Living Fountains Home PageNext Section
V – Venerable Aggamahāpaṇḍita Ambalangoḍa Polwatte Śrī Buddhadatta Mahānāyaka Thera (1887–1962)
1. Unique Background and Early Start
To be admitted to Aggārāmaya in Polwatte, Ambalangoḍa at the tender age of twelve years as a sāmaṇera under Venerable Ambalangoḍa Dhammādhāra Rājaguru Mahāthera was undoubtedly the best start that a future Buddhist and Pali scholar could ever wish for. Aggārāmaya in 1899 was not only a renowned seat of learning in south Sri Lanka but a veritable meeting place of the best of scholarly traditions of both Sri Lanka and Burma.
The credit for elevating this temple to such a stature goes to Venerable Mirisse Dhammānanda Mahānāyaka Thera (1799–1876). Belonging to the Kalyāṇivaṁsa Sect, founded in 1810 by Ven. Kataluwe Guṇaratana Tissa, Ven. Dhammānanda, too, was ordained at the famous Kalyāṇi-sīmā in Burma. Becoming the Mahānāyaka Thera of this Sect in succession to the founder, he forged very close links with the Saṅgha in Burma. While his relations with Burma enabled him to keep abreast of the scholarly developments there, specially in the field of Abhidhamma, his principal teacher – a lay savant popularly known as “Weeragule Gurunnānse” – brought to him the singular benefits of the eighteenth century Buddhist [iilx] renaissance in which His Holiness Weliwita Piṇḍapātika Śrī Saraṇaṅkara Saṅgharāja was the leading inspiration and animator. Three lay savants, namely Kapugama Gurunnānse, Walpola Gurunnānse and Weeragule Gurunnānse – all of whom disciples of the Saṅgharāja – played a pre-eminent role in the reawakening of Buddhist studies in maritime Sri Lanka. Though no works of Ven. Dhammānanda are known, the fact that his scholarship was highly rated by his contemporaries is borne out by his being specially invited by Iddamalgoḍa Basnāyaka Nilame in 1865 to participate in the revision of the Tripiṭaka at Pelmaḍulla. See Polwatte Buddhadatta: Samīpātītayehi Bauddhācāryayō, pp. 86 - 87 for the invitation of Iddamalgoḍa Basnāyaka Nilame dated 18 June 1865. It gives detailed information on how the revision of the Tripiṭaka was organized.
Ven. Dhammādhāra (1858–1936), the preceptor of young Sāmaṇera Buddhadatta, inherited from his teacher Ven. Mirisse Dhammānanda a deep interest in Buddhist studies in Burma. By 1890 Ven. Dhammādhāra had proceeded to Calcutta and thence to Burma. In 1895 he was honoured by the Mahārāja of a Princely State in Western Burma with the title of Mahārājaguru (literally, the great royal teacher). One of the earliest Buddhist monks to co-operate with Anagārika Dharmapāla in his efforts to re-establish Buddhism in India, Ven. Dhammādhāra was also a close associate of Rabindranath Tagore and served as the first Professor of Buddhism and Pali in Viśvabhārati, Śāntiniketan. Recording his grateful appreciation of the five years of service (1917–1922) rendered to Viśvabhārati, Tagore spoke of Ven. Dhammādhāra’s profound erudition in Tripiṭaka, specially the Abhidharma Piṭaka, and his exemplary life-style founded on the principles of Buddhist discipline. It was Tagore’s assessment that any University would be proud to have Ven. Dhammādhāra on its staff. But he lost the opportunity of being recruited as Professor of Pali of the University of Calcutta on account of a misunderstanding and it was Anagārika Dharmapāla’s view that an injustice was done to Ven. Dhammādhāra. Though he led the latter part of his life in Aggārāmaya, he continued to enjoy, as many letters show, the recognition of many a contemporary scholar in India and Sri Lanka. Scholars like Nityānanda [lxiii] Vinoda Goswāmi, Professor of Pali and Sanskrit of Viśvabhārati, Śāntiniketan, came to Sri Lanka to study Abhidhamma under his guidance.
It was under such an accomplished teacher that Ven. Buddhadatta took to robes in 1899. It was with him that the Sāmaṇera Buddhadatta at the age of fifteen years went to Burma to pursue his studies. By 1908 (that is, when he was barely 21 years old) he had already published in Burma a Pali Primer in Burmese called Pālibhāsappavesinī – First Step in Pali Conversation and an edition of Abhidhānappadīpikā with meanings in Burmese and English (possibly based on the work of Ven. Waskaḍuwe Śrī Subhūti) and prepared an edition of the Pali work, Buddhaghosuppatti with the Burmese word-to-word translation. By the time, Ven. Buddhadatta had begun to correspond with Dr. (Mrs.) Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids, he had published several more books in Sri Lanka, including a number of short religious tracts.
Ven. Buddhadatta remains the best documented of the scholar-monks discussed in this Volume. As early as 1915, Mrs. Rhys Davids had this introductory note published with Ven. Buddhadatta’s edition of Abhidhammāvatāra and Rūpārūpavibhāga – two manuals by his name-sake:–
This is the second time that the Pali Text Society is indebted to Buddhadatta Unnānsē for the editio princeps – absolutely princeps – of two leading Pali classical manuals of the Middle Ages on Abhidhamma. His edition of Anuruddha’s Nāmarūpapariccheda appeared in the Journal 1913–14. Young in years and unblessed, alas! with robust health, he has already a considerable list of published works in his credit. At my request he has supplied us with a few autobiographical notes.
He was born in 1887 at Polwatta, a suburb of Ambalangoḍa in Ceylon, signifying Coconut Grove. His family name is Karāva or Kaurava, and he is the youngest of four, three brothers and a sister, now orphans. At five years old he went to the local native school; after six years he attended the English school for a twelve-month. In 1899, while only twelve years old, he entered the Order, at the local vihāra of Aggārāma, under Siri Dhammādhāra [lxiv] Rājaguru and Mahā-thera, and became a Sāmaṇera, or novice. His teacher had lived many years in India and Burma, where under King Thebaw he had been appointed a “Royal Preceptor” (rājaguru). Under this Thera the boy for the next three years studied Pali.
Thereupon began his Wanderjahre, namely, by a journey with his teacher to Burma. There for two years he dwelt in a suburb of Moulmein, at the Ārāma (monastic court or garden) of Suvaṇṇa-maṇivijjota-ratana-simā, and under another Mahā-thera, Sāgarañāṇa, studied Burmese and Abhidhamma (philosophy). He mastered, committing them also to memory, the following works: Abhidhānappadīpikā, Bālāvatāra, Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha, Published by this Society (P.T.S.) in the Journal, 1884, and in an English translation as Compendium of Philosophy, 1910. Dhātumañjūsā, Nāmamālā, the Dhammapada, and the grammars Kaccāyanavyākaraṇaṁ and Subodhālaṅkāra. He carried off prizes at examinations, breaking previous records in so doing.
But his health suffered from the climate, and he had to return to Ceylon. Two years later, in 1907, he returned to Moulmein, and under both his former Burmese teacher and also Vijayārāmādhipati Paññāsami Mahāthera, he continued to study philosophy with such success that, in 1909, at the “First Government Examination” – I use his words – The only Singhalese out of 600 candidates, the rest being Burmese, he passed first. The subjects were Pali language and grammar, philosophy, Burmese language and prosody. The following year he passed the intermediate examination (majjhima-pantiya), again winning a prize. While in Burma he further made a beginning as author, publishing an Anglo-Burmese edition of the Abhidhānappadīpikā, and a Pali-Burmese First Steps in Pali Conversation. He also prepared an edition of the Buddhaghosuppatti, with a Burmese commentary.
In 1911 his health again compelled him to return to the Aggārāma of Ambalangoḍa, where he has since resided. During this time he has written or edited and published the following pamphlets and books: A Singhalese Commentary on the [lxv] Abhidhamma-mātikā, a Singhalese Edition of the First Steps in Pali Conversation, Ātmadriṣṭichedāni. Buddhaguṇādi-dipanī, Dharmāvavādamañjarī, Pamāvīma yutuda, Satyadarśanaya, Visuddhimagga (a new edition).
The Unnānsē is at present engaged in revising and collating for us, when time and health permit, a transliteration, from the Burmese printed edition, of Buddhaghosa’s Commentary on the Vibhaṅga: the Sammoha-Vinodanī, made from the Burmese printed edition by Miss A. M. Dibben, who has also prepared the Index for the present work...
We sincerely wish him permanently improved health, and a continuance of the good will to lend the work of this Society the benefit of his aid.
Ven. Buddhadatta himself wrote a comprehensive autobiography up to his sixty-seventh birthday in 1954, culminating in the award of the prestigious title of “Aggamahāpaṇḍita” by the Government of Burma. Polwatte Buddhadatta: Śrī Buddhadatta-Caritaya (ශ්රී බුද්ධදත්ත-චරිතය) Colombo 1954. In 450 Demy octavo pages, he gave a complete account of his life, enriching it with a bibliography of his major works as well as minor writings and a sample of the letters he had received from foreign scholars and dignitaries. In 1965, Ven. Bambarende Siri Sīvali Thera compiled a commemorative volume in which contemporary scholars appraised and appreciated the services rendered to Buddhist studies by Ven. Buddhadatta. Bambarende Siri Sivali: Śrī Buddhadatta (ශ්රී බුද්ධදත්ත). Colombo 1965. Many letters from foreign scholars, including the Sinhala translation of a letter which Thomas W. Rhys Davids had written to Ven. Buddhadatta on 9 November 1911, are reproduced in this volume.
Although there is no dearth of information on the fifty-four year literary career of this uniquely productive scholar-monk, the letters of Dr. (Mrs.) Rhys Davids published in this volume provide a running commentary on his evolution from an eager but inexperienced young monk to the renowned savant who earned fame and recognition through the dint of incessant hard work. To this [lxvi] commentary must be added the fitting epilogue, which Mrs. Rhys Davids’ successor as President of the Pali Text Society – Dr. (Miss.) B. Horner – wrote in 1962:–
This erudite Thera spent the major part of his 75 years of life in making a large number of important and solid contributions to the field of oriental studies. He learnt Pali when he was a novice and soon became deeply versed in it. Here I wish to commemorate the 50 years he was associated with the Pali Text Society by calling to mind the various works he so carefully and reliably transcribed and edited, and which it was a privilege for the Society to publish. His zest for literary work was matched by his high standard of scholarship. He never slurred over a problem or took an easy way out; on the contrary, he sought every possible means to achieve, among all the pitfalls of Pali literature, nothing but the best.
I do not know how he and Mrs. Rhys Davids, who was then the Hon., Secretary of the Pali Text Society, first became acquainted. They must have corresponded from at least about 1912 until she died in 1942; but they never met. I believe he filed and kept all her letters to him. Their correspondence began in Pali as the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta did not then know English, and it was not till later, when he had learnt this language that he wrote in it. On Mrs. Rhys David’s death the Ven. Thera kindly wrote to me, and henceforth I enjoyed the pleasure of corresponding with him for the rest of his life – a pleasure that was much enhanced by meeting him now and again, usually at Aggārāma, during my visits to Ceylon.
The first work he edited for the Pali Text Society was the Nāmarūpapariccheda, an Abhidhamma treatise by Anuruddha Thera of S. India, written in 1855 stanzas divided into 13 chapters. This is one of the nine so-called Let-than or Little-finger Manuals. The Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta’s edition was published in the Society’s Journal for 1913–1914 with his Introduction in Pali.
This was followed in 1915 by more Little-finger Manuals: the Abhidhammāvatāra and the Rūpārūpavibhāga, both by Buddhadatta Thera of India, the former being considerably longer than [lxvii] the latter. Again, the Ven. Buddhadatta wrote the combined Introduction to both these Abhidhamma treatises in Pali. In her Introductory Note Mrs. Rhys Davids gives a few biographical details he sent to her at her request. They make very interesting reading, and might well be consulted by anyone writing about the early part of his life, including his first few visits to Burma, “Young in years, and unblessed, alas! with robust health” she then wishes him “permanently improved health” – a wish that seems to some large extent to have been fulfilled, if one may judge by the dynamic energy which infused his working life no less than his power to surmount such handicaps as his intermittent eye trouble.
In 1927 were published two more important works, also by Buddhadatta of India. These are the Vinayavinicchaya and its supplement, the Uttaravinicchaya. As their titles show they are Vinaya and not Abhidhamma treatises or summaries. There was also another change, for by now the editor was able to write his Introduction in English which, as he says, “is intelligible to many more” than is Pali. Publication of these treatises had been delayed for ten years by the P.T.S., but had been preceded, in 1923, by the Ven. Thera’s edition of the Vibhaṅga Commentary, named the Sammohavinodanī, a huge work of some 520 pages, The Introduction is in English and is short.
There then followed another lengthy Commentary, that on the Mahāniddesa and the Cullaniddesa, entitled Saddhammapajjotikā, published in three volumes in 1931, 1939, 1941. In volume II the editor frankly admits that, in volume I, he “made a mistake about the author of this work”, for he had there discussed the date of Upatissa instead of that of Upasena, “the author of this work”, which he then proceeds to do. Nevertheless his remarks about the former are “not useless... because the Elder Upatissa was a noteworthy person, being the author of the Vimuttimagga”. In a review in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr. W. Stede said “the editing of the work and the insertion of cross-reference are done in a scholarly manner.” [lxviii]
In 1955 a work of a different nature was published by the Society: the English-Pali Dictionary in Roman characters throughout, compiled by the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta. This is of interest and usefulness to scholars and students. I well remember how glad I was to have a large batch of proofs with me on a protracted voyage from Rangoon to Colombo which included lying off Akyab for five days, and how, with an English Dictionary to hand, I read these proofs for several hours daily.
Next, an edition of the Mohavicchedani, written by the Ven. Kassapa of S. India, appeared is 1961. This is a Commentary on all the mātikās of the seven Abhidhamma texts. Although, as our venerable editor says, “the Burmese tradition has included this work in the list of Little-finger Manuals, this is not at all a manual. It might be called a “Summary of the Abhidhamma Commentary”; even that is not justifiable as the work deals only with the Mātikās.” The Ven. Thera transcribed into Roman characters the whole of this very lengthy work from a Burmese Ms. which he afterwards collated with a Cambodian Ms. This second revision helped him “to correct a good many corrupt readings and fill in a number of gaps”. Always unassuming and grateful, he was glad to receive editorial help from Dr. A. K. Warder, and between them they produced a book that has brought an added lustre to the Society. Moreover, one could not but rejoice with the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta when he said at the beginning of his Introduction; “The completion of this edition of the Mohavicchedani is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. It is the fulfilment of a desire I cherished since 1908”. It was in that year while he was spending some months in Rangoon that he first came on an old Ms. entitled Mohavicchedani. But it was not till he was in Burma again in 1958, attending to the editorial work of the Piṭakas for the Sixth Buddhist Convocation, that he was able to devote his leisure to completing the transliteration of over 500 pages. This seems to me a very remarkable achievement.
The following year, 1962, the P. T. S. had the pleasure of publishing yet another work edited by this valued editor. The Jinakālamāli, apparently well known in Thailand, was written in [lxix] 1516 A.C. by a Thai Elder named Ratanapañña who lived at Chieng Mai in Upper Thailand. It is a historical rather than a religious treatise and, as the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta says in his Introduction, is “one of the few Pali works dealing with international affairs of Buddhism”. It is indeed concerned with the history of Buddhism in Ceylon and Thailand, has a certain amount to say about Burma, and describes some of the religious intercourse that took place between Ceylon and Thailand. There are also other interesting features in this work. I am pleased to say that a translation into English is in the course of preparation, and I feel sure the Ven. Buddhadatta would have been pleased too.
Finally, the Pali Text Society has a transcript of Paramatthavinicchaya that the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta made and sent to me two or three years ago for publication. But as his editions of the Mohavicchedani and the Jinakālamāli were both in the press this last work had to wait. It is however being prepared now for the printers. Being included among the nine Little-finger Manuals, it too is an Abhidhamma treatise and, like Nāmarūpapariccheda, was compiled by Anuruddha Thera. Though we look forward to the appearance of this work, it is naturally a matter for profound regret that the revered and indefatigable transcriber will not be with us to receive the congratulations of his friends and admirers on the fruits of his labours, all done for love.
As may perhaps be judged even from the above short description of the varied, usually lengthy and always valuable works, he spared no pains to transcribe and edit as authentically as possible for the Pali Text Society; the extent that the loss of this resolute worker has dealt to Pali studies will be realized all the more clearly. But his noteworthy contributions will remain of the utmost value for years to come. The Society is proud of its long and happy connexion with a scholar of the calibre of the Ven. A. P. Buddhadatta Mahāthera. May he be a lasting inspiration to others!
2. Ven. Buddhadatta as I knew him
Of the galaxy of remarkable personalities discussed in this Volume, the only one I had the privilege of knowing personally was Ven. Ambalangoḍa Polwatte Buddhadatta Mahānāyaka Thera. [lxx] My first contact with him was in 1945 when I prepared a key to the exercises of his “New Pali Course Part I”, while I was still a student in the University Entrance class of Dharmarāja College, Kandy. Within a few weeks he returned the manuscript with a number of corrections and permission to publish it. Although it was not published due to a variety of reasons, our correspondence pertaining to it served as an adequate introduction when I first met him in the Home Ministry in 1954 in my capacity as the General Secretary of the Lanka Bauddha Mandalaya. Appointed by the Prime Minister, Right Honourable J. L. Kotelāwala, as a member of the Saṅgha Sabhā of the Maṇḍalaya, Ven. Buddhadatta was elected as the Chairman of the Committee for Buddhist Literature with Ven. Kosgoda Dhammavaṁsa Nāyaka Thera as Secretary.
It is hardly necessary to state that Ven. Buddhadatta was an indefatigable worker. During the two-year period when I was in charge of the implementation of the programmes of the various committees to celebrate the 2500 Buddha Jayanti, several projects of Ven. Buddhadatta were accomplished. Among them, two were particularly important. The first was the publication of a special edition of Jinakālamāli, a history of Buddhism written in Pali in Thailand and hitherto unknown in Sri Lanka in spite of the fact that it shed much light on the history of Buddhism of Sri Lanka. Ven. Buddhadatta prepared not only the text but also translated it into Sinhala. The second was the compilation of a catalogue of palm-leaf manuscripts in the temples of Sri Lanka. The project itself was initiated and executed by K. D. Somadāsa, then an Assistant Librarian of the University of Ceylon (later its Chief Librarian) and now a Research Officer of the British Library in London. But the co-operation of monks who had the manuscripts in their custody could not be obtained until Ven. Buddhadatta undertook the onerous task of writing an explanatory letter to each one of them. It was on one of my visits to Polwatte with Somadāsa in connection with these letters that Ven. Buddhadatta showed me his writing desk which was more a lectern than a table. To ensure that he remained alert for long hours at a stretch, he wrote standing! “Vidyāturānaṁ na sukhaṁ na ṇidrā,” A couplet from Pratyaśataka meaning: “Neither comfort nor sleep to those afflicted with (thirst for) knowledge”. he said. [lxxi]
In April, 1956, we were in Rangoon together. He was the leader of the Sri Lankan team of scholars, selected by the Government, to assist in the revision of the Tripiṭaka (Sixth Synod or Council) – a major undertaking of the Burmese Government of U Nu to celebrate 2500 Buddha Jayanti. I was in the Government delegation led by Honourable Jayaweera Kuruppu, Minister of Local Government and Cultural Affairs to the inauguration of the Sri Lanka Session of the Synod. Ven. Buddhadatta addressed the august gathering in Burmese. That he was held in high esteem by both the Saṅgha and the lay dignitaries of Burma was very clear. His leadership in all matters relating to Pali and Buddhist scholarship was accepted without question. On many occasions, knotty points on the text of the Tripiṭaka were referred to him for final decision. I recall an instance when the venerable lay scholar, Saya Nyan – a Sinhala turned Burmese – who was responsible for the printing of the revised text of the Tripiṭaka would not approve the “proof” of a certain text until Ven. Buddhadatta was consulted. Ven. Welivitiye Sorata Nāyaka Thera, who was the Chairman of the Lanka Bauddha Mandalaya’s Tripiṭaka Translation Committee, also showed an equally high deference to Ven. Buddhadatta’s competence in matters of textual criticism.
These personal experiences confirmed the very favourable impression 1 had formed of him during my all too brief period of Pali studies in the University. I had read several of his contributions to the University Review and seen – not read – the texts he had edited for the Pali Text Society. I was particularly interested in his criticism of Geiger’s translation of the Sri Lankan chronicles. But I hardly knew of his similar contributions in correcting mistakes which Western Orientalists were apt to make due to their lack of direct experience or, as Fausböll said, due to their being far away “from the living fountains of Buddhism”. Ven. Buddhadatta spotted no less than ninety errors in the translation of the Vinaya Piṭaka by Miss. I. B. Horner and the reputed Buddhist scholar E. J. Thomas, too, acknowledged the value of Ven. Buddhadatta’s [lxxii] meticulous scrutiny. He went through every book or article he read with a fine-tooth comb and he would spare nobody. Gunapala Malalasekera, Ven. Welivitiye Sorata Nāyaka Thera and many other well-known scholars of his day were subjected to his unsparing criticism. But he was admired and respected by them all. I remember how the leading Theras of Vidyodaya University, who had often been subject to his scathing attacks on many academic and ecclesiastical matters, unanimously resolved that he should be among the first to receive an honorary degree from the newly founded Buddhist University.
An incident which revealed to me his indomitable character needs to be mentioned even though without details. The Buddhist Literature Committee of which he was Chairman had approved the publication of a book by a lay writer on Abhidhamma. The Committee took the decision on the basis of a recommendation made by a learned Mahāthera. After the decision was conveyed to the author but before the publication of the book, Ven. Buddhadatta wanted it to be reviewed further and he, himself, went through the entire text. The verdict was against its publication and for over three years every possible pressure was exerted on him and he simply would not yield. It was this fearless adherence to principles and his determination to see his undertakings fully accomplished that brought him the leadership in scholarly assemblies and projects, in Saṅgha organizations agitating for social justice and, finally, in the Kalyāṇivaṁsa Sect of which he remains the best informed historian.
My personal knowledge of Ven. Buddhadatta has gone a long way in my attempts to visualize how the other great scholar-monks, discussed in this Volume, could have gone about with their religious and scholarly pursuits. Quite often as I read some of the letters addressed to Ven. Waskaḍuwe Śrī Subhūti, Ven. Weligama Śrī Sumangala, or Ven. Alutgama Seelakkhandha, my mind would wander to several memorable occasions when I had been in Ven. Buddhadatta’s company in his temple, and in meetings in Government offices and I would begin to see parallels as though all “living fountains of Buddhism” harked back imperceptibly but truly to their common origin in a deep-rooted culture. [lxxiii]
3. The End of a Golden Era
I began this Introduction with the statement that the period reflected by the letters published in this volume was a veritable Golden Age in Oriental and Buddhist scholarship. It would be more correct to say that the period represented by the scholar-monks, hitherto discussed, constitutes that memorable era. Almost around the time Ven. Buddhadatta passed away, the unique position which Oriental scholarship, in general, and Pali and Buddhist studies, in particular, held in Sri Lanka and abroad had begun to undergo a major change. It looks as if they lost their lustre all too suddenly in the glare of economically more attractive disciplines. It is true that Universities – specially the older ones – continue to have their Chairs in Pali and Sanskrit and, sometimes, Buddhist Philosophy. In Sri Lanka, the State encouragement to these studies has been given in recent years through a variety of institution-building efforts and major research undertakings. Yet two main indices – the number of students specializing in these subjects in Universities and traditional seats of similar standing and the number of research publications of high merit – show a decline in spite of the efforts of many a devoted worker.
In the Sri Lankan scene, the last two decades have witnessed the passing away of the great stalwarts, of both the Saṅgha and the laity. The contemporaries of Ven. Buddhadatta, whose names occur in the letters published in this Volume or in his autobiography, are either dead or are too old and sick to continue their contribution.
The rise of a new generation of scholars alone can save the situation. This should happen while there are still an ample number of scholars capable of transmitting the tradition. A decade or two would be too late. If the world is to continue to look towards Sri Lanka for “living fountains of Buddhism”, no effort should be spared now to arrest the fast-approaching deterioration of Pali and Buddhist studies and to rekindle once again in the young and fertile minds of the coming generation that light of inspiration and dedication which enabled the unassuming hermit-like scholars of our recent past to be remembered by us with affectionate admiration. [lxxiv]
To strengthen this plea from another point of view, I would quote from a lecture by James d‘Alwis, which Rhys Davids published in the Journal of the Pali Text Society in 1883:–
“There are, indeed, good grounds for believing that Buddhism will, at no very distant period, disappear from this Island... A powerful means by which Buddhism is failing in the stand it had originally made in this Island is the discouragement which is offered to the native Pundits... The priesthood, from want of adherents to their faith, are more occupied with secular concerns than with the study of their scriptures. The books, too, are getting very scarce and copyists still more so. ‘This process of decay’ says Mr. Hardy, ‘is already apparent in Ceylon. There being no outward stimulus to exertion, the priests exhibit no enthusiasm of study and many of them are unable to read at all’ – I believe he meant the Pali works of Buddhism... Gotama himself... has given five signal epochs for the ascertainment of the declension of his doctrines... the third, when the greater part of the doctrinal writings, together with the Pali Language in which they are written, will disappear...”
This is the second prediction His first prediction in 1852 was as follows: “We hope the day may yet come when the Trio of the One Great God, will become a substitute for the Triad of Buddhism; and when men shall ‘in truth and in spirit’ worship Jehovah and ... sing praises of His name”. James de Alwis The Sidat Sangarawa - a Grammar of the Sinhalese Language, Colombo, 1852, pp. 133-134. See Return to Righteousness p. XXIX and also Ananda W. P. Guruge:Anagārika Dharmapāla, Colombo, 1967 p. 9. which James d‘Alwis made over a period of thirty years. Though the Buddhist resurgence starting with the controversies and culminating in the assignment of a special place in the national Constitution has so far belied his prophesies, his warning relating to Pali and Buddhist studies is worthy of earnest consideration. [lxxv]
last updated: June 2016