27 Feb 2014
Like me, you may have assumed Buddhism was such a happy religion. Until I discovered Buddhist Hell, deep in the South of Sri Lanka, I figured that Buddhist temples were full of kind, enlightened, robe-wearing folks, living out their days in this world performing good deeds, and getting a stack of good karma to boot. From a Western perspective, brand-Buddhism is pacifism, tranquility, and paying a hundred bucks to see the Shaolin Monks world tour, and being ripped off by Buddhist monks selling plastic beads. But wait, there’s more.
Unfortunately, visiting Sri Lanka, one of the most stunning island nations on the entire planet, has taught me everything I never wanted to know about Buddhism. Like all religions, Buddhism has a special dark place where people just don’t want to end up in this life, or any other. Buddhists refer to it as “Naraka” or “Niraya”. You may know it as “hell”. One artists vision of this tormented and gruesome place is on display inside the Buddhist temple named Wewurukannala Vihara, in the town named Dikwella. And the Buddhist version of hell, makes your version of hell seem like not such a terrible place.
For more photos, follow the [link].
03 March 2014
Sanath Abeysekara turned a new page in the local cinema scene with his much talked about ‘Mahindagamanaya’ which brought the tale of how Buddhism came to Sri Lanka to light. He explored similar avenues with his second cinematic venture ‘Siri Daladagamanaya’.
The movie is set for release at Liberty cinema and Savoy 2 cinema on March 6. Produced by EAP Head Soma Edirisinghe the movie sheds light on how the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha came to Sri Lanka. Bringing the sacred tooth relic to the isle was not walk in the park. Many stories of how barriers fell across Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha’s path have been recorded in history. Director Abeysekera has analyzed these facts and have separated truth from false before penning his script. Continue reading
In a long article on post-war Sinhala cinema, film-maker Sivamohan Sumathy reviews the role of historical religious dramas, such as 2012′s Sri Siddhartha Gautama.
February 21, 1014
scene from “Ini Avan”
In post-war Sri Lanka, Sinhala cinema is all about triumphal cultural nationalism. What options does a Tamil film-maker have, faced with the twin threats of a surveillance state and a populist mainstream cinema from Tamil Nadu that dominates popular imagination? By SIVAMOHAN SUMATHY
“FOR the motherland” was the final call made to the audience at the close of the film Abaas the young hero—historically, the would-be Pandukabaya—holds high majestically a “sacred” sword standing atop a hill, framed dramatically by towering mountain peaks. The film relates the story of a young prince raised clandestinely by the natives of the north-central hinterland in fear of his jealous and despotic uncles. It draws upon an early instance of Sri Lankan history, a defining moment of the Sinhala identity, genealogically speaking. Pandukabaya occupies an iconic place in the nationalist imaginary, providing authenticity to memories of a glorious past and the story of the consolidation of the power of Sinhala kings.
Aba was released in September 2008, at the height of the final phase of Eelam War IV which came to a bloody and decisive close in May 2009. In September 2008, the war was intense and the war cry was everywhere, even as the death toll among combatants and civilians on both sides was rising in the north. In the rest of the country, bombs, blasts, checkpoints, assassinations and disappearances kept the populace captive to a culture and psychology of fear, suspicion, uncertainty and hopelessness, while the government on one side and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the other peddled a rhetoric of moral fortitude. Continue reading
Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros
January 29, 2014
Anthropology professor emeritus Stanley J. Tambiah, described by colleagues as one of the giants of 20th century anthropology and who was known for his studies of Buddhism and South Asia, passed away on Jan. 19 after a long illness, three days after his 85th birthday.
Called “Tambi” by those who knew him well, Tambiah was a native of Sri Lanka and first joined the Harvard faculty in 1976 after teaching at the University of Chicago and the University of Cambridge. He taught at Harvard for 35 years as one of the first full professors of South Asian descent, according to neurology professor S. Allen Counter, director of The Harvard Foundation.
“He was a great Thai studies and Buddhism expert who was known for meticulously detailed and conceptually rich ethnographic studies of religious rituals and cultural traditions and the way that they came together in on the ground practices,” said Arthur M. Kleinman, an anthropology professor who was both a student and colleague of Tambiah. “What distinguished him was in addition to being a superb field researcher, he was also the author of bold theoretical statements.” Continue reading
Dec 10, 2013
Dec 09, Colombo: The Indian Gallery, which was developed by the National Council of Science Museums, Government of India, encapsulates the origins of Buddhism in India and its peaceful spread to other parts of Asia and the world. The Gallery has replicas of the historic monuments of Bodh Gaya, in addition to the Sanchi Stupa, the Ajanta Caves and other marvels of Buddhist art and architecture. The theme of the gallery is grouped in eight major sections:
(1) India – the origin of Buddhism – which includes the primary events in Buddha’s life;
(2) Pilgrimage sites in India which includes the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. A separate multimedia kiosk provides detailed information in the form of texts, graphics and videos; Continue reading
Oct 19 2013
Meetirigala Nissarana Vanaya is a monastery in the strict forest tradition in Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of Sri Lanka’s most respected meditation monasteries and was founded in 1968 by Asoka Weeraratna (the founder of the German Dharmaduta Society and the Berlin Buddhist Vihara in Germany). He equipped the monastery with all the facilities conducive to the meditative life, found an accomplished meditation master, Ven. Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera (author of ‘Seven stages of Purifications’ and ‘Seven Contemplations’, both published by the BPS), to direct the meditation training, and then, his mission accomplished, he himself entered the Buddhist order under the name Meetirigala Dhammanisanthi. Continue reading
Professor Chandima Wijebandara
September 25, 2013
From the day that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka the artists here have devoted all their talents to pictorially communicate the evergreen message of the Buddha to masses. Buddhism provided them with the rich treasury of resources full of beautiful stories, colourful images and aesthetic concepts.
The kings facilitated the artists with material support while the monks provided freedom for imagination. Spurred by such facilitations Sri Lanka artists have created superb images on the shrine room walls and ceilings. Be it a relic chamber of a stupa like Mahiyangana, a cave temple like Karambagala or shrine room like Tivamka Pilimage, wherever we find ancient murals, the paintings depicted Buddhist themes. According to critics like Benjamin Rowland, Vincent Smith, H. C. P. Bell, Raja de Silva and Dharmasena Rassapana, even the frescoes at the royal fortress Sigiriya portray Buddhist cultural themes. Continue reading
25 September, 2013
In this day and age of communal strife seen all around the world, a film on Buddhism and its essential philosophy of forgiveness comes as a breath of fresh air. Benoy Behl, the acclaimed art historian and author of several books on religion and philosophy, recently premiered his film Culture of Compassion: Buddhism in India and ASEAN countries, at India Habitat Centre.
With this, he took the audience on a virtual pilgrimage of important Buddhist sites across India and the Southeast Asian part of the world. Continue reading
U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison visited the Yatala Museum on 23rd to view rare antiquities found during the excavations of Yatala Dagaba, which were preserved with a $30,000 (approximately SLR 4 million) grant from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
During her visit, the Ambassador met with Department of Archeology Acting Assistant Director of Museums Mr. Palitha Weerasingha, Regional Deputy Director Ms. Wasanthi Alahakoon, and Archaeological Research Assistant Ms. Anusha Kasturi. Ms. Kasturi explained the enhanced cataloguing systems and the new web-based accessible Internet search database, and briefed the Ambassador on the training and educational programs now available for Sri Lankan and non-Sri Lankan researchers and students. Continue reading
13 September 2013
Neduntheevu [Satelite image courtesy: NASA Visible Earth, Legend by TamilNet]
An archaeology website of Sri Lanka on Thursday claimed that the Maritime Archaeology Unit of the Central Cultural Fund (an exclusive Sinhala outfit of the genocidal State) had found a Brahmi inscription in “Sinhalese Prakrit language” at Delft (Nedun-theevu), the farthest inhabited island off the Jaffna Peninsula. The claim was based on a four-letter fragment found on a coral slab of the base of a possible Buddhist stupa, locally called Vediyarasan Koaddai. When it comes to Brahmi and Prakrit, many Sinhala archaeologists choose to forget ‘Sri Lanka’ but imagine ‘Sinhala,’ commented academic circles in Jaffna, rejecting the connotations with which the nomenclature “Sinhalese Prakrit” is conceived and is projected nowadays.
The writings found at Delft [Image courtesy: arhaeology.lk]
The four-letter word, claimed to be in Brahmi script, has been found amidst scattered fragmentary writings and sometimes just single letters in Tamil script. Using scattered coral blocks, the ruined base was several times rebuilt in the past by Colombo’s archaeology department.
According to the website, archaeology.lk, the writings in Tamil belong to 14-15 centuries [AD] and the Brahmi would date back to 1st or 2nd century [AD].
The Brahmi inscription had been written in “Sinhalese Prakrit language,” the website cited Rajarata University lecturer, Chandima Ambanwala, who is also the co-founder of the website.
What was the ‘Sinhala’ element found in the four-letter word, differentiating it from any other Prakrit, if at all it could be read in Prakrit, asked academics in Jaffna.
The whole thrust of the nomenclature “Sinhalese Prakrit” used by the Sinhala archaeologists, is to tell that the earlier people of the Delft island were Sinhala-Buddhists and Tamil has come much later. Continue reading