20 July, 2024


Is Sri Lanka A Sinhala-Buddhist Country?

By Hema Senanayake

Hema Senanayake

After Mangala Samaraweera recently retorted bluntly that Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala-Buddhist Country, it created a public discourse. Many blamed him and a few praised him for his boldness. I opted to disagree with him, not because I want to go with the tide but because his position does not lead to any meaningful conclusive determination of the issue.

Any community living in Sri Lanka must have the right to identify with their particular ethno-religious identity. If someone like Venerable Mawarelle Bhaddiya says that he is a Sinhala-Buddhist monk, what does it mean? It means that he is proud to identify in that way. He is proud because with that identity he upholds certain virtues which would be respected by even non Sinhala-Buddhist around the world. He accepts the well-being of other non-Sinhala-Buddhist communities living in Sri Lanka. He has utmost passion for those communities.

So it is great that if certain group of lay individuals who have similar virtues, identify as Sinhala-Buddhists and if they are the majority then they can rightly say that this country is a Sinhala-Buddhist country. It brings reputation for this country. Around the world Sri Lanka will be considered as the best livable place in earth. Will such image good for the county? Of course it is. This is not what is happening today.

Also there are a small group of people and politicians who say that they are Sinhala-Buddhists. When they say that how do they feel? Do they feel animosity towards other communities? If they do, they are not Sinhala-Buddhists. They bring shame to our beloved country. They bring disrepute to our country. Their actions make our respectable Sinhala-Buddhist youths to hate living in this country and go abroad. We must change this mindset right now.

Yes. This country is a Sinhala-Buddhist country. Similarly, this is the country of Sinhala-Christians too. This is the country of Sri Lankan Tamils too. This is the country of Sri Lankan Muslims too. But this is not the country for terrorists and separatists.

All communities must have the right to be proud about their ethno-religious identity if they wish to do so. If we deny that right to Sinhala-Buddhists, then how we can accept the rights of other communities.

If any minority can proudly identify with their ethno-religious identity in Sri Lanka that intimates the social virtuousness of Sinhala-Buddhists being the majority community. Nothing else. What is important is, there are no second class citizens in Sri Lanka and there is one common law for everybody.

Mathematically, Sri Lanka is a well-defined set of elements; under any circumstances element will never become the set. Certain things can be well understood by mathematics.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    It’s natural for any country to be described, taking its main ethnic/religious/linguistic factors into consideration.

    The only exception here is that to describe Sri Lanka, two factors have been taken into consideration.

    It may have been that it’s foreigners that started calling this island a Sinhala Buddhist country probably in appreciation of their peaceful & pleasant appearance to the world.

    It may raise the question that why don’t foreigners call Vietnam as Vietnamese Buddhist country & thus Thai Buddhist etc.

    In other Asian Or particularly Buddhist countries, non natives had arrived (they’re natives now with the time passing) as invaders & settled there somewhat forcefully whereas in Sri Lanka non-natives settled in the country because of the hospitality of the main inhabitants & the freedom of thought offered to them.

    Sinhalese, especially Sinhala Buddhists have the pride of enjoying of their country being called as Sinhala Buddhist country & as we notice Sinhalese Christians too like it & even majority of Tamils & Muslims too don’t find problems about it as it’s Sinhala Buddhists who paved the way for them to be proud citizens here.

    The recent unfortunate incidents happened here, that mainly politicians are responsible, especially 83, & opportunity minded foreign powers & even the UN HR pundits are responsible for his hatred based allegation to say that Sri Lanka Isn’t a Sinhala Buddhist country.

    Some handful of opportunity minded politicians are trying to be smart by calling SL isn’t Sinhala Buddhist country.

  • 4

    Is Malaysia a Muslim MALAY nation? It has islam as its official state religion with only 61% Muslim people.

  • 5

    In the current context stating that you are a Sinhala Buddhist means claiming to be superior to others who are not Sinhala Budhists. This is not much different from claiming I am a Govigama. Both usages are oppressive.

    Ideally, to benefit from the claim of being in the majority, the correct usage should be “ I am a Sinhala Buddhist Govigama” and look for the reactions of non Govigama Sinhala Buddhists which may not be very different from other non Sinhala Buddhist minorities.

  • 1

    All the issues like Sinhala buddhists issue came up just after independent in 1948. During colonial era Sinhalese Buddhists had to under go various difficulties. They totally discriminated.After Independence Sinhalese Buddhists Expected some remedial actions from our own politicians. But our politicians were either slaves of our colonial Masters or Indians. Little by Little first slavery mind set erased out but second one got more & more strong. That is the main cause of the issue I feel.You can not solve any issues with Indian slavery mind set.Yes Buddhism came from India But people are not Ancestors of Indians. As such with Indian slavery mind set you can not solve any problems here. Forget Indian factor & face the issues head on . Try & solve issues for the benefits of local populations forget Indian ancestry people.Tamils & Tamil Muslims.

    • 1

      “Try & solve issues for the benefits of local populations forget Indian ancestry people.Tamils & Tamil Muslims”
      Why are you considering only Veddas and Burghers?

  • 3

    A sensible answer to the question must depend on what one means by a ‘Buddhist country’. Can you correctly describe a country as a Buddhist country, merely on the basis that the majority are Buddhists or does the term envisage something more? I suggest a Buddhist country is one where the way of life and the country’s laws and administration follow Buddhist precepts and the Buddhist religion is actively lived and observed in everyday life. The recent attacks on Muslim homes and properties are hardly evidence of a country living according to Buddhist principles. It is instructive to note that when the international media refer to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia they do not call them Muslim countries but majority Muslim countries. A similar description is appropriate to Sri Lanka – it is a majority Buddhist country. Mangala Samaraweera has been criticised for his statement – unfairly, in my view. The timing of his statement may be questioned but not its validity. The point raised needed to be brought up and discussed so that we can disabuse our minds of misconceptions in this regard. Too many people seem to regard SL as a Buddhist country, and consequently that the religious minorities have lesser rights.

  • 3

    Mangala is correct and should be appreciated for his boldness. Sri Lanka has been a Buddhist country after Devanampiyatissa. Prior to the period no one knows the religion that was in existence in Sri Lanka. However, there epics like Ramayana which says that Ravana was a devotee of Lord Shiva. No one knows whether Ravana was a Sinhalese or Tamil, but belonged either to the Yakka or Rakshatha clan. There is hardly any difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddhism has a founder while Hiduism has no founder and no central authority. But Buddhism is indebted to Hinduism as it is an off-shoot of Hinduism. Lord Buddha being a Hindu Prince was not happy about the practices of Brahmins and he had his own way. Buddhism can be considered as a refined Hinduism.

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