A Buddhist State?

A number of prominent Buddhists in Ceylon, some with political ambitions, constituted themselves “The Buddhist Commission of Inquiry” two and one-half years ago. This year, the group made its report, entitled “The Betrayal of Buddhism.”

As expected, it proved to be a highly partisan document, re-writing the “good old” (Buddhist) days of Ceylon’s history in a manner which no modern historian could approve. But the document proved illuminating as a mirror of racialist views.

The Buddhist re-write of history said that the Buddhist kings of Ceylon had a superb kingdom which was completely spoiled when the Portuguese invaded in 1505, followed by the Dutch and finally by the British in 1795. “The Betrayal” pointed the way back to the palmy days before foreign rule began.

(Some have pointed out that Singalese rule was at its lowest ebb when the Portuguese came. When foreign rule ceased in 1947, Ceylon was a state at peace, with its security founded on the rule of law. Its welfare government gave citizens a widespread system of education and medical care).

Modern Buddhists, bitten by excessive nationalism, dream about another kind of state. As outlined in “The Betrayal,” all religious and charitable bodies should be required to pay income taxes—except Buddhist temples and their lands. This exception, it was explained, would serve as compensation for losses suffered by Buddhist institutions due to foreign conquest.

Other recommendations: A representative Buddhist Council should care for the Buddhist religion; the capital should be moved from Colombo in order to get away from undesirable foreign influences such as horse racing, which should be banned.

The greatest concern to the Christian Church was the commission’s recommendations ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.