Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War - Suren Raghavan

Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War - Suren Raghavan

Federalism and Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism

Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War - Suren Raghavan

Suren Raghavan [+-]
University of Oxford
Suren Rāghavan Ph.D. is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Buddhist Studies – Wolfson College University of Oxford and a visiting professor at St Paul University Ottawa- Canada. He turned to academic research after extensive fieldwork in peacebuilding in Sri Lanka during its thirty years of civil war. His multilingual expertise, bi-ethnic background and lifelong studies of Sinhala Buddhist society have provided a rare position for an in-depth and unique analysis of the Sinhalas, the war and especially the historical role of the Mahā Saṅgha, – Buddhist Monks. Rāghavan won the first Asian award for Political Studies from James Madison Trust in 2005. He won the British Government Overseas Research Scholars Award in 2008 and the Swiss Federal Government Scholarship for Minority Studies in 2011. His current research includes the role of religions in post-conflicts democratization, critical religion analysis of Buddhism and textual deconstruction of the Mahāvaṃsa


The previous chapters reconstructed the Sinhala Saṅgha mind-set in order to understand the Saṅgha as key actors within the Lankan polity. We noted how they not only rejected federalism as a solution to the separatist war in Lanka but also interpreted it as a threat undermining Lanka’s unique position as the designated home of Buddhism, just as the war itself threatened the territorial integrity of island. The Saṅgha fought against federalism with the same motives that made them engage in and support military action against the Tamil Tigers. This dynamic remained largely unnoticed by well-meaning Western observers and activists. In this chapter, we will explore the Saṅgha opposition to federalism in detail, but instead of approaching the subject from the point of view of the Saṅgha, the chapter reviews the contents of the federal proposition and the trajectory of the federal debate in Lanka. It concludes with an assessment of the prospects for peace building in Lanka and reasons for past failures, the main point being that it is not that the techniques and methods of peace building need refinement; rather, the entire project of Western-style peace building and federalizing needs a thorough review in light of its unintended and yet very real effects on countries such as Lanka.

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Raghavan, Suren . Federalism and Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism. Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 183-201 Apr 2016. ISBN 9781781795743. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=28067. Date accessed: 25 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.28067. Apr 2016

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