This paper examines the encounter between Protestant missionaries and Buddhists in nineteenth century Sri Lanka as a case study that illustrates the importance of situating twentieth century postcolonial inter-faith tensions against their nineteenth century precedents. The central question within this encounter concerns how Buddhists and Christians in nineteenth century Sri Lanka could reach a point where mutual demonization was deemed acceptable and appropriate. This paper argues that the key to this lies in a clash of cosmologies, codes of conduct and affective frameworks, informed by memory and experience, within the power relationships of imperialism. Using these categories, the paper examines what Buddhists and Protestant missionaries brought to their encounter with each other and then surveys the contours of the encounter throughout the century. It concludes that the Protestant missionaries enlivened within Buddhism, rather than created, a competitive paradigm of inter-religious relationships that continued into the postcolonial period.
L’article analyse la rencontre entre missionnaires protestants et Bouddhistes au dix-neuvième siècle au Sri Lanka, une étude de cas qui souligne la nécessité de resituer les tensions interreligieuses du vingtième siècle par rapport à leurs précédents du dix-neuvième siècle. La question centrale concernant cette rencontre est de comprendre comment les Bouddhistes et les Chrétiens au Sri Lanka du dix-neuvième siècle ont pu en arriver à considérer comme acceptable et opportune leur diabolisation réciproque. Cet article défend l’idée que l’explication doit être trouvée dans la confrontation des cosmologies, des codes de conduite et des cadres affectifs (informés par la mémoire et l’expérience) qui s’est instaurée dans le cadre des rapports de force de l’impérialisme. En recourant à ces catégories, l’article étudie ce que les Bouddhistes et les missionnaires protestants ont investi dans leur rencontre mutuelle, avant d’examiner les contours de cette rencontre tout au long du siècle. Il conclut que les missionnaires protestants ont avivé (plutôt que créé) au sein du Bouddhisme un paradigme de compétition interreligieuse qui a perduré durant la période postcoloniale.
The first comment came from a Buddhist academic in Colombo when speaking, in May 1999, to a ‘Friends for Peace’ group from the British churches.1 The second was said to me by a Buddhist social scientist in 1986, shortly after I had arrived in Sri Lanka, from Britain, to study Buddhism. She was referring to Buddhist-Christian relationships and was drawing on post-structuralist insights into the link between knowledge and power.2 Both express the mistrust towards Christians that marked inter-religious relations in Sri Lanka at the end of the twentieth century. Both, this paper will argue, have roots that go back at least to the nineteenth century.
It is as though there is a cold war between Buddhists and Christians in Sri Lanka at the moment.
Dialogue [inter-religious dialogue] is usually domination. What begins as sharing often results in domination by the most powerful side.
This paper examines the encounter between Protestant missionaries and Buddhists in nineteenth century Sri Lanka, as a case study that illustrates the importance of situating twentieth century postcolonial inter-faith tensions against their nineteenth century precedents. It re-visits and substantially reconfigures a significant element in my research within the last twenty years,3 through seeking both an accurate record of events, and a framework capable of analysing cause, effect and significance.
The central question within this encounter concerns how Buddhists and Christians in nineteenth century Sri Lanka could reach a point where mutual demonization was deemed acceptable and appropriate. Malalgoda was one of the first to demonstrate that Buddhists showed “unexpected hospitality”4 to Christian missionaries as the nineteenth century began and withdrew it as the century progressed. His research implied a linear development among Buddhists from tolerance towards Christianity to confrontation. I built on this data when I first wrote on this topic, arguing that the ‘contempt’ shown by missionaries towards Buddhism was a significant causal factor.5 In this paper, I seek to inject greater complexity into this. I do not dispute that the contemptuous condemnation of Buddhism that accompanied Christian proselytisation was the principal cause of the movement towards mutual demonization. However, I will now argue that it is not enough to point to this alone. The encounter was characterized by a network of interdependent, contextually-determined factors, at the heart of which lay a clash of cosmologies, codes of conduct and affective frameworks, informed by memory and experience, within the power relationships of imperialism. When these are taken into account, the Buddhist response to the missionaries cannot be simplified to a linear development from hospitality to confrontation.
In re-venturing into this research area, I concur with Anne Blackburn that to see Buddhism in nineteenth century Sri Lanka solely through the lens of its relationship with the West and the development of Buddhist Modernism is a form of myopia that ignores the pan-Asian networks Sri Lankan Buddhists engaged with during this time.6 Another form of myopia, however, is to reduce the complexity present in the encounter between Buddhism and the West in this period, through concentrating on key orientalists such as Colonel Olcott and T.W. Rhys Davids to the exclusion of the Protestant missionary encounter with Buddhism, which had an equally important effect both on Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the reception of Buddhism in the West.7 In spite of the research done by Malalgoda, myself, and Young and Somaratna,8 this is frequently overlooked.
I will first survey what Buddhists and Protestant missionaries brought to the encounter, using the above-mentioned categories of memory, experience, cosmology and codes of conduct, placing these within the power relationships of imperialism and the affective frameworks of each religion.9 I will then outline the contours of the encounter, dividing the century into three waves, 1800-1830, 1830-1870, 1870-1900. Lastly, I will reflect on the significance of the encounter to the academic study of Christian mission. Most of my illustrations will be drawn from the Wesleyan Methodist missionaries in Sri Lanka, who arrived in 1814 and whom Malalgoda rightly judged to be, “the most energetic”10 of the non-conformist missionary groups in the country. I will draw particularly on their two English-language journals, The Friend and its successor, The Ceylon Friend. This will not, however, be to the exclusion of the Baptists and the personnel of the Church Missionary Society, two other significant Protestant missionary groups, and the staff of the Diocese of Colombo.11
What the Buddhists Brought to Their Encounter with Christian Missionaries: Memory and Experience of the Portuguese and the Dutch
Britain was the third European power to rule over Sri Lanka, or a part of it. The ‘memory’ of Christianity that Sri Lankan Buddhists brought to their encounter with British missionaries was rooted in the narratives passed down from the Portuguese period (1506-1650s) and the initial decades of the Dutch period (1650s to 1790s). Their ‘experience’ of Christianity was conditioned by the latter part of the Dutch period.12
Portuguese expansionism was informed by mercantile interests.13 Rather than establish administrative bureaucracies, their initial method was to make vassals of indigenous rulers. The first Sri Lankan ‘vassal’ was King Bhuvanekabāhe VII of Kōṭṭe, whose command of Portuguese resources was at first envied. However, after 1540, according to Strathern, the Portuguese presence became more domineering and lawless, leading to a change in imperial method.14 From 1597, for instance, the extensive kingdom of Kōṭṭe came under direct Portuguese rule.15
According to Sri Lankan historian and politician, C.R de Silva, encouraging converts to Roman Catholicism was a Portuguese priority from the outset.16 Strathern suggests that as early as 1522 such converts were visually distinct in Colombo, wearing Portuguese dress and expecting to be free of local law.17 It was not until the 1540s, however, that Portuguese Christian ‘mission’ began in earnest. The Franciscans arrived in 1543 to be followed by Jesuits, Dominicans and Augustinians. I agree with Strathern that the kind of conversion that resulted represented a, “significant conceptual breach” with “the kinds of religious identities possible in Sri Lanka”.18 Sri Lankan Buddhists recognized boundaries between religious systems and the doctrinally non-negotiable.19 The “conceptual breach” came in the extent to which converts moved away from their culture and submitted themselves to another jurisdiction. At the same time, Sri Lanka’s rulers flirted with conversion to Christianity for political advantage. Bhuvanekabāhe VII’s son, Dharmapāla, and the Kings in Kandy, between 1560s and 1580s, converted.20 By the 1630s, according to C.R. de Silva, about “half of the people of the coastal regions of the south west…professed Christianity”.21 Since this area is still dubbed, ‘little Rome’, de Silva is not using hyperbole.
The destruction of Buddhist and Hindu places of worship by the Portuguese occurred after 1560, against the wider context of the Counter Reformation and the first meeting of the Council of Goa in 1567.22 Strathern drawing on Portuguese commentators do Couto and de Queyroz, cites the destruction of Buddhist and Hindu sites at Kälaniya, Trincomalee, Madampe, Rayigama, Negombo and Munneswaram.23
Buddhists, therefore, under the Portuguese, experienced the destruction of sacred buildings, and two types of conversion to Roman Catholicism: of kings, for political reasons; of lay people, who distanced themselves from indigenous culture. In addition, they witnessed, “gradual alienation of royal villages (gabadāgam) to Roman Catholic missionaries and Portuguese settlers.”24 In defence, some Buddhists participated in rebellions against Portugal in the 1590s and early 1600s, which were aided by the then independent kingdoms of Jaffnapatam and Kandy.25 Some contributed to a coded narrative of resistance against Christianity26 and Buddhist scholars, to the development of Buddhist literary output.27 What passed into communal memory was a narrative of an aggressive imperialism that could become a threat to Buddhism, reinforced by the Sinhala historical chronicle, the Rājāvaliya (Line of Kings), which extended to the Portuguese period and charted the internal warfare it generated.28
When Portuguese rule was replaced by Dutch and the Dutch Reformed Church, Buddhists first witnessed a political and religious attack on Roman Catholics,29 some Catholics finding refuge in the still independent Kandyan Kingdom.30 Roman Catholics who remained in the Dutch-controlled areas were ministered to by priests smuggled in from India, particularly Goa, but faced discriminatory laws that prevented them from keeping private or public religious assemblies or giving lodging to Roman Catholic priests.31
Although, at the outset, the Dutch forbade the building of Buddhist vihāras (monasteries where Buddhist monks live and lay people come for devotional and teaching purposes), existing religious buildings were not destroyed. Legislation, however, was eventually enacted that made it mandatory for those in high government service to be baptized. As Young and Somaratne have pointed out, this did not lead to conversion in the normative sense, since Buddhists and Hindus came to see baptism as a civil rather than a religious ceremony.32 Most continued to attend their former places of worship. Generally speaking, this was not, therefore, seen as a threat to Buddhism. Although traditional social patterns were disrupted by the Dutch codification of law and the imposition of European values,33 and although many churches were built, existing Buddhist practices in Sri Lanka, in effect, continued unhindered. Underlying this, as De Silva has rightly argued, was the fact that “religion was a matter of secondary importance to the Dutch”, leading to the Dutch Reformed Church having “limited financial resources” and “a paucity of ministers”.34 Nevertheless, popular encoded narratives that resisted Christianity persisted. Young and Senanayake’s research into a group of folk stories from this period that ridicule Christianity and Saivism is critical here.35 Dubbed the ‘Carpenter Heretic Tales’ by these researchers, the stories represent Jesus as the son of Māra (the personification of evil in Buddhism), and as a meat-eating, alcohol-drinking socialiser with those of low caste.
Worth noting is that, within the independent Kandyan Kingdom at this time, the Buddhist monastic Sangha was undergoing a renewal that flowed into the Dutch-controlled areas. As Blackburn demonstrates, this renewal was characterized by textual learning in Sinhala and Pāli that included the creation of Sinhala commentaries, sūtra sannayas, resulting in a new “textual community” within the monastic Sangha that profoundly influenced the development of Lankan Buddhism.36
The Buddhist monastic Sangha that met the British in the 1790s, therefore, was already undergoing renewal. It was learned, confident and capable of innovation, with access to a wealth of textual material in Pāli and Sinhala. The experience of Christianity that it brought from the last part of the Dutch period suggested that co-existence was possible. Christianity was no threat, however “disreputable” its god seemed to be and co-operation for the common good might was not impossible. At first, this surmise seemed justified. Dutch churches were deserted by ‘civic’ Christians and the British did not prioritize their maintenance.
It was when the missionaries from the new, independent British evangelical missionary societies reached the island that the contours of inter-religious encounter changed for both members of the monastic Sangha and lay people. Dutch predikants served the Vereenidge Oost-Indische Campagnie (Dutch East India Company) and could have no proselytising mission independent of the Dutch administration; not so, these missionaries, whose accountability lay towards their sending committees. When drawn into encounter with them, in addition to their community memory of the Portuguese and their experience of the Dutch, members of the monastic Sangha brought a Theravāda cosmology and morality, which dramatically diverged from the world view of the missionaries, and an affective framework informed by their role as the third of the ti-ratana (the three refuges or jewels), which traditionally cast them as an aesthetically attractive embodiment and defender of the Buddha’s teaching.37
Developed Theravāda Buddhist cosmology, as explained in the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga,38 recognizes six planes of being within the round of birth and rebirth (saṃsāra) that can be further split up into 31 realms: the 26 heavenly realms (which include formless worlds, worlds of pure form and worlds of the five senses); the human realm; the realm of the jealous gods; the realm of the hungry ghosts (petas); the animal realm; the hells. Within this, a human life is precious and difficult to gain, because it offers the best chance for progress towards nibbāna, through eradicating greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha). However, it is not the only chance. Most beings, according to this cosmology, will be reborn numerous times, within different planes, before nibbāna is attained. An exemplary life might lead to a heavenly rebirth, a selfish life, to rebirth as an animal, and a life characterized by moral effort, to another human birth. The determining factor is a person’s volition and action, in line with the Law of Kamma.39 Each being’s existence is, therefore, drawn on a vast canvas. Within this, other religions or religious practices can be affirmed if they help a person’s progress in the short term. No nineteenth century Buddhist monk would have considered Christianity a path that could lead to nibbāna; that was the domain of the Buddha alone. However, few, at first, in line with a trope present from Buddhism’s beginnings, would have denied that the moral teaching of Jesus could lead to a better rebirth and hence to spiritual progress.40
There is a telling example given in the Wesleyan School Report of 1818, concerning a school in ‘Makawitta’ built near a former arrack shop. Buddhists still gathered there to chat and would overhear the children reciting Christian texts. The Report recorded,
Several, it appears, on hearing the Ten Commandments, have publicly declared, whoever kept them would certainly merit a place in the Dewio-loke, or the world where the gods reside.41
Sri Lankan historian, Lorna Devaraja has suggested that an ethic based on values such as this enabled co-existence between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka for centuries before European imperialism.44 In spite of the experience of two colonial powers and in spite of folk stories that ridiculed Jesus, archival evidence suggests that it was an ethic of this kind that allowed Buddhists in Sri Lanka to offer “unexpected” hospitality to the missionaries, and to expect robust discussion about differences and commonalities.45
Brethren, if outsiders should speak against me, or against the Doctrine, or against the Order, you should not on that account either bear malice, or suffer heart-burning, or feel ill-will. If you, on that account, should be angry and hurt, that would stand in the way of your own self-conquest. If, when others speak against us, you feel angry at that, and displeased, would you then be able to judge how far that speech of theirs is well said or ill? …
But when outsiders speak in dispraise of me, or of the Doctrine, or of the Order, you should unravel what is false and point it out as wrong, saying: “For this or that reason this is not the fact, that is not so, such a thing is not found among us, is not in us.”43
Within the Pāli Canon, however, there are also texts that countenance ridicule of the ‘other’. For instance, the Tevijja Sutta narrates a conversation between the Buddha and two Brahman students about achieving a state of union with Brahmā. The Buddha is recorded as honouring his dialogue partners’ beliefs enough not to challenge their belief in Brahmā. However, those who claim to know the path to Brahmā, namely the students’ teachers, are mercilessly ridiculed.46 In the Kevaddha Sutta, however, it is Brahmā himself who is ridiculed through a narrative of a monk who travels to the heavens to ask a question about liberation only to find that Brahmā sends him back to the Buddha for the answer.47
When members of the monastic Sangha conversed with Protestant Christian missionaries, therefore, they were heir to a rich and complex heritage. Doubtlessly, some were aware of the morally deviant picture of Jesus in the ‘Carpenter Heretic’ narratives.48 Most were aware that boundaries could be drawn between religious systems and that some beliefs were the equivalent of heretical. However, they were steeped enough in Buddhist cosmology, the Pāli texts and their monastic role, as embodiments of the Buddha’s teaching, to prefer debate to polemic, and respectful co-existence between religions to competition.
I argued in 2006 that, during the nineteenth century, Buddhists, in fact, showed five “faces” to the British: hospitality and courtesy; a willingness to engage in dialogue about religion and co-operate if mutual benefit was possible; a polite acceptance and tolerance that could mask distrust or even contempt; the wish for reasoned and structured debates to prove the superiority of Buddhism; direct confrontation and opposition.49 I argued that it was the first three that were dominant when British missionaries first arrived and the last two, at the century’s end. I now modify this. The form of ‘dialogue’ that the monastic Sangha initially sought was one that combined affirmation of commonalities and rigorous questioning about truth, within which a privileged place was given to challenging misunderstanding. In addition, I would add another “face”, characterized by skilled, pragmatic decision-making about the best way to survive under imperialism.
What the Early British Missionaries Brought to Their Encounter with Buddhism
When the Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Sri Lanka in 1814, they brought articles of clothing unsuited, ‘to the torrid zone’, according to William Harvard, trustworthy chronicler and member of the early Wesleyan Methodist Mission.50 As cultural preparation, since a teacher of Sinhala or Tamil, “was not to be procured in London”,51 they learnt Portuguese, unaware that English was gaining ascendancy.52 Harvard does not explicitly mention prior study of Buddhism or Hinduism but inferences can be made about the preconceptions they carried. Thomas Coke (1747-1814), the leader of the first group of Methodists, who died on the voyage, was a friend of anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a friend of Sir Alexander Johnston, Chief Justice in Sri Lanka from 1811-1818. It was Wilberforce who suggested to Johnston, in 1809, that a Wesleyan mission could mitigate a dearth of clergy in Sri Lanka.53 According to Harvard, Johnston shared with Wilberforce that, although there were many Sri Lankan Christians, most were “nominal” and the churches neglected, adding that many “nominal” Christians were “idolaters”, even “devil-worshippers”.54 That Harvard could record this suggests that it passed from Wilberforce to Coke and informed missionary expectations.
That Portuguese should be learnt had been impressed upon Coke by Revd Claudius Buchanan, once Vice-Provost of the College of Fort William in Bengal, with whom Coke spoke at depth before he left England.55 Buchanan’s 1812 book, Christian Researches in Asia, indicates what he doubtlessly shared with Coke in addition: that there were about 500,000 Christians on the island;56 that Protestant Churches “under the King’s government” lacked ministers57; that there were but two English clergymen in the whole island and that Protestants were increasingly returning to “idolatry”.58 I believe the Wesleyans carried with them the experience of Johnston and Buchanan, communicated through Coke. They expected their mission, at first, to be predominantly towards “nominal” Christians, who had not left the worship of the “devil”, namely those who had been baptized under the Dutch. They were also aware of British global ascendancy and pictured themselves as just and morally upright in line with the British self-image at this time.59
In addition, a crucial component of what the Wesleyan and indeed other Protestant missionaries brought was their religious cosmology and their missionary code of conduct, moulded by late eighteenth century evangelicalism. Broadly speaking there were two strands to the first: Arminianism; reformed Calvinism.60 Central to both was an exclusivist substitutionary theology of the cross that asserted that only believers could benefit from Christ’s ‘substitution’ for sin. The sin of unbelievers remained unpardoned, the justice of God calling “for punishment and the everlasting flame”.61 For Harvard, this meant, “that to be unsaved by the gospel is to be eternally lost” 62 and, for Robert Spence Hardy, a Wesleyan who arrived in 1825, that, in Sri Lanka, “not a breath is heaved or a word spoken, during the momentary existence of which the doom of some soul is not sealed for ever”.63 For Harvard, Spence Hardy and their compatriots, each individual Sri Lankan was a ‘deathless soul’ condemned to hell for eternity unless they turned to God through Jesus Christ. And there was only one lifetime for this ‘turning’.
This cosmology led to one conclusion: Buddhism must be destroyed. The missionary code of conduct flowed from this, predicated on a combination of a rationality that affirmed the equality of all humans, and an affective response rooted in compassion and the conviction of cultural superiority. To leave ‘idolaters’ alone was sin and, to use an anachronistic term, racist, since it risked denying the humanity of those subject to British rule. So the Wesleyan, Daniel J Gogerly, admitted that he did not think it “altogether wrong” that people in the villages suspected the Christians who visited them, adding, “even us who have no other motive but the love of their souls to cause us to visit them”.64 For the missionary, there could be no co-operation or compromise between Buddhism and Christianity. Printing presses and mission buildings were for Christian use alone.
These well-theorized faces of nineteenth century evangelical mission must be re-stressed if this aspect of Sri Lankan history is to be understood. The shadow side of this compassion, however, was anger and horror at the devotion of the people, which the missionaries could only see as idolatry, “a robbery of heaven” and a “universal slander upon the character of the Deity”.65 Prostrating, bowing with hands together or offering flowers before a Buddha rūpa (image) was idolatry. Even more culpable was the devāle system - ‘Kappoism’ the missionaries called it - which involved worship of the gods.66 And it was this horror, emotively as powerful as compassion, and expressed, for instance, in condemnation of the “native” mind as, “filled with an imagery the most deadly and disgusting”67 that was read by Buddhists as contempt. The majority of missionaries, nevertheless, knew that the philosophy they would meet among learned Buddhists would be sophisticated, demanding a sophisticated response in return.68
With this cosmology and morality, the missionaries expected battle between what they saw as the truth of Christianity and the falsity of Buddhism69 played out on at least three fronts: with nominal Christians still entranced by “devil-worship”; with “pagans” who had never been baptized; with those Christians who criticized proselytisation. Spence Hardy, for instance, used irony to condemn those who fancied, “the universal Parent equally pleased with all descriptions of worship from his erring children”, and who criticized those who, “would disturb the idolaters by attempts to enlighten them”.70
As products of the Evangelical Revival, the missionaries also brought a social conscience prepared to campaign for such things as the education of women, the abolishing of slavery and rājakariya (forced labour for a landlord), and educating children in the vernacular. All these causes, however, came to be viewed through the lens of evangelism. For Spence Hardy, the dearth of female education meant that, “our efforts will be thwarted to bring the mass of the people to a knowledge of the truth”71 and the use of the vernacular was necessary because evangelism must reach, “the seat of the affections”, an impossibility in a foreign language.72
A further element of the context of the encounter between the missionaries and Buddhism was inter-denominational tension. The Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist and CMS personnel usually agreed on missionary method, although discrimination against ‘Dissenters’ in Britain might occasionally have driven a wedge between Wesleyan and Baptist on one hand, and members of the CMS on the other.73 Generally speaking, they worked, by mutual agreement, in different geographical areas with relatively few clashes.74 The Salvation Army, which arrived after 1883, brought new, divisive methods - the adoption of “native dress” by its members, its use of noisy processions, its appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect and its unwillingness to work with any other mission,75 leaving the other missionaries torn between praise and censure.
All of these groups, including the CMS, however, came into conflict with the non-evangelical side of the Church of England. Responses to a questionnaire issued by the Colonial Office to the Archdeacon of Colombo and his clergy in the 1830s indicated that few considered “the conversion of the heathen” their responsibility.76 As K.M. de Silva has documented, this, plus the disparity between government money spent and number of church adherents gained, caused dissatisfaction in London within a more evangelical Colonial Office. The consequence was an increase in sectarian tension in Sri Lanka, as the Colonial Office turned to the Wesleyans and Baptists.77
When the post of Archdeacon was abolished and a Diocese of Colombo created in 1845, the level of inter-denominational tension fluctuated with the theology and management style of each Bishop. The second Bishop, Claughton, who served between 1862 and 1872, could claim that he was, “cultivating a good understanding” with his, “dissenting brethren” and had tried to convince them that the divisions between Christians was a barrier to evangelism.78 Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from declaring several months later that he wished to reach Ratnapura, Badulla and Kurunegala “before the dissenters”.79 His successor, Jermyn, had a similar mindset. In 1873, he exhorted the Headquarters of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) not to publish his plans concerning “an untouched field” to prevent the Wesleyans and Baptists, “opposing forces”, from rushing in.80
Under the leadership of the High Church Reginald Stephen Copleston (1845-1925), who served between 1876 and 1902, there was tension both with the CMS and Dissenters, such as the Wesleyan Methodists.81 During 1891, for instance, The Ceylon Friend criticised the Ceylon Diocesan Gazette for inducing Methodists to move across to the Church of England.82
A second face of intra-religious tension was with the Roman Catholic Church. Although Harvard had Roman Catholic friends and could admit that Roman Catholics were more detached from “pagan” customs than any other significant religious body in the island,83The Friend carried an article in 1838 that condemned Roman Catholicism as “erroneous and idolatrous” because of its “profane tampering with the very elements of devotion”.84 “There is scarcely a heathen practice for which they [Roman Catholics] have not some equivalent, alike in fact, but bearing another name,”85 another article in the same journal, probably by Spence Hardy, declared. For missionaries such as Spence Hardy, the battle against Roman Catholicism was of equal importance to the battle against Buddhism and Hinduism.86 And it was not one-sided. Opposition to Protestant schools came both from Buddhists and from Roman Catholics, particularly in the predominantly Roman Catholic, south-western area of Negombo.87
The Encounter Between Buddhists and Christian Missionaries 1790s–1830
When the cosmologies and codes of conduct of Buddhists and missionaries in Sri Lanka are juxtaposed, against the affective frameworks supporting them, it is not surprising that conflict arose within the power relationships of imperialism. I will first examine the experience of the missionaries and then pass to that of the Buddhists.
Continuing to take the Wesleyan missionaries as example, when the Wesleyan missionaries arrived, they decided to learn Sinhala and Tamil before preaching to the ‘natives’. Their first preaching assignments were in former Dutch churches to those who spoke English, and their first targets were those who claimed baptism under the Dutch. They received help from colonial administrators such as Alexander Johnston, the colonial chaplains, Revd T. J. Twisleton and George Bisset, Sri Lankan local leaders and even the Governor.88 Harvard was almost over-eager, in his account, to stress this patronage, as if to deflect the charge that Wesleyans were ‘dissenters’. The welcome from British administrators was probably tinged with the supervisory. George Bisset visited the new missionaries in Galle as soon as he could. Apparently satisfied with their plans, he offered them a monthly government allowance to teach English in a few of the prominent towns, perhaps wishing to deflect overt proselytisation.89
Wesleyan contact with Sinhala Buddhists who were not linked with former Dutch churches and did not speak English, at this time, was informal. However, after Thomas Squance, a member of the first group of Wesleyans, used an interpreter to preach en-route from Jaffna to Colombo, the group policy changed and interpreters began to be used.90 Preaching and establishing schools then became the Wesleyan missionaries’ principal strategies.
One early source of missionary surprise was the apparent eagerness with which Sinhala Buddhists sought them out. For instance, Harvard reported of Benjamin Clough, another member of the first Wesleyan group, that lay and ordained Buddhists visited the house a local Sinhala administrator had donated to him in Galle, “to enquire respecting the religion he professed”.91 After the decision was taken to use interpreters, crowds came to listen. Elizabeth Harvard recorded of her first journey from Galle to Colombo in 1815 with William that they preached whenever they could find an interpreter and that, “the people were uniformly attentive, and retired in conversation about these new doings, and this new doctrine”.92 Thomas Squance asserted that 2,000 came to hear him preach in an open field93 and that, in the bazaars, people would lay aside their business “to listen with great attention”.94 Thomas Erskine spoke of “multitudes” listening in southern rural villages – he had been placed in Mātara, where the Mahā Mudali (highest-ranking Sinhala official in the colonial administration in a particular area) was sympathetic.95 Similar reports came from CMS missionaries, Robert Mayer claiming to have preached at “Telleegodda” to a hundred intelligent listeners, who asked him to return.96
Something similar happened in the vihāras. In 2006, I quoted Harvard’s words to his parents in 1816, “I have this morning before breakfast, been preaching under the veranda of a Budhist Temple – at the request of the head Priest, upwards of twenty Priests, in their yellow Robes stood in the congregation.”97 However, Harvard omitted important information. The “Head Priest” who permitted him to preach in the Dadalla Temple near Galle was the scholar monk, Ven.Kapugama Dhammakkhandha.98 Dhammakhanda was to become George Nadoris de Silva, a convert to Christianity. Harvard, in fact, had asked him whether he could preach at his vihāra to test his resolve to convert.99 Spence Hardy’s later reference to “the Dadalla Temple” allowing missionaries to preach in an adjoining house and even preparing it for worship was also, possibly, due to this monk’s influence.100
This instance, therefore, cannot serve to illustrate the initial hospitality of the Buddhist Sangha. Other instances can. I would suggest we can trust Wesleyan missionary, Samuel Langdon’s assertion in 1890 that the first Wesleyan school in Kurunegala was “established in a Buddhist Pansala” (monastery or temple), because he writes with such affronted surprise.101 Missionaries travelling around the country were given accommodation at Buddhist vihāras.102 Members of the monastic Sangha gave manuscripts to missionaries wanting to learn Pāli and taught it to them. The writers of the third Wesleyan Mission School Report (1819) declared of the Mātara Station that the schools had experienced little opposition from Buddhists, adding, “for though its professors seem joined to their idols and bigoted in their sentiments, they seem to have imbibed little of the spirit of persecution.”103 Harvard reported a Buddhist monk bringing a relation to be educated at a Wesleyan school near Mātara, although he was destined to be a Buddhist monk 104 and another coming in pomp, in Colombo, with the request that a nephew should be made a Christian.105 In addition, some monks sought to build philosophical bridges. Samuel Lambrick, CMS missionary, reported to his headquarters that he had met a monk, who, “was for an intercommunity of Religions”.106
The missionaries at first neither realised that the curiosity and hospitality they witnessed was unconnected to the wish to convert or to renew church membership nor that some of those who did seek conversion mistakenly believed that baptism was still necessary for government office or to inherit ancestral property.107 They also seemed unaware that interest in education could be driven by a wish for secular advancement, or that some listened out of civic duty, a wish to gain favour with a sympathetic Maha Mudali or to be entertained.108 The conversion of several Buddhist monks in these early years could have given them false hopes of success.109 Euphoria and optimism, however, quickly turned to bafflement, as naiveté died.
Their greatest perplexity arose in connection with religious identity. In 1816, Clough, perhaps forgetting what Johnston told Wilberforce, expressed amazement that Sri Lankans could show no objection to Christianity and yet “be married” to “the priests, the temples and the idols”.110 Harvard retrospectively declared that this became a cause for “deep disappointment” and “despondency”, which, “if it had been indulged, would have unnerved our efforts, and destroyed our peace”.111 By 1865, it could lead to a cynical tirade in the opening paragraphs of Spence Hardy’s history of the Wesleyan Mission about those who defined themselves, “Buddhist Christians” or “Government Christians” in the early years of the century. He accused Buddhists of professing Christianity purely for socio-economic advantage, adding, “The duplicity to which the Singhalese often have to resort, when they wish to conceal their real sentiments, without the mention of other evils, must have a most debasing effect upon their mind.”112
Most missionaries were simply unable to appreciate how different their exclusive Christian cosmology was from Buddhist cosmology, which could accommodate ideas and practices from other religious systems if they were subordinated to the Buddha, although some may have glimpsed it when Buddhists claimed that they had never sinned.113 They, therefore, judged Sri Lankan Buddhists to be indolent, ignorant and deceptive, even when the curiosity of their listeners was being fed by an entirely Buddhist wish to increase their knowledge.
This conversation was not an isolated one. One early reaction of the monastic Sangha when conversation became difficult was to withdraw.115 To judge retrospectively whether these monks expected greater reciprocity is difficult. It is clear that some wished to assert commonalities and were disappointed. Others asked favours from the missionaries in the apparent assumption that the two faiths shared common ground.116 Yet others asked rigorous questions of Christianity. Unless the missionaries had visited a vihāra with the specific wish to learn about Buddhism,117 however, this was not reciprocated and the monks would soon have noticed the asymmetry present, and also the contradictions. In the same letter to his parents, in which he described preaching in a Buddhist vihāra, for instance, Harvard claims both that the missionaries made, “a point to notice and answer even the minutest parts” of the monks’, “objections against Christianity”, and that, in Mātara, on visiting vihāras, the missionaries, “made several of the poor … priests fly to their quarters and silently stand while we exposed to the crowds of deluded natives the fallacy of their superstitious rites”.118
He appears, comparatively, shy of my company, since I told him that our God allowed of no rival – that if our Sacred Book was right, his must be wrong, and his worship of the Budhu sinful and abominable – and that, on the contrary, if he or any of his Sacred Books was in any degree or measure right, ours were all false, and a fabrication from beginning to end.114
When missionaries refused to share their premises and printing presses, dismissed the idea that there were commonalities between the two religions, answered questions haughtily or engaged in aggressive preaching, members of the monastic Sangha responded in a variety of ways. Some simply withdrew to avoid an angry confrontation that would have transgressed their traditional role as embodiments of the Buddha’s teaching, within which anger stands condemned.119 Others actively engaged in argumentative defence of Buddhism, the other side of the Sangha’s traditional role. The Wesleyan School Report for 1817, when describing the Wesleyan school in Pitakotuwa near Mātara, reported that, “The Budhist priests frequently come to this school and argue on religious subjects”. The reason was that the Master of the school had, “selected from the Budhist writers, a variety of anecdotes and histories, illustrating their evil tendency, and their manifest contradictions to one another”.120
Yet others made appeal through petitions. Petitions were widely used at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Wesleyans received them from groups wanting a local school and even from disconcerted pupils.121 Malalgoda was one of the first to research monastic petitions. He placed them in the 1820s but they predated this.122 For instance, at Vesak in 1815, Clough, outside a magistrate’s bungalow close to Kälani Mahā Vihāraya, a Buddhist pilgrimage site near Colombo, refuted ‘transmigration’ whilst preaching on John 3.16.123 According to Clough, when the monks at the Mahā Vihāraya heard that Clough’s audience had invited him to come back, one indicated that he would hold “a public dispute” with Clough, “in the open air, in the presence of the people, to prove that the religion of Budhu was superior to every other religion in the world”.124 When Clough returned, together with Harvard, this monk could not be found. So the missionaries and even a converted Buddhist monk, still wearing orange robes, preached again. After this, Clough wrote, the monks, “drew up a petition, and presented it to his excellency the Governor, stating, how they had been disturbed and abused” by the missionaries.125
Malalgoda’s assessment of these petitions was that they asked for tolerance between religions, and the banning of literature and preaching that could be deemed offensive.126 I have previously argued that this, in effect, pleaded for a co-existence model of inter-religious relations, rooted in respect, that bears similarities to codes of conduct adopted in religiously plural situations in the twentieth century.127 It was this model that the majority of Buddhist monks at the beginning of the nineteenth century hoped for, within the exigencies of imperialism. It did not preclude vigorous debate and could have tolerated conversions based on conviction. What the monks heard from the missionaries, however, was contempt rather than respect.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, explicit opposition to the missionaries was not absent in my first period. Young and Somaratne, drawing on Spence Hardy’s Jubilee Memorials, record a visit of Clough to Kälani Mahā Vihāraya in 1826, when he found that parodies of four Christian handbills had been affixed to trees.128 And in spite of my examples of accommodation, opposition to Christian schools emerged at an early stage - to Wesleyan schools on the southern coast and to CMS schools in Kandy. Harvard and Clough stated in their 1818 School Report that only 30 out of 200 children in Dodanduve attended the Wesleyan school because the “headman” was, “an ignorant and strongly bigoted Buddhist, who has steadily and perseveringly set his face against the institution from the very first”.129 The 1819 School Report could both declare that there had been little, “spirit of persecution” from Buddhists in Mātara,130 and also that the missionary at Galle, “has had to contend against all the prejudices that cappoas [Kapurālas] and Budhists could create, which have operated in secret to very great extent”.131 CMS missionary, Browning, in the early 1820s, reported from Kandy what he called the first instance of monks persuading Buddhists not to send children to Christian schools.132
By the end of my first period, therefore, opposition from Buddhists towards the missionaries was already present. Villagers were becoming restless and members of the monastic Sangha, realising that their hope for respectful co-existence, or at least tolerance, would not be reciprocated, were beginning to retaliate against the negative missionary representation of Buddhism and, in some cases, to undermine missionary schools. I would argue that their communal memory of Portuguese aggression was being superimposed on their experience under the Dutch to produce a contemporary response.
The Second Wave: 1830-1860
By 1830, among the missionaries, optimism and doubt co-existed. Although the Wesleyans could declare in the 1830s that, in Kalutara, “the gates of hell” were trembling because reverence for “idols” was abating,133 there was growing awareness that proselytisation would be slow.134
Among Buddhists, as Young and Somaratna have pointed out, members of the monastic Sangha, in the 1830s, were responding to Christian accusations against Buddhism through writing defensive, reasoned treatises on ola leaves (palm leaves made into strips for writing purposes), which were then taken from village to village.135 Most of these concentrated on correcting missionary misunderstandings about Buddhism. Young and Somaratna, however, cite one that shows common ground could be sought in “defensive tolerance”.136
I examine this period through three developments that convinced Buddhists of the contempt with which Buddhism was held by the missionaries. All can be illustrated through the Wesleyans, Robert Spence Hardy and Daniel Gogerly. The first was the launch of a new English-language missionary journal, The Friend, in 1837, with Spence Hardy as editor. The second was the publication of tracts critical of the British administration’s support of Buddhism or “Idolatry”, most notably by Spence Hardy (1839).137 The third was the emergence of scholar missionaries who used the Pāli or Sinhala Buddhist texts to attack Buddhism, most notably Gogerly.
The Friend gave voice to Spence Hardy’s strident views on British imperialism and the missionary project. In January 1839, for instance, readers – and there would have been some English-educated Buddhists among them - would have read the triumphant editorial assertions that, “the fall of Budhism in this island will probably be its fall throughout the world”138 and that, “the downfall of Budhism is now no longer a doubtful question. Its outworks are tottering to their foundation, and we hope soon to sap the citadel, and rase it to the ground”.139 In June 1841, they read that, although the Sinhalese were gentle on the surface, “In deceit and immorality some of the mildest Singhalese evince a depravity that can only be understood by those who are intimately acquainted with their manner of life.”140
Moving to the second development, Spence Hardy’s target in his 1839 tract on “idolatry” was the British administration rather than Buddhism itself.141 However, it contained the assertion that Buddhism must be destroyed because, “it is opposed to the truth – denies the existence of God – is ignorant of the only way of salvation - by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – and is utterly impotent as a teacher of morals, or as a messenger of peace to the awakened consciences of its deluded votaries.”142 Five years later, he reiterated his argument in The Friend, accusing Sri Lanka’s administrators of culpability in continuing to support Buddhist institutions, thus delaying the crumbling of Buddhism.143
D. J. Gogerly arrived in Sri Lanka in 1818 as a lay person, with an expertise in printing. Ordained in 1823, he stayed in Sri Lanka until his death in 1862.144 He began to learn Pāli and collect Pāli texts in the 1830s when posted to Mātara. I have argued elsewhere, on the evidence of a letter to Jabez Bunting in 1835, that it was a combination of the strength of Buddhism in Mātara, the learning of members of the monastic Sangha there and their opposition to Christianity that he decided to learn Pāli.145 By 1838, he was translating from the Pāli texts, allowing some of them to be published either in The Friend or the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.146
In his reading of the Pāli texts, Gogerly encountered much that confirmed the normative, negative missionary representation of Buddhism at this time. However, one thing that he did not expect to find was the concept of anattā, a word that would now be translated by Buddhists as ‘non-self’.147 The missionary conviction had been that Buddhists believed their souls transmigrated until the annihilation that was nibbāna was reached. Using his perception of the Christian concept of soul as interpretative lens rather than the internal logic of Buddhism, Gogerly represented anattā as the belief that there was no principle that held a person’s lives together, no ‘soul’. Proof to him of Buddhism’s nihilism,148 it became the focus of his first major article on Buddhism, On Transmigration, published in 1838.149 Subsequently, he rested his challenge to Buddhists largely on the implications of anattā since, although he admitted that “the most learned” members of the monastic Sangha in Mātara, when asked, recognised it as correct doctrine, he was convinced that the majority of Buddhists were ignorant of it and would desert Buddhism if they understood it.150
Implicit in Gogerly’s Pāli scholarship was respect for the texts combined with religious and intellectual opposition to their contents. Contempt for Buddhism, however, was not absent from his writings. A Quarterly Letter, dated October 30th 1837, written near Mātara, illustrates this. Gogerly did not intend it to be published in Sri Lanka151 but, at the invitation of Spence Hardy, it appeared in The Friend. It asserted that Buddhism, in spite of its morality and philosophy, rendered the people of Mātara, “earthly, sensual and devilish”, emphasizing fear of “malign demons”. This, together with “ancient prejudices”, “a numerous priesthood”, and “the influence of the Singhalese upper classes”, riveted, “upon them the chains of the Prince of Darkness”. Judging the region to be, “a moral wilderness” and a “citadel of the enemy”, Gogerly then declared that Christian mission must be characterised by “attack”. An attack on those who would “effect a compromise” between Buddhism and Christianity followed. Totally dismissive of those who pointed to similarities between Buddhist and Christian ethics, he declared, “we feel it is our duty to declare that Christianity holds no alliance, direct or indirect, with Budhism”.
A culminating moment in Gogerly’s challenge to Buddhists was 1849 when he published Kristiyāni Prajñapti (The Evidences of Christianity), a Sinhala work of rational apologetics that argued for the truth of Christianity, through a textual attack on Buddhism. Kristiyāni Prajñapti’s significance has been analysed by both Malalgoda, and Young and Somaratne.152 Both argue that it marked a turning point in Buddhist-Christian encounter during this period. Malalgoda stresses that the monastic Sangha recognised and rose to the challenge of its rational textual argument.153 Young and Somaratna emphasize the element of indignation, which galvanised different monastic fraternities to mount a united challenge on, for instance, the trustworthiness of Gogerly’s manuscripts.154
I would wish to add that the controversy over Kristiyāni Prajñapti also illustrates the affective consequences for Buddhists of the betrayal perceived in missionaries such as Spence Hardy and Gogerly. Spence Hardy, in his early years in Sri Lanka, had accepted hospitality and, most probably, manuscripts from Buddhist vihāras.155 Gogerly had been taught Pāli by a Buddhist monk in Mātara, although his name is not known. The writing about Buddhism that resulted from this hospitality sought to undermine Buddhism. Buddhists, therefore, experienced the turning of their own texts and traditions against them, by men whose scholarship they had nurtured. To some members of the Sangha, it would have appeared that the Law of Kamma was being turned on its head, since the fruit of generosity should have been generosity. Instead, the fruit was a representation of Buddhism that amounted to a threat to the dhamma, demanding defence, if the monastic Sangha was to be true to its traditional role.
Some members of the monastic Sangha continued to believe that rational refutation of Christian objections would be enough to neutralize the threat, drawing on the code of ethics present in the Pāli texts and expressed earlier in this period through the ola leaf manuscripts. However, after Buddhists gained printing presses in 1855 and 1862, key revivalists such as Ven. Mohoṭṭivattē Gunānanda began to mirror contempt with contempt, and ridicule with ridicule.
The main characteristic of the middle period, therefore, is that awareness of threat to the dhamma nurtured open and vigorous defence from Buddhists. Opposition to Christianity was no longer ‘silent’ or hidden, a lack of courtesy that could not be owned. The appeal for co-existence retreated, although it never vanished completely. Examples of apparent accommodation of Christianity can still be found, for instance, in an intriguing instance reported by Bishop Claughton in 1863 when “some of the highest chiefs and head men” in Kandy, in conversation with him, allowed, “the almost inevitable spread of Christianity” and accepted it for their children”.156 The missionaries, in general, however, were now encountering a vigorous defence that they recognized, since it was predicated on the paradigm of competition between faiths that their cosmology had prepared them for. By 1870, it had led to three formal Buddhist-Christian debates at Baddegama, Varāgoda and Udanviṭa, coinciding with the emergence of Gunānanda as a flamboyant and controversial Buddhist revivalist.157 Missionary reports, by the 1850s, only rarely spoke of Buddhism becoming weaker.158
The Third Phase 1870-1900
The third phase opened with the now famous debate at Pānaduré in 1873. I will not repeat my previous research here or the research of Young and Somaratna. Important for this study is what the Debate reveals about the stage Buddhist-Christian relations had reached by 1873. At Pānaduré, Mohoṭṭivattē Guṇānanda, the main Buddhist protagonist, using a literalist approach to the Bible and drawing on western freethought thinkers such as Charles Bradlaugh, accused Christians of worshipping a demon-like God. The most significant missionary parallel was not the contribution of Guṇānanda’s debating partner, Revd. David de Silva, who drew on Gogerly’s arguments, but Spence Hardy’s 1863 book, published in Sri Lanka, The Sacred Books of the Buddhists Compared with History and Modern Science, which built on a strand of his writing first apparent in the 1830s.159
Guṇānanda’s argument and Spence Hardy’s book both employed inappropriate comparative tools to demonize and ridicule the ‘other’. Guṇānanda employed a Buddhist cosmology that dealt in the auspicious and the inauspicious to judge the Jewish context of the Bible, against which, for instance, the murder of children at Jesus’ birth suggested the presence of the demonic. Spence Hardy employed the standards of nineteenth century western science to judge traditional Buddhist cosmology, a carrier of religious meaning, against which this cosmology was reduced to imbecility. Given that Spence Hardy’s book is embryonically present in writings that date much earlier, Pānaduré represented the point where Buddhist demonization of Christianity had caught up with Christian demonization of Buddhism, where contempt met contempt.
To view the third phase, however, solely through the lens of this Debate is inadequate. Some Buddhists still listened to and conversed in friendliness with Christian missionaries and Christian converts. Although Buddhists no longer sought out Christians, prompting missionaries to adopt house-to-house visiting, kindness usually greeted them when they visited.160 Conversions to Christianity from the monastic Sangha were treated with caution but still, occasionally, occurred.161 Acceptance among Buddhists that one could attend both a church and a vihāra, however, had largely disappeared.162 Although some Christians, especially newcomers, were optimistic about evangelism,163 most were not.164
In the third phase, the missionaries were confronted with several interlinked phenomena: the growth of positive interest in Buddhism in the West, nurtured by publications such as Edwin Arnold’s 1879 poem, The Light of Asia; a more militant Buddhist revivalism in Sri Lanka allied with British anti-Church freethought movements; the arrival of western theosophists, some of whom were converts from Christianity, to help indigenous revivalists;165 an English-language publication, The Buddhist, through which these theosophists promoted Buddhism, employing the Christian missionaries as foil;166 and the emergence of Sinhala literature that stigmatised Christianity.167 The missionaries were shrewd in their observations of this. They pre-empted Obeyesekere’s term, Protestant Buddhism, by decades through noticing both that Buddhist revivalism drew on missionary methods and that a non-traditional, in their eyes “sham”, Buddhism was emerging.168 For instance, the Wesleyans judged the emergence of The Buddhist as proof of the success of The Ceylon Friend.169 Less welcome, however, was opposition from Christian civil servants such as Sir John Frederick Dickson, who compared Buddhism favourably to Christianity and accused the missionaries of being “of imperfect education”.170
In the face of this, the missionaries placed an even stronger emphasis on Buddhism's nihilism and the prevalence of demon cults on the ground, appropriating to themselves the role of cultural anthropologists.171The Ceylon Friend abounded with references to the vice and wickedness in the Buddhist south of the country.172 At the same time, missionaries were now quick to assert that their attitude to sincere Buddhists was courteous and also that Buddhism contained the praiseworthy.173 Eventually, they mounted a threefold challenge: to the western view that Buddhism in Sri Lanka was pure, rational and scientific;174 to romanticised notions of a ‘picturesque’ Orient promoted, for instance, in H. W. Cave’s guide books;175 to the view of some educated Sinhala Buddhists that their Buddhism was rational and compatible with western science.176
By 1900, considerable mistrust, therefore, existed between Buddhists and both Christian missionaries and the Protestant communities they had founded. In the century that followed, Buddhist-Christian mistrust raised its head numerous times in a direct line from the nineteenth century.177
I have argued that the key to understanding this narrative lies in a clash of cosmologies, codes of conduct and affective frameworks, informed by memory and experience, within the power relationships of imperialism. The British were not the first to demonstrate a contemptuous attitude towards Buddhism. The Portuguese had displayed this three centuries before, the communal memory of which informed the Buddhist response in the nineteenth century.
However, as Perry Schmidt-Leukel has pointed out, rivalry between Buddhism and the religious ‘other’ did not begin in the 16th Century but can be traced back to debate and rivalry with Brahmanism and other groups such as the emergent Jaina tradition, at the time of the historical Buddha.178 Young and Senanayake argue of the Carpenter-Heretic tales that, “the milieu in which the stories of this collection originated was one of adversarial rivalry involving Buddhism and Hinduism”.179
Therefore, although I would maintain that members of the monastic Sangha brought to their initial encounter with the missionaries an aspiration for respectful co-existence based both on pragmatism and their own cosmology, they did not have to look far into their texts and history to find models of rigorous defence, which could include ridicule, when they met the exclusivism of missionary cosmology and the contempt for Buddhism this embodied.
The Protestant missionaries in nineteenth century Sri Lanka, therefore, enlivened within Buddhism, rather than created, a competitive paradigm of inter-religious encounter that continued into the twentieth century.
1) Quoted in E.J. Harris (ed.), Sri Lanka: Making Peace Possible, London: Churches’ Commission on Mission, 1999, p. 29.
2) Quoted in E.J. Harris, Buddhism for a Violent World: A Christian Reflection, London: Epworth, 2010, pp. 130-131.
3) See E.J. Harris: Crisis, Competition and Conversion: the British Encounter with Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka, unpublished doctorate, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 1993; “A Case of Distortion: the Evangelical Missionary Interpretation of Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka”, Dialogue, New Series Vol. XXI, 1994, pp. 19-42; “Crisis and Competition: The Christian Missionary Encounter with Buddhism in the Early 19th Century”, in Ulrich Everding (ed.), Buddhism and Christianity: Interactions between East and West, Colombo: The Goethe Institut, 1995, pp. 9-31; Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, missionary and colonial experience in nineteenth century Sri Lanka, London & New York: Routledge, 2006. The encounter between the missionaries and Buddhism was one element within the first and last of these and the principal element in the second and third.
4) K. Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750-1900, Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press, 1976, p. 200.
5) See E.J. Harris, Crisis, Competition and Conversion…; “A Case of Distortion….”; “Crisis and Competition…”, in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter….p. 189, I argued that the key factor in the changing Buddhist response to Christian missionaries was contempt and quoted the record of a conversation between Bishop Claughton and members of the monastic Sangha in 1863, when Claughton was told that, “nothing had more turned them [the monastic Sangha] against Christianity than finding them treated by marked contempt by its professors” (Bishop Claughton to Rev. E. Hawkins, 13 January 1863). Mention of the “contempt” shown by the missionaries, however, goes back at least to petitions sent in the 1820s (R. Young & G.P.V. Somaratna, Vain Debates….p. 63).
6) A. M. Blackburn, Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 197. This seminal study of the life of revivalist Buddhist monk, Ven Hikkaḍuwē Sumaṅgala (1827-1911), clearly illustrates that the networks surrounding Sri Lankan Buddhism under British imperial power were multivalent and complex.
7) The importance of “Christian influence” is recognised. It was, after all, central to the coining of the term “Protestant Buddhism” by Gananath Obeyesekere in 1970 to describe the modernist movement in Sri Lankan Buddhism that both protested against the Christian missionaries and appropriated features from their practice; see G. Obeyesekere, “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Ceylon, Modern Ceylon Studies, Vol. 1 (1), 1970, pp. 41-63.
8) R.F. Young & G.P.V. Somaratna, Vain Debates: The Buddhist:Christian Controversies in Nineteenth Century Ceylon, Vienna: De Nobili Research Library, 1996.
9) In mentioning the affective I draw on the recent work of Douglas Davies, which stresses the importance of the emotional framework that informs each religion: D. Davies, Emotion, Identity, and Religion: Hope, Reciprocity, and Otherness, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
11) The Wesleyan Methodist missionaries had been preceded by five missionaries from the London Missionary Society (1805) and by missionaries from the Baptist Missionary Society in 1812. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived in 1818.
12) When the Portuguese arrived, Sri Lanka had a plurality of rulers. The Portuguese eventually gained influence over a far larger maritime area than the Dutch. During the period between 1670 and 1796, the Dutch lost control of the coastal area north of Negombo in the West, although they retained the extreme north, and the belt along the south was reduced. See K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981, pp. xvii & xviii. See also S. Arasaratnam, “The Consolidation of Dutch Power in the Maritime Regions 1658-1687” in K.M. de Silva (ed.), The History of Sri Lanka Vol. II (c. 1500 to c. 1800), Peradeniya: University of Peradeniya, 1995, pp. 211-232, here p. 212.
13) A. Strathern, Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land, New Delhi: Cambridge Unversity Press, 2010, p. 1.
15) T.B.H. Abeyasinghe, “Portuguese Rule in Kōṭṭe 1594-1638”, in K.M. de Silva (ed.), The History of Sri Lanka Vol II, pp. 123-137, here p. 126.
16) C. R. de Silva, “Expulsion of the Portuguese from Sri Lanka”, in K.M. de Silva (ed.), The History of Sri Lanka…, pp. 163-181, here p. 178.
18) A. Strathern, Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Sri Lanka…, p. 136; S Kiribamune, “Sri Lankan Art and Architecture during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries” in K.M. de Silva (ed.), The History of Sri Lanka…, pp. 491-530, here p. 492.
19) Pointed out by both A. Strathern, Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Sri Lanka…, p. 135 and E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
23) A. Strathern, Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Sri Lanka…, p 197. Strathern’s Portuguese sources were: De Queyroz, (S.G. Perera transl.), The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, Colombo: Government Printer, 1930; Diogo do Couto, Década Quinta da ‘Asia’, Coimbra, 1936.
25) See T.B.H. Abeyasinghe, “Portuguese Rule in Köṭṭe…”, p. 127-28, where 10 rebellions in 44 years are cited.
26) See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…., p. 192, in which I refer to: M. Roberts, I. Raheem & P. Colin-Thome, People Inbetween: The Burghers and the Middle Class in the Tranformation within Sri Lanka 1790s–1960s, Ratmalana: Sarvodaya Press, 1989, which begins with a late sixteenth century Sinhala folk tale that ridicules the Portuguese, with particular reference to their meat-eating and alcohol consumption.
27) See A. H. Mirando, Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 17thand 18thCenturies, Dehiwela; Tisara Prakasakayo, 1985, p. 84. According to Mirando, this period was not, “lacking in literary works” designed to evoke religious sentiments.
28) See for instance B. Gunasekera (ed.), The Rājāvaliya or A Historical Narrative of the Sinhalese Kings, Colombo: Government Printer, 1954 (reprinted from 1900).
30) See L. S. Dewaraj, “The Kandyan Kingdom and the Nāyakkars 1739-1796” in K. M. de Silva, History of Sri Lanka Vol. II, pp. 281-320, here p. 286-7; A. M. Blackburn, Buddhist Learning and Contextual Practice in Eighteenth Century Lankan Monastic Culture, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 39. The Portuguese priests who fled to Kandy were ejected in 1745.
33) For instance, traditional marriages were judged illegal: marriage had to be solemnised by the Dutch Reformed Church: D.A Kotelawele, “The Administration of Justice under the VOC” in K.M. de Silva (ed.) The History of Sri Lanka Vol II, pp. 356-374, here p. 373.
35) R. Young and G.S.B. Senanayake, The Carpenter Heretic: A Collection of Buddhist Stories about Christianity from 18thCentury Sri Lanka, Colombo: Karunaratne & Sons, 1998.
36) A. Blackburn, Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture, Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001, particularly pp. 107-138.
37) Lay Sri Lankan Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. For analysis of their aesthetic role as embodiment of nibbāna see: S. Collins, “The Body in Theravāda Buddhist Monasticism” in S. Coakley (ed.), Religion and the Body, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 185-204 and J. Samuels, Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010. For their role as defender of Buddhism see, for instance, S. J Tambiah, World Conqueror, World Renouncer, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
38) Theravāda Buddhist cosmology drew from a substratum of ideas within the indic world view of the 5th Century BCE and made this Buddhist, for instance by making each realm both a plane of rebirth and a state of consciousness. See for instance, Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 112-132.
39) ‘Kamma’ in Pāli literally means ‘action’. The Law of Action in Buddhism asserts that every action (and volition is action also) has a consequence. Good action results in good fruit; bad or unwholesome action results in bad fruit.
40) This trope was the ability of Buddhism, as it spread from India, to incorporate religious practices from the cultures it interacted with, through demoting them to the level of the mundane (laukika), making them subservient to the Buddha. For a study of the contemporary incorporation of Sri Lankan exorcism into Buddhism, see B. Kapferer, The Feast of the Sorcerer: Practices of Consciousness and Power, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997. Buddhism’s traditional cosmology was challenged by some late nineteenth and early twentieth century Sri Lankan Buddhist modernists, who wished to present Buddhism as rational, but still remains largely operative.
41) W. Harvard & Benjamin Clough, School Report for 1818 (addressed to the General Committee in London, for the Management of the Wesleyan Missions), Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press, 1818, p. 47.
42) One of the best accounts of this is: R. Gombrich, How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings (2nd Edition), Abingdon & New York: Routledge, 2006.
43) Dīgha Nikāya i 2-3 (T.W. Rhys Davids (transl.), Dialogues of the Buddha Part 1, Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1995, p. 3.)
44) L. S. Dewaraja, The Muslims of Sri Lanka: One thousand years of Ethnic Harmony, Colombo: The Lanka Islamic Foundation, 1994.
45) See, for instance, 2004, Elizabeth J. Harris, “Co-existence, Confrontation and Co-responsibility: Looking at Buddhist models of Inter-religious relations” in Swedish Missiological Themes, Vol. 92, No. 3: 349-70.
48) Young & Somaratna found awareness of sections of the ‘Carpenter Heretic’ narratives in the apologetical works of Ven. Bentara Atthadassī (d. 1865), of Bentota on the southern coast, although it had been notes on Sinhala literature by James d’Alwis that had first alerted Young to the existence of the narratives. See R. Young & G.S.B Senanayake, The Carpenter Heretic…, pp.vii & 6.
50) W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India founded by the Later Rev Thomas Coke under the direction of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference including Notices of Bombay and the superstition of various religious sects of that Presidency and on the Continent of India and with an introductory sketch of the Natural, Civil and Religious History of the Island of Ceylon, London: published for the author, 1823, p. 44. They had brought western clothes!
51) W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 30
52) W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 43.
53) W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, pp. 14-15.
54) W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India …, p. 13-14.
55) “On the subject of India in general, and the peculiarities of an Indian mission in particularly, the Doctor sought information from those who were most conversant with Indian affairs; among whom the name of Dr Buchanan deserves to be particularly mentioned; both on account of his abundant means of rendering assistance to such an undertaking, and his ready willingness to afford his opinion and advice upon points which it was the utmost importance properly to understand, and judiciously to arrange.” W.M. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 22.
56) C. Buchanan, Christian Researches in Asia: with notices on the translations of the Scriptures in the Oriental Languages (5th Edition) London: T.Cadell & W. Davies, 1812, p. 95.
59) See E.J. Harris, Crisis, Competition and Conversion…, pp. 404–419, in which I survey the self-image of British visitors to Sri Lanka between 1796-1830 and their attitudes to Sri Lankan culture.
60) Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was a Dutch Reformed theologian, teacher at the University of Leiden, who preached that salvation was not pre-ordained but was available to all. The Wesleyan Methodists were particularly influenced by him. Reformed Calvinism sought a mean between the teachings of Arminius and a closed view of predestination that would justify inviting people to accept the gospel. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a key British proponent of this. See: E.J. Harris, Crisis, Competition and Conversion…, p. 455-457; D. Bebbington (ed.) with K. Dix & A. Ruston, Protestant Nonconformist Texts Vol. 3: The Nineteenth Century, Aldershot & Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 59-64.
62) W. Harvard (ed.), Memoirs of Mrs Elizabeth Harvard, late of the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon and India with extracts from her diary and correspondence by her husband, 2nd edition, London: printed for author, 1833, p. 23.
64) Daniel Gogerly, Quarterly Letter from “Matura” dated Aug. 21, 1837, pp. 30-31. (From Extracts from Quarterly Letters addressed to the Secretaries of the Wesleyan Missionary Society by Ministers of the South Ceylon District, Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press). The diaries of Elizabeth Harvard illustrate the element of pity or compassion. Of pilgrims at Kälaniya, she wrote, “I felt much to behold on so extensive a scale the darkness of my fellow-creatures, presenting their offerings, and offering their prayers, to idols of human device – to gods that cannot save! To mark their earnestness and devotion was truly affecting. I could but pity and pray for them.” W. Harvard, Memoirs of Mrs Elizabeth Harvard…, p. 88.
66) Kappoism was a distortion of the name of the officiating priests, kapurālas For an account of these systems in Sri Lankan Buddhism that remains informative, see: L. de Silva, Buddhism: beliefs and practices in Sri Lanka, Colombo: Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue, 1974.
67) “Education in the Native Languages”, The Friend, Vol. V (VI), December 1841, pp. 101-109, here p. 107.
68) Learning is usually linked with Buddhist monks in the South e.g. Harvard mentions the “learned priests” of Mātara, when speaking about the missionary task there in 1814: W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 165.
69) See for instance, “Report on Schools”, The Friend, Vol. II, (II), August 1838: 41: “Now heathenism and Christianity are left to grapple with each other in their native strength, and no fear can exist relative to the ultimate result”.
71) “The Central School Commission” (editorial probably by Spence Hardy), The Friend, Vol. VI.(II), August 1842, pp. 21-25, here p. 24. This was a comment on the second report of the Central School Commission for the Instruction of the Population of Ceylon, which covered the period from August 1841-March 1842. Spence Hardy notes that there are only 272 girls in the Government Schools.
72) “Education in the Native Languages”, The Friend, Vol. V, (VI), December 1841, pp. 101-109, here p. 105.
73) Discrimination against Dissenters continued in Britain until the 1830s. Before 1836, for instance, and the Dissenters’ Marriage Act, dissenters had to be married in an Anglican Church.
74) One example of a clash over spheres of influence between the CMS and the Wesleyans came in the early 1860s over spheres of influence between Kalutara and Galle, south from Colombo. Bishop Claughton mediates by meeting Spence Hardy and the area remains in CMS hands. See Claughton to Hawkins, 12 October 1863 (SPG Archives). C Wijesingha, the first Asian Wesleyan missionary, complained in 1841 that the Baptists were in danger of encroaching on a Wesleyan sphere of influence in Dondra. He wrote, “My opinion is that there is room enough in Ceylon without Missionaries differing so much as the Wesleyans and the Baptists interfering with each other’s sphere of labour” but he adds, “However, so far as they ‘preach Christ’ not in the way of ‘contention,’ but so that sinners may ‘obtain salvation,’ I do most heartily wish them, ‘God-speed’.” (C Wijesingha, Extracts from Quarterly Letters, July 26, 1841: p. 290).
75) See for instance, “The Salvation Army in Ceylon”, The Ceylon Friend, October 15 1889, pp. 543-547.
76) Letter to Mr Stephen, 18 August 1840, unsigned, Ecclesiastical State of Ceylon 1837-1840, CO54/195 (Duplicates of Dispatches, Colonial Office Archives, UK).
77) K.M. de Silva, Social Policy and Missionary Organizations in Ceylon 1840-1855, London: Longman & Green & Co., 1965, discussed in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 40-41.
81) For clashes with the CMS, see E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 125-126.
82) References were made to this in The Ceylon Friend between January and November 1891. See for example: “Editorial Notes”, January 1891, p. 203; “Editorial Notes”, April 1891, pp. 222-23; “Editorial Notes”, July 1891, p. 282; “Clerical Intolerance”, November 1891, p. 376.
83) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. lxvii.
86) Spence Hardy is harder on Roman Catholic monasticism than Buddhist in: R. Spence Hardy, Eastern Monachism: An Account of the Origin, Laws, Discipline, Sacred Writings, Mysterious Rites, Religious Ceremonies and Present Circumstances of the Order of Mendicants Founded by Gotama Budha, London: Partridge and Oakley, 1853.
87) W. B. Fox, School Report for 1819 (addressed to the General Committee in London, for the Management of the Wesleyan Missions), Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press, 1819, p. 25, where it is reported that four schools have been destroyed by Roman Catholics.
88) See W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 254 where Harvard and Clough were even invited to the Governor’s house for an evening.
89) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 152.
90) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, pp. 223-242.
91) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 171.
93) T. Squance, “Extract of a Letter from Mr Squance to his Sister and Friends, communicated by Mr Dermott, Point de Galle, Island of Ceylon, July 29, 1815”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, 1816, pp. 153-5, here, p. 1816, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
94) T. Squance, “ Extract of Two Letters from Mr Squance to Mr Woolmer. Point de Galle, Ceylon, Oct. 20, 1815”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, 1816, pp. 277-78, here p. 278, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
95) G. Erskine, “From Mr Erskine to the Missionary Committee, Point de Galle, Oct 7, 1816”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XL, 1817. pp. 197-98, here p. 197, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
96) R. Mayor, “Extracts from the Journal of Rev Robert Mayer” in Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society 1818-1819, London, pp. 340-4, here p. 342, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
97) Extract of a letter from W.M. Harvard to his parents, dated Point de Galle, July (?) 8th 1816 (Methodist Church House Archives, now at School of African and Oriental Studies, London), quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
98) After re-ordination in Burma, he began a movement that eventually embraced 60 affiliated temples and 350 monks. See R. Young and G. P.V. Somaratne, Vain Debates…, pp. 55-56. See also K. Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society…, p. 102-3. See also “George Nadoris, Late Modliar of the Maha Badda” The Friend, Vol VII (II), May 1844, pp. 201-207.
99) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to India and Ceylon…, p. 270.
100) R. Spence Hardy, The Jubilee Memorials of the Wesleyan Mission, South Ceylon, Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press, 1864, p. 37.
101) S Langdon, “Visits to Mission Stations No VII”, The Ceylon Friend, October 1890, pp. 114-16, in which Langdon writes, “The first school was established in a Buddhist Pansala (priest’s residence, where he is supposed to teach the young), of all places in the world. Under these singular conditions the school was begun at the invitation of the priest, who urged as reason, “the wandering character of his own system.” (p. 114).
102) Malalgoda, for instance, quotes Spence Hardy commenting on the fact that he always found a welcome, as a young missionary, in “the pansal” (Buddhist monastery), although he was from another religion: K. Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society…, pp. 211-12, quoting R. Spence Hardy, Eastern Monachism …., p. 312-13.
105) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to India and Ceylon…, p. 280.
106) CMS Report 1819-20, p. 192-3, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 196. See also James Selkirk, CMS missionary, who recorded a monk telling him, in 1827, “that English people worshipped Jesus Christ, and that Singhalese worshipped the Budha, that they were both good religions, and would both take those who professed them to heaven at last”: J Selkirk, Recollections of Ceylon after a Residence of Nearly Thirteen Years with a Account of The Church Missionary’s Society Operations in the Island and Extracts from a Journal, London: J. Hatchard & Sons, 1844, p. 379, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 379.
W. Harvard & B. Clough, School Report for, 1817…, p. 31.
107) Robert Spence Hardy claims that some still believed this in the 1860s. See R. Spence Hardy, The Jubilee Memorials of the Wesleyan Mission…, p. 37.
108) For instance, Thomas Squance was upbraided and advised to exercise caution by his own colleagues in 1816 for his “loud manner” that was, “at once a hindrance to his usefulness – and a slow but certain method of shortening his days”: District Minute Book of the Wesleyan Mission in South Ceylon 1816-1830: p. 28 (handwritten. Methodist Church Headquarters, Colombo).
110) Benjamin Clough, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, 1816, p. 399, quoted in my unpublished thesis, E.J. Harris, Crisis, Competition and Conversion…, p. 586.
111) W. Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to India and Ceylon…, p. 299.
113) Sri Lankans interpreted this as never having broken to their knowledge the Five Precepts. See: J. Selkirk, Recollections of Ceylon after a Residence of Nearly Thirteen Years…, p. 352, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 198, where Selkirk reports of 1830 that the people become angry when told they are sinners; Quarterly Letter from John Shipstone, writing from Galle in May 1871, when he records speaking to a villager who claims he has never sinned and will never be induced to change his religion; The Ceylon Friend, November 1890, p. 133, where a indigenous minister records trying to convince an “intelligent” Buddhist who claimed he was not a sinner that all men had sinned.
114) CMS Report 1819-1820, pp. 192-3, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 196.
115) For example, see “Mr Erskine to the Missionary Committee, Point de Galle, Oct. 7, 1816” in Methodist Magazine, Vol. XL, 1817, p. 198, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 196; J. Selkirk, Recollections of Ceylon…, p. 469, quoted in unpublished thesis, E.J. Harris, Crisis, Competition and Conversion…, p. 589.
117) See for instance B. Clough, “Extract from a letter from Clough, to Mr Buckley, Point de Galle, 112 Feb 1816”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, October 1816, p. 398, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 21, in which Clough claims he and Harvard have spent much of their time, “in conversation, in a quiet way, with the most learned priests we could meet with”.
119) Verse 133 of the Dhammapada, one of the most popular canonical texts in Sri Lanka, reads, “Do not say anything harsh to anyone. Those spoken to would answer back. For arrogant talk is painful. Retaliation (s) would assail you” (K.R. Norman transl. The Word of the Doctrine (Dhammapada), Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1997, p. 20).
121) For instance, W. Harvard & B. Clough, School Report for 1817 reported a petition for a school coming from “Galkisse” (Mount Lavinia) and one from pupils in Colombo, when a schoolmaster was to be moved, pp. 5-7.
123) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (New Revised Standard Version).
124) Benjamin Clough, “Extract of a Letter from Clough to Mr John Barber, Dated Colombo Aug. 30, 1815”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, p. 196-7, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 197.
125) B. Clough, “Extract of a Letter from Clough to Mr John Barber, Dated Colombo Aug. 30, 1815”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, p. 196-7, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 197.
127) See E.J. Harris, “Co-existence, Confrontation and Co-responsibility: Looking at Buddhist models of Inter-religious relations”, Swedish Missiological Themes, Vol. 92 (3), 2004, pp 349-70.
133) District Minute Book for South Ceylon 1831-71, pp. 15-16 (Methodist Headquarters, Colombo, handwritten).
134) See for instance, “The Progress of the Gospel”, The Friend, Vol.VI (V), November 1842, in which the Editor (Spence Hardy?) realizes that the christianization of Sri Lanka will not be in his lifetime: “The associations of more than two thousand years have to be overcome; the gloom of many generations has to be penetrated; a religion has to be swept away, that numbers more followers than the cross, that is powerful from its mysteriousness, and that has its locality not in forms or customs the absurdity of which might be exposed, but in the deep recesses of man’s imagination, where it has chambers of refuge without end.”
136) R. Young & G.P.V, Somaratna, Vain Debates…, pp. 71-2. See also E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 199.
137) R. Spence Hardy, The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon, Colombo: Wesleyan Mission Press, 1838; B. Boake, A Brief Account of the Origin and Nature of the Connexion between the British Government and the Idolatrous Systems of Religion Prevalent in the Island of Ceylon and of the Extent to Which that Connexion Still Exists, Colombo: Ceylon Times Office, 1855. See also R. Spence Hardy, “The Government of Ceylon and Idolatry”, The Friend, Vol. VII (XVI), pp. 301-9.
141) For example through issuing warrants of appointment for key Buddhist leaders, stipending Buddhist priests, keeping the key of the room in which the tooth relic was housed and paying the expenses of “a ceremony which consists of invocation by a demon priest” (R. Spence Hardy, The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon…, p. 38). His accusation was that such support implied “approbation in the sight of the natives” (R. Spence Hardy, The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon…, p. 44) and failed to fulfil God’s providential purpose in making Britain the first nation in the world, namely to, “better effect the great work of the world’s conversion” (p. 9).
144) For 24 out of his 44 years in the country, he was Superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in South Ceylon, the predominantly Buddhist part. He did not return to Europe during this time. His letters to Britain show that he wanted to but the exigencies of his position prevented it. See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 62-63 and E.J. Harris, “Manipulating Meaning: Daniel John Gogerly’s Nineteenth Century Translations of the Theravāda Texts”, Buddhist Studies Review, Vol. 27 (2), 2010, pp 177-195, here p. 179-80.
145) See E.J. Harris, Manipulating Meaning…, p, 180. He wrote to Jabez Bunting that Matara was “the place where Buddhism most flourishes… It is indeed the stronghold of Buddhism”. Of the monastic Sangha, he said- “they are regarded as ranking with the most learned of their profession”. He adds, “It is sufficient that their influence is combined against Christianity.” (Letter from Gogerly to Jabez Bunting dated 19 February 1835, MMS Archives, Ceylon Correspondence 3, Box 447, file 1835-1836).
146) The first translation he allowed to be published was from the Jātaka in The Friend, Vol. I (XIII), June 1838, continuing in the following issue. See E.J. Harris, Manipulating Meaning…, particularly pp. 182-3 for a fuller list of the translations that he published and an examination of the objectives behind his selection.
147) The doctrine of anattā in Buddhism asserts that there is no unchanging or eternal substratum within the human person. Personhood is not denied but it is an ever-changing phenomenon. For modern accounts of this see: S. Collins, Selfless Persons, Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982; S. Hamilton, Identity and Experience: The Constitution of a Human Being According to Early Buddhism, London: Luzac Oriental, 1996.
148) That nibbāna was an annihilation of the human being had been present in missionary writings for many decades before Gogerly’s scholarship. Francis Buchanan, writing on Burmese Buddhism in Asiatick Researches in 1799, contests the missionary viewpoint that nibbāna is annihilation (Elizabeth J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 18-19). Urs App traces the European conviction that Buddhists revere ‘nothingness’ to the encounter between Jesuit missionaries and Japanese Buddhism in the 16th Century: Urs App, The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy, Kyoto: UniversityMedia, 2012.
149) D.J. Gogerly, “On Transmigration”, The Friend, Vol II (III), September 1838, pp, 41-8; Vol.II (IV), October 1838, pp. 61-9; Vol II (V), November 1838, pp. 85-94.
150) See for instance, Editorial in The Friend, Vol. V (I), July 1841, p. 30, in which Spence Hardy, with reference to Gogerly, claimed that, “when once the system promulgated by Buddha is properly known, its influence as a religious system will rapidly decline…”
154) R. Young & G.P.V. Somaratna, Vain Debates…, pp. 88-89. See also E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 199.
155) Spence Hardy was able to read before the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in February 1848, a list of 467 books available in Sinhala, Pāli and Sanskrit. See R. Spence Hardy, “List of Books in the Páli and Sinhalese Language”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Ceylon Branch, Vol. I (3), 1847-1848, pp. 198-208, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 64.
156) Bishop Claughton to Hawkins, 8 July 1863, CLR 29, SPG Archives. Claughton can also boast of preaching to a thousand attentive people, Sinhala and Tamil, in 1867 ( Claughton to Bullock, 1 November 1867, CLR 29, SPG Archives).
158) See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 199, although I also found two CMS reports that implied Buddhism was becoming weaker: CMS Report 1852-1853, pp 137-8; CMS Report 1856–1857, p. 149.
159) In 1839, he had published a rebuttal of the Ceylon Almanac that used some of the same arguments (See R. Young & G.P.V. Somaratna, Vain Debates…, pp. 68-69). He used similar arguments in: “Knowledge as Connected with Native Conversion”, The Friend, Vol. IV (III), September 1840, pp. 53-60 & Vol. IV (IV), October 1840, pp. 61-63, which argues that Buddhists should be challenged not on their history but on “the principal personages connected with the origin of their religion” (p. 57), their geography, their astronomy and their science.
161) See for instance, in the “Notes”: “a very interesting and we believe genuine conversion of an intelligent Buddhist priest”, The Ceylon Friend, September 15, 1888.
162) A.E. Buultjens, a Burgher convert to Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the first Sri Lankan editor of The Buddhist could provocatively declare, equating being Sinhalese with being Buddhist, “I do not conceive it as within the bounds of possibility for any sensible man to own the name of Sinhalese and Christian at one and the same time” (“A Lecture by A.E. Buultjens to the Dharmadaya Buddhist Society of Kalutara”, The Buddhist, Vol. II, 1890, p. 121.)
163) See Jermyn to Bullock, 26 February 1873, in which he refers to the area inland of Tangalle as having, “nothing but dead Buddhism to overcome” (Pascoe and Selected Letters, Ceylon, SPG Archives) In a letter on 22 November 1873 in the same archival collection, he suggests that, with more resources, the whole Buddhist population could be converted in a generation.
164) See for instance, “Colombo District Report”, The Ceylon Friend, May 1888, pp. 487-490, in which the writer laments the length of time that must elapse before, “the whole heathen population of Ceylon shall before the feet of Jesus”.
165) The theosophist involvement began when Colonel Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky arrived in Sri Lanka in 1880 to aid the Buddhist struggle against Christian missionaries. Others followed, well into the twentieth century, for instance Charles Powell, Bowles Daly, Kate Pickett, Charles William Leadbeater, Marie Museaus Higgins, Sarah English, Elizabeth Preston and Frank Lee Woodward.
166) See The Ceylon Friend, November 1889, p. 99 in which The Buddhist is described as “Colonel Olcott’s organ” and accused of “vulgar abuse” against missionaries. Among the theosophists who had once been Christians was C.W. Leadbeater, who left the Anglican priesthood for theosophy.
167) See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…., pp. 205-6, in which I draw on Amunagama’s study of the novels of Piyadasa Sirisena: S. Amunagama, “Ideology and Class Interest in one of Piyadasa Sirisena’s novels. The New Image of the “Sinhala Buddhist Nationalist” in M. Roberts (ed.), Collective Identities Revisited, Vol. I, Colombo: Marga Institute, 1997, pp. 335-353.
168) See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 201. For reference to ‘sham’ Buddhism see: The Ceylon Friend, November 1889, p. 99.
170) J.F. Dickson, “Ceylon”, The English Illustrated Magazine, October 1889, pp. 16-25, here p. 25, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 1 & pp. 117-124. See also The Ceylon Friend, November 1889, p. 98, in which the editor criticises Dickson’s article: “There will very soon be no room left for Christian Missions, if Missionaries are to avoid Mohammedanism on account of its purity, and Buddhism on account of its veritable antiquity”. For a survey of Dickson’s representation of Buddhism, see E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 117-124.
172) See for instance: “Local News”, The Ceylon Friend, May 1885, p. 64, when “the abounding wickedness” of Uva is referred to; A Triggs, “A Missionary Tour in the Galle District”, The Ceylon Friend, June 1890, pp. 34-38, when he refer to a village where, “vice and wretchedness” is stamped on peoples’ features.
174) An example I have used before is Wesleyan missionary, Thomas Moscrop’s 1894 speech in Birmingham, when he declared of sympathizers with Buddhism, “but they do not know what we know, that nine tenths of the Buddhist temples in Colombo have their demon shrines, covered by the same roof and allowed of the priests, even that of the Buddhist High Priest himself - shrines with dark recesses containing demon-images which call forth the deepest awe and worship of the people”, T. Moscrop, “Christianity and Buddhism in Southern Ceylon”, Monthly Literary Register, New Series, No. 12, December 1894, pp. 285-7, here, p. 286, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 108.
175) For instance, H. Cave, Picturesque Ceylon: Kandy and Peradeniya, London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1894; The Ruined Cities of Ceylon, London: Hutchinson and Co., 1907.
176) See for instance, J. Murdoch, Buddha and his Religion, India: Christian Vernacular Education Society, 1887, which was written particularly for educated Sinhala Buddhists.
177) See E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 208-212, where several instances of mistrust are cited, including the boycott of the visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1995 by some members of the monastic Sangha.
178) See, Perry Schmidt-Leukel, “Buddhist-Hindu Relations” in Perry Schmidt-Leukel (ed.), Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, St Ottilien: EOS, 2008, pp. 143-171.
See, for instance 2004Elizabeth J. Harris, “Co-existence, Confrontation and Co-responsibility: Looking at Buddhist models of Inter-religious relations” in Swedish Missiological Themes, Vol. 92, No. 3: 349-70.
See for instance“Report on Schools”The FriendVol. II, (II), August 1838: 41: “Now heathenism and Christianity are left to grapple with each other in their native strength, and no fear can exist relative to the ultimate result”.
Letter to Mr Stephen, 18 August 1840unsigned, Ecclesiastical State of Ceylon 1837-1840, CO54/195 (Duplicates of Dispatches, Colonial Office Archives, UK).
See W. HarvardA Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India…, p. 254 where Harvard and Clough were even invited to the Governor’s house for an evening.
T. Squance“Extract of a Letter from Mr Squance to his Sister and Friends, communicated by Mr Dermott, Point de Galle, Island of Ceylon, July 29, 1815”Methodist MagazineVol. XXXIX, 1816, pp. 153-5, here, p. 1816, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
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, T. Squance “Extract of a Letter from Mr Squance to his Sister and Friends, communicated by Mr Dermott, Point de Galle, Island of Ceylon, July 29, 1815”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, 1816, pp. 153-5, here, p. 1816, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
T. Squance“ Extract of Two Letters from Mr Squance to Mr Woolmer. Point de Galle, Ceylon, Oct. 20, 1815”Methodist MagazineVol. XXXIX, 1816, pp. 277-78, here p. 278, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
G. Erskine“From Mr Erskine to the Missionary Committee, Point de Galle, Oct 7, 1816”Methodist MagazineVol. XL, 1817. pp. 197-98, here p. 197, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
R. Mayor“Extracts from the Journal of Rev Robert Mayer” in Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society 1818-1819, London, pp. 340-4, here p. 342, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 192.
S Langdon“Visits to Mission Stations No VII”The Ceylon FriendOctober 1890, pp. 114-16, in which Langdon writes, “The first school was established in a Buddhist Pansala (priest’s residence, where he is supposed to teach the young), of all places in the world. Under these singular conditions the school was begun at the invitation of the priest, who urged as reason, “the wandering character of his own system.” (p. 114).
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, S Langdon “Visits to Mission Stations No VII”, The Ceylon Friend, October 1890, pp. 114-16, in which Langdon writes, “The first school was established in a Buddhist Pansala (priest’s residence, where he is supposed to teach the young), of all places in the world. Under these singular conditions the school was begun at the invitation of the priest, who urged as reason, “the wandering character of his own system.” (p. 114).
See for instance B. Clough“Extract from a letter from Clough, to Mr Buckley, Point de Galle, 112 Feb 1816”Methodist MagazineVol. XXXIX, October 1816, p. 398, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 21, in which Clough claims he and Harvard have spent much of their time, “in conversation, in a quiet way, with the most learned priests we could meet with”.
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See for instance)| false , B. Clough “Extract from a letter from Clough, to Mr Buckley, Point de Galle, 112 Feb 1816”, Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIX, October 1816, p. 398, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 21, in which Clough claims he and Harvard have spent much of their time, “in conversation, in a quiet way, with the most learned priests we could meet with”.
Benjamin Clough“Extract of a Letter from Clough to Mr John Barber, Dated Colombo Aug. 30, 1815”Methodist MagazineVol. XXXIX, p. 196-7, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 197.
B. Clough“Extract of a Letter from Clough to Mr John Barber, Dated Colombo Aug. 30, 1815”Methodist MagazineVol. XXXIX, p. 196-7, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 197.
See E.J. Harris“Co-existence, Confrontation and Co-responsibility: Looking at Buddhist models of Inter-religious relations”Swedish Missiological ThemesVol. 92 (3), 2004, pp 349-70.
See for instance“The Progress of the Gospel”The FriendVol.VI (V), November 1842, in which the Editor (Spence Hardy?) realizes that the christianization of Sri Lanka will not be in his lifetime: “The associations of more than two thousand years have to be overcome; the gloom of many generations has to be penetrated; a religion has to be swept away, that numbers more followers than the cross, that is powerful from its mysteriousness, and that has its locality not in forms or customs the absurdity of which might be exposed, but in the deep recesses of man’s imagination, where it has chambers of refuge without end.”
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See)| false , for instance “The Progress of the Gospel”, The Friend, Vol.VI (V), November 1842, in which the Editor (Spence Hardy?) realizes that the christianization of Sri Lanka will not be in his lifetime: “The associations of more than two thousand years have to be overcome; the gloom of many generations has to be penetrated; a religion has to be swept away, that numbers more followers than the cross, that is powerful from its mysteriousness, and that has its locality not in forms or customs the absurdity of which might be exposed, but in the deep recesses of man’s imagination, where it has chambers of refuge without end.”
D.J. Gogerly“On Transmigration”The FriendVol II (III), September 1838, pp, 41-8; Vol.II (IV), October 1838, pp. 61-9; Vol II (V), November 1838, pp. 85-94.
See E.J. HarrisTheravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 199, although I also found two CMS reports that implied Buddhism was becoming weaker: CMS Report 1852-1853, pp 137-8; CMS Report 1856–1857, p. 149.
In 1839he had published a rebuttal of the Ceylon Almanac that used some of the same arguments (See R. Young & G.P.V. Somaratna, Vain Debates…, pp. 68-69). He used similar arguments in: “Knowledge as Connected with Native Conversion”, The Friend, Vol. IV (III), September 1840, pp. 53-60 & Vol. IV (IV), October 1840, pp. 61-63, which argues that Buddhists should be challenged not on their history but on “the principal personages connected with the origin of their religion” (p. 57), their geography, their astronomy and their science.
See for instance“Colombo District Report”The Ceylon FriendMay 1888, pp. 487-490, in which the writer laments the length of time that must elapse before, “the whole heathen population of Ceylon shall before the feet of Jesus”.
J.F. Dickson“Ceylon”The English Illustrated MagazineOctober 1889, pp. 16-25, here p. 25, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 1 & pp. 117-124. See also The Ceylon Friend, November 1889, p. 98, in which the editor criticises Dickson’s article: “There will very soon be no room left for Christian Missions, if Missionaries are to avoid Mohammedanism on account of its purity, and Buddhism on account of its veritable antiquity”. For a survey of Dickson’s representation of Buddhism, see E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 117-124.
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, J.F. Dickson “Ceylon”, The English Illustrated Magazine, October 1889, pp. 16-25, here p. 25, quoted in E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, p. 1 & pp. 117-124. See also The Ceylon Friend, November 1889, p. 98, in which the editor criticises Dickson’s article: “There will very soon be no room left for Christian Missions, if Missionaries are to avoid Mohammedanism on account of its purity, and Buddhism on account of its veritable antiquity”. For a survey of Dickson’s representation of Buddhism, see E.J. Harris, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 117-124.
See E.J. HarrisTheravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter…, pp. 208-212, where several instances of mistrust are cited, including the boycott of the visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1995 by some members of the monastic Sangha.