Ushering in a revival of Buddhism
The Buddha visiting Kelaniya
Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gauthama Buddha, the blossom of humanity,
unfolded to the universe the greatest truth of life. He clearly stated
the fundamental laws that govern the universe and sansaric existence.
The truth He discovered and His entire philosophy were directed
towards bringing about a meaningful transformation in human life.
His message of Dhamma and the code of ethics that He offered helped
mankind reap the benefits of their existence, until they ceased to
exist, after reaching Nibbana, the ultimate goal.
We, Sri Lankans should be proud and happy that this paradise isle of
ours had the good fortune of being blessed with the supreme gift of the
Buddha, His doctrine and the message of the Dhamma. Ever since, the
island came to be a Dharmadweepa with the teachings of the Buddha
shaping the destiny and future of the country.
The earliest chronicles give a vivid description of the sacred visits
of the Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha to Sri Lanka, long before the
introduction of His doctrine here. These visits are considered the
greatest gift to this land, relating the most miraculous events during
the time of the Buddha, which in a way is more important than anything
The soil of Lanka has been sanctified and blessed by the Buddha on
several occasions, as clearly supported by historical as well as
Modern scholars such as Ven. Walpola Rahula Thera, Dr. E.W. Adikaram,
Martin Wickramasingha and Prof. Ralph Buultjens are of the view that
Buddhism was known in this island much earlier and that Sri Lanka was
the only country to preserve the original form of Buddhism, coming
director from the Buddha's time.
Each visit of the Great Master occupies a unique place in the history
of the island as one that brought about peace and harmony among the
Over the years, Buddhism had taken root firmly as a great faith and a
remarkable philosophy and blossomed and flourished for over 2,600 years.
Preserved and practised
The Buddha well and truly knew that His Dhamma will be preserved and
practised in Sri Lanka better than in any other country.
His vision and foresight have made this prediction a reality,
culminating in the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi this year. History records that
when Lord Sakra, the chief of gods, visited the Buddha prior to His
Parinibbana, He had requested God Sakra to safeguard the future
This is clearly stated in Maha Parinibbana Sutta:
Lankaya Mama Sasanam
Rakkan Lakkancha Sasanam
There is reference to the Vijaya episode too, which coincided with
the Parinibbana of the Buddha. However, the sanctity and serenity
bestowed by Him doing His visits had created a golden era unparalleled
in sasanic history. Hence, the Buddha Himself had confirmed the island
as a Dharmadweepa - a model centre in the Buddhist world with a solid
reputation that spread far and wide in the universe. What more is
necessary than the universally accepted fact of Sakyamuni Siddhartha
Gauthama calling this island the Dharmadweepa?
The advent of Mahinda Thera, creating a golden era with its vast
array of benefits, led the island to be re-identified as a Dharmadweepa
in 247BC and thereafter Buddhism flourished with great splendour. The
royalty extended their utmost support and patronage to establish
The kings became the benefactors of Buddhism; they donated land,
built viharas and embarked on spiritual progress in its entirety. In the
glorious Anuradhapura period, the most outstanding were Kings
Devanampiyatissa, Pandukabhaya and Dutugemunu, who unified the island
and made the greatest contribution to Buddhism, making it the
However, unstable political conditions due to warfare made Buddhism
suffer at various times. During the Polonnaruwa period, the Chola rulers
certainly did not support Buddhism. It was Parakramabahu, Vijayabahu and
Nissanakmalla who could restore Buddhism to its former position.
In 1213 AD, with the Magha invasion and consequent drift of the
kingdom to the south-west, Buddhism was deprived of royal patronage and
received a setback as never before. Hence, Dharmadweepa faced a very sad
For the first time in the history of the island, it was a struggle by
the people to drive away the foreigners who were completely alien in
race, language, religion and culture and who gradually established their
superiority over local customs.
To be very brief, during the period of eight kings lasting 153 years,
the instability that affected Buddhism was remedied and saved by
Welivita Sangharaja Thera to whom the credit goes for the revival and
preservation of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
The dark age in the Dharmadweepa continued. To this land, with hardly
any respect for Buddhism by the Imperialists, emerged Anagarika
Dharmapala with his clarion call, "Awake Sinhala people, save
He also inspired and aroused the interest of Westerners in the study
of Buddhism with his eloquent address to the Congress of Religions of
Chicago in 1891. In addition there were patriots such as Walisinghe
Harischandra, John de Silva, well-known novelist Piyadasa Sirisena,
Tibetan monk S. Mahinda, Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thera and Ven.
Panadura Sirisumangala Thera.
The publication of Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia was another
landmark event. The Panadura Debate aroused the enthusiasm of great
personages such as Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and Madam Blavetsky who
arrived in the island in May 1880, creating a new chapter in Buddhist
education, with the establishment of the Buddhist Theosophical Society.
Together with those mentioned earlier, they became a massive force,
providing leadership to the revivalist movement which fought hard to
regain the lost Buddhist identity of a Dharmadweepa. Consequently,
several Buddhist organisations emerged. In addition to the earlier BTS
and Mahabodhi were Colombo YMBA, All Ceylon Buddhist Congress and the
Ceylon National Congress.
Their main aim was to rebuild the Dharmadweepa on Buddhist national
values and revive the Buddhist tradition, undoing the menace caused by
Imperialism. Finally, there was the historic and joyous occasion of
gaining Independence with every temple chanting seth pirith, evoking
peace and harmony and blessing the Dharmadweepa and its people.
Dawn of a new era
The torch lit by the ancient royalty was carried forward by
successive governments of Sri Lanka, preserving the ancient tradition,
giving its due place to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, paving the way
for the unique occasion of the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi, one of the most
anticipated events in the Buddhist world.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be hailed as the greatest
contributor towards this task, putting an end to chaos, confusion and
turmoil created by three decades of terrorism which had been condemned
by the entire world. The remarkable achievement, creating tranquillity
and harmony for the peaceful co-existence of the people of the
Nobody on earth should deprive the sacred land at this moment of joy,
peace and harmony when this Dharmadweepa has its attention focused on
this sacred historic event, the Sri Sambuddhatva Jayanthi. May it be the
most successful event in the history of the Dharmadweepa!