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World Fellowship of Buddhists :

Revival of Buddhism after Independence

Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama realised the truth of suffering and the path to happiness. His doctrine the message of the Dhamma was to the entire mankind. He gave Dhamma freely and equally to all. Sri Lanka had the good fortune of being blessed not only with his Dhamma but also his presence. This was the most unparalleled event in the history of the sasana as well as the island. Buddha's visit were a landmark gift to Buddhist heritage depicting the unforgettable events of the Buddhist era the time of the living Buddha. The next most precious event of great historical importance was the official introduction of Buddhism to the island by Arahat Mahinda in 247 BC. Ever since Buddhism had flourished with royal patronage. The ancient chronicles reveal that the kings did their best to propagate Dhamma. A large number of temples had come up. The royalty had constructed, renovated and maintained the sacred places at different times. The people had become very pious devotees adhering to Buddha Dhamma and Sangha with overflowing shraddha.

Alien domination

Professor Gunapala Malalasekera

The spiritual message and the other associated factors such as the cultural influence on art, architecture and language and the growth of a definite way of life due to Buddhism was the greatest civilizing force in the history of the Sasana, at the time. But the consequent religious grandeur was short-lived. The usual story in the history of the island. The coming of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British changed the entire situation from 1505 to 1948. To be very brief first and foremost the maritime provinces and then the whole island was theirs. Royalty came to an end. Buddhism suffered along with the centuries old rich cultural heritage. The prevalent disunity and the political instability were contributory factors. In 1948 the country was released from the bondage of the British Raj and ultimately from the Colonial rule, mostly due to the hard work of the galaxy of patriots and national leaders of all races. It was against this backdrop the greatest institution WFB, the World Federation of Buddhists, the brain child of amazing character emerged in 1950. He was none other than Professor Gunapala Malalasekera. He set in motion the great institution. Due to his wide knowledge in Dhamma, his prime aim and concern was to stabilize Buddhism. This long felt need was fulfilled by him. By now virtue and morality had taken a firm foothold and spiritual atmosphere had dawned and the light of wisdom for which the Buddha was responsible had spread to every part of the country which had been earlier, steeped in darkness. Revolutionary change in the religious atmosphere was a notable factor.

Historic victory

The dawn of the 20th century saw the upcoming Swaraj movement both in the India and then Ceylon. As mentioned earlier immediately after gaining independence by 1949 the Buddhist leaders, the clergy and the laity worked with great commitment and devotion under the initiative and leadership of the pioneer Prof. G P M to restore Buddhist philosophy and its teachings. In their quest to spread the teachings they sought the assistance of the neighbour who has had close links from time immemorial associated with the supreme gift of the Blessed One. The outcome - the formation of the international body of the world Buddhist community was hailed by the Indian Buddhist leaders the most prominent being Dr. Ambedkar the father of the Indian constitution. He was a leading figure playing a dominant role in the entire event. The much talked about WFB was thus formed and it was inaugurated at Dalada Maligawa on 25th May 1950, in Kandy 27 countries had participated. Delegates from the continents, representing Europe, Asia and North America had graced the occasion. This was a remarkable achievement and a historic victory for Sri Lanka a marvellous gift to the religious world. It had a profound influence on the evolution of Dhamma in the West. It aroused the interests of the Westerners in the study and practice of Dhamma. In short their interests were centred round Buddhism. The strict observance and practice of the noble teachings, was emphasised at every turn. The word of the Buddha was successfully passed over to the other parts of the world. Since it was a complete success the organisers headed by Prof. GPM were extremely happy at the turn of events. It was a Wesak Full Moon day (May 25, 1950) and since it was held at the historic Audience Hall, a special exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic for the delegation was held with a various reception under the patronage of the Maha Nayaka theras of Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters. The world delegates were highly pleased and they were extremely grateful pledging their support to the sacred event.

A total of 129 delegates had participated. Many of the Buddhist leaders displayed their oratory emphasising the value and the merits of such a united body. Another notable feature of this epoch-making event was the creation of a constitution for the esteemed institution along with a banner for the Buddhists.

The Buddhist Flag

A unique symbol of religious tradition, adding charm and simplicity to our religious heritage was given pride of place at the WFB. Though the Buddhist flag came into being in April 1885 due to untiring efforts of eminent national heroes and prominent Buddhist leaders it was duly recognised, only after the formation of the WFB. The proposal forwarded by Prof. G P M to give recognition to it as the banner of the Buddhist world was unanimously accepted by the WFB and ever since the six coloured Buddhist flag is playing a very important role in enhancing religious significance the sacred Buddhist Flag that flutters all over for peace, harmony and tranquillity remains to this day as a monument of the past, as a tribute to the great Buddhist leaders.

WFB established on May 1950 had its origins in the ACBC (All Ceylon Buddhist Congress) formed in 1919. It blossomed during the Presidency of Prof. G P M The true expression of Dhamma was well reflected in its activities during his tenure. Under his guidance the active role played by the Congress was admired worldwide.

The Congress unified the Buddhists into a disciplined way of life performing a variety of services literary, religious and cultural etc. The torch lit by the Prof. during his time was successfully carried on by the past Presidents and continued by the present.

Certainly, a proud moment in the history of the congress, is to have been blessed with the opportunity of celebrating the 60th anniversary and 25th General Conference of the WFB in November 2010. "Reconciliation through the teachings of the Buddha was the theme of the glamorous occasion and it was held perfectly fine to suit the theme meaningfully.

The series of events attracted attention from all quarters. The pageant of great aesthetic, social, economic, cultural and historic value was a true wonder enjoyed with thrill and joy continually applauding, upholding the value of human existence as stated by the Buddha. Reconciliation reflected many aspects, the days of glory adding majesty to the present and future activities of the WFB with heroic courage and commitment of its members.

The most existing event was honouring the President of Sri Lanka for his magnanimous service to Buddhism and its peaceful existence.

The WFB marked a significant milestone in the sasanic history. The service thus rendered by the pioneer to the Sasana and the spiritual progress will linger on.

 

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