Historical Buddhist Temple in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Buddhist Temple in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Sri Lanka is also a multi-religious country. 70% are Buddhists, most of whom follow the Theravada school of Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 2nd century BCE by Venerable Mahinda. A sapling of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka during the same time.
The Pali Canon (Thripitakaya), having previously been preserved as an oral tradition, was first committed to writing in Sri Lanka around 30 BCE. Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any predominately Buddhist nation, with the Sangha having existed in a largely unbroken lineage since its introduction in the 2nd century BCE. During periods of decline, the Sri Lankan monastic lineage was revived through contact with Thailand and Burma. Buddhism is given special recognition in the Constitution which requires Sri Lankan to “protect and foster the Buddha Sasana”.
The history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka begins with the Emperor Ashoka of India (304 – 232 BCE). Ashoka the Great was a patron of Buddhism, and when King Tissa of Ceylon sent an emissary to India, Ashoka seized the opportunity to put in a good word about Buddhism to the King.
Without waiting for a reaction from King Tissa, the Emperor sent his son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta — a monk and a nun — to Tissa’s court. Soon the King and his court were converted.
For several centuries Buddhism flourished in Ceylon. Travelers reported many thousands of monks and magnificent temples. The Pali Canon was first written in Ceylon. In the 5th century, the great Indian scholar Buddhaghosa came to Ceylon to study and write his famous commentaries. Beginning in the 6th century, however, political instability within Ceylon combined with invasions by the Tamils of southern India caused support for Buddhism to decline.
From the 12th through 14th centuries Buddhism regained much of its former energy and influence. Then it faced its greatest challenge — Europeans.
Hinduism is the second most prevalent religion in Sri Lanka and predates Buddhism. Today, Hinduism is dominant in Northern, Eastern and Central Sri Lanka.