Feature Article

Schalk tells Tamil politicians to claim territory of Tamil Buddhists

[TamilNet, Friday, 28 December 2012, 07:37 GMT]
“The real danger for the Tamil speaking community is the traditional bond between Sinhala Buddhism and its claims to the whole territory of the island. Now we understand why the historical existence of Tamil Buddhism is denied: it is apprehended as a dangerous counter-movement to the Sinhala Buddhists’ claims of territory. Tamil politicians are expected to reject the territorial claims of Sinhala Buddhists by referring to the historical existence of territories settled by Buddhists who were Tamil speakers with their own claims for territorial control,” writes Emeritus Professor Peter Schalk in sending a note, responding to TamilNet feature “Simulated Buddhists, Sinhala-Buddhist schools to accelerate colonization, genocide,” appeared on 19 December.

A minimum definition of Tamil Buddhism is: Buddhism, which is transmitted in Tamil and is indigenised in Tamil culture. But what the SL government means is Sinhala Buddhism among Tamils who are taught Theravada Buddhism in Sinhala. This is a propagandist misuse of the term Tamil Buddhism, Schalk said.

Commenting, an academic in Jaffna who has seen his note writes: “It is not exactly the traditional bond between Sinhala Buddhism and its claims to the whole territory of the island, that is the real danger. The real danger is the international system that is allowing, abetting and shielding the false claim to take its genocidal toll.”

“The question is not whether the Sinhala-Buddhism denies the existence of Tamil Buddhism in the past, or whether in which language Buddhism is propagated, or whether which school of Buddhism is taught or whether it suits the Caiva/ Vainava idiom assumed as comfortable to Tamil speakers […] The question is one that of self-respect of a nation of people – whether any religious mission of the military occupiers could take place in the country of Eezham Tamils when it is deprived of its sovereignty and right to self-determination,” the academic in Jaffna further commented.

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Full text of the note received from Emeritus Professor Peter Schalk responding to TamilNet feature “Simulated Buddhists, Sinhala-Buddhist schools to accelerate colonization, genocide,” appeared on 19 December:

Peter Schalk
Professor Peter Schalk
“Buddhism among Tamils” is indeed a complex conceptualisation. We have to distinguish between Tamilakam and Ilam, between different languages, periods and regions, finally between different interests, religious and political.

“Buddhism among Tamils” is a blanket for several concepts. The most important one today is Tamil Buddhism. A minimum definition of Tamil Buddhism is: Buddhism, which is transmitted in Tamil and is indigenised in Tamil culture. Tamil religious culture was and still is dominated by Caivam/Vaiṇavam, even in the Diaspora. Therefore Tamil Buddhism will be related to and recognised by its traits of Caivam/Vainavam, more or less, during different periods.

In Ilam, Tamil Buddhism is hardly visible; its existence in the past is vehemently denied by representatives of political Sinhala Buddhism, which is instrumentalised by the Government to homogenise the culture of the island into one culture as means of consolidating the unitary state. The Mahasamgha as a mass-movement is, however, not only an instrument; parts of it are also an actor who instrumentalises the Government to impose Siṃhala Buddhism, today with the help of an intensive militarisation. Sometimes this kind of Buddhism is called Tamil Buddhism, but what is meant is Sinhala Buddhism among Tamils who are taught Theravada Buddhism in Sinhala. This is a propagandist misuse of the term Tamil Buddhism.

There is no forceful conversion of Caivas, but of gradual land-grabbing in connection with the “sealing” of a territory by establishing Buddhist sacred architecture. It reduces Tamil control over territory. This kind of expanding political Buddhism has a self-designation, which the reader should associate to Hindutva; it is Sinhalatva. Both work against a multicultural society. But the real danger for the Tamil speaking community is the traditional bond between Sinhala Buddhism and its claims to the whole territory of the island.

Now we understand why the historical existence of Tamil Buddhism is denied: it is apprehended as a dangerous counter-movement to the Sinhala Buddhists’ claims of territory. Tamil politicians are expected to reject the territorial claims of Sinhala Buddhists by referring to the historical existence of territories settled by Buddhists who were Tamil speakers with their own claims for territorial control.

See also a feature article ‘Buddhism among Tamils is quenched from two sides: Peter Schalk’, appeared in TamilNet in June 2009.

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Full text of the observations made by an academic in Jaffna who had seen the note of Peter Schalk:

Whether Hindutva in India or Sinhalatva of the Sri Lankan State, they are largely inspired by the European colonial legacy in which the oriental religions in Indo-Aryan text were re-discovered in the Western libraries especially by the German school, and were coupled with the then idea of nation state.

What the Sinhala State, centred in Colombo, is doing today in the country of Eezham Tamils is collectively deploying all what it has learnt from the colonialists who had set up a regime in Colombo: the conquistador model of the Portuguese, economic manipulation of the Dutch and the unitary island political lure of the English.

The genocide model is something the Sinhala State has been encouraged to experiment by the powers of today. The Sinhala State was a studied choice of the Establishments that architected the Vanni War and consciously coursed it through, even when it became clearly known as a genocidal war. The Wikileaks cables would tell who was the leading architect and who were all in the bandwagon.

If the genocide against the Eezham Tamils continues today in a multifaceted and structural way, including in the area of religion, that is essentially because of the continued denial in declaring it a genocide by the International Community of Establishments (ICE). Impunity is indirectly assured in such a practice.

It raises a question, whether the genocide, including the modus operandi of Sinhala-Buddhism in the country of Eezham Tamils, has for all practical purposes become a silently nodded way of implementing a world order of the ICE choice. If so, the genocide could never be stopped by wasting time on local arguments such as Tamil Buddhism or Sinhala Buddhism.

‘Multiculturalism’, now professed with a new religious fervour but conceived to camouflage the corporate-imperialist aspirations of a part of the world that finds nation-states no more whetting its appetite, will never be understood in other contexts that are yet to resolve the national question. Illogical application of multiculturalism would only result in the kind of genocide one sees in the island.

An island such as Sri Lanka having a history of chronic genocide that ever escalates should be allowed to go through the separation of nations, to grow up.

It is not exactly “the traditional bond between Sinhala Buddhism and its claims to the whole territory of the island,” that is the “real danger.”

The real danger is the international system that is allowing, abetting and shielding the false claim to take its genocidal toll.

The question is not whether the Sinhala-Buddhism denies the existence of Tamil Buddhism in the past, or whether in which language Buddhism is propagated, or whether which school of Buddhism is taught or whether it suits the Caiva/ Vainava idiom assumed as comfortable to Tamil speakers. These are only ways of giving ideas to Sinhala-Buddhism, like the colonialists were finding ways.

The question is one that of self-respect of a nation of people – whether any religious mission of the military occupiers could take place in the country of Eezham Tamils when it is deprived of its sovereignty and right to self-determination.

Eezham Tamils may embrace Japanese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Wahabi Islam, church-disregarding Christianity of the West today, African Animism or any other religion, or may even do away with all the religions –but that should be their choice when there is freedom to their nation.

Those who base their theories confining Tamil to Caivam/ Vainavam and don’t want to concede its largely secular substratum coming from the times of the Cankam corpus, ostensibly forget the contemporary phenomenon in which an atheist movement using Tamil as its primary medium and was essentially targeting Caiva/ Vainava practices, was able to capture popular polity and in that name is able to rule Tamil Nadu for nearly half a century.

For the Tamil claim of territory in the island, Peter Schalk advises Tamil politicians to “reject the territorial claims of Sinhala Buddhists by referring to the historical existence of territories settled by Buddhists who were Tamil speakers.”

In a recent interview to TamilNet, the Sri Lanka Project Director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Dr Alan Keenan said that the Tamils have to prove the genocide and the post-war genocide by exploring it, putting together the facts, comparing it to the legal issues and making some kind of chronological assessment by well-informed people and legal scholars.

Why the act of proving the territorial claim by showing ‘Tamil-Buddhism’? Will there be a Tamil territorial enclave of ‘sacred architecture’ set up, just by Tamils proving that there was a Siva temple at Dondra Head, the southern tip of the island? Could anyone tell the Maldivians to justify modern Dhivehi Buddhists because once there was Buddhism?

Does Schalk in his note imply that some Eezham Tamils on their own should become ‘Tamil Buddhists’ for political purposes?

Expertise in the study of religions or in the study of Tamil Buddhism is of little help when the ICE has no respect at all to common sense and is determined to engineer every nuance of every expertise to suit its agenda.

The struggle has to be waged at some other plane by some other democratic means, by an awakened and prepared nation identifying and targeting the ultimate culprits.


Chronology:

 

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