Centre for Buddhism
Buddhism Faces New Challenges and Opportunities
By Roger O. Smith. Assistant Secretary, CFB
The Centre for Buddhism (CFB) was established in Kandy on January 10, 1999 with the Motto“From Study and Thought comes Wise Action.” Led by the Founder-President Buddhadasa Hewavitharana, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Peradeniya, it was founded by a small but enthusiastic and dedicated group of Buddhist
intellectuals and activists to both provide a source of information and encouragement to those who were interested in Buddhism as well as to meet the challenge posed by growing proselytization carried on by Christian missionaries in Sri Lanka as well as globally.
Challenge and Opportunity
All around the world there was, and still is a great groundswell of interest in Buddhism – people want to learn about the “Old Wisdom” - true Buddhism. Sri Lanka is one of the last strongholds of Buddhism still standing. But, after the fall of Communism in Europe, Christian missionaries saw a great opportunity and had gone into the Eastern Block with ferocious vigour to ‘save souls’ there which went against that trend of deep human interest in Buddhism..
While walking in Kandy City centre in the final years of the last century, around 1996, one got the strong impression that some Christian missionary groups were active here too, and were working with equal fervor and applying equal effort and resources in their desire to convert.
There were many lorry, van, , car and bus stickers having: “GOD LOVES YOU” and “Jesus Saves Souls,” “Come to Jesus” and so on; teams of Mormons were touring the town. This advertising of affection for their religion in the Citadel of Buddhism was widespread. In contrast, there were no Buddhist stickers to counterbalance all this, and most regrettably, no effort to promote Buddhism among the foreign tourists. One tourist had commented: “It’s as if it is their religion, it’s not for foreigners.”
The founders of CBM took these as warning signs of the weakness of Buddhism before its fall in Sri Lanka - as has happened in so many other countries around the world in the face of aggressive proselytization, and induced conversion.
They believed that Buddhists should come together as a force to be reckoned with, and disseminate what they believe to be a morally superior, well thought out religion, or rather, a philosophy and way of life; one which calls on you to empower yourself and not just blindly follow a hierarchy of priests. Buddhism has always appealed to people’s understanding and intellect, and never in its history resorted to other unethical means such as military force or economic power to spread its message.
Goals of CFB
The goals of the CFB, as spelt out in its Constitution are to:
1) Protect the Buddha Sasana
2) Propagate the Buddha Dhamma
3) Foster and promote the practice of Buddhist values in daily life
4) Gather and disseminate information of concern to Buddhism
5) Undertake research, studies and publish literature, in support of the above objectives.
The CFB has committees on different subject areas that match with its main goals. Each committee has a chairperson and volunteer members. The committees meet and report to the main body once a month.
In 2008 ProfessorP.D. Premasiri, Professor Emeritus of Pali and Buddhist Studies, also of the University of Peradeniya, stepped in to replace Dr. Hewavitharana who had to retire owing to poor health.
The CFB gave evidence before theBuddhist Commission(2002). It was the only organization that was called twice to do so.
Today CFB has a core group of about 60 members who are dedicated to its mission to propagate and strengthen Buddhism in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The projects that it currently undertakes include: Buddhist Approach to a Law Abiding/ Righteous Society; National Religious Amity Project, (Previously: Buddhist-Hindu friendship); Saukiya Dana Group (Eye testing Camps held in Villages); Dhamma Dana - books to Buddhist Organisations; Disabled Children Programme, Ampitiya; and the International Dhamma Campus, Hindagala, (where monks and instructors come to lecture on Buddhism and meditation). It also has a group that monitors unethical conversion and an Inter-Buddhist Liaison Group.
Proposed New Project
CFB is especially concerned with the growing lawlessness in the country. We want to develop a new project based on an underutilized or abandoned village temple to address this issue.
Volunteers and new members are welcome. . Meetings are held monthly on the first Sunday of every month at the Senkadagala Eksath Bauddha Mandiraya, Kandy Lakeside, at 9.30 a.m.