Petra Kieffer-Pülz

The Dispute about the Validity of the monastic Boundary (sīmā) of Balapiṭiya in 19th c. Sri Lanka, I

The Dispute about the legal validity of the monastic boundary (sīmā) of Balapiṭiya (Sri Lanka) began in 1851 and lasted more than three decades (1851–1884.In its context numerous texts and letters were written in the Middle Indic language Pāli by various authors. Altogether, these texts fill several hundred pages.

A monastic boundary defines the space within which a local community carries out legal acts. If a sīmā is defective, all legal acts performed in it are invalid. Thus a valid sīmā is of utmost importance for the continued existence of the Buddhist tradition. There are various types of sīmā. In the case of Balapiṭiya, it is a water-splashing-boundary (udakukkhepasīmā) inside a river. The dispute about this sīmā arose within the Amarapuranikāya, a tradition introduced to Sri Lanka from Burma in the beginning of the 19th century. One party, called the Confusionists, considered the Balapiṭiya sīmā to be confused with the village boundary on the bank of the river. The opposing party, the Non-Confusionists, regarded it as not confused and legally valid. The dispute dragged on for several years, with various Sinhalese monks arguing with each other. In 1857 the Confusionists sent a delegation to the head of the Buddhist community in Burma, the Saṅgharāja Ñeyyadhamma, to seek a decision. The delegation returned in 1858 with the Saṅgharāja’s judgment, called Sīmāvivādavinicchayakathā, that was in favor of the position of the Confusionists. This judgment was published by the Russian Indologist J. P. Minayeff in 1887 based on a single manuscript. Since that text has various lacunae, it is reedited here based on four additional manuscripts, and supplemented by an annotated English translation. In addition the short travelogue of the first delegation, the Sīmāsandesakathā, which in Burmese manuscripts precedes the judgment, is edited and translated here for the first time and gives insights into the problems associated with the journey, the itinerary and how long the trip took.


Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis | Volume 26
1st edition
hardback edition
ISBN 978-3-86977-258-5

(not yet published)