Thai Buddhist delegation visits Sri Lanka

by Mohammed Naalir, Lanka Daily News, Aug 28, 2007

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The arrival of Thai Buddhist delegation is a symbol of the long lasting relationship between the two countries which maintained close cultural and religious ties for more than two centuries, Urban Development and Sacred Area Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardane said.

Addressing the media at Hotel Cinnamon Grand, Minister Gunawardane said the arrival of the 81 member Buddhist delegation including 46 Buddhist monks was on an invitation extended by him to the Thai Government during his visit to Thailand to take part in the Vesak celebrations.

Minister Gunawardane said Ven. Upali Thera from Thailand arrived in Sri Lanka in the 19th century, to protect Buddhism at a time when Sri Lanka's Buddha sasana was at a threat from Portuguese imperialists.

"Upali Thera gained the goodwill of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and instructed the king that the Dalada Perahara should be paraded in streets in the Kandy city", the Minister added.

"The arrival of the Buddhist monks would cause considerable cultural and political revolution in both countries", the Minister said.

Addressing the event Ven. Phara Thpsophen Thera, Rector of Mahachalalongkronrajavidyalaya University in Thailand said the visit was a golden opportunity for them to study the way the Sri Lankan Buddhists practising the religion. During their five day stay in Sri Lanka they will visit Maharagama, Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya and Anuradhapura.

The Thera said that the delegation met Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayake and had bilateral talks regarding the future welfare of two countries.

Agreements were also signed by Prime Minister and Thpsophen Thera to uplift the Buddhist education in Sri Lanka and Thailand, providing scholarships to Buddhist students in Sri Lanka and to develop tourism sector.

"The higher ordination of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka depleted following the arrival of Portuguese in 1505.

"The then King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe sent a delegation to Thailand in 1753 seeking the assistance of Thailand Government. Following the request of the King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe Ven Upali Thera arrived in Sri Lanka after a difficult journey and ordained two Buddhist monks including Saranankara Thera", the Thera added.