buddha - elanka

Source : island


Colonialism was undermining the Socio-Economic basis of a Buddhist society which was the main instigator for the Buddhist Revival. To understand it, the very nature of Buddhism must be understood. The Dalai Lama defined it as “my religion is very simple. My religion is kindness”. Okkakura the Japanese nationalist clarified it when he said ” It is the compassion of Buddhism that elevates a lowly animal to the level of a human being. That made Confucian China accept Buddhism.”

It is compassion that determines the philosophy behind a Buddhist socio economic society; in other words expressed as non self. It is also called the Social Brain in Neuroscience represented by the two cerebral hemispheres well developed in human beings. This is attributed to millions of years of social interaction. The way to access this quality is by liberation of the mind from the greed and avarice of self. That is achieved by enhancing the practice of non self. This determines the basic principles illustrated in the article.

Socio-economic basis of a Buddhist society

It is the compassion of Buddhism the driving force of ethics and morality of Buddhist philosophy be it righteous-ness or sustainability based on the philosophy of what is in the best interest of the majority. Unfortunately, the present world order on the contrary is based on the benefit to a minority. How does one justify the billions in the hands of Bill Gates with virtually nothing in the hands of the majority who are dying of starvation? Can this be sustained except by force and for how long? Sustainability of any Development project in Buddhism was the Principle “Benefit for the many.”

The basis of a Buddhist Sri Lankan society and its wisdom

Gama or village – Human habitation and the forbidden forest for the animals. There is no conflict between animals and humans. Is it not the greed of humans that is behind the present human animal conflict? Leave alone the disharmony created by the mixing up of the urban forest biodiversity. Is dengue not a disease created by mixing the forest biodiversity with the urban? Biodiversity of the urban environment encourages the spread of the dengue mosquito. Is it not the reason for the epidemics? In the forest the multiplication of the mosquito was controlled by the biodiversity. Is it not possible for the forest to become a viable economic entity for the benefit of the many. Today greed has driven the short-term policy of gain at the expense of sustainability (creative destruction) leaving land that has no value and no benefit to the people. Desertification!

The trees helped to stop soil erosion, created a wind barrier that prevented the dislodgement of the humidified air around the tank thus preventing evaporation of the water in the tank helping in its conservation. The trees also helped to stop the flow of the rainwater allowing space or time for the water to absorbed by the soil. The absorbed water was filtered to supply the water tables thus enabling filtered water to access the surrounding wells.

The roots of the tree bordering the tank gives crevices for the fish to breed.

Pansala or Temple – The guardian of the morals and ethics of society. The insistence that the Dasa Raja Dharmaya must be practised by the rulers. In essence the rulers must feel for the suffering of the people. It is this compassion that will make the rulers take the right decision for the benefit of the many – righteousness. Indulgence by the rulers was never encouraged. It was always to the benefit of the many which at the end of the day is the most sustainable.

Dagaba/stupa The stupa represents the path to nirvana and development of wisdom, the gateway to the liberation of the mind and Nirvana. This acknowledges the ability to understand the reality which is geared to the benefit of the many in other words Righteousness.

Tank – water an essential element of life be it for consumption or for agriculture that would benefit the many.(the life giver) It was never privatised right through history enlivening the philosophy of what is in the benefit of the many


1)In essence the Rulers must empathise with the ruled by subjecting themselves to experiencing the plight of the people both the positive and negative aspects .

2)Every development project must practice the philosophy “Benefit of the Many” not for the benefit of a few.

3)Compassion was the driving force.

4)The temple was the site from which this philosophy was implemented through a hierarchical system in society.

Pre colonial Buddhist practices free of hate

When the Portuguese colonialists discriminated the Muslim traders, King Senerath gave refuge to the Muslims in the Eastern Province.

When the Dutch discriminated the Catholics the Catholics were given refuge in Wahakotte. Up till today, the Sinhalised version of mass is practised in the church in Wahakotte. The Portuguese who were discriminated by the Dutch were also given refuge in the Kandyan provinces such as Batticoloa and still the refugees survive as Batticoloa Burghers.

Communalism was never a part of Buddhist society and was never encouraged by the temple.

Social reform Group ” aragalaya in early 1900″ patronised by Ananda Coomaraswamy,

D B Jayatilaka etc

Dress adhere to the native costumes most appropriate for the country Do not imitate the colonial powers blindly.

Maintain eating habits of the natives. Ancestral diet (vegetarian) which the general constitution of the natives was based on.

Cultural Habits of the Sinhala society should continue. The cultural gene of the natives caters to these cultural activities that is part and parcel of the unity of any society

Achievements of Buddhist Revival

Asian unity of the primary Buddhist countries Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka that led to the patronage of Sri Lankan Buddhists. The various reformations of the religion took place under the names of various countries that helped. In Sri Lanka Siam Nikaya with the help of Thailand and Amarapura Nikaya with the help of Burma are the best examples. In Thailand the Theravada tradition is called Lanka Vamsa as the religion was brought to Thailand from Sri Lanka 700 years ago. These connections were re-emphasised and given Patronage by King Chulalongkorn which helped in the continuous cordial interactions. They believed in the dictum that Buddhism is the most appropriate vehicle that would unite the whole of Asia.

Anti-Christianisation movement was to prevent the power of the colonisers preventing the destabilisation of the established Buddhist society especially after the Colebrook commission in 1830 which legalised the discrimination against Buddhists in education, jobs etc

Regaining Buddha Gaya . Greatly helped by Anagarika Dharmapala. It is claimed that the Japanese monks Kozen Gooneratne Thero (the first Theravada Japanese monk ordained in Malwatte Temple around 1892). It is claimed that Kozen Gooneratne Thero removed the Hindu Statues and replaced it with a Buddha statue. Buddha Gaya was until then controlled by Hindus.

Educational Institutions. The Theosophical Society established by Colonel Olcott helped in the establishment of educational institutions like Ananda, Dharmaraja etc for education of Sinhala Buddhists and reviving Pirivena Education

Uniting Buddhist countries under one flag

Print the Magazine of the Theosophical Society, The Sarasavi Sandaresa


King Chulalongkorn was the unofficial Patron of Sinhala Buddhists. He not only presented the Buddhist Press (presently remnants of a burnt press after a fire in Ranwella Temple Galle), built a shrine room in Atapattan Temple and Gangaramaya in Galle, presented a scholarship of Rs 5,000 brought by Mudaliyar E R Gooneratne of Atapattu Walawwa, Galle, to Vidyodaya Pirivena. It is also said that he prevented a railway line that was scheduled to run through the Kalutara Bodhiya. He was ably supported by Priest Jinawarawansa, a priest of Royal lineage who had settled in Sri Lanka. An attempt to appoint a Sinhala ambassador in the court of Thailand and to make King Chulalongkorn the patron of Sinhala Buddhist failed.

In 1887 Mudaliyar E R Gooneratne of Atapattu Walawwa, Galle, sponsored Japanese monks who came to study Buddhism in Galle. First was Shaku Kozen ( later Kozen Gooneratne Thero) who went with Anagarika Dharmapala to Bodhgaya and the other very erudite priest Shaku Soen who took Buddhism to America. His student was D T Susuki whose student was Yoko Ono. Several others followed and some were ordained like Priest Hiruma who was ordained in Paramananda Temple in Galle. Several others followed and studied at Simbali Viharaya Galle.


Digitalisation of the Buddhist Cannon

Spread of Buddhist practice such as Meditation

Spread of the philosophy of mindfulness

Neuroscientific analysis of consciousness

Lessons to be learnt from Buddhist Revival.

Practice of compassion and Righteousness

In economics – sustainability would result if the principle of the benefit for the many not a few is followed.

Open economy – open economy has created widespread disharmony in the world where poverty and injustice is rampant. The philosophy of the open economy advocated by Adam Smith in his book Wealth of Nations and market system is followed but his more important book Moral Sentiment is ignored. In this book he advocates social justice, a very Buddhist concept for the open economy to succeed. A Buddhist concept of Benefit of the Many Policy, that would sustain any project.

Human animal conflict would never have occurred if the Buddhist philosophy to maintain the eco system in the forest was practised, where animals can be free to roam like the forbidden forest of the past. Destruction of the ecosystem in the forest will only expose the urban society to diseases like dengue, viral encephalitis etc . Hence a reforestation programme is a must which should research into the economic benefits that can be accrued from the forests. Creative destruction should not be the policy.

Rule of Law and Righteousness – a very Buddhist concept

Society has to redefine the role of the temple and the other religious institutions.

Endeavor to unite Buddhists of Asia

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