Samadhi Bouddha Statue - Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka IV-Ve Siècle
The Panadura Controversy
Every day on his way to and from St. Thomas Dharmapala used to pass the Kotahena Temple, the incumbent of which was Megettuvatte Gunananda, the greatest orator and debater of Ceylon in modern times. On Saturday evenings, during the seventies and early eighties of the 19th century, the place would be thronged with devotees, for on those days the great preacher, his forefinger raised as though to emphasise every word he uttered, his yellow robe flung back dramatically over his brown shoulder as if to leave his arms free for battle, and his black eyes flashing with the fire of denunciation, would launch one of those devastating attacks on Christianity the noise of which would echo, during the following week, from one end of the island to the other. Now it was the doctrine of creation on which he trained the batteries of Buddhist reason, now the belief in a permanent individual soul, until one by one the crumbling bastions of Christian dogmatic theology were reduced to a heap of smoking rubble. These lectures, which were the first visible sign of Buddhist reaction against centuries of Christian domination, aroused wild enthusiasm on the one hand and excited violent indignation on the other.
Determined to silence so formidable an antagonist once and for all, the Christians organised in 1873 a huge public meeting at Panadura, a place near Colombo, and Gunananda was challenged to meet in open debate the most able among their controversialists. Alone but undaunted, he faced the united forces of Christian orthodoxy, and so impressive was his eloquence, so powerful his reasoning, that the Panadura Controversy, which was intended to bring discredit to the Buddhists, sounded instead the death-knell of Christian influence in Ceylon, so that never again did Catholic or Protestant dogmatism venture to cross swords with Buddhist wisdom.