Walpola Rahula Institute (WRI) started in 2014 in order to respond to the evident religious tension in the country at the time. …
Walpola Rahula Institute (WRI) started in 2014 in order to respond to the evident religious tension in the country at the time. Though the war ended in 2009, the healing that needs to take place in the society after such devastation did not take place as expected. As a result, the existing fractures in the country led the way to more conflicts that increasingly emerged along religious lines. In order to prevent further conflict in the country, it was clear that a process of social healing has to take place that encompasses the entire country.
The objective of WRI is initiate this process of social healing that is at the core of reconciliation and post-conflict peacebuilding. The organisation’s overall objective to this end is to “support critical discourse and practice supported by Buddha’s teachings to enable a non-violent society that does not discriminate based on a person’s birth, religion, ethnicity, caste, gender or other divisions; a society that gives value to freedom of thought and sees humans as being part of the environment, rather than its owners.”
WRI is the first Sri Lankan organisation to work on peacebuilding from a vision that is grounded in the Buddhist philosophy. Instead of the somewhat politicised and unfamiliar terminology of peacebuilding, WRI founds its work on the theme of “suvapath veema”, a common Buddhist concept that applies to the psychological as well as physical healing or wellbeing. Therefore the organisation draws from the philosophy and spiritual practices within Buddhism to analyse peace and conflict related issues, and to seek for shared spaces where we can meet one another as human beings.
WRI focuses on the following themes through its programs:
- Program with children.
WRI carries out programs with children under two categories: below 7 years and 7-13 years of age. In these programs, WRI encourages the children to learn about their relationship with themselves, the environment, other people, and all other living beings through a range of creative activities. These programs also support the development of the child as a transforming agent of the family, by engaging with the parents as well.
Ending domestic and classroom violence against children is another goal of the program and WRI carries out awareness promotion activities on the issue.
- Programs with Buddhist clergy (Monks and Nuns)
WRI carries out awareness promotion and education programs with Buddhist clergy to bring about an attitude change and cultivate an appropriate vision and understanding among them to provide a positive leadership to the people.
This includes encouraging solutions beyond rituals to the problems people face. Solutions can be sought from sources such as patticca samuppadaya (Theory of Dependent Origination), spirituality, and Buddhist teachings, and can take a understanding and wisdom based path instead of the faith-oriented take of rituals.
WRI intends to contribute towards creating monasteries that are appropriate for the contemporary period, and the unique challenges we face today. Developing a model monastery for tomorrow or “Heta Dawase Aaramaya” where there would be no discrimination based on our ethnic, cast, religious, gender or any other identities would be the culmination of these programs.
- Metta meditation programs
WRI offers and encourages making loving kindness meditation – Metta meditation – a part of people’s training in everyday life.
- Develop library that hosts books and offers resources on the above mentioned themes.
- Initiate inter-religious dialogue among different religious groups in Sri Lanka.
WRI believes that promoting inter-religious unity is important and is necessary for the social healing after the consequences of war. These programs offer the space to discuss how religion was used during the war and the role it played to support the continuation of the conflict. Also, the program focuses on how to reclaim religion from this path and bring it back to the principles that can reduce conflict and are conducive to peace.
- Twin School project
Under this program WRI connects two carefully selected schools—a Sinhala language one and a Tamil language one that are similar in terms of standards such as location, student backgrounds, and facilities. The connections are encouraged at the levels of students, teachers, and infrastructure. WRI facilitates cultural sharing, trust building, infrastructure development, and education related skills such as communication and literacy programs between the two schools. Organising regulars student exchange programs, cultural events, ceremonies and parent/teacher meetings between the two schools are also included in the program.
The two chosen schools for the initial phase of the program are Therankandal Tamil Mixed School in Mallavi, Mankulam and Halmillawetiya Vidyalaya, Vavniya Road, Kebithigollewa, Anuradhapura.
WRI uses space in mainstream and alternative media, including newspapers, social media, internet, TV talk shows and radio programs, as well as opportunities to collaborate and talk at institutions such as UNICEF to take the Institute’s vision to the people as part of its advocacy.
To have more information about the organisation's work see those links:
Ven. Galkande Dhammananda on preventing more deaths and bloodshed:
Addressing ethnic and religious discord:
Towards an alternative approach to Vesak Celebrations: Lessons from South Africa