XII – Conclusion

1. The Message

To conclude this long Introduction with a section under a heading like THE MESSAGE would appear to be very strange to a reader who looks upon this Volume to be the product of an editor of historical documents. The usual method adopted by such an editor would have been to present the original letters as preserved in the National Archives in a suitable sequence (author-wise, receiver-wise, chronological, etc.), with minimum comments to establish their authenticity, accuracy, date and such other factors. It would then be the task of scholars to use the material for their research, draw conclusions and weave into historical analysis such facts as are gleanable. Those, who expect this Volume to be merely a source book, would, therefore, criticize me for lack of objectivity. It is not for an editor of archival materials to be too enthusiastic about their contents, they would say.

Even before I had found the new name, a reputed scholar of Sri Lankan social history suggested that a title like “Sri Lankan Support to Pioneering Western Orientalists” should be changed to “Sri Lankan Co-operation with Pioneering Western Orientalists”. He had two arguments: one was that the title I had chosen, had the flavour of being chauvinistic and the other that what Sri Lankan scholars could contribute could not have amounted to support. It was, indeed, an expression of admirable national modesty. But modesty is in itself no virtue, specially as what the Buddhist tradition in its total dedication to the Middle Path extols is anatimāna Karaṇīyametta-sutta: Khuddaka Pāṭha. (i.e. [cciii] freedom from excessive pride). Nevertheless, it would be for the reader to judge this work from both angles, bearing in mind the exhaustive nature of the groundwork our scholar-monks did to enable pioneering western Orientalists in achieving their objectives. But I have been encouraged in the expression of my enthusiasm when a Pali scholar of such undisputed recognition as Viggo Fausböll referred to our scholar-monks and their scholarly traditions as Living Fountains of Buddhism.

In the preparation of this volume in the present form, 1 had five main objectives:–

(i) to add to the knowledge (so very meagre hitherto) we have of the national and Buddhist revival of the last century and of the key figures who contributed to it mainly in the domain of intellectual pursuits;

(ii) to appraise the role of Sri Lankan scholar-monks in the introduction and the development of Oriental Studies in the West;

(iii) to ascertain whether the contribution of Sri Lankan scholar-monks has been adequately recognized and appreciated (a) by the recipients of their assistance and guidance and (b) by the nation as a whole;

(iv) to focus the attention of the present and future generations of potential scholars – both religious and lay – to the example of selfless dedication which these scholar-monks had demonstrated and thus place before them a set of worthy models to emulate; and

(v) to draw conclusions from the experiences of these scholar-monks on what needs to be done today in the field of Oriental Studies – particularly, Buddhist and Pali Studies – in Sri Lanka.

Instinctively grateful, Sri Lankans have always offered their homage to national leaders but often with little understanding of the nature and the magnitude of their actual contributions. Biographies are rare or too sketchy. Original writings and letters of only a very few have been presented and that, too, not [cciv] completely. Since compiling the writings of Anagārika Dharmapāla, more material to fill another book of the size of ධර්මපාල ලිපි {Dharmapāla Lipi} in Sinhala and a few hundred pages in English have been traced, excluding his exhaustive diary. It is my hope that more volunteers will come forward to work on the hitherto unpublished material relating to other national figures.

As regards what needs to be done immediately in the field of Buddhist and Pali studies, a timely series of proposals were made by the Conference of World Buddhist Leaders and Scholars, Colombo, 1-5 June, 1982: its Recommendation No. 4 reads as follows:–

Promotion of Buddhist Studies and Research – Considering that nearly two hundred years of Buddhist Studies in the Western World have produced translations, interpretations, evaluations and re-statements of the Buddhist doctrine almost entirely by Non-Buddhists and they need now to be re-examined with a view to rectifying some serious misunderstandings which such studies have brought into existence;

Noting with regret that the resources of Buddhist studies are rapidly diminishing and hence scholars linguistically equipped to correct such errors in transitions and interpretations will gradually become fewer,–

It is recommended that:

(i) Faculties of Buddhist Studies, Departments of Pali, Buddhist Sanskrit and such other disciplines contributing to Buddhist studies in all Universities, Colleges and such other institutions of higher education be urged to co-operate in a joint programme of re-evaluating the existing Buddhist studies;

(ii) Objectives, operational methods, work plans and resource mobilization for such a programme be developed by the Secretariat of this Conference;

(iii) Governments, private foundations and philanthropists and international cultural financing agencies be approached to assist the programme; and [ccv]

(iv) A periodical be devoted to the promotion of this programme mainly –

(a) by sharing experiences and information among scholars working in this field, and

(b) by publishing results of their researches having a bearing on correcting misconceptions, mistranslations and mistakes relating to Buddhism.

If action is taken to implement this Recommendation effectively, it would be the most fitting commemoration of the scholar-monks but for whose efforts the knowledge of Buddhism would not have spread in the world so rapidly. It will equally be an appropriate tribute to those pioneering Western scholars who had very little but their sympathetic attitude, the quest for knowledge, the handful of critically edited texts and the guidance of scholar-monks like Ven. Yātrāmulle Śrī Dhammārāma, Ven. Hikkaḍuwe Śrī Sumaṅgala and Ven. Waskaḍuwe Śrī Subhūti to help them. It is with this message that I conclude my self-assumed labour of love. Ciraṁ rakkhantu sāsanaṁ. Ciraṁ rakkhantu desanaṁ.

2. Apologies

My profound apologies are due to the reader for printing errors that had gone uncorrected. Most of them, however, will not interfere with comprehension. The difficulties of seeing a book like this through the press from a place six thousand miles from the printer need no elaboration. Nor the hazards of composition for the letter-press specially when the shifting of made-up lead-type pages can create last minute havoc. A number of mistakes is also due to the interpretation of my direction to delete a letter or a punctuation mark (specially in Pali and Sanskrit words) as a direction to insert a letter. The credit for the high degree of accuracy, still maintained, goes to Mr. Peter Atukorale, the Deputy Government Printer, who personally supervised the printing at every stage. [ccvi]

I also regret the inconsistencies in the spelling of proper names of persons and places, which the reader has to contend with. The heterogeneity of the materials make such inconsistencies unavoidable. Whenever found necessary, I have added an explanatory note: e.g., as explaining Welikam and Candee in Thai letters to be Weligama and Kandy.

A more difficult problem was to find out and use appropriately the very long titles of the Buddhist monks referred to in this Volume. I have made it a point to give the full title, with all the honorifics, at least once, particularly when the name occurs as the heading of a section in the Introduction. But in the text, I have, for reasons of economy of space, referred to them only by the name of the village and the personal name (e.g., Ven. Hikkaḍuwe Śrī Sumaṅgala). Care has been taken in the use of Nāyaka Thera and Mahānāyaka Thera recognizing that the latter is an administrative designation. But there exists the possibility that I could have made some errors in view of the difficulties in verifying the administrative responsibilities of some monks in various sub-sects of the Amarapura Nikāya. If a Mahānāyaka or an Anunāyaka Thera has not been correctly designated, it is entirely due to my lack of information. It is, in no way, meant to minimize the importance of any prelate or to deprive him of the honour due to him.

In the sifting of the vast volume of material already in photocopies in the National Archives and also in the original attempts to collect them from the temples, some important and valuable documents could have been inadvertently skipped over. I have referred to such gaps wherever the internal evidence pointed to them. Some of the missing documents might throw new light on the matters discussed and some might even prove the conclusions, I have drawn, to be inadmissible. This is recognized as an ineluctable hazard with this type of work. The only remedy is for the discoverers of such lacunae to point them to me for further work in this field or to undertake similar efforts as compiling parallel publications as mine to bring them to the notice of the readers. On my part, 1 would consider myself more than adequately rewarded for my labours if more workers join in rescuing our sources of historical knowledge. [ccvii]

Finally, a word of explanation on a question which some readers are bound to ask: namely, why was no attempt made to trace the original letters which the scholar-monks had written? It is not for lack of trying that I failed to trace them. With the facilities which are within reach for me from Paris, I expected to have access to archives of several institutions which could have preserved these letters. I started with the Pali Text Society and despite a visit to the office in Henley-on-Thames, I drew a blank. Investigations elsewhere proved to be equally fruitless not so much because the manuscripts left behind by the scholars under reference have not been preserved but more because they have not been studied, classified and catalogued. This is specially true with regard to Thailand where a very large volume of letters from Sri Lankan monks and scholars remain to be identified and utilized in research. This is a task by itself which I hope some enthusiastic worker will soon take up.