Buddhism in Sri Lanka
Theravada Buddhism is the religion of about 70% of the population of Sri Lanka.
== History ==
===Introduction of Buddhism===
According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles (such as the Dipavamsa), Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of Sri Lanka's King Devanampiya Tissa. During this time, a sapling of the Bodhi Tree was brought to Sri Lanka and the first monasteries and Buddhist monuments were established. Among these, the Isurumuni-vihaara and the Vessagiri-vihaara remain important centers of worship. He is also credited with the construction of the Pathamaka-cetiya, the Jambukola-vihaara and the Hatthaalhaka-vihaara, and the refectory. The Pali Canon, having previously been preserved as an oral tradition, was first committed to writing in Sri Lanka around 30 BCE.
Over much of the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, three subdivisions of Theravāda existed in Sri Lanka, consisting of the monks of the Mahāvihāra, Abhayagiri Vihāra, and the Jetavana Vihāra. The Mahāvihāra was the first tradition to be established, while Abhayagiri Vihāra and Jetavana Vihāra were established by monks who had broken away from the Mahāvihāra tradition. According to A.K. Warder, the Indian Mahīśāsaka sect also established itself in Sri Lanka alongside the Theravāda, into which they were later absorbed. Northern regions of Sri Lanka also seem to have been ceded to sects from India at certain times.
In the 7th century, the Chinese monk Xuanzang wrote of two major divisions of Theravāda in Sri Lanka, referring to the Abhayagiri tradition as the "Mahāyāna Sthaviras," and the Mahāvihāra tradition as the "Hīnayāna Sthaviras." Abhayagiri Vihara appears to have been a center for Theravadin Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna teachings; Xuanzang writes:
In the 8th century CE, it is known that both Mahāyāna and the esoteric Vajrayāna form of Buddhism were being practiced in Sri Lanka, and two Indian monks responsible for propagating Esoteric Buddhism in China, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra, visited the island during this time.
===Accounts of Chinese pilgrims===
In the 5th century CE, Faxian visited Sri Lanka and lived there for two years with the monks. Faxian obtained a Sanskrit copy of the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya at the Abhayagiri Vihāra, c. 406 CE. The Mahīśāsaka Vinaya was then translated into Chinese in 434 CE by Buddhajiva and Zhu Daosheng. This translation of the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya remains extant in the Chinese Buddhist canon as Taishō Tripiṭaka 1421.
The 7th century pilgrim Xuanzang first learned for several years at Nālandā, and then intended on going to Sri Lanka to seek out further instruction. However, after meeting Sri Lankan monks in Chola who were refugees, he decided not to visit:
===Abolition of other Theravāda traditions===
Before the 12th century CE, more rulers of Sri Lanka gave support and patronage to the Abhayagiri Theravādins, and travelers such as Faxian saw the Abhayagiri Theravādins as the main Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka. The trend of Abhayagiri Vihara being the dominant Theravāda sect changed in the 12th century CE, when the Mahāvihāra gained the political support of King Parakkamabāhu I (1153–1186 CE), and completely abolished the Abhayagiri and Jetavana Theravāda traditions. The Theravāda monks of these two traditions were then defrocked and given the choice of either returning to the laity permanently, or attempting re-ordination under the Mahāvihāra tradition as "novices" (sāmaṇera). Parakkamabāhu also appointed a saṅgharāja, or "King of the Sangha," a monk who would preside over the Sangha and its ordinations in Sri Lanka, assisted by two deputies.
Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation, with the Sangha having existed in a largely unbroken lineage since its introduction in the 3rd century BCE. During periods of decline, the Sri Lankan monastic lineage was revived through contact with Myanmar and Thailand.
===Colonialism and Christianity===
From the 16th century onward, Christian missionaries and Portuguese, Dutch and British colonizers of Sri Lanka have attempted to convert the local population to Christianity. In the late 19th century, a national Buddhist movement started, inspired by the American Buddhist Henry Steel Olcott, and empowered by the results of the Panadura debate between a Christian priest and the Buddhist monk Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.
Veneration of the Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva has continued to the present day in Sri Lanka, where he is called Nātha. In more recent times, some western-educated Theravādins have attempted to identify Nātha with Maitreya Bodhisattva. However, traditions and basic iconography, including an image of Amitābha Buddha on his crown, identify Nātha as Avalokiteśvara. Andrew Skilton writes:
Early reports by Europeans from the 18th century describe the Buddhist monks of Sri Lanka as being engaged in the recitation of mantras, and using mālā beads for counting, as practiced in Mahāyāna Buddhism.
A few years after the arrival of Mahinda, Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta, who is also believed to be the daughter of Emperor Ashoka, came to Sri Lanka. She started the first nun's order in Sri Lanka, but this order of nuns died out in Sri Lanka in the 11th century.
In 1996, 11 selected Sri Lankan nuns were ordained fully as bhikkhunis by a team of Theravāda monks in concert with a team of Korean nuns in India. There is disagreement among Theravāda vinaya authorities as to whether such ordinations are valid. In the last few years the head of the Dambulla chapter of the Siyam Nikaya in Sri Lanka has carried out ordination ceremonies for hundreds of nuns.
==Buddhist monastic groups==
[[File:Golden temple dambulla.jpg|thumb|A pagoda at Dambulla golden temple)]
The different sects of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy are referred to as Nikayas, and three main Nikayas are:
- Siam Nikaya, founded in the 18th century by Ven. Upali Thera, a Siamese monk who was invited by the King Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy, and on the initiative of Ven. Weliwita Saranankara.
- Amarapura Nikaya, founded in 1800 with higher ordination obtained from Myanmar (Burma)
- Ramanna Nikaya, founded in 1864 by Ambagahawatte Saranankara.
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ce.html "The World Factbook: Sri Lanka"]. CIA World Factbook.
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ce.html. Retrieved 2006-08-12..
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- Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Buddhism. 2004. p. 151