23 June, 2024

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Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism & Women In Sri Lanka

By Rohini Hensman

Rohini Hensman

Introduction

Myth and reality are intertwined in accounts of how Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka. According to the Mahavamsa, a 6th century CE epic, the Buddha himself visited Lanka on three occasions, but this myth has effectively been demolished by scholars[1]. There is more evidence for the story that in the third century BCE, when Ashoka ruled India, he sent his son Mahinda, a Buddhist monk, on a mission to the Sinhalese king Devanampiya Tissa, who ruled from his capital Anuradhapura. Mahinda converted Devanampiya Tissa and his cabinet of ministers, at least one of whom became a monk following the ten precepts required for ordination. Subsequently the king set up a series of shrines and monasteries presided over by various orders of monks (bhikkhus) throughout his kingdom, and a section of the population became male and female lay devotees (upasakas and upasikas). Mahinda’s sister Sanghamitta, a Buddhist nun, also came over, bringing with her a branch of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, which was planted in Anuradhapura. Subsequently, more saplings were planted throughout the country. She also set up an order of nuns (bhikkhunis). Mahinda and Sanghamitta are believed to have lived in Lanka until they died there[2].

The reality was more complicated. Buddhism had already come to South India and Sri Lanka before Devanampiya Tissa was converted, albeit without setting up any bhikkhu sangha (order). There is even evidence that Mahinda himself spent time in modern-day Tamil Nadu, where he preached the Dhamma, and then came to Anuradhapura via Jaffna. Thus Buddhism was as much a Tamil religion as a Sinhalese one, with some of the major contributions made to Buddhist thought and learning, including five epics, being by Tamil monks. There were strong links between Buddhists in South India and Buddhists in Lanka, and several viharas (temples or monasteries) in Tamil Nadu and the Jaffna peninsula. While Theravada Buddhism was dominant, some Mahayana Buddhists also came over from Tamil Nadu and established themselves in Lanka. Around the beginning of the 7th century CE, when Vaishnavism and Saivism regained prominence in Tamil Nadu and Buddhism and Jainism came under attack from Brahminism, it was mainly Theravada Buddhists who fled to Sri Lanka and settled there[2].

Monks, nuns, and the introduction of hierarchies

Sri Lanka was one of the few countries where a bhikkhuni sangha (order) was initiated, and presumably while Sanghamitta was alive, they would have enjoyed equality. The Buddha always affirmed that women could achieve parinirvana (a state of enlightenment and freedom from suffering and rebirth), but according to the Vinaya (rules for monastics), he was reluctant to ordain women, and agreed to do so only under pressure from his aunt and foster mother Mahapajapati, who wanted to be ordained as a nun, and his attendant Anand, on condition that nuns follow eight additional precepts (garudhammas). One of them specifies unquestioning subservience to their male counterparts regardless of age or experience, another requires them to go through two years of training before ordination, and yet another requires them to be ordained by the bhikkhuni sangha before they can receive final ordination from the bhikkhu sangha.

The bhikkhuni sangha in Sri Lanka died out around the 11th century, but lay female devotees (upasikas) continued to be active. In the early 20th century, Buddhist women founded a vibrant movement of dasa sil matavo who followed the ten precepts and played a role similar to that of nuns without being ordained. In the 1980s and 1990s, calls for the official ordination of these women were raised by Theravada Buddhists in the West. Since the ten nuns required for ordination were not present in Sri Lanka, Mahayana nuns from East Asia came over for fulfil the quorum, and ordinations took place in 1988 and 1996. Significantly, however, many dasa sil matavo preferred not to get ordained, thus escaping from subordination to the monks, many of whom in any case considered the ordinations invalid[4].

These developments point to a common problem that occurs when a religion becomes institutionalised, especially when the institution is headed by male clergy: a hierarchy develops between higher and lower clergy, clergy and lay people. Discrimination against women seems to follow almost inevitably, even if the religion originally held out hopes for emancipation and equality for women, resulting in some women rebelling against such discrimination in various ways. In fact, a scholarly investigation by Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni into the original Pali texts documents numerous anomalies and anachronisms in the story about the introduction of the garudhammas, concluding that the ‘story is, as it stands, in full, historically impossible.’ She finds that the Buddha himself ordained women, including Mahapajapati, without invoking the eight garudhammas, and directed bhikkhus to do the same for hundreds of women accompanying her as well as others. She thinks it is likely that ‘the eight garudhammas story may have been added into various Vinaya texts comparatively late.’[5] Another scholar agrees with her, citing, for example, the Buddha’s repeated insistence on having four categories of disciples – bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, upasakas and upasikas – which contradicts the notion that he was reluctant to ordain women[6].

Buddhism and state power       

The Buddha had made it clear that Buddhist monks should have nothing to do with state power, although alms given by kings could be used by clergy for welfare purposes, and his own life followed this prescription. By contrast, the close relationship between the monarch and the sangha in Lanka involved gifts that enriched the bhikkhus as well as drawing them into politics. Linking Buddhism to the state encouraged the growth of bhikkhu orders which were more interested in political power, land and wealth than in propagating the Buddha’s teachings. In the Kandyan kingdom, for example, most Maha Sangha chiefs (Nayaka bhikkhus) came from landed families and continued to own land and engage in economic activities exploiting ordinary villagers, who nonetheless looked up to them as religious leaders. Since their continuing relationship with the ruler was important for them as well as the ruler, a symbiotic relationship developed whereby each influenced the other[7].

As we saw earlier, linking Buddhism to Sinhala nationalism is historically wrong, and this is admitted implicitly in the founding myth of Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka in the Mahavamsa. Prince Vijaya, grandson of a lion (sinha), is banished from his parents’ kingdom in India for bad conduct, along with a retinue of 700 men, and lands in Lanka, which is inhabited by the indigenous yaksas and yaksis who are hunter-gatherers (now called Veddas). He marries a yaksi, Kuveni, and has two children by her, but then slaughters many indigenous people, abandons Kuveni and his two children by her, and marries a Tamil princess from South India, who brings with her women for Vijaya’s ministers and thousands of craftsmen and their families. The supreme irony of this founding myth is that it describes considerable ethno-religious diversity and harmony, including intermarriage: the very opposite of ‘racial purity’. An earlier chronicle, the Dipavamsa of the 4th century CE, had described the military campaign of Buddhist King Duttagamini (161–137 BCE) to unify the island by conquering all the other kingdoms in it including that of Tamil King Elara. In the Dipavamsa, Elara is portrayed as a just king, and only 13 stanzas are about Duttagamini, whereas over half the Mahavamsa is devoted to him. Notably, the latter recounts that when he grieves for the thousands of Tamils killed in battle, Buddhist monks console him that only one-and-a-half real persons were killed, one who embraced the full Dharma and another who followed five precepts: an early example of anti-Tamil racism and contradiction of the Buddha’s teaching on the equality of all human beings[8].       

It might be acceptable for a monarch to promote one religion over all others, but in a democracy, the state is supposed to treat all citizens equally regardless of their religion, ethnicity or any other characteristic. This was not how Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933) saw Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon. He campaigned vigorously against the British colonial state, but the ideal he wished to substitute for it was an exclusively Sinhala-Buddhist state. He wrote: ‘This bright, beautiful island was made into a Paradise by the Aryan-Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals. Its people did not know irreligion … Christianity and polytheism [i.e. Hinduism] are responsible for the vulgar practices of killing animals, stealing, licentiousness, lying and drunkenness …’[9] Kumari Jayawardena explains that the 19th-century European ideology characterising ‘Aryans’ as a superior race was ‘eagerly picked up by the Buddhist revivalists in Sri Lanka who… adopted a doctrine of racial superiority, glorified an idyllic past and associated the Sinhala people with the chosen “Aryan race,” and the chosen Buddhist faith.’[10]

Again, although Muslims (‘Moors’) had already been ‘othered’ by some Sinhalese from around the 14th or 15th centuries, the use of antisemitic language was new when Dharmapala wrote in 1915, ‘The Muhammedans, an alien people, who in the early part of the 19th century were common traders, by Shylockian methods became prosperous like the Jews. The Sinhalese, sons of the soil, whose ancestors for 2358 years had shed rivers of blood to keep the country free from alien invaders…are in the eyes of the British only vagabonds…’ [11]Shamara Wettimuny points out that ‘Elsewhere, Dharmapala used antisemitic language in his scathing attacks on Christianity: he called Jesus a ‘half-insane Jew’, and Christianity ‘Semitic Monotheism’. Crucially, in his landscape view of world religions, the ancestry of the three Abrahamic religions is emphasized.’[12]

Although Dharmapala disparaged the culture and religion of the British colonisers and propagated the myth of a glorious Sinhala-Buddhist past, he incorporated many elements of the culture he rejected, including rules of middle-class respectability, for example prescriptions of cleanliness. He adapted these to Buddhist tradition, publishing a pamphlet entitled Gihi Vinaya or The Daily Code for the Laity in 1898, encompassing 200 rules under 22 subjects including food, behaviour at temples and in front of clergy, how servants and children should behave, and so on. No less than 30 applied to women, prescribing how they should wear sarees and dress modestly, keep their households, personal belongings and bodies clean, avoid indolence, avoid combing their hair or picking lice in public, beautify their gardens with flowering plants, and so on[13]. They were supposed to be devoted to their husbands and children, and although schooling – including in English – was pursued by Sinhalese Buddhist girls, partly because it was seen as helping them to be better mothers, wives and housewives, they were discouraged from pursuing further education. As late as the 1950s, when my mother was teaching English in a prestigious missionary-founded school, she had difficulty persuading the parents of even some of her brightest pupils to allow them to go to university.

Post-Independence Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism[14]

In pursuit of Dharmapala’s exclusive Sinhala-Buddhist paradise – which of course had never existed – post-Independence Sinhalese politicians enacted laws and implemented policies that privileged their own community and discriminated against minorities. The constitution inherited from the British at Independence in 1948 ruled out discrimination against any community and the first government of the United National Party (UNP) claimed to be democratic and secular, yet it lost no time in disenfranchising Tamils of recent Indian origin, mostly plantation workers, and depriving them of their citizenship. The main opposition, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was overtly communal, and came to power on the promise to make Sinhala the only official language, enacting legislation to this effect – the so-called Sinhala Only Bill – in 1956. The Sinhala-Only policy had far-reaching consequences, not only discriminating against Tamils but also creating an obstacle to communication between communities which had lived together for millennia. Buddhist monks were central to the campaign and to the subsequent violence against non-violent Tamil protesters. The violence peaked in May 1958, with anti-Tamil pogroms in many parts of the country and especially Colombo.

SWRD Bandaranaike, leader of the SLFP, had been at the forefront of the campaign, but perhaps felt the violence had gone too far. In August he introduced the Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Act allowing for the reasonable use of Tamil. The very same Buddhist monks and others who had supported him to the hilt in the campaign for the Official Language Act now turned against him, and in 1959 organised his assassination. The fact that the pogroms and the assassination went against the very first precept that was supposed to govern the Sangha – the prohibition of killing – did not seem to matter to these monks.

Both the main parties, the UNP and SLFP, were now competing to be seen as more committed to a Sinhala Buddhist state. The main left-wing parties – the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Communist Party of Ceylon (CPC, later to become the Communist Party of Sri Lanka) had opposed legislation and policies privileging Sinhalese Buddhists and discriminating against other communities. However, in the 1960s they formed an alliance with the SLFP, and were thus jointly responsible for the Constitution of 1972, which provided a special status to the Sinhala language and Buddhist religion. A separate ministry to promote Buddhism was established. Sadly, a far-left party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which criticised the main left parties for joining hands with what they characterised as the bourgeois SLFP, was extremely authoritarian and also imbued with Sinhala nationalism. When they staged an uprising, the supposedly Buddhist SLFP had no qualms about crushing them militarily, also putting many of them in jail.

After the UNP came back to power in 1977, the new constitution of 1978 concentrated power in the hands of the Executive President, JR Jayewardene. Deadly violence was unleashed against Tamils, culminating in the horrific anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983 and setting off the civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At the same time, the democratic rights of ordinary Sinhalese too were violated egregiously. Freedom of expression was crushed, trade unionists and worker activists assaulted, dismissed and killed, elections and referendums were rigged. Appointments to supposedly independent institutions, including the Election Commission and Supreme Court, were taken over by the President. Democracy and the rule of law were demolished. Many people think that ‘democracy’ means elections, and the ‘rule of law’ means that any laws in force are followed, but this is not correct. The rule of law means that everyone is equal before the law and has equal protection of the law, and without the rule of law, there is no democracy. Even in Nazi Germany there were elections and referendums, and there were laws that allowed the political opposition and sections of the population to be persecuted and ultimately exterminated. But that was fascism, not democracy.

The fighting in the North and East halted temporarily after Jayewardene signed an accord with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in July 1987 granting Tamil the status of an official language and providing for limited devolution of power to the provinces. Fighting shifted to the rest of the country as the JVP launched its second insurrection. The state, controlled by the UNP, responded with indiscriminate slaughter of Sinhalese youth. This is what resulted in the gruesome atrocities and massive death toll (estimated at 40,000-60,000) during the second JVP insurgency, which ended in November 1989. On the pretext of fighting the JVP, government death squads killed unarmed critics, political rivals and even dissidents within the UNP, and this repression went on after the JVP was defeated. In 1990, fighting between the state and the LTTE broke out again.

Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected president in 1994 on the promise of ending the war by satisfying the demand for the rights of Tamils and abolishing the Executive Presidency. Democratic rights were mostly restored in the parts of the country under government control, but the LTTE sabotaged her efforts to end the war by assassinating two Tamil politicians engaged in crafting a constitution that would devolve significant authority to the North and East and trying to assassinate her too. Nor did she succeed in abolishing the Executive Presidency. But the 17th Amendment to the constitution was passed, taking away the power of the president to unilaterally appoint people to institutions that ought to be independent, like the Election Commission and Supreme Court.

In 2005, Kumaratunga was succeeded as president by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was then in the SLFP. Human rights violations against Tamils, which had declined under Kumaratunga, increased sharply. In the South, freedom of expression came under severe attack, and death squads targeting critics of the government resurfaced. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was Defence Secretary at that time, not only controlled the armed forces and multiple intelligence agencies, but also higher education and urban development. As the war moved towards its terrible end in 2009, the UN estimates that around 40,000 civilians were killed in the last few months alone, partly because the LTTE used them as human shields but also because the Defence Secretary directed government forces to bomb and shell civilian targets, including hospitals and safe zones. Buddhist monks instigated and led violent attacks on Muslims and Christians, with the collusion of the state.

Buddhist women in the Sinhala Buddhist state

The only issue on which Buddhist women campaigned as Buddhist women during this period was the drive for ordination of bhikkhunis. Unsurprisingly, they were not supported by many chief monks (Maha Nayakas), nor by the government Ministry of Buddhist Affairs controlled by them. During these years, a National Identity Card (NIC) was introduced and became compulsory for every official purpose, from taking exams to applying for a job, from opening a bank account to getting a passport. Unlike male bhikkhus, female bhikkhunis had great difficulty getting identity cards, and sometimes had them taken away even after obtaining them, leaving them in limbo, without the basic rights of citizens[15]. This struggle also draws attention to another problem: the ordination of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis as novices at a very young age, sometimes as young as 6 years old. This is surely much too young for a child to decide on a life in a religious order or understand complex issues of doctrine. At best, it contributes to an authoritarian culture where chief priests must be obeyed without question and independent and critical thinking and action are suppressed. At worst, it leads to psychological, physical and sexual abuse that leaves deep and often lifelong scars on these unfortunate victims[16]. Sinhalese women, mostly Buddhist, also organised themselves as the Mothers’ Front during the gruesome counter-insurgency against the JVP, demanding to know what had happened to their children who had disappeared.

While some Buddhists, including women, went along with the violent agenda of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism, many did not, and resisted in multiple ways. As individuals, they saved innumerable lives during pogroms by providing shelter to Tamils and helping them to escape from violent mobs. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of our Sinhalese neighbour Menike, who was like a member of our family, coming over in great distress, insisting that we leave our home at once and go somewhere safe because a bloodthirsty mob was heading our way. At around the same time my mother’s former student Yasmine, who had become a family friend, also Sinhalese, came over in a car, offering to shelter us at her parents’ place. My father was Tamil, we were living in an overwhelmingly Sinhalese neighbourhood, and it was May 1958. It was our Sinhalese neighbours who helped us to escape, and Menike who organised the operation.

Thirty years later, when I was doing research on Sri Lankan refugees and internally displaced people, I came across numerous similar stories in which Tamils had been saved by Sinhalese friends, neighbours, colleagues, or even total strangers, and women often played a major role. I have reported these incidents in testimonies from Tamil refugees in my book Journey Without a Destination: Is there a solution for Tamil refugees? and fictionalised some of them in my novel Playing Lions and Tigers. These actions were not without risk, because the mobs threatened anyone who sheltered Tamils, but the Buddhist outlook they had internalised told them that they had to save lives to the best of their ability.

Other incidents illustrate the attitudes among ordinary working-class and rural poor Sinhalese women. When I was conducting a workshop for garment workers, all of whom were young Sinhalese women, a workshop for young Tamil women displaced from the North by the war was going on in the same conference centre, and during mealtimes, the Sinhalese women went over to talk to the Tamil women, finding bilingual interpreters to help them to communicate. There was curiosity as well as sympathy for women suffering a different form of oppression from what they themselves suffered. Sinhalese widows of civilian victims of the counter-insurgency against the JVP learned from their own experience that they had a great deal in common with their Tamil brothers and sisters. ‘If the army can do this to us, what must they have been doing to Tamils?’ they asked. Such attempts to break through the solid wall of disinformation propagated by the state and expressions of solidarity are what led to the victory of Chandrika Kumaratunga in the presidential election of 1994, when she campaigned on a platform of restoring the rights of Tamils.

The other way in which Sinhalese Buddhist women fought for women’s rights as well as for democracy and minority rights was as members of groups and organisations that included women, or both women and men, from other communities. Their participation in common efforts to fight against the Sinhala-Buddhist state was in itself a form of resistance to the divide-and-rule policy of that state. Of course, groups like the Mothers and Daughters of Lanka didn’t include the majority of women, but they were able to influence opinion and counteract the censorship and relentless propaganda of the state.   

Thus, the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka has had contradictory results for women. On one side, the Buddha’s teachings of equality, non-violence and compassion as well as the encouragement of literacy and education have benefited women, who traditionally suffered less oppression than women in India. On the other side, monks linked with the state have promoted the very opposite values in the name of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. This has had a negative effect not just on bhikkhunis but on women in general, resulting in violence, war and mass murder not only of Tamils by Sinhalese but also of Sinhalese by Sinhalese. Relatively few women were involved in the actual fighting, but all were affected in less obvious ways. Countless years of love and care lavished on their children were destroyed when those children were killed, while the large number of survivors with disabilities created an even heavier burden of care combined with the necessity of earning a livelihood. Militarisation and war encouraged a violent machismo which had not been common before, resulting in increased domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Conclusion

The experience of Buddhism in Sri Lanka confirms the correctness of the Marxist insistence on the separation of state and religion, showing how putting state power in the hands of a religious community – indeed any ethnic group – has negative consequences for minorities, women and democracy. The only involvement of the state with religion should be to ensure that all individuals should have equal rights regardless of their religion or lack of it. It doesn’t mean that the state should treat all religions equally, because as this example shows, and the same can be shown for all major religions, there can be multiple interpretations of a religion. The right to freedom of conscience and religion must include the right to follow your own religion in your own way. On every issue – workers’ rights, capitalism, gender justice, ethno-religious minorities, LGBT+ rights, welfare, immigration, and so on and so forth – there could be opposite positions taken by people who see themselves as following the same religion and, conversely, the same position taken by people who follow different religions or none. It is not the job of state institutions to decide which interpretation is correct, only to ensure that no interpretation infringes on the fundamental rights of others.

It is worth noting here that Tamil nationalism has added to the problems created by Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism rather than helping to resolve them. It is true that the LTTE’s nationalism was largely secular, yet its totalitarianism and insistence on a mono-ethnic state made its temporary de facto rule in parts of the island as oppressive for minorities and Tamil dissidents as the Sinhala-Buddhist state. There is also Tamil-Hindu nationalism, exemplified by C.V. Wigneswaran’s ‘history’ of the island, which is as mythological as its Sinhala-Buddhist counterpart or perhaps even more so. At least the Mahavamsa admits the existence of the indigenous hunter-gatherers of Sri Lanka who practised ancestor-worship and animism, but according to Wigneswaran ‘The original inhabitants of this country were Saivite Tamils.’ His contemptuous comment that ‘Muslims and Upcountry Tamils have no such common historical background to stand on’ suggests a hierarchy, probably caste-based, even among Tamil-speaking peoples[17]. By endorsing ethno-religious nationalism, such a position ends up reinforcing Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism.

Postscript

Marx writes that ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.’[18] He may well be right that for many believers, religion is a comforting illusion, a distraction from trying to make the world a better place; shared rituals certainly provide a much-needed sense of belonging.

What is wrong with this view, however, is that it conceives of ‘religion’ as a monolith about which sweeping generalisations can be made, leaving out the enormous differences within every major religion. If we take ‘fundamentalism’ to mean adherence not to the original fundamentals of a faith tradition but to an authoritarian, patriarchal and misogynistic version of it, and link religious fundamentalism to state power, then ‘religion’ can mean horrific violations of human rights, including mass murder. Conversely, a different version of the same faith tradition can mean a spiritual quest for universal love and freedom from oppression, and action to try and realise these on earth. Believers in these progressive versions of various faiths can make, and have made, substantial contributions to emancipatory movements. Marxists should not merely tolerate them but work with them.

Notes

[1] Ranjan Gooneratne, ‘Did the Buddha visit Sri Lanka?’ Sunday Times, 13 December 2009. https://www.sundaytimes.lk/091213/Plus/plus_12.html

[2] ‘Buddhism in Sri Lanka,’ Facts and Details. https://factsanddetails.com/south-asia/Srilanka/

[3] History_Srilanka/entry-7933.htmlP.K. Balachandran, ‘In Sri Lanka, the Tamil link with Buddhism is brushed, under the carpet,’ The Citizen, 8 August 2021. https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/6/20730/In-Sri-Lanka-the-Tamil-Link-with-Buddhism-is-Brushed-Under-the-Carpet; J.L. Devananda, ‘The Tamil Buddhists of the past and the future,’ Ilankai Tamil Sangam, October 2010. https://sangam.org/2010/12/Tamil_Buddhists.php?uid=4177

‘[4] The Ordination of Nuns in Sri Lanka,’ (a case study), Harvard Divinity School Faculty of Religion and Public Life. https://rpl.hds.harvard.edu/religion-context/case-studies/gender/ordination-nuns-sri-lanka

[5] Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, ‘Non-historicity of the Eight Garudhammas,’ 2009. https://alokavihara.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ayyatathaaloka-8garudhammas-2009.pdf

[6] Analayo Bhikkhu, ‘Gender discrimination and the Pali Canon: A letter to Ayya Tathaaloka from Ven. Analayo Bhikkhu,’ Alliance for Bhikkhunis, December 2009. https://bhikkhuni.net/gender-discrimination-and-the-pali-canon-a-letter-to-ayya-tathaaloka-from-ven-anaalayo-bhikkhu/

[7] Shantha Gamlath, ‘Social Movements, Power Politics and Politicization of Buddhist Priests in Sri Lanka,’ IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 21 (3), March 2016,18–30. https://www.academia.edu/25690508/Social_Movements_Power_Politics_and_Politicization_of_Buddhist_Priestsin_Sri_Lanka?uc-g-sw=49301298

[8] N.F. Gier, ‘Buddhist nationalism and religious violence in Sri Lanka,’ https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/slrv.htm#_edn1

[9] Anagarika Dharmapala, Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala, ed. Ananda Guruge (Colombo: Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, 1965) p.482.

[10] Kumari Jayawardena, Labour, Feminism & Ethnicity in Sri Lanka, (Colombo: Sailfish,2017) pp.279–280.

[11] Anagarika Dharmapala, Return to Righteousness: A Collection of Speeches, Essays and Letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala, ed. Ananda Guruge (Colombo: Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, 1965) p.540.Shamara Wettimuny, ‘“The Jews of Ceylon”: Antisemitism, prejudice, and the Moors of

[12] Ceylon,’ Modern Asian Studies, 2023,1–25. p.6.

[13] Neloufer de Mel, Women and the Nation’s Narrative. Gender and Nationalism in Twentieth Century Sri Lanka, (Colombo: Social Scientists Association, 2001) pp.105–106.

[14] This section mostly draws on Rohini Hensman, ‘Political dimensions of the crisis in Sri Lanka,’ New Politics, 7 June 2022. https://newpol.org/political-dimensions-of-the-crisis-in-sri-lanka/

[15] Saroj Pathirana, ‘Sri Lanka’s Bhikkuni nuns and their fight for identity papers,’ BBC News, 22 December 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-49979978

[16] Sahan Wiratunga, ‘Betrayal of trust: Child abuse by Buddhist monks,’ Groundviews, 5 September 2023. https://groundviews.org/2023/05/09/betrayal-of-trust-child-abuse-by-buddhist-monks/

[17] C.V. Wigneswaran, ‘How do you expect Tamils to march together with other communities?’ Colombo Telegraph, 14 December 2019. https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/how-do-you-expect-tamils-to-march-together-with-other-communities/

[18] Karl Marx, ‘A contribution to the critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,’ 1844. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm

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Latest comments

  • 64
    83

    Rohini . H, I was not interested in knowing our history anymore, when Lanka itself is now history.But thank you for writing this comprehensive article which made me to sit and read in one go.

    • 34
      1

      Yes, chiv,

      It is true that at this moment few of us have time for History, but Rohin’s scholarship shines through.
      .
      For instance her telling us that the Dipawamsa was significantly fairer, and that Bandaranaike was not a monster.
      .
      I’m tired, but very happy that you’ve got a sound first comment in very fast. I hope that there will be more appreciations of all the hard work that has been put in.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

    • 58
      71

      My sentiments exactly, Chiv! Riveting piece of scholarly writing.

      Very much a study of the evolution of chauvinism, bigotry, and nationalism in Sri Lanka.

  • 61
    61

    A most commendable essay.
    Thank you Rohini.

    • 54
      62

      S.J.
      .
      I totally agree with you here. One of the best articles on CT ever. I will be back to read it later.

  • 61
    67

    It is indeed a well accomplished article and consummate!! Couldn’t ‘leave it’, until the end!

  • 51
    69

    It is a very good article even though she kept silence on the violence applied by JVP. The problem with the JVP is that it did not reached or expressed sufficiently against the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism and collaborated with the Sinhala Fundamentalist government.

  • 70
    69

    RH’s article is full lies, but Great Anagarika Dharmapala was spot on about minorities’ shenanigans.

  • 53
    69

    We all know from the history that when the country fallen to European invaders there were Tamil and Sinhala kingdoms existed in this island. I understand that there was a good relationship between these kingdoms and there was no central government or kingdom that controlled these kingdoms. Is it true or false?

  • 56
    67

    Dear Intelligent readers, please listen to the audio video below. I am afraid, It is only in Sinhala. This is how Ghanasara threatened the other monks in public.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHANzb-rYcQ

    Alas, it was Sinhala Buddhism and Sinhala-Buddhism manipulated by beasts that destroyed Sri Lankan Buddhism, which I thought was in good shape by the late 80s.
    . I think the alms they get from sacred followers are too toxic to be so aggressive. These people hiding behind Sanga’s clothes are disguised. These men have their own agendas and are born true criminals with varying levels of testosterone mirrors. BOSTON labs produce aggressive human-like hybrids.

    If one hides them with or without sangha clothes, if they come from overflowing aggressions, it is actually associated with mental problems. Who knows, Ghansara might have been raped by the same society during his teenage years. The number of rape victims in our society is similar to that experienced in Venezuelan prisons today.

  • 58
    68

    “Sinhala Buddhism” is a free meal-ticket …….. for most in the “forefront. “


    In “The Story of Civilization” by Will and Ariel Durant ……. the bedtime storiey Irish nuns read to us as little kids ……… the idea of God was bought into the human consciousness by an enterprising hunter-gatherer who was lazy to go hunter-gathering. He got the initial brilliant idea to put the idea of God into people’s minds and act as a conduit between man and God. So he can stay home and “attend” to “religious” “duties” and enjoy a higher social status/standing as well as the best of hunter-gatherers goodies. …… I don’t know any of my ancestors beyond my grandparents: it melts into the darkness of humanity …… but I’m certain that guy was my ancestor: it runs in the blood. …… Always trying to sell something to Native.

    Isn’t it ironic that was taught to us by nuns? ……. My education and world-view consist of a series of bedtime stories …… nothing much else ……

    Thank God for nuns.

  • 59
    69

    A very good and commendable essay. Thank you Rohini

    • 60
      46

      Rohini is definitely a good writer. Here is something else she wrote:

      “The LTTE initially attracted some Tamil socialists who believed it was waging a justified struggle for self-determination; but, in reality, the group was always committed to creating a Tamil-supremacist state by ethnically cleansing and killing Sinhalese. It even targeted Tamil-speaking Muslims in the Northern and Eastern Provinces which it claimed as its territory.”

      https://newleftreview.org/sidecar/posts/nightmares-end

      Uh-oh, Tamil-supremacist state. Ethnic cleansing. Did she just call the Tamils fascists? 🤯

      • 44
        49

        No

        • 49
          10

          Must be those fascist monks who serve you food then.

  • 61
    69

    Dunno what else Sinhala-Buddhism is …….. but know it’s downright dangerous!

    Recently, for a trip in Lanka, we hired a driver ( they are government drivers but take leave and come to drive to make a bit of extra money. I won’t divulge more: I don’t want Ranil and his worthless freeloading parasites to go holier-than-thou and put them into trouble) he was a devout Sinhala-Buddhist …… his great devoutness necessitated him to stand up in his seat at everything Buddhist along the road. Maaan, it was like riding with Lester Piggott. While doing that, he was driving like mad, at breakneck speed, to always be the front-runner of the pack. Native, ever seen Ascot, Kentucky?

    I’m not a puritan (Pharisee?) don’t even know what it means …….. but I want Sinhala-Buddhism banished from the earth for that reason alone.


    The earliest known Sinhala Man, the Bandarawela Man …….. is compelled to be a reluctant practicing Sinhala-Buddhist …… until I post some shock absorbers for his Honda ……….

    • 58
      55

      NF and all,
      .
      Generally, Sri Lankans drive very fast and recklessly. They go extreme ends whatever they do. According to some EU travelers I often meet in waiting lounges on the way back to Germany or other destinations, they experienced difficult situation in SL. I also see them driving recklessly on the Southern Expressway. i BECOME allergic to all, but i digest my short stays with such drivers in my home country. If I wer ethe atuhorities, I would never allow the kind of idiots to use their driving licencees anymore. People die on the roads like cats and dogs TODAY by road accidents.
      People don’t give a damn about traffic rules. I would never risk driving by myself in Sri Lanka. It is a hell to drive. There is no law and order… Bus drivers are rascals who do not follow any law. They should be hanged if they continue to act like thugs. At least for a while, the people must be brought under strict control. Experts say that in the absence of law and order, people generally behave this way
      They the drivers eat betel and spit through the shutters, ignoring passers-by. This was not common in Bali, Malaysia or Indonesia where I traveled around. Many of them talk loudly about their Sinhala supremacy, but they don’t care little about those who pass by.. Some of them behave like real thrisannu.

      • 59
        57

        LM,
        More Sinhalese died in traffic accidents from 1983 to 2009 than due to the war. 🤯

  • 67
    65

    Someone should seriously define this “Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.” I have met quite a few Muslims who tried to convert me. Once at a function, I saw a Christian tell a Hindu the latter will suffer a “dark punishment” if he doesn’t accept “Jesus.” In Korea as well, I was surprised to run into (native) zealots who were busy with conversion activity (and I don’t mean binary to hexadecimal). But I have never come across a Sinhalese who used “Buddhism” in the context of “nationalism” outside of a few politicians. There are Sinhalese, there is nationalism, and there is Sinhalese nationalism, how did “Buddhism” become part of the picture?

    • 42
      60

      Muslims and Christians have been harassing, not just with attempts to convert, me and my family for sometime with clearly identifiable activities and even our kids have not been spared. Harassing is in fact a word that rather underestime their actions and motives.
      .
      What they have been doing behind closed doors and for how long only god knows.
      .
      If you take measures to protect yourselves, assert your identity, and challenge them and their narrative you become the bad guys, the trouble makers and the racists.
      .
      Our crime apparently is being born Sinhalese and Buddhists – and perhaps not subscribing to the corrupt political culture that prevails, despite our ability to do so, if we ever wanted.
      .
      There’s very little to be expected from the white skinned when in reality whose authority stems from white christian supremacy garbed in fancy concepts like human rights as if only so called minorities have them. If at all they, the white skinned, have only been the partners in crime of the local perpetrators.
      .
      TBC

      • 42
        58

        Continued…
        .
        Respect for individual rights should be the corner stone of the doctrine of human rights. Instead it has been reduced to a strategic tool that could be used in geopolitical games where realpolitik takes priority over anything else while principled behaviour exit through the back door.
        .
        Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism – my foot!

        • 38
          58

          PS – and the Tamils they’ve been at it for the longest time without anyone suspecting and has done the biggest damage. Their level of operation has been at a different level and I to this day suffer from consequences and will be for the rest of my life.

      • 60
        50

        “Muslims and Christians have been harassing, not just with attempts to convert, me and my family for sometime with clearly identifiable activities and even our kids have not been spared. “🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    • 59
      48

      Sinhalese buddhist nationalism

      Unfortunately, Buddhism is not practiced in our island today: it is not practiced based on the true teachings of the Buddha. It is merely a pseudo-Buddhism based on Jataka stories and rituals similar to Jainism and ancient Hinduism. Ghansaras were bred by that culture over the last 15 years.

      It is a way of life for them rather than a religion. Imitation of others is their life motto. Many criminals make use of sanga-hood if they intend to commit high crimes today.
      .
      If LESTER or similar low-lives/sinhala racists were impartial, they would easily detect the level of dangers before all the communities of our island.

      I have stopped giving free food to Sri Lankan monks since 2016. Instead, I feed the stray dogs on the street. Dogs at least make effort to thank us by waging their tails.

      True Buddhism must be preserved in our home country, however fake and facist Sinhala-Buddhism must be crushed at its roots.

      There are even new-style fundamentalists who challenge Buddhism that should emerge in Sri Lanka. All this is contrary to the true information of world experts. Even so, the monks who were ordained later distort the deceitful mind found in some movies today. As in the South Asian region, the psyche of the people of Sri Lanka is infected with myths and superstitions.
      Facts aside, they continue blind and deaf.

    • 59
      57

      It’s a well studied and written about dreadful phenomenon, Lester! Perhaps you are in denial.

      Here’s a good read for you (Click on the link):
      East-West Centre, Washington
      Policy Studies 40
      ___________
      Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Ideology:
      Implications for Politics and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka
      ~Neil DeVotta
      ___________________________
      https://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/ps040.pdf

    • 57
      56

      Here’s another one for you, Lester!

      Buddhist Nationalism, Authoritarian Populism, and The Muslim Other in Sri Lanka
      Author: Rajni Gamage
      Source: Islamophobia Studies Journal , Fall 2021, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 2021), pp. 130-149 (Click on the link)

      https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.13169/islastudj.6.2.0130.pdf?refreqid=fastly-default%3A5a804739122206e49f1214466a55fcec&ab_segments=&origin=&initiator=&acceptTC=1

      Google some more and educate yourself.

    • 59
      52

      Lester,
      “Someone should seriously define this “Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism?”
      Why not try Michael Roberts, since you’re a great fan?
      .
      https://www.jstor.org/stable/2658297
      .
      For Humanity. For the
      Sinhalese. Dharmapala as
      Crusading Bosat
      MICHAEL ROBERTS
      Introducing Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism
      .
      Now, don’t tell me chauvinism isn’t nationalism 🤣🤣🤣🤣

      • 66
        48

        Old Codger,

        People are ultimately the product of their education. For most people, the majority of their “knowledge” comes in the first 20 years or so. The funny thing is that almost every single one of the “Sinhala-Buddhist” leaders was educated at a private Christian school and (in the earlier generation) Oxbridge. The same applies for Dharmapala. What do you think they learn at these schools? The Western worldview based on Western concepts of science,. economics, etc. The idea of government based on the Western tradition. And the concept of “race” based on Max Mueller and other people. So if these guys were “racist”, they did not pick that up from the monks. Monks come from mostly poor backgrounds.
        I had a Muslim friend once. He was very proud of memorizing the Quran (in Arabic). Similarly, Jews send their young children to the Synagogue to learn Hebrew. If the “Sinhala Buddhists” were half as fanatical, they would learn Pali & Sanskrit (outside of optional subjects). By the way, there is no parallel to “Zionism” or “jihad” in Sinhala-Buddhism.
        Regarding a few monks getting involved in politics, that is not nationalism. Monks were advisors to the kings for a long time.

        • 67
          47

          Also worth pointing out: every single President, with the exception of Premadasa, is or was a Govigama. They are what you call “landed aristocracy.” Many of them are more interested in furthering the family fortune rather than the development of the country or welfare of the masses.

        • 12
          48

          Lester

          “People are ultimately the product of their education. For most people, the majority of their “knowledge” comes in the first 20 years or so.”

          Therefore what they learn before they reach twenty is what they are being taught at school. Are you saying the schools taught them how to lie, steal, rape, peddle in drugs, kill, tax dodging, committing war crimes and crime against humanity, land grabbing, impunity, practicing caste and race discrimination, using violence as their first resort, burning libraries, ….

          Do you know the names of the schools where the arsonists were educated?
          One studied at Trinity College, Kandy have no idea the rest studied.

    • 41
      60

      Lester – it’s been already defined:
      .
      Quote
      “Recently, for a trip in Lanka, we hired a driver […] he was a devout Sinhala-Buddhist …… his great devoutness necessitated him to stand up in his seat at everything Buddhist along the road. Maaan, it was like riding with Lester Piggott. While doing that, he was driving like mad, at breakneck speed, to always be the front-runner of the pack. Native, ever seen Ascot, Kentucky?

      I’m not a puritan (Pharisee?) don’t even know what it means …….. but I want Sinhala-Buddhism banished from the earth for that reason alone.”
      Unquote
      .
      So one reckless driver who happens to be a Sinhala Buddhist make it necessary for Sinhala Buddhism to be banished from the earth! And some call you a fascist.
      .
      This person in addition it seems have no experience of the driving conditions that exist in India and their drivers.

      • 58
        48

        Ruchira

        “So one reckless driver who happens to be a Sinhala Buddhist make it necessary for Sinhala Buddhism to be banished from the earth! And some call you a fascist.”

        No need to banish all the Sinhalese or Buddhists, at the last count we were told there were 6924255 Sinhala/Buddhists who triumphantly elected one of the most stupidest butcher (Sinhala/Buddhist) in this island, we saw that coward running away from his …….. palace, responsibilities, country, …. now blaming foreigners, Muslims and Tamil diaspora for his ill conceived idea of Sri Lanka.

        Let us banish 6924255 (along with their leaders, columnists, …….. and saffron thugs) or liberate them from Sinhala/Buddhism.

      • 60
        49

        ” “Sinhala Buddhism” is a free meal-ticket …….. for most in the “forefront. “ “


        “Sinhala Buddhism” was defined ………. right on top!

        The true “Sinhala Buddhist” you are …….. you cherry pick what suits you. Shame on you. ……….. Buddha will not approve! ………… Whoever the “Sinhala” Buddha you follow will surely approve …… but not Gautama! :)))

        Do “Sinhala Buddhists” have any shame ……. or even know the meaning of shame?


        I suppose you know there’s a difference between Buddhism ……. and “Sinhala Buddhism.”

        Sorry to hurt your “Sinhala Buddhist” feelings …….. hope your Buddhist feelings – if you have any – are in fine fettle. :))

        I’m with Gautama, the real-deal.

        At least someone has to defend his name ……. when charlatans sully it. No.

        Yes, No?

      • 45
        52

        It looks like genocidal tendencies of the so called non sinhala buddhists are begining to show. They want to annihilate the majority of Sinhala Buddhists or indoctrinate them with other beliefs. Opposing such attitudes and dispositions is considered racist and fascist. An interesting lot or is it STOCK they are!

        • 50
          52

          Bizzare delusions!

          • 28
            11

            “Let us banish 6924255 (along with their leaders, columnists, …….. and saffron thugs) or liberate them from Sinhala/Buddhism.”
            .
            Yes sounds like a bizzare call.

          • 11
            37

            S
            May I suggest a slight rewording:
            Plain paranoia

      • 55
        54

        Ruchira,

        You can see, if Nimal’s type of people were in charge, you would have some kind of (Christian) Crusades going on in SL. What about other neighboring countries? The data speaks for itself. Pakistan: 96-97% Muslim, Bangladesh: 90-92% Muslim…. continue for every Muslim country on the planet. In Sri Lanka, the Buddhist percentage is around 70. If demographic trends continue, the percentage will be closer to 50 within several decades or less. Again, if SB’s were true fanatics, the percentage should at least be 80. The problem in Sri Lanka is not religious tolerance. It is actually class. Specifically, the failure of the colonials to lay the groundwork for the creation of a middle class once they left the country. The elites (who they left in charge of the civil service) on both the Tamil and Sinhala side played the masses. That’s why you had JVP and then LTTE terrorism. Also, the economic reliance on foreign remittances, what does that say about lack of economic opportunity and wealth inequality?

        • 32
          45

          “In Sri Lanka, the Buddhist percentage is around 70.”


          How many of them are real Buddhists ……. or Buddhist in name only?

          From now on, you can call me a Buddhist …… I’m a good Buddhist as you are? …….. What’s in a name?

          But don’t ever ask me what the real Buddha taught …… I’ll be as clueless and vile …… as you are! :))

          Birds of a feather? :)))

          • 48
            24

            You’re not clever. Dumb comments that don’t make any sense.

            • 26
              13

              Another observation worthy of noting is confrontation of Tamil propaganda and disinformation seems to get christians all riled up and it is them who makes the counter attack!

              • 7
                46

                SJ and Sugandh, now that I read above comments, with your permission, may I further suggest a slight rewording FOLIE A’ DEUX ( interesting from a purely clinical perspective ).

                • 7
                  47

                  You may have hit the bullseye, Chiv!

                • 28
                  6

                  Threatens to banish Sinhala Buddhists, 6.9+ millions of them and gets caught. Then start throwing personal insults and cry Paranoia and Delusions as if they understand the meaning of them to begin with. One claims to be doctor. A specialist for that matter. Supposedly trained at an Ivy league institute. Ever heard of a word called gaslighting? Look it up if you haven’t. You filthy Tamil racists. Folie a’ delux my (_|_)

          • 11
            47

            nimal fernando

            “How many of them are real Buddhists ……. or Buddhist in name only?”

            It is difficult to say/estimate the number of real Buddhists living in this island however I can say with certain degree of certainty there were about 6924255 Sinhala/Buddhists who voted for Gota in the last Presidential elections.

        • 36
          24

          Lester – I agree. Nimal, Vedda & Codger are an interesting trio. Interesting from a purely clinical perspective. Someone should psychoanalyse the three of them purely for intellectual and academic reasons. Yeah, I agee that the aristocratic class and their bureaucratic apparatus played the masses out and this continue to happen even today. Then there was also the caste factor. Govigama people thinking that they owned this country and no one from any other caste should become its head of state. Over 75 years they only have worked self preservation not to uplift the country economically. You see today the results they have yielded. A sad story.

          • 13
            47

            Extraordinary! Breaking news!,
            It seems that the people who , just last week, were claiming that Sinhalese don’t practice caste discrimination have finally discovered where their ancestors REALLY came from.
            “Then there was also the caste factor. Govigama people thinking that they owned this country “
            Did Dr. GS’s article a few days ago cause this redemption?

            • 13
              47

              So, it’s not only Tamils/Muslims who think they own this country?

            • 47
              9

              Hindu caste and Buddhist caste are completely different. There is no “Creator” in Buddhism, so any “caste” is indistinguishable from “class.” Hindu caste is based on Brahma (Creator). One guy comes from the mouth, another from the hands, another from the (use your imagination), etc. Historically, Govigama was based on service to the king. There is no “king” now, so this label has no meaning. The tradition only continues because these families are still holding on to their land and other privileges.

              • 9
                47

                Lester,
                But one caste still rules the country. Whether Buddhist caste is different from Hindu caste is not the question.
                Caste leads to exclusion even in the Buddhist hierarchy. At least Ruchira has woken up, it seems.

              • 8
                0

                Hello Lester,
                “The tradition only continues because these families are still holding on to their land and other privileges”
                Can you tell me about these other privileges, my wife and her families and relations all live round here. None of them appear to have any privileges. Most are “not well off”, others are pretty poor. They are all Govigama families – Wijetunga, Mudiyanselage, Viharigedera and Herathbanda etc (excuse my spellings). Some are Teachers, some in the Armed Forces, some in Telecoms, but none of them are rich or anything close.
                Best regards

                • 47
                  6

                  LankaScot,

                  Good observation. About 50% of Sinhalese are Govi, while in India, only 5% of the total population are Brahmins. For some reason, Govi have dominated SL politics. Keeping in mind, the British left the island less than 100 years ago. There are a few Govi families, not all, that have managed to retain their privileges – Bandaranaike, Jayawardene, Rajapakse, Ratwatte, Wickremasinghe, etc. Again, mostly in politics. This is a residual effect of colonialism. However, in Kandy, there might be a few elderly people, regardless of wealth, who pay attention to the labels. Kandy had its own unique laws and customs for a long time, apart from Kotte and other kingdoms. For example, a woman could have multiple husbands.

                  • 3
                    45

                    “About 50% of Sinhalese are Govi,”
                    What fraction of them got socially elevated in the 19th Century and early 20th Century?

                  • 22
                    4

                    Lester – How did the Govi-gama families acquire this superiority during or after the colonial rule – do you know?

                    • 0
                      0

                      Ruchira, You need to ask how the nikayas formed to get insight into superiority. It was not colonial rule which is generally blamed for everything.

                    • 45
                      0

                      Ruchira,

                      Govi were actually the lowest in the traditional Sri Lanka hierarchy. The Govigama identity was re-created during the colonial period to curry favor with the Western masters.

                      “The Dutch and British period Mudaliyar family of De Sarams appear to be the creators of the “Govigama caste’ identity – a new identity for the ‘new – colonial Mudaliyar’ class of the 19th century. These Mudaliyar familes used this Govigama identity to convince the colonial masters that their families were the leaders of the masses. However the De Sarams had no connections nor social interactions with any peasants. The Colombo based De Saram family intermarried with the Illangakoone family from the south (as all other ‘koon’ families prior to this period were Karavas from ‘Koon Karava’ clans, this Illangakoon family too would definitely have been Karava at that time. Also see the Samarakoon family in 20th century Impressions with de Fonseka ancestors) and created an exclusive ‘Govigama’ identity and a closely knit Mudaliyar clan including the Dias Bandaranaikes during the British period. They presented themselves as the local aristocracy to successive batches of young and inexperienced British civil servants who came to the country.”

                  • 5
                    47

                    Lester

                    ” Kandy had its own unique laws and customs for a long time, apart from Kotte and other kingdoms.”

                    Are the laws of Kandy completely different from Thesawalamai the laws of Demelas?

                    “Bandaranaike, Jayawardene, Rajapakse, Ratwatte, Wickremasinghe, etc. Again, mostly in politics. “

                    Any privileged Tamils among these elites?

                  • 6
                    47

                    Lester,
                    Tell me your idea of who a husband is for me to understand,
                    ‘a woman could have multiple husbands’.

                • 22
                  4

                  LankaScot – Not all govigama people belong to the aristocratic class who took the power over from the Brits when independence was granted. There were non govi-gama aristocrats too. They were prevented from holding the position of the head of state particularly and discriminated against generally. But generally all govigama ppl consider they are at the top of the caste hierarchy. This is mainly in connection with castes like Karawa and Salagama that are next in line of the said hierarchy as per govi gama classification. There’s also one called Durawa. This casteist mindset is mostly prevalent among the ruling class and their associates. That too not so overtly. Among general population not so much except perhaps when proposed marriages take place. Those too aren’t without exceptions and also getting less and less prevalent nowadays. Today’s young are more free and liberal and not bothered much about fuedal concepts like caste. Among general populations you could find plenty of marriages inbetween castes. Higher the social status, especially when such status has been acquired traditionally, the so called ‘old rich’, as opposed to ‘new rich’, more casteist they tend to be especially when it comes to marriage.

          • 47
            11

            In that article you linked to earlier, Michael Roberts mentioned something about “opportunistic” Sinhalese. He cited Sharmini Serasinghe and Shyamon Jayasinghe as specific examples. Diehard UNP who won’t play it any other way. We can add Nimal & Codger to the list. The UNP is a sinking ship, but the followers would rather take the country down with the ship than throw Captain Ranil off. I don’t know if NPP is the right one – what is clear is that new political representation is needed. Inclusive of the younger generation so that the outdated UNP fossils can permanently expire in the corner without any further bond scams or treason e.g. selling the country’s assets to India, while pocketing commissions.

            • 7
              48

              Lester

              “Inclusive of the younger generation so that the outdated UNP fossils can permanently expire in the corner without any further bond scams or treason e.g. selling the country’s assets to India, while pocketing commissions.!”

              1. You mean you want people like Namal baby to take over SLPP and UNP.
              2. What is bond scam?
              3. Can you name the assets that have been sold to India?
              4. Hambantotta was sold to China not Hindia.

          • 14
            45

            Ruchira

            “Govigama people thinking that they owned this country and no one from any other caste should become its head of state. “

            I am sorry, your mate Lester and you told us there was no caste system/hierarchy among Sinhala speaking people. How come you suddenly discovered aristocratic class and Govigama people?

            Can non Govi people have ordination within Malwatta and Asgiriya monastic establishments?

            “Over 75 years they only have worked self preservation not to uplift the country economically. You see today the results they have yielded. A sad story.”

            Therefore S J V Chelva, GG Ponnampalam, Amirthalingam, Prabahran, DMK, Tamilnadu, ….. Diaspora ……. had nothing to do with the self-destruction of this island.
            Hope this is what you are trying to say.

            • 22
              9

              As usual you make your own assumptions.
              .
              I never said anything like you say I did. In fact I once commented saying how appalling it was to discover how casteist some people still are and how they use the word background perhaps as an euphemism to caste.
              .
              Again you make your own assumptions and come to your own conclusions. I am not trying to say anything like what you have suggested in your last para.
              .
              You and few other pals of yours have either serious trouble in comprehending what people say OR you all are deliberately lying and trying to paint a bad picture about people you don’t agree with.
              .
              I think it’s a little bit of both.
              .
              Given your nature of engagement with others who have different views I am not interested in clarifying various assumptions, coclusions, allegations and accussations you make.
              .
              Feel free to believe what you want. Same goes to your pal/s too.

              • 5
                46

                Ruchira / April 5, 2024
                0 18
                “I never said anything like you say I did.”
                “Then there was also the caste factor. Govigama people thinking that they owned this country and no one from any other caste should become its head of state. Over 75 years they only have worked self preservation not to uplift the country economically. “
                Nobody is assuming anything. That is exactly what you wrote.
                And, for a change, it is the truth.

                • 5
                  46

                  Also this, in reply to Douglas:
                  “There had been others in the past who were deserving leaders but never made it to the premier position mainly because of their cast. Not sure if you have heard of C. P. De Silva was one such notable personality.”
                  Take responsibility for what you write.

                • 26
                  8

                  This idiot still doesn’t get the gist of the argument. Claims to be literate. But appears to have no brains.

                  • 6
                    46

                    I assume you’re referring to the idiot that can’t understand what he himself wrote.

                    • 5
                      46

                      Oh, I see, you’re accusing CT of posting something you didn’t write. What a brilliant escape clause.
                      “None of the bullies here don’t seem to know what they have got themselves into.”
                      More dire threats in fractured English from the very same bully who questions other people’s educational qualifications…..

                    • 18
                      5

                      Blah…. blah… blah..
                      .
                      Yada…. yada… yada….
                      .
                      Keep on vomitting the same old same old…
                      .
                      Gets hold of some simple mistake in language… and go on and on about it…
                      .
                      Get a life pathetic little perverted loser…
                      .
                      🤮🤮🤮

                    • 0
                      40

                      “Did you even read what I have written…. and this isn’t the first time either”
                      Do you read what you write?

  • 28
    54

    The author Rohini Hensman writes in relation to SWRDB’s OLA

    .

  • 28
    46

    The author Rohini Hensman writing on the assassination of SWRDB makes it looks like his subsequent introduction of reasonable use of Tamil clause to the OLA was the reason behind Buddhist monks to plot and carry out his assassination.
    .
    First she fails to acknowledge that there were more personal reasons or disputes of commercial nature between the premier and certain monks from Kelaniya temple for the latter party to plot and carry out the said assassination.
    .
    Secondly ironic as it may seem given the title of her essay she also fails to acknowledge that there was in fact a woman, a certain Wijewardena, from the same family the current president hails from, behind one of the monks implicated in the assassination.
    .
    It was alleged that the said woman was the mistress of the said monk and in fact was initially arrested in connection of the assassination of SWRDB.
    .
    In short assassination wasn’t motivated by religious or ethnic sentiments but more personal conflicts that some of the monks of Kelaniya temple had with the premier. Matters were further complicated by the alleged relationship of the Wijewardena woman had with one if the monks who plotted the assassination.

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      It is also worth mentioning that it was Wijewardena family that groomed the monk who was supposed to be behind the assassination of SWRDB as the lay trustees of the Kelaniya temple with a view of making the particular monk its chief priest.
      .
      As far as this instance is concerned it was an aristocratic family that used these Buddhist monks to whatever the ends they were used for. Not the other way around.
      .
      Most such aristocratic families of this age had one foot in the temple while having the other in the church. They garbed themselves in Buddhism to appease the masses not because of any virtues of the religion they found appealing.
      .
      This was the case with both J. R. Jayawardena and S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake. They hoodwinked the electorate by appearing as Sinhala Buddhist leaders. An aspect the author does not address when she accuses the monks meddling with the affairs of the state, which had in fact been a universal phenomenon not something limited to Buddhist monks.

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        (Part I)
        Ruchira,
        1) “J. R. Jayawardena and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike”
        2) “They hoodwinked the electorate by appearing as Sinhala Buddhist leaders”
        You are on the money!!?? Not sure why you are limiting to these 2 Leaders??? Every Sri Lankan Leader of Independent Sri Lanka, since 1948, has been “Christians by Birth and Faith”, except 4 of them!!??? Namely, the exceptions being Ranasinghe Premadasa and Maithripala Sirisena, and Sirimavo Ratwatte Bandaranaike and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga!!? The “father of the Nation” – Don Stephen Senanayake (Kale John), his Son, Dudley Senanayake (2nd PM), Sir John Kotelawala (3rd PM), Mahinda Percival Rajapakse and his Brother Gotabaya Rajapakse, whose Grand Father was Don David Rajapakse and Father Don Alvin Rajapakse – Immigrants, claiming to have been persecuted in Sarawak Malaya – predominantly ruled by Muslims and declared Muslim Kingdom, as they (Rajapaksa’s) were well known FOLLOWERS of the CHRISTIAN FAITH and Rulers of Sarawak weren’t well disposed towards Christians in early/mid Nineteenth Century!!??? All born Christians duly Baptised, except the youngest sibling Basil and notionally, for Political Gains turned Buddhists!!??? I wouldn’t call them Charlatans, but their Practices were politically biased to disguise as Fervent Buddhists to ensure acceptance as National Politicians!!???
        (TBC)

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        (Part II)
        Whilst, the truth was that they were born Christians and Baptised!!???
        What Tom Foolery these disguised usurpers carry out to deceive the Masses, to Gain Power and “SERVE THE PEOPLE” – Patriotically with Nationalistic FERVOUR!!??? MY FOOT – “Oouch”!!??
        Quake of deception unimaginable – ‘FLIP-FLOP’ – AD INFINITUM!!!???

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          Mahila – So you know. I couldn’t be bothered to go through all the people as this kind of information is not what I keep stored in my memory to readily access, hence I mentioned the two names that came to my mind, from the top of the head so to speak. Yes so called saviours of the Sinhala Buddhist racists Rajapaksas are neither Sinhalese nor Buddhists originally. Sinhala Buddhists have much grievances as anyone else as a result while those who colleded with these imposter leaders flourished regardless of their ethnicity or minority – majority status. For once thank you for highlighting what many ignore when they go bashing Sinhala Buddhists and Sinhala Buddhism whatever that is for every problem under the sun. Have a good day.

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            *colluded

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          Hello Mahila:

          Great stuff!

          Clearly the impostors were smart enough to know that the Sinhala Buddhist card trumps in SriLanka.

          Perhaps the Rajapaksas were the smartest to have looted the masses out of tons and tons of money. They served the masses’ wishes very well. They deserved all of it.

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      Ruchira

      “Matters were further complicated by the alleged relationship of the Wijewardena woman had with one if the monks who plotted the assassination.”

      That was a private matter.

      The real issue was creating an state owned independent institution to run the Harbours. Kelaniya saffron plotters expected the project (profitable would be given to them). SWRD Banda set up an independent state owned corporation. Having invested in Banda’s party and elections, the disappointed Safronistas …………. got a stupid …. to .. This was a public matter.

      His assassination had nothing to do with Ethnic issue.

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        Did you even read what I have written…. and this isn’t the first time either….

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          Reading everything that one writes here is a tall order.
          One has the right to choose what one reads.

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          Avoidance of littering and whining might increase the readership for any commenter.

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