Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – VI
Posted on July 2nd, 2014

By Nalin de Silva

It has to be emphasised that what is meant by Sinhala Buddhism is a culture and not an interpretation of Bududahama. Of course, Sinhala Buddhism is associated with interpretation(s) of Bududahama and one would even say that there is more than one Sinhala Buddhism at any point in history. This is not confined to Buddhist cultures and there is no homogeneous culture as such in any country. However, one could take the “highest common factor” of the variant cultures as the culture of a society, but the question could be asked as to who determines the “highest common factor”. Fortunately consensus is achieved in this respect, and one would have an idea of the English Christian culture despite variants such as London, Yorkshire, South, working class (not in the Marxist sense), middle class, upper class (sub) cultures. The ruling out of a ‘highest common factor’ stems from the rejection of a ‘meta narrative’ by the postmodernists in the west illustrating the crisis in the western Christian culture.

Apparently, Sinhala people have been called Barbarians by a diplomat residing in the country and if she had made this statement, then it is probably the Sinhala Buddhists she refers to. In the history it is some other people and not their own people that have been called the Barbarians, starting with the “original Barbarians”. The Sinhala Buddhists are entitled to call the westerners Barbarians when the oppressions by the latter during the last five hundred years are considered. However, the education that has been imposed on the rest of the world has produced some ‘educated’ people all over the world who would come to the rescue of the westerners. As far as I am concerned there cannot be a worse Barbarian culture than a culture that imposes its education and knowledge on the others through various means including the formulation of a so-called scientific method. Of course, as in the case of other concepts there is no ‘objective Barbarianism’ as such and Barbarianism depends on one’s politico cultural definition of the concept. It would be helpful if the diplomat first mentions her definition of Barbarianism, and tells us what is happening in Western Asia (so-called Middle East relative to the Europeans) is Barbarianism or not irrespective of whether the Christians or the Muslims are involved in them.

As we have already said Sinhala Buddhism has inherited much from Hela Buddhism of the Yagu Kauranas (Yakshas) including the Catuskoti (fourfold) logic of the latter. When King Devanampiya Tissa said that he was neither a relative nor a non relative of himself as the reply to a question by Arhant Mahinda Thera he relied on Catuskoti, as we pointed out more than twenty five years ago in ‘Kalaya’ and ‘Divaina’. However, the educated in the country ignored that explanation as they did not believe in a fourfold logic that contradicts the twofold Aristotelian logic that has been imposed on us by the westerners who think in terms of dualities. In fact the ‘Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge’ by the late Prof. K N. Jayatilake attempts to show that Catuskoti could be reduced to twofold two valued logic! According to the Jayatilake scheme one could say that Devanampiya Tissa was not a relative of himself in one sense and was not a non relative in another sense. In this regard it has to be mentioned that when I submitted ‘Mage Lokaya’ for financial aid to be printed, twenty eight years ago, the Book Publication Board did not approve funds at first on the advice of a Buddhist Scholar who is still living who knew that the book was not in conformity with ‘standard’ interpretation of Theravada Bududahama. I am glad the book has gone into the fifth edition by now.

Although Hela Buddhism had no conflict with Sinhala Buddhism as far as logic per se, the interpretations of Bududahama associated with the two Buddhisms were different. It appears that the Hela Buddhism inherited the Bududahama from Budunvahanse and was pre Sangayana (Council) whereas Sinhala Buddhism (Ashokan Buddhism at the beginning) was associated with the interpretation of the third Sangayana. The third Sangayana interpretation is realistic, objective and analytic as the Dhammavada of the Mahavihara Bhikkus had these properties. It is not known whether these were introduced by Arhant Mahinda Thera from the very beginning or were incorporated later in the evolution of Ashokan Buddhism into Sinhala Buddhism. In any event it is clear that by the fifth century Sinhala Buddhism had been able to defeat Hela Buddhism as the significant culture of the country. However, even later there had been remnants of Hela Buddhism of the Yagu Kauranas as exemplified the story of Kashyapa and Mugalan.

It is wrong to say that Ven. Buddhaghosha Thera introduced rituals to Sinhala Buddhism and that was the reason for burning of the Hela Atuwas and other books that were available in the country at that time, which did not have any rituals. The rituals had been there from the Hela Buddhist days and the Sri Pada Vandana had been introduced during the time of Budunvahanse according to Mahavamsa as well as the Varigapurnikava. It was none other than Arhant Mahinda Thera who introduced Bodhi Vandana having made arrangements to bring the right branch (dakshina shakha) of the sacred Bo Tree from Buddha Gaya. Arhant Mahinda Thera would not have gone against the rituals of Hela Buddhism and antagonized the Hela people who were the original inhabitants of the country. It is unfortunate that an interpretation of Mahavamsa is made use of to identify the Vedda people as Adi vasins (so-called aboriginals) and relegate the Sinhala people to immigrants.

As we said in the previous installment Arhant Mahinda Thera chose the Cullahattipadopama Sutta for the first Dharmadeshana (not the sermon for anybody’s sake) as it emphasized ‘prathyaksha’ over deductions using theory. Most probably the Hela Buddhists were not oriented towards theory and Arhant Mahinda Thera would have wanted to highlight that his interpretation of Bududahama was not different to that of the Hela Buddhists. Even today the Sinhalas are not happy with theory, especially with abstract theory, (Minister Bandula Gunawardhane’s attempts to teach abstract Mathematics to all Sinhala students-some will learn something anyway-would come to naught unless the pass mark is reduced to near zero and pretend that the students have a knowledge of Abstract Mathematics – as far as I know the Sinhala people have not produced a single abstract Mathematician) and in the present world dominated by knowledge associated with abstract theory Sinhala people are outplayed by even third rate second secretaries of embassies. In any event though Ashokan Buddhism introduced a Vedic coronation Arhant Mahinda Thera had tried to conform to Hela Buddhist culture as far as possible.

The period from third century BC to about fourth/fifth centuries AD, which is about seven hundred to eight hundred years, would have seen the “fight” between Hela Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhism, which ended in a victory for Sinhala Buddhism during the reign of King Mahasen, and further reinforced during the time of Mugalan, who obtained support from Dambadiva. Sinhala Buddhism, unlike Hela Buddhism is not indigenous (of course it does not mean Bududahama is indigenous) and had a Dambadiva component incorporated in it. This Dambadiva component upheld by the Mahavihara had been resented by the Yagu Kauranas, but it appears that after king Dhathusena, and king Mugalan there was nothing much they could do except for the resistance by king Kashyapa. It is in this context that we have to study the role played by Ven. Buddhaghosha and other Andra Pradesh Bhikkus, especially the burning of Hela books and making Pali the language of Theravada Buddhism.

One Response to “Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – VI”

  1. Senevirath Says:

    were they not barbarians?

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