In this blog, I have briefly discussed the Buddhist Council of Canada and the Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies (What’s Wrong with This Picture). Recently I have learned that the Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies may be seeking funding to re-establish itself in Toronto, after being closed down by the Ontario Ministry of Education in 2006. If you are considering funding this school or enrolling for courses offered by it, you have been warned.


In 2001 I enrolled in a “postgraduate” certificate program offered by the Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies in Toronto, Ontario,[1] entitled “Introduction to Buddhism.” Given the name and reputation of the school, staffed by academics associated with the University of Toronto and McMaster University no less, I expected the school to provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and thorough analytical study of the Pali Canon, but I was disappointed by the quality and tenor of the program, which barely met a high school standard, taught by a Pali linguist who knew the Pali language but had no philosophical understanding of his subject. More shockingly, the teacher openly presented himself to his students as a Luddite, nationalist, religious bigot, and sympathizer with the genocidal Sri Lankan regime, at a time when as many as 120,000 Tamil civilians were being murdered by the Sri Lankan government during the bloody Sri Lankan civil war.[2] A central theme of his teaching and subsequent writings has been an overtly racist pseudo-academic popularization of the Buddhadharma, in which the significance of the Buddha’s Indian heritage was systematically denigrated. I withdrew from the program in 2002.

Nalanda College was subsequently denied permission by the Ministry of Education of the Province of Ontario to offer degrees in Buddhist studies,[3] and was shut down. The school was forced to refund the tuition of at least one student,[4] and as far as I know, never issued a single certificate of completion to any student for its expensive and mediocre program of study.


[1] The Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies was founded in 2000 by Suwanda H.J. Sugunasiri (1936 – ?). Sugunasiri ran this school out of his U of T office using the equipment and facilities of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Refused admission by the University of Ceylon, Sugunasiri acquired a mail-order B.A. from the University of London in 1958, while earning a living as a clerk, short-story writer, and dancer [sic]. He managed to parlay this rather meager beginning into Masters degrees in linguistics (1966) and moral philosophy (1971), followed by a Ph.D. in political science (1978). After relocating to Canada to work as a high school teacher, and pursue an academic career, described by himself as “checkered,” he founded the Buddhist Council of Canada, which was shut down by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in 1989 for failing to file the required financial statements, even though Sugunasiri himself admits that he did not begin to study Buddhism seriously until 1999. Sugunasiri’s Wikipedia biography was deleted by Wikipedia for, in their words, “unambiguous [self-] advertising or promotion” (the Wikipedia page was subsequently rewritten and restored, but the current page now has a warning stating that the page does not meet Wikipedia’s notability guidelines for biographies and may be deleted). Rate My Professor has also published critical accounts of this professor by seven ex-students. The University has also recently prohibited the Buddhist Council of Canada, of which Sugunasiri is the President, from using U of T email addresses on its website (personal communication). Sugunasiri has also published photographs of himself online with the Dalai Lama and with Herbert Guenther during the period of the latter’s senility, even though he has publicly denigrated Indian Buddhism and the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He has since changed his name.

[2] CBC Radio broadcast

[3] Letter dated December 22, 2006 from Christopher Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities of the Province of Ontario, addressed to Dr. S. Sugunasiri.

[4] This student was given a failing grade for a paper that was at least as good, if not better, than the paper on the basis of which he was admitted to the school in the first place, probably because he was homosexual, using a variety of academic pretenses which subsequent inquiry proved to be false (e.g., “serious scholars do not study the Jatakas,” “Tantra is not Buddhist,” etc.). The school’s lawyers attempted to silence him by having him sign an agreement not to criticize the school as a condition of receiving a tuition refund, which he refused to do. These actions violated both his Charter rights under the Canadian Constitution and the University of Toronto’s policies concerning classroom utilization by third parties.


[1] Canadian revoked charities – detail page, Buddhist Council of Canada, http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/ebci/haip/srch/charity-eng.action?r=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cra-arc.gc.ca%3A80%2Febci%2Fhaip%2Fsrch%2Fbasicsearchresult-eng.action%3Fk%3DBuddhist%2520Council%2520of%2520Canada%26amp%3Bs%3D%2520%26amp%3B%3DSearch%26amp%3Bp%3D1%26amp%3Bb%3Dtrue%26amp%3B&bn=890215742RR0001, accessed August 9, 2013

[1] Suwanda HJ Sugunasiri, http://wiki.verkata.com/en/wiki/Suwanda_HJ_Sugunasiri, accessed August 9, 2013

[1] Rate My Professors – Suwanda Sugunasiri, http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=94439, accessed August 9, 2013

[1] Speedy deletion Wiki – Suwanda HJ Sugunasiri, http://speedydeletion.wikia.com/wiki/Suwanda_HJ_Sugunasiri, accessed on August 9, 2013

[2] CBC radio, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GApzsh_tkTA, uploaded Feb. 14, 2009

[3] Letter to Dr. S. Sugunasiri from Christopher Bentley, Minister, Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, dated December 22, 2006, http://www.peqab.ca/Publications/Consents/NalandaBuddhadharmaConsent.pdf, accessed August 9, 2013

[4] Personal communication


I have recently discovered that there is a connection between the Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies, the Buddhist Council of Canada, and the Church of Scientology in Canada. I am researching this further and will provide more details as they are confirmed. Sept. 7, 2014