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Wednesday 7 May 2014

Protect Sinhala Buddhism from the educated – III

Varigapurnikava has not been published in its entirety or what is remaining of it, but only some extracts of it by Ven. Manewe Vimalarathana Thero. Also when I mentioned that Varigapurnikava believed in Abhidhamma what was intended to say was that Varigapurnikava believes that Abhidhamma was taught by Budunvahanse, as there are some schools of thought such as Sauthranthikas that do not believe in Abhidhamma as one of the pitakas (baskets). What is interesting is that according to Varigapurnikava Abhidhamma had been first (and probably last time as well, if considered as a Pitaka) taught to Arhant Rathnavali Therin in Sri Lanka. I do not want to go into details regarding Arhant Rathnavali Therin but  according to Varigapurnikava she had been the mother of Mahapali apparently identified as Kuveni by the Mahavamsa, and Ruvanveliseya had been named after her. Interested readers may refer to the two books published by Ven. Vimalarathana Thero based on Varigapurnikava. However, Varigapurnikava does not mention how much of the Abhidhamma Pitaka as known at present was taught to Arhant Rathnavali Therin, but it could be another Sutta by Budunvahanse, later developed into a Pitaka on its own right by some Bhikkus, who were probably students of Arhant Sariyuth Thero. It should be mentioned that some Suttas contain briefly what is included in the Abhidhamma Pitaka and this whole narrative on Abhidhamma needs a careful study. 

In any event what is clear is that as far as Buddha Sasana is concerned there are at least two narratives one given by Mahavamsa and the other as stated in Varigapurnikava. As mentioned in the last installment, Varigapurnikava gives the Hela Buddhism and Mahavamsa depicts the Sinhala Buddhism with Sinhala Buddhism taking the upper hand after King Mahasen. It is interesting to note that after Mahasen, Abhayagiriya or Jethavanaya had not enjoyed much Royal patronage.

When Physics is not objective, one cannot expect History to be objective, and what is clear is that Mahavamsa records the history of the winners. It appears that Hela Buddhism had been non violent, and though some Yakshas (Yagu Kauranas according to Varigapurnikava) did not become Buddhists, there was no hostility by them against Bududahama unlike in Bharat.  It is also clear that in a hostile surrounding a strictly non violent culture cannot survive, and Ashokan Buddhism could not afford to be hundred percent non violent. Whether we like or not almost all cultures that have survived have been militant at least to some extent, though they may have preached loving thy neighbour in their texts and sermons. If one thinks that the English culture at present, forget its past since Hastings days of 1066 or round about, is non militant then one is in a deep slumber.

The English culture has trapped us militantly not only through weapons but through knowledge as well. The professional jealousies that make the western medical practitioners taking up “arms” against nurses being given a training in midwifery, the allied health service students in the universities getting a four year training, the Sinhala “praramparika” physicians being supplied with facilities to cure the Kidney patients, are only a few examples in compartmentalizing knowledge and some people being issued with ‘certificates” to engage in certain work. I wonder had the “sisters” continued to work as nurses and had they wanted a training in midwifery, whether the western “doctors” would have objected to it. This is finally a question of power where what has to be decided is who carries out the work as dictated by the western powers.  This is not confined to western medicine but western engineering, teaching including university teaching etc., are also poisoned with compartmentalization of knowledge. The so called professionals and not the politicians are powerful in many areas and very often the ministers become helpless though the public knows only to blame the politicians.

The educated Sinhala Buddhists who are products of western education are conditioned to think that Sinhala Buddhists are non militant pious people who should be confined to live according to the teachings of Budunvahanse. The Bhikkus according to these educated Buddhists should follow the “Vinaya Pitaka” strictly and should not engage in politics. Some so called scholars would teach Bududahama to the Sinhala Buddhists and tell them that “war” is not for the Buddhists whether Sinhala or otherwise. In effect the westerners and their henchmen and henchwomen want the Sinhala Buddhists to be non militant.

As non militant cultures cannot survive when  almost all other cultures are militant in one way or the other what these Samaritans who preach Sinhala Buddhists is the extinction of Sinhala Buddhism. The Sinhala Buddhism had been militant in the past, and it could be that their first victory was over the Hela Buddhism around the fifth sixth centuries. It appears that Hela Buddhism was not as militant as Sinhala Buddhism, and probably it was the cause of its downfall. In any event when different sects of Hinayana had been wiped out from the surface of the earth, the survival of Sinhala Buddhism in Sri Lanka for so long could also be due to its militant nature introduced by the Sinhala Buddhists of yesteryears.

If not for that militancy Sinhala Buddhism would have been wiped out too, especially in the face of conquerors from Chola and Kalinga. It cannot be said that the Bhikkus of Sinhala Buddhism were the most pious people who lived on this earth, and the educated who want to confine the Bhikkus to pansukula, pirith and dana want to see the downfall of Sinhala Buddhism on the instructions they have got from the English very often indirectly. Though I do not agree with Dhammvada and Kshanavada as they stem from Athmavada, it has to be stated that the other reason for survival of Sinhala Buddhism was the introduction of these two vadas or  pravadas or theories as the educated even in the third fourth fifth centuries would have wanted some kind of Athmavada to project their images. However, Dhammavada and Kshanavada could not stand up to the criticism by Ven. Nagarjunapada and in Andra Pradesh the other forte of Theravada Buddhism in the fourth fifth centuries, and it was gradually driven out.

In Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism) survived due to militancy of Mahavira Bhikkus who eradicated any challenges from Hela Buddhism or any other sect by translating the texts to Pali and destroying the Hela Atuvas and other books on Hela Bududahama, confining Bedudahama to Sinhala Bududahama. I am not particularly bothered by this incident as if this step was not taken no form of Bududahama or Buddhist culture would have survived in Sri Lanka. In Andra Pradesh and other areas in ancient Bharat no form of Buddhism including Mahayana versions could survive especially after the challenge of Sankaracharya in the sixth century. Sankaracharya was able to turn Ven. Nagarjunapada upside down by turning Sunyathava to a Nirgun Brahman through his Advaitha Vedantha. If the Mahvihara Bhikkus had not taken the militant step of having a totalitarian attitude towards Bududahama, and if the texts were not translated to Pali, various interpretations could have been given to them as anybody who could understand Sinhala would have tried to give his two cents (or kahavanu) worth opinion, and Sri Lanka could have ended up as a Hindu country under the influence of Sankaracharya.  (To be continued)

Nalin De Silva