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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – II

Before we proceed a mistake made in the last week has to be corrected, as it is somewhat serious. Kuhn’s Structure of scientific revolutions was referred to as Structure of scientific discoveries and it is hoped that nobody was misled by that reference. It is a cardinal sin, though it is not a pancanatareeya kamma,  to refer to scientific discoveries, as scientific theories meaning of course western scientific theories are not discovered, and all knowledge is created due to avidya (loosely translated as ignorance) if we go by Paticcasamuppada. The talk of universal laws stem from Biblical Laws in Christian culture, and the hegemony of Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya has conditioned us to think that there are objective universal laws that could be discovered. Newton’s Laws of Motion are valid only in what are known as inertial frames of reference that cannot be observed empirically, though the educated may not think so. I am emphasizing the word empirically as it has drawn the attraction of the educated from whom Sinhala Buddhism has to be protected.

I also wish to remind the readers that I am not writing this series of articles, or any article for that matter, as a dispassionate objective person looking at Sinhala Buddhism from outside. I am a Sinhala Buddhist, and what is presented here is what I see (and constructed due to my avidya), and if an educated person insists that it is my subjective view, though as far as I am concerned all knowledge is subjective, all that I would say is that there is no so called objective knowledge.      

Sinhala Buddhism as we said in the previous installment is associated with a school of Bududahama. However, we did not mention what this school was. Sinhala Buddhism takes pride in claiming that Arhant Mahinda Thero brought Bududahama to this country after the third council (Sangayana) held under the leadership of Arhant Moggalaiputtatissa Thero and under the patronage of the king Dharmashoka. The Mahavamsa supposed to be written in the sixth century mentions this fact but Vargapurnikava has something else to say. It is not known when Vargapurnikava was first written, but it is clear that it is a book written by Yaksha Gothrikas, probably by Yaksha Gothrika Bhikkus, but has been influenced to a lesser degree by Ashokan Bududahama or third council Bududahama. According to Vargapurnikava there had been Yaksha Gothrika Bhikkus and a Buddha Sasana before the arrival of Arhant Mahinda Thero, which Bududahama could be referred to as Yaksha Gothrika Bududahama. The culture associated with this Bududahama could be referred to as Hela Buddhism or even Yaksha Gothrika Buddhism.

I have my reservations of both Mahavamsa and Vargapurnikava representing Sinhala Buddhism and Hela Buddhism respectively, but both believe in samsara, punabbhava (rebirth), karma and  even Abhidhamma. However, it appears that Hela Buddhism does not believe in Kshanavada that deals with moments and Dharmavada associated with Dharmas that exist independent of the observer, which were probably introduced at the third council. It is said only the Vibhajavadi Bhikkus were allowed to participate at the third council, and I wonder if Budunvahanse would have been allowed to take part in the council by Arhant Moggaliputtatissa Thero. Though I do not believe in either Kshanavada or Dharmavada it is my intention to defend Sinhala Buddhism and Mahavamsa, however, at the same time being sympathetic with Hela Buddhism and of course tending to believe in the history as told by Vargapurnikava, which is not a book in history in the western tradition.

It has become a fashion to attack Mahavamsa but some among Sinhalas who do not believe in that book are somewhat scared to criticize the book. Instead people such as Suriya Gunasekera a well known contributor to the Sinhala press and who had been a former SLAS officer criticize Senerath Paranavithana and Codrington, the English public servant who was also interested in history. It is easy to criticize Codrington and paranavithana rather than Mahavamsa but the intention of these people is very clear. They want to go back to a Hela Yugaya probably going up to Manu who apparently ruled from Mannar, thousands and thousands years ago and are critical of Vijaya the originator of Sinhala race according to Mahavamsa. The Tamil racists on the other hand criticize Mahavamsa, and claim that the original inhabitants of the country were Tamils. It should be mentioned that Vargapurnikava does not give any credentials to the Tamil claim and Hela script is very much different from the Tamil script, according to Ven. Manewe Vimalaratana Thero who has published the Vargapurnikava recently. 

Apparently there are some pre Mahinda inscriptions referring to Gothama Samana or Budunvahanse but Paranavithana has read them to mean “len pujas” or cave donations. People such as Suriya Gunasekera criticize Paranavithana for distorting facts but it is unfair to claim that the latter did so. What would have happened is that Paranavithana who was brought up in the tradition of Mahavamsa and western history did not see a Buddhism Hela or Sinhala prior to the arrival of Arhant Mahinda Thero. In fact he had openly said there was no evidence to show that Budunvahanse visted Sri Lanka three times as stated in Mahavamsa. What we see is what we have been trained to see and Paranavithana would not have seen any evidence of Budunvahanse being present in Sri Lanka in any of the inscriptions. As far as Codrington was concerned it cannot be justified that the English promoted Mahavamsa as it suited their world view of somebody (Vijaya) coming from outside colonizing the island. What would have happened was that Mahavamsa would have been the accepted text when the English came to this country, and not Vargapurnikava or any other text, and Codrington would have interpreted history according to Mahavamsa.

It is clear that by the sixth century the Sinhala Buddhism would have been on the victory path over Hela Buddhism, and Mahavamsa that ends with Mahasen who declared “war” against Mahavihara, who demolished the Vihara and sowed Undu in the premises, being a Hela Buddhist of Yaksha origin would have been defeated by Sinhala Buddhism. Mahavamsa would have been the book of victory of Sinhala Buddhism over Hela Buddhism, which has contributed immensely to the survival of Sinhala Buddhism with the incorporated Theravada Bududahama of the third council. It is this Buddhism and Bududahama that survived in Sri Lanka since the sixth century with Hela Buddhism weaning away gradually.

It is in this context I refer to an interview given by Gunadasa Amarasekera to Silumina of 27th April 2014. In the interview Amarasekera mentions that we should establish a Philosophy based on Jathika Chinthanaya and Buddhist Civilization and without such Philosophy we cannot survive. While agreeing with Amarasekera though Jathika Chinthanaya is a wooly concept I do not agree with him when he claims towards the end of the interview that “things” such as Punaruthpaththiya (rebirth) and Karma are not required for Bududahama. It is here the educated Amarasekera who probably believes in objective reality and empiricism comes to the forefront overcoming Amarasekera of Jathika Chinthanaya however vague that concept may be. Without punaruthpaththiya and karma what is the Buddhist civilization that Amarasekera thinks of? Is it a rational empirical Bududahama advocated by the educated in the country? It is from this rational empirical Bududahama that Sinhala Buddhism has to be protected.    (To be continued) 

Nalin De Silva