The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

‘Buddhist Times’ marks a decade


“Why ‘Buddhist Times’? These are not Buddhist times in Sri Lanka. This is an ‘abuddassa kaale’, a non-Buddhist era. Non-Buddhist – both in practice and in the influence Buddhists wield in this country. Buddhist opinion is today swept aside. They are marginalized.”
This is a quote from the inaugural issue of ‘Buddhist Times’ – the monthly tabloid which has gone on uninterrupted for ten years – an impressive record.

The Vesak (2554-2012) issue of the paper reiterates that the ‘Buddhist Times’ was started with the major objective of giving a voice to the Buddhists. “This was a time when Christians were calling the shots and Buddhists were compelled to take a back seat. This was a time when unethical religious conversions were the order of the day. This was also a time when three bills to incorporate evangelical organisations which were presented to the Parliament were challenged and another bill, withdrawn,” it recollects.

Getting back to the editorial, it sounded a warning note. “In street corners, offices and workplaces, there is the growing perception that Buddhism is under threat. At this momentous crisis in our history, Buddhism cannot be taken for granted as we did earlier. It has to be protected.
“Enough is enough is the emerging cry. We have had enough of direct and indirect attempts to subvert the Buddhist heritage in this country. Much of it is with the blessings of the highest in the land.”

That was ten years ago. In a more conciliatory tone, the editorial in the Vesak 2012 issue states that though the present regime has several shortcomings, it has leaders who are in tune with the history of this country and its major Buddhist heritage. “ And we must now rapidly unearth the silent witnesses to the Buddhist heritage in the form of the vast archaeological sites in the North and East which were vandalised by the LTTE,” it adds.

The Buddhist Times highlights activities in the region and has interesting features on Buddhist themes. To quote from a recent issue- the lead story referred to Bhutan’s Happiness Index on UN agenda and discussed how in the early 1970s Bhutan introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an alternate model to Gross National Product (GNP) as a new indicator of national prosperity giving priority to people’s well-being rather than economic productivity.

The paper had taken up issues such as the need to implement the legislation on alcohol and tobacco.
It has not been an easy task for editor Dr Hema Goonatillake to ensure that ‘Buddhist Times’ has had an unbroken record of being published for ten years and more so, with meagre resources.

She has announced that the target of the ‘Buddhist Times’ for the next ten years is to help deepen the impact of Buddhist Sri Lanka on the world and to help Asian countries to come to Sri Lanka. In short, to use our obvious soft power, she says.
We wish her well as the eleventh year dawns.

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