The Sinhala (Mahavamsa) Buddhism Revisited - A Response

The Mahavamsa proves that Tamils were an integral part of Sri Lanka's history, whether as an indigenous people, invaders, mercenaries, Kings, Queens, brides, artisans, merchants, ministers, benefactors and priests. It also proves that Lanka was inhabited when Vijaya and his followers arrived.

by Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

(December 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Wilhem Geiger in the introduction to his translation of the original Mahavamsa from Pali to English said, "We must not forget that the Mahavamsa is not a dry chronicle in the modern sense of the word, but a poem. In a poem embellishments and sometimes exaggerations may occur. But within these limits, I have the strong impression and whoever reads the Mahavamsa without prejudice will have the same- that the author at least wished to tell the truth. He is perhaps sometimes misled by his education and by his conviction, on account of his priestly mode of viewing things, but he never tells a falsehood intentionally". Having read Geiger's translation several times, I tend to concur.

Mahanama Thero, was apparently a great scholar and an ardent -probably a little too

Ardent- Buddhist monk. The times he lived in may have influenced his strident beliefs. He lived probably in a period of intense Hindu-Buddhist competition to win adherents and retain those who had converted. Mahavamsa, stripped of its poetic exaggerations and the beliefs that were probably commonplace at that time, is a masterpiece of Lankan history. If not for the Mahavamsa and the earlier Dipavamsa, we Lankans would not have our bearings in the ocean of history. We have to be grateful for his endeavours and respectful of his efforts in times considered 'ancient' by modern historians. However, Ruwan Rajapakse in his 'Concise Mahavamsa' has done injustice to this chronicle by calling it the' History of Buddhism in Sri Lanka". Mahavamsa is not the history of Buddhism, but the history of Lanka, of which Buddhism was an important strand.

The Mahavamsa proves that Tamils were an integral part of Sri Lanka's history, whether as an indigenous people, invaders, mercenaries, Kings, Queens, brides, artisans, merchants, ministers, benefactors and priests. It also proves that Lanka was inhabited when Vijaya and his followers arrived. Kuveni and her tribe were conversant in music and dancing and were biologically compatible for mating with Vijaya and his followers. If not, Kuveni could not have had two children with Vijaya. Kuveni and her tribe are however described as Yakkshayo conversant in magic in the Mahavamsa. The general interpretation today is that the Yakshayo were non-humans or some type of devils. According to the Ramayana, Ravana (Lankeswara) and his people were 'Rakshsas' ( Irrachasar in Tamil), who were also conversant with magic. Kuveni and her tribe may have been the descendants of the Rakshasas. Hela Urumaya now claims that the Sinhalese are the descendants of Kubera and Ravana. The Tamils also consider Ravana one of their kind and a great Siva baktha (worshipper). The Mahavamsa may have inadvertently drawn two strands of beliefs together and underlined our-Sinhala and Tamil- common ancestry.

Mahavamsa also has indicated that Vijaya and his seven hundred followers imported wives from Madurai (Pandya Kingdom) and these maidens were accompanied by several thousand servants and artisans. (Dr. Paranavitharna however tried very hard to prove that the brides and their retinue came from Madura in North India. This was a shameless attempt to bolster the claims of Aryan origin for the Sinhalese). The generation born out of the Vijaya group wedlocks would have been 50% Tamil and the servants and artisans would have by themselves brought forth 50-100 % Tamils. Modern DNA studies confirm that the Sinhalese and Tamils have very similar genetic origins. These studies confirm the Mahavamsa history.

The Mahavamsa also says that after the slaying of King Elara by Prince Dutugemunu, he, " Marched with chariots, troops and beasts for riders, into the capital. In the city, he caused the drum to be beaten, and when he had summoned the people from a yojana around he celebrated the funeral rites for king Elara. On the spot where his body had fallen, he burned it with the catafalque, and there did he build a monument and ordain worship. Ands even to this day the princes of Lanka, when they draw near to this place, are wont to silence their music because of this music." This is definitely an objective rendering of history and the said monument to Elara existed until recent times (I hope this monument is re-built at its original site by the government to remind the present and future generations of the magnanimity and graciousness of King. Dutugemunu). The Mahavamsa also states that after Dutugemunu, " Knew no joy, remembering that thereby (his war with Elara) was wrought the destruction of millions of beings". He also is reported to have told the Arahats visiting him, " How shall there be any comfort for me, O venerable sirs, since by me was caused the slaughter of a great host numbering millions?".

The Arahats are reported to have replied, " From this deed arises no hindrance in thy way to heaven. Only one-half human beings have been slain by thee, O lord of men. The one had come unto the (three0 refuges, the other had taken on himself the five precepts. Unbelievers and men of evil life were the rest, not more to be esteemed than beasts. But as for thee, thou wilt bring glory to the do trine of the Buddha in manifold ways; therefore cast away care from thy heart, O ruler of men!". In reporting this incident a part of Mahanama Thera, the ardent Buddhist monk asserts itself over that part of him which was a historian. Many Muslims of the extremist type (e.g. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda) consider non-believers as 'Infidels' who deserve death, even today. Mahanama Thero the Buddhist Monk and Scholar, exposes his vulnerability to the sentiments and environment prevailing at this point in history- probably a period of intense rivalry between Buddhism and Hinduism.

This incident as reported by Mahanama Thero underscores the attribution of the events of post-independence years by many Tamils to the 'Mahavamsa mindset'. Was Hitler's campaign to annihilate the Jews, Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia, what happened in Rwanda and similar events, which were much larger in scale than the events in Sri Lanka, also the result of the 'Mahavamsa mindset'? These events, which have manifested throughout history, are the result of the ' Blood thirstiness' ( to call it 'Animal', would be an insult to them !) yet lingering in the humankind, and not the result of a ' Mahavamsa or any other mindset'.

Mahanama Thero concludes the chapter on Dutugemunu's victory over Elara by stating," Should a man think on the hosts of human beings murdered for greed in countless myriads, and should he carefully keep in mind the evil arising from that, and should he also very carefully keep in mind the mortality as being the murderer of all, then will he, in this way, shortly win freedom from suffering and a happy condition". At this point in the story, Mahanama the Buddhist philosopher has taken over the narrative.

Related article:- The Sinhala (Mahavamsa) Buddhism Revisited

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