I have read a few sections of the book. It’s a bit of a tough read at times due to the particular use of language mixed with Sinhala, but it offered some insights nonetheless. (I sincerely appreciate that Lal always uses Pali and mentions the Sinhala separately so you know which one is which).
It appears Venerable Thero seems to think that Buddhagosa’s distortion was intentional. He provides a great number of details to support his arguments.
I read the section on “namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa” which offers a somewhat different interpretation than Lal’s, but, of course, both interpretations are consistent with the Tipitaka. I wanted to highlight the “namo tassa” part of the verse and share it here and also ask Lal for his take on it.
“There are two parts in the phrase “Namo-tassa Bagavatho Arahatho Samma Sambuddhassa”.
1. The word Namo is the first part.
2. The words Bagavatho, Arahatho, Samma, Sambuddhassa comprise the 2nd part.
The two parts are joined by the word tassa. The word tassa denotes a connection between a cause and an effect (hetu-pala). Toward the end of Jhajakka Sutta the word tassa is used to express the meaning “because of this cause, this effect arises” and by “eradicating these causes, these effects do not arise”. In Magadhi language, it must be pointed out that the term tassa is used to illustrate the connection between cause and effect (hetu-pala).
The word Namo is comprised of two words. The word “mo” has two-fold meanings – moha (3rd guise) and “entering a womb”. “na” means a negation in Magadhi language or termination of moha (3rd guise) or stopping (namo). Accordingly, namo means both eradication of moha and severance from all causes that results in entering a mother’s womb again. The phrase “Nahi jathu gabba sæyan punerethithi” also indicates the same meaning as “namo”. “Mo” is another Magadhi term for mother. A being enters a mother’s womb repetitively because of moha causing grasping (upadana) of panchaskandha. By complete eradication of moha from the mind, there remains no cause for one to enter a mother’s womb again. This is the context in which the word namo is used in this phrase.
The term “namo” got misinterpreted later to mean worship due to the influence of the sanskrit term “namaste”, which got transplanted into Buddhism as a word to word substitution. In Magadhi Buddha language, the context of worship or namaskaraya are represented by the term vandami. In Atanatiya Sutta the term vandami had been used in a variety of ways to symbolize vandana of the seven Buddhas (sathbudu vandana). In the early era of Buddha language, the two words “na-mo” were applied only to denote complete eradication of moha or complete severance from moha but never was it used to pay namaskaraya or worship. The essence of Buddha dhamma or the magga chariya is aimed at eradication of moha born in the mind. One attains full-fledged vimukthi only when one has fully eradicated moha. It must be recognized that currently the term namo with such a deep exalted dhamma meaning is used as superficial meaningless phrase. A religion is characterized by worship, offerings, hopes, prayers based on devotional activities. It is obvious that the accurate dhamma meaning of the term namo had been suppressed as an adaptation to suit worship and devotion. One must become aware that Nibbana can be attained only by eradicating moha and not through namaskaraya, offerings or worship.”
On another note, He mentions somewhere he “rediscovered paticca samupadda dhamma.” (p. 64) Either that’s a (nuanced) translation issue or it means that he is also a Jati Sotapanna? I thought that it was Waharaka Thero who had set the wheel in motion again. I’m not too familiar with the origin of things besides what I got from puredhamma.net.