Nationalistic and International Buddhism
After Independence in 1948, the identification between Buddhism and nationalism continued and even led to the politicization of the Ceylonese Sangha Several factors were accountable for thisAfter Independence in 1948, the identification between Buddhism and nationalism continued and even led to the politicization of the Ceylonese Sangha. Several factors were accountable for this. Firstly, other religions, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, were imported to the island by occupying powers during various colonial periods. Secondly, the fact that, by the British constitution, the Queen of England is the head of the Anglican Church and Defender of the Faith, caused in the Buddhists opposition to Ceylon?s constitution of 1946-47. They would ask, ?How can the Queen of England be defender both of the Christian and of the Buddhist religions?? Thirdly, religious conflicts during the British colonial period increased in the Ceylonese love of their native culture, stimulated a desire to turn back to a golden past when Ceylon was under Buddhist kings, and thus led to the demand for the reestablishment of Buddhism as the state religion and the planning of educational and cultural policies under the guidance of Buddhist principles. Moreover, the fact that in Ceylon temple lands and monasteries are the private property of the monks who have interests in them may also have some connec-tion with the matter. As a result of the politicization of the Sangha, every politician tries to win the support of the monks and the winners are those who attract the greater number of monks to their cause. Today, monks may be seen actively campaigning for a political party candidate or politicians making speeches with monks at their sides.
This politicization has, however, caused reactions, especially since the assassination of Ceylonese Prime Minister Bandaranaike in 1956. There has been a public demand for the purifying and reforming of the Sangha. Thus, there are trends to put an end to the politicization and secu-larization of the Ceylonese Sangha, and to restore it to the purely spiritual character of monasticism.
Another trend worthy of interest is the involvement of monks in community development projects and programmes for rural uplift. Organi-zations and movements have been formed for the participation of monks in various kinds of work for the spiritual and material welfare of the people and for the improvement of the living conditions of the villagers, such as the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (organized in 2501/1958) and the Ceylon Farmers? Association (founded in 2509/1966). This trend can also be seen in other Southeast Asian countries, especially Thailand.
In 2515/1972, Ceylon adopted a new constitution under which the country became a republic and its name was changed to Sri Lanka.
At present, there are three main sects of the Sri Lankan Sangha : the largest and oldest, Siam Nikaya, which is divided into two principal chapters, Malwatta and Asgiriya; the Amarapura Nikaya, founded in the 19th century with about 20 percent of monk population; and the Ramanna Nikaya, founded by reformist members of the Siam sect. While the former Siam sect derived its ordination from Thailand, the latter two are the recipients of ordination from Burma. There are no fundamental or doctrinal differences between these sects.
Of the population of 15,000,000 (est. 2524/1981), Buddhists make up 67 percent, while, of the rest, 18 percent are Hindu, 8 percent Christians, and 7 percent Muslims. There are almost 6,000 monasteries with about 17,000 monks and 14,000 novices in residence.
Among the Theravada Buddhist countries, Sri Lanka has been the most advanced in modern Buddhist studies. Besides the two monastic parivenas of Vidyodaya1 and Vidyalankara2 which have been elevated to university status, admitting lay students as well as monks, the older secular University of Sri Lanka offers courses in Pali and Buddhist studies both for the lower and for the advanced degrees to all students, Sri Lankan and foreign, including monks.
Sri Lanka has made great contributions to the progress of interna-tional Buddhism. Besides the above-described Maha Bodhi Society, Sri Lanka gave birth to another great international Buddhist organization, that is, the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB.) in 2493/1950. Professor Malalasekera who initiated the idea was elected the first president of the organization. Now the organization has its permanent headquarters in Thailand. In addition, until 2518/1975 Sri Lanka had sent abroad a far greater number of Dhammadutas than any other Buddhist country, except Japan. Sri Lankan monks can be found residing in their viharas or residences in London, Washington, West Berlin and other Western cities, as well as in India. The Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy, established in 2501/1958, has regularly published two useful serial publications called ?The Wheel? and ?Bodhi Leaves?, which have enjoyed a world-wide readership. Sri Lanka?s monthly journals such as World Buddhism, meet with increasing numbers of readers in the English-speaking world. So far, as Trevor Ling says in his A History of Religion : East and West, ?Ceylon has also played a larger part than any other Buddhist country in making known to some of the non-Buddhist areas of the world the principles and practice of Buddhism?.