The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is a small island at the southern tip of India where approximately 70% of the people call themselves Buddhists. Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE by Mahinda, the son of King Aśoka, and has prevailed there ever since. This means that Sri Lanka has been Buddhist longer than any other country. Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna were popular at various times but Theravāda always predominated and since the 12th century has been the only form of Buddhism there. During the colonial period (16th century to 1947), Buddhists and Buddhism were often persecuted and always disadvantaged. In 1956 Buddhism became in effect the state religion. Sri Lankan monks have a long tradition of travelling widely and spreading the Dhamma as they do so. The first Buddhist monks to go to Europe in modern times were two Sri Lankans who arrived in England in 1819.