Kammas; Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2004; Religious Institutions; Fundraising; Buddhist Literature Social Aspects
In the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami, those affected struggled to come to terms with the scale of the disaster. This article documents the initial response in religious terms to the calamity by Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It looks at the interpretations they proposed for the causes of such suffering.1 The account given here is based mainly on conversations and fieldwork conducted in Sri Lanka within the first fortnight after the tsunami.2 The places, temples and organisations I visited included some directly affected by the tsunami, some indirectly affected and some not affected or affected only through their voluntary involvement.3 By way of background to the flourishing of religious interpretations of the tsunami on the ground, I give brief summaries of the involvement of temples in relief and fundraising work, when monks and temple attendees extended and adapted traditional roles and practices to assist those affected by the disaster. I relate the interpretations given to relevant Buddhist literature, often the traditional authorities for the underlying doctrines and legends. Some follow up was possible during temple preparations for the three-month death anniversary of victims, which served as a focus for more medium-term relief work and fundraising.
Monastic involvement in relief work 54 Adaptation of religious practice in response to the disaster 57 Religious interpretations of the tsunami 59 Acknowledgement 69 Notes 69 References 76