There is an effort to popularize myths regarding the birthplace of the Buddha, His life and the Dhamma preached by Him. What can be the ulterior motive behind disfiguring the facts related to Buddhism and the life of the Buddha. What can the Buddhists do to minimize the damage caused by these types of efforts by some individuals who attempt to serve a selfish purpose and who work for an agenda. Below are the excerpts of the interview the Sathipattana had with the renowned Professor Chandima Wijebandara.
Q. Some people are trying to establish misconceptions regarding the life of the Buddha such as the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. What do you think is the reason behind spreading such misconceptions and myths regarding Buddhism?
A. There are people who derive pleasure by creating new concepts to gain attention. The other thing is that the media sensationalize such new concept for their gain. There is a group of people who think that all the good things in the world originated in Sri Lanka. Some people try to do these types of things because of their narrow-mindedness. For example, some say that the country Madagascar was names by Sri Lankans. Because there was a strip of threes right in the middle of that country. So, Sri Lankans have named that country Meda Gas Karaya the literal Sinhala meaning of which is ‘a place where there are trees in the middle’ and that is how the name Madagascar was derived. There are people who propagate these types of baseless statements. Their objective is to spread falsehood.
Q. That is damaging, isn’t it?
A. Yes, it is. Some narrow-minded people only think of the popularity and the recognition they get by spreading falsehood. They also try to establish a notion of their own. People like that lived in Sri Lanka all the time. There were ‘Andares’ in the past, and there are people like that at present also.
Q. Is there a historical effect on us due to that misconception regarding the birthplace of the Buddha which says that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka? It is mentioned in the world history that Buddha was born in India in 6 B.C. That is the strongest evidence to show that the Buddha was born in India. How can this kind of a misconception affect the world history?
A. I don’t think that would have an impact on historians and students. They work with historical facts and evidences. No one can challenge or sabotage the history. Any falsehood will not be accepted by the public merely because it was given publicity. Such things will soon be rejected. There were people who lived by the falsehood and fabrications regarding the history. Even those who had an iota of knowledge of history and logical mindsets had some false concepts. There were people who blabber utterly meaningless things.
However, misconceptions are rejected by the historians based the historic facts. Some can logically be solved. If someone is popularizing a false concept people can oppose it. There is no any single evidence to prove that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. Some people go to different places and claim that the Buddha was born here and the Buddha was born there. How can they be regarded as historic evidences? The historic factors can never be destroyed. The impact of this will be on the public. The public is never going to carry out researches to find out the truth of a statement once it is published and propagated. People get attracted to the notion or the idea that the majority is following or holding onto. There are irresponsible people who are ready to accept whatever is told to them and also if the majority is going by that. They are delighted to hear that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. And like-minded people get together and create groups and factions. Even if such a scenario happens, an impact cannot be had on the true history and on the scholars. The impact is on the general public and the people who follow Buddhism as a way of life.
Q. Can you further explain whether the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka or not.
A. The Buddha was not born in Sri Lanka. If someone is to propagate a concept, it should be based on strong evidences and with no hesitation, I can say that it is a misconception which has no evidence at all. Although people have falsely identified some places in Sri Lanka as related to the life of the Buddha, they can’t be regarded as evidences. Had the Buddha been born in Sri Lanka, the people in Sri Lanka should have a memory of that event. They should write such a great occurrence in the history. But no Sri Lankan had had such a memory for 2600 years. That had not even been mentioned in folklore.
Had the Buddha been born in Sri Lanka, the ancient people of this country would had had great veneration and love for the Buddha. Had there been people in ancient Sri Lanka who lived in the same village where the Buddha was born or had lived or had there been people who had listened to the sermons of the Buddha , they had been sure to relate the story to their children and grand children. Likewise, the story of Buddha’s existence in Sri Lanka would had transferred from generation to generation.
Our history has a record of heroes and of how they fought to obtain freedom and their biography. And there were folklores connected to the true history. The ancient people in Sri Lanka had taught their children of what they had done or experienced. They never withheld any information from being passed onto the next generation. The story of great and noble people had always been passed onto the next generation.
And no such noble person had been withdrawn from being mentioned in the historical chronicles. If the Buddha had been born in Sri Lanka, the ancient people in the country had been certain to pass that massage onto the next generation. But until next century, no sri Lankan had come up with such a concept. The people in Sri Lanka always believed that Arhant Mahinda Thero brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The written history and the oral traditions have a series of incidents which was commencing from the time of Arhant Mahinda Thero. The true history of Sri Lanka mentioned that the lord Buddha had visited Sri Lanka thrice.
We have a question to raise as from where the Buddha had arrived to Sri Lanka. The people in our country had always been saying that the Buddha arrived in Sri Lankans from Bodhgaya (Jambuddepa) and Buddha was born in India.
And people also believe that Prince Siddhartha is the son of King Suddhodana who reigned India. And these are the written facts which the people refer to from generation to generation. Had such a noble person been born in Sri Lanka, would the people in Sri Lanka omit that fact. If the Buddha had been born in sri Lanka, that is a pride for Sri Lankans. And they would celebrate it. And also the people would have converted that place into a sacred and renowned site.
For example, the great stupas in Sri Lanka such as Ruwanweli Maha Seya and Abaya Giriya are highly venerated and are held in high esteem. A question arises as to why the people in Sri Lanka had never wanted to celebrate such a sacred site of a world renowned religious leader and the founder of Buddhism. How did that happen? That is impossible.
A nation that is proud to have a noble person is certain to celebrate it and never forget to pass that knowledge from generation to generation. Therefore I strongly refute the notion that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka because it was a baseless statement created by people with insanity.
People in Sri Lanka never wanted to own the birth of the Buddha. And they had no a memory of such incident happening in Sri Lanka. But Indians passed that history from generation to generation. Indians recorded that incident of the birth of the Buddha in their chronicles. People in India accepted the nobility of the Buddha as a member of Shakyan clan. Even the third generation of Indians acclaimed the birth of the Buddha in India even after two hundred years , that is the third generation after the birth of the Buddha.
Even emperor Dharmashoka erected stone inscriptions to commemorate the birth of the Buddha. Emperor Dharmashoka was highly acclaimed as a ruler who erected stone inscriptions across the country. That is a strong medium of communication. And no one can question that mode of communication established by emperor Dharmashoka. No one can challenge the authenticity of the stone inscriptions.
Many world renowned professors such as Lewi Lancasticar who was an American had carried out extensive research into stone inscription on Asoka pilar. They too had established and accepted the popular notion that the Buddha was born in India. These elites are of the view that Buddha is the only religious leader who has a valid birth certificate and a death certificate issued by the government. Emperor Dharmashoka was the highly influential ruler in ancient India. His government had issued a royal document as an evidence to the birthplace of the Buddha.
Had the Buddha not been born in India, this highly influential emperor had no reason to erect a stone inscription stating that “this is the place where the Buddha was born”. The emperor was neither a Buddhist by birth. The massage of the birth of the Buddha had passed onto the next generation. By that time the Buddhist Bhikkus had conducted first, second and third Buddhist council to expel doubts. Then the King embraced Buddhism and it was given a huge publicity. So, the king erected a stone inscription as a royal document to prove the birthplace of the Buddha which is akin to a birth certificate.
Therefore, we can say that the most ancient person in the history to hold a birth certificate is the Buddha. The Buddha is also the only one in the history to have a death certificate. And this had not written on a piece of paper which is easily destroyable. It was etched on a stone. A person with a valid birth certificate issued by the government can never be accepted to have been born in Sri Lanka.
The Buddha was born in a very special era. As per H.J Bells, many noble religious leaders were born in 6 B.C. and Buddha had also been born during that time. That era is regarded as a philosophically youthful era. Confucius and Greek scholars were also born during that era while Buddha was born in India during that era and introduced a new philosophy to the world. And that philosophy was written. Indians wanted to spread that philosophy across the globe. Thus spread history is recorded very clearly in many countries. For example, in Chinese history Buddha’s philosophy was prominent. It is mentioned in some texts that some Indian Bhikkus had erected small temples in streets such as Loyan City in China. It is clearly mentioned in Chinese historical chronicles that Buddhist monks who came from India converted small rooms where they stayed initially into monasteries and translated the Thripitaka into Chinese language.
So Chinese people have that historical evidence. Chinese people believed that the Buddha was born in India and Buddhism is his philosophy and Buddhist monks had arrived from India to spread Buddhism, etc. there are strong evidence to prove that China spread Buddhism to Japan and Korea.
In the historical text in Japan and Korea contain the same facts about the Buddhism. It is clearly mentioned in such texts that the Buddha was born in India and they received Buddhism from India. Countries such as Tibet translated Tripitaka into their own language. Their historical texts clearly mentioned that the birthplace of Buddha is in India, his parents and the lineage. The Buddhist texts that we can find in Tibet, China, Korea and Japan explicitly state the truth that Buddha was born in India.
All the Buddhist countries in the world even today accept that the Buddha was born in India. And there’s no doubt about it. There had never been a confusion over the birthplace of the Buddha. No other Buddhist country in the worlds attempt to disfigure the historical and religious facts related to Buddhism. Only the Sri Lankans have crazy ideas like this. Lunatic people claim that all the virtues in the world belong to Sri Lankans.
Can you remember a certain faction of people attempted to propagate their baseless notion that the ancient Sri Lankans travelled across the globe and civilized the people in the world. They only have etymological logic. They take a particular term from a language in a country and attempt to translate that word into Sinhala language and to compare that word with a similar word in Sinhala language. Sri Lankans are famous for disfiguring well established history.
Why didn’t the people in China ever claimed that the Buddha was born in China. During ancient times China was one of the main countries where the Buddhism was well established. They do have a proud Buddhist heritage in China. Albeit, Chinese never attempted to claim that the Buddha was born in China. A powerful nation like China never attempted to disfigure the well established history by claiming that the Buddha was born in their country.
It is only a group of crazy people who are funded by non-Buddhist organizations engage in spreading falsehood. They maliciously want to snatch the glory of India by falsely claiming that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka which is utterly baseless.
There was a person in China who claimed to have been a religious leader named Lao Tse who observed that Buddhism was logical, scientific and a religion loved by the people. And he also not is that Buddhism could never be destroyed. Therefore Lao Tse wanted to take the credit of founding this wonderful religion. Already there were evidence to prove that the Buddha was a founder of Buddhism and was born in India. Lao Tse was strategic enough and tried to introduce a new concept connecting him to Buddhism. He spread the message that he (Lao Tse) the founder of Taoism is the one who instructed Prince Siddartha to renounce lay life and attain Buddhahood. Chinese legend has it that Lao Tse had gone to India with his special psychic powers by walking in the air. Then he had met Prince Siddartha and instructed the Prince on attaining Enlightenment and founding Buddhism.
Q. Some people are attempting to propagate this myth to serve their selfish purposes. What can be expected in future ?
A. This will lead to an emergence of a group of people who don’t think wisely and scientifically and challenge the factual history. I do not think that they can destroy Buddhism by doing that. Because the Buddhist philosophy is well accepted by a large community in the world. They accept that philosophy not because it was preached by the Buddha but because it has a scientific base.
Those who claim that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka can never destroy Buddhism with falsehood. This is actually a problem for the truly pious Buddhist followers when some crazy people try to establish a false notion of Buddhism and the Buddha. This is an unnecessary challenge for the true Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
We can surmise that there will be a group in Sri Lanka who believe that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. Because it is very easy to form a group in Sri Lanka, may it be ethical or unethical, true or false. Anyone can gather their friends and friends of friends to form a group. But do you think the world is ready to accept their falsehood. And I don’t think they can destroy Buddhism. And I strongly believe that an ulterior motive is behind the formation of such destructive forces. Their aim is to destroy Buddhism and the immaculate character of Buddha.
Such incidents have happened in the world. Different groups in different countries have attempted to blaspheme the Buddha by creating false stories. Some people do this due to their crave for popularity. They wanted to be the talk of the town if they speak of something completely different from the accepted the norm. People with such an inferior mentality have attempted to gain publicity by disfiguring the history of Sri Lanka which was historically and archeologically proven.
I know some people who attempted to prove that Senarath Paranawithana was wrong. Buddhism is scientific and logical and is true. Buddhism is gaining popularity across the globe rapidly. Some people and forces cannot stand this. What they can do is spend money to fund groups that disfigure the true facts.
They are doing a business. So, when people are trying to live their livelihood spreading falsehood for money, should we believe them? We should be wise enough not to be carried away by false information. And it is a responsibility of the wise and the informed to save the ordinary people from being mislead and to enlighten them with the truth.
It is our responsibility stand up for the truth amidst adversity. If we are hesitant to do that, damage to Buddhism is inevitable. Such groups are funded. They want money and fame. And they also want power. So these three things destroy the man.