The Social and Political role of the Saṅgha in Lanka
Suren Raghavan [+]
University of Oxford
This chapter examines the history of Buddhism and key texts alongside developments in Lankan history to try to define the nature of of the society of Buddha and to trace some of the strands defining the relationship between the Buddhist movement and political governance through the centuries. In seeking to seek to map the institutionalization of the Buddhist order and the resultant political powers this process created in Lanka, the chapter asks whether early Buddhism outlined and effected an alternative power arrangement to existing modes prevalent at the time. Finally, through detailed analysis, the chapter concludes that the evolution of the self-understanding of the Saṅgha in Lanka went through four major phases: 1. From the Pāli Tripiṭaka teaching to the Mahāvaṃsic outlook (from 300 BCE to 500 CE), 2. from monastic worldview (Lokottara) to social worldview (Laukika) (500 CE to 1700), 3. from a universalistic, open outlook to an ethnic and caste orientation, (1700–1900), and finally 4. from being supporters of political groups and policies to direct political engagement (1900–2010).