John Holt's groundbreaking study examines the assimilation,
transformation, and subordination of the Hindu deity Visnu within
the contexts of Sri Lankan history and Sinhala Buddhist religious
culture. Holt argues that political agendas and social forces, as
much as doctrinal concerns, have shaped the shifting patterns of
the veneration of Visnu in Sri Lanka.
Holt begins with a comparative look at the assimilation of the
Buddha in Hinduism. He then explores the role and rationale of
medieval Sinhala kings in assimilating Visnu into Sinhala Buddhism.
Offering analyses of texts, many of which have never before been
translated into English, Holt considers the development of Visnu in
Buddhist literature and the changing practices of deity veneration.
Shifting to the present, Holt describes the efforts of contemporary
Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka to discourage the veneration of Visnu,
suggesting that many are motivated by a reactionary fear that their
culture and society will soon be overrun by the influences and
practices of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.
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