Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – VII
Posted on July 23rd, 2014

By Nalin de Silva Courtesy Island

Most of the cultures in the world at present are associated with religions though it is not necessary that a culture should be associated with a religion. Of course, it depends on the definition of religion and one could define religion as a system that includes rituals, and could say that cultures have been associated with religion for a very long time. All knowledge is grouped into conventions, and conventions like anything else are not absolute but relative. There are no conventional truths as such but only conventions, and people have been moving from one convention to another throughout history as known to us. Some people could “belong” to more than one convention at any time, very often contradictory, and the Sinhalas are notorious in that respect. People do not analyse conventions to find out whether there are contradictions, they only select conventions that are suitable for their existence.

When I started this series of articles, I was concerned of the attitude of the educated, meaning of course western educated towards Sinhala Buddhism as a culture and had wanted to protect Sinhala Buddhism from them. However, I now realise that there is no need for the series as there is nothing at all the educated could do to “destroy” or “weaken” Sinhala Buddhism. In that sense this series of articles is redundant and I apologise to the editor and the readers for using the pages of the newspaper to write on something that is not relevant at present.

However, since I have already written on the subject, I have to conclude the series and I would briefly mention what I thought the educated would have done to destroy or weaken Sinhala Buddhism. They wanted to get rid of rituals and introduce a “rational sensory perceptible” Bududahama with an “objective reality” that could be deduced from Ashokan Buddhism with its Vibhajjavada. The educated are not strong as a civil force or otherwise, and on top of that they are not convinced of their beliefs. Sinhala Buddhism as I had stated has evolved from Hela Buddhism, which was the culture of the Yagu Kauranas (Yaksha Gothra and not a tribe in the western sense of the word) and others after they became Buddhists in the time of Budunvahanse, as described in the Varigapurnikava. The religion of the Yagu Kauranas had no creator God, but had many gods who were mainly their dead relatives. The Yagu Kauranas probably did not have the concept of samsara but believed in some sort of next birth. They were not theory minded, and abstract thinking had no place in their culture unlike in the case of the culture of the Brahmins. However, the Brahmins were not abstract thinkers of the order of Jews and the Brahman is not as abstract as Jehovah of the Old Testament.

The Yagu Kauranas were more interested in “prathyaksha” not to be translated as empirical. They believed in knowledge acquired through means other than the five sense organs and were not hypocritical to reject non sensory perceptible knowledge while making use of them to “explain” sensory perceptible phenomena as in the case of western science. Worshipping the dead relatives was among the rituals of the Yagu Kauranas and some kind of communication had been there between the dead and the living. It was not difficult for the Yagu Kauranas to become Buddhists as Bududahama is not abstract and deductive. There were so many similarities between the religion of the Yagu Kasuranas and Bududahama, and most probably the “ultimate end” taught in Bududahama with “non knowledge” (Anna) leading to Nibbana would have appealed to the former as they were no believers in an Almighty God with objective knowledge or even a Brahman.

It is clear that most of the rituals of Sinhala Buddhism have come from Hela Buddhism with a pantheon of gods and even ‘punyanumodhana”. When Arhant Mahinda Thero arrived with Ashokan Buddhism of the third council with its “Vibhajjavada” the Thero would have had problems in convincing the Hela Buddhists of “Vibhajjavada”. The Thero it appears did not force people to adopt the Ashokan Buddhism, again as a culture, and was happy with teaching them importance of “prathyaksha” through Cullahattipadopama Sutta. The Thero did not want to stop the rituals of the Hela Buddhists either, and had introduced “Bodhi Vandana”

whether the educated believe in the story of “Ananda Bodhi” at Jethavanaramaya or not. Without the rituals Ashokan Buddhism would not have lasted a second in Heladiva, and the dialogue between Arhant Thero and King Devanampiya Tissa clearly indicates that Hela people were not confined to the two valued twofold logic, though some present day scholars have tried to reduce Catuskoti to Aristotelian logic.

If some were to claim that after the arrival of Arhant Mahinda Thero the Sinhala Buddhism lasted as a “rational” culture then it amounts to a lack of knowledge of how cultures survive. It is true that that there had been a struggle between Hela Buddhism and Ashokan Buddhism for supremacy with the kings taking part in the process, with the descendant kings of the Yagu Kauranas and Naga and other Gothras supporting Hela Buddhism and Abhayagiriya, and the descendants of Devanampiya Tissa favouring Ashokan Buddhism and Mahavihara. It appears that during the time of Mahasen the Ashokan Buddhism that had already evolved into Sinhala Buddhism had politically defeated Hela Buddhism. However culturally Hela Buddhism was not defeated and what has taken place is absorption of Hela Buddhism to Sinhala Buddhism. Most of the historians in Sri Lanka are confined to the Mahavamsa view without realizing that a Hela Buddhism had existed in the country even prior to the arrival of Arhant Mahinda Thero. The Mahavamsa convention has to be studied in comparison with Varigapurnikava convention in order to “understand” (in effect to create a story) the evolution of Sinhala Buddhism in the country.

By the time Buddhaghosha Thero and other Bhikkus from Andra Pradesh, the other stronghold of Theravada Bududahama of Third Sangayana (Council), arrived in Sri Lanka, Theravada was on the verge of disappearance from Dambadiva under the attack of Madhyamikavada and later Mahyayana sects, and the Mahavihara and Andra Pradesh Bhikkus had been primarily interested in protecting Theravada Bududahama according to third Sangayana, and the translation of texts to Pali that had spread to present day Myanmar in no time reveals that what they wanted was to maintain the “purity” of third Sangayana Bududahama and nothing else. If the Bhikkus were interested in introducing rituals that were not found previously in Hela Buddhism then the books should have been written in Sinhala so that the ordinary folk could understand them.

The rituals of Sinhala Buddhism have been taken over from Hela Buddhism and they are in the “blood” (as they say in Sinhala “Engey Thiyanawa”) of the Sinhala people. There had been attempts by various Bhikkus such as Wettewe Hamuduruvo and others to “exorcise” gods from Sinhala Buddhism but they had been unsuccessful. Recently Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero attempted to throw the gods into the river, so to speak, but the Thero too was unsuccessful. The gods including Natha Deviyo whom we consulted with respect to the Agrochemical Kidney disease (AKD) are part and parcel of the Sinhala Buddhist culture, and as the Yagu Kauranas of the past we are not confined to so called empirical knowledge of hypocritical western science. We have now treated some of the AKD patients with Sinhala Vedakama, and if not for the obstacles thrown by some western medics we could have established what we call “Jangama Veda Geval” to treat the patients. However, some of these western medics do not mind patients dying in order to maintain the hegemony of western medicine.

The educated are not a threat to Sinhala Buddhism, though politically with the support they receive from the west they could use their influence to preach against Sinhala Buddhism, and what I find is that the “non rational” character of Sinhala Buddhism cannot be eliminated by the former. In fact the so called myths are now accepted by the public without any consideration of the opinion of the educated. The Sinhala people cheated the Dutch by having two names one to be used in the school (Iskoleta Nama) and the correct name to be used at home. Similarly, some of them appear to have practiced two religions one at “school” and the other at home. The opinion of the educated is just ignored by some of the educated themselves by “preaching” so called scientific rationalism in public and practicing so called myths at home. The educated is not a threat to Sinhala Buddhism and I am encouraged by the pages devoted to “myth” in the newspapers published in Sinhala.

2 Responses to “Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – VII”

  1. douglas Says:

    You say in paragraph two “…..there is no need for the series as there is nothing at all the educated could do to” destroy” or “weaken” Sinhala Buddhism.

    I disagree. The reason being that this so called “educated” (whether western or eastern) scholars and mainly the “High Priests” of Buddhism have with their “opinion oriented” discourses turned and twisted the main teachings in such a way the so called “common man” (comparatively less educated) has been “confused” and made to surrender to a state of “blindness” and a falsehood of “Bhakthi”. This we can see happening on a daily basis and more and more Buddhists (Sinhala or otherwise) have misunderstood and converted to practice more of the principles in “rituals” rather than “practice and making it a way of life.”

    Buddha’s main teachings of “Four Noble Truths” : (1) DUKKHA (2) SAMUDAYA, the arising or origin of Dukkha (3) NIRODHA, the cessation of Dukkha and (4) MAGGA, the way leading to the cessation of Dukkha, that run through all of the “SUTHRAS” or the “DISCOURSES” have been subjected to numerous opinion oriented interpretations by the so called “educated” resulting in making simple understandings into ” mind cracking” subject matters only to be handled by “Professorial” types. The worst in this scenario is, the “teaching and interpretation rights” have been acquired by the “educated” and the “facility” within the common man has been “usurped” to develop into a “business venture”. A large majority of these “educated” have and are responsible for making Buddhism a “religion” and the Buddha, a teacher, to be a “founder of a religion” who only claimed to be a human being. In simple terms, that is how we see today, the “PRACTICE” of that great teaching of a great teacher has been mostly aligned with other “Religions” that teaches of GOD CONCEPTS.

    Isn’t that a way of “destroying” and “weakening” of Buddhism?

  2. Senevirath Says:



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