– Shenali D Waduge –
There is a crisis evolving in Myanmar and the Buddhist nations of the world can no longer remain idle and indifferent but must now stand in solidarity with a nation facing the wrath of foreign elements out to destabilize it. We cannot trust the biased and distorted versions that come from mainstream international news agencies which are funded to write according to what suits Western agendas. On the one hand Myanmar is being targeted as a gateway to eventually attack China while Wahhabi incursions using Rohingyas are arming jihadists to create further chaos. In the past Myanmar came to the aid of Sri Lanka on many an occasion at times of need and it is the duty and moral obligation of Sri Lanka to reciprocate and now send a fact finding mission comprising both lay and Buddhist monks to Myanmar.
With gratitude to Dr. Hema Goonetilake whose comprehensive compilation of the Sri Lanka-Burma ties enables us to know more of the bond that the two nations share. It was in 1069 that help was sought by King Vijayabahu 1 and King Anawrahta ( Anuruddha) sent ships of supplies in aid of Buddhist Ceylon from Myanmar to defeat the Chola invaders and thereafter King Vijayabahu’s request for scriptures and monks in 1071 resulted in 20 Burmese monks re-ordaining the entire clergy of Sri Lanka. King Vijayabahu’s gift was a replica of the Buddha Tooth which remains enshrined in the Lawkananda Pagoda in Pagan. This is recorded in the Chulavamsa. It is also to be noted that the Burmese chronicles such as Mahasammatavamsa, Rajavamsa
Many may not be aware too that the King of Burma (contemporary with Parakramabahu 1 – 1153-1186) married a daughter of a Sinhalese King and even appointed an ambassador to Sri Lanka.
Even when relationships between the two nations had strained due to trade the Sinhala Bhikkhus had come forward to restore the relations which depicts the bond that exists on a religious dimension that supersedes that of politics.
The controversial Arakan (Rakhine) area was described in 1433 as the Golden Age of Arakan Theravada Buddhism with the Tripitaka brought from Sri Lanka placed near the image of Mahamuni. Even Portuguese historian Queroz mentions a major Buddhist temple destroyed in 1620 in Trincomalee which had been headed by a Buddhist monk from Arakan indicating that Burmese monks were in Sri Lanka managing temples and the ties that existed.
It was following the arrival of the colonials and their brutal conversions to Christianity that affected Buddhism leaving King Vimaladharmasuriya 1 (1592-1604) to again seek the assistance of Myanmar to send a mission from Arakan to confer upasampada on Sinhala Samaneras.
The ties between Sri Lanka Myanmar are solid. Both nations practice Theravada Buddhism as does Thailand whose Prime Minister presently in Sri Lanka declared to the Sri Lankan Parliament the need to tie Buddhism further. From Thailand we have received the upasampada to establish the Siam Nikaya in 1753 with the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters while from Myanmar we have the Amarapura and Ramanna Nikayas – all denoting a very powerful bloc. Together with China’s 1,070,893,447 Buddhist population it is now desirable to create the League of Buddhist Nations under the leadership and patronage of China.
It is evident that the ties that bind Sri Lanka and Myanmar go beyond a 1000 years. With the rise of Asia, the intrusions by forces seeking to destabilize and balkanize Asian nations warrants the Buddhist world to unite and build a force to respond to the threats that arise in both covert and overt forms.
As Myanmar faces a plethora of obstacles it is up to the Buddhists of Sri Lanka to remember the assistance given to Sri Lanka in the past when we were in dire strait following Chola invasions and on several occasions thereafter and we need to now show our gratitude and render assistance to our good friends in Myanmar.
As an initial step the best possible way is to first send a fact finding mission to Myanmar comprising Buddhist laymen and monks so that their findings can quell the lies and fabrications that are being spread by the international news agencies and their local agents that are paid to do so.
Above all else, the Buddhist nations in Asia need to come together to create a formidable force with international clout i.e. League of Buddhist Nations, similar to OIC (Organisation of Islamic Co-operation ) and EU (European Union) and usher in a new phase in international relations by spreading the Buddha’s message of peace and harmony and compassion to all living beings (Ahimsa and Non – Violence) that had enormous influence in this part of the world for over two millennia before it got diluted and suppressed by the destructive tendencies of the colonial west that invaded Asia, Africa and several other parts of the world