Paper in the Bath Conference on 'Buddhism and Conflict in Sri Lanka' (http://www.bathspa.ac.uk/)
Mahavamsa=大史; Dipavamsa=島史; Sinhala Buddhism=錫蘭佛教史; Sinhala Buddhism=斯里蘭卡佛教史; Theravada history=南傳佛教史; Sri Lanka
In this paper I try to make a case for the idea of a Buddhist "nation" in pre-colonial political formations in Sri Lanka. For the most part Sinhalas took for granted that they belonged to the sasana of the Buddha; such a stance implied an identity "Buddhist" even though there was no indigenous term designating such an identity. Being Buddhist constituted a "axiomatic" identity which takes its bearing from a fundamental structural opposition between "hunters" or Vaddas who were not Buddhist and Sinhala who were Buddhists for the most part. Nowadays the Vaddas exist as small dispossessed groups labeled as "aborigines" by scholars as well as ordinary people. Though I did not deal with it here，my general argument would be that Vaddas gradually became Sinhala-Buddhist when the vast area of the Western，Sabaragamuva, Uva and Kandyan regions were converted into rice cultivation after the fifteenth century consequent to the emergence of Buddhist states in those areas. Additionally，I demonstrate the further structural opposition between Tamils and Sinhalas that was exacerbated during periods of wars. This oppositional structure was frozen in written historical texts like the Mahavamsa and Pujavaliya and unfrozen in other ways that I mention in this work. On the popular level people had to contend with immigrants of all sorts from South India and I describe briefly the ways they were "sasanized" and incorporated into the larger cultural order. After the arrival of the European powers it was the Portuguese，the Dutch and the British who were the enemies of the sasana for most Sinhalas. But while many Sinhalas became Christians we have only glimpses of Europeans, especially Portuguese，who intermarried with Sinhalas and eventually became Buddhist. How the preceding argument is linked to the current ethnic conflict cannot be elucidated here but I hope that others would. My main argument would be that after the British colonization of the Island，particularly after the late 19th century，the identity Sinhala began to take precedence over the Buddhist. This is not surprising because after the colonial periods there were many Sinhalas who were not Buddhists. But while the Sinhala identity was primordialized，even for some Buddhist monks, one must not assume that it was necessarily an instigator of violence. For example，the violence against the Tamils in 1983 that in turn led to the escalation of the ethnic conflict was the work of the Jayawardene government of the time and was entirely politically motivated. In spite of my preface one can see some hopeful signs：after the 1983 riots there has been a progressive decline of violence against Tamil civilian populations by the Sinhalas, even when the provocations by the LTTE have been acute. Yet on the minus side the intransigence of extremists on both sides of the divide will surely make the current peace moves a complicated and vulnerable process. And part of the problem lies with those who claim to be Buddhists and this includes monks who seem to have forgotten or ignored the teachings of the founder.
Introduction: an Unscholarly Pre-statement 192 Imagining a Buddhist "Whatever" 197 Taming Otherness: the Collective Representations at Mahiyangana 208 The Creation of Axiomatic Identities 216 Restoring History and Indeterminacy in Cultural Identity 222 Unfreezing Tamil-Hindu Otherness 228 Conclusion 233 Endnotes 234