The Future of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism
Posted on November 10th, 2023

Shashik[S1]  Silva and Ammaarah Nilafdeen-Re- published with few comments by D R Sudath Gunasekara

During his recent visit to the United States, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the National People’s Power, addressed an interesting question from a Sri Lankan resident. The person highlighted the significant dominance of the white population[S2]  in the US but also emphasized their peaceful coexistence with other migrant communities despite their majority status. In drawing a comparison to Sri Lanka, the person underscored the prevalent presence of the Sinhala people yet pointed out instances of discrimination[S3] [S4]  faced by them, particularly in specific areas where it is more pronounced. He appealed to the NPP leader to recognize the challenges currently faced by the Sinhala community in their homeland. This interaction prompted us to examine and discuss the ever-evolving nature of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, particularly in light of the expanding influence and affluence of the global Sinhala diaspora[S5] . This essay seeks to foster a discussion on how the growing support from this thriving Sinhala diaspora for contemporary temples[S6]  might shape the future of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism within the realm of long distance nationalism.

What is long distance nationalism[S7] ?

As of 2020, Sri Lanka had an estimated three million emigrants, with one million having permanently settled abroad, creating a unique one-to-twenty diaspora to population ratio for the country (Jayawardena, 2020). Considering the increased outmigration during the financial crises, this figure is likely higher now. A recent survey by the Social Indicator – Centre for Policy Alternativesrevealed that 67.7% of Sri Lankans express a willingness to migrate and reside in other countries, a percentage that continues to rise. In light of these trends, the significance of the diaspora is expected to grow in the coming years.

Long distance nationalism denotes various identity assertions and activities that connect individuals across different geographical regions to their ancestral homeland. These activities span from political participation, such as voting and lobbying to financial contributions and artistic expression(Schiller, 2005[S8] ). Commonly referred to as the diaspora in everyday conversations, this group plays a crucial role in the political, economic and cultural landscape of Sri Lanka. According to the National Peace Council’s study titled Language of Peacebuilding in Post-war Sri Lanka, while the term Tamil diaspora has historically carried negative connotations among the Sinhalese, it is important to shift some focus to the increasingly influential Sinhalese diaspora, considering their status as the majority ethno-religious community in the country. Notably, the Sinhalese diaspora has become a significant patron for artists, businesses, media outlets, and politicians, as well as modern temples and influential monks. This essay seeks to raise pertinent questions regarding the potential impact of this diaspora on the future of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism[S9] .

Sinhala Buddhist nationalism: dominance and impact

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism is a political ideology that emphasizes the significance of Sinhalese culture and ethnicity, intertwining elements of national identity and pride. Initially conceived as a response to the British colonial rule, which promoted Christianity and adopted divisive strategies favoring minorities over Buddhists (DeVotta, 2007[S10]  ), this ideology gradually evolved to foster discrimination against other minority groups in the country, particularly gaining prominence after Sri Lanka gained independence[S11] . A key tenet of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism is the notion that Sri Lanka inherently belongs to the Sinhalese Buddhists with minorities permitted to reside only due to the tolerance of Buddhists (Kapferer, 1988[S12] ). The ideology also relies heavily on the significant influence wielded by the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks, within the political sphere. It is widely recognized that Buddhist monks possess the capacity to impact the establishment and dissolution of governments, as well as to exert pressure on elected representatives[S13]  (Seneviratne, 2007).

The rise of Sinhala Buddhist nationalist ideology during British colonial rule was significantly influenced by the leadership and affluence of intellectuals, elites and the middle class. Notably, the advancement of education for Buddhist girls was propelled by the wealth generated from profits in the liquor and plantation industries[S14] . This advancement aimed to cultivate educated Buddhist wives, seen as a countermeasure against the perceived threat of Christian or non-Sinhalese spouses, thereby safeguarding Sinhala Buddhist identity. It was believed that educated mothers would be instrumental in producing the next generation of Sinhalese Buddhists. This perspective primarily stemmed from the efforts of national minded Buddhist intellectuals and the middle tier of Sinhala Buddhist shopkeepers and traders (Jayawardene, 2007). On the other hand, the contributions of individuals such as Anagarika Dharmapala, a prominent figure in the Buddhist revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were particularly notable owing to his affluent background (Roberts, 1997). Dharmapala played a pivotal role in establishing the Sangha’s involvement in secular activities, which significantly contributed to the evolution of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism in the subsequent years (Seneviratne, 2007).

Over the past two decades, there has been a noticeable surge in Buddhist activities, often backed by funding from successive governments and business entities. This trend has contributed to the pervasive influence of Buddhism in the public domain and within the political system, often encroaching upon and marginalizing other communities[S15]  (Dewasiri, 2019). Recent Budhisisation endeavors have demonstrated a keen interest in reaping political and commercial benefit. Notably, these interventions seem to coincide with the timing of significant events such as the 2019 presidential election and the commercial peak seasons during the Sinhala-Hindu New Year and Christmas (MinorMatters, 2022[S16] ).

The predicament with Sinhala Buddhist nationalism lies in its dominant position, which despite its historical roots as a response to British colonial rule, has increasingly curtailed the rights of other ethnic minorities over time[S17] . This has been evident in various practices such as successive governments prioritizing Buddhism over other religions, the political sway exerted by Buddhist monks and also in certain instances targeted violence against minority religious groups[S18] . These developments have underscored the complex challenges stemming from the influence of this ideology on the sociopolitical landscape of Sri Lanka.

Modern temples and long-distance nationalism

In this essay, the term modern temples refer to temples that operate at the national level, assuming more extensive political, economic and social roles compared to the traditional duties of village temples[S19] , which primarily participate in local religious ceremonies such as bangedara, pansukulaya deema and other religious events. Many of these modern temples actively contribute to the promotion of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism by engaging in national level politics assuming the belief that Buddhists should have greater autonomy in governance[S20] . Umandawa Global Buddhist Village and Sandagiri Maha Viharaya serve as examples of such temples that benefit from the Sinhala diaspora.

In the case of Umandawa, the temple openly aligns itself with specific political figures while voicing discontent with others. Moreover, it has garnered support from influential entities for its construction initiatives. These temples frequently engage in critiquing government policies and actively participate in endorsing particular political agendas. They also utilize their extensive reach on social media platforms to disseminate their opinions and ideas effectively. Likewise, the monk associated with Sandagiri Seya has shown support and loyalty to specific political ideologies. For instance, in 2014, he embarked on a 30-day walk to bestow blessings upon the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government for their endeavors in defeating forces opposing Sri Lanka. The temple currently receives support from Dilith Jayaweera, a businessman turned politician actively involved in various political campaigns over multiple elections. It is essential to note that the construction of the stupa at Sandagiri Seya was carried out on government[S21]    owned land in an area where the predominant community is the Malaiyaha[S22]  Tamils, with a smaller population of Sinhala Buddhists[S23]  residing in the same area.

The increasing popularity and appeal of these modern temples have positioned them as trusted recipients of financial support from the Sinhala diaspora[S24]  . These funds are often allocated for various purposes including the construction of religious sites, the implementation of youth training programs, engagement in social welfare initiatives and, in some exceptional cases such as Umandawa, the establishment of hospitals. Remarkably, even during the initial phase of the financial crisis when many construction projects across the country came to a halt, these prominent temples continued their construction activities without impediment. Social media plays a pivotal role in enabling these monks to connect with the diaspora while providing diaspora members who contribute funds the opportunity to witness how their financial support is being utilized through these online platforms. Engagement with these temples facilitates a connection between diaspora members and their home country, offering them a sense of social recognition that might not be easily attainable in their host countries. Notably, this practice has created opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds, ranging from unskilled laborers to professionals, to make financial contributions toward these initiatives[S25] .

In a recently published YouTube video, Sri Samanthabhadra from Umandawa emphasized the potential to secure essential financial support from the diaspora for his projects if the government were to endorse his initiatives. He has been actively engaging in foreign tours and meetings with members of the diaspora, cultivating their assistance for his endeavors. During these visits, the monk expresses gratitude for the diaspora’s support and ensures that these patrons receive social recognition from their home country by featuring them in his YouTube videos. Likewise, as seen in videos released by the Gangasiripura Dhammaloka monk from Sandagiri Maha Viharaya through their Facebook page, it is evident that the Sinhala Buddhist community has been contributing funds for the construction projects at the temple and the social service initiatives led by the monk. Moreover, the diaspora sponsors meals for individuals taking part in the shramadhan activities at the temple. It is also observable that these sponsored activities from the diaspora hold a particular appeal among the youth users of various social media platforms. Long distance nationalism to Sinhala Buddhist nationalism[S26] 

In this context, one might perceive the funding directed to modern temples as indirect support for Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, considering its role in reinforcing the political influence wielded by these modern temples. However, an alternative perspective could argue that the diaspora’s support for modern temples does not necessarily aim to promote Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Engaging in a deeper discussion could involve probing into the reasons why the Sinhala diaspora chooses to fund these modern temples[S27] .

Long distance nationalism often resonates among individuals who reside away from their home country but seek to have some form of political influence in their country of origin (Skrbi, 1999 as cited in Schiller, 2005[S28] ). This may not directly apply to the majority of the Sinhala Buddhist diaspora, primarily driven by aspirations for financial prosperity. Nonetheless, many individuals who migrate to developed nations encounter challenges related to being perceived as the other” and experience a decline in social standing within the host country, regardless of their citizenship status. Consequently, they may be driven to strengthen their connection with their homeland to bolster their personal self-esteem (Schiller, 2005[S29] ). This scenario could significantly resonate with the growing Sinhala diaspora, suggesting that their involvement with Sri Lanka is likely to increase in the future[S30] .

Evidently, the migrating community may uphold Sinhala Buddhist ideological practices more fervently compared to those living within the homeland. This observation finds support in the earlier discussion, where the diaspora recognizes the significance of their homeland while navigating a host society where they may not be fully integrated.

The active participation of the Sinhala diaspora was observed during the 2019 presidential election with many Sinhalese living abroad returning to the country to support Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This action carries significant ideological weight, especially considering the heavily Sinhala Buddhist nationalist driven campaign led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Additionally, various political parties continue to receive crucial backing from the Sinhala diaspora, highlighting the ideological commitment of this community. In the recent visit to the US, Anura Kumara was urged by an individual to protect the country,” further underlining the diaspora’s ideological interests. Thus, it is worth reflecting whether the contributions of the Sinhala diaspora to modern temples can be interpreted as more than just financial assistance[S31] .

The funding provided by the Sinhala diaspora to modern temples has significantly bolstered the secular role of the Sangha, an integral aspect of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Even during times of financial crises, this support has enabled modern temples to maintain a robust presence. While one can appreciate the work carried out by the Sangha in terms of their involvement in social work and other construction projects, this significant contribution could also have the potential to nurture influential Buddhist monks capable of exerting influence in governance in the future[S32] 

long distance nationalism and the promotion of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism are expected to become increasingly pertinent in future[S33] . In contemplating the impact of the diaspora’s increasing engagement and assistance on the future power dynamics and beliefs in Sri Lanka[S34] , this essay aims to stimulate a discussion and encourage readers to consider how the evolving roles of the diaspora and modern temples might shape the social and political landscape of the country in the years to come[S35] .

Devotta, N. (2007). Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Ideology: Implications for Politics and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka. East-West Center Washington.

Dewasiri, N. R. (2019). Lankawe Samakaaleena Bauddhathwaya” Ha Ehi Ayithihaasikathwaya Pilibanda Wiwechanaathmaka Aawarjanayak. In Lankawe Ithihaasaya: Drushtiwaadi Wichaarayak. Vidarshana Publishers.

Jayawardena, P. (2020). Sri Lankan Out-Migration: Five Key Waves Since Independence. University of Colombo Review (Series III), 1(1), 101–118.

Jayawardena, K. (2007). White Women, Arrack Fortunes and Buddhist Girls Education. In Religion In Context: Buddhism andSocio-Political Change in Sri Lanka (pp. 45–55). Social Scientists’ Association.

Kapferer, B. (1988). Legends of People, Myths of State. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Minor Matters. (2022). A Review of the State of Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka.

Roberts, M. (1997). For Humanity. For the Sinhalese. Dharmapala as Crusading Bosat. The Journal of Asian Studies, 56(4), 1006–1032.

Schiller, N. G. (2005). Long-Distance Nationalism. Encyclopedia of Diasporas, 570–580.

Seneviratne, H. L. (2007). Buddhist Monks and Ethnic Politics. In Religion in Context: Buddhism and Socio-Political Change in Sri Lanka (pp. 88-101). Social Scientists’ Associati[S36] 

 [S1]Both Loos non S.B

 [S2] They are not native of US Invaders and migrants only with 300 years history No surprise they tolerate other migrants also. Situation in This country is different Sinh are owners of the country All others are migrants only So cannot compare.


How can the JVP under AKD resolve discrimination against the Sinhalese and Buddhist in this country when their party does not has a clear policy on the nationhood in Sri LAnka?


 [S5] + point

 [S6]No wonder. Yes it is a problem for Shashik Silva who was earlier associated with the survey research arm of Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Applied Research Unit of UNOPS.and a as a person currently working as an independent research consultant for both national and international non-governmental organizations in the areas of peacebuilding, social cohesion, hate speech, and religious freedom areas mainly  associated with anti-Sinhala and Anti-Buddhist activities as stated in his bio data sheet and Ammaarah Nilafdeen looks a Muslim. h

 [S7]What do you people mean by long distance here

  In terms of history, it is 307 BC to date. As the Sinhala saying goes it Buddhism and the Sinhala Jathiya are like the (bark to the tree” That is if the Sinhala nation is the tree, then Buddhism is like the bark of that tree.  That means you can’t separate the two They are one.

So no one can visualize a distance between these two.

 [S8]An asset Good development

 [S9]Are you jealous?

 [S10]This is the crust of the present-day problem. What Sinhalese are trying to do at present is restore their lost rights. How can it be aa disclination against the minorities DeVotta?

 [S11]Naturally they are only regaining what they have lost

 [S12]Yes, it is a fact what is wrong with it Mr Kapferer?

 [S13]Yes, of cause. They have done it from 307 BE. And we had a just society. Monks are the Guardians of the Sinhala Buddhist nation

 [S14]What is wrong in investing for a good cause

 [S15]Who said this lie Dewasiri must be out of his nuts

 [S16] Are you jealous to  see a once Great nation is trying to restore what was destroyed by invaders and to raise their head as a nation?

 [S17]Blatant lies by misguided  lump an intellectuals

 [S18]You cant give equal treatment for religions imposed by for in colonial times  and minorities  recent origin like Tamils and Muslims in a country where Buddhism had been the State religion form 307 BC

 [S19]Do you people know the trigonal role of the Temple in a Sinhala Village Pl don’t expose you intellectual  bankruptcy.

 [S20]Why not They are sons of the soil for 2600 years here DO you want them to be again governed by foreigners as it has happened from 1505 -1948?

 [S21]In our tradition the government or the king did not own land They were only the custodians of the country on behalf of the people. The real owners of the land and the country are the people. Government owning land was a colonial concept. Introduced by the e British after illegally grabbing the land that belong tot the Sinhala people after murdering them en masse.

 [S22]Pl refrain from writing filth. You are trying to create another new nation as if already what the colonial invaders had done for 500 years on this land are not enough. In future if you intend to write on this country, please call it the hill country. Don’t try to Tamil place names in this country.

Remember the scanty Tami Indian Tamils who live in and around this temple are defendants of Indian cooly labour brought by the British to work in their newly opened up tea plantations on the land grabbed by force at gun point that belonged to the Bhoomi putra Sinhalese of this land

 [S23]Please don’t propagate criminal lies. Please come and see who are the smaller population here. We can sue you for this type of false propaganda against the e Sinhala nation.

 [S24]Don’t be jealous of these temples of the Sinhala nation who are trying to raise their head against the discrimination inflicted upon them for 5ooyears  by the Western colonial invaders.

 [S25] I propose to the Sinhala diaspora to take legal action against these writers for blaspheme, defamation and character assassination

Where were you people when TAmil Diaspora was collecting Trillions of Dolars to support the separatist  LTTE to wage war against a democratically  elected government in trying  to create their mythical EELAAM , a thing never existed on this planet on this traditional home land of the Sinhala Nation for the pas 2600 years?

 [S26]You journalist brats why are you so jealous against the Sinhala Buddhists of this country who are struggling to raise their heads after suppression, oppression, exploit EELAM Exposed. A Magnum opus on the Eelam myth

Posted on November 4th, 2023ation and discrimination by colonial murderess for 500 years How many millions of $ have you got from the LTTE Diaspora for this assignment? Only a Sinhala Buddhist can comment on this subject. Both of you are not.

 [S27] They are funding the Sinhaal Buddhist cause The is no argument about it. Do you wat them to support tigers and Swabians  who are doing everything to destroy the Sinhala Buddhist civilization as it was done by the Portuguesa, Dutch and English for 500 years.

 [S28]So what is wrong in it, .Do you expect them to support ani Buddhist Anti Sinhala forces like Tigers or Wahabians?

 [S29] This man Schiller is doing the same thing So what is wrong for anyone else to do it?

 [S30] Yes, it has to be with one’s’ attachment to his own Motherland. It is like his treating his own mother and Father

 [S31]The multinodular question I have to ask from these writers is at whose request are you writing this and whose money nonsense.  It is for nation building. So why are you bothered about it? You fool it had been there from the 307 BC. The temple and the Robe had been the deciding factor in the Sinhala Buddhist society throughout. If that had been the practice il all Catholic and Muslim countries, why it interprets as Something bad, when it is done In Buddhist country

 [S32]Yes, of cause. Why are you bothered about it. It is none of your business to tell the Buddhist monks as to what they should and what they should not do. There is a centuries of Sangha hierarchy armed with a strict code of conduct t do that.

 [S33]Of cause yes. As their patriotism grow and their economy improves certainly, they will do that.

 [S34] What these people are trying to do is to restore their age-old pristine heritage that was n destroyed by the Western enemies from 1505 to 1949 using their military power in earlier days for 500 years and what they are continuing to do in collaboration with the misguided Tamils and Muslims, who were given political asylum by our great Kings in the pas on humanitarian grounds.

 [S35] I am requesting you people, to stop writing this type of rubbish on behalf of the Sri entire Sri Lankan nation and the Sinhala Buddhists, in particular who had been the Boomiputras of this Island for the past 2600 years and find better source of earning your Dollars in future..

 [S36]A word on these people cited as Authorities Except H.L.S,.  Kumari J and Dewasiri all others are none Sinhalese and non-Buddhists who look in at the Sri Lankan Society with a Western colonial eye. That is anti-Sinhala anti Buddhist. Therefore, they always look at Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist people as anti-European, anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim angle. Further none of these cited has a deep understanding on the Sinhala Buddhist Social system If you want to learn about Sinhala Buddhist, I suggest you read books written by people like Wilhelm Giger Rhys Davi et. jut to mention two and Mahavamsa. Reg H.L. I know him as my two years senior at Peradeniya. Sarath Arumugam’s Contemporary. Although he studied here, I think his whole life he has spent in US and he is also well known as a Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah type of man   who never tried to understand the true Sinhala Buddhist Society and always work for the west. His ritual s in the Kadyan Kingdom is a glaring example about his suint eyed type of scholarship on Sri Lankan culture.  Kumari though known as a Feminist and a human rights scholar and her husband Laal Jaaywardhana, an economist is well known for their Western bias. Being full time Colombians”, I am still to find something worthwhile done uphold the native culture and lives of the people of this country and its people Dewasiri is also not regarded as serious scholar by   people who matter in this country. He is also identified as radical who despise the native culture.

As such the sources you have cited are not seriously taken by the people by this country. As such you can’t create any public opinion by this type of stuff. Finally I  would like  you not to write this type of rubbish on a subject you don’t know in future  with to fatten your purse or satisfy few clients throw mud at a world renown great culture of a people in the East.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress