While this Sangha. . . has democracy, it has neither [a] special country nor nation nor caste.  To such a society which has no country, nation, or caste, every human being is the same. . . . Those who fight against the Tamils are not Buddhists.


—Naravila Dhammaratana[1]





            Recently the Śri Lankān people have witnessed more religious violence than ever before.  It has spread from the conflict with the Tamil Tigers to Buddhist attacks on Muslims and Christians, and now counter attacks by aggrieved Muslims.  During the 1990s the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) forced thousands of Muslims out of their northern “homeland,” but at an April, 2002 press conference they announced that they were reconsidering this rash and destructive decision as well as committing themselves to a Norwegian brokered cease fire.[2] There were also been positive signs from the Buddhist leadership, who successfully opposed three previous attempts at settlement.  Starting in April, 2005, however, political murders, committed mostly by the LTTE, increased to one per day, and one year later full scale war has resumed between the LTTE and the Colombo government.

While the world community has rightly condemned the LTTE and its brutal acts, but fewer people are cognizant of the role that militant Buddhists have played in this conflict.  Here, for example, are excerpts of songs, published by the government, of the Buddhist monk Elle Gunavamsa:

The sword is pulled from the [scabbard], it is

Not put back unless smeared with blood.

I turned by blood to milk to make you grow

Not for myself but for the country

My brave, brilliant soldier son

Leaving [home] to defend the motherland

That act of merit is enough

To reach Nirvāna in a future birth.[3]

Many in the world community would be shocked to learn that these lines were composed by a Buddhist monk.

            During 2003-04, 165 Śri Lankān Christian churches were attacked by Buddhist mobs, resulting in the complete destruction of some, the stoning of parsonages, the smashing of statues, and the burning the Bibles and hymnals. Śri Lankā has the largest percentage of Christians in South Asia, and 25 percent of those are Tamils. (The father of Tamil nationalism was a Malaysian Christian by the name of J. V. Chelvanayakam.) Christians say that one reason they are being targeted is that they are accused of being Tamil sympathizers.  The other reason is that Protestant Christian missionaries have had considerable success in recent years, which has led to Buddhist charges of unethical conversions.  One website claims that Evangelicals and Pentecostals have increased from 50,000 to 240,000 since 1980.  The missionaries can also claim that they are simply making up for lost ground because before the rise of neo-Buddhism in the late 19th Century there were many more Christians on the island.

            Taking a page out of the book of Hindu fundamentalists, who have passed anti-conversion law in six Indian states, monastic legislators from the Jathika Hela Urumaya drafted a similar bill that would outlaw the conversion, “by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means,” of a person from one religion to another.  Some Buddhist extremists have spread rumors that Christians had assassinated the Buddhist monk who initiated the bill, even though an autopsy showed that he had died of a heart attack.  Śri Lankān police have been criticized for being slow in making arrests and for dismissing the attackers as mere drunks, but some observers suspect that they are encouraged by radical elements of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a socialist party that has supported a strong nationalist platform for decades. The monks in the JVP are disciples of Anagarika Dharmapala, the father of Buddhist nationalism and whose second generation monks, as H. L. Seneviratne contends, upset the “delicate balance” established by first generation Dharmapalite monks with “violence, breaking it up into pieces, never to be put back together again.”[4] 

            Buddhist nationalism has its roots in the Dīpavamsa, Mahāvamsa, and Culavamsa, texts unique to Sinhalese Buddhism. Over the centuries effective rituals, described in the third section below, were developed to reconcile the presence of non-Buddhists in what some Buddhists perceive to be the cosmic center of the Dharma.  These premodern systems of integrating the “other” have now been supplanted by a modernist concept of a Buddhist nation state that is exclusionary rather than inclusionary.  Peter Schalk proposes that there is now a Sinhalatva (Sinhaleseness) that is just as rigid and uncompromising as Hindutva (Hinduness) in neighboring India.[5] 

We will explore the view that this Sinhalatva is based on a reverse Orientalism that essentializes ethnic identities and leverages the supposed superiority of Aryan Buddhists to attack Dravidian Tamils and other “aliens” in Śri Lankā.  The fact that even a moderate such as monk Bhikkhu Dhammavihari labels the Tamils “non-Śri Lankān” is particularly unfortunate.  It does not help Dhammavihari’s anti-Tamil brief to claim historical authority for the Mahāvamsa and then state, quite incongruously, that the chroniclers “bungle” when their accounts are embarrassing or do not fit his thesis.[6]

            For the purposes of this paper a premodern worldview is one in which totality, unity, and purpose are paramount.  These values were celebrated in ritual and myth, the effect of which was to sacralize the cycles of seasons, the generations of animal and human procreation, and to integrate the presence of aliens. The human self, then, is an integral part of the sacred whole, which is greater than and more valuable than its parts. Generally speaking, the premodern mind resolves conflict dialectically, the polarities of yin and yang being the best examples. (The exception to this rule is radical dualism of Manicheanism and Gnosticism.) Robert Bellah has observed that modern religion rejects the premodern mediation of ritual and myth in favor of an unmediated personal salvation.[7]  Interestingly enough, there are anticipations of this religious individualism in the world’s ascetic traditions, but it did not come to full fruition until the Protestant Reformation.  Elsewhere I have argued that premodernism, modernism, and postmodernism is best understood conceptually rather than in strict chronological terms.[8]

            In contrast to premodern polarity, the modern mind loves to dichotomize: it separates the mind from the heart, fact and value, science and faith, the public from the private, and theory from practice.  As opposed to the premodern relational self, the modern self is seen as self-contained and self-legislating--a social atom as it were.  The modern nation state is this autonomous self expressed as the will of a people defined by language, culture, religion, and race.  Just as selves as social atoms become dysfunctional, the nation states tend to behave in similar ways. Furthermore, there is a move from a premodern orality to modernist textuality, where the priest/pastor/monk now exhorts his congregation to act on the meaning, sometimes quite untraditional, of selected texts of vernacular scripture available to a literate population.  There is a significant difference between finding noncognitive meaning in a ritual performed in sacred language that the believer does not know, and a much more cognitive gnōsis by which modern believers shape their religious worldviews and sometimes acting on them in a political way.  Here we find a movement from premodern sacred “sound as the message” to a modern vernacular text with an intellectual meaning. In this paper I will critique Śri Lankān Buddhist nationalism using this premodern/modern heuristic, and then, in the concluding section, offer a constructive postmodern solution.

            Nationalist claims to ethnic and religious purity have never been borne out by the facts.   Śri Lankā’s founding myth involves the intermingling of native peoples with Hindu immigrants from North and South India.  Historically, Buddhism did not arrive in Śri Lankā until the 3rd Century BCE. It is a fact that Buddhist frequently kings fended off military invasions from South India, but just as often they formed alliances with Hindu rulers and traders from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Parakrama Bahu I (1153-86) welcomed South Indian Śaivites with open arms, giving them lands and titles, just as South Indians welcomed Jews and Christians to their Malabar coast.

The supreme irony is that the Tamil kings of the Nayakkar line (1739-1815) did the most to restore the Sinhalese Buddhist priesthood and promote Buddhist art and architecture.  The other significant fact is that at this time Tamils and Sinhalese were usually not divided by race as they have been since the late 19th Century.[9]  The main factor here was the introduction of the European discovery that that Sinhala was an Indo-European (=Aryan) language whereas Tamil was a Dravidian language.  The caustic mix of race, language, and Buddhist nationhood had its origins here.

            The flag of Śri Lankān contains two stripes, green embracing the Muslims and orange integrating the Hindus, thus validating their Sinhalese identity in the Country of the Lion (=Sinhala).  Buddhist nationalists have removed these colored strips from their flag, so the sword in the lion’s hand must now appear much more menacing to Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, the Hindus comprising 12 percent of the population with Muslims and Christians claiming 8 percent each. 

The Tamil Tigers are just as much to blame for their many atrocities—they have done more suicide bombings than all other terrorist groups combined--but terrorists, whatever their nationality or religion, are made not born.  Some argue that Tamil claims to an ancient homeland and distinct ethnic identity are groundless,[10] but comparable Buddhist claims Aryan racial purity are similarly without merit.  There are some instructive similarities to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  An aggrieved minority has been radicalized by a perception that Israel and its American ally do not care about them, and Israeli military superiority has forced the some Palestinians to use terrorist tactics to fight back. Both sides in both conflicts have legitimate claim to living on the land that is in dispute. A long, bitter, polarizing struggle with no easy solution has been the result in both countries.

            For decades Tamil moderates proposed a reasonable federal solution as they pleaded for social, economic, and linguistic inclusion with some autonomy. (Ironically, medieval Sinhalese polity was a loose federation rather than the homogenous state imputed to it by contemporary Buddhist nationalists.) Until the 1970s a great majority of Tamils would not have supported a separate Tamil state, just as most Indian Muslims did not support Partition.  As D. Amarasiri Weeratane states: “When all attempts to settle the problem by democratic methods failed, the Tamils were driven into the arms of the terrorists who posed as the saviours of the Tamil people.”[11] Tragically, Muslim and Hindu extremists won out in 1948, but let us hope that the Śri Lankāns can avoid the catastrophic dislocation that ravaged India.  Fortunately, the Tamil Tigers do not embrace the ideology of Hindu essentialism because their grievances are primarily economic and linguistic, not religious. The first step to peace for Śri Lankāns is the acknowledge the fact that for over 2,200 years their beautiful island has been, is now, and must always be a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.


The Mythical Origins of the Sinhalese Nation

            The Mahāvamsa (written in the 6th Century CE) tells the story of Sinhabahu, a North India who, along with a twin sister Sinhasivali, was born of the union between a lion and a maiden.  He was not a Buddhist but a Vaisnava, and he founded a city called Sinhapura in the lion’s territory, and together with his sister as queen, fathered 32 sons, the eldest of whom was Vijaya.  The Mahāvamsa explains that “Vijaya was of evil conduct and his followers were even (like himself), and many intolerable deeds of violence were done by them.”[12]  Vijaya and 700 of his men were banished and sent away to sea, landing in Śri Lankā at the time, the chronicle claims, of the Buddha’s death.  This is the mythological source of the Sinhalese people, those who came from a lion (sinha) and who established Sinhala “the country of the lion.”

Vijaya’s first task was to rid the island of its indigenous population, known in Hindu epics as a country of yaksas and raksasas, the most famous being Ravāna of the Ramāyana.   The first chapter of the Mahāvamsa relates that the Buddha himself did preparatory work during three trips to the island, converting “many koti of living beings” to Buddhism, founding stupas, and otherwise preparing the way for the Dharma, which historically did not come for another 300 years.  While it is clear that the resident nagas were converted, the Mahāvamsa (chapter 1) relates that Buddha relieved the yaksas of their fears in return for the possession of their island.  The Buddha did no violence to them and exiled them to a “rocky island,” but they were back on the main island when Vijaya arrived.  Furthermore, the Mahāvamsa does not record any encounter with Buddhists or discovery of stupas.

            According to the chapter 7 of Mahāvamsa Vijaya did have two children by the yaksi Kuvani. Following the ancient theme of maiden betraying her people to the foreigner, Vijaya, with Kuvani’s help, slaughters her fellow yaksas, but in the end Kuvani is banished along with her children. This mytheme allows us to assume that there was intermarriage with native people, the Vaddas, who, in ancient times, were hunter gatherers spread throughout the island.  Most of them were converted to Buddhism after the 15th Century and became rice farmers in the western regions of the country.  Only several thousand preserve their original identity today and some claim Vijaya as their ancestral father. In the next section we will see how the Vaddas gained a Sinhalese identity through premodern modes of ritual inclusion.

In addition to mixing genes with the locals, Vijaya married a Śaivite Tamil princess and she brought women for Vijaya’s ministers and thousands of craftsmen and their families.  As Gananath Obeyesekere states: “Unlike the Vaddas, the Tamils are not only kinfolk but also co-founders of the nation. This aspect of the myth has been almost completely forgotten or ignored in recent times.”[13] Bhikkhu Dhammavihari grossly underestimates the influx of South Indians to the island when he admits that “a few people from the neighbourhood of the adjacent country moved in here from time to time and soon learnt to co-exist in a spirit of friendship with the people of their new homeland.”[14]  Obeyesekere counters this claim by declaring that “viewed in long term historical perspective Sinhalas have been for the most part South Indian migrants who have been sasanized,”[15] that is, either having been converted to Buddhism or having come under the umbrella of the Buddhist “church” (śāsana).  Referring to the Mahāvamsa’s myth of Sinhabahu, one can make an even stronger argument: the original “people of the lion” were North Indian Vaisnavas not Buddhists.

Buddhist nationalist claims to racial purity are nipped in the proverbial bud: the mythical seed of the Sinhalese Buddhist nation is a hybrid of immigrant Hindus, Indian Buddhists (some Mahāyanists), and indigenous people.  The Pāli word sihala is found infrequently in the early chronicles, and when it is used even Dhammavihari admits that it is not in the sense of a “religio-nationalism.”[16]  It definitely does not refer to a pure race of people, as some 19th Century Europeans proposed and Buddhist nationalists, in an ironic reverse Orientalism, assumed.  Buddhist nationalists sometimes use the testimony of Chinese pilgrims as proof that a distinct Sinhalese identity is not just projection of current beliefs on a distant past.  The fact that Fa Xian (5th Century CE) and Hiuen Ziang (7th Century CE) refer to Śri Lankā as “the country of the lion” does not prove ethnic or religious purity at all.

When Vijaya arrives on the island, Visnu is there to greet the newcomers.  (He had been designated guardian deity of Śri Lankā by the Buddha himself.) Visnu is asked “What island is this, sir?” “The island of Lankā,” he answered. “There are no men here, and here no dangers will arise.”[17] And when a delegation returns to the original “lion country” in India, it brings back a Vaisnava prince, Panduvasudeva, who succeeds Vijaya as king of Śri Lankā, still a country of Vaddas, Śaivite Tamils, and North Indian Vaisnavas, but, significantly, no Buddhists.

Obeyesekere points out that “it is one of the ironies of ethnicity that the Tamils want a separate state of Ilam, which means ‘Sinhala country’; while the Sinhalas want to hang on to Lanka which is derived from ilankai the Tamil word for ‘island.’"[18] Obeyesekere also confirms that “in my reading of literally hundreds of ritual texts I have not come across one instance of the country being called other than Lanka or Śri Lankā . . . , except when foreign gods or traders come to these shores and hail it as the country of the Sinhala (sinhaladesa).”[19] Obeyesekere asserts that it is common for outsiders to name a country in terms of its dominant group: “outsiders see it as a single entity whereas the insiders are sensitive to the complexities of internal differentiation,”[20] differences of which the precolonial rulers of the island were aware and respected.

            One incident from the Mahāvamsa (chap. 19) demonstrates the ethnic and religious harmony that existed during the reign of King Devanamtissa (247-207 BCE), who introduced Buddhism to the island.  The chapter begins with an elaborate description of the transport of the Bodhi tree from King Ashoka in India and its arrival in the northern port of Jubukola.  There a brahmin priest named Tivakka was one of the first to worship the holy tree.  Two weeks later it arrived in the capital city of Anuradhapura and the tree miraculously sprouted 32 saplings. One was given to Tivakka to plant in his own town, and two others were given to kśatriyas in the north. This demonstrates that not only was there ethnic harmony, but Hindus and Buddhists, as many still do today in India and Nepal, worshiped together honoring common sacred sites and things.

            The next major event is the campaign of King Dutthagamani (161-137 BCE) that led to the unification of the island under this Buddhist king.  The Dīpavamsa (18.50-54), the earliest chronicle from the 4th Century CE, portrays the Tamil king Elara as a just ruler and there appear to be no anti-Buddhist allegations against him.  The fact that Dutthagamani starts from the periphery of power in the south and must fight 32 other provincial rulers, some of them presumably Buddhists, on his way north indicates that the actual motivations for Dutthagamani’s campaign could not have been primarily religious.   The 1912 English version of the Mahāvamsa contains an unfortunate mistranslation that moves a Buddhist relic from the royal scepter to Dutthagamani’s spear and has given Buddhist militants an illicit, but even stronger justification for Buddhist warfare.[21]

            While the Dīpavamsa contains only 13 stanzas about Dutthagamani, more than half the Mahāvamsa is devoted to the famous king.  The authors are determined to glorify Dutthagamani and they design an edifying narrative framework based on the story of Aśoka.  The number of provincial rulers who resisted Dutthagamani is obviously exaggerated and most likely is drawn from the 32 opponents of Aśoka.  But the most significant similarity to Aśoka is the post-battle malaise that Dutthagamani suffers over the great number of Tamil causalities.  In chapter 25, a group of arhats come to console the grieving king and report a remarkable calculation concerning those killed in the war.  According to the wise monks, only one enemy soldier had taken full refuge in the Dharma and another had embraced only the Five Precepts.  This means that there had been only one and a half real persons killed among thousands of causalities.  This demonstrates that there has been substantial anti-Tamil sentiment for centuries and it provides ready fodder for contemporary Sinhalese propangandists.  Even the great Buddhist scholar Wapola Rahula uses this incident without questioning its veracity in his defense of Sinhalese nationalism.[22]

            Stanley Tambiah demonstrates how Buddhist chroniclers regularly invented scenarios in order to explain the presence of so many South Indians in their midst. A very instructive example of this fictitious history is the rajavaliya (Lineage of Kings) that gives an account of a Sinhalese invasion of the Chola kingdom in South India in the 12th Century.[23]  The Buddhist king Gajabahu wins a great victory and brings home not only 12,000 Sinhalese prisoners from previous Tamil campaigns but also an equal number of new Tamil prisoners.  The Tamils were incorporated into Sinhalese society as low caste workers spread throughout the ancient kingdom of Kandy.  The Buddhist chroniclers, sensing the national shame of one South Indian invasion (10th Century) and another from Kalinga (13th Century), established a rhetorical quid pro quo as well as explaining the presence of Tamils in their southern kingdom.  Incidentally but significantly, the Tamils in the north placed their Sinhalese captives in sub-caste positions as well.  The Sinhalese most likely learned caste consciousness from the Hindus and the principal motivation for marrying into Hindu families was to validate their position as authentic rulers (kśatriyas).

            As strict Theravadins, the Buddhist chroniclers also failed to mention the influx of Mahāyana Buddhists from South India. Nonetheless, their presence is recorded faithfully in wall paintings, sculpture, and religious practices.  (Dharmapala’s focus on a savior Buddha who suffered for others may have come from Mahāyana as well as Christianity.) Furthermore, most Sinhalese Buddhists do not realize that Buddadatta and Dhammapala, Buddhist scholars that Sinhalese scholars used as trusted commentators on the Pāli canon, were South Indian Tamils.

Mahāyana Buddhist immigrants from Kerala rose to prominence in trade and political administration, and the Sinhalese king Bahu VI dedicated a shrine to their goddess Pattini, whose worship is now wide spread in Śri Lankā.[24]  Significantly these South Indians stood by their Buddhist king when, in the late 14th Century, he had to defend his territory from the Tamil king of Jaffna. One Keralite family married into Sinhalese royalty, and another became so strong that it operated as a separate principality and played a key role in turning back the Tamil invasion.  The historical lesson that we can learn is that during this period the motivations for warfare on all sides were not primarily religious in nature, and the notion of a pure Buddhist Sinhalese race constantly defending itself against South Indian “unbelievers” has no foundation in historical reality.

            Let me conclude this section with an account of Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-82), who was anathemized by militant monks as “the heretic king” for doing Śaivite worship in private.  Kīrti Śri was the most famous of the Tamil Nayakkar kings who ruled from 1739 until 1815, when the British, with aid from Buddhists aristocrats and monks, overthrew the dynasty.  The Nayakkar line in Śri Lanka actually started much earlier in the reign of Rajasinghe II (1635-87), who married two Tamil women from this family.  The Mahāvamsa has nothing but praise for this great king, who sent an embassy to Thailand to bring back priests who reestablished the Sinhalese Sangha.  (The last ordained monk had died in 1729.) He also gave lavish support to Buddhist art, monasteries, and temple building, including the establishment of the now famous Temple of the Tooth, which, sadly, has recently been attacked by the Tamil Tigers.  During his reign vipasana meditation techniques were developed, which have now become popular throughout the world.

            One black mark against Kīrti Śri was that he did put some Roman Catholic priests on trial for distributing anti-Buddhist literature, but he eventually called off the anti-Catholic campaign and ordered the rebuilding of a church that had been destroyed. Kīrti Śri appeared to have good relations with the Muslim population, and he gave one Muslim trader a large tract of land that once belonged to one of the conspirators who tried unsuccessfully to assassinate him.

            In his book on Kīrti Śri, John Holt demonstrates how committed he was to fulfilling his duty as “the quintessential Thervada Buddhist king.”[26]  Kīrti Śri had studied Aśoka’s reign very carefully (albeit via the unreliable Mahāvamsa), and Holt describes one ritual that he borrowed from Aśoka that had substantial dramatic effect.  It is an ordination rite, still performed in Kandy today, in which the king symbolically abdicates in favor the monk who is being ordained.  The monk is honored as if he were king, being entertained by the royal dancers and riding on the royal elephant. 

            Holt claims that the art that Kīrti Śri sponsored was a “superb distillation of an authentic Sinhalese Theravada Buddhist worldview that has been genuinely embraced by Kandyan Buddhists”; and he “laid the foundation for the manner in which Buddhism has become a type of civil religion in Kandy for up-country Sinhalese.”[27]  In addition to the Aśokan model of Buddhist kingship, Kīrti Śri also used Śakra (=Vedic Indra) and King Manu, the latter taken from the god-king of the Laws of Manu.  Kīrti Śri also styled himself as a Bodhisattva, a strategy, Holt claims, that had much appeal to the peasants and the oppressed.


Integrating the “Other” in Precolonial Śri Lankā

            Despite frequent conflict and a deeply felt anti-Tamil sentiment among many Buddhists, why is it that the people of this beautiful island have lived in relative peace for centuries?  The key, I believe, lies in how premodern Sinhalese socially and psychologically processed the presence of others in their midst.  Obeyesekere offers a fascinating account of the worship of various indigenous deities under the umbrella of the dominant Buddhism: “In Rambadeniya, after each harvest, villagers will gather together in a collective thanksgiving ritual for the gods known as the adukku ("food offering"). During this festival the priest of the . . . or deity cults (never the Buddhist monk) pays formal homage to the Buddha and the great guardian deities and then actively propitiates the local gods. . . .”[28]  After this the people trek 35 miles to a Buddhist temple where they join many other villagers, who had just paid respect to their local deities, in an exclusively Buddhist ceremony.

            Obeyesekere also describes an elaborate ritual in which the Vaddas, the indigenous people who were originally hunters and gathers, are validated within the larger Buddhist society.  There is a simulated battle in which armed Vadda warriors attack a Buddhist temple but are thwarted by temple guardians.  They continue their fake battle until their spears are broken and thrown against the temple.  After worshipping at their own altars, they purify themselves in a nearby river, and then return to the temple where a Buddhist priest anoints them with sandal water.  They end their ceremony with the chant of haro-hara to the god Skanda, a god they share not only with Buddhists, but also with Hindus, because hara is a name for Shiva and Skanda is his second son.  This ritual of dialectical reconciliation of identity and difference demonstrates the genius of the premodern worldview, which produces resolved polarities rather than strict dichotomies and particularized inclusion rather than complete exclusion.

            Obeyesekere further describes a ritual that allows the “naturalization” of Tamils into the Sinhalese community.  As in the Vadda ceremony above, the Tamils, outfitted either as merchants or deities, are stopped at a symbolic gate by two guardian deities.  The Tamil actors speak with “a strong Tamil accent and they constantly utter malapropisms, unintended puns, and spoonerisms. In their ignorance they make insulting remarks about the gods at the barrier; they do not know Sinhala and Buddhist customs and the audience has a lot of fun at their expense.”[29]  Like the Beast in ballet versions of Beauty and the Beast, who dances more eloquently as Beauty accepts him, the Tamil players begin to speak more fluently and accurately and are then accepted by the Sinhalese community by a symbolic opening of the previously barred gate.

            Not only does ritual provide a way of reconciling conflict and otherness, but so does myth.  Under the section title “The Processes of Incorporation and Inclusion,” Tambiah analyzes the story of Pitiye Deviyo, a Chola prince/deity, who is cursed and exiled because he killed a calf.  Transformed into a demon, he invades Śri Lanka and defeats Natha, one of the four Buddhist guardian deities.  (It is significant to note that the three other guardian deities--Skanda, Visnu, and Saman--appear to have Hindu origins.) Natha’s defeat is mythically rationalized by his decision not “to commit sin by waging further war.”[30] Natha is promoted to the status of Bodhisattva because of this vow of nonviolemce, and, significantly enough, Pitiye is incorporated a subordinate regional deity.  (Here is another excellent example of premodern inclusion, whereas modern Christian missionaries, especially Protestant, would insist on total exclusion of the alien deity.) According to the legend, Pitiye established irrigation systems and rice farming and the locals turn from hunting and raising cattle. Rice farming in Śri Lanka now enjoys high caste status, whereas hunting (the original occupation of the Vaddas) and cattle raising are low caste.

            Obeyesekere observes that “‘nation’ is an alien word that has no parallel in the Sinhala lexicon. It is śāsana that takes its place.”[31]   He translates śāsana as “church,” but not in the sense of an established church where every citizen must join and foreswear all other beliefs, but more in the sense of an overarching moral community in which people find meaning without losing deeply rooted ties to their villages. This fusion of local and central worship parallels the relation between the authority of the king, who, unlike the modern nation state, allows considerable autonomy in his outlying realm.  Stanley Tambiah explains:  “The polities modeled on mandala-type patterning had central royal domains surrounded by satellite principalities and provinces replicating the center on a smaller scale and at the margins had even more autonomous tributary principalities.”[32] Tambiah gives this type of polity the engaging name “pulsating galactic polities,” and he believes that this form of political organization is better at integrating minorities and respecting their autonomy.  Ironically, Buddhist nationalists frequently use medieval symbols of Sinhalese political unity that are actually more federalist in meaning than the modernist homogenous unity that they impose on them.[33]

            By keeping church and state separate the modern nation state has succeeded thus far in satisfying its minorities, but serious problems are beginning to arise as Muslims in Europe feel alienated in an overwhelmingly secular society.  In the United States increasing larger number of Christians are concerned about a society that has lost its values.  The homogenizing effects of modern secular culture do indeed appear to be destructive of traditional values. Obeyesekere observes that contemporary Śri Lankan society is also in the midst of a moral crisis with high murder and suicide rates and that fact that there are more liquor shops in the countryside than rural banks. Obeyesekere also reports drinking, meat eating, and financial corruption among the monks and lay supporters. The ancient Buddhist śāsana appeared to serve the diverse society of Śri Lanka relatively well until Europeans came with exclusivist notion of church that tore open the fabric of native religious communities.


The Misdirected Trajectory of 19th Century Śri Lankān Buddhism

The neo-Hinduism and neo-Buddhism of the last two centuries can be instructively explained as a form of "affirmative” or “reverse” Orientalism, a response to the negative Orientalism that arose out of the first Western encounters with Indian culture.  Negative Orientalism viewed the South Asian people as uncivilized, irrational, superstitious, lazy, cowardly, and effeminate.  (The British exempted the Pashtuns and the Gurkhas from this characterization.) While granting the technological advantage of Western culture, Annie Besant and the theosophists promoted affirmative Orientalism, a view that proclaimed the spiritual superiority of South Asian civilization and the nobility of its commitment to the virtues of peace, nonviolence, and compassion.  Ironically, Gandhi learned to appreciate the value of his own Indian tradition from his association with theosophists in London.  Gandhi joined most Hindus in accepting the theosophical axiom that Buddhism and Jainism were essentially the same as Hinduism.  What was lost in this rather superficial universalism was a respect for the autonomy and integrity of Buddhism and Jainism, not to mention the other religions that were fused together in the unscholarly amalgam sometimes called the “perennial philosophy.”

On May 17, 1880, theosophists Madam Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Steele Olcott arrived in Śri Lanka and proclaimed that Buddhism was a natural expression of their own spiritual universalism. They quickly established the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society one month later on June 17.  Col. Olcott stayed on to inspire Sinhalese Buddhists not only to recover, but to substantially redefine, their own tradition, and to respond to what they perceived to be the destructive effects of increasing numbers of Christian missionaries.  When the British took over Śri Lanka in 1815, they promised to protect the integrity of Buddhism, but instead they established English medium schools in which Buddhism was portrayed as a superstitious and other worldly religion.  Under Olcott’s leadership 460 Buddhist schools, including leading colleges such as Ananda, Nalanda, Dharmapala, Dharmaraja, Visakha, and Musaeus College were established.  One of the results of this Buddhist Counter Reformation is that there are far fewer Christians in Śri Lanka today than there were in the 19th Century, a fact that contemporary missionaries use to counter the anti-conversion bill.

Col. Olcott’s claim that Buddhism was a rational philosophy and not a religion led Sinhalese Buddhists to reformulate their faith in a way that made it more European than Asian.  Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism, published in 1881, translated into 22 languages and now in its 40th printing, has had a powerful effect on how many Euro-Americans understand Buddhism.  More significantly, however, this fully modernist book about Buddhism is still part of the curriculum of Śri Lankān schools.

By the far the most influential Śri Lankān to come out of this historical setting was Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), the founding father of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. Born into a petite bourgeois family, Dharmapala went to Christian schools where, early on, he was very sensitive to the negative way in which Buddhism was being portrayed.  He changed his name from David to Dharmapala (“Guardian of Dharma”), and in taking on the other honorific Anagarika (“homeless”) he, in anticipation of Gandhi, wanted his followers to interpret this as a form of this-worldly renunciation. Even in his asceticism he still preserved the entrepreneurial virtues—“methodism, punctuality, cleanliness, orderliness, time-consciousness,” as Seneviratne lists them[34] --that he learned in his family business and subtly made part of his vision of a modernized Buddhism.

Dharmapala worked closely with Olcott and together they made a very successful journey to Japan in 1888. Although Dharmapala had some disagreements with Olcott, he followed him in the Protestant form of Buddhism that we see in his followers today. He founded the Mahabodhi Society in 1891 and initiated campaigns to return Buddha Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s Tempation and Enlightenment, to Buddhist hands and to established Buddhist missions throughout the world.  In this regard, Dharmapala declared that “with Buddhism Ceylon shall yet become the beacon light of Religion to the World,”[35] echoing similar nationalist sentiments of America as, in Ronald Reagan’s words, "a great shining city on a hill," derived from Jesus’ proclamation that his followers would be “the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14). Dharmapala, however, claims precedence for Buddhism as the true beacon of civilizing light, which established a land of righteousness in Śri Lanka long before the birth of Jesus Christ. It was “Semitic barbarism,” which includes both Dravidian Tamils and Judeo-Christians, who destroyed this great cultural and religious achievement.[36]

The Buddhist canon does not use ārya as a racial term; rather, it is an honorific for all those who embrace the Dharma.  Furthermore, as Mahinda Palihawadana has argued, the Buddha believed that racism and nationalism are the result of flawed perception.  Like the Body of Christ, there are no distinctions at all within the body of the Buddha.  Perceiving a “difference by birth” is, as Palihawadana explains, “a mental propensity (ditthanusaya), something invested with emotional content. The classic example is the idea of me, my self; and, compounded with other conventional views, my clan, my country, my language, my nation, and not least, my creed.”[37] Ultra nationalists take their own nāma-gotta--name and clan—and mistakenly believe that it is an essential part of their identity. 

In 1908 Dharmapala declared that Buddhism was “completely identified with the racial individuality of the people.”[38] As Peter Schalk states: “This is probably one of the most conflict creating public statements made in the 20th century. It is also a statement that is detrimental nationally and internationally to the reputation of Buddhism. . . . He stated explicitly that Lanka belongs to the Buddhist Sinhalese and for the Tamils there is South India.”[39] It is unfortunate that American evangelical Christian activists unwittingly spread the myth of the Aryan Sinhalese.  One of their websites states that the Buddhist portion of the island’s population (75 percent) is Sinhala and Aryan, obviously implying that the Śri Lankān Christians, Muslims, and Hindus are not.  Incidentally, if there is any historical substance to a North Indian origin of the original immigrants to the island, then one could claim an Aryan origin, but only linguistically, for these people.

It is significant to note that in 1935, two years after Dharmapala’s death, three Tamil members of the State Council supported the effort to return Buddha Gaya to Buddhist control, most likely assuming that, in addition to a gesture of goodwill, that they would receive something in return for their own projects.  Sadly, the favor was not reciprocated as Buddhists hardened their nationalist prejudices. In 1936, embracing a reverse Orientalism and drawing on an alleged racial superiority of Aryan Buddhists, non-Buddhists were excluded from the Board of Ministers of the Donoughmore Constitution.  Later the Citizenship Act of 1948 withdrew citizenship from the estate Tamils (not restored until the 1980s), and finally in 1956 English and Tamil were suppressed in favor of Sinhalese as the only official language.  This made it very difficult for most Tamils to read and fill out government documents and to communicate their grievances.  The supreme irony is that multilingualism was one of cultural ideals of medieval Sinhalese society, where the mastery of six languages was considered to be the educated norm.

The most striking evidence of reverse Orientalism in Dharmapala’s thought is his attempt, one initiated earlier on behalf of Hinduism by the Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta, to show that Buddhism is fully compatible with European science and rationalism. In his History of an Ancient Civilization, Dharmapala claims that “higher Buddhism is pure science.  It has no place for theology. . . . It is the religion of absolute freedom, which is to be gained avoiding all evil, doing all good, and purifying the heart.  . . . It is the friend of enlightened progress, and preaches the sublimest truths of meritorious activity.”[40] In his journal Dharmapala wrote a weekly column entitled “Facts That You Should Know,” a modernist title that would have sounded quite alien to a medieval Buddhist. It is true that the Buddha’s method can be called “empiricist,” and there are constructive parallels that can be drawn to David Hume, and even better comparisons to William James, but these insights should be used to erase the negatives of European Orientalism, not to propose an equally destructive Asian exceptionalism.

Dharmapala learned much from his sojourn in Calcutta. Both he and the Indian nationalists rejected the sacred power of images, myth, ritual, and priestly mediation.  Both were enamored by modernist concepts of individual reason, progress, and the importance of social activism.  Both believed in a Protestant-like priesthood of all believers and that spiritual liberation would be both personal and social. Dharmapala may not have known that the Ramakrishna mission was modeled directly on the Buddhist Sangha, but its social activism derived much more, as Seneviratne maintains,[41] from Christianity than any South Asian tradition.  (Similarly, ahimsā is an Indian concept, but it is clear that Gandhi’s social and political use of it was due to his reading of Socrates, Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Ruskin.)  Walpola Rahula’s thesis that the Buddha meant his disciples to be the like the social workers of the modern welfare state has been roundly criticized as anachronistic and yet another form of reverse Orientalism. 

It is significant, nevertheless, that the immediate followers of the Hindu nationalist Dayananda and the Buddhist Dharmapala went into social service not politics.  Indeed, one could say early signs indicated that Hindu and Buddhist nationalism would be progressive and constructive. The darker aspects of Dharmapala’s religious nationalism did not come to the fore until 1956.  A first generation disciple Kalukondayave (1895-1977) did not believe that monks should be involved in party politics.  Working closely with Tamil and Muslim officials, he saw himself primarily as a social worker and teacher of morality.[42] Hendiyagala Silaratna (1913-1982), another Dharmapalite monk, learned Tamil and wrote a booklet praising the Tamils for preserving their culture against European advances.[43] In comparison he thought that his own culture was far more decadent; he especially commended Tamil women for their modest dress.

Seneviratne describes the early Dharmapalite monks as “overlooking cultural and ideological differences among the lay leadership, astutely addressing their commonness rather than their differences. . . . ,” and he also praises next generation of monks in the Vidyodaya monastery for their “healthy and realistic attitude towards western influences which [they] were able to creatively generate, as they bravely resisted the ethno-religious exclusivist impulse that constituted one half their progenitor Dharmapala’s philosophy and activist project.”[44]

Buddhist nationalism has been more successful in Śri Lankā for several reasons.  Compared to India, religious authority is much more centralized and unified in Sinhalese Buddhism.  In the Dharmapalite vision Buddhist monks, in the absence of Sinhalese royalty, were to do the “work of kings,” the title of Seneviratne’s thorough study of Dharmapala’s legacy. A much higher literacy rate has allowed for an effective spread of Buddhist Protestantism through print media and the radio.  A Dharmapalite monk Hinatiyana Dhammaloka (1900-81) sometimes did ten sermons a week and was considered to be the best Buddhist preacher in Śri Lankā.[45] Copying the Christian model, Dharmapala proposed that long rituals be replaced by short sermons that focused on morality and social action.

On February 13, 1946, the faculty at the Vidyālankara monastery approved without dissent a resolution declaring that monks should become politically active. There was strong reaction from the press and the government; some critics said it was a Communist plot and some proposed that political monks be disrobed or even imprisoned.  The monks at Vidyodaya published their protest in a journal founded by Dharmapala. They also criticized the dissident monks on doctrinal grounds, alleging that they rejected the Buddha’s omniscience and the theory of karma and rebirth. 

The Vidhyālankara monks moved the Dharmapalite revolution from nonsectarian social action in the villages to a political ideology that fused language, religion, and state.  In their 1946 resolution they stated: “We hope from this campaign to make Śri Lankā a dharmadvipa (“light of dharma”), to enrich Buddhism, and to make people free of suffering and disease and make them whole; and to make monks a category of people who do not simply exist [doing nothing] but who work selflessly for the good of the religion and its adherents.”[46] The original intention was that this was to be accomplished outside of party affiliation.  But already in April, 1946, the radical monks had formed the Lankā Eksat Bhiksu Mandalaya, the United Bhikku Organization of Śri Lankā.  The seeds of a highly politicized Sinhalese Buddhism were now sown. As Seneviratne states: “By the mid 1950s [it] turned into a hegemonic Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism.”[47]

Before concluding this section, some historical balance is now in order to counter the previous focus on Buddhist nationalism. In the British constitutional reforms of 1911, the Tamils, with only 10 percent of population, were given 42 percent of the representation.  In a move to protect their position, high caste Tamils, previously favored by the British, did object to a more equitable formula in the first Donoughmore proposals in 1927. These high caste Tamils, distinct from the more recent tea estate Tamils, thought the Sinhalese were a “uncivilized and backward community,” and their spokesman Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan stated: “Although we may be small in numbers, in terms of caste, official power etc., we are the most powerful community in Śri Lanka. Both the Sinhalese and the Muslims have accepted this. Therefore, when the British leave, it is the Tamils who should rightfully inherit political power.”[48]

In 1947 Sinhalese representation was capped at 55 percent.  It is Athureliye Rathana’s contention that the Tamils did not begin proposing a separate state until after they realized that they were not going to achieve majority power in the legislature.[49]  The Tamil State Party was indeed established in 1949, almost a decade before the riots began, but moderate Tamils still prevailed until the Tamil Tigers came to prominence in the late 1970s. The adoption of the 1972 Constitution that strengthened the Buddhist Sinhalese majority was an event that radicalized many Tamils. Unfortunately, Tamil moderates did not fare very well among the militants and many were executed on the orders of Tamil Tiger leaders.

Constructive Postmodernism: Integrating the Modern and Premodern

            In these concluding remarks I would first like to draw a comparison to similar developments in America, and also offer constructive postmodernism as a possible solution.  Among the many Christian nationalists, George Grant stands out as one of the more extreme.  Here is one of his clearest pronouncements: “Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land--of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. It is to reinstitute the authority of God's Word as supreme over all judgments, over all legislation, over all declarations, constitutions, and confederations.”[50] Grant’s “dominion theology” is heavily influenced by Rousas J. Rushdoony whose movement is also called Christian Reconstruction, one that requires Christians to “reconstruct all things in conformity to God's order, not in terms of man's desire for peace."[51]  This passage is from his Institutes of Biblical Law in which he proposes that all the Old Testament laws be enforced, including capital punishment for apostasy and homosexuality.

            There is an ethnic form of Christian nationalism in the current neo-Confederate movement in the American South.  In my own college town a booklet entitled Southern Slavery As It Was appeared in 1996.  The authors, one a local Calvinist pastor and the other a founding director of the League of the South, blame abolitionists and particularly Unitarians for the Civil War.  They also argue that Southern Christians had biblical sanction to own slaves as long as they treated them humanely.  The authors declare that “there has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."[52] The League of the South proposes that 15 Southern State should form a new Confederacy based on Celtic Calvinism and biblical law.  Attempts by these thinkers to trace their Southern heritage to Scotland is just as muddled as Śri Lankān Buddhists claiming pure Aryan ancestors.[53] The neo-Confederate wish to make the Southern States a refuge for true Christianity in the same way that Buddhism desire to make Śri Lankā the Island of the Dharma.

A major difference between Buddhist and Christian nationalists is that former have, as we have seen, a modern worldview whereas the latter generally have a premodern worldview. Christian nationalists join Islamic fundamentalists in rejecting nearly all aspects of modernism—liberal democracy, the use of reason, and equal rights for all. (Interestingly enough, even though the theosophists supported modern reform in Hinduism and Buddhism, their spiritual universalism was philosophical premodern.)  One would never hear of a Christian or Muslim fundamentalist disputing the truth of their scriptures, but Buddhist nationalist Dhammavihari ridicules the Mahāvamsa for its historical distortions.[54] Unwittingly following Thomas Jefferson’s example of reducing scripture to a modernist core, the Hindu Dayananda and the Buddhist Dharmapala wanted to rid their scriptures of ritual, antiquated laws, and incoherent dogma.  (Note that Christian and Muslim fundamentalists want these laws restored.) In an exact parallel with the “Jeffersonian Bible,” Dharmapala, as Seneviratne explains, “expressed the need to sift ‘the pure teachings of the gentle Nazarene’ from ‘later theological accretions.’”[55] In light of the recent attacks on Christians, it is certainly an irony that Dharmapala urged Śri Lankān Christians to modernize their religion along similar lines and integrate fully within Sinhalese society.

Some of the greatest achievements of modernism have been protecting religious freedom and insulating the state from intrusions of religious factions. Religious fundamentalists around the world appear committed to undermine these safeguards. The anti-conversion bills in Śri Lankā and India have already been mentioned, but as early as 1956 the Śri Lankān Freedom Party (SLFP) proposed a Buddhist Department to recover and to enrich the island’s Buddhist heritage. In the election of 1956 3-4,000 monks went door to door campaigning for the SLFP.   The United National Party (UNP), which was defeated, was portrayed as anti-Buddhist, just as the Democrats were branded as anti-Christian in the 2004 U.S. election. Within two years time  Śri Lankā erupted in violence.  In 1958 some Tamils attempted a Gandhian satyāgraha, but they were met with violence rather than dialogue.  In the East 10,000 Tamils were fired on by police, over 100 Tamils were killed by Sinhalese goons in the Gal Oya Valley.

Recognizing the relative success of premodern peoples to integrate otherness and reconcile differences, constructive postmodernists wish to reestablish the premodern harmony of humans, society, and the sacred without losing the integrity of the individual, the possibility of meaning, the intrinsic value of nature, and the great achievements of liberal democracy. They believe that French deconstructionists are throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. The latter wish to reject not only the modern worldview but any worldview whatsoever. Constructive postmodernists want to preserve the concept of worldview and propose to reconstruct one that avoids the liabilities of both premodernism and modernism.   If one reads carefully the works of classical liberals such John Locke, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, and J. S. Mill, one will find that they did not intend the state to be morally neutral in the sense of contemporary procedural liberalism.

We need to rethink the relationship between religion and politics.  Both Gandhi and King brought their religious beliefs into their political activism, and yet it is usually only the fundamentalists that liberals criticize for doing this. Anti-abortionist are entirely correct that they have just as much right to perform acts of civil disobedience at abortion clinics as Gandhi did at the British salt works or King did at the whites-only lunch counters. The reason why Gandhi and King were not widely criticized for injecting religion into politics is because their message was always religiously and culturally inclusive.  Fundamentalists usually divide and exclude, and we must trust ourselves and our democratic institutions to moderate such views or ban the worst as unconstitutional.

In other work I have proposed a reformed liberalism based on the works of Franklin I. Gamwell, Stephen Macedo, the later John Rawls, and William Galston.[56]  This political theory is most compatible with constructive postmodernism and would have the following advantages:  (1) it would insist on a logic of polarity rather dichotomy; (2) it would promote tolerant inclusion versus intolerant exclusion; (3) it would balance repetition and ritual modernist linear progression and always making a fetish of the new with repetition and meaningful ritual; and (4) it would complement the procedural bureaucratic state with a moral community of strong civic virtues. One can preserve religious liberty and prevent the dominance of one religion while at the same time maintaining the civic virtues necessary for a society in which all of its citizens can flourish according to the dictates of their own cultural and religious preferences.


[1]Cited in H. L. Seneviratne, The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Śri Lankā (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), p. vii.


[2]On April 10, 2002 the Tamil leader Veluppillai Pirapaharan stated that “the Tamil homeland belonged [also] to the Muslim people and we believe that there is no dispute that Muslims have a right to own land. At this interview the LTTE stopped short of inviting Muslims ejected from the north to come back, stating only that such an invitation would be extended in the future when the conditions are right” (quoted in R. A. L. H. Gunawardana, “Roots of the Ethnic Conflict in Śri Lankā,” The Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 [2003], p. 34). Pagination from this issue is from a Microsoft Word file in Times New Roman downloaded (with all boxes removed) from the internet text. This issue of the journal contains the papers presented at “Buddhism and Conflict in Śri Lankā. An International Conference” at Bath Spa University College, June 28-30, 2002.


[3]Translated by Seneviratne, The Work of Kings, pp. 274, 272.  I have replaced “scaffold” with “scabbard” in the first line.


[4]Ibid., p. 105.


[5]Peter Schalk, "Relativising Sinhalatva and Semantic Transformations of The Dhammadipa," Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 (2003), pp. 114-31. The term “Sinhalatva” was first used in 2001 by Nalin de Silva, a retired physics professor and fervent Sinhalese nationalist.  Schalk’s main task in this paper is to demonstrate that claim that dhammadipa means “island of the dhamma” is a nationalist invention started by Angarika Dharmapala. The word is used only once in the Mahāvamsa (1.84), but here it means something like Śri Lankā will become the “light” of dhamma, which is connected with an earlier reference (1.20) where the Buddha proclaimed that on this island the śāsana (Buddhist teachings) would shine.


[6]Bhikkhu Dhammavihari (Jotiya Dhirasekera), “Recording, Translating and Interpreting Śri Lankān Chronicle Data,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 (2003), pp. 13, 17.

[7]Robert Bellah, “Religious Evolution” in W. A. Lessa and E. Z. Vogt, eds., Reader in Comparative Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 2nd ed., 1965), p. 82.   My premodern category includes Bellah’s “primitive” and “archaic,” and I include his “historic,” “early modern,” and “modern” in my “modern” category.


[8]See N. F. Gier, Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000), chap. 2.


[9]V. Perniola, The Catholic Church in Śri Lankā: The Dutch Period (Dehiwala: Tisara Prakasakayo, 1983), p. xxiv; cited in John D. Rogers, “Post-Orientalism and the Interpretation of Premodern and Modern Political Identities: The Case of Śri Lankā,” The Journal of Asian Studies 53:1 (February, 1994), p. 14.


[10]See Athureliye Rathana, “Buddhist Analysis of the Ethnic Conflict,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10(2003), pp. 96-100.


[11]D. Amarasiri Weeraratne, “Devolution Package and the Maha Sangha,” The Observer (March 17, 1996), reprinted in The Work of Kings, pp. 331-32.


[12]The Mahāvamsa: The Great Chronicle of Lanka from the 6th Century BC to 4th Century AD, trans. Wilhelm Geiger.  Internet translation found at http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chapters.html     and downloaded as a Microsoft Word file and pagination in New Times Roman, p. 27.


[13]Ganath Obeyesekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A Problem of Buddhist History,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 (2003), p. 46.


[14]Dhammavihari, p. 10.

[15]Obeyesekere, p. 54.

[16]Dhammavihari, p. 21.

[17]The Mahāvamsa, chapter 6, pp. 27-28.


[18]Obeyesekere, p. 61 endnote 10.


[19]Ibid., p. 47.

[20]Ibid., p. 48.


[21]See Obeyesekere, p. 18.

[22]Walpola Rahula, The History of Buddhism in Ceylon (1956), p. 79.

[23]Stanley Jeraraja Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Śri Lankā (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 144-45.

[24]See Obeyesekere’s The Cult of the Goddess Pattini (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).  Seneviratne praises Obeyesekere’s work “as particularly timely today when the extremists of both the Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups are trying to separate the two groups.  The Pattini rituals constitute one more demonstration of the cultural affinity between the Sinhala and Tamil peoples and of their synthesizing genius as opposed to the separating frenzies of demagogues of both groups” (The Work of Kings, p. 334fn.).


[25]R. A. L. H. Gunawardena, “The People of the Lion,” quoted in Tambiah, p. 168.

[26]John C. Holt, The Religious World of Kīrti Śri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Śri Lankā (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. vi.

[27]Ibid., pp. 41, 46.

[28]Obeyesekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity,” p. 48.

[29]Ibid., p. 57.

[30]Tambiah, p. 150.

[31]Obeyesekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity,” p. 49.

[32]Tambiah, p. 175.  In a National Public Radio report (May, 2005) about failed attempts by the Vietnamese government to stop the spread of bird flu, a commentator cited an ancient saying: “The rule of the king stops at the village gate.”

[33]See Seneviratne, The Work of Kings, seventh plate between pp. 188-189.


[34]Seneviratne, p. 29; name changing reference on p. 27.


[35]Anagarika Dharmapala, Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala, ed.,Ananda Guruge (Colombo: Government Press, 1965), p. 512.


[36]Anagarika Dharmapala, “The Unknown Co-founders of Buddhism,”The Maha Bodhi 36 (1928), p. 70; cited in Shalk, op. cit., p. 123.

[37]Mahinda Palihawadana, “Theravada Perspective[s] on Causation and Resolution of Conflicts,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 (2003), p. 69.

[38]Dharmapala, Return to Righteousness,p. 489.


[39]Schalk, p. 124.


[40]Dharmapala, History of Ancient Civilization, excerpted in Return to Righteousness, pp. 658-59.

[41]Seneviratne, The Work of Kings, p. 137fn.


[42]Ibid., p. 71.


[43]Ibid., p. 106fn.


[44]Ibid., p. 104.


[45]Ibid., p. 87.


[46]Ibid., p. 140.


[47]Ibid., p.131.


[48]Cited in Rathana, p. 96.


[49]Rathana, p. 96.


[50]George Grant, The Changing of the Guard (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), pp. 50-51.


[51]Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law


[52]Douglas Wilson and Steven J. Wilkins, Southern Slavery As It Was (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1996), p. 24.  The booklet was withdrawn from publication after it was discovered that at least 20 percent of it had been plagiarized.  For a detailed account see www.tomandrodna.com/notonthe palouse.


[53]Edward H. Sebesta, “The Confederate Memorial Tartan: Officially Approved by the Scottish Tartan Authority,” Scottish Affairs 31 (Spring, 2000), pp. 55-84.

[54]Bhikkhu Dhammavihari, “Recording, Translating and Interpreting Śri Lankān Chronicle Data,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 10 (2003), pp. 9-22.

[55]Seneviratne, The Work of Kings, p. 24 fn. 3.


[56]See N. F. Gier, “Non-Violence as a Civic Virtue: Gandhi as a Reformed Liberal,” International Journal of Hindu Studies (December, 2005).