‘The Buddhist’ the present quarterly publication of the Colombo YMBA, originated by the Colombo Theosophical society in 1888, as the English supplement of this weekly publication ‘Sarasavisanderasa’ could be called one of the oldest Buddhist journals in the world which has become richer in content and variety and wider in circulation during the past 125 years' From a supplement first published it become more independent when the Colombo YMBA took over its publication in 1898' In its chequered history some years in the early 20th century it was not published and revived by Mr. WA de Silva and Sir DB Jayathilaka since ‘The Buddhist’ was the voice of the Buddhist against powerful Christian propaganda, that threatened the national awaking against Colonial dominations'
To project its long history given below are two extracts published in its Golden Jubilee and centenary publications in 1898 and 1998 respectively'
The lack of funds or even the lack of an office of its own did not deter these courageous Buddhists from undertaking the publication of “The Buddhist” in 1902' The journal had been started by the Colombo Theosophical Society in 1888, but found it difficult to carry on' The brains behind the YMBA like D'B' Jayatilka and A'E' Buultjens realized that the YMBA was not just an Association for benign Buddhist discussion, for gatherings of likeminded Buddhists, for bana preaching, but a movement for the revival, and the restoration of Buddhism to its rightful place in this country' Hence the publication of a journal like “The Buddhist” it was realized, would be of immense help to put across Buddhist, opinion in the country' It could act as the mouthpiece of Buddhist, as a watchdog for the protection of Buddhist rights and privileges and an instrument for exposure of inroads made towards the subversion of destruction of Buddhism in this country'
The Buddhist Renaissance
Publication of “The Buddhist” was no easy task' There was often conflict of opinion both from a secular angle and from the clergy' Obstacles and handicaps did spring up on the way' But men like A'E'Buultjens, C'W' Leadheater, C'Jinarajadasa and D'B' Jayatilaka who was Editor did not cave in, in the face of difficulties' It was at the time the only journal on Buddhism in English'
In those early issues there was much discussion of doctrinal matters' D'B' Jayatilaka was a profound student of the Buddha Dhamma and the journal had the benefit of his erudition and scholarship'
But the history of “The Buddhist” in those early years was chequered' Between 1908 and 1910 the journal could not cope with the problems, financial and otherwise that it faced and it had to cease publication' Valiantly, W'A' de Silva revived it for 12 months in 1910, but it lapsed again and was revived only in 1915 as a weekly newspaper'
The Buddhist were in dire need of this journal to spearhead Buddhist thought and opinion, to defend the positions they took in matters of public interest, and answer their critics and opponents who were many' The circumstances of its publication were hostile, but since the country continued to be bombarded by Christian propaganda it was necessary for the Buddhists to have a mouthpiece to express their views'
Besides, “The Buddhist” was an instrument through which funds could be raised for various causes and the assistance of the Buddhist public mobilised' When an Education Fund was launched for Ananda College by P' de S' Kularatne, when money was raised to finance the appeal to the Privy Council of the Gampola perahera case, “The Buddhist” was very useful in providing the publicity' It also helped to raise funds for the Woodward Memorial Education Fund and the fund to aid the Ven' Ananda Metteyya'
No journal published in Sri Lanka has probably had so chequered a history as The Buddhist that it is a marvel that the magazine continues to be published 110 years after its first appearance' Four or five times it ceased publication but phoenix-like, rose again and it can well claim to be one of the oldest Buddhist journals in the world' W'A de Silva, a Member of the State Council and, later, a Minister, one of the founding members of the YMBA, recounts the early history of the journal in its May-June issue of 1933'
“In July 1888 a specimen number of The Buddhist was issued on the Esala full moon day and was well received and the Colombo Theosophical Society decided to make it a permanent feature of their weekly publication Sarasavisanderasa'
“The Buddhist was started in December 1888 as the English supplement of the Sarasavisanderasa and was issued every week for seven years punctually each Friday printed on high class paper and set in very good type' It was equal in its get up to any well established weekly review published in England' It consisted of eight pages crown quarto and has recorded in its pages the early history of Buddhist activities in Ceylon in addition to contributions on Buddhism written by well-known scholars of the time'”
The magazine was sub-titled “The Organ of the Southern Church of Buddhism” – the “Southern Church” being Hinayana Buddhism as opposed to Mahayana which is the form of Buddhism followed in the countries of north-east Asia'
The price of the magazine was ten cents a copy' To subscribers to Sarasavisanderasa the annual subscription was Rs 3, to others in Ceylon and India, Rs 4 and Rs 10 to subscribers in other countries'
C'W' Leadbeater, the first Principal of Ananda College, edited the magazine in its first year' H' Dharmapala (later Anagarika Dhammapala) “with his youthful enthusiasm worked very hard to make the venture the success it was,” says W'A' de Silva' After Leadbeater, D'C' Pedris and Mudaliyar L'C' Wijesinha, translator of the Mahavamsa, edited the magazine for a few months each until, some time in the latter part of the second year, A'E' Buultjens took over and continued to edit it for the next six years'
The publication of The Buddhist ceased for some time after its seventh year and was revived again as a weekly edited by W'A de Silva and later as a monthly magazine'
New Series Vol' I No 1 dated Friday, 5 March 1897 was a tabloid' The price was the same as before' A line, “Subscriptions must be paid in advance,” below the subscriptions rates shows how much the management depended on subscriptions' The management had succeeded in getting advertisements for the “new look” magazine and the advertising rates were, more than five lines, five cents per line per insertion' Other first insertions were ten cents per line' A whole column was Rs' 8' A second insertion was at a third and subsequent insertions were at half of those rates' An editorial of the early days says'
“Sinhalese are well served by the vernacular press' The public of the Sinhalese press are the Sinhalese themselves, but at the present day our voice must be uttered in their tongue not ours'”
Perhaps it was for this purpose that The Buddhist was turned into a tabloid to take its place among the other newspapers of the day'
Eric S' Amerasinghe in his “History of the YMBA” (Golden Jubilee Souvenir) mentions C' Jinarajadasa along with Leadbeater and Buultjens as Editors of The Buddhist prior to 1902' Jinarajadasa possibly took over from W'A' de Silva some time between 1897 and 1900' This cannot be verified as Volume II onwards of the New Series are not available at the YMBA library or at the Government Archives'
When, after twelve years of publication, the Theosophical Society announced the discontinuance of the magazine the Colombo YMBA volunteered to undertake its publication' An editorial note in the first issue published under the new management says,
“The aim and objects of The Buddhist as well as its policy remain the same as before' To promote unity among Buddhists, to encourage all efforts which tend to strengthen the good cause and to help, as far as it in us lies, those who are interested in the study of Buddhism, shall be as hitherto our earnest endeavour'”
The YMBA was but four years old when it took over The Buddhist, “scarcely strong enough in its own resources to undertake the publication of a monthly magazine'” Nevertheless, the Association has published the magazine these 96 years with short breaks and not as regularly or as punctually as it ought to be -- a shortcoming apparent from the outset to the present day'
Over the years the contents and the emphasis have changed with the priorities of the day' The Buddhist has, however, always been a teacher of the Buddha Dhamma, a recorder of Buddhist events here and abroad, a spotlight on matters affecting Buddhists, a watchdog of Buddhist rights and the mouthpiece (not always very strong) of Buddhist opinion in Sri Lanka' The Buddhist has educated readers on Buddhism and the history of Sri Lanka at a time when these subjects were not in the school curriculum' The magazine has also been the medium for collecting funds for Buddhist causes such as the Buddhist Education Fund, the Dutugemunu Fund in aid Of Ananda College, the Gampola Perahera Case Fund to finance an appeal to the Privy Council, the Woodward Memorial Education Fund, a fund to support the ailing Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya who had returned to England and the lay life and the Flood Relief Fund of 1930'
The first issue of The Buddhist under YMBA management was published in April 1902 and after the first three monthly issues it was published erratically, sometimes as double numbers, and it took two years for the last issue (a double number) of that volume to come off the press – Vol' XII Nos' 11 and 12 are dated December 1903 – March 1904'
The frequent apologies for delay are an indication of the uphill task of volunteers bringing out a magazine financed by subscription' Pleading in excuse, the Editor says, “The work on the magazine is done by volunteers who are all busy men engaged in their pursuits and in their duties' We have not yet acquired sufficient strength to justify any expenses on personal services” (Vol' XII Nos' 11 and 12)' The situation is no better today'
To make The Buddhist “the power for good which it ought to be” the then Editor solicits “the co-operation of all our religionists whether they are members of the YMBA or not...... If every member of the Association secures a few subscribers for the new volume we should be able to increase the usefulness of the magazine to a great extent'”
Like the numerous Sinhala periodicals which started with a flourish in the last quarter of the last century The Buddhist too was dependent on subscriptions' Subscriptions alone cannot finance a magazine and when subscriptions are in arrears and the printing and distribution costs cannot be met there is no option but to wind up' The Theosophical Society too was in this situation not only in 1900 when the decision was taken to discontinue the publication but even earlier as this comment from the January 1894 issue shows'” .... It would be a shame if for lack of support the management should decide that this paper be discontinued'” The Editor appeals for continued support by “1' regular payments from old subscribers, 2 introduction to new subscribers in Ceylon and in foreign lands'”
Despite the many constraints the YMBA continued to publish The Buddhist until 1908' The Editor’s name in not given in any of the 12 numbers of the first volume but the hand of the Association’s President is evident in the editorial notes and in the selection of articles' There are also articles and comments signed “DBJ,” “The Life and Work of Saranankara Sangharja” and “Songs of the Elders (Translation of Thera Gatha)” being among them'
Among the contributors to the first issue put out by the YMBA are H' Dharmapala and Allan MacGregor who was ordained in Burma and took on the name Ananda Maitriya--referred to later as Ananda Metteyya' The Editorial Notes cover a wide range of subjects--a pointer to the Editor’s wide interests and liberal outlook' We read of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and its significance to Asia, of the departure from Ceylon of Bishop Dr Coplestone author of “Buddhism, Primitive and Present” on his promotion to the See of Calcutta, of the decision taken by the Christian Missionary Society not to employ Christian teachers who had worked in Buddhist schools, of the missionaries’ attitude to and discomfort in the face of the Buddhist revival'
Papers read before societies like the YMBA and the Theosophical Society and other lectures were published, notable among them being on the subject of Western education for Buddhist monks by Ananda Maitriya, a talk delivered on 25 April 1903 at the opening of the Maitri temple in Bambalpitya' A report of a series of lectures delivered at Wesley College by Cuthbert Hall ends with the comment, unsigned but very probably the Editor’s, “A few more lectures of the type delivered at Wesley College in November could have been productive of much good' They would have thrown more concentrated intellectual light around benighted and bigoted Christian Colombo” (Vol' XII No' 6, March 1903)
The news items and excerpt from foreign journals are pointers to the revival of Buddhism here and abroad' Singapore Chinese had opened a Buddhist school for boys; an international YMBA had been started in Tokyo; a Buddhasasana Samagama for the propagation of Buddhism in the west had been inaugurated in Burma; at home the inaugural meeting of the Buddhist National Congress had been held at Ananda College in April 1903 with S'N'W' Hulugalla in the chair and members of the YMBA acting as stewards'
According to the Annual' Report of the YMBA of 1910 the magazine was published until 1908 when for the lack of support it was discontinued' After three years in abeyance it was revived by W'A de Silva in October 1910, slightly different in format and sold at an annual subscription of Rs' 1'50 in Ceylon and India and two shillings six pence elsewhere, post free'
Besides articles on doctrinal matters by writers like F'L' Woodward and J'W' Wetta Singha there are extracts from foreign journals and reviews and notices of currently forgotten books-- "A Collection of Eastern Stories and Legends for Schools” by Marie L' Shedlock, “Life and legend of Gotama the Buddha of the Burmese” by the Rt' Rev'P Bigandet, Bishop of Ramatha published by the American Mission Press' J' Pahamuney OMI writes on “Buddhist and Catholic Positions”' We read about Buddhist societies in Britain, Europe, Australia, Burma, Bengal and Madras and of the Buddhist Fraternal Association in Ceylon with branches in the hill country and in the south' The demise of the Ven' Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala was noted as the passing away of “one of the remaining landmarks of old Ceylon Buddhism of the last century'”
It was probably the lack of funds and the absence abroad of the President, D'B' Jayatilaka, that led to the discontinuance of the journal just twelve months after its appearance again on 9 January 1915 it was as a tabloid for the second time in its history, the previous occasion being its inauguration in 1897 as a weekly published on Friday'
The new tabloid was a four page paper printed at the Vidya Sagara Press at Panchikawatta, Maradana' The annual subscription was Rs 1'50 without postage and Rs' 4 with postage' The Manager was A' Mendis' Again, the management was depending on subscriptions for production and distribution'
D'B' Jayatilaka as President made “an individual and personal appeal” to members to help by each becoming a subscriber and bringing in another' He also called for agents in Colombo and in the outstations in order to reduce expenses of distribution'
In the first issue, readers were editorially reminded that “on many occasions in matters of grave importance the Buddhist view was altogether ignored or was very feebly represented” and added confidently, “This can be done in a satisfactory manner only if the Buddhists have an organ of their own' The Buddhist seeks to supply this want'”
The paper was greeted with enthusiasm' “Thanks to the YMBA we have a Buddhist English newspaper,” wrote Arthur M' Karunaratne of Kalutara South' “The Buddhist is going to be a power for good,” was J'D' Fernando’s hope' Yet, one writer warned, “Periodicals are of mushroom growth, spring up in the night, live its little day and cease to be'”
P' de S' Kularatne wrote from London, “We have over two and a half millions of Buddhists..... ' Till the appearance of your paper they didn’t even have a journal in which they could voice their feelings so that they may directly reach the authorities' It is in the hope that your paper will be in a position to create public opinion among Buddhists, to point out to them their clear duty and line of action that I rejoice at the appearance of your paper.... I have no doubt that it will have a career of great achievement before it” (24 April 1915)'
After six or seven issues a reader appealed to Buddhist merchants to advertise in The Buddhist “which is a journal for the interest of our religion and money is required to keep it up and make it a greater success than it is now'” And advertisements started coming, even before the Vesak issue of 28 May 1915 which was dedicated to “him we adore as the Holy Buddha'” There were advertisements from reputed merchants of the day and others like Hanti Appuhamy and Miss Toyono Marali advertising classes in embroidery and artificial flower making' There were half page advertisements of a car, Mecca 30 1916 Model inserted by Don Davit' By 1917 even statutory testamentary case notices made their appearance'
“The whole work of editing and managing the paper is done by a few volunteers who are devoting all their leisure to this task,” wrote the President in calling for more subscribers and for help in running the paper'
Despite it being the work of volunteers, The Buddhist had all the makings of a popular weekly--a Science Corner, a Literary Corner introducing English writers, Pope, Goldsmith and others, Boy Scouts’ Column, Table Talk on current problems and Current Topics by SRW' Fijjik’s Week by Week column had humorous and satirical pieces on subjects like Social Weddings, Oriental Punctuality, Love in a Flower Pot which will not be out of place in a tabloid today'
The sale and consumption of alcohol was one of the big problems of the day' Besides editorials on the curse of alcohol there was Hon' K' Balasingham, Member of the Legislative Council writing on “The Drink Question” and “Drink and Crime”'
The Buddhist pointed out the need for reform of the Sangha, for a Congress of Buddhist Associations and for English schools for girls'
Doctrinal articles were few but they were by scholars like Bhikkhu Silacara' There was plenty of news about Buddhist associations, literary societies and Buddhist schools and even about Hindu schools in the Batticaloa District' Some articles aroused controversy as when Bhikkhu Silacara advocated the teaching of English to bhikkhus' The response of readers was published under the caption, “From the Frying pan into the Fire”'
Matters affecting Buddhists such as their inadequate representation in the Legislative Council and their exclusion from the Excise Advisory Committee were taken up but the voice of The Buddhist was not strong enough nor persistent; often, it was only a whimper as in the Editorial on “The Fate of a Buddhist Land” when in February 1915 the Government handed over Asgiriya Temple land to Trinity College for a cricket ground'
The riots of 1915 in Colombo and other towns and the imprisoning of Buddhist leaders “threatened the very existence of the YMBA” and The Buddhist was suspended' When it recommenced publication in January 1916 the annual subscription had to be raised to Rs' 4 due to the high cost of paper and the size of the tabloid was reduced because of a scarcity of paper of the size used before' This was war time' Notwithstanding the increase in subscription, the readership seems to have increased for there was more news from the provinces and advertisements came from merchants in places like Anuradhapura, Beruwala and Galle'
Yet The Buddhist did not make the grade and by mid- 1917 readers who had expected a vibrant paper voicing Buddhist opinion and defending Buddhist rights were becoming disillusioned' Dr Cassius A' Pereira (later the Ven' Bhikkhu Kassapa of Vajirarama, Bambalapitiya), a frequent contributor giving vent to his anger called the paper “a miserable rag”' He was as critical of the way in which the paper was run as of the wealthy Buddhists who “invest in coconut, rubber and tea but lack the public spirit and the saddha to invest in a decent paper which is a crying want.... Editors spring up when needed if sufficient money inducement is offered to make the post of Editor attractive' You need whole time paid men, not amateurs who play at newspaper running as you do now” (June 2 1917)' Dr Pereira had hit the nail on the head' What was needed was not “a little of the shoulder to the wheel” as Ever-willing Barkis” of “The Grove”, Colombo had suggested but professionalism'
SRW in his “Current Topics” wrote on June 30 1917, “Our ambition should be to control an up-to-date newspaper with a press housed in a building of our own' A competent and qualified manager and a salaried staff should be entrusted with the destiny of the paper which should be increased to at least 16 pages and of the same size as the dailies'” Readers too made similar suggestions' HDW of “Vijita” Galle suggested a bi-weekly of 12 or 16 pages publishing “all news of interest to Buddhists, even reports of weddings and funerals of Buddhists' “Earlier, in 1915, the paper had published an account of the temporary robbing as a bhikkhu of Herbert Mendis, later H' Sri Nissanka, QC' Lankaputra suggested changing the printing press as the one then used was too small' A Panadura Buddhist proposed that contributors be paid and the setting up of a fund for the purpose--"not a ‘Sinking Fund’ but a ‘Swimming Fund’,” a reference to the Rupee Fund of 1915 which had been a failure'
With the President, Jayatilaka, away in England since January 1916 involved in discussions on the country’s constitutional reform, nothing was done to recruit paid staff as suggested by readers' However the Association’s Annual Report covering the period October 1916 to September 1917 claims that a great improvement had been effected (which this writer did not see) and a Board formed to assist the management' Neil Hewavitarne was appointed Assistant Manager of The Buddhist in October 1917' The printer was changed and the work given to the Dinamina press'
As the need for a press of one’s own was felt more and more acutely by the YMBA a “Buddhist Press Fund” was inaugurated on 26 January 1918' The issue of 16 February reported that P'A' Gooneratne of Panadura had “with commendable generosity promised a donation of Rs' 1,000 and had further induced one of his friends to contribute Rs' 2,000” By that date contributions of Rs 10,5,2,1 and fifty cents had totaled Rs 193'50' The Fund was growing at snail’s pace and would have continued at this pace had it not been for the prodding of Arthur V' Dias' By mid-July the Fund amounted to Rs 3,507 to which sum was added 5 pounds sent from England by “five sons of Ceylon”' A sale of books donated by H'P' Wijesinha of Marawila brought in Rs 40'66'
As the Fund built up, P'A' Gooneratne, Arthur V' Dias and the Honorary Manager of The Buddhist were appointed Trustees of the Fund' At the end of December 1918 Rs 4,963'30 was deposited in the Bank of Madras, Colombo' At Arthur V' Dias’ suggestion purchase of a press was postponed and proceeds from the investment of the money were used to defray the expenses of The Buddhist could be printed at the Association’s own press' The first issue to come off the YMBA press was the 1957 Feb-March issue'
Even after the President’s return to the Island the paper did not show any improvement' Its publication was erratic' The number of pages see-sawed between eight and four and they contained little reading material of interest to readers' The Buddhist was clearly sliding down' If the issue of 1917 seemed a rag to Cassius Pereira, now it was even worse' It had sunk so low that P' de S' Kularatne who had been very enthusiastic and hopeful when The Buddhist recommenced publication, started rival bi-weekly tabloid, The Buddhist Chronicle, in 1921 with the assistance of Dr G'P' Malalasekera, which might have eaten into the readership of The Buddhist'
The Buddhist limped along until it ceased publication in the mid-twenties' However, it could not be buried for good' It rose once again in May 1931 with the Editor striking the all too familiar note of apology and assurances, “Once again after a lapse of three years The Buddhist reappears this time, I sincerely hope, with greater assurance of permanence than before in its chequered history” (Vol' II New Series No' 1 May 1931)' True to the Editor’s assurance, the journal has, since then, been published continually but, as always, not punctually' By now the Association had realized that if the journal was to continue and be worth its name it could not be left to volunteers' It was very necessary to have a competent person to handle the editorial work' The Editor who was also the Association’s President admitted that “in recent yeas other important and urgent duties made it impossible for me to devote sufficient time to this work” (Vol' II No' 1 May 1931)' P'P Siriwardhana was persuaded to undertake the task of editing The Buddhist in addition to his other duties as Organizing Secretary and he was paid an honorarium (for travelling expenses etc')' However D'B' Jayatilaka’s name continued to appear as Editor on the title page until his death in 1944'
The Association’s Managing Committee decided to send The Buddhist, priced at 25 cents, free to every member of the YMBA whose subscription was not in arrears' The membership then was 600' It was a drain on the resources of the Association but the step was taken in order to keep members especially those in the outstations, in close touch with its activities'
Starting with the May 1931 issue The Buddhist has, despite mounting printing and postage costs been sent free to members of the YMBA'
The Buddhist was now a magazine of general interest to the educated reader, enlivened with reproductions of paintings with Buddhist themes, pictures of Buddhist places of worship and line drawings like the sketch of Sanghamitta Their sent by Nanda Lal Bose of Shantiniketan' The doctrinal articles were few, the journal’s scope being much broader now, encompassing history, literature, archaeology and reporting of current events such as the opening of the Mula Gandakuti Vihara at Saranath, the Golden jubilee of Dharmarajah College and the opening of the Vihara Maha Devi Nunnery at Biyagama' Comment and reporting were combined in J'A' Will Perera’s “Historical Analysis of the Kotahena Riots”' There are gleanings from foreign journals like The Illustrated Weekly of India, Illustrated News of London, The Rationalist and The British Buddhist'
“The Buddhist is showing a vigour and activity that augurs well for its future,” wrote W'A' de Silva, MSC, and one-time Editor of The Buddhist and stressed “The need for an English organ for the revival and strengthening of the Buddhist religion in this country and its spread in other lands, is as great today as it was in 1888 when The Buddhist was started” (Vol IV May-June 1933)'
A magazine committee was formed to make the magazine self-supporting' The cost of publication was reduced by various means and it was expected that before long the receipts from advertisements and subscriptions would more than cover the cost of production' However, the Treasurer cautioned the management to keep the cost “as low possible so that no large part of the Association’s income may be swallowed up by its publication” especially as the magazine was being sent free to members'
P'P' Siriwardhana resigned in April 1936 and his place was taken by Vincent de Siva, followed by S'A Wijayatilaka who did all the editorial work until after the death of Sir Baron Jayatilka, whose name continued to appear on the title page as Editor even after he left for New Delhi at the end of 1942 as Ceylon’s Special Envoy to India'
Since May 1931, when the New Series was started, each volume of The Buddhist began with the Vesak issue, which had more pages, special articles, and, for the first time in 1941, a special cover' Two years later, due to the very strict restrictions imposed by the war time Paper Controller, not only was it not possible to bring out the special Vesak issue but the number of pages of the monthly issue had also to be reduced to eight' This form continued into the fifties when, except in special issues, the magazine had only eight or ten pages'
After the death of Sir Baron Jayatilaka in May 1944, S'A' Wijayatilaka and N'E' Weerasooria, KC were appointed Co-Editors but engagement in their respective professions did not leave them much time to devote to the magazine and The Buddhist fell into arrears' Subsequently Dr G'P' Malalsekera was appointed Editor in August 1945' With the resources available to him, his contacts with scholars and writers local and foreign and the assistance of the energetic D'N'W' de Silva he made The Buddhist a journal for scholars and students and for the general reader interested in the religion, its history and literature, archaeology and such topics' Alongside articles by scholars like Dr William Stede, Reader in Pali, School of Oriental and African Studies, John Blomfield, a specialist in Chinese Buddhist Studies, Suzanne Karpeles of the Ecole Francoise d’ Extreme, Dr Taimuri, Director of Archaeology of the Government of Bhopal, Bhikkhu Walpola Rahula Dr B' Ambedkar and E'W' Adikaram were articles by young student writers like W'S' Karunatatne, Stanley Jayaweera and Gunaseela Vithanage who were to make their mark as writers and social commentators later' The magazine began to carry news pictures of special interest to Buddhists like those of D'S' Senanayake inaugurating the restoration of the Mahiyangana Stupa, of an Italian bhikkhu V' Lokanatha preaching on the plinth of the Nelson Column in London and of the visit of Burma’s Premier Thakin Nu to Ceylon' The Secretary noted in his report that since Dr Malalasekera and Mr. de Silva took over, the standard of the magazine as well as the regularity of its publication had considerably improved'
Around this time The Buddhist adopted a cover which gave the journal an identity--a yellow cover with lettering and crest in black' This was made possible by a generous endowment in December 1940 of Rs 10,000, bringing annual income of Rs 600, from A'D' Jayasundera of Galle who had been greatly worried by the nakedness of The Buddhist “in that it had not the wherewithal to provide itself a suitable cover'” He intended the endowment to be the nucleus of a fund for the publication of the magazine' Jayasundera must have been the happiest member of the YMBA when he received the magazine in its new garb' This was The Buddhist’s distinctive cover for the next twenty years'
Editor Malalasekera was also President of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress and as the Congress did not have its own journal, Presidential addresses were regularly published in The Buddhist during his tenure as Editor' There was a special issue in June 1950 in honour of the World Fellowship of Buddhists which had its inaugural meeting in Ceylon' Hitherto there had been no special issues other than at Vesak' Since then there have been an issue dedicated to the memory of Anagarika Dhammapla to celebrate the centenary of his birth in 1964, an Olcott Number in 1967 to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and a Felicitation Number on the 80th birthday of Sir Cyril de Zoysa, President of the Colombo YMBA' The centenary of the founding of the first Dhamma school in the country was the occasion for the publication of a special number in 1995'
The Buddhist was still the watchdog and the voice of the Buddhists' In August 1947 the country went to the polls after eleven years (Elections for a new State Council due in 1941 had been postponed because of World War II') to elect members to the first House of Representatives' In that month an editorial under the heading “Hands off Religion” said, “Saving the Religion has become the war cry of political posters and temples have become the venue of political meetings'” Incensed by the “way religion was sold from platforms for votes” the Editor hit hard (October 1947), “Never was so much religion talked about by so many who know so little..... No other religion suffered so pathetically from the new disease of political piety as Buddhism'
Eight years after Independence and three months before Buddha Jayanthi, Buddhists were still fighting for their rights' “We only want our rights,” wrote the Editor in another hard-hitting editorial (February 1956)' “Buddhists are told quite plainly that they had no more rights than the smallest minority in the land' Certain sections of the Constitution were hurled in the face and their demands were treated with scorn'”
In May 1952 P' de S' Kularatne, General Manager of BTS Schools had to turn to The Buddhist to reply to some disparaging comments made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Colombo at a school prize-distribution because the newspaper which had reported the comments would not carry Kularatne’s reply'
Five years after Buddha Jayanti the position had not changed much' Here are excerpts form the June-August issue of 1961 (The Honorary Editor then was Dr A'D'P' Jayatilaka): “In the past our editorials have been criticized by a small section of our members for tending to be political..... In Ceylon today matters have assumed political significance so that whichever viewpoint is presented by us it may be construed as being pro-this or anti-that' We could easily avoid criticism by being silent on most matters' This would be a great tragedy for the Colombo YMBA' Sitting on the fence is a dangerous perch.... The Buddhist must also serve the function of highlighting not only anti-Buddhist activities but also anti-State activities'” The Editor’s views on tolerance could well be from an editorial in the nineties if we read “ethnic” for “religious” and “Sinhalese” for “Buddhists”' “Buddhists should always extend tolerance to other religious group but that does not mean that we must tolerate intolerance from them' Today the cry is for the exaltation of the minority groups' Effective checks must be placed against militant faiths who time and again have dared to obstruct the wishes of the people'”
After Dr Malalasekera there were a number of Editors – Ananda Guruge, D'N'W' de Silva, A'D'P' Jayatilake, C'D'S' Siriwardane, Palitha Weerasinghe, Walter Wimalachandra, Nandasena Mudiyanse, Sidat Sri Nandalochana, some for a few months, others for longer periods and an Editorial Board with the President as Chairman form the late seventies to the mid-eghties' Those who served long periods were D'N'W' de Silva, C'D'S' Siriwardane and Nandasena Mudiyanse' Palitha Weerasinghe who was Editor from 1967 to 1971 took over again in 1986'
Siriwardane introduced some new features – a Young Buddhist Page, a Lyceum neither of which could be maintained for long and articles in Sinhala which have become a permanent feature'
Dearth of contributions has been a problem faced by Editors, even by Dr Malalasekera despite his contact with scholars and student writers' To stimulate new writers Editor Siriwardane offered a book voucher worth Rs 25 as a prize for the best article, short story of poem sent in and published in each issue' When this offer was carried in the November-December issue, a member C'O'L' Bandaratilake of Nawala wrote in that his wife would be happy to donate this prize in memory of her parents' It is surprising and sad that only school children, the majority of them girls, cared to compete' Vineeta Sunil Kanta of Buddhist Ladies’ College and K' Asoka de Silva of Nalanda Vidyalaya had their prize winning articles published'
Pictures of Buddhist places of pilgrimage were seen as part of the cover design during Weerasinghe’s first stint as Editor' Currently, by using for the Vesak issues covers designed by Kala Suri S'P' Charles of the School of Aesthetic Studies he has brought little known or unknown works of art of the traditional temple artist to the notice of readers'
The history of Buddhism from the time of the Buddha to its introduction to this country and up to the fourteenth century – schisms, reforms, rifts and all, has been told by Sangharaja Devarkkhita Dhammakitti Maha Thera in the Nikayasangraha' From then onwards to the last decade of the nineteenth century the history has to be pieced together with facts gleaned from literary, epigraphical and other sources' The history of the Sasana and the social and legal positions of the adherents of the faith in the last one hundired years is recorded in The Buddhist'The grievances and aspirations of The Buddhist, the denial of and the fight for their legitimate rights, the injustices and anti-Buddhist activities of missionaries and NGOs and of the perennial problems of the Buddhists have all been recorded, commented upon and solutions suggested in articles, reports, letters to the Editor and editorials' The Buddhist, it can be truly said, is “a witness of the times”'
The Buddhist and the American
Florida State University
For the past years, the Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association graciously has allowed me (who is neither a young man nor a Buddhist!) to make use of their library, at Borella especially holdings of the YMBA’s own journal, The Buddhist'Like a sleuth trying to solve a mystery I have used The Buddhist to help piece together the puzzles of Sri Lanka’s history since the late nineteenth century, the period which witnessed the advent of the journal' The Buddhist has preserved for me and other scholars of Buddhism one hundred years of history, penned by people as illustrious as A'E' Buultjens, Don Baron Jayatilaka, and the Anagarika Dharmapala' On its pages the words, the sentiments, the hopes and dreams of Buddhists--both local and foreign – paint for us a picture of a Sri Lanka in transition; whether they were writing during the period which witnessed the development, in the late 1800s, of Buddhist institution such as the YMBA, or whether they were writing at the time of the island’s independence in the 1940s, these writers chart for us English-speaking Buddhists perspectives on Sri Lanka’s relationship with Buddhism through a period of many changes'
Without access to The Buddhist--Colombo's YMBA has nearly every issue, including volume one--it would have been impossible for me to recount the history of Sri Lanka’s first Buddhist nunnery in the modern period, established in 1898 by Dharmapala and an American convert to Buddhism, and the subject of two chapters in my Women Under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka (Cambridge 1994)' It would have been equally impossible for me to reconstruct the history of the education of Buddhist girls in Sri Lanka, a topic that concerned both local and foreign Buddhists since the late nineteenth century, about which I have written' Moreover, without the YMBA’s nearly complete collection of The Buddhist I would not have been able to have situated Dharmapala’s vision of a Buddhist Sri Lanka in the wider context of other Buddhist countries’ religious revivals, an area of scholarship that has been worth each and every pilgrimage from America to the YMBA that I have made since first discovering The Buddhist as an incredibly valuable resource while a graduate students at the University of Virginia in the 1980s'
I am not the only foreign scholar who has benefited from the articles and editorials in The Buddhist'Indeed, I am part of a larger community of academics in Europe and America who have used issues of The Buddhist --whether holdings of American university collections, of British museums, or of the YMBA’s library --to cite the journal in our research' Among the scholars is George D' Bond, whose The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka (South Carolina 1988) remains one of the most authoritative studies on Sri Lanka Buddhism' In short, the journal has been an indispensable component for scholars in highlighting the religious history of Sri Lanka and its relationship with other religious traditions, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere'
Local scholars, too, have availed themselves of the journal’s resources' Among them is Kumari Jayawardena, whose The Rise of the Labour Movement in Ceylon (Duke 1972), explores the connection between the Buddhist revival and Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka' Like foreign scholars, local scholars have appreciated The Buddhist as one of the few resources for providing an important view of the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the modern period'
It is my hope that the YMBA will continue to publish the journal so that the next generation of scholars, both local and foreign, will be able to reflect on the past, as I have for the last decade, through the eyes of Buddhist journalists who will see things I can only imagine'