Remembering Anagarika Dharmapala : The Sri Lankan identity must be based on the Sinhala Buddhist identity of Sri Lanka

Anagarika Dharmapala

September 17th marks the 150th birth anniversary of a great son of Sri Lanka. The name of Anagarika Dharmpala should not just be etched in stone and commemorated ceremoniously annually. The people must be aware of all that he stood for and all that he promoted. How many of today’s youth or adult are aware of his contribution to nationalism and Buddhist revival or care to know? How many are aware of the role he played to restore the indigenous Sinhalese culture, unify the Sinhala Buddhist identity and insist that Sri Lanka and Sinhala Buddhism cannot be and should not be separated? An identity crisis prevails as present day leaders have been guilty of preferring to even compromise the identity and ethos of the country to enable their political survival.

Anagarika Dharmapala’s name is etched in history for the impact made towards the nationalist awakening in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist revival movement.

His vision to revive Buddhism was sans selfish political mileage or commercial gains that present day leaders professing to champion Buddhism suffer from.

Anagarika Dharmapala used the publication Sinhala Bauddhaya to rouse the Sinhala Buddhist cause. He used devastating criticisms of the trends of Westernization that holds relevant to present. He led the campaign to remind the Sinhalese to maintain their national and cultural identity, he criticized Western ways with patriotic fervor and to a society under imperialism the impact was resounding.

“With the exception of Buddhism all other religions have been destructive.”

Religions are not the same and can never be the same so long as the tenets or shadow controllers of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity and Islam) are lead by religious leaders who use religion and emotions of people to build and expand their empires of imperial rule benefitting a handful. The dharmic religions of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism lack and are not based on imperial expansion. Broadly speaking this key differentiator sets the 2 religions apart.

The achievements of Anagarika Dharmapala would not be complete without mention of his founding the Mahabodhi Society to revive Buddhism in the land of its birth, devoting his energy to restoring the holy sites in India to its former glory including Buddha Gaya. That the Mahabodhi society was established bringing together Buddhist nations of China, Japan, Thailand,Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Tibet in 1891 under its first President Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayake Thero is poignant in the light of numerous appeals being made but conveniently ignored to establish a League of Buddhist Nations to address the grievances of global Buddhists and derive ways to meet the challenges against Buddhist heritage and Buddhist ethos of majority Buddhist countries and countries battling to preserve Buddhism against Abrahamic imperial initiatives and motives.

What stands out about Anagarika Dharmapala was that he belonged to a wealthy and influential family but gave up continuing his family business to dedicate his life to a cause – the revival of Buddha’s teachings and the restoration of the Sinhala identity of Sri Lanka. We do not have much to say of any of today’s leaders for none have yet remotely come near the qualities that Anagarika Dharmapala or the other nationalists of yesteryears stood for and refused to bow down to when challenged.

His nationalism was against colonial subservience. He advocated the decolonization of native minds. Thus the temperance movement helped inspire national consciousness against colonial domination. Anagarika Dharmapala paved the way for the political awakening of the masses which the English-educated elite eventually borrowed as a slogan for their own political gains. This is proved by a pamphlet published in 1922 in which Anagarika Dharmapala refers to young men of Sri Lanka “what we need in Sri Lanka is a body of men who, with enthusiasm will go forward to awaken the sleeping people of Sri Lanka who are now having a moribund life’. We ask, do any of today’s leaders share such vision realizing the dangers that lurks?

What is the Sinhala Buddhist identity?

We debate about protecting the Sinhala Buddhist identity, but what really is it, can it be protected and who should protect it and why should it be protected? The question is why should a country lay aside a history, heritage, culture and values of over 2600 years for the imposed values, cultures of immigrants that have last just over 450 years? Let today’s politicians realize that in contributing to the declining of the Sinhala Buddhist identity of Sri Lanka, they are taking away and clipping the very wings of the only defense they as politicians have as well as the nation.

The discovery of the Balangoda man has effectively proven that a civilization existed over 38,000 years ago. The Sinhala language and people are found nowhere else in the world making them a distinct community with a unique language, culture, literature, legal structure. There are 14million Sinhalese Buddhists. Sinhalese language is one of the oldest living languages with a history of over 2600 years bearing inscriptions of Brahmi script dating from 600-500BC. The Sinhalese language was named in 1909 as one of the world’s most creative alphabets and s also one of the world’s 16 most current creative alphabets. Are there politicians in Sri Lanka aware of these factors or bothered about sustaining it for progeny?

The partnership of King-Buddhism came following acceptance of Buddhism as the state religion followed by 180 Sinhala Buddhist kings even the Tamil kings that ruled Sri Lanka.

Threats to the Sinhala Buddhist ethos came primarily following the Christian colonial invasions as well as through the Islamic incursions a newer challenge that cannot be ignored. Many Sinhalese shed blood to protect their nation against invaders, many Sinhalese shed blood refusing to convert. That drive has proven more than a challenge in todays scenario with money and remunerations getting the better of one’s conscience.

The failure of the education system under native post-independent rule has been the inability to provide English education as a requirement to compete and be in par with the global community but at the same time to develop a sense of pride, love, passion to protect and serve one’s nation. What we have developed are groups of English educated or people trying to live like the people in the West and some overdoing it as well. These new lot of people have become strangers within their families, among society (except around their own circle) and most of the misfits who find it unbearable to live in Sri Lanka but won’t leave it either!

We do not need to dwelve too much on the covert and overt operations in play to subjugate the nation and part of that plot is to intrinsically remove the association the Sinhala Buddhists have to defend their nation thereby allowing all the cats and dogs to have an open field day. A nation where the people have no sense of desiring to protect its heritage, its culture and its past that links people to its continuity is what will lead to the eventual decline and fall of Sri Lanka.

There is no such thing as a Sri Lankan identity unless it incorporates the founders of that identity. No Sri Lankan identity can be composed under the slogan of multiculturalism by cultures that were not native but imposed or came from invaders and immigrant traders. The embedded foundational culture is what determines the SRILANKAN identity of Sri Lanka and no one can object to this primarily because no country has allowed imposed cultures to determine the identity of that country, no country has allowed immigrants to determine their identity and the current uproar and objections across US, UK and Europe against the damage that multiculturalism and political correctness has done is evidence. It is absolutely beyond comprehension why our leaders are allowing these same mistakes to happen in Sri Lanka when they are well aware of the irreparable problems that political correctness has created abroad. The Press Commission Report of 1964 by Justice K D de Silva on the Catholic Action in the media, its proof shown in the failed military coup are examples that cannot be disregarded. Similarly, the accusations made by minorities on the lack of rights to them cannot be argued against the disproportionate numbers of minority religious structures, religious slogans, religious events and disparities in civil laws that prevail (fee for marriage registration of Buddhists and Muslims cited as a good example) while the arrival of the Pope for the 2nd time to Sri Lanka is less than 20 years is another.

The plain and simple is that the objections come because of the lack of reciprocity for Buddhism in nations where these minority faiths are the majority, where Buddhism is not even accepted as a religion leave alone given to enjoy rights. The argument is not against these minority faiths but the fact that no majority Muslim nations will even entertain a single demand of a Buddhist and the biggest fear told simply is that until and unless Christianity and Islam remove itself from conversion drives where Christian/Islamic Governments allocate funds and use diplomacy, trade and other means to enforce their religion upon non-Abrahmic nations and both India, Sri Lanka and a host of non-Abrahamic nations have become victims of this drive. Are our leaders unable to see these or are they part of the problem that is allowing these incursions to take place because they are been showered personally? Why have we allowed sepoys and lascoreens to be elected as representatives of the people striking horsedeals to sacrifice the nation?

Nevertheless at the end of the day, no Sinhalese Buddhist politician can ever aspire to survive in politics without the Sinhala Buddhist vote, so long as there are Sinhala Buddhists proud enough to protect their heritage. If politicians are allowing compromises even in the sphere of education where Christian and Islamic movements are plotting to manipulate children at the tender age, we have landed ourselves in a very sorry state.

The lack or inability to distinguish and separate from colonial subservience plagues many of today’s leaders who have not learnt from western education to take pride in one’s own but to take pride and foster what is not our own. Let us note that all of yesterday’s national leaders etched in history as standing out as true nationalists were all western educated but had the vision to realize the dangers of giving up Sri Lanka’s Buddhist cultural ethos, values and heritage.

Do we have leaders in our midst of the caliber of Anagarika Dharmpala? Do we have leaders who having seen Buddha Gaya, where over 2600 years ago, Prince Siddhartha spent 6 years to discover the path that ends suffering attained full enlightenment was in a neglected state and vowed to restore it and preserve it for posterity and devoted his whole life for that cause?

It is good to compare what present day leaders have done to foster and preserve the Sinhala Buddhist identity of Sri Lanka apart from a name-sake dysfunctional Article referred to by the Constitution?

Like present day leaders Dharmapala too travelled to all corners of the world, he familiarized himself with technological advances, he too gave lectures and he too debated but unlike present day leaders what stood him apart was that he never compromised the country or the identity that it stood for. He proudly defended Sri Lanka and every advanced technology he learnt overseas he envisioned on how it could be applied for the betterment of Sri Lanka and not the country from where he imported it. Todays, leaders attempt to by behavior and actions simply copy cat what the West does.

It is they who are giving the country away. It is those who have not been grounded by a native heritage and who have no sense of belonging who are ready to compromise a nation’s heritage because they do not know the value of it. It is unfortunate that they while eating the tax payers hard earned money are destroying the nation as well. They would be the first to flee the nation having created the damage and then running away thereafter leaving the same set of people to lay down their lives to save the nation.

Where our present day leaders have erred has been to fool the public. They shout anti-ethnic slogans, anti-religious slogans but they enjoy tea and chats with the very persons they ridicule on stage, Anagarika Dharmapala was different. He moved with the minorities, inspired them to join and gained their respect. Today’s leaders have no respect because they act with no respect.

Anagarika Dharmapala was not scared to call a spade a spade. His association with Col. Henry Steele Olcott led to the Buddhist Theosophical Society being set up and the first Buddhist School Ananda College which led to the establishment of several other Buddhist schools – all of which have been compromised under the banner of multiculturalism by todays selfish politicians. While only minority ethnic schools emerge like mushrooms islandwide (public, private and international) these heritage Buddhist schools have been made open for all faiths.

“Christian governments are making use of the services of missionaries as political scouts [sic]. the Christian capitalists and traders employ them as advance agents of commerce, and the history of missionary operations in asia has yet to be written. for a hundred years Christian missionaries have exploited Buddhist lands, and the children of poor parents have been converted to christianity by offering bribes, and now the attempt is made to convert the poor people by offering them medical aid. It is scandalous and utterly contemptible to sell religion for worldly gain.”

The importance of going back to our roots of the culture and values prior to 1505 and its imposed value systems is the reality that mentally, spiritually we have not developed. The dynamism that continues to plague Western vs Abrahamic Islam agenda is driving the world towards an evil end and we would be naïve to refuse to believe that politico-religious agenda is the key to the rifts taking place. The real masters of world conflicts are found conniving in their chapels.

Today’s western educated local leaders have very little pride in one’s country, many a Sinhalese Buddhist feel shame to refer to themselves as Sinhalese Buddhists, they cringe when they have to defend the nation, the Sinhala race or Buddhism and are afraid to argue or debate and instead  are very happy to join the lines of people waiting to humiliate the Sinhalese and ridicule Buddhism. We have scores of examples of how Buddhism and Sinhalese have been degraded across media. Anagarika Dharmpala too was educated in English, he attended Christian schools even St. Thomas’s College, Mt. Lavinia but he had to wisdom and vision to not denounce his own people and that sets him apart from todays leaders.

His name David Hewavitharana was changed to Anagarika Dharmapala – Anagarika connoted as homeless and Dharmapala as ‘protector of the Dharms’ but tragically this hero was not valued enough and passed away in India as a Bhikkhu (ordained in 1933) by the name of Devamitta at the age of 68. The country owes him much.

Anagarika Dharmapala was a man destined to spur the people of Sri Lanka towards building a deep sense of patriotism, nationalism and service. His destiny should not end and must be continued with the contributions of all the Sinhalese Buddhist men and women of Sri Lanka.

Anagarika Dharmapala’s famous appeal to the Sinhala Buddhists’ in 1926:

Sinhala Buddhists – Wake Up!

A majority race declines because of its own failures

when that happens the minorities take advantage

the minorities become stronger and begin to dictate terms to the majority.

That is what has happened to the Sinhalese Buddhists.


So long as Sinhalese Buddhists continue to divide themselves;

by caste – Govigama, Karawe, Durawe

by location – upcountry, low country

politically by party divisions

And if even the Buddhist clergy are divided by nikaya and sermons

even in marriage…..and Sinhalese Buddhists kept busy with these divisions

will realize too late their fall.


Why do Sinhalese not grow jak fruit but instead grow grass

Why do Sinhalese look to the seas to await flour from the west

Does the Sinhalese not realize that in exchange for their resources they get tuppense?

Dayawati’s have changed their names to Daisy, Piyadasa’s are now Peter,

Look at the Muslims, have they ever taken any other name?
Sinhalese have given up their religion for a piece of meat

Sinhalese are behaving as if they do not have a nation and a heritage and bowing their heads to all.

What has happened to the proud Sinhalese Buddhist history?

What has happened to the Sinhalese Buddhist culture?

What has happened to the Sinhalese Buddhist values?

Have these all not been sold and compromised for a piece of meat?

It is a matter of time that Tamils will say Jaffna is theirs… (predicted in 1926)

It is a matter of time that Muslims will declare Batticoloa as theirs

After that both will say this is a Tamil-Muslim nation (Refer: TNA’s Tamil Speaking People)

Sinhalese Buddhists will have to jump into the sea!






The end of the nation is in sight unless the Sinhalese Buddhists stand together UNDIVIDED

Remember at all times – the decline of the Sinhala Buddhist nation is eminent unless the Sinhalese Buddhists wake up together!


– by Shenali D Waduge