Buddhism, the asokan persona, and the galactic polity: Rethinking Sri Lanka's constitutional present

Roshan De Silva Wijeyeratne (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Sri Lanka's civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities has now raged for nearly half a century. The Sri Lankan cum Sinhalese Buddhist state has since independence resisted all significant attempts by the Tamil political leadership at power sharing. Most constitutional lawyers and progressive Sri Lankan opinion (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, etc.) hold that short of a separate state, administrative power should be devolved in the form of a federal state, so as to give autonomy to the northeast of Sri Lanka, while the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism have sought to justify the centralized state by recourse to the history of Buddhism and the Sinhalese on the island. Such arguments have drawn on the ontological potential of the cosmic order of Sinhalese Buddhism, which is fundamentally hierarchical in intent. Here I argue that the diffused nature of this cosmic order provides the ontological grounding for a decentralized state structure that can accommodate ethnic difference in a non-hierarchical relation. Thus, the legacy of Sinhalese Buddhism can be rescued from the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-178
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Analysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Decentralization
  • Dhamma
  • Galactic polity
  • Kingship
  • Ontological grounding
  • Pillar edicts
  • Sangha
  • Unitary state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Arts and Humanities


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