belief Colombo should pass anti conversion laws similar to that of Muslim nations, recognize Buddhism as a state religion. The Buddhist Sanga must put into process a reconversion program similar to that of India’s Shiv Sena organization who regularly reconvert newly converted Christians back to Hinduism. In this light I copy and past the great debates between Buddhism and Christianity where Buddhism triumphed especially in the Panadura debate:

Great debates
The Christian missionaries were propagating the religion through the pamphlets and the books. Rev. D.J. Gogerly of the Wesleyan mission published Christian Pragnapthi in 1849.[1][5] Gunananda thera replied with Durlabdi Vinodini in 1862 for Buddhists. Hikkaduwe Sumangala thera wrote Christiani Vada Mardanaya and Samyak Darshanaya in 1862-63. Soon after, publications were replaced by public debates.
The Baddegama debate originated from an argument arising between a young monk named Sumangala and a Christian priest in the temple of Baddegama. Gunananda Thera and many other monks including Bulatgama Dhammalankara, Sri Sumanatissa, Kahawe Nanananda, Hikkaduwe Sumangala, Weligama Sri Sumangala, Pothuwila Gunaratana participated in the debate. The debate was not held face-to-face. This is because if the manner of the behavior of the Christian debaters had led to conflicts, the Buddhists, as the majority, would naturally be blamed. Considering the situation the two parties agreed to carry out the debate in writing. Originally the text were composed in Baddegama, though later writings were carried out in Galle. The Waragoda debate was also held in 1865.
A third debate was conducted in Udanwita in Hathara korele present day Kegalle District. The Creator, the redeemer and the Eternal heaven were the debating topics. The debate was carried out in 1 February 1866. John Edwards Hunupola (Hunupola nilame)represented the Christian side; he was a former Buddhist monk and Christian convert. As agreed before the debate Gunananda Thera published the summary of the debate. In response Hunupola Nilame also published his own version of a summary. Gunananda Thera issued more publications to counter the Hunupola nilame’s summary. There are no records of the Liyanagemulla debate, the only known fact being that it was held in 1866.
As the intensity of the debate rose in Buddhist side and Christian side, both parties agreed to debate in Gampola on June 9 and 10 of 1871. Gunananda Thera displayed his oratory skills in this debate and in appreciation the crowd cried in joy and thereafter paraded Gunananda Thera around the Gampola town. After the Thera delivered several sermons at various places in Gampola, people arranged a procession, taking the Thera to the Peradeniya railway station and sending him back to Colombo. There people collected the sum of £75.00 to print the sermons the thera had delivered.
Panadura Debate
All these debates culminated in the most notable of all debates, the Panadura debate, two years after the Gampola debate in 1873. The cause for debate arose when Rev. David de Silva delivered a sermon on the Soul at the Wesleyan Chapel, Panadura in 12 June 1873. Gunananda thera delivered a sermon a week later criticising the points raised by Rev. David de Silva. The two parties signed an agreement on 24 July 1873 to hold another debate at Panadura, although this was not the only cause of the debate as debating on religious issues had commenced more than 10 years previously.
The Christians may have thought that the Buddhists were not educated and hence could be easily defeated in debate.[3] But this could be described as a miscalculation on the part of Christians. The Buddhist monks were familiar with Pali and Sanskrit texts like Nyaya Bindu written by Dignāga and Tarka sastra by Dharmakirti, which were written on art of debating, and were not hesitant in accepting the challenge of debating in public.
The debate was held in 24th and 26 August in 1873 at the site where the Rankot Vihara stands today.[1][5] The ablest debaters were summoned on the side of the Christians. Gunananda Thera was the debater on the side of the Buddhists while Rev. David de Silva and Catechist S.F. Sirimanna represented the Christian side. The debate revolved around topics ranged from the nature of God, the Soul and resurrection, to the concept of Karma, Rebirth, Nirvana and the principle of Pratītyasamutpāda or dependent origination.[1] Dr. K.D.G. Wimalaratna, Director of National Archives wrote;
Rev. David de Silva, a fluent speaker in Pali and Sanskrit addressed the audience of around 6000-7000 ” but only a very few understood him. In complete contrast was Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thera who used plain language to counter the arguments of his opponents.
Dr. Vijaya Samaraweera in his article “The Government and Religion: Problems and Policies c1832 to c1910”³, stated; The Rev. Migettuwatte Gunananda proved himself to be a debater of very high order, mettlesome, witty and eloquent, if not especially erudite. The emotions generated by this debate and the impact of Migettuwatte Gunananda’s personality had lasting effects on the next generation of Buddhist activities.
Migettuwatte Gunananda’s triumph at Panadura set the seal on a decade of quiet recovery of Buddhist confidence. In retrospect the establishment of the ‘Society for the Propagation of Buddhism’ at Kotahena, and the Lankaprakara Press at Galle would seem to mark the first positive phase in this recovery.
At the end of the second day of the debate the jubilant crowd uttered “sadhu, sadhu”. The Christians were not pleased the noise the Buddhists audience were making. When atmosphere became heated Migettuwatte Gunananda thera raised his voice and ordered “everybody should be silent”. After that remark the crowd were dispersed without making any further scenarios.
Impact of the debate
The impact of the debate was phenomenal, both locally and internationally. Locally it was the principal factor behind reviving the identity and pride of Sinhala Buddhists.[1] Internationally, it was instrumental in raising awareness of Buddhism in the west. The editor of Ceylon Times newspaper, John Cooper, arranged for Edward Perera to write a summary of the debate, thousands of copies of which were published. This translation was also published as a book, Buddhism and Christianity Face to Face by J.M. Peebles in United States with an introduction in 1878. After reading a copy of the book Henry Steel Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society came to Sri Lanka in 17 May 1880. With arrival of Colonel Olcott the activities of the revival movement accelerated. Olcott had described Gunananda thera as;
” the most brilliant Polemic Orator of the Island, the terror of the missionaries, with a very intellectual head, most brilliant and powerful champion of the Sinhalese Buddhism. Rev. S. Langden, who was present when the Thera spoke in the Panadura debate remarked; There is that in his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home. He showed a consciousness of power with the people. His voice is of great compass and he has a clear ring above it. His action is good and the long yellow robe thrown over one shoulder helps to make it impressive. His power of persuasion, shows him to be a born orator.
Gunananda Thera continued work to revive the Buddhism in the country and had published many Buddhist periodicals which included Riviresa, Lakmini Kirana and Sathya Margaya. The thera was also served in the committee that designed the Buddhist flag in 1885. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera died in 1890 September 21 at about 11.00 am at the age of 67

Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

3 Responses to “In response to article published on : “no UNHRC when Portuguese destroyed Buddhist temples and erected Catholic churches on top of destroyed Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka during the Portuguese era (1505 – 1608).”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    A comment on the UNHRC acting on Sri Lanka at present times :

    In Sri Lanka, Tamil HINDU people are the most numerous of Tamils in number.
    What HUMAN RIGHTS did Tamil HINDU people of Lanka (mostly classified as ‘Coolies’), have under British Colonial rule of
    Lanka ? As far as we know, they had no voting rights, no say in the type of work, no proper homes, no free education and minimum health care.

    A small number of Tamil folk who were Catholic/Christians had it good under Colonial rule and became Tamil leaders of those times.

    After Independence from Britain and no longer any colonial yoke, Sri Lanka gave Lanka Tamil HINDU folk voting rights, free education (including University) & health care, rights to any jobs, set up shops and industries, and more, and still they are complaining of HR abuses. They still have the V’koddai Resolution in place and the Thesawalami Law too. We wonder which other Democracy would have allowed this kind of absurdities to go on and on !

    Re the Tamil tea pluckers : No one is tying these folks to the tea bushes. They are free to step out into the world and do as they please. There are tea plucking machines available now which anyone can use, and Lanka can easily put those to use.

    The noise at the UNHRC : Doesn’t make any sense, does it ?

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Fran Diaz” “The noise at the UNHRC: doesn’t make any sense, does it? No it does not. I believe the only ‘sense” is a calculated attempt to realize Eelam with the pen.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    BW,

    Eelam via gun (LTTE) did not work out. So, yes, on with the pen and Lies, Cheat & Deceit (as proven by many articles and by CH-4, again. This time exceeding expectations !).

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