Sri Lanka: Ending Blindness Through Rebirth

"If there be any human gift that I have never made,
Be it my eyes, I'll give it now, all firm and unafraid." (The Jātaka Vol. IV No. 499)

True to his word, the Buddha gave his eyes to someone he thought was blind. Fast-forward over two thousand years to modern-day Sri Lanka. In this mainly Buddhist country, people have been taking the Buddha's charitable example to heart. They believe giving the gift of sight will increase their chances of being reborn into a better life.

Ross Velton looks at Sri Lanka's eye-donating phenomenon. About five percent of the population has signed up to donate the eyes after death. There are enough eyes for Sri Lankan patients, with plenty left over to be sent abroad. It's the cornea (the transparent front layer of the eye) that's in big demand. Transplants can help people whose corneas have been damaged by disease or injury.

Many of Sri Lanka's eyes are sent to countries where the donating of body parts is taboo for cultural or religious reasons. But even in countries where organ donation is common, the demand for corneas is often greater than the supply. Can the Sri Lankans' search for rebirth give new lives to blind people all over the world?

Sri Lanka: The Country that Supplies Eyes

There is a worldwide shortage of corneas for transplant operations. However one country is doing its best to satisfy demand without seeking any reward—at least in this life.