Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the oldest continually Buddhist country. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant form practiced there and has been since its official introduction in the 2nd century BC by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka of India during the reign of King Devanampiya-Tissa. In tracing back the roots of Buddhism, it is told that Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher known as Gautama Buddha achieved spiritual enlightenment, or Bodhi under the Bodhi Tree. Otherwise known as the Sacred Fig, this tree is located in Bodh Gaya, India. A branch of the sacred tree was transplanted at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka by the daughter of Asoka, who was a past ruler of almost the entire Indian subcontinent. For centuries, Buddhists have been paying homage to this transplanted tree where their master once achieved enlightenment. From what I have learned about Buddhism, Siddhartha wanted to and did spread his wisdom that he found during his spiritual journey, but apparently he did not want to be revered and idolized by people is any way whatsoever. He told this to his fist students and they did a job of passing on his word to not build shrines of any kind regarding him. This word lasted for about four or five centuries, as no representations were made during this time. After this time is when the first statues of him were produced in about the first or second centuries. Since then, the Buddha statues are seen as helpful in creating devotion, uplifting the mind and focusing attention. Some of the most marvelous Buddhist monuments in the world exist in Sri Lanka. According to BBC, about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people are Buddhist. Recently, a 37 year old practicing Buddhist, was traveling from India to Sri Lanka on her way to Maldives and was detained by authorities at the international airport in Colombo for having a tattoo of Buddha on her arm. She was then taken to court and was forced to leave the country because the tattoo was considered and insult to the country’s religion. The lady was outraged as she claimed to be a devoted practitioner of Buddhism. Apparently she was convicted under a law which forbids “deliberately and maliciously outraging the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” Last year, A British man was denied entry to the country for a similar tattoo, as well as three Frenchmen jailed for kissing a Buddha statue. Don’t forget to be mindful of the Nation’s religion as the Sri Lankan people are awfully sensitive of their main man Buddha!

-Eli Archer





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