Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies (PGIPBS)
Ven. Professor Kotapitiye Rahula Thera,
Director of Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies
University of Kelaniya
uddhism is one of the oldest and most valuable heritages of Sri Lanka. Today, at a time when there is much hullabaloo about Buddhism being destroyed, it is important to protect the true teachings of the Buddhist philosophy. The Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies (PGIPBS) is one place in Sri Lanka which is dedicated to spreading knowledge of Buddhism around the world and preserving Buddhism through education.
Started nearly four decades ago, and functioning as a branch of the Kelaniya University, PGIPBS has the most number of both local and foreign students pursuing their higher studies in Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist culture, Buddhist literature and the Pali language. The institute offers postgraduate diplomas, master’s and doctorates in various aspects of Buddhism as well as in Buddhist Ayurvedic counselling.
Currently the institute has 700 students including monks as well as laymen, out of whom 248 are foreign students. Since it is one of the central institutes where one can pursue knowledge on Buddhism extensively, students from countries all over the world, including South Korea, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Nepal ,Vietnam, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, USA flock to the PGIPBS for their higher education.
Buddhism: A world heritage
Speaking to the the Director of Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies – University of Kelaniya, Ven. Professor Kotapitiye Rahula Thera highlighted the importance of Buddhist studies in contemporary society.
He said the Buddhism is recognised worldwide as a human-friendly, universal philosophy. More than a religion, Buddhism is an art of living which promotes peace and
harmony, respect for one another and a non-conflict approach to life, earning the respect and acceptance of the educated global population. Therefore a proper study of Buddhism reveals that it holds answers to most of the world’s burning problems and issues, Rahula Thera pointed out.
Furthermore, he added that in the present day, although some, including Buddhist monks, were of the view that Buddhism was slowly disappearing from the world, it was a narrow-minded view.
“A lot of people in this country and even some of the Buddhist clergy are alarmed thinking that Buddhism will lose its value in the world. They are making such a big noise, urging the masses to protect Buddhism and are sometimes even seen acting in rash, unwise and aggressive ways because of their panic. However, these are people who have no idea of what is going on in the world. They think in a very narrow way because they have not seen the world’s reaction to Buddhism. In fact, they are alarmed for no reason at all,” he assured.
"Buddhism is a worldwide, human-friendly, universal philosophy. More than a religion, Buddhism is an art of living which promotes peace and harmony, respect for one another and a non-conflict approach to life"
RahulaThera explained that contrary to popular belief, Buddhism was in fact not losing ground in the world – if anything it was becoming more and more popular in the world as people realise the true nature of the peaceful religion.
“Why do you think there are so many foreign students who study at the PGIPBS? It is because they know the value of Buddhism and have undertaken the task of spreading it across the world. Even in the Western world, where most countries were originally Christian or Catholic, you see so many temples being built. There are so many Buddhist clergy who study and teach in institutes in the world. Even in Asia, Theravada Buddhism has a significant place and even world leaders such as Mr. Narendra Modi and others are committed to promoting Buddhism in their countries and in the world,” he pointed out.
“Except in the Middle East region, you don’t see protests against Buddhism in any other part of the world. The majority of the global population is ready and more than eager to accept Buddhism and learn the philosophy behind Buddhism,” he added.
Rahula Thera further stated that if anyone wanted to promote and preserve Buddhism, the best way to do so was not holding protests or going on religious rampages but to learn the teachings of Buddhism and study Buddhist philosophy and culture in depth. This was in fact one of the main goals of the PGIPBS – spreading Buddhism to the world through proper, structured education rather than through fear or blind acceptance.
The Director of the PGIPBS, Rahula Thera also sought to debunk another popular and detrimental myth about the study of Buddhism. “Many people in Sri Lanka think that studying Buddhism has no economic value. In other words, they wrongly believe that one who chooses to study Buddhism will never be able to find a well-paying job. However, I can assure you that this is completely false. I can guarantee that a job in the field of Pali and Buddhist studies can even pay more than being a pilot, which is one of the highest-paying jobs in the world. I know of great exemplary intellectuals who have completed their further studies in Buddhist philosophy. Many of them are not only highly paid but are also respected worldwide,” he claimed.
RahulaThera stressed that the primary reason for this was because Buddhism was greatly respected in the world and many of the developing countries recognised its worth and value.
“This is why so many foreign students come all the way to this island to study Buddhism. They know how valuable it is in the modern world. They don’t come to Sri Lanka to pursue their higher education in any other field of study,” he said.
Therefore, apart from spreading Buddhism around the world, the PGIPBS also serves Sri Lanka by being the institute which brings the highest foreign income to the country in the higher education sector.
Need for development
Because of the service rendered by the PGIPBS to Sri Lanka, to the world, and to Buddhism as a whole, the institute needs to be developed further.
There are plans to expand and improve the facilities, complete with its own new building, hostel and the introduction of new courses next year under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Minister of Higher Education S.B. Dissanayake.
“What we need now is more recognition and more publicity for this great institute,” RahulaThera said.
“In this day and age, it is extremely important to promote and develop this institute because it serves both the country and the world.
The best and the most precious gift that Sri Lanka has to offer to the world is the gift of Buddhism. It was through Buddhism that Sri Lanka made a name for itself in the past and it is through Buddhism that we can win the world in the future as well,” he claimed.