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Buddhism and the Religious Other: Twenty-First Century Dambulla and the Presence of Buddhist Exclusivism in Sri Lanka

Issue: Vol 4 No. 1 (2020) Buddhist Responses to Religious Diversity (Special Issue)

Journal: Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/isit.40147


Buddhism is sometimes characterized as having an inclusivist attitude to the religious Other. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, however, an exclusivist approach to the religious Other emerged in Sri Lanka. Using the case study of a Buddhist temple in Dambulla, this article examines the conditioning factors behind this phenomenon. It is divided into four sections. The first examines recent theoretical approaches to Buddhism and inter-religious encounter, and argues that a spectrum of Buddhist approaches to the Other has long been present in text and tradition. The second offers background information about the Dambulla temple and its leading monk, Inamuluwe Sumangala Thero. The third explores three representations of the mosque attack, those of Sumangala, the Hindus of Dambulla, and secular analysts. The fourth suggests three conditioning factors for the dominance of Sumangala’s representation and the emergence of what could be considered an uncharacteristically exclusivist Buddhist approach to the religious Other within South Asian Buddhism.

Author: Elizabeth J. Harris

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