Promoting Buddhism in Europe
by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi Thera
Asoka Weeraratna was a man of vision who had the drive and stamina to translate his vision into fact. He once told me that his favourite saying of the Buddha was, "Do not become discouraged and give up, and do not rest satisfied with partial achievements."
He himself took this piece of advice to heart. Whenever he set himself a goal, he did not merely dream about it and sing praises to its glory. Rather, he worked with incredible foresight and energy to make the goal a reality.
Because he followed these guidelines, Asoka Weeraratna's life was crowned by three great achievements: the establishment of the German Dharmaduta Society in Sri Lanka; the founding of the Berlin Buddhist Vihâra in Germany; and the creation of the Nissarana Vanaya Hermitage at Mitirigala.
Already in the 1950s, he foresaw the potential for establishing Buddhism in the West, and to make his own contribution to the westward movement of the Dhamma in 1952 he founded the German Dharmaduta Society. He started the Society in the back room of the family shop, though later it moved to premises purchased with funds he acquired through a zealous fund-raising drive.
Asoka realized that if Buddhism was to send down roots in Germany, it was not enough to set up a base for German Buddhist missions here in Sri Lanka. He saw the need to have a Buddhist centre right in the heart of Germany itself. Thus he personally searched for suitable premises throughout Germany, and he found the ideal site in the lovely Frohnau district of Berlin.
The place he discovered was "Das Buddhistische Haus", an old Buddhist compound built by Paul Dahlke in 1924. Under his initiative the German Dharmaduta Society purchased the compound, renovated it, and in 1957 brought it back to life as the Berlin Buddhist Vihâra. In the same year, Asoka organized the first Buddhist mission to Germany, led by three Sri Lankan Bhikkhus accompanied by himself.
From that time to the present, monks from Sri Lanka and elsewhere have lived at the Berlin Vihâra, helping to maintain a Theravada presence in Germany.
Asoka Weeraratna later turned his attention to the construction of the Nissarana Vanaya Hermitage at Mitirigala, which became one of Sri Lanka's most respected meditation monasteries. His mission accomplished, he himself entered the Buddhist order under the name Ven. Dhammanisanthi Thera.
Even then, however, his mind still dwelt on the fate of Buddhism in Germany, and in 1982 he went to Berlin for a year's residence at the Vihara. Before he left for Berlin, he came to the Udawattakele Forest Hermitage in Kandy to meet the well-known German monk, Ven. Nyanaponika Mahathera.
I was present on the occasion, and I still recall that the discussion presented an interesting contrast between Ven. Dhammanisanthi's enthusiastic optimism and Ven. Nyanaponika's pragmatic realism and restraint.
An Opportune Time
The topic of this seminar, "The Necessity for Promoting Buddhism in Europe" is quite appropriate for commemorating Ven. Dhammanisanthi, and reminds us of his life's mission of trying to bring the Sasana to the West.
The topic is also very timely, for the opportunity for disseminating Buddhism in the West is much more ample today than it was fifty years ago when the German Dharmaduta Society was born. At the same time, however, we should not assume that Buddhism is barely known in West and has to be introduced almost from scratch.
To the contrary, in the past two decades public awareness of Buddhism in the West has increased sharply, and in many Western countries today Buddhism is the fastest growing religion. Thus the challenge we face is not that of discussing how to introduce Buddhism to Europe as though it were an utterly unfamiliar creature, but of discovering how to promote the healthy growth of a Buddhism already sending down roots into European soil.
I will deal with my topic in three major parts. First, I will present a short survey of the historical development of Buddhism in Europe. Second, I will raise the question why Buddhism, at just this particular time, is exerting such a strong appeal on Westerners. Third, I will briefly discuss a few special problems we face in trying to make our own Theravada form of Buddhism accessible to the West as a living and relevant tradition.
I. Historical Overview
The Scholarly Discovery of Buddhism
I divide the history of the Western engagement with Buddhism into three major phases. These phases are not totally discrete, for they intersect and overlap, but the threefold division provides a useful way of determining general trends.
The first phase consisted in the academic study of Buddhist texts, aimed at discerning the broad contours of Buddhist history and doctrine. This project took place during the peak of the colonial period, when European countries were busy subjugating Asian peoples and incorporating their nations into their hungry empires. In many cases European interest in Buddhism was bound up with the Christian missionary enterprise of converting the native populations to Christianity.
Beginning around the middle of the nineteenth century, there appeared in Europe a galaxy of brilliant scholars who opened up the treasures locked away in all the different branches of Buddhism, both Hinayana and Mahayana.
These scholars usually remained reticent about their own religious beliefs, but by collecting Asian manuscripts, publishing modern editions of these texts, and providing translations and scholarly studies of Buddhist thought, they laid the indispensable foundation stone for the spread of the Dhamma in the West, namely, access to the original Buddhist sources.
The academic study of Buddhism initiated by the pioneers has continued through to the present time, and in Western universities and institutes, scholars map in ever finer details and with broader sweep the entire Buddhist heritage.
Phase II: Elite Appropriation
Phase II in the European encounter with Buddhism I shall call "elite appropriation." By this, I mean the adoption of Buddhism as a living creed by an increasing number of intellectuals, writers, artists, and professionals. In the German-speaking world the catalyst for the transition from the mere academic investigation of Buddhism to its active appropriation was the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
Though developed independently, Schopenhauer's philosophy showed striking parallels to the Dhamma, as he himself recognized after he came across reliable accounts of Buddhist thought. His writings proved highly influential in European intellectual circles in the late nineteenth century and helped to steer many thoughtful readers to the Dhamma.
In the English-speaking world, the primary impetus for the adoption of Buddhism by educated Westerners came from Sir Edwin Arnold's inspirational poem, The Light of Asia, which depicted the Buddha as a figure of heroic stature combining deep compassion for all humanity with a masterly capacity for rational thought. The Theosophical movement also gave Buddhism a profile in the Anglo-American world.
The First Flowering
Inspired by the Dhamma, a few adventurous spirits, not content with mere book knowledge, left their homelands to travel to the East to learn Buddhism at its sources, and some, like the Englishman Allen Bennett and the German Anton Gueth entered the Buddhist order, respectively as Ven. Ananda Metteyya and Ven. Nyanatiloka.
Within Europe, Buddhist societies began to sprout, Buddhist journals commenced publication, and numerous books on Buddhism, of varying degrees of authenticity, attempted to bridge the gap between classical Buddhism and the Western intellectual heritage. During this phase of "elite appropriation" most proponents of Buddhism favoured the Pali tradition, as being far closer to the Buddha's original teachings than the baffling and ornate Mahayana sutras.
What these thinkers emphasized in Buddhism was its rationality and realism, its ethical purity, its tolerance, its non-dogmatic approach to truth, and its compatibility with modern science. In this phase, with a few exceptions, the meditative, communal, and devotional aspects of Buddhism were left quietly on the sidelines. In other words, theory prevailed over practice.
Phase III: The Popularization of Buddhism
Phase III in the spread of Buddhism in the West began roughly in the 1960s and continues through to the present. This third phase might be described as the popularization of Buddhism. During this phase, Buddhism comes to exert its appeal on an increasing number of people of different lifestyles and its following proliferates rapidly. While this phase of Buddhism began largely as a counter-cultural phenomenon, as the youthful Buddhist rebels gradually entered the mainstream, they brought their Buddhism with them.
Today Buddhism is espoused not only by those in the alternative culture, but by businessmen, physicists, computer programmers, housewives, real-estate agents, even by sports stars, movie actors, and rock musicians. Perhaps several hundred thousand Europeans, and many more Americans, have adopted Buddhism in one or another of its different forms. Thousands of books on Buddhism are now available, dealing with the teachings at both scholarly and popular levels, while Buddhist magazines and journals expand their circulation each year.
An Emphasis on Practice
What is characteristic of Western Buddhism in Phase III, in distinction from the earlier phases, is the focus on Buddhist practice, especially the practice of meditation. In this phase it is not the academic study of Buddhist texts and doctrines that dominates (as in Phase I), or the attempt to interpret the Dhamma through the prism of Western thought (as in Phase II), but the appropriation of Buddhism as a practice that can bring deep transformations in one's innermost being as well as in the conduct of everyday life.
In Phase III, we also find the arrival of various schools of Asian Buddhism, which peacefully coexist, pursuing their own growth and cooperating with each other to secure common aims. With the passage from Phase II to Phase III a noticeable shift takes place in the type of Buddhism generally adopted by Western Buddhists. In Phase II, Pali Buddhism was dominant, but with the rise of Phase III the focus of attraction shifts away from the Pali tradition: first to Zen Buddhism in the 1960s and 1970s; and then to Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism in the 1980s and 1990s. Also the age range of Buddhist followers varies between the schools.
Today in Germany most followers of the Pali tradition are in their 50s and 60s, while the followers of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are in their 30s and 40s. This development is critically important for us, as followers of the Theravada, to understand, and I will therefore return to it later.
II. The Western Receptivity to Buddhism
At this point, I want to raise the question: How are we to understand the surge of interest in Buddhism among Westerners in recent years? How do we account for the eagerness with which so many today are ready to explore the Dhamma and often to deeply embrace it? It is necessary to address this question in order to begin to see the needs that we must fulfil as we try to make our own contribution to the spread of the Dhamma in Europe.
Nature abhors a Vacuum
I think the answer to this question unfolds in roughly two distinct stages, corresponding to the last two phases in the Western adoption of Buddhism that I spoke of just before. During Phase II, "the phase of elite appropriation", intellectuals were drawn to Buddhism because it filled a vacuum that had been growing ever wider in Europe since the seventeenth century.
This vacuum was the absence of any comprehensive body of wisdom teachings that could offer a key to the deeper meaning of human existence. The main thrust of orthodox Christianity was to offer, not wisdom here and now, but the prospect of an eternal afterlife in heaven through faith in certain revealed truths. However, since the eighteenth century, the claims of faith had come into serious question, while for ethically sensitive minds Christianity's own record as a defender of human values was far from impressive.
When translations of Buddhist texts and expositions of Buddhist thought began to appear in the late nineteenth century, they seemed to offer the West exactly what it was lacking: a system of spiritual wisdom that could give illumination and moral guidance yet did not demand unquestioning faith in theological dogmas.
Instead, it rested its claims upon human reason and personal insight into fundamental truths and universal laws. But in this phase, the appeal of Buddhism remained limited mainly to the educated elite. The cultural and religious mainstream was still predominantly Christian.
The Conditions for Popularization
For the transition to Phase III to take place, that is, for Buddhism to spread more widely through the general population, certain additional conditions were necessary, and these only became sufficiently widespread in the second half of the twentieth century. These include: the triumph of liberal democracy, greater tolerance in the Christian churches, a fair degree of economic affluence, a high standard of liberal education, and improved means of transportation and communication. Still another factor, following from improved transportation, was the actual arrival in the West of Buddhist teachers, both Asians and Westerners trained in Asia.
These teachers brought Buddhism as a dynamic faith that they embodied in their lives through years of serious training.
The Great Transition
While the above five factors constituted the necessary conditions for Buddhism to become accessible to a sizable number of Europeans, they do not fully explain the rapid escalation of Western interest in Buddhism. To pinpoint the decisive cause for this phenomenon, I must refer back to the vacuum or void that had opened up right beneath the feet of European civilization, that is, the absence of a solid, authoritative spiritual tradition that could give guidance in the mastery of life.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this void was acutely felt only by the more discerning Western minds, disenchanted with both doctrinaire Christianity and economic materialism.
By the late 1950s, however, the picture had drastically changed. After two world wars and a prolonged cold war that threatened the whole world with thermonuclear destruction, countless people found their trust in the intrinsic goodness of human nature crumble into dust.
Such horrors as the Nazi Holocaust and the Hiroshima atom bomb brought to light the dangers in mere rationality not illuminated by a higher wisdom and staunch commitment to ethics. The most brilliant minds of the West, relying on the rational intellect, had twice plunged the whole world into barbaric irrationality, with death tolls numbering in the tens of millions. Now, with even more lethal weapons of destruction at hand, they threatened to do so again.
Thus the void that sensitive nineteenth century thinkers had seen on the horizon had expanded until it had swallowed up almost everyone. And not only had it expanded, but for many it had acquired a sharp and compelling urgency that could not be quenched by any system of ideas, however noble.
What they needed was a programme of action, which in many cases meant a deep personal engagement in the spiritual quest.
At the same time that the fear of nuclear war cast long shadows over the entire globe, unprecedented material affluence in the West brought into easy reach the comforts, conveniences, and sensory delights that earlier generations had only dreamt about. Yet while this consumerist paradise mesmerized many (and still continues to do so), at least a few people "with little dust in their eyes" realized that such mundane pleasures could bring no lasting peace to the heart.
At this point, for such spiritually sensitive Westerners, the message embedded in the Four Noble Truths was no longer a splendid system of ideas, to be admired in the comfort of an armchair. The message had become, rather, a medicine for curing a terrible disease, the disease of suffering, and the one sensible thing to be done with it, as with any medicine, was to take it.
Hence for the Buddhists in Phase III of Western Buddhism, the Dhamma presented itself as a path of practice pivoting on the training and mastery of the mind. As teachers and centres became available, growing numbers of Westerners took up the practice eagerly, ready to follow it wherever it might lead.
The Social Dimension
But Buddhism offered not only a method of mind training that could bring inner peace and deeper self-knowledge, it also fulfilled another profound need of the Western soul. As part of its deep intellectual heritage, Western civilization was committed to the idea that human happiness largely depends on the reformation of the social order in ways that eliminate political tyranny, economic oppression, and social injustice.
The commitment to this premise was responsible for the rise of democracy in the West, as well as for less successful experiments with various forms of socialism. However, the experience of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had shown that without some code of ethical guidance, mere aspirations for freedom and democracy could easily give birth to their opposites.
Thus the French Revolution, launched under the motto of "liberty, equality, and fraternity", ended up with the guillotine. The Bolshevik Revolution, with its promise of a "dictatorship of the proletariat", culminated in the Soviet police state.
Western idealists saw in Buddhism the foundations for a lofty social ethic devoted to world peace, social justice, and ecological sanity, yet internally protected by its moral code against the deformities to which secular political utopianism was prone.
Shift among Traditions
I mentioned earlier, when Buddhism in the West enters Phase III, a shift occurs away from the Pali tradition towards Zen and Tibetan Vajrayana. The main reason these traditions have gained in popularity over the Theravada is, I believe, because within their fold the lineage of meditation practice has been kept more alive than in mainstream Theravada.
Since present-day Western seekers are looking for a practice they can incorporate into their lives, not just a system of ideas they can admire and discuss, they naturally feel the appeal of the alternative forms of Buddhism -- Zen, Vajrayana, and new Western Buddhist schools -- over the Theravada.
This, however, is not to say that a meditation tradition rooted in the Theravada is lacking in the West. A number of Westerners who had come to Asian countries years ago to practise under qualified teachers later returned to the West to teach and establish Buddhist centres. But what we find, as an interesting development, is that often such Western teachers of Theravada-based meditation do not consider themselves adherents of Theravada Buddhism in its doctrinal sense.
Instead, explicitly or implicitly, they distance themselves from Asian Theravada and call their style of Buddhism "the Vipassana tradition" or "the practice of mindful awareness", which they teach almost as an autonomous discipline of psychological insight and self-inquiry.
III. The Challenge of Bringing Theravada to the West
This brings me to the third major division of my talk, the special challenges we face in transmitting Theravada Buddhism to the West. When I ponder this issue, the question that immediately lodges itself in my mind is this: "What exactly is the type of Theravada Buddhism that we wish to spread?"
The ideal form of Theravada to present would be one that fuses all healthy aspects of the tradition into an organic whole. The transmission would have to focus on the practice of meditation, yet it should include a strong emphasis on Buddhist ethics (including Buddhist perspectives on contemporary ethical issues), textual and doctrinal study, devotional practices, and a fair share of ritual, too; but ritual would have to be integrated into the spiritual path, not pursued in compliance with mere cultural norms.
The meditation practice should be the heart of the transmission. Once students experience the beneficial effects of meditation on their lives, in time they will develop keener interest in the study of texts, in devotional practices, in the precepts, and in ritual. Ritual will then serve to cement these varied aspects of Dhamma into a coherent whole, animated from within by the meditative experience.
A Monastic Transmission
But now we come to the heart of the issue. Theravada Buddhism, in its orthodox mould, has always looked upon the monastic order, the Sangha, as the bearer of the Buddhist heritage. Thus, if Theravada is to take hold in the West, it seems it should be through a monastic transmission guarded and upheld by lay support. Without this, we would probably wind up with a watered-down or secularized version of the Theravada, as we find today in the Vipassana sanghas. A monastic transmission is needed to keep alive the stress on renunciation and restraint so characteristic of the true Dhamma.
The need for a monastic transmission, however, immediately runs up against a practical problem. In Sri Lanka today it is extraordinarily difficult to find monks who possess the personal qualities needed by a
Buddhist "messenger of Dhamma" (dhammaduta), including the ability to communicate the Dhamma effectively to people from a very different cultural background.
This has adverse repercussions for the whole project of propagating Theravada Buddhism abroad, making the Theravada something of a still backwater on the otherwise lively Western Buddhist frontier.
Of all the Asian Theravada communities, I feel the Sri Lankans have the strongest potential for transmitting the Dhamma to the West. From what I have observed, the Thai, Cambodian, and Burmese monks cater almost exclusively to their own communities and seldom even imagine that the Dhamma can have any pull on Westerners.
It is the Sri Lankans who have been most inspired by the ideal of passing the Dhamma to the West, and again it is the Sri Lankan Sangha that includes monks ready to learn Western languages and translate the teachings into a message meaningful to Westerners.
Yet, despite this, when we survey the Western Buddhist scene, the results are disappointing. We see a tremendous surge of interest in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in new Buddhist movements like the Order of Interbeing and the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, and in Vipassana as a secular practice.
But apart from Ajahn Sumedho's Amaravati network, which consists of Western monks and nuns, the orthodox Theravada Sangha has had relatively little impact in the West. Of course, one might just interpret this as evidence that Westerners are too decadent to appreciate the true Dhamma.
However, that interpretation would not only be uncharitable, but it would also be wrong. A sizeable number of Western Buddhists feel themselves powerfully drawn towards the Theravada tradition and are on the lookout for monks to offer teachings. Thus the desire is there; it is just the resources to satisfy it that are in short supply.
The State of Monastic Education
Although I do not have an easy solution to this problem, it would be useful to make a preliminary diagnosis of its origins. I believe part of the explanation lies in the system of monastic education that prevails here in Sri Lanka.
This system is extremely inadequate and needs drastic revision from the ground up: revision with respect to the aim, depth, and breadth of monastic training. When monks trained in this system go overseas to expound the Dhamma, they find themselves facing severe handicaps.
Not only must they learn to adapt to a society where social relationships are not governed by clearly defined roles and expectations, but they must really strike at the existential concerns of Western students. Routine preaching and ceremonies simply won't do.
The only way for the Sri Lankan Sangha to help meet the challenge of promoting Theravada Buddhism in the West is by making exponential improvements in monastic education right here in Sri Lanka. If a monk is to go abroad to spread the Dhamma, he must have not only a thorough knowledge of his own Theravada tradition, but acquaintance with other subjects too.
He will need some knowledge of the history and schools of Buddhism, comparative religion, and English. He should also know, or be ready to learn, the language of the country in which he will work.
Beyond these specific areas of competence, he will require the intellectual openness and acuity to comprehend the dispositions, attitudes, and worldviews of people from a different culture and relate to them in meaningful ways. He must also have some grounding in the real practice of the Dhamma, for knowledge of books and doctrines, however wide, will be fruitless if not coupled with dedication to the practice.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find a monastic institute that can impart the necessary training, and the Buddhist prelates, due to their conservatism, resist proposed reforms. In this respect Buddhist educational institutions compare poorly with Christian seminaries, which equip their own missionaries with a thorough and wide-ranging education that often excels the Buddhist institutes even in the field of Buddhist studies.
The Revival of Meditation
The problem of deficient education is compounded by the decline of the practical training in meditation throughout the Sri Lankan monastic system.
Thus the training of the monks focuses not so much on guiding them along the Buddha's path to awakening as on teaching them how to serve as custodians of a distinct social and cultural heritage. I do not want to dismiss the value of this service, for within this country it is quite necessary to preserve the cultural and social pillars of Sri Lankan Buddhism, especially against the incursions of evangelical Christianity and materialistic consumerism.
But this function should be subordinated to the more important one of teaching the young monks the path to wisdom and peace; it should not become so domineering that the original path gets covered with mist and weeds.
The decline of a living meditation tradition in the Bhikkhu Training Centres seems to stem from the sharp distinction that the Theravada tradition makes between village monks and forest monks.
This distinction leads to a sharp dichotomy: on one side we have educated town monks without deep personal insight into the Dhamma or experience in meditation, and on the other, meditation monks without much inclination to propagate the teaching.
Since it would be inappropriate to force monks devoted to full-time meditation to take up a more active vocation, the remedy needed to redress this imbalance seems to require a revitalization of meditation practice within the Bhikkhu Training institutes. This cannot be done, however, merely by imposing meditation on the monks from the outside as a mandatory discipline.
Meditation practice does not occur in a vacuum. It must spring up from an inner need, under the impetus given by a clear understanding of the foundations and objectives of Buddhist spirituality. So what is really needed is a rejuvenation of the spiritual challenge at the heart of the Buddhist monastic life.
The Training of Dhammadutas
Personally, I do not think it is prudent to try to create institutions expressly for the purpose of training monks as "Buddhist missionaries" or dhammadutas. Such institutions could easily attract monks who want to go abroad for the wrong reasons: to gain prestige, to become popular, perhaps to find employment and disrobe.
I feel it is wiser to strengthen programmes in the existing bhikkhu training centres. At the same time, we should keep an eye open for capable bhikkhus enrolled in these programmes who display the qualities needed to propagate the Dhamma in the West.
We must also remember that the purpose in training monks is not to make them dhammadutas, but to lead them along the way to enlightenment. Thus the training should focus on the inner development of the monk, both in those qualities conducive to personal growth and in those that allow for a compassionate outflow of his spiritual development to others. Monks who have the special skills, and the inclination to work for the spread of the Dhamma, can then be chosen for overseas assignments, providing they also display the inner maturity required by such a task.
An Inconclusive Conclusion
I come to an inconclusive conclusion. At the present stage in its evolution, Buddhism in the West is taking on a form that focuses on the Dhamma as a path of inner transformation through meditation and contemplation, with other aspects of Buddhist practice subordinated to this concern. We should not immediately conclude that Western Buddhism is therefore an ideal model for Asians to emulate. Western Buddhists often lack a solid knowledge of the texts, and thus are prone to bend the teachings to fit their own agendas and expectations. It is here, I think, that Asian monks with a sound scholarly knowledge of the Dhamma can make a valuable contribution.
But while corrective measures are needed in Western Buddhism to ensure right understanding, it is clear the focus of Western Buddhists will be on personal meditative experience as the way to inner peace and wisdom.
If Sri Lankan Buddhists are to make a significant contribution to the healthy growth of Buddhism in the West, we will need representatives of the Dhamma who are also living embodiments of the Dhamma. That is, we need monks - and nuns as well -- who express in their lives and characters the potentials of the Dhamma as a way of life that brings real wisdom, purity, and peace within, and overflows in expressions of kindness and compassion for others.
This is a difficult challenge, but it is an indispensable requirement if Sri Lanka is to contribute to the development of Buddhism in the West. Since the main responsibility for transmitting the Dhamma rests with the monastic order, the Sangha in this country must set its own house in order if it is to be qualified to perform this task. This will require some intense internal criticism and attempts at genuine reform, especially in the system of monastic training. If such changes do not take place, it is unlikely that Sri Lanka will be able to contribute much more to the growth of Buddhism in Europe than to maintain viharas that serve Sri Lankan expatriates.
I will end on a bright note. Despite the shortage of qualified dhammaduta monks, scattered across the West there are a few Theravada viharas and Buddhist centres maintained by monks who, in their own quiet and non-assertive way, are working to spread the Dhamma. Prominent among them we find Sri Lankan monks, who often must take up this task with much hardship and self-sacrifice. The hardship they face is not only external, but internal as well. They must maintain a delicate discipline amidst the temptations of the Western consumerist culture, and must also struggle against the weight of Buddhist tradition to find the clear message of the Buddha hidden behind stultifying conventions.
Such monks generally do not have large organizations behind them, or financial backing from home, but through their dedication to the Dhamma and compassionate concern for others, they actively seek to help Westerners find their way to the Buddha's path. Their selfless work deserves appreciation and support from all sincere Buddhists in this country.
Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi Thera
in front of the "Forest Hermitage"
Uddawattakele Forest, KANDY, Sri Lanka