He interacted with the Buddhist monks, scholars, academics and theologians. The Prime Minister has taken a different route to get Sri Lanka on the Indian side this time. This new route is the Buddhist route. The religion born in India travelled to Sri Lanka as early as Ashoka’s period.
The Buddhist sources are important even to study ancient Indian History. The Jatakas are the birth stories of Buddha and the Tripitakas or Three Baskets is a traditional term used for various Buddhist scriptures. These are the authoritative texts in Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism went from India to Sri Lanka and there are several major and minor traditions within Buddhism and the one that is followed in Sri Lanka is the Theravada Buddhism.
The authoritative work on Theravada Buddhism is in Tamil and that is Manimekalai, one of the famous five epics of Tamil literature. This work by Sitalai Chatanar, is a continuation of the Silapadhikaram, where Manimekalai was born to Kovalan and Kannagi. She was chased by the Chola Prince Udayakumaran, but Manimekalai converted to Buddhism and she became a Bhikshuni or a nun in that order. The historical setting of the poem is both Kaveripum Pattinam in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna in Sri Lanka. In terms of affiliation, Manimekalai has no direct reference to Mahayana, but scholars suggest that it is affiliated to the Theravada Buddhism.
Even in the new route (Buddhist) through which India is trying to reach out to Sri Lanka, there is an element of Tamil Buddhism to the whole story of the island nation becoming a Buddhist country. In spite of this Theravada Buddhist tradition and its most authoritative work on that in Tamil, the country could not avoid a civil war. That their Buddhist tradition has Tamil roots is something significant to be highlighted in the present context of Sri Lanka.
It is also to be noted that Buddhism of late has assumed some militant character ,that resulted in the division of the population on religious lines. The inter-faith harmony in Sri Lanka has been affected by Buddhism assuming a tinge of militancy.
- The writer is a political analyst