Bana: Buddhist preaching in Sri Lanka (special focus on the two-pulpit tradition)

Author: 
Deegalle, Mahinda
Year: 
1995

     Existing scholarly literature shows that Buddhologists and historians of religions have completely ignored or misrepresented the role of preachers and preaching traditions in Theravada Buddhism. This dissertation examines the art of Buddhist preaching (bana) in late medieval Sri Lanka. It demonstrates (1) that from the thirteenth century onward, a distinct style of Theravada Buddhist preaching developed in the context of Sinhala banapot, and (2) that it functioned in Sinhala culture as a rich cultural, educational, and religious resource influencing the attitudes and practices of Sinhala Buddhists.
     Examining the superficial way Buddhist preaching traditions have been studied, Chapter One stresses the importance of paying attention to 'preaching' in developing a holistic understanding of Sinhala Buddhism. The preaching methods of the Buddha depicted in the Tipitaka (Chapter Two) show the background out of which the bana tradition developed much later in Sri Lanka. Chapter Three focuses on early Buddhist religious practices such as dhammakathika (preacher of the doctrine) and bhanaka (reciter) to demonstrate continuities as well as discontinuities and point out innovations that came about in adapting early Buddhist practices to the Sri Lankan cultural environment.
     Chapter Four examines the historical contexts and religious developments leading to the birth of Sinhala banapot in the thirteenth century. The birth of vernacular religious texts is explained as a result of the changes in the constituency of Sinhala Buddhism--a shift from a cosmopolitan and trans-local Buddhism to an emergence of a 'local consciousness' embedded in local religiosity. With a brief comparison of textual strategies, it demonstrates the ways the Butsarana and the Amavatura enrich and support the specific Sri Lankan style of Buddhist preaching. Chapter Five examines two-pulpit preaching with its use of two languages--trans-local Pali and vernacular Sinhala--that took complementary roles and demonstrates the way in which an emerging vernacular preaching tradition by the eighteenth century grew into a full-fledged Buddhist preaching ritual and became a source of religious inspiration for Buddhists. With an examination of kavi bana, Chapter Six maintains that innovative preaching is always a subject of debate and contestation.

Advisor(s): 
Reynolds, Frank E.
Department: