Bodu Bala Sena and the ‘Bodu’ Buddhists
Posted on April 23rd, 2013

C. Wijeyawickrema, LL.B., Ph.D.

            It is amazing that an idea that began with relatively unknown four monks and a layman one year ago has become a movement with world-wide publicity and jealousy. Malinda Seneviratne, the young journalist is correct when he said at the Young Journalists meeting that there must have been a fertile ground developing in Sri Lanka for years for BBS idea to take root this strongly and this quickly. Every entity is scared: from Dayan Jayatileke to Jehan Perera, from Kumar David to Sarath Amunugama.  Politicians of all colours are getting exposed like the proverbial cat due to BBS actions. The power of BBS is its Lichchavi principle: come and discuss.  Those who do not like BBS for whatever reasons are afraid to meet with them face-to-face and discuss!

            One can ignore Mangala Samaraweeras, SB Dissanayakas or Vasudevas as irrelevant noise. But a young journalist like Malinda needs our help because he is honest but confused when it comes to his understanding of BBS vision, mission and actions. He thinks BBS does not deserve the Bodu word because of its leaders’ actions, words and reactions. I can remember the days when my parents were looking for a Bodu-Govi bride for me and when I later tried to apply the same BG rule to find a bride for my son. I found that almost all of the responses/contacts I had lack the Bodu part. It was because I was looking for an integrated-holistic meaning of Bodu and not Simplism. If we think with integrity we can see the idea of BBS is a paradox (for details on simplism and paradox refer to Scott Peck’s,The road less travelled and beyond, 1997, page 58).  Bodu has multiple meanings. Or Bodu means different things to different people.

            Malinda’s confusion is understandable because for decades so many tried to confuse the world on the word Bodu. It was like the fencing in and fencing out idea in the American West. Cattle ranchers (cow famers) wanted free access to land for cattle to roam. But cultivators (wheat farmers) wanted their land protected from cattle. So a farmer can have a barbed-wire fence to prevent cattle coming in. Often this led to gun battles as cattle was fenced out. Purposely or foolishly it was this fencing in and out that non-Buddhists and even some frustrated Buddhist leaders were trying to do with Buddhist people. What a Buddhist can do or cannot do was defined by mostly non-Buddhists. For example Carlo Fonseka after he got a master’s degree in Buddhism became a Pase Budu or a modern day Anagarika Dharmapala. But the attempts to fence in Buddhism of Buddhists did not work because it was like security inside a gated community. Once you go out of the security gate you are exposed to real world phenomena, bribes, pickpockets, prostitutes, NGOs, corrupt officers and politicians.  A fenced in Bodu, is expected to wrap his/her hands with a Navaguna-vala, internally as well as externally, no matter what happens outside the fence, smashing and then urinating on Buddha statutes or bulldozing ancient Buddhist ruins, just to give two examples. This is where Malinda gets into trouble or gets confused: what can a Bodu sprat do when Islamic and Christian sharks come with dollar power? He could perhaps throw a copy of Dhammapada at them?

            I can cite four examples of indirectly trying to define the term Bodu. One was a history professor who was funded by the Marga (mara) Institute to write a booklet on Buddhist fundamentalism who suggested that young Buddhist monks be educated not to become fundamentalists (a kind of Eurocentric Buddhist madraasi). Since he is no longer in this business I do not want to give his name.  But the three others did so much damage to Sinhala Buddhist heritage from their jobs at American universities that their books gave distorted even dishonest picture of reality.  American ambassadors Blake or Sison and thousands of other western white non-Buddhist students’ perception of Bodu were based on these books. All three were arm-chair anthropologists such as the type who stay in the Queen’s Hotel in Kandy and write about the worshippers of God living in Kataragama.  Stanley J. Tambiah, a Tamil Christian decided to go to study Theravada Buddhism in Thailand in the 1960s and produced a book, Buddhism Betrayed, 30 years later. In this book, funded by Lal Jayawardena of WIDER, Norway Tambiah asked a simpleton question, “Why do Buddhists kill?”  

            The next one, the son of a village Ayurvedic physician from Galle, Gananath Obeysekera, identified Buddhist revival that began in the 1840s and 1860s as “Protestant Buddhism.” This Eurocentric label gave a western materialistic European religious wars kind of twist of meaning to the non-violent Buddhist struggle for survival in the face joint Christian and colonial assault. The third one was the best. H. L. Seneviratne (HLS), a famer boy from Millava, Horana, showed signs of his bad childhood experience in his theories. He says Sinhala people originated from Tamils!  More importantly, in  his widely read book “the work of kings” (1999), HLS alleged that problems of Sri Lanka today, especially Tamil terrorism, was a result of the “bad work” done by two monks, Ven. Yakkaduwe Pragnarama and Ven. Walpola Rahula. I asked HLS by e-mail, whether he gave an opportunity to Ven. Rahula to explain or answer his allegation because in his book HLS thanked Ven. Rahula for helping him with documents and ideas! I never heard from him. I asked this question especially because, I heard a story that Ven. Rahula told both Mrs. B and JRJ at a public meeting that the UNP and the SLFP ruined the country.

            The bug that gives fever to concerned people like Malinda and a simple-sharp edged weapon to be used by anti-Buddhists to try to fence in Bodu is S. J. Tambiah and his Boston group’s simplistic question, “How come believers of a religion that preaches ahimsa kill?” How come Buddhists betray Buddhsim? Tambiah was in Thailand studying this question 30 years ago and Gananath Obeyesekera is an expert on this subject. But Tambiah was deliberately fooling the international readers of his book by this irresponsible question. The entire English-speaking crowd in Colombo, the Taliban demonstrators in London, Azaath Salleys, Mano Ganeshans, Sarath Amunugamas and Vasus and Bahus and the white Christian world is agitated, excited and rattled by the arrival of BBS because, BBS ignored Tambiah’s trick to get fenced in.

            Using the late Buddhist philosophy professor W. S. Karunaratne’s formula presented at UNP election platforms in the 1960s a two-part explanation can be used to kill Tambiah’s question now copied by the BQBS kind, Christians in Colombo with candles: Bahira Viplavaya and Santanagatha Viplavaya.

1.—Bahira Viplavaya (external revolt against the material world)

            Christianization of the world and Islamization/Shariasization of the world are billion person, million dollar projects. Theravada Buddhists are such an insignificant minority (50 million?) in this seven billion-world. In Cambodia and Thailand they eat rats, snakes, ants and dogs and therefore, the number can be even smaller. Powerful and rich countries in the world are Christian or Islam and Islam has oil and cruel dictatorships. My Christian American professor friend has a small ranch where he raise cattle for sale as beef. He uses all possible strategies to maximize his profit margin. Can I tell him about my Buddhist nonviolence and ask him to grow corn or cotton instead of the violent killing of cattle?  Tambiah, HLS and GO all forgot this simple reality and hold only Buddhists to a high religious/moral standards? Mother Teresa sent a letter of support on behalf of Keeton who provided her with planes to travel and lots of money. The California district attorney traced Keeton money trail and found some of the money that he stole from the retired and poor Americans went to Mother Teresa. He asked her to return this money, but got no reply. Boston archbishop finally resigned after hiding for so long the sex acts of his priests still the whole truth is not out.

Buddhism was wiped out from India by the Hindus and Muslims because Buddha did not teach how to use guns. As Nanda Malini sings one cannot take the navaguna vala to the battle field. You take the sword and later when you have peace with no enemies coming to kill you then you get back to the navaguna vala.  According to Tambiah there is no need to guard the Dalada Maligawa or the Siri Maha Bodi! Monks disrobed and went to war during King Dutugemunu’s time. Ven. Elle Gunawansa did everything at the battle front except taking a gun during the Prabakaran killing. When army was fighting to free Marvil Aru anicut then Mervyn Silva with his Muslim wife was on stage preaching Sudu Nelum peace. It was a young monk Galabodaatte Gnasara who went to stage and removed the microphone from his hand.  Ven. Soma came to save Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist heritage when no layman or woman was willing to come forward for fear of death!  Where were the now rattled establishment Bodus then? I question famously Bodus such as Susantha Gunatileke, Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva, not the category of Dayan Jayatileke or Jehan Perera, who are known 13-A Eelamists.

 The point is that we are forgetting that God’s standards are set by the human agency? The documents we see the Bible or the Koran are human made. Once I read the Koran up to page 70. Page after page it says, “Help the poor and kill (?) the infidel.”  I got sick of reading this and stopped reading it. Take for example the concept of self-defense and three religious approaches.

(1)   If my life is threatened, I can kill the attacker – no legal liability, no sin (Christian, Jews, Islam believers?)

(2)   Even if my life is threatened, try to run away or die rather than killing the attacker – no legal liability no sin (Buddhists?)

(3)   Try to run away, avoid confrontation, be humane and humble (or escape even I have to kiss the a..) to avoid killing the attacker, but if I have no other choice then totally and completely annihilate the enemy (Bhagavad Geeta’s advice to Arjuna)

 When Prabakaran kills only the Catholic archbishop of Colombo could say P is a humane person. Because, P helps Christianity and P wants to destroy Buddhism and Buddhists. Catholic bishop Ryappu allows P to take the Madu goddess with his guns.

The society has become so corrupt over the past 25 or 40 years because of politicians. It will not be easy to introduce Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka that soon. First you have to get rid of the guns and bombs in the hands of so many. The names of Vessantara and Siri Sangabo are used in Sri Lanka today in exactly the opposite way the meaning of those names described in the Jataka stories. For example people today call a husband a vessantara, if his wife is sleeping with another man, knowingly or unknowingly to him. A siri sangabo is one who stupidly puts his neck out and gets it cut. Today there are no morals in the country. All running like mad dogs thinking the mirage they see is water.

            The strangest thing I saw in this regard is what one Dr. Zakir Naik, and Islam preacher in India has said (ref You Tube). He says the Bible has 50,000 errors! He says that the advice “if slapped on one cheek, offer the other cheek” cannot be possible in modern world because he asks what if thousands of people would take the opportunity and slap the other cheek!  In a Buddhist Jataka story we have a better approach described: The behavior of Bodisatva Nagaya in an old woman’s kitchen. The real world is a cruel struggle as the saint and the devil both reside in human mind.

2.— Santanagatha Viplavaya (spiritual/internal change)

            The Buddha did not try to enfoce the Tambiah type (or Malinda) of Bodu on Sitanos (rich traders) and kings of His time.  They had many wives and fought wars.  The Buddha showed a path and that was all. There was no Bodu versus anti-Bodu separation simply because they did not follow the Eight-Fold Path one hundred percent or ten percent. Even King Dharmasoka was not a Bodu if strict doctrinal rules were applied. There were no such strict rules in Buddhism. A Christian like Tambiah cannot comprehend this. King Dharmasoka’s kitchen was killing hundreds of animals and it was gradually reduced to a few. The king did not become a pure vegetarian. But he was a Bodu.

            The internal purification for a Buddhist is stated simply in the formula: 4NT+8NP (MP). Namely, the Four Noble Truths+ Eight-Fold Noble Path (the Middle Path). Buddhists accept that the human is part of the animate and inanimate world and his or her salvation from Dukka (suffering, impermanence) is in his or her hand. Human life is not linear as in God-based religions, but cyclical.  The Eight-Fold Path is divided into three (right) stages, Seela (speech, action, livelihood); Samadhi (effort, mindfulness, concentration); and Pragna (understanding, thought). Since each human being is unique, each person’s mixture of Seela-Samadhi-Pragna is varied and diverse. This is why the one eating beef and drinking arrack, the one not eating beef but lying, the officer who takes bribes and the husband who cheats his wife are all have a place on the Bodu stage. Otherwise, Angulimala or the King Ajasath who killed his father in a horrible manner cannot be part of the Buddhist heritage.

            Because some Bodus in politics have been cheating other Bodus, because the black-white Bodus and non-Bodus were continuing white colonialism from Colombo, there is a need for a group of Bodus to do the “ƒ”¹…”dirt game.’ That is what BBS is doing as the ghost of Ven. Soma who faced a tragic death because of his Buddhist innocence.  If a monk spearheading this movement had committed a sin in the past is no reason to kill the messenger. If they went to Norway is no reason to kill the message.  BBS did not say go and burn NoLimit store. But BBS cannot be silent if young Sinhala girls are used as slaves in Islam stores. When police has become a boru (fake) police what Bodus are there to protect Buddhists? The laws are for the rich and the crooks. The rule of law, abide by the law kind of talk as reasonable limits. The country was going to dogs for decades. People thought that MahindaR will stop it, but other than the end of war the same old road map is on with black-whites as yes men. Mismanagement is continuing.

During the WW II time attempts were made to produce food locally or a few industries to produce consumer items difficult to import due to war hostilities. But otherwise Colombo-centered, a Colombo paradigm controlled the country. At the time of 1948 or in 1931 the need was:

  1. diversification of economy

modern plantation sector but neglected peasant sectors

grow food crops and non-traditional export crops

develop an industrial sector (agriculture and industry are two legs of a country)

develop import substitution

new economic sectors-limited tourism sector, export of gems, flowers

  1. reduce the gap between Colombo and rural areas
  2. reduce the gap between the rich (Colombo) and the poor (rural/urban, just 10 miles out side Colombo)
  3. reduce the existence of two countries (English language (5%)  vs Sinhala/Tamil language country (95%), two nations)
  4. reasonable and fair readjustment of the effects of the divide and rule colonial policy (minorities vs majority)
  5. wisdom in dealing with the separatist movement in the Tamilnad (Valvetithurai smugglers of goods and people)
  6. reasonable and fair readjustment of victimization of Buddhists by a Christian government.

             Now in 2013 we see Buddhists under attack with a weak government afraid to act with reasonableness. The Jataka Story-based Sinhala Buddhist heritage of 2500 years old is eroding just like the democratic rights of people in general. In the 1850s Buddhists began a revival struggle. It culminated in 1873 with the Great Panadura Debate.  In 1940s Anagarika Dharmapala fought for Buddhist survival. He was called a “thief” by a person like D. B. Jayatileke, who was called an abittaya by the Marxists (because he studied under Buddhist monks in the Kelaniya temple). Some even tried to sling mud at Anagarika Dharmapala hinting that he had gay tendencies! Thus, the history teaches us that BBS has nothing to be afraid of its work. Yes, it is a kind of Bodu. Good and timely Bodu for some, bad and ugly Bodu for some others with or without hidden agenda.

14 Responses to “Bodu Bala Sena and the ‘Bodu’ Buddhists”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Well said Dr C. Wijeyawickrema.

    BUT please do NOT use these relationships. They are NOT relevent to the GOOD points you make.

    “the son of a village Ayurvedic physician”
    “a famer boy”
    “with his Muslim wife”

    A humble request. We need sons of village Ayurvedic physicians, farmer boys and Muslim wives to SAVE SL from Wahabis. What we don’t want is traitors of ALL kinds.

  2. Ramanie Says:

    Great article, Dr Wije! Thank you! BBS has shaken the entire country- it must surely be on the right track for so many anti-Buddhist power-brokers of the country to be shaken to the core! NO newspapers in Sri Lanka report on BBS- unless they want to implicate BBS on some petty crime in the country. The Christian/ minority owned/ operated media have refused to carry BBS advertisements even for money! Such is the fear! I am so impressed with this small group of people to identify the injustices that Buddhists suffer in their own country and to come forward to become a force to recon with! BBS needs the full support of all of us!

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Courageous writing. BBS has filled a societal vacuum. The fault is not with BBS but in Tamil and Muslim extremism. I personally wish to see BBS toning down but it will not happen as long as Tamil and Muslim extremism continues. The government must address Sinhala Buddhist grievances.

    Dayan Jayatileke calls BBS “fascists” but he fails to see real fascists in Tamil and Muslim exclusive political parties. For the record, he sees the 1956 Official Language Act as an act of giving into fascists! It speaks volumes about his true intentions.

  4. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    a forthright article – a dreaded fool has accused that few of us are attacking muslims. we categorically deny this. we do not attack decent muslims, which are minority but wahaabis who are on a peaceful path of ‘expansionism’. east is a perfect example. last time when I came to sri lanka I stayed in a muslim home – a guest house in ratmalana. they were even better than some Sinhala people.
    problem is with these vote mongers in this regime and opposition, we simply cannot turn a blind eye to issues which threatens our heritage and culture, which was based on hela and Buddhist values. bbs is the only force which will protect Buddhist values as did dharmapala, vens.sumangala, soma etc. bbs need not confine themselves to protect Buddhism but must now get on with the clean up of our country of corruption as the leader is just a farce entity. if he is straight we would have been a clean country few years ago. I emphasise again – I have repeated this several times – muhudu maha vihara precincts must be cleared of wahaabi encroachers. if the gosl fails then bbs must take this issue on. they also must fight to establish anuradhapura as the capital, symbolically. I stopped writing articles as there was no effect on this corrupt regime. I feel now even stop being a critique.

  5. herman Says:

    The Real challenges for Bodu Bala Sena is to remain focus and relevant. For the start, BBS should just engineer the dispelling of the 13A, reducing corruption of government officals and ridding the drug menace.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    “reducing corruption of government officals”


    BBS should NOT take that up. That is a HEAVILY POLITICISED affair. If BBS gets into the corruption war, it will not go anywhere. ALL those who fought corruption ended up corrupt!!

    Dispelling 13 amendment and drug menace, ABSOLUTELY. Muslim and Tamil groups are behind BOTH these.

    The main ATTRACTION for BBS comes from Sinhalese ONLY. So they must PRIMARILY serve Sinhalese ONLY. Good by-products to minorities is OK. But nothing more. That is the only way to keep the following and keep BBS growing.

    With the success of BBS, politicians will try to creep into it. But BBS should stay focused.

    BBS should be the Sinhala version of SLMC.

    BBS should field a candidate in the 2016 (or 2015) presidential election. MR will lose because Sinhala votes will be divided. Approach MR after nominations and before the election with demands that make Sinhala Buddhists better off. If he agrees, join him. If he disagrees, DEFEAT HIM. SLMC anyway joins UNP at election time and there is NOTHING to lose.

    At the general election, put a good speaker against Wimal Weerawansa in Colombo district. That will force WW to UP THE ANTE.

    This is what ACTC and ITAK does. One “betters” the other. Ultimately Tamils benefit.

  7. herman Says:


    I know you mean well but somehow your stand on corruption is puzzling!

    Agreed. Sofar, “ALL those who fought corruption ended up corrupt” so do you not think its a good way to test the Genuine Strengths and Characters of those in Bodu Bala Sena before they are fielded as candidates?

    Personally, I will not like to see BBS chaps in parliament not after the JHU episodes. SL has one of the most corrupt system in place now and since you are not in favour of BBS removing some of this corrupted minefield who else will?

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    The Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka have been hammered down and even killed in thousands ever since Colonial invasions (lasting some 500 yrs), Cold War politics & times, and lately Tamil Separatism & imported Caste Wars from Tamil Nadu.

    It is high time the Sinhala Buddhist population of Lanka protected themselves. For sheer survival, BBS is the answer. But say to NO to violence, please. Non-violent methods can be used quite effectively to gain good results. Yes, the illicit drugs and spread of Wahabism has to stop.

    * For instance, make sure that all illegal migrants are deported (zero tolerance for illegal migrants) who bring in all sorts of personal grievances as well as ancient inimical laws via religions and plant these in Sri Lanka. The ethnic balance in Lanka is being seriously challenged due to outsiders who come in illegally.

    * BBS should seriously work on Labor needs in Lanka together with GoSL. In particular the tea sector LABOR needs ought to be addressed via Modernisation & Mechanisation so that anyone can work in the tea sector, not just Tamil Labor controlled by India through the CWC.

    * Also methods of Fertiliser & Pesticides used in Upcountry tea plantations as well as in vegetable growing as all the rivers of Lanka (our water supply) starts in the Upcountry. It is imperative that safe and natural methods are used in Upcountry areas especially (and other places) as otherwise our water supply may get polluted beyond acceptable levels. Water testing of Mahaweli and other Rivers ought to undertaken and done at District level on a regular basis.

    * BBS ought to help the government form a permanent Science Advisory Committee for the Parliament.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    A word of advice to BBS: Don’t waste your time attacking various personalities. KEEP YOUR FOCUS and get the Job Done to ensure safety and well being of the citizens of Lanka.

  10. Senevirath Says:

    may be wije was truing to say……..Even though he was a son of a village ayurvedic physicion……. etc etc

    Yes there are people with inferiority complex who wants to shaw that they are not from the village LIKE

    Gananatha and H L S

  11. Fran Diaz Says:

    I should clarify what I mean by ‘Labor Needs’. I am referring to Labor Needs of the Laborers, as well as Labor needed by various Enterprises. This is huge field of Needs to address. Though there is a Ministry for Labor, the BBS too has a role to play here.

    Labor will include unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers, their welfare & training, home needs, etc. The formation of
    Co-ops for rural enterprises should be considered too.

  12. Lorenzo Says:


    Corruption is BAD FOR SURE and we have to stop it.

    BUT BBS is NOT the forum to do it for the moment.

    IF 13A is scrapped, Shariazation is stopped, corrupt Tamil and Muslim business practices are stopped, we AUTOMATICALLY reduce at least 50% of corruption.

    Still BBS is VERY small compared to the network of corruption. Once it grows to tackle it, it sure must do it.

  13. Ratanapala Says:

    Lorenzo is right. Bodu Bala sena cannot fight all the ills of Sri Lanka in one go. They must prioritise. As Mao Ze Dong said ” We must not fight all the devils at the same time” There is much wisdom in these sayings. They must buckle down to go among the grass root Sinhala Buddhists and sensitise them as to their rights and aspirations being the majority in the country. At the moment since Independence they have been taken for granted by every government that came to power. This situation cannot go on for ever. However the approach to solve this problem is not going to war with all and sundry at the same time. They must explore all the avenues under existing law and get the law of the land to deal with the situation.

    All those who have seen what happened to previous attempts by Buddhists to air their aspirations and grievances, must advice Bodu Bala Sena to moderate their approach. It is the slow and steady who wins the race and not otherwise. We have seen time and again how previous “Soda Bottles” silenced after the initial fizz!

    All those who love Sri Lanka to remain a majority Sinhala Buddhist country must help the leaders of Bodu Bala Sena to calm down and expand their foot print around the island and abroad. They also must be vary of impostors who come as friends. The broader the foundation, stronger will be its ability to stand firm in the face of adversity. The forces against Bodu Bala Sena are formidable and one needs to tread the path ahead carefully for it is full of pitfalls including from those who call themselves “Buudhists”.

  14. Lorenzo Says:


    1 Slow but steady wins the race.
    2 Bring down one donkey at a time.
    3 Be VERY CAREFUL of DO GOODERS. No advisors, no consultants, no BSers who are NOT active destroyers of Shariazation, Halalization, Islamization, Satanization, Tamilization and Endianization.

    For them to have ANY credibility for BBS to listen to them ANYONE coming to BBS must have a PROVEN TRACK RECORD of actually destroying Shariazation, Halalization, Islamization, Satanization, Tamilization and Endianization ideologically, physically and legally. No free riders.

    4 SECURITY is the biggest threat to innocent BBS.

    Anti BBS Tamil terrorists (LTTE, TELO, PLOTE and 30 Tamil terrorist group in July 1987).
    Anti BBS Muslim terrorists (Kalmunai Jihad, Razeek Group, Lakshe-e-Toiba, JI, Sri Lanka Jamthi Islam, Thauhid
    Jamath, Thableeq Jamath, Jamathi Muslim).
    Anti-BBS Christian terrorists (Kasippu Joseph)

    (Of course not everyone of them are anti-BBS and terrorist.)

    These terrorists WILL (not may) kill BBS unless BBS spreads within the army, navy and air force. That is BBS’s biggest and most loyal recruitment base.

    IF both BBS and army want to PROTECT SL, nothing can stop these birds of feathers flocking together!!

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