The Tamil Buddhist Association in Jaffna has commenced discussions with the Northern Province Governor, Reginald Cooray to recommence Tamil Dhamma School following this year’s Vesak celebrations after a gap of over a year.

The association recommenced activities in 2010 after a gap of over 25 years due to the tense situation that prevailed in the country.

Jaffna Peninsula or the Northern Province is mostly associated with Tamil culture and practices which is mostly linked to Hinduism.

Those in the region are mostly Hindus. But there are also those who practice other faiths such as Christianity and Islam.

Even though Buddhism is the most-widely practiced faith in the country with over 70% practicing, its impact in the North has been very minimal, if not none. The ethnic strife which separated the North from the rest of the country deprived the people in the North of getting to know what the faith was all about.

However, efforts to preach the teachings of the Lord Buddha have been going on for years before the war interrupted the process.

A. Ravikumar
A. Ravikumar

The Tamil  Buddhist Association in Jaffna which was established during mid last century had an active membership of over 2000 Tamils. However, the number reduced drastically due to the conflict. Eventually, the association stopped functioning.

Today, with peace bridging both communities, it has become possible for both communities to get to know the respective religions, their teachings and their values. The association which was defunct since the mid 1980’s was revived a couple of years after the war.

It is in this context that the Tamil Buddhist Association of Jaffna has recommenced its activities of spreading the teachings of Lord the Buddha to the Northern community.
President of the Association, A. Ravikumar told Nation that the association had since conducted many programmes to spread the teachings.

Not involved in conversion
Today, the association has a membership of 470 individuals and none of them are practicing Buddhists. “The intention of the association is to spread the teachings of the Lord Buddha. In addition, we also teach meditation to young boys and girls,” he said.
Ravikumar added that the misconception among certain political parties in the North that the association was involved in converting  Tamils towards Buddhism had curtailed their activities to a considerable extent. “What they should understand is that one does not have to be a Buddhist to practice the teachings of Buddhism,” Ravikumar pointed out.
Ravikumar added that around 50 Tamil students had attended the Dhamma School during weekends, where they are taught meditation and teachings of Buddhism.  “But we have not conducted these classes in over a year,” he said.

Recent tense situations
Speaking on the reasons behind stopping the classes, Ravikumar said that the number of students, attending the classes had reduced over time as several people had eyed the association with suspicion and had discouraged the children from attending classes.
The recent developments in terms of recovery of suicide jackets and ammunitions in Chavakachcheri and the tensed situation that followed had also resulted in the association going slow on its activities.

However, Meegahajandure Sri Vimala Thera of Sri Naga Vihara said that efforts are being made to recommence classes following discussions with the Northern Province Governor, Reginald Cooray.

Speaking to Nation, the Thera pointed out that Hinduism and Buddhism had a lot of common aspects. “Our aim is to encourage the people to live in harmony by explaining the similarities found in both faiths. We are only trying to draw parallels between the two faiths,” the monk said.

“It was the Tamil people who helped the temple in many ways in the past. The war ruined everything for the entire people and what was left was tension and distrust. What we are trying to rebuild that understanding,” the Ven Thera further said.

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