Abiding harmony of Hindu Dharma-Bauddha dhamma in India and Sri Lanka
by S Kalyanaraman on 04 Jun 2009 2 Comments

Shared values of civilization and historical experiences unite India and Sri Lanka. The eternal ethic that binds the two nations together is dharma (Sanskrit) or dhamma (Pali, Sinhala).

The Sinhala language is close to many Prakrits and many languages of India. Sinhala script is based on Brahmi, the foundation for many scripts of Indian languages. Some very early inscriptions in Brahmi script have reportedly been found in Sri Lanka. The Mahavamsa refers to the movements of Vijaya and his entourage into Sri Lanka, which may explain the features of Eastern Prakrits in Sinhala.

Some examples of common vocabulary often cited are: Sanskrit vi?sati (twenty), Sinhala visi-, Hindi bis;  mässa (fly) and mäkka (flea), which both correspond to Sanskrit mak?ika but stem from two regionally different Prakrit words macchia and makkhika (as in Pali).

Common spiritual vocabulary includes: nirvana (transcendent freedom), atman (self or soul), yoga (union), karma (causality), Tathagata (one who has come, or one who has thus gone), buddha (enlightened one), samsara (eternal recurrence, or becoming), and dhamma (rule, or law). Buddha himself was considered, traditionally, as a yogi, that is, a miracle-working ascetic.

Bauddham is the strongest emotional link between the cultures of India and Sri Lanka. The land where Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya over 2,500 years ago is a place of pilgrimage for Bauddha Sri Lankans. To all Sri Lankans and to Hindus, in  particular, there is religious sanctity attached to the memories of Ramayana which narrate Setubandhana, the building of the Rama Setu bridging India and Sri Lanka. 

Why does Valmiki refer to Rama as ‘ramo vigrahavaan dharmah’ (Rama is the embodiment of dharma?). Because, as the prince who attained divinity, he embodied dharma by the performance of his responsibilities. That is why Rama is the ideal to aspire for every student, every son, every husband, every ruler. Rama was a prince who became an ideal ruler. Such an ideal that there are hundreds of epigraphs of later-day rulers claiming to use Sri Ramachandra as a role model in the performance of rajadharma.

Religious-cultural practices in Sri Lanka

As the quest, veda, continued to unravel the ordering principles, the source of dharma is perceived in the first creation yajna by Prajapati; the rica notes, taani dharmani prathamani aasan (from that yajna arose the first ordering principles). Thus, dharma is an extraordinarily perceptive phenomenon which could perhaps explain the natural order and also the order of consciousness, from the macro to the micro levels. It is also an explanatory statement for many phenomena observed, for example, in polity related to rajadharma, in society related to samajadharma, in interpersonal relationships related to asramadharma.

Closely associated with the term, dharman are satyam, ritam and vrata. An explanation of these profound terms in context are conditions precedent to an understanding of the ethos which have governed Hindu-Sinhala civilization for several millennia. Dharma could provide a universally acceptable foundation and framework for world peace, while resolving the faith-based conflicts which recur in many parts of the globe.

The history of dharma, this human ideal is inexorably intertwined with the story of civilization. Most religious practices are governed by the following facets of dharma-dhamma:

- Sanatana Dharma (eternal ordering principle)
- Samanya Dharma (common)
- Visesha Dharma (special)
- Varnashrama Dharma or Kula dharma (kula and social order)
- Svadharma (Dharmacarth = dharma carati = nature (Thai); svadharma = responsibility, according to one’s nature)
- Yuga Dharma (the age or period in history)
- Manava Dharma (human)
- Raja Dharma (king)
- Pravritti Dharma (outer - worldly life)
- Nivritti Dharma (inner - spiritual life)

Many ceremonies practiced in Sri Lanka find echoes in India. “Bali is the ceremony wherein the presiding deities of the planets (graha) are invoked and placated in order to ward off their evil influences… The first thing done at the birth of a child is to cast the horoscope, which has to be consulted subsequently at all the important events of his or her life… The ritual consists of dancing and drumming in front of the bali figures by the bali artist (bali-adura), who continuously recites propitiatory stanzas calling for protection and redress. The patient (aturaya) sits by the side of the bali figures… Tovil or ‘devil-dancing’ is another ritualistic healing ceremony that primarily belongs to folk religion. As in the case of the bali ceremony, here too many Buddhist elements have crept in and it has become a ceremony purporting to fulfill, at the popular level, the socio-religious needs… Deva Worship…

“In Sri Lanka there are four deities regarded as the guardians of the Buddha-sasana in the island: Vishnu, Saman, Kataragama, and Vibhishana… Although Vishnu is originally a Hindu god, the Buddhists have taken him over as a Buddhist deity, referring to him also by the localized designation Uppalavanna. And so are Siva, specially under the name Isvara, and Ganesha under the name Ganapati or the more popular appellation Gana-deviyo… the presence of a mediator between the deity and the devotee, a priest called kapurala, or kapu-mahattaya or simply kapuva, the equivalent of the Hindu pusariHuniyan Deviyo… He is also regarded as the deity presiding over a village area bounded by its boundaries (gam-kotuwa), in which role he is designated as gambhara-deviyo (deity in charge of the village). In many of the composite devalayas he too has his shrine, the one at Lunava, about seven miles from Colombo close to the Galle Road, near the Lunava railway station, being his chief devalaya.”
(AGS Kariyawasam, 1995, Buddhist ceremonies and rituals of Sri Lanka, Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society

Devalayas dedicated to Pattini are found in many parts of the island, the one at Navagamuwa, about 15 miles from Colombo on the old Avissavella Road, being the most important. The sanctity of this place goes back to the time of King Gajabahu.
(The Ceylon National Museum Mss. Series. Vol. IX - Ethnology-4, p.iii, para. 5)

Comparable to the puja vidhanam in many regions of India, the practitioners of Bauddham in Sri Lanka adopt tisarana (three refuges) of Buddham, dhammam, sangham saranam gacchami, and five precepts are repeated to regulate a Bauddha’s moral life:

1] Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying life 

2] Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking things not given.

3] Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.

4] Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech.

5] Suramerayamajjapamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. I undertake the precept to abstain from taking distilled and fermented liquors that cause intoxication and heedlessness...

Modes of personal worship

A distinction may be made between simple respectful salutation (panama or panamana) and the ritualistic worship (vandana) accompanied by offerings of increasing complexity, including food, drink, and clothing. The former type is only an expression of respect and reverence as when a person clasps his hands in the gesture of worship in front of a religious symbol (e.g., a Buddha-statue, a Bodhi-tree, a dagaba) and recites a simple phrase like the well-known Namo tassa formula; nowadays the term sadhu has become quite popular with the Sinhala Buddhists for this purpose…

Dharma-Dhamma constitutes the foundations for these religious practices. There are common definitions of dharma-dhamma in Hindu dharma and Bauddha dhamma:

- The principle or law that orders the universe (derived from the root dhr ‘to bear or to support’.) As Sri Krishna notes in the Mahabharata: ‘Dhaaranaad dharma ity aahur dharmena vidhrtaah prajaah, Yat syaad dhaarana sanyuktam sa dharma iti nishchayah,’ (Dharma upholds both this-worldly and other-worldly affairs, Mbh 12.110.11).

Dhamma in Pali and Bauddha tradition refers to the ‘truth’ or ultimate reality of ‘the way that things really are’ (Tib. Cho). Dharma sets forth an ideal to strive for, an ideal for all humanity; dharma is a universal ethic, which evolved over time as an eternal satyam (truth) which should govern every human endeavour which should result in the good of all living entities, bhutahitam.

This is comparable to the statement of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:
Verily, that which is Dharma is truth.
Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, ‘He speaks the Dharma,’
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, ‘He speaks the Truth.’
Verily, both these things are the same (1.4.14)

Buddha’s first sermon

The Buddha’s first sermon took place in a deer park in Sarnath, four miles outside the city of Varanasi. In art, this setting is symbolized by the two small deer at the base of the Buddha’s seat. The Buddha has his right hand on a wheel, which is the symbol of the Buddha’s doctrine (dharma). By turning the wheel with his hand, he figuratively sets the doctrine in motion and disseminates Bauddham through the world. The Buddha is surrounded by six figures. The five robed figures with shaved heads represent the five ascetics who originally abandoned Siddhartha when he ended his six years of stringent yogic practice and fasting and accepted a bowl of rice. They became his first audience and then his first disciples. It is unclear who is represented by the bare-chested sixth figure (

And the Blessed one thus addressed the five Bhikkhus: 
There are two extremes, O Bhikkhus, which he who has given up the world, ought to avoid. What are these two extremes? A life given to pleasures, devoted to pleasures and lusts: this is degrading, sensual, vulgar, ignoble, and profitless; and a life given to mortifications: this is painful, ignoble, and profitless. By avoiding these two extremes, O Bhikkhus, the Tathagata [a title of Buddha meaning perhaps “he who has arrived at the truth”] has gained the knowledge of the Middle Path which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom which conduces to calm, to knowledge, to the Sambodhi [total enlightenment], to Nirvana [state of release from samsara, the cycle of existence and rebirth].

The Eightfold Path

Which, O Bhikkhus, is this Middle Path the knowledge of which the Tathagata has gained, which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which conduces to calm, to knowledge, to the Sambodhi, to Nirvana? It is the Holy Eightfold Path, namely, 

Right Belief [understanding the truth about the universality of suffering and knowing the path to its extinction], 

Right Aspiration [a mind free of ill will, sensuous desire and cruelty], 

Right Speech [abstaining from lying, harsh language and gossip], 

Right Conduct [avoiding killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse], 

Right Means of Livelihood [avoiding any occupation that brings harm directly or indirectly to any other living being], 

Right Endeavour [avoiding unwholesome and evil things], 

Right Memory [awareness in contemplation], 

Right Meditation [concentration that ultimately reaches the level of a trance],

This, O Bhikkhus, is the Middle Path the knowledge of which the Tathagata has gained, which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which conduces to calm, co knowledge, to the Sambodhi, to Nirvana.

The Four Noble Truths 

This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Suffering: Birch is suffering; decay is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering. Presence of objects we hate is suffering; Separation from objects we love is suffering; not to obtain what we desire is suffering. Briefly, ... clinging to existence is suffering. 

This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cause of suffering Thirst, which leads to rebirth, accompanied by pleasure and lust, finding its delight here and there. This thirst is threefold, namely, thirst for pleasure, thirst for existence, thirst for prosperity.

This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of suffering: it ceases with the complete cessation of this thirst, - a cessation which consists in the absence of every passion with the abandoning of this thirst, with doing away with it, with the deliverance from it, with the destruction of desire.

This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Path which leads to the cessation of suffering: that Holy Eightfold Path, that is to say, Right Belief, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Endeavour, Right Memory, Right Meditation...

As long, O Bhikkhus, as I did not possess with perfect purity this true knowledge and insight into these four Noble Truths... so long, O Bhikkhus, I knew that I had not yet obtained the highest, absolute Sambodhi in the world of men and gods...

But since I possessed, O Bhikkhus, with perfect purity this true knowledge and insight into these four Noble Truths... then I knew, O Bhikkhus, that I had obtained the highest, universal Sambodhi....

And this knowledge and insight arose in my mind: “The emancipation of my mind cannot be lost; this is my last birth; hence I shall not be born again!”

[T.W. Rhys Davids and Herman Oldenberg, trans, Vinyaya Texts, in F. Max Mueller, ed., The Sacred Books of the East, Oxford: Clarendon, 1879-1910, Vol. 13. pp. 94-97, 100-102, rpr. in Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield, The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Vol 1, 2d. ed., (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), pp. 72-74

The First Sermon of the Buddha evokes the memory of Adi Sankara: 

‘In this world there is a two fold path; the path of knowledge of the Sankhyas and the path of action of the Yogis.” – “The Vedic dharma is verily two-fold, characterised by Pravritti (social action) and Nivritti (inward contemplation), designed to promote order in the world; this twofold dharma has in view the true social welfare and spiritual emancipation of all beings.”– Adi sankara (Gita Bhashyam)

In Patanjali Yoga Sutra 3.13 three aspects of change are identified:
- transformation of a thing (dharmi) into a property (dharma)
- transformation of a property into a mark (laksana), and
- transformation of a mark into a condition (avastha).

Change applies both to physical substance (bhuta) and to the senses (indriya), i.e., to sensations.
Pravritti = social action (trivarga: dharma, artha kama == righteousness, prosperity, desire)
Nivritti = inward contemplation

The first book of Tirukkural of Tiruvalluvar in Tamil is called aram, dharma; the second is porul, wealth; and the third is inbam, joy; a three-fold division consistent with purushartha trivarga: dharma artha kama (duties, wealth, joy). Illaram means ‘householder’s dharma’ and is explained in 20 chapters of the first book on aram, dharma. A compound such as cid-dharma is interpreted as ‘transcendental nature’, so is manava dharma ‘human nature’, giving the word dharma a comprehensive elucidation as ‘natural order’.

Rishi Kanada in Vais’es’ika sutra notes a definition of dharma by its beneficial impact, focusing on discharge of one’s responsibility: “That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihsreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma”.

Dharma-dhamma are very ancient words. Dharma-Dhamma is an abiding identity of Hindu-Sinhala civilization right from very ancient to modern times. Dharma and Dhamma are non-divisive, non-exclusive, and non-conclusive. Dharma is a quest for understanding cosmic order of the universe at a cosmic level and consciousness order at a personal level.

Dharma unites 

Within this all-enveloping framework, dharma as applied to governance, rajadharma, is explained as the facilitation of individuals to attain the purushartha of dharma, artha and kaama without transgressing dharma, the ethical principles of conduct and inter-personal relationships. This is affirmed by Brhaspatya sutra, II-43-44: The goal of rajaniti (polity) is the accomplishment of dharma, artha, kaama. Artha and kaama must be subject to the test of dharma. Dharma was supreme law of the state and rulers and subjects alike were subservient to this law. Dharma is the constitutional law of modern parlance, explaining the contours of the functions and responsibilities of the state, constraining the ruler by regulations which restrain the exercise of sovereignty by the ruler – a parallel to the paradigm of checks and balances enshrined in modern constitutions to prevent abuse of power while ensuring equal protection to the subjects without discrimination.

Such a rajadharma is exemplified by Ramarajyam. The supremacy of dharma is emphasized in Brhadaranyakopanisad:
The law (Dharma) is the king of kings. No one is superior to Dharma. The Dharma aided by the power of the king enables the weak to prevail over the strong.
This is further emphasised in Karn.a Parva (ch. 69, verse 58):
Dharma sustains the society; Dharma maintains the social order; Dharma ensures well-being and progress of humanity; Dharma is surely that which fulfils these objectives.
Sanatana Dharma in bharatiya metaphysics (elaborated further in Buddha, Jaina, Khalsa pantha thought) is not a moral connotation. It is an inexorable organizing, creative principle which operates on the plane of the aatman and the cosmos. Sanatana dharma is thus beyond a law regulating an individual’s action. It is the very expression of the divine. Such adherence to the divine principle is the purusharta, the purpose of life.

Buddha Dhamma

In Buddhist thought: anussava itiha-itiha-parampara pitaka-sampada dhamma – a system of moral discipline which is based upon customs, usages, or traditions handed down from time immemorial (Majjhima-nikaya, I.520).

In broad terms, dhamma may have meant phenomena. Buddhist thought recognized the dhamma as applied to the upasaka (layperson), pabbajita (wanderer), and the arhat (enlightened).

In the 13th Edict, Asoka notes in an address to his sons and grandsons that he himself found pleasure in conquests by the Dhamma and not in conquests by the sword. On monuments of the third century BCE, there is reference to a donor described with the epithet, dhamma-kathika, ‘preacher of the system’, dhamma signifying the philosophical and ethical doctrine as distinct from the Vinaya, Rules of the Order (T.W. Rhys Davids, 1902, Buddhist India, rpr. Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal, p. 167; Edict citations, pp. 295-297).

Bauddham in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the oldest continuously Bauddha nation. Theravada (Sthaviravada ‘way of elders’) is the major religion in the island since its official introduction in the 2nd century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of King Devanampiya-Tissa. Later, Sanghamitta, daughter of Asoka, was said to have brought the southern branch of the original Bodhi tree; this was planted at Anuradhapura.

‘Way of the elders’ is evocative of the enormous respect held for the pitr-s, the ancestors who gave the people their identity and shared values. Pitr-rinam became a governing principle in all walks of life; living itself was considered a discharge of the debt owed to the ancestors as role models for ethical, dharmic behavior.

The Pali Tipitaka (“Three Baskets”) - Sutta Pitaka (“Basket of Discourse”) contains the Buddha’s sermons; Vinaya Pitaka (“Basket of Discipline”) contains the rule governing the monastic order; and Abhidhamma Pitaka (“Basket of Special [Further] Doctrine”) contains doctrinal systematizations and summaries - have been the abiding basis for a rich tradition of commentaries by Theravada followers.

It was in Sri Lanka, in the 1st century CE during the reign of King Vatta Gamini that Bauddha monks assembled in Asoka-Vihara and wrote down the Tripitaka, the three baskets of the Teachings, known as the Pali scriptures. It was Sri Lankan nuns who introduced the Sangha of nuns into China in 433 CE. In the 16th century, Sri Lanka withstood the onslaughts of Portuguese and Dutch colonialists. It is a tribute to Bauddha monks that Bauddham was sustained in Sri Lanka despite colonial regimes.

Milestones of Bauddha Dhamma

? 29 BCE - According to Sinhalese chronicles, the Pali Canon is written down in the reign of King Vattagamini (29–17 BCE) 

? 247 - King Asoka sends his son Mahinda to bring Bauddham to Sri Lanka. King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka is converted. 

? 240  - Mahinda establishes the Mahavihara (Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Vibhajjavadin community living there becomes known as Theravadins. Mahinda compiles the first of the Tipitaka commentaries in Sinhala language. Mahinda’s sister Sanghamitta arrives in Sri Lanka with a cutting from the original Bo tree, and establishes the bhikkhuni-sangha in Sri Lanka. 

? 100 - Famine and schisms in Sri Lanka point to need for a written record of the Tipitaka to preserve the Buddhist religion. King Vattagamani convenes a Fourth Council, in which 500 reciters and scribes from the Mahavihara write down the Pali Tipitaka for the first time, on palm leaves. 

? 100  - Theravada Bauddham first appears in Burma and Central Thailand. 

? 200  - Buddhist monastic university at Nalanda, India flourishes; remains a world center of Buddhist study for over 1,000 years. 

? ca. 5th century - Buddhaghosa collates the various Sinhala commentaries on the Canon, drawing primarily on the Maha Atthakatha (Great Commentary) preserved at the Mahavihara, and translates them into Pali. This makes Sinhala Buddhist scholarship available for the first time to the entire Theravadin world and marks the beginning of what will become, in centuries to follow, a vast body of post-canonical Pali literature. Buddhaghosa also composes his encyclopedic, though controversial, meditation manual Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification). Buddhadatta and Dhammapala write additional commentaries and sub-commentaries. 

? Ca. 600’s - Bauddham in India begins a long, slow decline from which it would never fully recover. 

? ca. 6th c.? 9th c.? - Dhammapala composes commentaries on parts of the Canon missed by Buddhaghosa (Udana, Itivuttaka, Theragatha, and Therigatha), along with extensive sub-commentaries on Buddhaghosa’s work.  

? 1050 - The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni communities at Anuradhapura die out following invasions from South India. 

? 1070 - Bhikkhus from Pagan arrive in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka to reinstate the obliterated Theravada ordination line on the island.  

? 1164 - Polonnaruwa destroyed by foreign invasion. With guidance of two monks from a forest branch of the Mahavihara sect, Mahakassapa and Sariputta, King Parakramabahu reunites all bhikkhus in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect. 

? 1236 - Bhikkhus from Kañcipuram, India arrive in Sri Lanka to revive the Theravada ordination line.  

? 1279 - Last inscriptional evidence of a Theravada Bhikkhuni nunnery (in Burma). 

? 1287 - Pagan looted by Mongol invaders; its decline begins. 

? ca. 13th c. - A forest-based Sri Lankan ordination line arrives in Burma and Thailand. Theravada spreads to Laos. Thai Theravada monasteries first appear in Cambodia shortly before the Thais win their independence from the Khmers. 

? ca. 1400’s - Another forest lineage imported from Sri Lanka to Ayudhya, Thai capital. A new ordination line also imported into Burma. 

? 1753 - King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line which had died out in Sri Lanka. This is the origin of the Siyam Nikaya. 

? 1768 - Burmese destroy Ayudhaya (Thai capital). 

? 1777 - King Rama I, founder of the current dynasty in Thailand, obtains copies of the Tipitaka from Sri Lanka and sponsors a Council to standardize the Thai version of the Tipitaka, copies of which are then donated to temples throughout the country. 

? 1803 - Sri Lankans ordained in Burmese city of Amarapura found the Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka to supplement the Siyam Nikaya, which admitted only brahmans from the Up Country highlands around Kandy. 

? 1828 - Thailand’s Prince Mongkut (later King Rama IV) founds the Dhammayut movement (later became the Dhammayut Sect).  

? ca. 1800’s - Sri Lankan Sangha deteriorates under pressure from two centuries of European colonial rule (Portuguese, Dutch, British). 

? 1862 - Forest monks headed by Paññananda go to Burma for reordination, return the following year to found the Ramañña Nikaya.  First translation of Dhammapada into a Western language (German).  

? 1868 - Fifth Council held at Mandalay, Burma; Pali Canon inscribed on 729 marble slabs.

? 1873 - Mohottivatte Gunananda defeats Christian missionaries in public debate, sparking nationwide revival of Sri Lankan pride in its Buddhist traditions. 

? 1879 - Sir Edwin Arnold publishes his epic poem Light of Asia, which becomes a best-seller in England and USA, stimulating popular Western interest in Bauddham. 

? 1880 - Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society, arrive in Sri Lanka from USA, embrace Bauddham; begin campaign to restore Bauddham on the island by encouraging establishment of Buddhist schools. 

? 1881 - Pali Text Society founded in England by T.W. Rhys Davids; most of the Tipitaka published in roman script and, over the next 100 years, in English translation. 

? 1891 - Maha Bodhi Society founded in India by the Sri Lankan lay follower Anagarika Dharmapala. Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya built in the late Gupta period, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, is controlled by the state government of Bihar, which established a temple management committee. The committee has nine members, a majority of whom, including the chairman, must by law be Hindus. 

? 1899 - First Western Theravada monk (Gordon Douglas) ordains, in Burma. 

? ca. 1900 - Ajaan Mun and Ajaan Sao revive forest meditation tradition in Thailand. 

? 1902 - King Rama V of Thailand institutes a Sangha Act that formally marks the beginnings of the Mahanikaya and Dhammayut sects. Sangha government, till then in the hands of a lay official appointed by the king, handed over to the bhikkhus themselves. 

? 1949 - Mahasi Sayadaw becomes head teacher at a government-sponsored meditation center in Rangoon, Burma. 

? 1954 - Burmese government sponsors a Sixth Council in Rangoon. 

? 1956 - Buddha Jayanti Year, commemorating 2,500 years of Bauddham. 

? 1958 - Nyanaponika Thera establishes the Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka to publish English-language books on Theravada Bauddham. Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement founded in Sri Lanka to bring Buddhist ideals to bear in solving pressing social problems. Two Germans ordain at Royal Thai Embassy in London, becoming the first to take full Theravada ordination in the West. 

? ca. 1960’s - Washington (D.C.) Buddhist Vihara founded, first Theravada monastic community in USA.

? ca. 1970’s - Refugees from war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos settle in USA and Europe, establishing many tight-knit Buddhist communities in the West. Taungpulu Sayadaw and Dr. Rina Sircar from Burma establish the Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery in Northern California, USA. Ajaan Chah establishes Wat Pah Nanachat, a forest monastery in Thailand for training Western monks. Insight Meditation Society, a lay meditation center, is founded in Massachusetts, USA. Ajaan Chah travels to England to establish a small community of monks at the Hamsptead Vihara, which moves to Sussex, England, to become Wat Pah Cittaviveka (Chithurst Forest Monastery). 

? ca. 1980’s - Lay meditation centers grow in popularity in USA and Europe. First Theravada forest monastery in USA (Bhavana Society) established in West Virginia. Amaravati Buddhist Monastery established in England.

? ca.  1990’s - Continued western expansion of Theravada Sangha: monasteries from Thai forest traditions established in California, USA (Metta Forest Monastery; Abhayagiri Monastery). Bauddham meets cyberspace: online Buddhist information networks emerge; several editions of Pali Tipitaka become available on-line.



Dharma is an ordering principle independent of one’s faith or methods of worship or what is understood by the term ‘religion’, thus providing for total freedom in the path chosen or ethical norms employed, in an eternal journey from being to becoming.

Hence, it is truly universal, sanatana dharma, the ordering principle eternal. Since it is an ordering principle, the word is applied across many facets of life, to rajadharma as an ordering principle for governance, svadharma as an ordering principle of one’s spiritual quest or life in society, or as’ramadharma denoting responsibilities associated with one’s station in life’s progress from childhood, through studentship, marital life and to old age.

Dharma is elaborated with the use of terms such as satyam, rita, rinam, vrata to defining ethical responsibility performed in relation to social and natural phenomena. Dharma can be the defining paradigm for a world as a family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

Aano bhadraah kratavo yantu vis’vatah. Let noble thoughts flow to us from all sides. These thoughts from Vedic times are as relevant today as they have been over millennia of pilgrims’ progress and exemplified by the progress and abiding continuum of Hindu civilization, Jaina ariya dhamma and Bauddha dhamma. In such an ordering, dharma-dhamma becomes a veritable celebration of freedom, freedom in moving from being to becoming.

The author is Director, Sarasvati Research Centre

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top