26 October, 2020

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God And The Buddha

By Rajindra Clement Ratnapuli

Rajindra Clement Ratnapuli

Rajindra Clement Ratnapuli

This brief note highlights some differences that many authors tend to overlook when trying to compare Buddhism with the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The views expressed are those of a lay Buddhist and the author does not claim to be a religious scholar. The subject of God is nothing new and is unlikely to disappear from our midst any time soon. However, the number of non-believers of God is on the rise especially in the Western countries. Buddhism started to take off in the West probably in the late 19th century after the “birth” of what some authors called the “Scientific Buddha” associated more with the science of the doctrine. Only time will tell whether this will eventually push the conventional “Asian Buddha” to backstage.

The origin of God, according to published literature, can be traced back to primitive cultures. God is basically a mental product created by the early primitive ignorant man as a means to overcome fear. The fear arose perhaps out of the evolutionary predator-prey survival instinct, coupled with the fear of natural disasters (floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, droughts) as well as disease and death. The caveman, some thousands of years ago had attributed these calamities to supernatural beings or things called ghosts and spirits. Later on came the living God, Satan, spirits, devils and angels. These concepts were used by the primitive man to explain the unknown, for he had no knowledge of the complexities of nature and how nature worked. Ignorance led to superstition, and God eventually got lodged in man’s head. This was believed to be an almighty being with enormous constructive (and destructive) power. Even today there are billions of people worldwide who believe that all things in this universe and everything that happens in nature are God’s work. This is obviously a very simplistic approach to understanding the intricacies of nature, or even to address man’s everyday life problems.

Buddha observed that a mind trapped in ignorance was the main cause for man’s constant unhappiness. Ignorance here referred to lack of knowledge of the reality (things around us) plus delusion (unproven or false beliefs). Buddha’s doctrine aims precisely at removing the ignorance out of man’s mind and with it also the superstitious divine beings and ideas that dwell in it. What Buddhism seeks to achieve is an enlightened state of mind (brain) and body, which is reached only through reflection from within. The enlightened state is characterized by the absence of suffering – a state of happiness. But these two are not permanent situations when taken in the Buddhist context that all natural phenomena including thoughts are subject to change that is, impermanent. What happens is that man is caught in a cycle that alternates between suffering and happiness. An implication of this is that perfection never exists.

Achieving enlightenment is a process involving several steps. The process route is elaborated in Buddha’s four noble truths and the eight-fold path. This is essentially a pathway for conducting one’s life in harmony with the environment. This process proceeds hand in hand with compassion (different from love) and maitriya (also called loving kindness). Buddhist compassion is a universal concept which can be stated as: when man abuses the environment (nature) he abuses himself and when man respects the environment he respects himself. Maitriya is a special case of compassion when applied to living beings. They are closely linked to the Buddhist premise that in nature, all consequences must have causes.

Buddha never claimed that he was the guardian of truth or saviour of mankind. He only professed a message based on His life experience. It was intended to be read, analysed, understood and accepted, only if the conclusions appeal to one’s mind. Truth is hard to find, it cannot be found in books and it is certainly not a hand out.

Buddha found no reason to seek help from divine (the unknown) powers to make one’s own destiny. This makes one to reflect on the quote “the wise man will follow his own direction” (Euripides). Buddha believed that man had the necessary mental capability to observe, analyse and understand how nature works, considering that man himself is part of nature. The Buddhist message is really a teaching which deals with the human thought process and behaviour, perhaps similar to modern psychology. It gives the hope that the pupil (follower) can one day reach the status of the teacher.

Buddhism does not come under the category of religion. Also Buddhism has no similarity whatsoever with the Abrahamic religions: Buddhism and Christianity are poles apart. Buddhism seeks to achieve happiness in this life, while Christianity seeks heaven after death (which is impossible to verify). Buddhism has no God. Christianity has God the Creator and Saviour. Buddhism is inquiry minded and focuses on human reason. Christianity relies on faith (God). Christ is a divine figure whereas Buddha is human. Buddhism has a founder (Buddha) whereas none of the Abrahamic religions has a founder.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    ”Asia Buddha” has been the original Buddha strangled by hatred of the ‘other’

    • 3
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      Buddhist in Sri Lanka are confused and lost.
      Thanks to successive Sinhla government in promoting and bringing the monks in to politics

      The Rajapakse regime has made it even worse by letting the monks lose on acts of violence against other religion and behaing openly like thugs

      These acts of thuggery has consdierably damaged the image Buddhism all over the world. Unfortunately the rest of the world does not diffferentiate Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhism.

      Buddha is not God and God is not Buddha.

  • 5
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    Excellent! Excellent!

  • 8
    1

    Meditation is at the core of it. Its the platform which one achieves a transformation from an ordinary being to an enlightened being. Although 85% of what happens in Sri Lanka is simply useless customs.

    I would like to see meditation introduced into schools, civil service, military, the Parliment and prisons.

    Meditation is already used in the US Military, prison service etc. Sri Lanka being a Buddhist country and all must exceed standards set by traditionally non-Buddhist countries doesn’t it really>

    • 4
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      Vibhushana

      “I would like to see meditation introduced into schools, civil service, military, the Parliment and prisons.”

      Brilliant idea. You have said something important.

      Will those who participate in meditation training programmes have the right to chose from Sinhala/buddhist meditation, Tamil/Saivaite meditation, Arab/Islamic meditation, Latin/Christianity meditation?

      “Sri Lanka being a Buddhist country”

      Since when did Sri Lanka become a Buddhist country?

      • 0
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        Native,

        Meditation is a gift to people. I hope no teeth counting involved. This is how its done in USA.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G-UnzmbdUM

        Sri Lanka is what you want to be isn’t it really. If you want it to be a Veddha country by all means create in your mind as such.

        • 2
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          Above is a ‘Buddhist’ expressing his humane doctrine.

          US military and meditation; good one !!

        • 2
          1

          Above is a ‘Buddhist’ expressing his ‘humane’ doctrine.

          US military and meditation; good one !!

        • 2
          2

          Above is a ‘Buddhist’ expressing his ‘humane’ doctrine.

          US military and meditation; good one !! (Enlightened beings)

        • 2
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          Vibhushana

          “Meditation is a gift to people. I hope no teeth counting involved. This is how its done in USA.”

          Don’t forget, meditation is part and partial of Asian culture that you can be proud of. However, you have gone all the way to the USA to learn something about meditation, convinced that this locally available tradition should be imported from the great Satanic country of all. This is the problem with you people.

          How many of you really enjoy locally made sweets with locally available ingredients? If imported from USA even interesting inguru dosi would taste different and make you feel upmarket, just because its rapped in US flags.

          No, I am just winding you up.

      • 1
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        Tamil meditation or Hindu meditation – certainly yes. We will even allow Arab/Islamic meditation, Latin/Christianity meditation as long as you can quote or show evidence that Mohammed / Jesus or the two respective Gods commanded the followers to meditate and knew what they were talking about .I put it to you you guys are copying this from Hinduism and Buddhism just to look cool. ..

        • 1
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          St.Paul is ignorant about Christianity!

    • 3
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      Vibhushana, I have heard of Buddhist Monks in Australia, who visit Prisons, Hospitals and Hospices to teach Meditation to the Residents, without being paid for it. This is part of their Practice of Meththa.

      I have NOT heard of this happening in the so-called Buddhist Country of Sri Lanka. Your suggestion of getting Parliamentarians TO PRACTISE MEDITATION is certainly a good idea!

      • 0
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        Rationalist,

        Sri Lanka has an army of monks looking for something to do. I hope the Maha Nayakas make it happen.

        • 2
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          Vibushana

          you are spot on …..there is an army of Monks and they are forming a Monk Army like BBS and Sinhala Ravaya

          in addition Sri Lanka also has a large army of army looking for something to do, now that the war is over.

          A dnagerous situation.

        • 2
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          Vibhushana

          “Sri Lanka has an army of monks looking for something to do. I hope the Maha Nayakas make it happen.”

          Sri Lanka has monks in the army, monks for army, monks for war crimes, and now been replaced by saffron clad thugs.

          In the mid 1980s during JR’s round table conference a popular Sinhala/Buddhist monk demanded that JR burned down the entire Vanni jungle in order to smoke the LTTE out. This is what they are famous for.

          Maha Nayakas are sitting pretty aren’t they?

    • 0
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      What is used extensively in the US is not merely meditation but Yoga of which meditation is a part.

      Sengodan. M

  • 5
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    THEORETICAL BUDDHISM AND PRACTICAL BUDDHISM ARE POLES APPART, HENCE BUDDHISTS ARE WORSHIPERS OF (HINDU) GODS.

    HAPPINESS IS AN ILLUSION ACCORDING TO BUDDHISM BASED ON THE DESIRE (TO BE HAPPY) Drsire; the cause of suffering.

    BUDDHISM (NIRVANA) IS ABOUT THE BREAKING FROM THE CYCLE OF LIFE & DEATH (again impossible to verify)

    ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS PROMISE HAPPYNESS IN THIS LIFE TOO BY GIVING THE BURDEN TO THE SAVIOR

    IN BUDDHISM (COPPIED FROM HINDUISM) A CHILD SUFFERS DUE TO HIS/HER OWN FAULTY KARMA.

    IN THESE ABRAHAMIC FAITHS, SUFFERING IS THE DEVIL’S WORK OR MAN’S DISOBIDIENCE TO GOD; THROUGH SUMISSION & FORGINESS A BETTER LIFE IS EXPECTED HERE AND ELSEWHERE.

    IT IS CALLED ABRAHAMIC BECAUSE ABRAHAM IS THE FOUNDER PROPHET, CHRISTIANITY IF FOUNDED BY CHRIST WHO WAS A BLLEDING MAN.

    Their claims about nirvana or son of god is a different matter.

    ACTUALLY THERE ARE MANY SIMILARITIES IN PHILOSOPHIES AND RELIGIONS (usually philosophies become religions, and they all can become a business)

    Like nature & nurture, the ‘ABRAHAMIC & BRAMANIC’ THEORIES VIEW IT FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE.

    THIRD GRADE ARTICLES/WRITERS DILUTE COLOMBO TELEGRAPH.

  • 2
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    Another half-baked foolish view along the lines of that Russian “acdemic” J Asoka, Shyamon Jayasinghe and Sharmini Serasinghe. The problem with these people is that they think they have worked out the mysteries of the universe and those of human life.

    Ranaweerage says @The origin of God, according to published literature, can be traced back to primitive cultures.” He should sit down and read this sentence over and over again to find out how stupid a view he is expressing.

    God save us from fools running around trying to spread their little knowledge.

    • 0
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      God save us from fools like ‘Rattaran’ running around trying to spread their little knowledge.

      • 1
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        God save us from half-naked fools like ‘Jim Softy’ running around trying to criticize those who try to warn readers about other fools who spread their little knowledge.

      • 1
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        Some one has written using my USer ID. This is not my comment.

    • 0
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      Rattaran

      “God save us from fools running around trying to spread their little knowledge.”

      No chance, He/She is hiding from you.

      • 0
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        This Rattaran is an another apologist of MR regime.

        If he is that intelligent why not her himself write good articles ?

        These are just pundits that know nothing beyond their MERVIN like filthy mouths

  • 0
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    Budhisam is not only for Sinhalese… sinhala Buddhist never try to converted others using their suffering .sinhalis go middle East countries and work hard even they can go Italy or western country just became Catholic. Sri Lankan Tamil have full right to become Buddhist and can help billion of Indians now suffering because of absent of budhisam.

  • 3
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    Rajindra,
    Your comment “God is basically a mental product created by the early primitive ignorant man as a means to overcome fear”
    shows your knowledge of other doctrines.. Then you keep going about supreme truths & superiority of your religion..
    What sort of happiness you get by saying your religion is the best and others are bad on inferior.. Is this kind of happiness you are getting from Buddha’s teachings??
    Anura

    • 0
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      I salute you Anura, when I read this para from article I stopped reading as he has callously degraded all other religions/belief.

  • 2
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    Mr. Ratnapuli,

    I couldn’t have said it any better!

    Sharmini Serasinghe

    • 2
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      Getting an endorsement from big mouth Sharmini Serasinghe is an embarrassment to modest, serious individuals. [Edited out]

  • 4
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    Foolish Sinhala-Buddhists have turned the “Asian Buddha” into a God.

    • 0
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      This is not my comment. Some one else has written it.

  • 2
    1

    yet another..Open letter!(quite popular as of recent, all these open letters)

    Dear Rajindra, Sharmini and Jagath,

    One gets the feeling that all these articles about the Budhha and Bhuddism are intended to show discerning readers, the profoundness of the message of the Buddha. CT readers are quite aware of the profoundness. Perhaps if you were redirect these, to the email accounts of the BBS and Sinhala Ravaya, they too would be beneficiaries of this knowledge. The political Bhuddist class(quite vibrant in SL) do not seem to be aware of these teachings. At least their behavior doesn’t indicate it. Not only the uglies even the Maha Nayakas maintain a stoic silence when violence occurs against other religious institutions. Please consider.

  • 1
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    If anybody wants to see similarities between even a river and a mountain, or an animal and the sky he can easily find many. It depends on the level of consciousness one is in. Higher level of consciousness, unfortunately nothing to do with our intellectual arguments.
    Deeper, the “I” ness exists, deeper the “ego”. “I”ness or “ego” is a combination of everything accumulated in this birth, including not only the family, wealth and properties but nationality, religion, and academic knowledge. More the “I” ness, the more the “ fear” of loosing accumulated ego. When intoxicated by ego, no similarities can be found even between humans! See the worthiness of the fifth of the Five Precepts! No to intoxicated….. By what? The answer depends on your level of understanding.
    If you cannot see the similarities between various religions or philosophies, it does not mean similarities don’t exist. Perhaps it means something else, which I don’t want to go into. What we must do is training our minds to see similarities. Any type of Religion is for that.
    If we all could see similarities between Tamils and Sinhalese, Muslims and Sinhalese, Buddhism and other religions, this country will be the heaven one day.
    So what to speak the similarities between Nirvana ad the God?   We are Far….. Away from the truth brothers!
    If all learned readers were able to study carefully, no more examples needed for finding out the root cause for our burning issues in the society for so many thousand years.
    So, as long as Theravada Buddhism with Mahavansa modification exists, no matter, How the road system developed, how high buildings are built, how modern the car you use, how luxurious life you enjoy, we will be continuing to live in the same ignorant society for another thousand and thousands of years, with religious hating and racism.

  • 4
    2

    Excellent analysis!

  • 1
    0

    As a layman who has read, and have great admiration for Buddha’s teachings I suggest that writers and scholars should concentrate instead on making the Sri Lankan rulers and the Buddhists practice Buddha’s teachings in practice.

    It is a waste of time and energy simply basking in the glory of the Buddha, or arguing whether he is god or not.

    Otherwise these writers may be considered hypocrites.

    • 0
      0

      Thiru,

      “I suggest that writers and scholars should concentrate instead on making the Sri Lankan rulers and the Buddhists practice Buddha’s teachings in practice.”

      Great idea, but how should one set about doing this?

  • 6
    0

    Without the usual fanfare and hype, here is a lay person’s helpful, brief introduction to the difference between the Buddha and the God of the theistic religions. At a time of much bitterness and confusion created by overzealous purveyors and detractors of Buddhism, this writer’s sober analysis comes like a breath of fresh air.

    • 3
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      Vishnu,

      Thank you. My thoughts too.

  • 4
    0

    Thank you for explaining Buddhism in a nutshell.

  • 2
    1

    Buddhism undoubtedly is a great School of thought, a great Philosophy or even could be called a great religion. But the big question is to what extent do the followers and more especially the leaders of the followers practice such noble tenets as compassion and maître ya? and especially in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar?

    Sengodan. M

  • 2
    2

    Dear Mr. Ratnapuli,
    You feeble attempt to describe God and His followers as primitive and ignorant is nothing but a total ignorance and non experiential from you perspective. You seem to present that God and mans everyday problems are non related and the concept of God is beyond the redemption of peoples suffering and struggles. What a poor attempt it is. If you really ant to know and write about God then use the scriptures and what it says and speak to those who have had true life changing experiences to know more.

    Sir, God is not a concept. Neither is He a debate or an intellectual expertise. You cannot represent Him in one paragraph, and you should not even attempt such. You have tried to write about God from a buddhist perspective that is like apples and oranges or poles apart as you say.

    You are wrong when you also say that Christianity only seeks happiness in heaven whilst Buddhism in this life. Even in the midst of suffering one can have joy, that Christ encourages through a personal relationship. i.e. not an intellectual one.

    In short, do not try to represent or present God, whom you do not know because more than doing any good you only do harm. I encourage you to know God not only from you mind but your heart and see what you experience. As someone who came to know God 25 years ago, has had tremendous life changes, miracles and purpose and joy daily. It was not money or someone forcing me to seek after God. My own life that had no meaning and hopelessness led me to find God whom we all are searching for.

    All the best in your search.

    As Jesus said if you open the door to your heart, He will come and fellowship with you.

    • 1
      2

      Sangakkara, Concept of the existence of all powerful almighty God is a hallucination of the highest order..

      Sooner you get over it – as many enlightened men and women in the Western world seem to be doing these days – sooner you will start seeng things as they are. the Truth..

      • 4
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        So is the concept of karma and rebirth

        If you follow the same Buddism as these Westerners you may get enlightened

        (Tibetan and Mahayanic is the dominant tradition there. Sinhala Buddhism repulsed even Olcott once he saw beyond it’s surface. You cannot hide your polluted Buddhism forever)

        • 0
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          Well said Shiranthi

      • 0
        0

        Well my friend the truth cannot be seen by those that remain ignorant and choose to attack others beliefs and experiences feeling superior :)

        So do you believe in evolution, that you came from the monkeys ?

        Also from your statement I gather that your basis of truth is based on how Westerners react ? A bit shallow isn’t it !

        May you have a revelation of the Almighty God and His love !

  • 0
    0

    Hi Rajindra.
    Excelent text.
    I follow the Nitiren Daishonin Budism.
    Is a different way to see the thinks similars.
    The diferences are no significant.
    I learn after 40 years old to respect all the religions, the great problem is the fundamentalism.
    Ricardo Tavares
    Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil

  • 0
    1

    Buddhism is a religion, not a philosophy. When you believe in rebirth and reincarnation, Buddhism stops being a philosophy. Simple.

  • 0
    0

    “The origin of God, according to published literature, can be traced back to primitive cultures. God is basically a mental product created by the early primitive ignorant man as a means to overcome fear.”

    This is itself a rather primitive argument. Certainly not true, the belief in God is a result of reasoning, reflection and introspection

    The Qur’an questions:

    “Did man emerge from non-being through his own devices? Was he his own creator? Did mankind create the heavens and earth? Certainly they do not know God.” (52:35-36)

    “We created man out of an essence of clay, then We established him in a firm place in the form of sperm. Then We made the sperm into coagulated blood, and then into a formless lump of flesh. Then we made it into bones, and then clothed the bones with flesh. Finally We brought forth a new creation. How well did God create, the best of all creators!” (23:12-14)

    “Your God is but one God. There is no god other than Him, Compassionate and Merciful. In the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the alternation of night and day, in the ships that ply the seas to the benefit of man, in the water sent down from the heavens to revive the earth after its death, in the different species of animals scattered across the earth, in the rotation of the winds, in the clouds that are subordinate to God’s command between heaven and earth, in all of this, there are signs for men who use their intellects.” (2:163-164)

    “Tell men to reflect with care and see what things the heavens and the earth contain.” (10:101)

    “On the face of the earth there are signs for the possessors of certainty, and also in your own selves; will you not see?” (51:20-21)

    It is ones personal choice to believe or disbelieve. To every person his religon, faith, belief and worship. It does not make any difference to the Creator and Sustainer. In the final account every soul will be held accoutable for his or her deeds.

    “Whoever does the smallest good deed shall experience the result of it, and whoever does the slightest evil deed shall experience the result of it.” (99:7-8)

  • 0
    0

    This author is correct.

    The world Buddhism and the Religion are the word assigned by westerners who could not understand what Buddha-Dhamma is all about.

    Buddha call it Buddha-Dhamma or Buddha’s doctrine.

    IF you try to understand the beliefs of aboriginal tribe all over the world, their concepts on life are very similar to that of Buddha -Dhamma. That is possible as buddhism is the only religion which says that numerous times Buddha were born prior to the Last Buddha.

    • 0
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      JimSofty

      “IF you try to understand the beliefs of aboriginal tribe all over the world, their concepts on life are very similar to that of Buddha -Dhamma.”

      That is one reason as to why Sinhala/Buddhists must keep out of Buddha’s teaching.

    • 0
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      This is my comment.

      As usual, CT Editors push it to the bottom.

    • 2
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      NOT SO.
      Aboroginies, including our own believe in the existance of Demons and Spirits.
      They belive that the best concept of life (healthy and environmentally friendly) is the hunter-gatherer way of life.
      Buddhism promotes another food theory (limited understanding about deforesting and global warming, destruction of animal and plant habitat, about human evolution….and more)
      Our Sinhala ‘Buddhists’ are the cause of no life (liberty and homeland) for the Aboriginal Vaddhas.

      Buddha coppied Hindu reincarnation (Vishnu, Krishna, Manu, Buddha..)

      OUR BUDDHISTS DONT KNOW ‘THEIR’ BUDDHISM !!

      • 0
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        Gurusingha

        “Our Sinhala ‘Buddhists’ are the cause of no life (liberty and homeland) for the Aboriginal Vaddhas.”

        Thanks for your support.

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Ratnapuli has explained the essence of Buddhism in a very concise and lucid manner.

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