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Book: Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War

Chapter: A Paradise Poisoned? Burden of the Past—Blunder of the Present

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24501


This introductory chapter lays out the purpose of the book, which is to explore how a country permeated by the supposedly peaceful teachings of Theravāda Buddhism became a “killing field”. This broad question has generated a considerable volume of literature. This book will focus on a crucial segment of these complex developments: the powerful role of the Saṅgha Buddhist monks in the contemporary politics of war and peace in Lanka. The chapter outlines the theoretical approaches and fieldwork undertaken in the course of writing the book. The chapter also provides a history of Lanka with particular attention to the colonialist period (from 1505) to the present day and the creation of a 'federal system'. It concludes that In Lanka, the notion of independence did not come from secular forces but through an attempt to re-establish and re-assert the legitimacy of Buddhism and its chief-interpreters, the Saṅgha, eventually restorin them at the center of power and at the center of the conflict.

Chapter Contributors

  • Suren Raghavan ( - book-auth-755) 'University of Oxford'