Sri Lanka; Buddhism; narrative; war; colonialism; identity; narrative
In this article, I explore two attitudes towards war present among Buddhists in contemporary Sri Lanka: support for an all-out military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and support for a ceasefire followed by a negotiated settlement. After a phenomenological presentation of the two approaches, I turn to the factors that have conditioned them. I argue that canonical narrative is drawn on both to support the war and to reject it and then look at more recent colonial history to provide further data, particularly to the dynamic undergirding Buddhist support for war. In the nineteenth century, under British rule, one significant 'other' for Sri Lankan Buddhists was the Christian. A pattern of spirited defence developed in the face of what was seen as humiliation and betrayal at the hands of Christians. This pattern, the paper suggests, can throw light on responses in the present to the very different 'other', the LITE.