Monday, Mar. 28, 1960

The Miracle of the Tooth

In all of Ceylon, no relic is considered holier or more miraculous than the supposed tooth of Lord Buddha encased in the innermost of seven gold caskets in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. The pious believe that this tooth was brought to Ceylon by a 4th century princess of Kalinga, who fled with it hidden in her hair when Buddhism was driven out of India.

Centuries later, after a religious war, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Goa had the tooth ground in a mortar and spread the powder on the sea. But legends do not die so easily. A Sinhalese prince proclaimed that the tooth had miraculously reassembled itself and miraculously returned to the sanctuary of the Temple of the Tooth. Ever since, it has reposed there, as a symbol of Sinhalese nationalism.

Buddha's Bite. Last week the tooth of Buddha was still showing its bite against the enemy, this time the Communist variety. In national elections, Ceylon's conservatives, hitting hard at Marxist China's treatment of Buddhist Tibet, soundly trounced Ceylon's motley leftist parties, which range from doctrinaire Marxists and Trotsky partisans to avowed Communists. But the conservatives split their majority between two parties: the United National Party, which ruled for eight years after negotiating Ceylon's independence within the British Commonwealth in 1948, and the Freedom Party of the late Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgway Dias Bandaranaike, who governed from 1956 until his assassination last September. In last week's election, the United Nationalists leaped from eight to 50 seats. But the Freedom Party, without a leader of stature, worked up so much sympathy by parading Bandaranaike's weeping widow that it finished with 46 seats.

Atrocity Target. The closeness of the election may keep Ceylon from a long-desired civil peace, for both leading parties are a long way from the 76 seats needed to form a government. But voters had at least decisively rejected the chaos and frequent strikes of Marxist and left-wing government. Most effective campaigner was the United Nationalists' leader, Dudley Shelton Senanayake, 47, who may become prime minister. In 1952 he had briefly succeeded his famous father, Don Stephen Senanayake (Ceylon's first Prime Minister), who died after a fall from a horse. Then the son had gone into a political and physical decline. Now a teetotaler, he has made a political comeback. Cambridge-educated Senanayake, a Buddhist himself, lashed out at island Marxists who for years have posed as the protectors of the impoverished Buddhist peasantry. Marxism's real feelings about Buddhism, said Senanayake, can be read in the defiled temples and murdered monks of Tibet. As he spoke small boys circulated with handbills showing a drawing of the Temple of the Tooth with a question mark hovering above it, implying that it could be Marxism's next atrocity target.