Sri Lanka’s Place in the History of South Asian Buddhism

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions


This chapter discusses the role of Sri Lankan monastics in preserving and disseminating Pāli canonical, commentarial, and historical works throughout the Buddhist world of Southern Asia. Following a discussion of the interconnected milieu of textual production in the early–mid-first millennium spread between Anuradhapura and Tamil South India, the chapter goes on to consider Sri Lanka’s centrality in the development of Buddhist polity in peninsular Southeast Asia, Mahāyāna and Tantric elements preserved in Sinhala Buddhism, and the transformation in the organizational structure of Buddhist monastic life in the island’s late medieval period. I argue that, beyond the perception of the island as a preserve of relics, texts, and ordination pedigree originating in North India, Sri Lanka has imparted a number of idiosyncratic templates of Buddhist historiography, ritual orthopraxy, and rites of kingship which would continue to model religious and political life elsewhere in the region through to the twenty-first century.


Philosophy, Religion and Liberal Studies


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