Discusses Buddhist identity under British rule-Shanthikumar Hettiarachchi’s Faithing the Native Soil

Dr. Shanthikumar Hettiarachchi

Theosophical Society led by Henry Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, as well as the formation of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association, helped shape an intellectual identity in opposition to the colonially-dominant Christian and English-speaking intellectual elit

Vice Principal Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford In this wide-ranging and detailed discussion of the state of religious and ethnic identities in Sri Lanka, Shanthikumar Hettiarachchi offers an indepth study of the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on the relationships between the overwhelming Buddhist Sinhala majority and the Christian community, which constitutes a mere seven percent or so of the population.

The work, which is based on research undertaken at the Universities of Birmingham in the UK and Melbourne in Australia, develops what is really a very simple problem which is stated in the preface: ‘The religious shaping of Buddhism as “Sinhala Buddhism” on ethnic lines and its quasi tribal approach to the country’s minorities have created a puzzling cultural phobia between the majority and the minorities in the nation’s (recent) history’ (p. xix). The whole book addresses this issue in the context of the development of a particular form of Buddhist identity under British rule and after independence, as well as the distinctive shape that Christianity took because of its association with the linguistic and cultural elite of colonialism.

Read more on The Nation Sunday PDF version.


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