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Of the many encounters between the rich religious traditions of Asia and the modern West, and ihe religious responses to those encounters, few if any can have been beter documented or more intelligently analyzed than the response of the Theravada Buddhism of Sri Lanka to its encounter with Protestant Christianity and modern culture as purveyed by the British colonial power.

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  • Studies in Comparative Religion Frederick M. Denny, Editor The Holy Book in Comparative Perspective Edited by Frederick M. Denny and Rodney L. Taylor

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    Human Rights and the Conflict of Cultures: Western and Islamic Perspectives on Religious Uberty By David Little, John Kelsay, and Abdulaziz A. Sachedina

    The Munshidin of Egypt: Their World and Their Song By Earle H. Waugh

  • The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka:

    Religious Tradition, Reinterpretation and Response

    By George 0, Bond

    University of South Carolina Press

  • Copyright University of South Carolina 1988

    Published in Columbia, South Carolina, by the University of South Carolina Press

    First Edition

    Manufactured in the United States of America

    LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Bond, George Doherty, 1942-The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka: religious tradition,

    reinterpretation, and response I by George D. Bond. -1st ed. p. em. - (Studies in comparative religion)

    Bibliography: p. Includes index, ISBN 0-87249-557-4 1. Buddhism-Sri Lanka-History-20th century. I. Title.

    II. Series: Studies in comparative religion (Columbia, S.C.) BQ376.B66 1988 294.3'09549'3-

  • CONtENTS

    Editor's Preface vi Acknowledgments viii Abbreviations ix Introduction 3 Chapter One: The Theravada Tradition and the Background of the

    Buddhist Revival 11 Chapter Two: The Early Revival and Protestant Buddhism 45 Chapter Three: The Buddha Jayanti and the Post-Jayanti Period 75 Chapter Four: The Insight Meditation (Vipassana Bhavanal Move-

    ment 130 Chapter Five: I ndividual Lay Meditators: Unity and Diversity in

    the Practice of Vipassanii 177 Chapter Six: Lay Buddhist Meditation Societies 208 Chapter Seven: The Reinterpretation of the Ohamma for Social

    Action: The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement 241 Conclusion 299 Bibliography 306 Index 316

    v

  • Edito r's Preface

    There is a sense in which this series of books provides its readers with opportunities to compare scholarly approaches to different religious traditions, and this is one aim of the project. There is another sense in which unity and variety within single traditions are discerned and analyzed. Finally, there is the major aim of the series: to provide a global, integrative approach to the study of religions and religious dimensions of human experience through a scholarship that makes sense regardless of the specific tradition being examined, and thus becomes accessible to thoughtful readers from a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. But such scholarship also requires very specific kinds of mastery of the religious symbol and action sys tern being examined: its texts and contexts, its doctrines, practices, and community forms.

    George Bond's The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka: Religious Tradition, Interpretation and Response, amply fulfills all the aims listed above--and then some. On one level, this study can be read as an epitome of recent Western scholarship on Theravada Buddhism, especially in Sri Lanka, a country that has both produced and attracted the highest caliber of scholars, whether in humanistic or social scientific studies of Buddhism. On another level, The Buddhist Revival permits the reader to place the Sri Lankan developments in this century within the entire history of Buddhism, partly because that island nation and the ancient tradition are almost coterminous. Indeed, the Pali language texts of Theravada in Sri Lanka can be traced back to the Buddhism of the early centuries in southern Asia. The most important level at which this book will be appreciated is in its arresting comparisons between colonialist modernizing of education and Christian missionizing in religion and their unplanned and unforeseen results in inspiring and empowering a new Sri Lankan Buddhist elite in one of the most farreaching reforms in Buddhist history. Ironically, yet perhaps inevitably, the Protestant Reformation in Europe provided, through its English-speaking missionary legatees, several key elements of the Sri Lankan revival: an emphasis on scripture and related literacy; individ-

    vi

  • vii Editor's Preface

    ual decision making in spiritual and ethical matters; a lay focus that translated Luther's "priesthood of all believers" into a sophisticated and widely appealing lay meditation movement: the Vipassanii Bhaviinii; and a "this-worldly asceticism" that minimizes hierarchy, preaches universalism, and cultivates social action as meritorious activity that takes literally Buddha's final admonishment to: "Work out your own salvation with diligence," with the tacit understanding that personal salvation is not a matter of classical, elitist arhantship, only, but an altruistic vocation suited to an urban laity that has the freedom and learning to take charge of their lives.

    Modem Buddhist reform in Sri Lanka is by no means uniform nor unilinear in its development, as the author demonstrates in his wideranging, yet focused survey which contains, among other valuable elements, the most extensive treatment of the Vipassanii meditation movement currently available. It is now almost trite to speak of bringing together both the "text and context" of a tradition for balanced scholarship. Yet it is still all too unusual to read a solid example of fieldwork based scholarship on Theravada Buddism whose author is also a seasoned specialist in the Pali tradition and the history of religions. The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka is thus an example of the new, integrative scholarship that this series is designed to publish, both for its intrinsic interest and value and for its anticipated impact on comparative studies in religion generally.

    Frederick Mathewson Denny Series Editor

  • Acknowledg ments

    A word of thanks is in order to those in Sri Lanka who helped me in my field research. I carried out research in Sri Lanka for this book during three periods from 1983 through 1985. Many people gave generously of their time and knowledge to help me understand the revival of the Buddhist tradition. Among them I should thank particularly the Sangha who granted me interviews and hospitality, and Mr. D. C. P. Ratnakara, who shared his wisdom with me and allowed me to participate in his Saddhama Friends Society. I should thank also the hundreds of Buddhist meditators who shared their experiences and beliefs with me. I interviewed over one hundred and fifty meditators, and have been able to include only a few of their stories in chapters four through six, but I learned from them much more than I can convey in those chapters: I learned about the effectiveness and peace of vipassanii. I cannot thank these people personally here as I would like and still preserve their anonymity, but I am very grateful nonetheless.

    lam particularly grateful also to Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, the founder of Sarvodaya, for all his assistance in studying his movement. The leaders of the lay Buddhist societies-the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, the World Fellowship of Buddhists, and the Young Men's Buddhist Association-including Dr. Ariyapala, Mr. Albert Edirisinghe, and Mr. L. Piyasena, also generously and patiently tolerated my questions and allowed me to participate in their activities and use their archives. The assistance of a Fulbright-Hays grant, the United States Educational Foundation in Sri Lanka, and its director, Mr. Bogoda Premaratne, also facilitated the research for this study. I should also like to thank Dr. K. J. Perera and Dr. Kingsley de Silva for their assistance and Professors Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, who shared with me some of their ideas on the reinterpretation of Buddhism, on which topic they too have been doing research for a book.

    viii

  • Abbreviations

    References to the Buddhist canonical and commentarial writings have in most instances, been placed in parentheses in the text rather than in the footnotes. The abbreviations employed in these references are, primarily, the standard abbreviations for Pali works as given in the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary. The most frequently used abbreviations are listed below:

    A. AA. D. DA. DAT. Dh.A. Dhs. Dhs.A. Dpv. JA. Kh. KhA. Kv. KVll. M.

    .

    MA. Mhv. N. P. Pu. S. SA. Smp. Sn. Sn.A. V. Vbh. Vism.

    Anguttara-Nikaya Anguttara-Nikayanhakatha (Manorathapura) DIgha-Nikaya Digha-Nikayatthakatha (Suma"galavilasini) Digha-atthakatha-Tika Dhammapada-anhakatha DhII1P..l.asa:J;lgani Dhammasa"gani-Atthakatha (Atthasalini) Dipavaqtsa Jatakanhakatha Khuddakapatha Khuddakapiitha-a!!hakatha (Paramatthajotika I) KankhavitaraI Kathavatthu Majjhima-Nikaya Majjhima-Nikayatthakatha (Papafieasudani) Mahava:rp.sa Netti-Pakarar:ta Petakopadesa Puggala-Pafifiatti SaIp-yutta-Nikaya Saf!lyutta-Nikaya-atthakatha (Sarattha-ppakasini) Samantapasadika (Vinaya atthakatha) Suttanipata Suttanipata-atthakatha (Paramatthajotika II) Vinaya Pitaka Vibha"ga Visuddhimagga

    ix

  • The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka

  • Introduction

    This book represents a study of tradition and interpretation, the dialectical process by which religions live. Typically, studies of the process of tradition and interpretation focus on the texts of a religion which reveal how succeeding generations received, reinterpreted, and transmitted the traditional heritage. My own previous work has, for the most part, also focused on this process in the texts. The process of tradition and interpretation is not restricted to texts, however; in living religions it interfaces with the present context. Thus, this study of trad

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