Sirisena calls on UNESCO to recognise Buddhist canon as world heritage
by Melani Manel Perera

In January the Theravada Tripitaka was declared a national heritage. It is the sacred text of Theravada Buddhism, which is practised on the island as well as in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. For the president, this would ensure that pure Buddhism and the continuity of the religion will be maintained for thousands of years.


Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena wants UNESCO to declare the Theravada Tripitaka, the sacred Buddhist scripture, as World Heritage. Theravada Buddhism is practised on the island as well as in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

The president made the request last Saturday to Hanaa Singer, resident coordinator of the United Nations at a ceremony held at the Maha Maluwa (Great Terrace) of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. The Maha Sangha praised the initiative.

On 5 January, President Sirisena declared the Theravada canon as part of the national heritage at the Aluviharaya temple in Matale.

On that occasion he said that he would have the Buddhist scripture recognised as part of the world’s heritage so that pure Buddhism and the continuity of the religion will be maintained for thousands of years.

For the president, if the text is declared a UNESCO world heritage, the merit would fall on Sri Lanka whose people are tasked with "protecting, nurturing the Tripitaka – which includes the preaching of the Gautama Buddha – and preserving its writing for the world".

Sirisena added that in 1953 then Burmese Prime Minister U Nu said that the canon was the most important historical heritage of Buddhism, and described how it was preserved first by memory, then written on ola (palm) leaves, and finally engraved in stone.

Lastly, the president said that he would go ahead despite the opposition of some people with vested interests.

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