Sri Lanka: “This Is the Country of Us Sinhala People”

  • Peter Lehr


The first case study discusses how the perception of Sri Lanka being the ‘sanctuary and bulwark’ of Theravāda Buddhism has shaped the religio-political discourse, leading to the emergence of an exclusivist ultra-nationalist Sinhalese Buddhism from the late nineteenth century onwards to the detriment of non-Buddhist and non-Sinhalese inhabitants of the island, especially the Tamils, be they Hindu or Muslims. To better understand the emergence of this extremist Buddhism, a brief overview of the religio-political history of the island will be provided before we examine the works of Anagārika Dharmapāla and Walpola Rahula in some detail. The current ‘nationalist thought’ or Jathika Chintanaya will be discussed as well, and so also the current rhetoric of a number of extremist monks such as Inamaluwe Sri Sumanala Thero, Gangodawila Soma Thero, Athuraliye Rathana Thero, and Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero: who do they target, what do they say, and what do they want? And, most importantly, how do they justify and legitimize the resort to violence?


Mahāvamsa Dhammadıpa Sinhalese Tamils Anagārika Dharmapāla Walpola Rahula Jathika Chintanaya Ultra-nationalism Militant monks 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Lehr
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International RelationsUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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