Buddhism, biggest gift of Sri Lanka to world - President

by Chaminda PERERA, Lanka Daily News, Oct 11, 2010

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that the country faces the biggest challenge of protecting cultural values and virtues in the face of western culture and attitudes seeping into society.

He said that Theravadhi Buddhism which was protected and promoted by members of the Magasangha throughout the history of 2,500 years is the biggest gift that Sri Lanka can give to the world. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was speaking at the 200th anniversary of Rankoth Viharaya in Panadura.

The Rankoth Viharaya, Panadura was established on October 10, 1810 by Batapola Kalyanathissa Nayake Thera on the directive of Most Ven Sri Kathaluwe Gunarathana Nayake Thera for the promotion of Buddhism and Buddhist education in the country.

Most Ven Sri Kathaluwe Gunarathana Nayake Thera established the Amarapura Chapter in the country and he was the first Mahanayake Thera of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya.

The Temple played a pivotal role in effecting a Buddhist revival in the country and the world at large by creating the background for the Great Panadura Debate.

Various scholars of the calibre of Sir Henry Olcott arrived in Sri Lanka in search of Buddhist teachings after this debate which took place between the Buddhist and Christian clergy in a land adjacent to the temple.

Speaking on the occasion, President Rajapaksa lauded the indelible services rendered by the Rankoth Viharaya to Buddhists and the country at large.

He said society undergoes various tragedies from time to time and whenever the society faces a threat, the Maha Sangha came to the fore to the rescue of the people.

The President added that children who were born and bred in religious background can avoid elements that can distract them from studies. He added that technological developments such as the Internet has good and bad aspects that children living in a religious background can identify easily.

President Rajapaksa said the country enjoys the fruits of freedom.

“Parents no longer feel afraid to let their children go by bus or train. Terrorism has been totally wiped out from the country” , he added.

The President stressed that “we are faced with an enormous challenge to develop the country. He said that Sri Lankans should not be ready to go before the world with a begging bowl.

Rankoth Viharaya Viharadhipathi and Dean of Sanskrit Studies Department of the Kelaniya University Prof Kahapola Sugatharathna Thera presented two books written by him to the President on this occasion.

Former SLFP Parliamentarian for Panadura Dr Neville Fernando presented a book written by him to the President on this occasion.

External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peries who received Dhamma and Sinhala education from the Rankoth Viharaya explained how this institute was dedicated in the promotion of Buddhism in the country and the world.

The Ambassadors of China, Myanmar and representatives of the Royal Thai Embassy and Indian High Commission were also present.