Launch of Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law in Sri Lanka

Lanka Daily News, Feb 14, 2011

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) will launch a monumental text on "Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law" authored by the well known lawyer and legal academic Dr Wickrema Weerasooria on February 15. The Guests of Honour for the function are Ven Professor Bellawnwila Wimalaratana, Chancellor, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Chief Justice Asoka de Silva and former Attorney General, Acting Chief Justice and Supreme Court Judge Rajah Wanasundera.

The text provides a comprehensive coverage of the subject of Buddhist Law in Sri Lanka and as an English text it is considered "global first". There is no similar text in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand (Siam) which are the two other main countries - other than Sri Lanka - where pure Theravada Buddhism prevails.

Dr Wickrema Weerasooria's book "Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law" - consists of over 850 pages of 30 chapters the text will be a guide not only to Sri Lankan Lawyers and Judges but to all global scholars in foreign Universities which have now established Colleges of Oriental Learning and Religion. World renowned Buddhist Scholar Dr Ananda Guruge who now lives in the United States has highly commended the text. As an author of over 54 texts on Buddhism, Education, History and Culture. Dr Guruge confidently states that there is no other single book in the world similar to this text which is over 850 pages of 30 chapters on the subject of Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law.

In twenty of his thirty chapters, Dr Weerasooria deals with all the important practical topics and issues that make up Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law. The most important are the rules relating to succession to be the head or "Viharadhipathi" of a temple. The now Established rule of succession is pupillary succession where the senior most pupil of the Incumbent tutor succeeds him. Next, the issue arises as to how a bhikkhu became a pupil.

Of another we know the Vinaya rules but for legal purposes pupillage is by Robing or Ordination. While both are required in the Buddhist Vinaya only one is sufficient under Sri Lankan judicial decisions to succeed to the incumbency. A robed bhikkhus (Samanera) also has the right to succeed as the head of a temple though he is yet to be ordained. The Sri Lankan courts have so decided.

Dr Weerasooria is a lawyer and legal academic of distinction and repute has written over 18 legal texts. In that context, he has selectively included in this text a very interesting account of the judiciary, the legal profession and the early text writers on Sri Lankan law and shown how the judges, the lawyers and text writers contributed to the development of Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law.

Ven Professor Bellawnwila Wimalaratana Anunayake Thera commenting on the book states that Dr Weerasooria has brought out this text on Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law. This is the first of its kind in the entire world. The Table of Contents shows its wide scope and coverage. It is not about Buddhism. It is not on the Buddhist Dhamma, the Buddhist scriptures and tenets or even the Vinaya but about Buddhist law, especially the law governing Buddhist temples and their temporalities.