How Buddhism in Sri Lanka is undermined – Let us keep our eyes wide open!
Posted on September 30th, 2023

Sarath Bulathsinghala

29 Sep 2023

That Lord Buddha was of Sri Lankan origin is a canard that is being spread around Sri Lanka.  This not only upset the historical foundations of Buddhism as the world knows it at present, but also create schisms among the Buddhists.

For a start, Sri Lanka was never a land of ‘Seekers after the Truth’! So it was never a fertile ground to produce a personality of spiritual greatness, let alone a Buddha! Does Sri Lanka record in her unparalleled recorded history, other great seekers or Enlightened Beings as those in India? Even today, India is spiritually vibrant and there are many who are actively ‘Seeking’ and achieving different levels of Enlightenment. 

Prince Siddhartha was one such Great Being and we as Buddhists are certain that he was a Fully Enlightened Being. His life as we know it and most importantly his teachings make us certain that He is a fully Enlightened Being. Can any of the proponents of this new theory that Lord Buddha had His beginnings in Sri Lanka provide a similar background in Sri Lanka to that of India 2500 year ago? The great body of knowledge that is Buddha Dhamma did not grow to be – Heenayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana in Sri Lanka!

We as Sri Lankans are at best – followers and what we have done better than most other countries in Asia is preserving and propagating Buddhism. We also perfected a Buddhist way of life that allowed local beliefs, Gods and rituals to be absorbed leaving deeper understanding and following of the Dhamma to active seekers. It is this way of life and culture that is under threat now. 

Buddhism had its heyday in India and during those centuries produced the best of the Buddhist way of life and thinking. Beginning with Emperor Asoka of the Maurya Empire and many other Buddhist kings that followed such as King Kanishka of the Kushan Empire took Buddhism Westward, Eastward and Southward. Thinkers such as Nagasena, Nagarjuna, Ashwaghosha et al contributed immensely to Buddhist thought, especially Mahayana traditions that spread eastwards to China, Korea and Japan.  The reasons for the disappearance of Buddhism in India are well-researched subjects. The appearance of the Advaita doctrine of the Vedanta schools popularised by Adi Shankara too had a role in making Buddhism nearly vanish from India. 

In Sri Lanka, Samantabhadra Himi – former Pitiduwe Siri Dhamma Thero claims to be an Arahant. This person is a former science graduate who has studied the works of Advaita Masters – such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramesh Balsekar  then, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, J Krishnamurthi and others and their version of vedic logic. He preaches as Buddhism a mix of the Hindu teachings of the above masters and scientific imponderables that are difficult to be understood by ordinary lay persons.  His followers are quite mesmerised by his words, simply because they sound profound and believe what he says to be the words of an Enlightened Arahant! Ven Heenatigala Indrawansa Thero, who stayed at Pitiduwe Siridhamma Thero’s temple  ( follow the link below) has read the books in his library and from what is there, it is easy to understand the thoughts of Pitiduwe Siridhamma Thero and a measure of his teachings. 

We certainly appreciate his agricultural and entrepreneurial exploits and the example he provides for the lazy serendipitous population in Sri Lanka to wake up and start working!

It is a shame that Buddhism – in fact cultural Buddhism has got so much diluted that most of our Buddhist Priests in Sri Lanka are not what they are supposed to be – rather close to Hindu Pusaris wearing Buddhist Robes offering blessings, Pirith Nool and performing similar religious observances. While Lord Buddha advocated Bhikku and Bhikkuni to live a life of renunciation and seek Nibbana, there are only a few who actively do so. We as Upasaka and Upasika provide a modicum of what we are supposed to do in looking after their welfare the same is not reciprocated by most Buddhist priests in guiding Upasaka and Upasika to follow the Dhamma and guide them to their own emancipation and in the end to Nibbana! While considering simple book knowledge of the Tripitakas as a high achievement, the same importance is not given to the practice of meditation and for the seeking of the higher levels of understanding and achievement – Sovan, Sakrudhagami, Anagami and Arahant. 

While Lord Buddha travelled on foot the length and breadth of Northern India and taught his message of Universal Love and Peace to kings in their palaces, to ordinary people in their villages and to wayside mendicants alike, our Mahanayakes remain in air-conditioned comfort like Maharajahs hardly ever out of their Benz Cars let alone soil their dainty feet on a dusty road. I am yet to hear a single Buddhist sermon by anyone of these – for the welfare of the many” – as Lord Buddha advocated the Sangha community of the day! 

It is in this background that the Christian West and their acolytes the NGOs, are making haste intent on making Buddhism vanish from Asia – just as it happened in India with militant Hinduism and later with Moghul Invasions. What is happening now is a part of ‘pivoting to Asia’ doctrine of the Christian West led by the US. NATO expansion beyond the borders of the North Atlantic are the death throes of the western ‘civilisation’ trying to set fire to the rest of the world before her own vainglorious demise! Militant Islam is only a malleable tool in their hands in regime change and destroying cultures.

For 2500 years, Buddhism in Sri Lanka survived the Hindu incursions of South India, the Catholic invasion of the Portuguese, the Protestant invasion of the Dutch and finally the Anglican invasion of the British. What is left is to emancipate the land and Buddhists from the Buddhist pretenders – the Kalu Suddas! This is left in the hands of the ordinary pious Buddhists who still throng the Buddhist places of worship, come rain, hail or sunshine – for their faith and willingness to defend the Buddhist Establishment in Sri Lanka is still strong!

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