Esoteric Buddhist Practice in Ancient Sri Lanka

By Chandawimala Thero Rangama.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Historical evidence clearly shows that during the 8 -15 century A. D. Esoteric Buddhism played a considerable role in the history of Sri Lankan Buddhism. This paper is the result of an attempt to examine two inscriptions found at the Abhayagiri Stupa during 1940-1945 and which shed light on this subject. I was able to identify the original source of these two dharani inscriptions, which have remained unidentified for five decades. These dharanis have been taken from the Sarva-Tathagata-Tattva-Samgraha-Mahayana-Sutra (STTS). This paper is mainly based on the contents of those two dharanis and other information relevant to the STTS Sutra. The first part of the paper will explain the practice of dharmadhatu deposition in stupas and esoteric fragments found at the Abhayagiri stupa. The second part will examine the accounts given in the Nikayasamgraha on esoteric Buddhism in Sri Lanka and their relations to the STTS Sutra; further it will also contain an analyse of the contents of the newly identified dharanis. Finally, the paper will discuss why esoteric Buddhism was severely criticized in the Nikayasamgraha.

Keywords: Abhayagiri Stupa, Abhayagiri Dharanis, Esoteric Buddhism

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.89-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.348MB).

Dr Chandawimala Thero Rangama

PhD Candidate, Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Ven. Rangama Chandawimala is a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk. He graduated from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, in Buddhist Philosophy (1994). He obtained his M.A. in Buddhist Studies from PGIPBS in Sri Lanka (1997) and from the University of Hong Kong (2003). He has served as a teacher in Sri Lanka. Currently, he is completing his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong. His field of interest covers Buddhist history and Buddhist Philosophy. His paper on "Bodhisattva Practice in Ancient Sri Lanka with Reference to the Abhayagiri Fraternity" was awarded first prize at the Third Korean Conference of Buddhist Studies, April 2006.

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