Buddhism in Sri Lanka
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles (such as the Dipavamsa), Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 4th century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of Sri Lanka's King Devanampiya Tissa. During this time, a sapling of the Bodhi Tree was brought to Sri Lanka and the first monasteries and Buddhist monuments were established. Among these, the Isurumuni-vihaara and the Vessagiri-vihaara remain important centers of worship. He is also credited with the construction of the Pathamaka-cetiya, the Jambukola-vihaara and the Hatthaalhaka-vihaara, and the refectory. The Pali Canon, having previously been preserved as an oral tradition, was first committed to writing in Sri Lanka around 30 BCE.
Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation, with the Sangha having existed in a largely unbroken lineage since its introduction in the 4th century. During periods of decline, the Sri Lankan monastic lineage was revived through contact with Myanmar and Thailand. Periods of Mahayana influence, as well as official neglect under colonial rule, created great challenges for Theravada Buddhist institutions in Sri Lanka, but repeated revivals and resurgences - most recently in the 19th century CE - have kept the Theravada tradition alive for over 2,600 years.
Christian missionaries and colonialism 
From the 16th century onward, Christian missionaries and Portuguese, Dutch and British colonizers of Sri Lanka have attempted to convert the local population to Christianity. In the late 19th century, a national Buddhist movement started, inspired by the American Buddhist Henry Steel Olcott, and empowered by the results of the Panadura debate between a Christian priest and the Buddhist monk Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.
Divisions in the Buddhist clergy 
The different sects of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy are referred to as Nikayas, and three main Nikayas are:
- Siam Nikaya, founded in the 18th century by Ven. Upali, a Thai monk who was invited by the King of Kandy Kirti Sri Rajasinghe, and on the initiative of Ven. Weliwita Saranankara.
- Amarapura Nikaya, founded in 1800 with higher ordination obtained from Myanmar (Burma)
- Ramanna Nikaya, founded in 1864 by Ambagahawatte Saranankara.
Within these three main divisions there are numerous other divisions, some of which are caste based. There are no doctrinal differences among any of them.
See also 
Further reading 
- Tessa Bartholomeusz: First Among Equals: Buddhism and the Sri Lankan State, in: Ian Harris (ed.), Buddhism and Politics in Twentieth-Century Asia. London/New York: Continuum, 1999, pp. 173–193.
- Mahinda Deegalle: Popularizing Buddhism: Preaching as Performance in Sri Lanka. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006.
- Richard Gombrich: Theravada Buddhism: a social history from ancient Benares to modern Colombo. 2nd rev. ed. London: Routledge, 2006.
- Langer, Rita. Buddhist Rituals of Death and Rebirth: A study of contemporary Sri Lankan practice and its origins. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-39496-1
- "The World Factbook: Sri Lanka". CIA World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-08-12..
- Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery - Sri Lanka
- Buddhactivity Dharma Centres database
- The Mahavamsa History of Sri Lanka The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka
- Colonel Olcott and the Buddhist Revival In Sri Lanka
- Kelani Rajamaha Viharaya
- Religious protector from Ethnic Strife