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The Slackening of Buddhist Education in Sri Lanka and its far-reaching implications

By R. Chandrasoma.

Our so called 'best' schools - from which the bulk of our national leadership is drawn - such as Royal, St. Thomas, Trinity, St Joseph and the like, either studiously disown what is labeled as ' nationalist parochialism' or are openly given over to the glorification of the Western-Christian way of seeing the world. Either way, Buddhist Sri Lanka inherits a political leadership that views the expression of nationalism and the love for its great religion as a kind of retrogression or backward movement: a hankering for the past that bodes ill for the country as a whole. Argument is futile against a mind-set of this kind.

Societies may lay claim to be open with representative government and free and fair elections, but there is no gainsaying the fact that it is the mindset of its key leaders that matters most in setting out the parameters of governance. How is this mindset acquired?

Not through deep study - though exceptionally this may, indeed, be the case. It is the school in which one's critically formative years are spent that matters most in shaping a general outlook that remains the tenacious framework, a perspective of first choice, within which everything is viewed.

Have our leaders had the good fortune to be nurtured in a milieu that can be described as 'Buddhist' during that critical period when one's attitude to the land of one's birth and the historic religion that is inalienably tied to it is inculcated by a kind of cultural osmosis? On the contrary, is it not the case that it is increasingly difficult to find schools that display their Buddhist heritage and do their best to foster in the young mind that which is best described as patriotism?

What is the remedy? The Buddhists of this country must realize that the critical failure lies in our schools. Our schools, mostly Christian - inspired, have not been good enough and great enough to produce a generation of leaders that is fearlessly patriotic and who feel deeply that the endangerment of Sinhala-Buddhism is a crisis that has a personal dimension, being one that threatens their own identity.

The 'Public Buddhists' that currently constitute our leadership feel no such sense of belonging - they are, in a very real sense, outsiders that attempt to come to terms with something that they do not care very deeply about.


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