~Meaw & More~


Reactive blogger (~and more~)

Return or Reinvented? Fundamental Buddhist Movement in Constitution

Apart from being taught in school, I am not interested in Buddhism studies at all, thus, despite knowing Tambiah years ago and actually see his first edition books in print, it was not my time to read them. However, it is useful today to read along with the saffron protests.

One need to seeBuddhism as opposed to “original” teaching of Buddha.I doubt it was original because it was orally transfered from generation to generation after He had passed away, then the scripture was ordered to be written by kings.

In Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka (1992), several points are important to read what the monk and the CNS leader had been working out.

Tambiah introduced Buddhism in different phase of “national building.” Buddhism texts were rendered to the public and the academic communities as fitting the birth of a democratic nation and new Buddhist utopian future. By researching and promoting Buddhist economic, Buddhist governance and Buddhist social science and identify as ways of life, he reflected:

[W]hat have by now become standard canonical citations for those theorists who see in certain suttas Buddhust precedents for, indeed explicit formualtion of democracy, equality, rule by popular consesus, a contractual theory of elective kingship, […], non recognition of caste distrinctions, social welfare policy, the need to eliminate poverty and unequal distribution of welth and so on. (108)

Those feature found in the Scripture, were promoted to suit the new identities against the colonial rule in Sri Lanka (and in Thailand) and now against globalization and out of control capitalism. Buddhism make to fit new threats and to forge new unity.

Could that be also read as the return to Buddhism as the new reinvented and re-read of the text? Is it fundamentalist Buddhism*? Are we “returning” or take anew step. it would be
returning to no where as “Buddhism communities in the past” has now reinvented using historical evidences backed up by hardly visible political motivations. Thus it is easy to read the almost invisible motivations as the return the Bhuddhism itself, not the reinvention to perpetuate status and power.

A contemporary reading of Tambiah with the Bangkok Post report.

CNS chairman Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who is Muslim, said that recognising Buddhism as the national religion would have no impact on southern violence. “Whether or not the stipulation is added to the constitution, these thugs will continue their attacks,” he said.

The head of the Council for National Security (CNS) yesterday agreed with a demand by Buddhist activists that Buddhism should be declared the national religion in the new charter. “We give priority to peace in the country,” said Gen Sonthi Boonyarataklin.

“If a stipulation in the charter to this effect leads to peace in the country, then it is better that it is included. Those who say there is no need for such a stipulation don’t take the issue that seriously.”

He suggested a clause also be added requiring the government to “take care of other religions, including Christianity and Islam”.

Sonthi learned that going against the Buddhist majority would not save his image. Let other speak about the threats of Buddhist nationalism and the South. It is not a new phenomenon. Buddhism were used as a campaign against communism. I don’t know if the movement shift from nationalism to Budhhism or Buddhism to nationalism and elitism.

Despite the tumult, people are told to take refuge to state and elite invented Buddhism. Tambiah mentioned the new buddhist identitied rooting from the (reinvented) Buddhism past to the future. If the country had ruin stupas and temples, it was buddhism in the past, it is Buddhism now and will be Buddhism in the future.

The theme of unification of the island– realizing the unity of the Sinhala people, now glorified as a nation existing from pristine time, and through that the initiation of a golden age-was concretely realized in the eyes of many present day Sinhala Buddhist in the ideal reigns of great monarchs who were cakkavattis(wheel-rolling universal king) and dharmaraja (righteous monarchs). This version of a utopian past invoked as a vision of a utopian future embodies as present da ideologues see it precedents for institutiong a welfare state and a social and economic eglitarianism in a non-competitive agricultural society of villagers. The villagers of earlier time led a simple lives and focus for their communual and religious lives was the Buddhist temple.[…] (111)

When capitalism fail us in the late 90s, the idea of the “non-competitive agricultural society” were revivied and live on. People were told to have simple life and focus on communual issues. Don’t look at the supra structures, it is not your nature.


* I own “fundamentalism” as reinvention as opposed to orginality from several resources and I will try to cite. It was so long ago in that little room.


Filed under: Sociology and Anthropology

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