S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike – Why I became a Buddhist
Posted on September 28th, 2015

“The requests made to me to deliver and write articles on this subject have been numerous. I have been very reluctant to accede to these requests because a man’s religious convictions are surely one of those very personal matters that he shrinks from exposing and parading before the public gaze. However much a man’s life may be public, there are always certain hidden reserves of his mind and heart that he likes to keep to himself, which indeed it is right that he should keep to himself. But I suppose there are rare occasions when the veil may be rent from before the holy of holies, and it is in that spirit that I proceed to a dissection and analysis of the innermost workings of my mind and heart on this theme. I hope to conduct that operation in as dispassionate a manner as possible.

My parents being Christian, I was duly baptised into the Christian faith. I cannot recollect that my wishes were consulted in the matter; indeed, it is open to doubt whether at the tender age of a few weeks I would have been able to express an intelligent opinion, if I had been consulted. I went through the usual training of the average Christian child. But even at this early age I suffered from a peculiar disability. While acquiring for Christ a sort of personal affection as towards a kind elder brother to whom one could pour out one’s troubles, I never was able to attain a conception of God the Father. My prayers were all really addressed to Christ: God had no real meaning for me. This trouble, far from disappearing, increased with the growth of my mental powers, until, about the time I left school, I was in sore straits. I now realised that the foundation of Christ’s teaching was the love of and complete surrender of oneself to a personal God, and through the love of Him, the love of one’s fellow men. Now, I was able to love Christ as a man, but I was utterly unable to accept or surrender myself to this god. But could I believe in Christ, and not believe in his God? That was my dilemma. I even gave up going to church, as I felt that in the circumstances, it would be hypocritical to do so. However, at this time I was content merely to drift without actively meeting a solution of my difficulties: my mind was not yet sufficiently mature. Desultory reading at Oxford tended to confirm, rather than dissipate my doubts. I became convinced that the idea of God was really subjective and not objective: that man created God and not God man. Added to the usual arguments that are adduced in support of this view, I was powerfully influenced by the history of the growth of the theistic idea, as I conceived it.

The rationalist view that religion originated in a fear of the unknown is, no doubt, partially true, but it is not the whole truth. We have in my view, to go to life itself for the real reason. Now it is a scientifically provable fact that life is continually devising and adopting means of protecting and fostering itself — the sexual instinct, the protective colouring of animals, and many more examples will readily occur to the mind.

Now amongst all living things that in many ways have so much in common, it i significant that man alone possesses the religious idea. For man alone possesses a mind that apparently makes some sort of religion necessary for comfort, happiness and progress of the human race. He sees various phenomenon about him, which he cannot understand. Being gifted with imagination and a highly developed power of reasoning, he cannot rest satisfied unless he finds some kind of explanation for these things. Moreover, these phenomena, which he can neither cause, control, nor prevent, wield a great influence over his prosperity and happiness. He brings his thinking mind on the subject, and tries to devise some method to effect that control.

Lastly, as the natural tendency of man is perhaps well expressed by the saying ‘home homini lupus’ — if the great powers of the human mind are brought to bear, without any check, on one’s task of mutual destruction, humanity would soon disappear. Religion in some measure provides check. To sum up, human life has evolved the religious idea for its own protection and furtherance just as animals have evolved a protective colouring.

This does not mean that religious belief need necessarily be false, but that owing to the subjective element in it there is a probability that certain beliefs, at least, are false, and that we must each, individually, submit any particular belief to one’s test of such reasoning powers as we possess, before accepting it. It may, of course, be urged in favour of blind faith, even on the rationalist principle, that what is important is not so much that a thing is true but the belief that it is true. And doubtless this has enabled many religions to jog along fairly comfortably hitherto. I do not consider it necessary to pursue that argument further. Let us pause now, and see how the arguments mentioned above apply to the origin and development of the theistic idea.

Early man, seeing certain things happen about him — the sun shining, the rain falling, etc. — which might, in certain circumstances, be beneficial or the reverse to him, tried to discover a method of controlling them to his own advantage.

The method he found was magic. Later, as he grew in power and security, and began to realise his own superiority to the other living things around him, he probably argued in this way: “There are many things that I can do that animals, for instance, cannot do. I can build a substantial house to protect myself form the elements. I can fashion weapons, I can till and cultivate fields. But there are certain things that even I cannot do. I cannot make the sun to shine or the rain to fall. These things, therefore, must be done by some being superior to myself, and as man is the greatest living things I know, they must be done by beings like myself, but with superior powers.”

That, I should imagine, was the age of polytheism. Later, still, with the development of the village community and city state, the conception of an ordered State of the Gods arose. An example is Homeric theology, with the idea of a chief and chieftains of the community, the blacksmith and other artisans and so on. The final stage was the conception of a single omnipotent Being. But here too, it is significant, as Bernard Shaw points out in his Black Girl, that this being gradually develops, in the Bible itself, from a wrathful, jealous, tyrannical God to one who, in the gospels is all merciful and all loving.

The theists may, of course, urge that those various ideas are in due to a struggle on the part of man to discover the truth which gradually revealed itself till the final all-illuminating revelation. The first difficulty about this argument is this: what proof have we that our present conception is the truth, that it is any more true than its progenitor, Polytheism.

Secondly, the fact that mankind’s conception of God seems to have changed with his environment and state of culture and civilization is too remarkable to be a mere coincidence. For my part, I am overwhelmingly convinced, for the reasons mentioned, that man has created God for his own purposes.

When I reached this point in my thinking, three courses were open to me. I might, as some Christians do, have salved my conscience by twisting Christian doctrine to suit my conscience point of view, and continued nominally to call myself one. I was too honest with myself to do that. Another alternative was to declare myself rationalist. This I was unable to do for the following reason. Although I could not believe in a personal God, I did believe in some kind of continuance, a struggle, evolution towards a final goal. Just as higher bodily powers have evolved from lower ones thorough millions of years, there surely is a similar evolution of the spirit of life-essence, or whatever one likes to call it. The history of mankind itself, the painful and laborious struggle, forwards and upwards, out of the dark abyss towards the sun-lit heights above through aeons of time, leads me to this belief. All I can say is that I personally was convinced of this continuance. Thus, while disbelieving what is the foundation of the theistic religions, the existence of God, I believed in a vital ingredient of all religions, the fact of some continuance.

My third course was to find a religion that satisfied my needs. Buddhism alone has been able fully to do so. Its doctrine that there is no need for man to depend on the will of God, whose favour he had to seek and whose wrath he had to fear; that man must work out his salvation himself, appealed irresitibly to my own mentality. Similarly, the continuance and evolution contemplated in the Dhamma exactly coincided with my own views.

Although these are the most important, there are certain other reasons that attracted me to Buddhism. It will have been observed that although I could not love a God, I could love a man, and the Lord Buddha was just a man, like the rest of us. Indeed, he was very human; how touching is his reluctance to look upon his newborn son, once his great resolve was made, lest the infant might close his little fist about his heart-strings and pull him back.

Again, Gotama’s approach to his problem had a strong appeal for me. All the fine spirits throughout history have been conscious of the sorrow that lies forever at the heart of the world. If I may mention two names at random, Virgil was conscious of it, and so was Hans Christian Anderson who, by a strange irony, wrote stories for the delectation of children, for, as George Gissing says of him, beautifully, “Every page is touched with the tears of things, every line, melodious with sadness.”

Gotama realised the fundamental truth of the existence of this sorrow, and the ultimate goal as its removal. In expounding his doctrine for this purpose, He makes no extravagant claims on our faith, but wishes every teaching to be tested by the reasoning of each of us, before acceptance. It is only left for me to say that the Buddha Dhamma has emerged triumphant form the test of my reasoning.

I have now torn the veil from before the holy of holies of my mind. If those, who peer inside, see anything there of profit or help to themselves, I shall consider myself amply rewarded.”


4 Responses to “S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike – Why I became a Buddhist”

  1. aravinda Says:

    From what I have read, Dr.Anthonies testified that Mr.Bandaranaike was wearing a cross when he died.

  2. Sampath Says:

    මෙයා බන්ඩාරනයක බොරු බුද්ධාගම් කාරයෙක් සිංහල චන්ද ගන්න බෞද්ධ උනා. පාන්සුකුලේ දෙන්න ඉස්සෙල්ල පාදිලියෙක් ඇවිත් මිනිය කාමරයකට අරන් ඔරසන් දීලා තියෙනවා කියල තියෙනවා. මෙයාගේ ඥාති පුතා ෆීල්ක්ස් ඩයස් පල්ලියේ බලකනුවක්. JRත් බොරු බෞද්ධයෙක් චන්ද ගන්න. මැරෙන දවස්වල කියෙව්වේ බයිබලය. තවත් බොරු බෞද්ධයෙක් තමයි මහින්ද මහත්තයා. නැත්නම් මොකටද කතෝලික ගැනියෙක් බැඳ ගන්නේ, පාදිලියෝ ඔය තරන් ලන් කරගත්තේ. ළමයි බව්තිස්ම කරලාද? ඇයි ළමයි 3දෙනාම සැන් තෝමස් යැව්වේ කතෝලික හන්දනේ . පාප් වහන්සේ හම්බවෙන්නම 3 සැරයක් ගියා නේද. පාප් වහන්සේ මේ බෞද්ධ රටට ගෙන්න කොච්චර වලි කෑවද මහින්ද මහත්තයා, එතකොට දලයි ලාමාට එන්න තහංචි. එතකොට රනිල් – එයාගේ බාප්පා නේද කුරුණෑගල බිෂොප්, දැන් බොරුවට දළදා, ගන්ගාරාමේ, කැලණිය පන්සල් වඳිනව. ඔය රෝසිලා කරුනානයකලා ඉරාන්ලා එයාගේ වටේ ඉන්න අය මුලධර්ම වාදී කනු . චන්ද්‍රිකා බන්ඩාරනයකගේ දුව බැන්දේ විජය උග්‍ර කතෝලිකයෙක් නේද බෞද්ධයෙක් හොයලා බඳින්න තිබුනනේ

  3. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    This article proves the catholic church is the one actually ruling Sri Lanka. Now you have the worst
    culprit in pol pot ponil. They killed 60,000 Buddhist on the pretext of putting down an insurgency
    when actually they were destroying Buddhist population in the country.

    Who were the people behind those massacres?
    john mara
    ernest perera igp
    douglas peris ssp
    festus perera minister
    joseph Michael
    merryl gunaratne. Do you see the connection? They all catholics. It is all in the batalande report, in black and
    white. But they all got away with murder because they are catholics. This is the sad plight of the Sinhalese
    Buddhists. Vast numbers of them still support this Buddhism destroying, Buddhist killing Unpatriotic party.

    No wonder they are rampaging when you have sobithaya dhrohitaya, malwatte kapuwa, asgiriye kapuwa, ambare damilaya, ratanaya etc. etc. leading figures support this murderous party.

    Remember Gangodawila Soma thero. What happened to him? We all know what happened to him when he visited
    Russia on the invitation of catholic church.

    We all know why Unpatriotic party drag the war on for 30 long years and never want to end it because all the time
    Buddhists were getting killed. 100,000+ in 30 years. Not bad at all for the catholic church!

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Irrespective of what we just BELIEVE in, we all get born the same way and we all die the same way. The same Laws of Life apply to us all.

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