Wisdom and Compassion: Two Paradigms of Humanistic Buddhist Movements
By George D. Bond
Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism
V. 1 (2000)
Copyright 2000 by International Academy of Buddhism,
Hsi Lai University
As we approach the end of both this century and this millennium, it seems appropriate to ask about the meaning of Buddhism. What are Buddhists seeking and finding from their religion at this point? Or to put it another way, how do Buddhists construct the meaning and intention/direction of Buddhism at the end of the century? For Sri Lanka -- from which the two paradigms are selected, the end of the century marks fifty years since their nation gained its independence and almost fifty years since the Buddha Jayanti, the highpoint of the Theravada Buddhist Revival. So we can say that in asking about the meaning of Buddhism in Sri Lanka today, we are also attempting to discover what has been the legacy of the Buddhist Revival.
This paper contends that the legacy of the Buddhist Revival and the true meaning and intention of Buddhism today can be seen not in the twin movements that are usually said to be the dominant forces in Sri Lankan Buddhism, Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalism and Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism (hereafter, SBF and SBN). Rather, the ferment in Sri Lankan Buddhism today can be seen more clearly in two other movements that express a more humanistic Buddhism: the lay meditation movement and the socially engaged Buddhist movement exemplified particularly by the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. It is in these latter two movements that we can see what Buddhists in Sri Lanka are seeking from Buddhism today and what discourses they are using to set the contemporary direction for this ancient spiritual tradition. In the following, I will show how the lay meditation movement and the socially engaged Buddhism movement have emerged to provide alternatives to SBF and SBN that redefine Buddhism in a more humanistic light.
I. Humanistic Buddhist Interpretations
The two movements that I seek to examine as paradigms of Humanistic Buddhism are, constructs and interpretations of what Buddhism means in the contemporary context in Sri Lanka. They grew out of the revival and owed much to the colonial reification and interpretation of Buddhism. But they represent alternatives to the dominant discourse of SBN and political Buddhism, alternative interpretations that construct the meaning and significance of Buddhism quite differently. They may not be any more "authentic" but they clearly provide some different perspectives on the meaning of Buddhism today. The point of our study is to show that these two movements emphasize very different ideas of "what it means to be a Buddhist today, at the end of the twentieth century." They differ from SBN in that they are concerned with the soteriological tradition and the classical values of the sasana. These lay movements emphasize the other side of the sasana, the soteriological dimension.  They draw on different sources -- more on the suttas and ethical teachings and less on the nationalistic and historical narrative. They see themselves as representing or reintroducing the Buddhist ideals of Wisdom and Compassion. But like fundamentalists everywhere, these reformers are not simply reviving a past form but are negotiating with the past to arrive at an understanding of
Buddhism that applies to the present context. As Marty has said, such reformers are "selectively traditional and selectively modern." The conceptions of Wisdom and Compassion that they introduce are clearly constructions that have been shaped by both classical ideals and by modern/post-modern forces and powers. The space in which they seek Wisdom and Compassion is distinctly a modern space and the Wisdom and Compassion they seek are to a significant extent shaped by this space. But in their expressions of the meaning of Buddhist Wisdom and Compassion, we can see the flux and ferment that is shaping Buddhism today.
These movements represent elements or expressions of a process of interpretation that extends through the period called the Buddhist Revival and has continued to evolve into the present. This process can be seen as the way that Buddhist discourse develops and evolves. Within this process as expressed by these two movements, we can identify a number of themes. We can also see that these themes tend to develop in "waves" so that there are earlier themes from the period of the Buddhist revival and other themes that have developed in the years since the revival -- e.g. post-modern themes shaped by a post-modern context. These themes in particular demonstrate the nature of the flux in contemporary Buddhism.
A. Some of the earlier themes that appeared in the early period of the revival and link these movements to the revival are: Orientalism, Individualism, and World affirmation.
Orientalism --- This theme appears in the groups' tendencies to reject the practices that define what Scott terms "contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy," practices such as temple rituals and deva worship. To a great extent, the groups also rebel against the authority of the Sangha in general. In these ways they are expressing ideas that can be said to have begun with Olcott and Dharmapala. Olcott's ideas for rationalizing Buddhist spirituality may have gone through many changes since he first visited the island in 1880, but the thrust of his reforms underlies many of the current Buddhist ideas and values. His reforms were, of course, continued in many ways by Dharmapala, whose influence on the Buddhist process in Sri Lanka has been even more pervasive.  Even the very emphasis on meditation as a path for the laity could be viewed as an example of Orientalism. This emphasis can be traced back to the early revival when colonial proponents of Buddhism advocated reviving what they saw as the 'pure' practice of the path. Meditation appealed to the western educated laity for many of the same reasons that it appealed to the West: it represented a rational way to cope with or control one's life and it fit in with an acceptance of the naturalistic paradigm.
Individualism --- Gombrich and Obeyesekere hailed "lay Buddhist asceticism" and "spiritual egalitarianism" as hallmarks of the Buddhist revival, the factors that led to what they termed "Protestant Buddhism" (1988). Clearly this emphasis has continued. Although the Sangha presides over contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy, the power of the laity is expressed in the meditation and engaged Buddhism movements. The laity continue to challenge the authority of the Sangha and to assert their right to seek liberation.
World Affirmation --- This presents another revival theme which might be seen as the corollary to Individualism. Individualism shapes the meditation movement, while World Affirmation shapes the socially engaged Buddhist movement. For both groups this theme is present in their confidence that the goal is available now, however that goal is defined. In this sense, it is also a challenge to "contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy" or at least to the classical versions of it -- where the bhikkhus dominate and teach the gradual path.
B. The more recent themes that have emerged in the last two decades and denote the flux in the Buddhist interpretations of these two movements include the following: Economic and Political Encompassment, Globalism, Increased individualism -- Personal attainment and Women's roles, Healing, social engagement, and sectarianism/ emergent religions. We will see these themes expressed in the examples of these two movements that we survey.
II. Paradigm I: The Lay Meditation Movement (Vipassana Bhavana)
The lay meditation movement began at the height of the Buddhist revival around the time of the Buddha Jayanti (i.e. 1956 when the 2500th anniversary of the death of the Buddha was celebrated mainly by Buddhists in South and Southeast Asia -- ed.)  In its origins it expressed many of the central themes of SBF or "Protestant Buddhism." But as SBF became more identified with SBN, the meditation movement has moved in other directions which are signified by the themes mentioned above. Although I first studied this meditation movement in the early 1980s, when I returned to study it in the late 1990s I could see that the movement had evolved in that it expressed many of these themes. Another major way that this movement has evolved has been in the emergence of guru figures who lead meditation societies and informal groups of followers. At the outset of the meditation movement in the 1950s, there were teachers and leaders but they seldom had what would be called guru status. To be sure, there were a few figures with this kind of status: the Burmese founders of the Vipassana movement, such as Mahasi Sayadaw, and possibly his Sri Lankan disciple, the head of the Kanduboda meditation center, Venerable Sumathipala had this status, as did some more traditional lay figures of authority, such as Dr. Adikaram who had a small but devoted following in the 60s and 70s. What seems new, however, is the number of lay gurus today and their increasing autonomy from what Scott calls "contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy." At the present time there is a kind of "emerging market" of gurus. This escalation of the status of these teachers can be related to the increased belief in the power of ordinary meditators to reach advanced spiritual states. In this sense the increase in the number of gurus may be seen as a natural development for the lay meditation movement. Since this movement has proclaimed that lay persons can attain the goal, it was inevitable that as people went on practicing meditation for a long period some would come to be regarded as "virtuosos" who had mastered the spiritual path.
This emergence of gurus can also be related to Globalism and syncretism, for today's meditators are much more aware of events in other countries, especially in their neighbor Asian countries. Seeing the emergence of gurus in India and in Thailand,
the Sri Lankan meditators naturally tended to employ those categories and models to understand their own teachers. However we explain this phenomenon, the emergence of gurus represents one of the most important factors in the current meditation movement and the factor that is pushing the movement most clearly in the direction of sectarianism within Buddhism. These gurus subvert the role of the Sangha and challenge the ideas of contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy. In order to discuss the current meditation movement, I shall focus on some of the leading guru figures and the ways that they are constructing the paths and the goals for their followers. I shall survey the lay meditation movement and its gurus by considering them along a continuum beginning with those teaching more classical meditation practices and goals and ending with those whose teaching becomes increasingly autonomous or sectarian.
We begin with Guru A, a leading meditation teacher who is relatively "orthodox." He identifies his teachers as Venerable Sumathipala, the monk who founded the Burmese-inspired Kanduboda meditation center near Colombo and Venerable Nanaponika, the German monk who ran the Buddhist Publication Society from his forest retreat in Kandy. From this lineage it is clear that Guru A has ties to both the Burmese revival of meditation and the Orientalist influences that founded the BPS. A further influence came from Mr. D.C.P. Ratnakara, another important lay guru whom we shall discuss below.
Guru A's official status as a guru comes from his being the head of a major meditation center near Kandy. But he also leads various meditation groups around Kandy and Peradeniya and makes frequent trips abroad to teach meditation. He is highly respected by his followers although be does not insist on his guru status and would prefer to be regarded as a spiritual friend or Kalyana Mitta. His low key style of teaching is consistent with this image of a spiritual friend. Nevertheless, his followers clearly regard him as their guru and defer to him as an authority on the spiritual path.
His authority comes from both his knowledge of the texts and his own experience in meditation. He uses the texts himself and also encourages followers to study them. This dependence on the texts is a sign of his relative orthodoxy since many of the contemporary gurus, as we shall see, do not employ the texts. His dhamma sermons and meditation teachings are also relatively orthodox, however, the teachings of this guru also exhibit the influences of a number of foreign teachers, such as Ajahn Chah and some of the Zen meditation teachers. Being an avid reader, he absorbs ideas from various sources and also collects ideas during his travels abroad. So although he is fairly orthodox he is also somewhat syncretic, although I doubt that his followers always recognize these syncretic elements in his teaching.
He explains that his approach is based on using meditation to help people overcome suffering. Although he gives it a somewhat contemporary twist, this is a very orthodox goal recalling the Four Noble Truths and the central teachings of Theravada Buddhism. To reach this goal he stresses the meditation techniques of
Metta (loving kindness) and Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing). In his meditation classes he employs a kind of guided meditation and discussion approach, trying to help his followers use these meditations to address their concrete problems. In this way, his meditation sessions often resemble a kind of group therapy session.
Another form of mindfulness (sati) meditation that Guru A employs to eliminate suffering involves teaching his pupils to be mindful of thoughts and emotions and their arising. He asks the meditators to recall something that someone did that made them angry. When they remember this incident the anger may arise again. The goal is to try to observe this incident now without reacting to it, to observe the anger with an awareness of anicca, impermanence. The meditator should observe it as not "my" anger, but should see it objectively, as a case of anger arising from a certain cause. If people can deal with remembered anger, then they can also deal with anger in the present, the key being to see what caused the anger. When you see that the cause of your anger is an expectation that you have had, then you see that the cause of suffering is with you and not with the other person. The point, he says, is not whether we react emotionally, but how quickly we recover. We are bound to have emotions, but we should not allow them to control us. To explain how this should work, he cites a teaching from the Buddha which says that anger -- or other emotions -- in the mind can be of three kinds: like letters written on the surface of water -- the anger is only momentary; like letters written on sand; or like letters written in stone. The goal, of course, is that our reactions to things should be like "letters written on water".
He also teaches his pupils to observe current thoughts, feelings and emotions to see how they develop and create our suffering. This he sees as part of the 4 truths. He explains that we cause our own suffering because we have desires and expectations for the way things should be, and that when they do not work out in the way we want, we suffer. But if we could just accept the present and not impose desires, then we could avoid much of the present suffering. He says that this approach does not amount to just accepting suffering, but it removes suffering because suffering is a construct that we put on top of the real events that are happening.
His followers report that these teachings are very helpful. He does not emphasize the higher attainments (ariya puggala), but has a very practical approach that teaches people to use meditation to relieve their problems and suffering. In all of this, he is, as we said, relatively orthodox. He is not extremely anti-Sangha, although he clearly respects the meditating monks more than the others and has little use for the rituals of contemporary orthodox Buddhism.
Despite his relative orthodoxy, Guru A does have some unique elements to his work. He incorporates yoga in his teaching of meditation, something not done by many teachers in Sri Lanka today. He probably was influenced in this by Guru Ratnakara who has included yoga in his practice for many years. Guru A also employs meditation as a means of healing illness, which he sees as a more explicit form of suffering. He has worked with doctors and medical students to help them understand the intention of meditation. He has also gone directly to the cancer wards of the hospitals to teach the patients. He instructs these patients to radiate thoughts of Metta, loving kindness, onto their body at the place of illness. Another technique is to help the patients deal with feelings about themselves because they usually do not like
themselves and have a sense of self-pity. In such cases, the meditation on loving kindness can be very useful.
Another method of healing involves using Metta to try to relieve pain. He teaches patients to simply be with the pain and see how they can view it. They should see if they can observe the pain without desiring the pain to go away because the pain becomes suffering when there is resistance and dislike concerning it. But if you can be with the pain for a few minutes then there may not be so much suffering. He remembers a woman who used this technique saying, "the pain is there but I am not there." He explains that "She had a kind of anatta, or not-self, experience by focusing on the pain." But he admits that it is not easy for patients to do this. He says that the emotion that really bothers these patients is self-pity. "Why me?" He sees this as related to self-hatred and he wants to help them deal with their psychological "wounds" as a step toward healing their body.
Some of the meditation steps that he outlines for the patients to follow in doing Metta meditation on pain are outlined here.
1. Pain is not mine. It is of the body and does not belong to me.
2. Accept it in a friendly way, without reproach. Do not escape from it or run away from it. Be with it with confidence. Have control and power over it.
3. If the mind is tranquil, the body will be also, and vice versa.
4. Pain should not induce dukkha, suffering.
5. Take the pain as a point of meditation. Reflect on it with awareness, observation, understanding.
6. Pain in the body may be due to repressed emotion.
7. Dealing with emotions with equanimity is essential. To get rid of repressed emotions, you can observe and understand the causes for them.
Guru A's approach to meditation represents an interesting combination of traditional/ orthodox and post-modern. He does not stress the attainments or promise instant enlightenment. His approach is pragmatic in helping people to cope with suffering. He would say, however, that this is what liberation or enlightenment really means in Buddhism: the overcoming of dukkha, suffering. In this way, his approach is very textual, based on his comprehensive understanding of the Buddhist scriptures. He also has read widely in the literature of contemporary Buddhism, and reflects what we can call Global influences from teachers such as Ajahn Cha and the Burmese teachers. Somewhat surprisingly, he has little interest in socially engaged Buddhism which he sees as largely a Western import. He points out that none of the forest monks have ever taught that meditation could coexist with social activism.
Guru B, like Guru A, also teaches meditation in a way that is very textual and orthodox: focusing on Metta and Satipatthana. Of course, to call this orthodox is somewhat ironic since the very idea of either lay teachers or lay practitioners of
meditation goes against classical Theravada orthodoxy. But within the parameters of the Buddhist revival and contemporary Buddhism, he is relatively orthodox. Guru B, however, differs from Guru A in several other key respects and represents some of the other forces shaping contemporary Buddhism. Guru B is a successful businessman in Colombo who now devotes most of his time to teaching dhamma and meditation and many of his followers come from the business community.
Coming from a prominent family in Colombo, Guru B attended the best schools in the country and was an outstanding cricket player. His teachers were his father, who wrote books on Buddhism, and a forest dwelling monk, Venerable Nanarama. Guru B also has ties to the early meditation centers such as Kanduboda.
Today he teaches meditation and dhamma to the business people and the English educated elite in Colombo and elsewhere in the island. Although he does not have a formal society or organization he has a large number of followers who attend his lectures and courses. He also has some small groups of businessmen who practice meditation under his tutelage. For several years he has had a television program on dhamma and meditation and recently he established an internet web site on these topics. He wears the white national dress -- white sarong and long white shirt -- the traditional Sri Lankan dress for a Buddhist layman but which today is worn mostly by politicians and lay gurus. Compared to Guru A, this guru has a much more authoritative presence and commands a greater degree of veneration from his followers. They regard him as a guru with particular charisma. Some followers say that he has a distinctive cosmic and karmic status -- possibly as an arahant or a future Buddha. They believe that this guru has miraculous powers, such as the ability to produce spontaneously relics of the Buddha which he then presents to his followers. When lecturing in Colombo or other areas of the country, he attracts large crowds.
In my interviews with him, Guru B downplayed these miraculous elements and explained how he adapts the dhamma to business. First, he does this by teaching something he calls the "dhamma method of employment" which he described as a method of demonstrating compassion for one's employees. He has lectured on this topic to business organizations in Colombo and has used the method in his own business. He says that compassion and generosity are two key Buddhist virtues that apply to business. The gist of this method is that the employer must plant in the mind of the employee the idea that he has compassion for them and has their welfare at heart and the employer must also demonstrate this in his relations with the employees.
Another way that he tries to assist people is by teaching the Dasa Raja Dhamma, or the Ten Royal Rules, which he sees as important for laymen because they teach values such as austerity that apply to life in the world. These ten teachings were given in the scriptures as the guidelines for rulers, but he sees them as important today for business people. In addition to providing these ethical guidelines, Guru B shows the business leaders how meditation cannot only help their businesses but also help them in their personal lives. He finds that there is great interest in meditation among business leaders and others because there is now more competition and stress in the present economic context. He has given lectures on meditation and management from a Dhamma perspective for groups such as the Rotary Club for middle and junior level government officials. He uses Dasa Raja Dhamma as his text for all these groups. He
says that this is what is missing today in business and government and he is very critical of the current government and business leaders, who rule in a way that runs counter to this kind of dhamma.
I asked him whether there is an inherent conflict between Buddhist ideas and the ethos of the business world. Guru B said that there is a potential for conflict since business is about power acquisition and Buddhism is about power relinquishment. But even in acquisition one can practice relinquishment. In his own business he does not try to heap gain upon gain but rather cultivates non-attachment by practicing a substantial amount of dana or generosity. He also finds that business gives him an opportunity to test the fruits of his meditation practice. Can he remain calm and tranquil when business does not go well? Ultimately, he finds that meditation helps his business. If he can remain calm, then he can help others to do so. Also business contributes to the attainment of wisdom because in business one sees impermanence and uncertainty very clearly. You see that things change and are beyond your control. This can produce a sense of detachment that is a great asset. He says that his greatest experience in business has been to see how powerful his detachment has become.
Being detached from his business, Guru B now devotes most of his time to teaching the dhamma and meditation. He feels that people are more interested in meditation today because they are seeking relief from the stresses of life. In this sense, people today seek what Buddhists have always sought, a solution to dukkha, suffering. To meet this need, Guru B conducts meditation retreats all over the island. Usually holding them in the preaching halls of Buddhist temples, he attracts large crowds. Despite his following among the business community, more women than men come for his formal meditation courses, as they do for the meditation courses of most of the other gurus. He explains this fact by pointing out that men are drinking and eating to excess but women are not. Women experience dukkha because of these habits of the men. He is concerned that alcoholism is a major problem in that society and the root of much of the decadence in the country. He reminds his audiences that Sri Lanka ranks as the nation with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol and notes that alcohol destroys any mindfulness that a person might have.
Although one of his own teachers was a monk, Guru B breaks with contemporary orthodoxy. He has no use for the ordinary temple rituals and pujas even though he holds many of his meditation courses in temple buildings. He says that he feels pity for people who trust in these rituals rather than trying to find liberation through meditation.
One other significant feature of Guru B's career should be noted here. He has recently expressed an interest in politics by drafting and promoting a proposal for a new constitution for the country. Although most of the contemporary gurus seem to be apolitical and the meditation movement has had no obvious ties to "political Buddhism," Guru B's entry into politics reveals some underlying connections between this movement and SBN. Clearly the lingering ethnic conflict has provided a significant part of the motivation for Guru B to venture into the political realm at this time, but whatever the motivation, this venture demonstrates that the meditation movement cannot be totally separated from SBF and SBN.
The essence of his proposal for a new constitution is that Sri Lanka should have a new government that is not based on party politics but is based on the dhamma. Guru B feels that the competition between the political parties in Sri Lanka has been the ruin of the country. To replace the current system, he proposes a new democratic government that employs the dhamma as its standpoint. Specifically, he would base it on the Buddha's teaching of the "Dasa Raja Dhamma" or Ten Royal Dhammas, and the "Seven Dhammas To Prevent Decadence Of Society". Guru B explained that he had this idea about three years ago but now people have encouraged him to come forward with the proposal.
Based on dhammic principles, his constitution proposes to attain three primary objectives: the welfare of the people; the unity of the people; and unity for the country. These objectives are to be achieved by following what he calls four principles, although some of these so-called principles sound more like further objectives. The four principles state that government, "(1) should safeguard the democratic rights of the people, (2) should not be a burden to the people, (3) should ensure that the rulers gather in harmony, conduct affairs in harmony and disperse in harmony, and (4) should ensure that suitable and worthy citizens emerge as the nation's rulers." These principles extend the ideas of the Dasa Raja Dhamma: although it is important to note that the proposed constitution does not mention Buddhist teachings too explicitly because Guru B wants to respect the ethnic and religious diversity in the country as much as possible. The proposal just sets out these four principles, which he sees as democratic and neutral. However, Guru B's constitution does contain an item proclaiming that "the State is obliged to safeguard and foster the Buddha Sasana" while also protecting the "existing places of worship of other religions." The inclusion of this statement echoes previous Sri Lankan constitutions and the concerns of SBF and SBN, and demonstrates that this new constitution would not be a complete break with that.
This new government would be a democracy with independent executive, legislative and judicial branches. One significant difference from the present system in Sri Lanka would be that the legislators would serve without pay in honorary but elected positions. He hopes that this feature would help to eliminate both corruption and competition, which he regards as two of the most destructive aspects of the democratic system. The Guru explained that the people are ready for such a system because "they are fed up with the exploitation by the present system."
Guru B is of interest because he exemplifies several of the themes shaping both the meditation movement and contemporary Buddhism. In him we see some of the ways that the theme of economic encompassment affects the meditation movement. Through his appeal to the upper classes and business people, he addresses problems that have been created by the global economy and the related changes in society. Buffeted by the ups and downs of the open market economy that was adopted by the government in the late 1970's, people want to find ways to "fight back" and to retain or regain their Buddhist orientation. By applying the dhamma to these issues, Guru B has come to be seen as an exalted guru. His authority stems from both his knowledge
of the Buddhist scriptures and what his followers believe about his own attainments in meditation. His authority also seems to derive somewhat from his ability to keep one foot in each of the two contrasting worlds, the dhamma and business.
His venture into the realm of government demonstrates the political encompassment of the meditation movement. The idea of a no-party system has been espoused by various people in Sri Lanka for some time. In recent years it has been proposed by A.T. Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya also. What is interesting here is that a meditation guru is stepping into politics. The meditators may be seeking wisdom, but they still exist in the political context and cannot ignore the current situation in the country. So this guru proposes to correct the situation by drafting a new constitution based on the dhamma. This shows that SBF and SBN are not totally unrelated to this whole movement. The constitution that Guru B proposes is very much oriented toward Sinhala Buddhism, even though he is careful in his draft not to stress this point because he hopes that the Tamils and other minorities will accept the principles of this new constitution.
Is this draft constitution a means by which this guru seeks to come to power himself? I asked him whether he was interested in serving as president of this form of new government. He replied that he would not compete for the presidency under this system, however, if the people came to him and invited him to serve as president, that would be different and he would be glad to make the necessary sacrifices and serve. He views this move as consistent with his career as a dhamma teacher and meditation teacher because it would enable him to put the dhamma into practical effect. This would be "his one big final dhamma dana (gift)." Guru B explains that this kind of government could bring peace and that if such a system were in place, people would find it much easier to practice meditation.
The third guru I will consider is, like the first two, also relatively orthodox in that he is well versed in the dhamma and teaches the classical path of Vipassana meditation. This guru, however, differs from the first two in that he has founded his own society which moves toward a sectarian identity within Buddhism. To the members of his society, Guru C is a teacher who has reached an advanced stage of spiritual perfection. This teacher and his society represent good examples of the evolution of the meditation movement in Sri Lanka: here we have a Guru who teaches a distinctive version of the dhamma and leads a society of followers who clearly see their identity as not being within "contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy." This guru and his followers not only break with traditional Buddhism, but also break with some of the teachings and emphases of the meditation movement in its original Burmese and Kanduboda form.
Guru C is a retired educator who has built up a society that has, according to the leader, about 2000 members in some 21 chapters across the island. Most of the members are middle aged or retired although the society is making attempts to get young people to join also. Guru C leads the society by teaching them the way of dhamma and meditation. Although some meditation teachers emphasize their
experiential knowledge rather than textual knowledge, Guru C seems to do the opposite. He has an extensive knowledge of the Tripitaka and the commentaries which he cites heavily in his teaching. On several occasions when I interviewed him at his home in Kandy, he brought out great stacks of suttas to cite and interpret for me. He does not, however, rely just on the textual version of the dhamma. Combining experience with study, he says that we have to know the "dhamma of the mind." This "dhamma of the mind" is the experiential dhamma that the Buddha taught. This dhamma is essential because, in Guru C's view, the textual dhamma cannot be trusted completely because the Buddha's followers may have added or subtracted ideas while the texts were being formed. Thus, Guru C has some doubts about many of the texts and urges caution when using them. In good Buddhist fashion, he says that we cannot simply learn the Buddha's dhamma, but we have to find the dhamma for ourselves. "Buddha did not ask people to accept." "We have to study the way, but that is not enough, you have to go on to experience the mind inside."
These pragmatic Buddhist disclaimers notwithstanding, Guru C spends most of his time teaching his interpretation of the dhamma, and could be classified as a dhamma teacher as well as a meditation teacher. He has written some seventeen small books that expound his understanding of the dhamma. For his followers, the dhamma teaching and the meditation go together and both are taken as explanations of the path as it is constructed by their Guru. Perhaps the best explanation of where the authority of this guru lies comes from one of his followers who said that she "respects Guru C as a man who has a perfect knowledge of Pali and the texts. She feels that he has attained the advanced state because he knows the dhamma so well and is able to preach it for 10 or 11 hours straight. Something that an ordinary person could not do."
One of Guru C's main teaching themes is that the world is inside the mind but we mistakenly look for it outside. By observing how the mind arises and passes away one can see the real nature of the dhamma. He relates a story from a sutta about a monk who had acquired the miraculous power to travel through the air and asked the Buddha if he could go to the end of the world. Buddha, however, told him that he could not go by that means for the world is in the mind.
Up to this point Guru C and his society might seem to be perfectly orthodox Buddhists. But their relation to the prevailing Buddhism in Sri Lanka is complex. Possibly the best explanation of the relation between Guru C, his society and Buddhism is found in the following statement by him. "We have to understand what Buddhism is, and having gotten that knowledge, we then have to break that knowledge." A great admirer of Krishnamurti, Guru C made a significant comment about him. He explained that Krishnamurti said that he went to Buddha, was with the Buddha, and then left the Buddha to find his own truth. This may be an image that Guru C has of his own teaching and his society. Another statement of his relation to Buddhism is given in this comment, "The Buddha never expected his teaching to turn into Buddhism. Religion is the most harmful thing in the world. Because of religion people are fighting. But what the Buddha gave is not a religion, it is a teaching about how to live in the world. How to live in this impermanent world satisfactorily. That is the Buddha's teaching." Leading his followers toward this truth, Guru C is extremely critical of contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy on a number of counts. He declares that, "Today in Sri Lanka we do not have Buddhism. Buddhism only exists in books, not in
the minds of the people." His comments reflect his criticism of SBN and its involvement in the ethnic conflict. He also criticizes the way that average Buddhists practice the rituals in hopes of being reborn in the time of the next Buddha, Maitreya, to seek liberation. They could find the truth now, he says, if they would look inside the mind instead of looking outside with these pujas. He lays the blame for the lack of guidance squarely at the door of the Sangha. The Buddha, he says, taught a clear path, but the Sangha has distorted it and led the people astray. The Sangha, for example, is responsible for the recent Sinhala translation of the Tripitaka which ought to have made the dhamma available to the people. Instead, however, the Sinhala translation uses a form of literary Sinhala that is more complex than the original Pali and is inaccessible to the average person. He also blames the Sangha for promoting racial tensions that keep the fires of war burning in Sri Lanka and prevent a peaceful resolution of the ethnic conflict.
Another criticism of the Sangha and contemporary Buddhism stems from his interest in social engagement. The temples, he says, waste huge sums of money in the performance of elaborate pujas "that do no good." He pointed out that the Temple of the Tooth, the chief temple in the country, spends over ten thousand rupees per day on pujas. About this he says flatly, "This is not Buddhism." His society could build simple housing for poor people for the same ten thousand rupees. This kind of social service is central to his vision of what the dhamma requires. He cited the Buddha's commissioning of his first disciples and his sending them out for the "welfare of the people." His society has sought to help all people, Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims by building houses and providing food and clothing for them. In his view the dhamma has no ethnic boundaries for all are human beings and can improve their minds. The society has also engaged in projects to preserve the environment as well as human beings. Guru C says that when one knows the dhamma one will want to serve others; social service is consistent with the dhamma.
One hears in these teachings various threads, the Orientalist trust in the texts, the revival's belief in a pragmatic path of meditation for laity, the global influences of Krishnamurti and the socially engaged Buddhist ideals. Guru C and his followers probably regard themselves as reformers who seek to recover the central meaning of the dhamma. Guru C has written that "Ancient Buddhism is a superior educational system. Modern Buddhism is a chain of offerings that lead nowhere." His society members follow his teachings as a way to cope with their daily lives and also to address the larger problems around them. But in following this path they may be seen to be moving toward a kind of sectarian status within Buddhism. Their own guru clearly has more authority for them than the Sangha and so they prefer to study his dhamma rather than the canonical dhamma of the Sangha.
We shall see that this represents a mild step toward sectarianism and that more dramatic steps are being taken by other gurus.
The fourth guru in our study provides a good example of both the way that the meditation movement has evolved and the kind of flux that exists in contemporary Buddhism for/by the laity. Guru D was in the first generation of laymen who learned meditation at the Kanduboda meditation center. For many years he practiced and taught meditation from his home in a suburb of Colombo; now he has become a monk, although he has few ties to the orthodox sangha or to orthodox practice. He is the leader of his own meditation center and has a large following. In his movement we see how a strong emphasis on individualism leads toward sectarianism.
1. The first feature to note about this movement is the power and authority of the guru [role] in contemporary Sri Lanka. Guru D exemplifies this role and its significance in the current context. Guru D is an English-educated man who worked most of his life in a government position in Colombo. Becoming interested in meditation after the Burmese inspired revival of it in the 1950s, he went to the vipassana center at Kanduboda and practiced under the teachers there. After practicing meditation for some time, he became for many years a lay teacher of meditation in Colombo. Then he retired from his job and took ordination as a monk. Meditation has been his primary concern from the time he began so that even though he was ordained, he never was a part of "contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy," a fact that comes out in his teachings and guidelines for his followers. For example, when I asked Guru D who his teachers had been, he said that his only teacher was the Buddha, thereby declining to acknowledge any of his teachers in the contemporary Sangha.
After taking ordination he founded his meditation center in the hill country of the island in the early 1990s. At this center, Guru D has absolute authority and his followers regard him as an arahant. One suspects that this may be the reason that he became ordained -- he too may have believed that he had become an arahant and knew the Theravada teaching that a person could not remain a layman if he attained nirvana, or at least he wished to convey this image. Perhaps it is just his personality, but compared to the gurus that we have considered thus far, Guru D has a much more commanding and dominating manner that carries the guru role to a higher level. Whenever any questions come up at his center his followers refer them to "the priest." He takes full responsibility for both the teachings and the organizational details at his center. Although he has a number of meditation teachers under him at the center, there is no doubt about where the authority lies. Once, for example, when I was interviewing one of his Bhikkhuni teachers, some of his other followers interrupted our session twice to ask if "the priest" had given permission for the interview. Everyone in his center defers to the authority of this guru; indeed there seems to be a kind of fear of the guru and a desire to please him. In keeping with his guru status, his teaching style is simple and authoritative. On Poya days about one thousand of his followers come to the center to hear him preach on the dhamma and to be instructed in meditation. Guru D seems to accept and enjoy his status as a guru, for he says, "It is a great thing that I can lead people to salvation."
When I asked Guru D whether he and his assistants studied the Buddhist texts, he said that they taught on the basis of the guru's experience. He tells his followers that it is not necessary to study the texts because if one meditates, one will learn it all
firsthand as he has. He also told me that "Books are the ruin of Buddhism." By which he meant that there are too many books written about Buddhism by people who have no personal experience with these truths. A teacher on his staff confirmed this when she told me that "books are discouraged" because they represent worldly wisdom. Somewhat paradoxically, although he shuns the texts and books, his teaching and that of his assistants seems almost precisely textual. While supposedly based on his own experience, his dhamma teachings and meditation instructions follow the textual tradition of meditation very closely although simplifying it somewhat. The only text to which I actually heard him make reference was the Satipatthana Sutta, which seems to serve as the basis of his method. He is fond of saying that "the path is very clear". And in keeping with this he sets out a fairly simple explanation of the dhamma and a basic technique of meditation. When I visited his center on a Poya day he delivered a dhamma sermon that summarized his fairly orthodox message. He said that one must realize that "all is within this fathom-long body." Although we think that reality is outside, it is actually inside, controlled by the mind. The mind creates the body and our attachment to the body. Most suffering is caused by our ignorance of this process which leads to attachment and aversion.
His teaching about meditation is equally conventional. The most important form of meditation for his group is anapanasati. He stresses the jhanas also as a part of the path through samadhi to vipassana. All this he bases on the Satipatthana Sutta and largely ignores other texts. He said, for example, that the lists of meditation topics from the Visuddhimagga are not so important and have more to do with scholasticism. He does not require his followers to adhere to any special rules beyond the normal Sila.
2. A second key feature of this movement is the emphasis that it places on the availability of the goals of meditation. This feature has much to with both the status of the guru and the popularity of this movement with the laity. If Guru D's teachings about the dhamma and meditation are more or less conventional, his ideas about the possibility of attaining the goals are fairly radical. The only important goal of meditation, he says, is enlightenment and the stages of the noble persons or ariya puggala. He does not teach meditation to help people with secondary goals or problems such as stress. He feels that lay people can attain the goal. "Why not?" he says, "The technique is simple and the path is very clear. All that is needed is for people to be keen enough." He discusses the relevant mileposts for attainments -- meaning the 4 Noble persons -- and he explains that these mileposts have been reached by his followers. He teaches that reaching these goals is not difficult, people just have to eliminate the hindrances and develop other positive factors. "It can be done," he said. In fact he claims that many of his followers have attained all of these stages. When I pressed him a bit about these goals, he said that the stage of Streamenterer "is a simple thing" that any of his followers can attain. Again speaking very textually, he said that this stage only requires one to overcome three hindrances: doubt, attachment to rituals and rules (sila), and self-view. Lowering the bar about as far as possible, Guru D emphasized how simple this process is, saying "Any layman can do it."
One Poya when I visited Guru D's center I saw how far he carries this teaching about the availability of the goal. After he had delivered a lengthy dhamma sermon, he
instructed the audience (numbering about 800 people) to divide up into three groups for discussion and meditation: beginners, intermediates, and ariya puggalas. Although most of the people in the audience gravitated toward one of the first two groups, a significant number of people reported to the group for the ariya puggalas which was appropriately sub-divided into four sections, one for each of the higher stages from Streamenterer to Arahant. Holding breakout groups for ariya puggalas surely sets this group apart from contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy and shows how far it has gone toward a sectarian or emergent religion status.
All of these breakout groups were led by nuns, and I spoke to two of these teachers, the one in charge of the arahants (who had only about four or five people in her group) and another nun who teaches the foreign meditators. Both of them said that the higher stages of the path are perfectly attainable, even by foreigners. The second teacher supported this claim by referring to the Satipatthana Sutta which says that if one practices diligently the goal can be reached in seven days. This nun also said that many of the nuns had gone far beyond the stage of Stream Enterer, and that the guru had also.
Clearly this belief about the higher attainments of the guru and the possibility of reaching them for oneself represents a central reason many people are attracted to this group. I found evidence, however, that these claims also work against the group at times and lead some people to doubt the guru. For example, I met one man who had formerly been an ardent supporter of Guru D but now had ceased going to hear him because this man thought that it was not right for Guru D to make these claims. The man felt that if a person were enlightened he would not boast about it, and he also thought that Guru D had made the goals too easy. A second informant, a woman, echoed these sentiments and expressed her serious reservations about both Guru D and his group. She had been a strong supporter of the guru, giving large donations to help develop his center. She said that the guru led good meditation programs that made her feel happy and well. But while attending one meditation session in which they practiced the meditation on the parts of the body, she began to have some strange sensations. She experienced pains in her body and saw strange lights. When she discussed these experiences with the chief nun, who was the main teacher for the session, the nun told her that she was getting close to attaining arahantship. The nun sent her to meet with the guru who told her the same thing. He also instructed her in the jhanas and showed her how she should work her way through the jhanic states on her way to arahantship. She felt that she did achieve some of these jhanic stages and attained some of their powers. Guru D and his nuns soon began to tell her that she had attained arahantship and she felt very happy. After a few months, however, she began to have doubts about her attainments; it seemed too good to be true that she had reached the ultimate goal because she did not feel that she was enlightened. So she began going to another meditation teacher, Guru C, who gave her some suttas to study along with some of his own writings. Through following Guru C's teaching she has come to believe that what she attained before was only the samadhi associated with the jhanas, not the ariya magga and its fruits. She now has serious doubts about Guru D and his teachings and does not believe that he has reached the goal or that he is correct in his claims of bringing so many others to the goal. She still hopes to attain Nirvana and end Dukkha, but she now follows a more conventional and gradual path.
3. One other distinctive feature of Guru D's group is the role it accords to women. Guru D says that about 80% of his followers are women, and my observations of his meetings would seem to confirm this figure. When asked why the women are so interested in his meditation, he says what many people in Sri Lanka say to explain womens' interest in religion: women are more interested in liberation because women suffer more than men. And according to Guru D, some women obtain results very quickly if they have experienced extensive suffering since suffering represents the first Noble Truth and acquaintance with it facilitates the liberation process.
But in addition to having mostly female followers, what sets this movement apart is that Guru D also has a staff of "nuns" who serve as the primary meditation teachers at his center and he has embarked on a campaign to "ordain" more women as "bhikkhunis." When I saw him last in 1998, he had sixteen nuns in his group and said that he planned to ordain about 60 women and build a forest hermitage for them. Since bhikkhuni ordination has been a controversial topic recently in Sri Lanka, I asked him whether he thought that the Sangha should officially reestablish it and whether there were any problems associated with his performing these ordinations. Surprisingly, he said that it was neither possible nor necessary for the Sangha to reestablish bhikkhuni ordination officially, but he also said that he did not care whether it was officially approved or not. He intends to provide ordination for women and "boost them along the path to become ariya puggalas." He feels that what is important is not the external orders but the internal development of these women. He said that once these women attain arahantship, no one can dispute their status as bhikkhunis. He further implied that most of the women that he has ordained have already reached this goal.
This combination of a powerful guru's authority, a promise of higher attainments for followers and a willingness to create new roles for women who wish to become nuns sets Guru D's movement apart from contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy. These factors also indicate that his movement may be drifting toward a kind of sectarianism. The emphasis on easy attainment of the goals represents a form of commodification of religion which we can relate to the economic context in the country. The middle class lay people who constitute Guru D's movement have attained many things and now look to meditation to give them these spiritual attainments that will make life both manageable and satisfactory (sukha). We can also say that his followers are motivated by the political and economic context in that they are seeking relief from the problems of this new life. Finally, we should note that Socially Engaged Buddhism or social service does not have a place in this guru's system. When I asked him whether he does any social service, he replied that the most important social service is to share the dhamma with others as he does.
Guru E: Mr. D. C. P. Ratnakara
Our fifth example is the founder of a well-organized society that exhibits many of the themes we outlined above. His is one of the oldest meditation societies in Sri Lanka and he is one of the senior meditation teachers. In the teachings of this guru and
the life of the society, we see how far the lay meditation movement has gone toward sectarianism. Since I have written about this guru elsewhere and know him well, I will use his real name and the name of his society. 
This guru's name is D.C.P. Ratnakara and he is the "lay Patron and Founder" of the Society of the Friends of the Dhamma (Sadham Mithuru Samuluwa). Before his retirement, Mr. Ratnakara was a lecturer in educational psychology at the Peradeniya Teachers Training College near Kandy. He too was in the first generation of lay meditators during the 1950s revival of meditation and studied with several teachers including some forest monks. He says that as a youth he had been very interested in Theosophy and read books by Indian teachers such as Vivekananda and Krishnamurti. Now the members of his society accord him great respect and believe that he has reached an advanced stage of the spiritual path. But guru Ratnakara is not the sole authority for this society, Mrs. Ratnakara also has a key role, as I will explain.
Ratnakara founded this society in 1962 and since that time it has grown to have almost one thousand members and many local branches. The story of the founding of the society reveals some key facts about nature of this movement. Ratnakara explains that it was not his idea to found a society, but it became necessary to do so because of the "revelations" that he and his wife were receiving and the demands of their teachers. To abbreviate a long tale (which I have given in full in my book), Mr. and Mrs. Ratnakara began receiving messages through a medium. Mrs. Ratnakara was especially receptive to these messages and served as the chief contact with the spiritual beings in this process. These messages consisted of comprehensive dhamma teachings about such topics as cosmology, ethics, meditation and healing. The Ratnakaras came to believe that these dhamma teachings emanated from a pantheon of higher beings, including "masters", yogis, gods and goddesses. Especially important in this pantheon were the goddess Saraswati and a "Buddha from another planet." Eventually, these higher beings told the Ratnakaras to form a society to study and follow these teachings, which is how S.M.S. came about. The charter of the S.M.S. states that "Masters or Spiritual Teachers mentioned in the Buddhist Theosophical Literature...do even now exist, and one could communicate with them by developing certain meditative states of consciousness...or through a trained medium." Today the society continues to follow these teachers and to be interested in some more recent cross-traditional influences such as the teachings of the Indian gurus Vimala Thakar and Sai Baba.
The members of the society study and live by the dhamma given by these spiritual teachers rather than the dhamma of the Tipitaka. The charter of the society explains that "the oral teachings of the Great Sage were committed to writing long years after the Parinibbana of the Founder. By that time interested parties changed the original teachings and one can hardly ascertain how much." So the written canon is not to be trusted, but this dhamma mediated by the deities is pure. Accordingly the members do not study the traditional texts, but study the teachings given by the deities
to the Ratnakaras.
The content of this celestial dhamma is too detailed to explain here, but we can mention some of the chief categories. There are elaborate teachings on the nature of the pantheon of deities which is extremely complex, for example one of their main deity teachers is described as the 42nd assistant to the goddess Saraswati. The dhamma teaches new forms of Sila or ethical conduct and the society lives by a number of special regulations, such as rules concerning simplicity in dress and lifestyle. Members are advised to arise at 4 a.m., to observe a vegetarian diet and to avoid people who engage in "wrong activities."
A major topic in this dhamma concerns the path of meditation. Ratnakara explains that having these spiritual beings as their teachers is a great help since samsara is like a prison and the devas are like beings who, having liberated themselves from the prison, can now show others the way out. The form of meditation that Ratnakara's society teaches is -- despite the esoteric source of the teachings -- relatively conventional. They stress concentration (samadhi) and mindfulness (sati). The teachings received from the spirit beings, however, provide some new explanations of the nature of the meditation process. One such idea that they teach is that nature or jivitindriya can be described as a force that seeks to elicit karmic reactions in order to keep human beings trapped in samsara. The goal of meditators, therefore, must be to recognize nature's scheme and not get caught in it any further. Through these teachings Ratnakara attempts to show his followers how to overcome suffering in this life. S.M.S. holds meditation retreats and camps for the members and it encourages them to meditate daily. They seek to attain Nibbana in this life. Or as one S.M.S. member explained, "We cannot visualize or even hope for Nibbana. But if we can be peaceful, not in conflict and not reacting, then that must be Nibbana, or at least a glimpse of it." Ratnakara claims that people in S.M.S. have attained higher states, but he does not put as much emphasis on this fact as Guru D does. Rather Ratnakara stresses that they believe in the possibility of reaching Nibbana in this life by understanding reality as it is.
With this celestial dhamma as its guide, S.M.S. breaks sharply with the Sangha and contemporary Buddhist orthodoxy. The members who began the society were not content with the dhamma given by monks "which stressed going to heaven or the Brahma realms." Mr. Ratnakara says, "the common Buddhism practiced today, with its innumerable rituals, ceremonies and alms feasts has drowned the real practical aspects of the sublime dhamma." Needless to say, the S.M.S. members do not go to the temples or seek the services of the monks. They do perform some rituals of their own, however, such as a form of Pirit chanting done by lay persons and pujas to the deities who are the guardians of their society.
Other significant features of this society are its emphasis on healing and its interest in social engagement. Mrs. Ratnakara has had the power to heal for about 10 years. She attributes this power to her contact with the devas, rishis and other spiritual beings, including Hippocrates, who is now a deity it seems. She also received ayurvedic advice from other spiritual sources such as a "Rishi Doctor" from India who had been the doctor for Mahatma Gandhi. He would tell her how to make ayurvedic potions to heal people and she would prepare the mixtures and plants that he
prescribed. This "guru Doctor" had various means for healing that went beyond those of ordinary medicine, for example he could see a person's "samsara" and take that into account in healing them. She seems to have worked with the medium and this "Guru Doctor" for about 10 years. During this time, she says that she healed many people. She even tried to heal some cancer patients, but they were too ill to respond to the treatments. She relates a story about working with a Muslim couple who were unable to have children. The mother-in-law was threatening to force them to divorce unless the woman could conceive. Mrs. Ratnakara called on the medium to communicate with one of the deities to get an answer for this problem. After the medium met with the woman, she conceived and the couple had 3 children in 5 years and were very happy.
In addition to this emphasis on healing, the society can also be said to have a socially engaged focus. It carries out social relief work on a small scale and has some environmental projects. These are not major aspects of the society but neither are they insignificant. The younger members of the society seem especially interested in the ecology projects and other kinds of outreach that they have undertaken.
This society and this guru express the kinds of themes that we mentioned earlier. One can see Orientalist influences in the ties to Theosophy and parapsychology. Individualism and World Affirmation are also clearly present, as are Globalism, Healing and Social Engagement. With the role of the Guru and the new ideas about the deities, it appears that S.M.S. is moving toward sectarianism more clearly than any of the other groups we have examined thus far. The formal structure of the society with its charter and by-laws suggests that they recognize and accept a sectarian status. The current leaders of the society even say that S.M.S. is not Theravada Buddhism but because of the source of its teachings it has ties to Mahayana and Vajrayana. The charter of the society reads, "The S.M.S. does not differentiate between Mahayana and Theravada teachings. Senior members study both with an open mind and accept what is true irrespective of the label."  The group's break with orthodox Buddhism is symbolized by its rejection of the traditional Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. S.M.S. has reinterpreted all three of these gems in constructing its own system. The Buddha no longer represents the sole source of the teachings; the Dhamma does not come from the canonical Tipitaka, and the Sangha has no role at all in this construct. Heavily influenced by both Orientalism and Globalism, this movement has taken on new qualities that cast Buddhism in a more humanistic light.
Our final example concerns a guru who presents another interesting case that further delineates the evolution of the meditation movement. Guru F is a retired government clerk who has been involved in the meditation revival from an early period. He studied at the Kanduboda and Nilambe meditation centers and was a friend of Guru A, Guru D and Guru Ratnakara. In fact, one of my informants showed me a photo of Guru F along with Guru A, Guru D and Guru Ratnakara at a meditation retreat in the forest (Situlpawa) in the early 70s. Now almost thirty years later. Guru F has become an extremely popular guru with an enormous following. In some ways
he has followed a similar path to that of his old meditation companions but in other ways he has broken a new path.
Guru F resembles these other gurus in his critique of orthodox Buddhism. Like Guru Ratnakara and Guru D, he notes that the Tipitaka was not written until at least 200 years after the time of the Buddha and so does not reflect the pure dhamma. He also opposes the Sangha and challenges the monks and nuns who come to his meetings. Some monks come to see him intending to debate him, but he says that after they hear him talk they leave quietly because they realize that he is speaking the true dhamma. When Buddhist nuns come to meet him, he tells them that they are "going in the wrong path." Other aspects of contemporary orthodoxy such as the rituals and pujas are also contested by this guru for the same reasons that the other gurus oppose them.
Guru F goes beyond the other gurus, however, in that he also rejects the value of meditation itself. "Meditation is a mistaken path," be charges. He teaches his followers that meditation is a difficult and disappointing path. Although people follow it blindly, it will not lead them to wisdom or salvation. Meditation only brings suffering from long hours of sitting, and the Buddha opposed suffering. According to Guru F, Gotama attained enlightenment under the Bo-tree only after he had given up meditating. Guru F's followers, convinced by these teachings, have ceased to follow the path of meditation. One woman follower whom I interviewed said that she used to meditate regularly but now sees that it is pointless and has "stopped wasting her time doing meditation."
What has replaced the path of meditation among this group? The power of the guru to produce enlightenment directly. The followers of Guru F believe that he has great power and authority. Some say that he is a Buddha, others that he is the reincarnation of Anagarika Dharmapala and that this will be his last birth. Other followers I met said that Guru F had reached arahantship. One follower thought he was clearly in an advanced state and compared him to Ajahn Cha, the late Thai monk whom Thai Buddhists regarded as an arahant.
To document his authority, Guru F and his followers recount events that occurred during a trip to India in 1992. Guru F and about 250 followers went to Bodh Gaya and there Guru F "(re)delivered the Buddha's Dhammacakka sutta" at the site of the original Bo-tree. The followers say that while Guru F was preaching miraculous cosmic phenomena occurred: first, the sky went dark, then there was a very bright light and the sounds of celestial drums. While this was happening, bright colored rays were emanating from Guru F's body. Other disciples tell of a similar event that occurred when Guru F was preaching in front of the great Bo-tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
For his part, Guru F says that he has attained the ability "to see all of the powers and wisdom up to the arahant stage", although he is "currently abiding in the Sotappana stage". He acknowledges no teacher, but says that his authority comes from an experience he had where he saw the truth of the dhamma directly while witnessing a Vesak drama featuring a skeleton. He does not study the texts of Tipitaka or any
books, but says that he has attained the true power of the Buddha and the dhamma. He has the ability to know the original suttas at "the necessary moment." Guru F claims that although he has not read any suttas or books he now has the ability to see the true dhamma perfectly. Therefore, he tells people that they should follow the dhamma that he has directly received as being more trustworthy.
The dhamma that he teaches is in some ways similar to classical Buddhist dhamma in its emphasis on ideas such as impermanence and the power of cause and effect in human life. In other ways, however, the dhamma that he teaches revises the landscape of contemporary Buddhism. For example, he teaches that although the Tipitaka says that the Buddha's mother died one week after he was born, this is not correct. Through his power, Guru F can see into the past and relate what actually happened. He says that she did not die after one week, but rather she was transformed into a man at that time. This occurred because the infant Siddhartha refused to drink her milk. After becoming a man, she lived incognito for 62 years until she was taught Abhidhamma by the Buddha and has achieved liberation. In the same way he gives novel interpretations to other parts of the suttas, saying that the words as we have them now should be regarded as symbols.
Instead of following the traditional path of Sila, Samadhi, and Prajna, Guru F teaches that the path consists of Prajna, Sila, and Samadhi. He says that Sila (moral conduct) is not important as a precursor to the realization of truth, but will follow automatically after one attains wisdom. Monks and nuns come to hear his talks, and he tells them that they too should abandon the focus on Sila and concentrate on Prajna (wisdom) as the path to the goal. This of course, is directly counter to the whole teaching of Theravada, classical or contemporary.
The biggest change, however, comes when he discounts the value of meditation as the means to attaining Prajna. He has replaced meditation with the power of the guru. Instructing his followers not to meditate, he explains that Prajna and the goal can be realized if people simply listen to him preach the dhamma. He claims that if a person hears four dhamma sermons by him, then that person will automatically become a Streamenterer. Guru F claims to be able to preach in such a way that everyone in an audience as large as 3000 people can hear him plainly, just as if he were speaking to them alone. Accordingly, Guru F refuses to use microphones or loudspeakers to amplify his voice for this would interfere with the working of the Guru's power and his dhamma.
This emphasis on the power of his dhamma sermons represents one way of emphasizing the authority of the guru. But there is another mystical element at work here. Guru F attributes the effectiveness of his dhamma sermons to something he calls the "Universal Power." This Universal Power is what enables large numbers of people to hear and understand the dhamma. He says that it is because of the Universal Power that people are interested in the dhamma today and it is this power that can correct the false teaching and bring people to the truth. This Universal Power seems to be some kind of ultimate force that operates through the guru and can be realized by others. What is not entirely clear is whether the force is truly universal and can be found everywhere or whether it represents the power of this guru that he can manifest as he
Through this power Guru F claims to be able to perform miraculous works such as healing and divination. For example, Guru F claims that when people come to him with questions and problems, he knows and gives the answers before they ask their questions. This guru also claims to have performed healings through his Universal Power. He says that people have come to him after their doctors had given up and he has sent them home cured of their illnesses. His words have healing power and the people are cured as they listen to his sermons or discuss their problems with him.
In many ways, Guru F resembles the other gurus we have examined. His dhamma teaching is not too unusual, stressing, for example, the need to awaken one's mind and recognize the cause and effect of mental states, or the need to recognize that the world is not real as it appears. His followers, like the followers of the other gurus, find these teachings helpful in coping with life today. But clearly, what attracts the huge crowds to Guru F is not his Buddhist psychology alone, what attracts them is the guru himself and the beliefs about his powers. His followers believe that they can be enlightened simply by hearing this guru preach his dhamma. This belief causes people to flock to hear him by the thousands everywhere he goes in the country. His meetings, advertised only by word of mouth and held in large halls without air conditioning or loud speakers, are jammed with people who sit in these crowded conditions for hours to hear their guru. One of his disciples expressed the sentiment of many when she described how she had been to various teachers and centers and even thought she had attained some higher spiritual states but now she sees that was all false because she has a "great master" in Guru F who has brought her to the true realization. Now although she does not study the texts or read books, she too has become a teacher through the Universal Power that he manifests.
In Guru F we see: the emergence of the Guru in the full Indian form. He supplants the path of meditation with the power of the guru; he even preaches against the other meditation teachers and seeks to convert their followers by showing that they are following the wrong path. Guru F has become a true guru and heads a movement that takes on the characteristics of sectarianism within the parameters of Buddhism.
III. Paradigm II: Socially Engaged Buddhist Movement
The other contemporary Buddhist movement that has worked to express compassion in Sri Lanka is the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, which represents socially engaged Buddhism. This movement clearly embodies the ideals of humanistic Buddhism. The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement arose in 1958, founded by a Buddhist layman. Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne. As did the meditation movement, the Sarvodaya movement began as a lay Buddhist movement that has at its center a belief in the human potential for spiritual achievement and the implications of the Dhamma for social change. 
Like the meditation movement, Sarvodaya was influenced by Anagarika Dharmapala. Dharmapala described Buddhism as a "Gospel of Activity" preached by the Buddha who "was engaged in doing good in the world of gods and men for twenty-two hours each day." He proclaimed that "Greater than the bliss of sweet Nirvana is the life of moral activity."  Building upon Dharmapala's example, the leaders of Sarvodaya reinterpreted both the path and the goal of Buddhism to develop a blueprint for the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. The path became a path of selfless service in the world and the goal became the development of a new social structure that embodied the Buddhist ideals and facilitated a dual liberation process.
The goal of the path for Sarvodaya is signified by its name, which it translates to mean "the awakening of all" or "the uplift of all." It represents a dual liberation because it is the awakening of both the individual and the society. These two forms of liberation are integrally related as a dual process. An individual living in a society that is poor materially as well as spiritually will have great difficulty awakening to the reality of his/her own greed, hatred and delusion. But unless some individuals awaken to these problems, social change and alleviation of poverty will never be sought. Ariyaratne explains this dual process saying, "I cannot awaken myself unless I help awaken others. Others cannot awaken unless I do."  Ariyaratne contends that both of these forms of liberation have continuity with the original goals of the Buddha's path.
A. The Individual
Sarvodaya calls the awakening of the individual "personality awakening" or "personality development." In the spirit of the Buddhist revival, Ariyaratne has written that "every human being has the potential to attain supreme enlightenment."  Because of the present condition of both individuals and society, however, the kind of "personality awakening" that the average person can achieve in this life is far below the level of supreme enlightenment, but nevertheless represents a start on the gradual path toward the "ultimate goal of Buddhism." Therefore, Sarvodaya teaches that before people can awaken to the supreme, supramundane dimension of truth, they must awaken to the mundane dimensions of truth that surround them in society. Before people can see the supramundane meaning of the four noble truths, for example, they must see the mundane meaning of these truths. To illustrate this idea, Sarvodaya has given these truths social interpretations.
The first truth, dukkha, suffering or unsatisfactoriness, is translated as "There is a decadent village." This concrete form of suffering becomes the focus of mundane awakening. Villagers should recognize the problems in their environment such as poverty, disease, oppression and disunity. The second truth, samudaya, the origin of suffering, now signifies that the decadent condition of the village has one or more causes. Sarvodaya teaches that the causes lie in actors such as egoism, competition, greed and hatred.
The third truth, nirodha, cessation, understood in traditional Buddhism as an indicator of Nibbana, becomes hope that the villagers' suffering can cease. The means to solving the problem lies in the fourth truth, the Eightfold Path. Macy offers an excellent example of the mundane explication of the stages of the Eightfold Path when she cites a Sarvodaya teacher's explanation of Right Mindfulness or Awareness, sati.
"Right Mindfulness -- that means stay open and alert to the needs of the village.... Look to see what is needed -- latrines, water, road." 
If persons can awaken to the mundane truths about the conditions around them, then realizing the need for change they can work to bring needed changes in society. As society is changed, the individual is changed. One who addresses mundane problems with compassion, finds the mundane world becoming more compassionate. And in a more compassionate world it is easier to develop wisdom. Ariyaratne explains the interconnectedness of this process of dual liberation when be says that "The struggle for external liberation is a struggle for inner liberation from greed, hatred and ignorance at the same time." 
Sarvodaya spells out the interdependent nature of this process of awakening and development by specifying six levels of human awakening: personality awakening; family awakening; village/community awakening; urban awakening; national awakening; and global awakening. Sarvodaya's view of the awakening of society on these levels -- the other side of the dual liberation process -- constitutes a radical reinterpretation of the nature of social and economic development. For Sarvodaya, development is an integrated process involving six elements that reinforce each other to bring about the best society: in this process the reform of the social, political and economic elements of a society should take place in conjunction with the reassertion of its moral, cultural and spiritual elements. The integrated development of these six elements leads to a society based on spiritual and traditional values where people can live together in harmony and where individuals will have an opportunity to awaken their personalities to the fullest.
Sarvodaya's ideal of an integrated development supported by spiritual values critiques the materialistic, capitalistic model of development dominant in Sri Lanka since the colonial period. Opposing the kind of materialistic development schemes that the government and international agencies have brought about in Sri Lanka, Ariyaratne says, "In production-centered societies the total perspective of human personality and sustainable relationships between man and nature is lost sight of... The higher ideals of human personality and social values are disregarded."  Production-centered societies define wealth in quantitative terms and create desires for the objects that they produce; Sarvodaya declares that spiritual values represent the true wealth. Sarvodaya's model of development is "people-centered" and has as its primary aim "human fulfillment" rather than the creation of material wealth. Ariyaratne argues that the "advancement of people in a quantitative sense is meaningless and even unachievable" unless the spiritual and qualitative factors are included also."  The economic ideal of the social order Sarvodaya seeks is described as one of "no poverty and no affluence." In this sense Sarvodaya works to create a social context where peace can prevail.
C. Sarvodaya's Path
To see how Sarvodaya has sought to implement the ideal of peace and how its
goal differs from that of the meditation movement, we can observe some key features of Sarvodaya's interpretation of the Dhamma. Sarvodaya's Path for the laity comprises the traditional elements of Daana, Siila, Bhaavanaa. These represent the traditional formulation of the path for laity, but Sarvodaya gives these elements of the path a new interpretation. Daana, means generosity and sharing but has clear implications for social welfare also. Siila means right conduct but also not exploiting self and others and leads into concerns for social justice and human rights. Bhaavanaa means spiritual development, meditation. But it does not have to be done apart from society. Sarvodaya sees that meditation implies developing one's heart: personal transformation for social transformation.
Sarvodaya expands on these ideas by stressing 4 factors of Social Behavior and the Four Brahma Vihaaras.
The Four Factors of Social Behavior (Sangaha Vatthu) are explained by Sarvodaya as follows.
(1.) Daana, as we saw above, means sharing, especially in Shramadaana, the gift of labor. This idea of sharing was a way of dealing with the realization of interdependence and a way of overcoming desire and selfishness, cardinal moral problems for Buddhism. Sarvodaya says that in the rural villages people understood and naturally practiced these ideas before westernization and modernization arrived. Therefore, Sarvodaya has revived them by sponsoring Shramadanas, or work camps where everyone shares their labor to improve a village. At these work camps particularly, but at all times ideally, Sarvodaya volunteers attempt to follow these Four Factors of Social Behavior.
(2.) Pleasant Speech: One of the Buddhist precepts or moral commandments says that Buddhists should not use false speech. Lying is, of course, one form of false speech, but another form is harsh speech. Sarvodaya says that in the villages every one practiced pleasant speech by referring to others with relational terms. One addressed one's neighbors with relational terms of respect, calling them appropriately, member, father, older sister, older brother, younger sister, younger brother. This had the effect of creating a community that acknowledged its inter-relatedness. This way of conduct is followed in Sarvodaya's Shramadana camps and other activities as far as possible.
(3.) Constructive activity (Arthachariya), means Right conduct. Sarvodaya interprets this as engaging in activities that promote material prosperity and social well being but do not endanger spiritual development.
(4.) Equality (Samanatamata) is taken to mean that people saw each other as equals in village society. Sarvodaya has tried to promote this equality by working for Social Justice and human rights.
(BRAHMA VIHAARAS, DIVINE ABIDINGS)
The best example of Sarvodaya's reinterpretation of the Dhamma for social
engagement is its explanation of the Four Divine Abidings (Brahma Vihaaras) as central factors in the this-worldly path. The Four Divine Abidings comprise loving kindness (mettaa), compassion (karunaa), sympathetic joy (muditaa) and equanimity (upekkhaa).
The traditional and dominant interpretation of these states has held that they represent enstatic states of mental tranquility reached by withdrawing from the world and practicing the meditation of calmness, samaadhi. As we have seen, the lay meditation teachers have focused on these forms of bhaavanaa today as ways of individual liberation. Sarvodaya, however, sees these Brahma vihaaras as keys to social reform and the attainment of peace. Although these Divine Abidings have social implications, most interpreters -- both Western and Asian in the modern period -- have seen them as having more to do with purifying one's own mind than with acting to change society. Sarvodaya, however, teaches that the Four Brahama vihaaras or Divine Abidings serve primarily as guidelines for social action. Although the tradition may have seen them as meditation subjects or thoughts, Ariyaratne says that is not sufficient. "Loving kindness towards all is the thought that an awakening personality should have. But this thought is not enough; it is only the motivation which should lead us to compassionate action."  Clearly Sarvodaya has shifted the focus in its understanding of the Divine Abidings; however, even in classical Theravada these ideas have ethical implications on the mundane or this-worldly plane and seem logically to imply a social philosophy.
Ariyaratne maintains that in traditional Sri Lankan village culture, the awakening of the personality was based on these four principles.  Therefore Sarvodaya promotes them as central elements of its plan for employing the Dhamma to assist and uplift the rural poor. Sarvodaya takes the first principle, mettaa or loving kindness, to mean "respect for all life," cultivating love for all beings. This principle leads to the second, karunaa or compassion, which Sarvodaya understands as "compassionate action."
Muditaa or sympathetic joy results from acting on the first two principles because one sees how one's efforts have helped others. This joy represents an important factor in Sarvodaya's mundane awakening for to be awake and liberated is to be joyful. Sarvodaya does not downplay the element of joy derived from losing oneself in the service of society. The fourth principle, upekkhaa or equanimity, becomes important for developing a personality structure unshaken by praise or blame, by gain or loss.
Through living out the Divine Abidings in concrete action, such as in a Shramadaana camp, Sarvodayans implement the path of this-worldly asceticism that leads to the goal of dual liberation. Ariyaratne said that "To change society we must purify ourselves, and the purification process we need is brought about by working in society."  The Buddhist path, including the factors of the Eightfold Path and the Four Divine Abidings, constitutes the crucial link between the individual and society in Sarvodaya's whole scheme of awakening and development, for it provides a means to awaken both self and society together.
The exact nature of the interrelationship of the spiritual and social goals in Sarvodaya's vision of development is illustrated by a saying used by the movement to
describe Shramadana camps: "We build the road and the road builds us." This saying catches the point that material development work done on behalf of society also serves spiritual purposes. As Ariyaratne explains, Sarvodaya actually cannot fail; the road may fail by being washed out, but the awakening that occurred in the building of it will endure. This saying demonstrates that although the social and spiritual factors in development depend on each other, for Sarvodaya the spiritual retains priority.
The Sarvodaya Movement has been influential in the quest for peace in Sri Lanka and in the world at large. Sarvodaya and Dr. Ariyaratne have received international recognition for their work for peace.
In the emergence of these movements and their interpretations of the dhamma, we can see some of the directions in which contemporary Theravada Buddhism is moving. One of the main directions is toward the evolution of a humanistic Buddhism that favors social engagement. These gurus are adapting Buddhism to the needs of human beings and society in significant ways. We can point to Guru D's upgrading the status and role of women, Guru B's proposal to establish a dharmic constitution, and Guru C and Guru Ratnakara's groups that are working to carry out projects that benefit society and the environment. These gurus through their meditation have seen that wisdom entails compassion and that compassion requires various expressions.
The Sarvodaya Movement has also sought to develop compassionate programs that address the problems of society. Both of these movements build upon the central Buddhist insight that, as the Dhammapada teaches, "The Mind is the foremost reality." The Sarvodaya Movement carries the process of purification into society and attempts to uproot the social structures that have grown up in society because of the unprofitable roots of the mind. Dr. Ariyaratne has pointed out how these negative mental states can become negative social forces. He says, " You can organize greed and call it development, you can organize hatred and call it peace, and you can organize ignorance and call it science." In his acceptance speech for the Niwano Peace Prize, Dr. Ariyaratne said, "The present-day violence within our countries and between our countries is rooted in two broad sectors. One is our own ignorant minds which generate evil thoughts of greed and ill will...The second is our social, economic and political structures in which these evil thoughts can be organized for collective manifestations."
Buddhism today has the opportunity to work for peace that will counter these unprofitable roots. The movements I have discussed and other Buddhist groups and movements that are working today have the possibility to bring about a new middle path, a path between the extremes of materialistic domination of the world and spiritualistic retreat from the world, a humanistic path that leads to Wisdom and Compassion.
Bibliography of Citations
Bartholomeusz, Tessa and C.R. de Silva (eds.), 1998. Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka. Albany: SUNY Press.
Bond, George D., 1988. The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka. Columbia, S.C.: The Univ. of South Carolina Press.
Kemper, Steven, 1991. The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics and Culture in Sinhala Life. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Marty, Martin, and R. Scott Appleby (eds.), 1991. Fundamentalisms Observed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Obeyesekere, Gananath, 1990. "Buddhism, Nationhood, and Cultural Identity: A Question of Fundamentals." in Marty and Appleby (eds.) Fundamentalisms Comprehended, pp. 231-256.
Obeyesekere, Gananath, 1991. "Buddhism and Conscience: An Exploratory Essay," Daedalus (Summer, 1991), 219-231.
Scott, David, 1994. Formations of Ritual: Colonial and Anthropological Discourses on the Sinhala Yaktovil. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Tambiah, S.J., 1992. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1. G. Obeyesekere, "Buddhism, Nationhood and Cultural Identity: A Question of Fundamentals." in Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms Comprehended. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
2. Dharmapala, of course, did not always agree with the Orientalist directions of Olcott and stressed the importance of the Buddhist's search for identity. For more explanation of this matter see my book, The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka, p. 48ff.
3. For a more complete account of the origins of the meditation movement see The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka, Ch. 4, and R. Gombrich and G. Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed, Ch. 6.
4. For a more extensive discussion of this guru and his society, see my Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka, Ch. 6.
5. Charter of Incorporation for Sadaham Mithuru Samuluwa, Sri Lanka, p. 4.
6. Although Sarvodaya affirmed the potential of lay persons, it did not take an anti-clerical stance. It has tried throughout its history to enlist the monks in its programs for
7. Ananda W. P. Guruge, Return to Righteousness (Colombo: Government Press, 1965), p. 737.
8. A People's Agenda for Global Awakening, Ninth Niwano Peace Prize Ceremony, 1992. p. 3.
9. Collected Works I, p. 133.
10. Joanna Macy, Dharma and Development, p. 76.
11. In Search of Development, p. 16.
12. Dana, Vol. xiv, no. 9 (September, 1989), p. 13.
13. "Political Institutions and Traditional Morality," Dana, Vol. xiv, No. 9, (Sept., 1989), p. l3.
14. Collected Works, Vol. II, p. 49.
15. Collected Works, Vol. I, p. 119.
16. This comment was made during one of my interviews with Dr. Ariyaratne in July, 1997.
- 喬治‧邦德（George D. Bond）教授著 -
本文將談及包括佛教復興所產生之事蹟以及佛教今天所代表的真正意義與動機，這些意義與動機並不是出自于人們通常所指的兩個起著主流力量的組織：辛哈里佛教教義組織（Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalism)與辛哈里佛教國家組織(Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism)，而是斯里蘭卡另外兩支佛教運動—“民間坐禪運動”及“佛教社會運動”，這兩隻運動體現了人間佛教的宗旨，可用“互助全社會覺醒與發展運動”(Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement)為代表例子。從後面二個運動中，我們可以看出今日斯里蘭卡的佛教徒的探索，瞭解他們采用哪些經典來為這古老的精神傳統，在現代社會
How to Practise Humanistic Buddhism?
(1) We should think about humanistic Buddhism, we should speak about it and we should practice it. We should speak positively about life in this world and exult in the joy and beauty of it. We should seek to help others without being asked. We should treat our friends and loved ones with kindness and consideration. We should develop a strong sense of gratitude for everything we have, and we should always act on what we know is right.
(2) We should make vows which establish the primacy of human beings. As Buddhists, we must make vows which establish the depths of our own characters, but we can only really succeed in doing this if we vow to be compassionate toward others first. We must vow to help others, and we must vow to take on new responsibilities for the good of others. This is the Bodhi Way. It may seem, at first, like a sacrifice to dedicate yourself to helping others, but in the end you will see that same dedication is the only means by which the highest human potential is released.
(3) We must not reject life's abundance. There is nothing wrong with material abundance, and we should work to produce it, and use what we produce to help others. At the same time, we must realize that material abundance always is limited. Our real joy should spring from the joy and wisdom of the Dharma. With this joy firmly established in our hearts, we will have the means necessary to function efficiently on the material plane without becoming so involved in things that we lose our concentration.
(4) We must consider humanism to be an essential part of our practice of Buddhism. The Five Precepts, the Ten Wholesome Deeds, the Four Virtuous Methods, the Four Vows and the Six Paramitas are the essence of Buddhist practice. At the same time, they are the essence of humanistic Buddhism, too. If all of us really practice Buddhism in this way, we will succeed in making this world into a Pure Land.
-- Grand Master Hsing Yun:
Epoch of the Buddha's Light I,
International Buddhist Translation Center,
San Diego, 1997, p. 116