The Buddhist studies at Colombo has a long history. It was taught there earlier from 1965 to 1970 before, it was discontinued due to university reforms. University of Colombo has been teaching BS for the last twenty years since 1997.Professor Y. Karunadasa was the first professor of the Unit on the contract basis for a two year period. It was the very strong conviction of the late Prof. M.B. Ariyapala (Emeritus Professor of Sinhala, University of Colombo) and others who initiated the BS program at its present phase that the University must be a centre of excellence for BS.
This conviction remains valid still today. It is our belief that University of Colombo can attract the best of the undergraduate and post-graduate students if we offer quality instruction and guidance in BS.
In addition to local students there is a vast potential to attract overseas students to University of Colombo. The already recognized status of the university with its location in the centre of the Capital will be invaluable resources for a BS program to be developed. It is very important to make use of the world-wide interest in BS to develop the BS program in Colombo.The special degree program was started in 2009, and the first batch completed its studies by the end of the year 2012.
A vision for the Department of Buddhist studies at Colombo
Today, the significance of Buddhist studies in particular or any other field of studies in general needs to be understood in a broader global context. A more recent tendency has been to view any area of study purely from a point of view of fulfilling employment requirements of the society. The resultant situation is to neglect most of the studies in the field of humanities and replacing them with scientific and technical fields for easy access to jobs.
While there is no denial of the crucial importance of securing means of living for people in a society, this purely one-sided thinking has neglected an equally very important aspect of human life and social behavior. Reducing higher education into mere means of securing employment has resulted in producing individuals who are not sensitive to their own aesthetic and ethical needs as well as those of others. Ultimately a human being is not mere individual who is nothing more than a machine bereft of human feelings and emotions. It is these latter qualities that make human life more sublime and worthy of living. A study of a subject such as Buddhism which is one of the most philosophical and ethical all religious systems of the world, naturally ennobles and enriches human life. Although Buddhist studies may not be the most popular subject when considered from the point of view of enrollment, a university of high caliber or a university that aspires to be ranked among the best in the world cannot afford to neglect Buddhist studies.
While in Sri Lanka Buddhist studies has a traditional status and due to that very reason, it is seen as not representing modernity, or as representing tradition, the global picture of Buddhist studies is quite different. There are more and more higher education institutes that expand their academic programs to include Buddhist studies. This is mainly because many in more developed societies tend to perceive Buddhism as providing lasting solutions for nagging problems of the modern society. The results of such programs as Buddhist studies will not be seen immediately in the society as one would see in the case of more employment oriented programs of studies. But the impact of study of Buddhism will be seen in the long run.
The Buddhist studies will contribute to the enrichment of the academic quality and the widening of the academic scope of University of Colombo. The vision of the University of Colombo Buddhist studies is to be an academic program catering to the academic as well as qualitative requirements of the contemporary global society in general and to those of Sri Lanka in particular.