London Buddhist Vihara and Sri Lanka High Commission host scholarly forum on “The Significance of the Tripitaka as a World Heritage”

From left: H E Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka; Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Department of Theology & Religion, University of Birmingham; Dr. Desmond Biddulph, President of the Buddhist Society in London; Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of London Buddhist Vihara & Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain; Prof. Ven. Deegalle Mahinda Thero, Professor in Study of Religion, Philosophies and Ethics, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University; Ven. Dedunupitiye Upananda Thero; Prof. Rupert Gethin, President ; Pali Text Society & Professor of Buddhist Studies, Department of Religion and Theology, University of Bristol; Dr. Martin Seeger, Associate Professor of Thai Studies, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds and Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka High Commission in London in association with the London Buddhist Vihara hosted a scholarly forum on “The Significance of the Tripitaka as a World Heritage” on 16 March 2019 at the London Buddhist Vihara.

In his opening address, Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of London Buddhist Vihara & Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain recalled the role played by the London Buddhist Vihara, as the oldest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere, in the propagation of the teaching of Lord Buddha in the western world.  The Venerable Thero commended the Government of Sri Lanka for the initiative to declare the Tripitaka as a national heritage and also stated that the initiative to hold this scholarly forum in London was timely. A message was read out by Venerable Tawalama Bandula Thero on behalf of the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust.

In her welcome address, Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera outlined the intention of the Government, to both preserve the texts of the Tripitaka and to propagate the same as a heritage of all human kind. In this regard, she outlined the initiative by the Government to declare the Tripitaka as a national heritage and inscribe the same in the UNESCO World Register.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion with four eminent experts on the subject.  Prof. Rupert Gethin, President, Pali Text Society & Professor of Buddhist Studies, Department of Religion and Theology, University of Bristol spoke on the topic  The Pali Tipiaka: its significance as a source for the study of Buddhism.” Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Department of Theology & Religion, University of Birmingham spoke on the topic “The Tipiaka as part of the world’s heritage of spiritual resources: a personal response.”  Prof. Ven. Deegalle Mahinda Thero, Professor in Study of Religion, Philosophies and Ethics, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University spoke on the topic “Sri Lanka’s preoccupations with the Tripitaka: Ancient and Modern Contributions to the preservation and understanding of Buddhavacana, the word of the Buddha.” Dr. Martin Seeger, Associate Professor of Thai Studies, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds spoke on the topic “Influence of the Pali Tipiaka Canon on Buddhist Traditions in South East Asia”. Venerable Dedunupitiye Upananda Thero of the London Buddhist Vihara moderated the scholarly forum.

The presentations by the Panellists were followed by a Q & A session which drew an enthusiastic response from the attendees who numbered over a hundred.  The attendees included the Venerable Maha Sangha from Sri Lankan Buddhist Temples in the UK and other eminent experts such as Dr. Desmond Biddulph, President of the Buddhist Society in London and Ms. Arani Ilankuberan, Curator of the South Indian Collection at the British Library.

His Excellency Pisanu Suvanajata, Ambassador of Thailand in the UK, His Excellency Kyaw Zwar Minn, Ambassador of Myanmar in the UK, and His Excellency Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, High Commissioner of Pakistan in the UK graced the occasion and spoke on the significance of the Tripitaka from the perspective of their respective countries.  Diplomatic representatives of Bangladesh and Afghanistan in London were also present at the event.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Deputy High Commissioner Sugeeshwara Gunaratna.

High Commission of Sri Lanka

London, United Kingdom

16 March 2019

Opening address by Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of London Buddhist Vihara & Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain
H E Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the UK addressing the gathering
H E Pisanu Suvanajata, Ambassador of Thailand in the UK addressing the gathering
H E Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, High Commissioner of Pakistan in the UK addressing the gathering
Prof. Rupert Gethin, President, Pali Text Society & Professor of Buddhist Studies, Department of Religion and Theology, University of Bristol speaking on the topic “The Pali Tipiṭaka: its significance as a source for the study of Buddhism”
Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Department of Theology & Religion, University of Birmingham speaking on the topic “The Tipiṭaka as part of the world’s heritage of spiritual resources: a personal response”
From left: H E Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka; H E Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, High Commissioner of Pakistan; H E Kyaw Zwar Minn, Ambassador of Myanmar; H E Pisanu Suvanajata, Ambassador of Thailand and Thipayasuda Suvanajata
The panelists from left: Dr. Elizabeth Harris, University of Birmingham; Prof. Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol; Prof. Ven. Deegalle Mahinda Thero, Bath Spa University and Dr. Martin Seeger, University of Leeds