Monastic History in Sri Lanka





Monastic History in Sri Lanka

The history of Sri Lanka is fundamentally tied to the beginning of Buddhism in this country. This religion was introduced in the 3rd century B.C. from India through a mission fronted by Ven. Mahinda (Strong, 222). This marked an extremely crucial juncture in the country’s history, as it is at this point that the country began developing an identity as a distinctive entity. This religion took root and underwent tremendous growth to become the state religion, thanks to the ample patronage and support from King Devanampiya-tissa, as well as the proper planning of the mission’s leader Ven. Mahinda (Strong, 225). It is worth noting that King Devanampiya-tissa had his own motives for supporting and patronizing the mission. While the growth of this religion has decreased in India, its growth in Sri Lanka has continued to such an extent that it evolved into the largest religion taking more than 70 percent of the citizens. In fact, the oldest Buddhists can now be said to be in Sri Lanka.

However, questions emerge pertaining to the effects of impacts of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This is especially considering that Sri Lanka has undergone tremendous changes in its sociopolitical landscape and has, in fact, been experiencing varied upheavals. Questions emerge as to the impact of Buddhism on the country’s landscape. It goes without saying that Buddhism has been extremely instrumental to the positive growth of the country.

One of the effects of the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka was the unification of the country. It is worth noting that this religion was effectively used by the ruler as the country’s force of unification, in which case it countered the forces of divisionalism that were plaguing the country. The unification came as a stabilizing force that was necessary for cultural and economic progress (Wickremeratne, 78).

On the same note, the Sinhalese Buddhists recognized the age-old pervasive force that came with the connection between language, culture, religion and education, as well as their combined influence on the national identity. King Devanampiya Tissa borrowed Asoka’s strategy and merged the political state with the new religion. He used the public coffers to support Buddhist institutions and located its temples near the royal palace to enhance control. This patronage positioned Buddhism well enough to evolve into the highest philosophical and ethical expression of Sinhalese civilization and culture. In essence, Buddhism carried a direct appeal to the masses which led to the growth of a shared Sinhalese cultural consciousness.

In addition, the Asokan Missionary approach contrasted the theological exclusivity that Hindu Brahmanism encompassed by preaching and carrying the principles of Buddhism directly to the ordinary or common people. It is worth noting that, the proselytizing enjoyed greater success in Sri Lanka than it did in India in which case it formed the basis as the island’s pioneer experiment in mass education (Wickremeratne, 56).

In addition, Buddhism had an impressive impact on the literary growth and development of the island. It is noteworthy that the Indo-Aryan dialect that the early Sinhalese spoke was comprehensible to the missionaries coming from India, in which case it complemented the early attempts at translating or decoding the scriptures. The Sinhalese literati were studying Pali, which was the language in which Buddhist scriptures were written. This played a critical role in the growth and development Sinhala into a respectable literary language (Wickremeratne, 67).

In conclusion, it is evident that Buddhism has been instrumental to the positive growth of Sri Lanka. It served as a unifying factor thereby establishing stability in the country. In addition, Buddhism was well-positioned to evolve into the highest philosophical and ethical expression of Sinhalese civilization and culture. In essence, Buddhism carried a direct appeal to the masses which led to the growth of a shared Sinhalese cultural consciousness. Moreover, it allowed for the establishment of the Sinhala as a literary language.

Works cited

Strong, John S. The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations. 3rd ed. Belmont CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2008. Print

Wickremeratne, Ananda. Buddhism and Ethnicity in Sri Lanka: A Historical Analysis. Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. 1995. Print

(Strong, )

Rebecca J.
Rebecca J.
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