Buddhist stamps trigger ministerial probe

By Chandani Kirinde, The Sunday Times, May 22, 2011

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- An Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Posts has been appointed to look into allegations that a set of four stamps issued to mark the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi celebrations are faulty.

A senior Buddhist cleric alleges that the four stamps, issued to mark the 2,600 Sambuddhatva Jayanthi anniversary, are inaccurate and misleading. Posts Ministry Additional Secretary Hemasiri Fernando told the Sunday Times he was waiting for a report, expected by Wednesday, before deciding whether to take action. “For now, I can say there is no major problem with the stamps, but I am acting on concerns raised, and I have appointed a senior official to study the case and submit a report,” he said.

The stamps depict four of the most venerated places of Buddhist worship – Lumbini, Buddha Gaya, Saranath, and Kusinara. Stamp enthusiasts and members of the Buddhist clergy say the stamps do not highlight these specified geographical locations, and point to other discrepancies as well.

One stamp locates Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace and now in modern Nepal, in the middle of a map of India, said the Venerable Maitipe Wimalasara Thera, head of the Dharmavijaya Bauddha Viharaya in Los Angeles, California. The Venerable Maitipe Wimalasara Thera lived in Buddha Gaya for more than two decades.

The same stamp shows a historic pillar, erected by King Asoka to mark the exact location of the Buddha’s birth, in a corner, while prominence is given to a more recent structure put up at the site.
The stamp depicting Buddha Gaya, the holy site where the Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment, gives prominence to two Hindu temples, while the Sri Maha Bodhiya, the most venerated place of Buddhist worship, is in the background.

The two other stamps “sideline” the historically important Isipathanaramaya, in Saranath, and Kusinara, and give prominence to more recent structures.