Thursday, November 11, 2010

Olcott Oration 2010

This year’s Olcott Oration was given by Ravinatha Pandukabhaya Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, at the Kularatne Hall, Ananda College, Colombo, on November 6, 2010. Sponsored by the Ananda College Old Boys’ Association, the yearly event commemorates the founders of Ananda College. Ambassador Aryasinha spoke on the theme, “Moderating competing narratives: the challenge of recasting Sri Lanka’s image abroad,” and began by acknowledging the work of Olcott and Blavatsky in Sri Lanka.

In the years that followed, Col. Olcott, in addition to being responsible for the revival of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, was instrumental in founding “the Buddhist English Academy,” what we today call Ananda College, with the stated intention—to provide English language education to Buddhist students, who would otherwise have had to go to a missionary school in order to get education in the English medium. This was a time, according to Agarwal, when the British colonial administration was supporting some 805 missionary schools, as against only 2 Buddhist schools. Given the solidarity he built with Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala, Anagarika Dharmapala, D.B.Jayatilake, it could be argued that by the time of his death on 17 February 1907, he had ignited among Sri Lankans, both the passion and the organization required to struggle for independence.

The rest of his talk can be read here. Last year the Olcott Oration was delivered by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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