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P2.01   Versatile Anagarika Dharmapala - communicator par excellence - This noble son of Sri Lanka, is a rare personality...

P2.02   Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera - 'forthright' one - He was truly a disciple of the Buddha, who had that ability to...

P2.03   Biography of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero (Himi) -Ven. Soma Thera, Head of Buddhist Vihara, Victoria...

P2.04   Anagarika Dharmapala Speech - I consider it a honour and a privilege to be here at this international gathering...

P2.05   Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, the indomitable orator - At the beginning of the 16th century European...

P2.06   Ven Migettuwatte Gunananda - On the 21st September 2008, falls the 118th death anniversary of...

P2.07   Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera - The great Buddhist revivalist...

P2.08   Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero  - Passed away in St. Petersburg on 12th December 2003...

P2.09   Sikkim Mahinda Thero - A national hero of Sri Lanka...

P2.10   Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera - Pioneer monk of the Buddhist revivalist movement...

P2.11    Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero - If we are to properly appraise the international dimension of Ven. Sumangala...

P2.12   S. Mahinda Thera - Poet and freedom fighter...

P2.13  Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Nayaka Swaminwahanse - Born to a Methodist father and a Buddhist mother in Madihe...

P2.14   Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera - The beacon of the Buddha Sasana...

P2.15   Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera  - The prelate with a mission of peace...

P2.16   Ven. Narada Maha Thera - Born as Sumanapala Perera in July 14, 1898, Kotahena, Sri Lanka...

P2.17   Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero - The 99th birthday of the Most Ven. Aggamahapanditha Balangoda...

P2.18   Dr. E. W. Adikaram - an unwavering loyalty to truth

P2.19   Dr. E. W. Adikaram - a unique educator  

P2.20   Dr. E. W. Adikaram - Life & Times








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P2.01  Versatile Anagarika Dharmapala - communicator par excellence

Lakshman Jayawardene

This noble son of Sri Lanka, Anagarika Dharmapala is a rare personality undisputedly eminent among the greatest persons of prominence born during recent times in Sri Lanka by virtue of his versatility and the contribution to human welfare through his manifold talents which earned him a name not only in this country but abroad as well.

More than a century of his colourful life of sixty-nine years was devoted almost entirely to the progress and promotion of the nation and the Buddha sasana. His services in this cause are stupendous, indeed, and makes one wonder how one such individual did such a lot in such a brief span of life. This inevitable question is perhaps partly answered by the fact that he saw no difference between night and day when at work, nor sought the comfort of sleep. He could write at any time. In fact, one notes that he wrote most of his letters in the small hours of the morning, being awake and at work while others slept.

Ven. Pandit Ganegama Saranankara, Nayaka Thero, in writing a very illustrative and intimate biography of the Anagarika, titled 'Jathiye Piya' ('Father of the Nation') convincingly names his chapters to reveal the significant aspects of the Anagarika's talents and work: 1. Honest, candid leader, 2. A hero fighting courageously to safeguard Sinhala Culture. 3. A great Buddhist missionary, 4. A captain in the temperance campaign, 5. A supreme orator, 6. The one Sinhalese ever to taunt the white men, 7. The most courageous Sinhalese, 8. The gaint in the fight for Buddhagaya, 9. Father of the nation, 10. The internationally famous Sinhalese of the 19th century.

Ven. Madhihe Pannasiha Maha Thera makes an illuminating comment on this book: It is no exaggeration to say that these ten titles of Chapters describe the Anagarika so fully that more words are not necessary. If we examine Anagarika Dharmapala's life and work further, more significant facets may be seen, such as, "Anagarika Dharmapala as a courageous communicator. "There could be no dispute over this identification because his prolific writings display communicative talents of a very high order acclaimed here and overseas. No doubt, the success of his many ventures on behalf of the nation and the religion depended on his ability to communicate and to convince convincingly.

Dharmapala's entry to the media was when he was quite young, only twenty. His first stint was on the "Sarasavi-Sandaresa" to which his services were drawn when he joined the Theosophical Society of Colombo initiated by Col. Olcott, who saw immense possibilities in the young enthusiast.

The staff on the paper at that time was quite small and Dharmapala had to - of course, quite willingly - shoulder the entire burden of running the paper - writing the articles, helping in the printing and the distribution. Actually, he did the folding, wrapped, stamped, addressed, bundled, carried to the post office and handed over the papers. This almost single-handed effort and dedication made it feasible to issue two papers a week as against one when he joined. The paper became popular as a national newspaper. He worked on the paper for four years, and we may surmise that his success as a communicator was fashioned during these early years. Just as much as he enjoyed his successes, he would have realised what a powerful medium he was wielding.

In December 1888, Dharmapala was able to issue an English-paper called "The Buddhist" as a supplement to the "Sarasavi-Sandaresa". He enlisted the services of an educationist named Leadbeater as the editor. This is how he talks of his efforts in this regard: "I decided that the time was ripe for an English weekly for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. I asked my friends to send me ten rupees each, and no sooner I had collected three hundred rupees, I got down the types from Madras and began "The Buddhist".

A much more significant landmark day in Dharmapala's life undoubtedly is Vesak 1906 when he started the "Sinhala Bauddhaya" at his own Mahabodhi press, the financial aid for which was provided for him by his helper, the philanthropist Mrs. T. R. Foster.

From the very inception of the "Sinhala Bauddhaya", Dharmapala was its editor and manager. He was its live wire and he used it with great results in his islandwide campaign of national regeneration then called, "Sinhalayini Negitiv" (Awake, Oh Sinhalaese!). His noble and steadfast campaign, he conducted with extreme determination and malice to none and only to uplift a moribund populace. He was convinced, as his Diaries show, that a newspaper was a strong ally in his struggle to reach the masses.

The columns of the "Sinhala Bauddhaya" to which Dharmapala himself contributed profusely bear witness to the burning problems of the time. He castigated the British administration and White rule in no uncertain terms and most justifiably at a time when newspapers had their lips tight and were afraid to take on the colonial rulers. Whenever he was abroad, he wrote of his experiences frequently and regularly to keep the country informed and to educate the news-hungry public.

It will be most informative and educative for a study to be made of how Anagarika Dharmapala performed as a fearless media-man and how he used the rudimentary media at that time successfully in his national and religious upliftment. Media-men of today would stand to benefit, I suspect remarkably.

A national Sinhala newspaper was not the only organ resorted to by Dharmapala for national resurgence. He started the magazine "Maha-Bodhi Journal", to carry the message of the Maha-Bodhi Society on May 12, 1892. Here too, he had the main hand in editing and contributing to its pages. It's most surprising how much he wrote, how informative it was and what results he achieved. The contents of these Journals are most valuable, historically, religiously and socially. Long after this, in 1933, he started the "British Buddhist" in order to reach the British public who were keen to know about Buddhism and the land where it is assiduously practised.

Anagarika Dharmapala used his magazines and journals wisely to reach a large public, particularly English readers in the UK, USA and Europe. He kept enthusiastic readers satisfied by posting the Magazines direct to them. No better pointer to the power of the media need be south, for this practice brought him in touch with people who were keen to know about Buddhism and Sri Lanka and also enabled him to draw in their aid for his momentous work. Dharmapala was sought for; he was invited to meetings of scholars as the Congress of Faiths at Chicago; there were so many willing to help the Maha-Bodhi Society with funds and books. So, we have here an unprecedented instance of international co-operation through mass-communication.

To study it further, we may justifiably identify this as Dharmapala's communication network of the time: newspapers edited by him or directed by him with writings of his own adorning every issue whether in Sinhala or English; periodicals of the same character being posted to English-speaking and/or Buddhist countries; books written by him or other prestigious personalities; and lastly, his own personal letters now preserved in archives or published. The last should indicate his powers of inter-personal communication. Its success lay in how he won hearts and purses for his noble endeavours.

Another facet of his achievement was in his oratory - the power of the spoken word. With no electronic devices, perhaps not even a loudspeaker to assist him, he addressed large gatherings with conviction and persuasion. Notes of some of his addresses show his talents in this regard: hard-spoken, appealing, argumentative, plaintive, assertive as the case needed, he appealed to both heart and brain. It could not be otherwise because he had to address the tipsy ignorant villager in the remote villages of Sri Lanka in one breath and, in the other, either Buddhist monks or confirmed Christian audiences. In the last, he used the Bible - he always carried one with him - to evoke comparisons. He thus, obtained the highest clarity and conviction. Western audiences were ever so appreciative of his mastery of the spoken and written word.

So, Anagarika Dharmapala is deserving of additional admiration on an eleventh aspect of his personality - a master of communication, versatile, fearless and lively. This would have contributed immensely to his international success and appeal.

18 09 2002 - DAILY NEWS





Personalities History

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P2.02   Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera -'forthright' one

Sachitra Mahendra

He was truly a disciple of the Buddha, who had that ability to be 'ujupatipanno' forthright. He was admired even by non-Buddhists for that quality alone. He was posthumously respected with a yellow flag raised in almost every household both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Venerable Gangodavila Soma thus became a household name in every corner of the society.

Born on April 24th, 1948 in Gangodavila, Ven. Soma Thera, then known as Somarathne, was the eldest of a family of four.

Having started his primary education at Ananda Shastralaya, Kotte, Somarathne had his secondary education at Thurstan College, Colombo. Somarathne was to pursue more Buddhism than any other subject.

It is that much that the Chief Prelate of Bambalapitiya Vajiraramaya had no qualms in handing the teaching job to the Dhamma Wizard who was still in Grade 8! Ven. Soma's Dhamma journey hence had a gracious launch.

Ven. Soma Thera's funeral, no doubt, is one of Sri Lanka's largely attended funerals in the century. What is remarkable about Ven. Soma Thera is that he was well-versed in the Thripitaka, the three canons of Buddhism - a rare privilege a monk can ever claim.

Having dedicated his life for the Dhamma, Ven. Soma Thera studied the Thripitaka thrice. Obviously, anybody coming to him to get a Dhamma issue solved, would not return empty handed.

It is essential to discuss Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera's intellectual contribution in this background. During his short and busy life, he has authored 10 publications including one English book titled 'Buddha - Get to know him'.

The book reviews the nine great spiritual qualities of the Buddha; this is quite familiar to the average Buddhist starting from 'Itipiso Bhagava Arahan...' and so on. Ven. Soma Thera's effort in authoring 'Buddha - Get to know him' is to annotate the nine great qualities.

A similar effort was carried out in the posthumously famed 'Buddha Stupa'. In 'Buddha Stupa' Ven. Soma Thera emphasises the need of concentrating the Buddha's nine great qualities for a calm and serene mind.

The mind of such a being can be compared with a Buddha Stupa, a Buddhist shrine. 'Buddha Stupa', I feel, is his most serious work, as it provides a detailed chapter-wise analysis of the nine great qualities of the Buddha.

Another intellectual exercise Ven. Soma Thera is annotating the Dhammapada, a Buddhist text consisting 423 stanzas.

Having explored various related texts written in explanation of Dhammapada like 'Dhammapada Purana Sannaya', 'Saddharma Sagaraya' and 'Dhammapada Pradeepaya', Ven. Soma Thera undertook a notable attempt to further simplify the text so that it will be of maximum use to the common reader. Even a single stanza would be useful in rectifying one's mistakes - so obviously it is a mirror that reflects one's own self.

'Sithata Sahana Dena Budu Bana' (Buddhist Sermons for Consolation) was based on weekly Dhamma articles published in Sunday Divaina.

The book addresses the present-day society's chaos. Ven. Soma Thera explicitly describes how Buddhism can be practically applied in the present-day society. 'Deshaya Surakina Ran Asipatha' (The Golden Sword that Protects the Country) basically speaks about the need to defeat the terrorism.

The soldier in the battlefield, according to Ven. Soma Thera, is not an assassin. The soldier's main intention is to save the country from terrorism. He is more engrossed in killing a terrorist rather than a human being.

'Rahula Matha' (Mother of Rahula) is his first book based on the life of Princess Yasodhara, Prince Siddhartha's wife. He explains the way the princess gradually renounced the palatial luxuries to become a spiritually elevated asset of the Buddhist order. The book is said to have inspired many young ladies on their spiritual activities.

'Deva Sankalpaya haa Bauddha Akalpa' (Concept of God and the Buddhist Attitude) discusses much of his commonly discussed viewpoints on the God concept in Buddhism. Although Buddhism does not entertain the concept of Almighty God, the doctrine accepts the existence of many gods superior to that of humans.

This does not imply that the humans should venerate the gods. With these concepts, Ven. Soma Thera strictly stood against the presence of Devalayas in the Buddhist temples. Thilak Senasinghe, Chamika Munasinghe and Indu Perera are three pioneering authors who have documented Ven. Gangodavila Soma Thera's dhamma sermons.

Thilak Senasinghe has recorded the late bhikkhu's standpoint against the heretic concepts prevalent in the Buddhist society.

Chamika Munasinghe has written a number of books containing the Venerable's Dhamma vision. Indu Perera has authored Ven. Soma Thera's biography, which is certainly an interesting for a student of the late spiritual scholar's life.







Personalities History

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P2.03   Biography of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero (Himi)

D.C. Ranatunga

Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera, Head of Buddhist Vihara, Victoria hails from Sri Lanka. Following tradition, he uses the name of his birthplace, Gangodawila, in front of his name. It is a semi-urban locality in the outskirts of the capital city of Colombo.

Soma Thera was ordained in 1974 when he was 26 years of age under the tutelage of two of the most revered monks in Sri Lanka – Most Reverend Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera and Venerable Ampitiye Rahula Maha Thera. He received training at the Bhikkhu Training Centre, Maharagama – an institution established by these two monks for the training of novices who enter the Order of the Maha Sangha.

Having obtained his higher ordination in 1976, Some Thera continued to study the Buddhist texts in Pali, their original language. He was particularly interested in doing research into the teachings of the Buddha and have written several books based on such research.

His mission was to mould the younger generation to live according to the Dhamma. He had the right approach in handling youth problems and soon they rallied round him in an organisation called 'Tharunu Saviya' (Strength of the Youth).

A keen student of meditation, he also took time off to be in solitude in distant, lonely locations where undisturbed he could meditate. His interest in meditating on the qualities of the Buddha made him work on an exhaustive study on the subject. His published work 'Buddhastupa' is a useful guide to those interested in such meditation.

Soma Thera's links with Victoria dates back to 1986 when he was invited by some Sri Lankans to spend some time preaching the Dhamma. After six months he returned to Sri Lanka. When he came back in 1989, the groundwork had been done to set up the Buddhist Vihara Victoria.

Soma Thera's last visit to Sri Lanka made him realise the need to inject Buddhist values into the minds of people and has undertaken that task earnestly. In the past few months he has been travelling widely throughout the country spreading the message of the Buddha on how to lead simple lives based on the Five Precepts. Thousands flock to listen to his sermons, which are delivered in simple language yet most effectively. Most of the listeners are young men and women. Television stations clamour to get him to discuss religious and social issues and these have become the most popular programmes of the day.

The Buddhist Vihara Victoria, a new temple, was established in 1993 at Noble Park. This was established in view of spreading the Dhamma to not only the Sri Lankan community but also other nationalities. At present all religious work is going well.

As this premises is not big enough to provide the Buddhist service on a global scale, Soma There bought another 5 acre block of land with the help of the community to found the Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara. At present 800 trees have been planted on the land and necessary plans have been drawn up.

Very devoted and talented executive members of the community are doing their best to make this massive project a reality. If this task can be realised it would be a great service for the Buddhist world, and a large step in Soma Thera's missionary work for Buddhists in the Millennium.





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P2.04   Anagarika Dharmapala Speech 

Text of the speech prepared by Prof. Wiswa Warnapala, Minister of Higher Education for the 143rd birth anniversary of the late Anagarika Dharmapala & read by Rev. T.Dhammarathana at Buddhagaya on 17th September 2007.

I consider it a honour and a privilege to be here at this international gathering to speak a few words on one of the illustrious sons of Sri Lanka who made a noteworthy contribution to the cause of Buddhism, the Buddhist revival and the nationalist awakening in Sri Lanka. Anagarika Dharmapala made an equally important contribution in the international arena as well. I shall try my best, within the time available, to deal with certain aspects of Anagarika's religious and nationalist career, including his magnificent role in awakening a people who remained subjugated by colonialism.

It would be of special significance to this international audience to advert our attention first to the way in which Anagarika Dharmapala assisted in the revival of Buddhism. The most important event is the founding of the Mahabodhi Society of India by Anagarika Dharmapala in 1891 and it made an outstanding contribution to the revival of Buddhism. The Buddha Gaya Mahabodhi Society was founded in Sri Lanka and its purpose, as explained by Anagarika Dharmapala, was to restore the sacred shrine, and the formation of this society did not attract much attention as it was difficult to rouse the interest of the laity in such a worthwhile project. It was through such initiatives that he was able to rouse the interests of the Buddhists to lay the foundation for a great cultural and spiritual movement which, in course of time, became the main vehicle of the Buddhist revival.

Before we embark on a discussion of the impact of the Buddhist revival movement on the nationalist awakening in Sri Lanka, it would not be inappropriate to refer to Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 which gave him an international reputation. This conference has been hailed as an important event in the nineteenth century as it created international impulses for the revival of ancient religions of the world. It was at this international gathering that the religious leaders of the East met those of the West and Anagarika Dharmapala made used use of the occasion to plan a strategy for the revival of Buddhism on a world wide scale. In this way, he became the peerless missionary of Buddhism who carried the message of the Buddha to the four corners of the world. His vision and intellectual attainments were such that he soon became the most influential campaigner for the restoration of Buddhism and the rich culture associated with the teachings of the Lord Buddha. With a view to resuscitating Buddhism and the values associated with Buddhism for several thousands of years, he openly attacked the process of Westernization in the country and wanted the people, who were still under the yoke of colonialism, to break-away from those influences which destroyed their initiative and nationalist impulses. He was very critical of the people and leaders who were servile to Western ways, and the tirade against colonialism, in the end, gave birth to the process of nationalist awakening. The nationalist movement of Sri Lanka, which came to be developed in the first decade of the 20th century, was largely due to the impact of the Buddhist revivalist movement to which Anagarika Dharmapala provided leadership through his teachings and the condemnation of the process of Westernization- which had a debilitating effect on the general mass of the people. The Buddhist revival movement, apart from its impact on the growing trend of nationalism, rejected Christianity and the missionary organizations associated with it. One unique feature of this revivalist movement was that it, though took the form of religious nationalism which emerged in Sri Lanka in the post-1915 period, derived immense inspiration from the Buddhist revivalist movement.

It needs to be mentioned that religious nationalism helped in the growth of political consciousness among the masses and this, coupled with other factors, helped in the awakening of the people to demand political freedom. In this context, one can come to the conclusion that Anagarika, through his mission to restore Buddhism, indirectly helped religious nationalism to get itself converted into political nationalism, with which a powerful Buddhist movement came into existence. During this period, there was an attempt to use Buddhism as a force against colonial domination, and the temperance movement, which came to be developed at the turn of the 20th century, became an integral part of the Buddhist revival. The national consciousness against colonial domination, therefore, developed around the temperance movement, which, by this time, had spread to all the Sinhalese Buddhist areas of the country. This movement had shown its potentiality to develop into a political movement, championing the cause of freedom. In other words, the Buddhist revivalist movement, which came to be spearheaded by Anagarika Dharmapala, laid the foundation for the political awakening of the masses. The nationalist movement, led by various political organizations of the period, came to be dominated by the English-educated elite; the mass base of the movement came to be strengthened by the impact of the Buddhist revivalist movement. Therefore it was Anagarika Dharmapala, who, through his Buddhist revivalist movement, activated the ordinary masses to play a role in the nationalist struggle for political freedom. Though this has not been highlighted by historians, the fact remains that it was Anagarika Dharmapala who, through indirect means, enthused the people to call for political emancipation. In a pamphlet published in 1922, Anagarika Dharmapala, referring to the young men of Sri Lanka, stated that ‘what we need in Sri Lanka is a body of men who, with enthusiasm, will go forward to awaken the sleeping people of Sri Lanka who are now having a moribund life'. In the eyes of the ordinary man, the Buddhist revivalist movement, though religious in character, remained a movement for political freedom. It could not be denied that the nationalist movement of Sri Lanka, as envisaged by Anagarika Dharmapala, came to be based on religious impulses; it was perhaps this character which prevented it from becoming a violent nationalist movement.

Anagarika Dharmapala, throughout his career as the greatest revivalist of Buddhism, made yeoman service to the restoration of Buddha Gaya where we are meeting today.


Anagarika Dharmapala, through his active involvement in the Buddhist revivalist movement, encouraged the emergence of cultural nationalism in the country, and it, though later came to be inter-mingled with political nationalism, surfaced several decades later as a major element of the political change of 1956. It was with the Buddhist revival that a call came for the restoration of the indigenous Sinhalese culture in the country. When we look at from the point of view of such historical factors, one could conveniently say that it was Anagarika Dharmapala who laid the foundation for the nationalist movement which, in the end, paved the way for the achievement of political independence. Anagarika Dharmapala, published Sinhala Bauddhaya, a newspaper devoted to the cause of the Sinhalese Buddhists - which, as intended by its founder, was to rouse the nationalist ideas of the Sinhalese Buddhists in the country. His preachings and the devastating criticisms of the trends of Westernization had an effect on the ordinary people who were influenced to change their Western names. It was he who reminded the Sinhalese of the need to maintain their national and cultural identity. The Western ways were criticized in a patriotic way, and this had an enormous impact on a society which was still under imperialism. His nationalist message, based on culture and religion, had a popular effect on the emerging nationalist movement and it, in an indirect way, penetrated the left wing politics of the period as well. Therefore it is correct to say that Anagarika Dharmapala, with his virulent campaign against colonial domination, provided a base for the emergence of a movement opposing both colonialism and imperialism. Though Anagarika Dharmapala was the foremost Buddhist missionary, he was equally a powerful Sinhala nationalist who kindled the flicker of Sinhala nationalism.

As mentioned earlier, the greatest contribution of Anagarika Dharmapala to the revival of Buddhism, was the formation of the Mahabodhi Society, and it, in course of time, became the organization which made a tremendous contribution to the propagation of Buddhism; in addition, it led the campaign for the restoration of the ancient places of Buddhist worship throughout India where the edifice of Buddhism was in a state of decline. The founding of the Mahabodhi Society and the establishment of its centres in different parts of the country laid the foundation for the revival of Buddhism in the land of its birth. The propagation of the Dhamma and the restoration of the ancient places of worship constituted the main function of the Mahabodhi Society which, in addition, to this task, became the forum for the discussion of all aspects of the teachings of the Buddha. It, in fact, was the oldest Buddhist periodical in English with a world wide circulation and this explains the nature of his mission to propagate Buddhism throughout the world.

Dharmapala was such an outstanding intellectual who could impress an audience with his ability to explain a philosophical issue with absolute clarity. Because of this special aptitude of his, he could attract a crowd too large for the venue; this was his reputation as a scholar with an international standing.

We know that Anagarika Dharmapala devoted all his energies and powers to restoring the holy sites of Buddhism in India to their former glory, and it was the Mahabodhi Society and his disciples like Davapriya Walisinha who played a significant role in this regard. Devapriya Walisinha, a boy from Atale, Kegalla came in contact with Anagarika Dharmapala in 1912 and he, in course of time, became the closest confidante of Anagarika Dharmapala. He played a key role in the restoration of the ancient Buddhist sites in India, and his contribution, due to some strange reason, has not been highlighted. Devapriya Walisinha functioned as the Secretary of the Mahabodhi Society for more than 35 years and it was he who, with both ability and commitment, ran the society with a view to realizing its main objectives. He played a crucial role on the issue of Buddha Gaya. He remained the loyal disciple of Anagarika Dharmapala till his death, and this relationship, which lasted for more than 45 years, gave added strength to the Mahabodhi Society. The letters, which Dharmapala sent him from different places, showed the extent of his confidence in Walisinha and the nature of work entrusted to him in respect of many a project relating to the restoration of Buddhist sites in India. I was able to examine these letters, which, in addition to the instructions given by Anagarika Dharmapala, explained the close relationship between these two great men who made a contribution to the cause of Buddhism. One fascinating thing, which I noticed in the course of my examination Dharmapala's letters to Walisinha, was the absolute confidence with which he gave instructions as well as admonitions; yet another striking fact was that Walisinha served Anagarika Dharmapala with absolute loyalty and in that sense, he was the true disciple of Anagarika Dharmapala.

Anagarika Dharmapala, throughout his career as the greatest revivalist of Buddhism, made yeoman service to the restoration of Buddha Gaya where we are meeting today. Buddha Gaya, which has now become the centre of attraction of Buddhists all over the world, would not have reached this position if not for the untiring efforts of Anagarika Dharmapala. The contribution made by Devapriya Walisinha could not be ignored; he, in the absence of Dharmapala, made an equally powerful contribution to make it internationally important. It was they who convinced the national leaders of the period, such men as Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, C.R. Dias and Rabindranath Tagore, of the need to restore Buddha Gaya as a legitimate place of worship for the Buddhists. Lord Buddha reached enlightenment at this hallowed place, and it, therefore, belongs to the Buddhists who have a legitimate right to restore it to its pristine glory. There was a long struggle to obtain the lawful ownership of the place as a place of lawful worship for Buddhists and it was Dharmapala who faced the challenges of the period. The Mahabodhi Society which was at the forefront of this struggle to convert Buddhagaya into a place of worship of Buddhists. It would be interesting and useful to recount the history of this religious site as it had opened a new chapter in the history of religions. It was King Asoka who built a temple on the exact site of the present one and Buddhism reigned supreme for several centuries. Both Dharmapala and the Mahabodhi Society fought relentlessly to gain control of this ancient place of worship, and the achievement of Dharmapala, specially in respect of this matter, was remarkable. The entire world, including all Buddhists throughout the globe, are indebted to Anagarika Dharmapala for all what he did in respect of Buddhagaya.

In the pantheon of Sri Lanka heroes, Dharmapala was one such national hero who devoted his entire life to the progress of the nation and the Buddha Sasana, and he, though did yeoman service during a very brief period, is still remembered as the Father of the Sri Lanka Nation.






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P2.05   Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, the indomitable orator

C. V. Rajapakse


At the beginning of the 16th century European races landed in Sri Lanka and various attempts were made by them to dilute and replace our Sinhala culture with theirs. In this context the missionaries played the key role and they functioned with the idea that ours is a primitive culture and the people were also such. They were considerably successful over a period of time and gradual process of degradation and eradication resulted in the decline of our culture and religion.

As they were the rulers, people went after them and then started to follow their religion and culture in order to gain various positions and other material benefits from them. Situation at a time (around 1870) was such that where education alone at the time of our Gunananda Thera was concerned there were only two Buddhist schools in the country - in Panadura and Dodanduwa with an attendance of 246 children as against 805 Christian Schools with an attendance of 78086 children, in the country.

In this situation, the need of the hour under such conditions was an educated dynamic and able person, and at that time emerged Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.

It was around the last quarter of the nineteenth century well known debate between the missionaries and the Buddhists had taken place and Panadura Debate - in August 1873 - took the most prominent place in these debates.

The Christian side was supported by able clergymen. On Thera had on his side people like Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera etc. Ven. Gunananda was the accepted leader of the Buddhist side and his education has helped him to a greater extent along with his eloquence to give leadership as he supposed to have studied as a layman and had undergone some training also under Christian clergymen, for a few years.

He was born in Balapitiya had entered the Buddhist Order at Deepaduththaramaya - Kotahena which happened to be the first Buddhist temple in Colombo with a history of over 300 years. Subsequently this was known all over as Thai Temple in Sri Lanka since a member of the Thai Royal family had been Ordained by Waskaduwe Subuthi Mahanayake Thera and this Thai priest lived at this temple from 1904 - 1911. Thai kings had visited this temple on several occasions. Chaitya there had been built according to Thai Style and this is the only Thai temple in our country.

At this temple Vesak Poya day was declared a Holiday. Our Thera was one of the pioneers who created the Buddhist flag and at this temple in Kotahena the Buddhist flag was hoisted for the first time in Sri Lanka. Gunananda Thera had published several Buddhist periodicals which included 'Riviresa', 'Lakmini Kirana' and 'Sathya Margaya', to give leadership to the cause of Buddhism.

With his counter campaign in defence of Buddhism took him to every nook and corner of this country and thousands flocked to hear him wherever he addressed people.

As stated earlier the most important debate is accepted as the Panadura Debate and John Capper of the Ceylon Times published the entire debate in Book form. Colonel Olcott having read this book decided to visit this country with his party and what he has done for the revival of Buddhism in this country - is now history.

Olcott had described Gunananda Thera as "the most brilliant Polemic Orator of the Island, the terror of the missionaries, with a very intellectual head, most brilliant and powerful champion of the Sinhalese Buddhism". A well-known missionary Rev. S. Langden had written to the Ceylon Friend in 1873, after hearing Gunananda Thera speak; "There is that in his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home.

He showed a consciousness of power with the people. His voice is of great compass and he has a clear ring above it. His action is good and the long yellow robe thrown over one shoulder helps to make it impressive. His power of persuasion, shows him to be a born orator".

He was known as "Great Orator" - Wadibhasingha - who was the key figure in the start of Buddhist revival of this country in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, passed away in 1890, after rendering such a yeoman service to the Sinhalese Buddhists

- Nama Gottam Najirathi -

(the writer is Additional District Judge of Matale)
25 01 2003 - daily News






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P2.06   Ven Migettuwatte Gunananda

Walter Wijenayake

On the 21st September 2008, falls the 118th death anniversary of Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda who spearheaded the famous debates between the Buddhists and the Christians at Baddegama, Udanvita, Gampola, Waragoda, Liyanagemulla and Panadura in the 2nd half of the 19th century. He was born at Migettuwatta (Mohottiwatta) in Balapitiya in the Galle District on the 9th February 1823 to a Buddhist family. From his early childhood he had a close relationship with a Catholic priest who was residing in a nearby church. It gave him the opportunity to read the Bible in addition to so many other Christian books and study Christianity. He had at one point, the intention of becoming a Catholic priest. However, in the meantime, he came into contact with some Bhikkhus of the nearby temples. This caused him to change his mind about joining the Catholic Clergy. After few days he went to the Kumara Maha Viharaya in Dodanduwa which was also known as Gala Uda Viharaya and stayed there for some time. He was ordained a Bhikkhu by the Chief incumbent of the temple, Ven. Thelikada Sonuttara Thera. While staying in the temple, he acquired proficiency in oriental languages and Buddhism.

One day while he was reading the magazine ‘Bauddha Sahodaraya’, he came to understand that in Colombo city Christian power was such, that a Buddhist monk could not walk in the streets without becoming the butt of sarcastic remarks from Christians. Venerable Gunananda Thera was greatly disturbed by this news. This made him decide to come to Colombo and reside in Deepaduttaaramaya in Kotahena. While he was there he started to deliver talks countering Christian arguments against Buddhism. When Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the month of Poson (June) 306 BC, it received royal patronage. The idea that the King of Sri Lanka had to be a Buddhist was rooted in the soil and this was never changed until the Kingship was abolished in 1815. From 1505, the time the Portuguese invaded the country, the Sinhalese and Buddhism suffered a severe setback due to the acts of the Catholic Missionaries. With the deterioration of discipline within the Sangha, Theravada Buddhism would have disappeared from the country if not for the valiant efforts of Ven. Welivita Saranankara Maha Thera and King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe who revived Buddhism and the Sangha organisation by the introduction of Upasampada or the higher ordination from Siam in 1753.

Even though the fifth clause of the Kandyan Convention signed in 1815, guaranteed the protection of Buddhism and its places of worship, the British did not honour it after they established their supremacy in the Kandyan provinces. After the rebellion of 1818, the British while promising to protect Buddhism dropped the world ‘inviolable’ which appeared in the fifth clause of the Kandyan convention, thereby giving an indication of the relaxation of the guarantees concerning the protection of Buddhist places of worship and the Sangha. The missionary schools overtook the Pirivena or the Buddhist temple schools by the year 1827. There were 96 schools managed by the Christian clergy, while 94 pirivena schools existed in the Kandyan provinces. There did not exist a single school for the education of Buddhist children. Moreover, there were no schools belonging to the Government in the Kandyan provinces. In addition, the British Government declared Sunday a public holiday on the 6th April 1817, thereby, cancelling the Poya day holiday enjoyed by the Buddhists since 242 BC.

In 1832 Colebrooke introduced English as the medium of instruction in the Government service. As a result, all Government Sinhala medium schools were closed in 1832. Instead, English schools were opened in main cities all over the island. The Colombo Academy, now Royal College in Colombo 07 was opened in 1836 as a direct result of the new policy on education. There were only two Buddhist schools in the country - in Panadura and Dodanduwa with an attendance of 246 children as against 805 Christian schools with an attendance of 78,086 children, in the country in 1870.

At this juncture Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, came to Deepadutthaaramaya in Kotahena from Gala Uda Viharaya in Dodanduwa. In this particular era thousands of Sinhala people after learning English had become Christians in order to gain a livelihood. A Sinhalese villager could be trained to attack Buddhism within a year and in those days a salary of Rupees twenty per month was enough to make him offer his services as a Catechist to preach in the villages against the religion of the Sinhala people. The Christian missionaries began propagating the religion through pamphlets and books. When Rev. D. J. Gogerly of the Wesleyan mission published ‘Christian Pragnapthi’ in 1849, Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera replied with ‘Durlabdi Vinodimi’ in 1862 and Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera wrote ‘Christian Vada Mardanaya’ and ‘Samyak Darshanaya’ 1862-63. Soon the writings were replaced by public debates. Through journals like ‘Satya Margaya’, Satya Prakashanaya’, ‘Lakmini Kirula’, Christiani Wada Vighataniya’, and ‘Reversa’ and thousands of pamphlets, the Ven Thera, refuted the wrong views that were held by the opponents of the Sinhala people and Buddhism.

He led many debates on behalf of the Sinhala Buddhists. The Baddegama debate was conducted through the exchange of articles between the Buddhists and the Christians in February 1865. It originated from an argument between a young Buddhist monk named Sumangala and a Christian priest at a Viharaya in Baddegama, the Udanvita debate was conducted in a temple in Udanvita in the Satara Korale in 1866. It centred on the Creator, the redeemer and the Eternal Heaven. The Gampola debate was held June 1871 with Ven. Gunananda Thera and Pandit Batuwantudave for the Buddhists and Rev. Charles Carter and his team for the Christians. The Waragoda debate had been held in the year 1865 and the Liyanagemulla debate was in 1866.These debates culminated in the world famous debate held at Panadura from the 26th to 28th August 1873 as a result of a sermon delivered on the 12th of June 1873 by Rev. David Silva on the teachings of the Buddha with reference to the human soul. On the 19th of the same month it was taken exception to by the Buddhists, denounced as untrue and a debate was initiated by the Christians.

The Christians were represented by able men, the ablest debaters in the island whom their church could have summoned. Arrayed against Rev. Gunananda Thera were Revs. David Silva, S. Langdon, Principal of Richmond College. S. Tab, S. Cauls, C. Jayasinghe, F. Rodrigo, the catechist Sirimanne, Mudliyar de Soysa, Dunupola Nilame among others. Before this formidable opposition alone and undaunted rose the militant Rev. Gunananda Thera, his reasoning was so powerful, eloquence so convincing, that he annihilated his opponents. At this debate for the side of the Buddhists were Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera, Waskaduwe Sri Subhuti Thera, Potuwila Indrajoti Thera, Koggala Sangatissa Thera, Talhena Amaramoli, Mulleriyawe Gunaratana and Gunananda Theras. The debate ranged from the nature of God, the Soul and resurrection on the one hand, to the concept of Karma, Rebirth, Nirvana and the principle of Paticca - Sumuppada or dependent origination. The impact of the debate was phenomenal, Locally, it was the major force behind re-establishing the identity and pride of Sinhala Buddhists that was dwindling fast under the devious and oppressive practices of the ruling British, Internationally, it was instrumental in creating awareness about Buddha Dhamma in the West, a wealth of knowledge that was highly appreciated by the intelligentsia. Edward Perera, prepared a summary of the whole debate in the English language as arranged by the Editor of ‘Ceylon Times’ John Cooper. Thousands of copies of the translation were published and distributed. When Mr. Feeble came to Sri Lanka, he received a copy of that translation in Galle and took it to America and published it with an introduction explaining how the Buddhists in Sri Lanka have shown the real position of Christianity and named the book ‘Buddhism and Christianity face to face’. One of the copies published by Mr. Feeble fell into the hands of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and it was after he read it that he become interested in Buddhism. He felt this is one of the religions he was looking for to unearth the secret of the Universe after which he came to the island and formed the Theosophical Society. With the arrival of Sir Henry Steele Olcott, the Buddhist revival movement got a dynamic leader who could deal with the colonial rulers on level ground.

What is significant here is that it was Ven. Gunananda Thera’s eloquent presentation of the Buddhist point of view that attracted Sir Henry Steele Olcott, who came to Sri Lanka on the 17th May 1880, and consequently accelerated the activities of the revival movement. As a result, Buddhist high schools such as Ananda College, Colombo, Dharmaraja College, Kandy and Sri Sumangala College in Panadura were started. Ven. Gunananda passed away in September 1880.

20 09 2008  - The Island





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P2.07   Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala - The great Buddhist revivalist

Professor Ratna Wijetunge


The 98th anniversary celebrations of the Late Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera will commence today (29) at the Vidyodaya Pirivena in Colombo. He is considered to be one of the pioneers in the revival of Buddhism and the tradition of oriental education during the 19th Century in Sri Lanka.

The greatest contribution of this prelate to the world of oriental studies is the foundation of Vidyodaya Pirivena in 1873 which was granted the university status late in 1959 by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Today we find many academics, administrators, social and religious workers among the past pupils of this Pirivena and University who acquired both national and international reputation. Thus it becomes fitting and proper for us to celebrate the death anniversary of this eminent scholar and religious leader.

Buddhist family

Sri Sumangala was born in Hikkaduwa during the year of 1827 to a well-off Buddhist family. When this child completed the fourth year of age his parents were compelled to take him to the head teacher of the Christian church and baptize him according to the custom existed at the time under the British rulers.

Every child during this period should be baptized irrespective of religion if he intends to study in a Government school. Thus he was registered in the church as ‘Nicholas’ which is the Christian name given to him. However he did not continue his primary education in a Government school conducted by the church.

Instead the child acquired reading and writing ability of Sinhala under the directions of a Buddhist monk in his village temple.

Although the parents of this child attempted to send him to a Government school they were prevented from doing so by an astrologer who read his horoscope and predicted the failure of this little one to lead a prosperous mundane life. According to the predictions of this soothsayer the future of this child will be unfortunate and miserable if he leads a lay life. Thus they decided reluctantly to offer him to the Buddhist monks to be ordained. He was ordained as a novice in the famous Totagamuve Rajamahavihara in 1840 and given the name Sumangala.

Initially the novice Sumangala studied Pali, Buddhism, Sanskrit and Sinhala under his teacher Ven. Revata. He also learned English language and Arithmetic from a lay teacher. After obtaining a comprehensive knowledge in these subjects he came to Ratmalana Paramadhammacetiya Pirivena to pursue his higher studies under the tutorship of Ven. Valane Sri Siddhartha, the eminent oriental scholar at the time. Thus he had an opportunity to study Buddhism and oriental languages thoroughly.

The novice Sumangala, being a studious and intelligent student, mastered the entire ‘Tripitaka’ with its commentaries before he completed his 20th year of age. He acquired the comprehending, speaking, reading and writing skills in Pali and gained an advanced knowledge of Sanskrit and English. His rare ability to quote various passages and stanzas from Pali Tripitaka was marvellous and it created a great respect within the community of Sangha and Buddhist lay society. The scholarship during this period was based on the reading.

Novice Sumangala

Ven. Sumangala’s fluency in Pali is associated with the higher ordination ceremony (Upasampadaa) of young Sumangala at the Malvatu Maha Vihara in Kandy. For this historic occasion he presented a verse composition in Pali already prepared by him to the monks of the Malvatu Vihara Chapter.

The monks raised doubts regarding his authorship of these poems and requested him to prepare an instant verse composition on a given topic, namely ‘the Mahanayaka of the Malvatu Chapter’. Within a very short period of time the novice Sumangala composed a number of stanzas on this topic and read them. Monks were amazed and appreciated his poetic skill and proficiency in the Pali Language.

Gradually Ven. Sumangala gained a thorough knowledge in pali, Sanskrit and Buddhism. He was considered to be the most distinguished oriental scholar among the Buddhist monks and lay people.

He was invited to become the head of the Paramadhammacetiya Pirivena in Ratmalana after the demise of his academic tutor Ven. Walane Sri Siddhartha. Later he came to Maligakanda in Colombo and founded Vidyodaya Pirivena, under the sponsorship of Vidyartha Sabha. It became as the famous institution of learning in Sri Lanka and other foreign countries.

National as well as international students learned at this institution under the directions of Ven. Sumangala. He had a remarkable memory. As his biography points out Ven. Sumangala could quote any passage from Pali texts and commentaries without referring to books or notes whenever he wants to clarify doctrinal matters to the audience.

Ven. Sumangala participated as the chief monk in the Dhamma Council held in Pelmadulla, Sri Lanka in 1867. The erudite monks who assembled there under his directions perused the entire Tripitaka carefully in comparing with different Pali manuscripts and recorded all texts on palm leaves with revisions wherever necessary.

He assisted the Elder Migettuwatte Gunananda by providing Buddhist doctrinal details to be forwarded in religious debates that took place between Buddhist and Christians.

He became a regular writer to the contemporary newspapers and periodicals such as Lankaloka, Sarasavi Sandaresa and Silumina. Out of his publications the following texts are of worth mentioning. Sidatsangara Samaya Kavsekara Sannaya and Balavatara Tika.

Pali language

The Balavatara Tika is an excellent text that depics Ven. Sumangala’s deep knowledge in Pali language and grammar. There he discusses Pali grammar analytically and arrives at logical conclusions. A very good example will be his analysis on the grammatical category known as ‘person’.

As he points out the ‘third person’ both in Pali and Sinhala languages comes first, and then the ‘second person’ finally ‘the first person’. But in European languages including English ‘the first person’ is used initially and the ‘third person’ finally, the position of the second person remains unchanged in all these languages.

On the basis of this analysis we may conclude that Ven. Sumangala had a thorough knowledge of the grammatical structure not only of Pali and Sinhala but also of European languages.

The biography of Ven. Sumangala includes an interesting incident which is helpful to understand his proficiency in the English language. This elder was travelling by train from Colombo to Kandy in a first class compartment during the British Colonial period in Sri Lanka. Two Englishmen who were the owners of tea estates happen to travel in the same compartment. They became angry as they saw this elderly monk who was chewing betel and began to talk in English by themselves.

First class compartment

One of them suggested to kick the old man out of the train saying that he got into the first class compartment by mistake. The opinion of the other fellow was to hand over the old man to the railway authorities because he was travelling in the first class compartment with a third class ticket. They thought that the monk did not understand English.

He was seated solemnly while reading a book and chewing betel. They decided to hand him over to the railway authorities when the train stopped at Polgahawela. Meanwhile the train reached the Polgahawela Station. At the same time a train going from Kandy to Colombo too reached this station.

The first class compartment of the Colombo train stopped parallel to the first class compartment of other train. Sir Arthur Hamilton, then Governor of Sri Lanka, was returning to Colombo in a special compartment of this train.

The Governor came to the first class compartment of the Kandy bound train as soon as he saw Ven. Sumangala and began to converse in English. After this friendly conversation which lasted for nearly ten minutes the Governor went his special compartment and the trains departed. The white men became ashamed of themselves and apologized to the prelate.


Ven. Sumangala was considered to be accomplished with the qualities of Bodhisatva by Sri Lankan Buddhist. The aim of Bodhisatva is to develop perfections while living in the society with a view to attaining the enlightenment. In considering the great service rendered by Ven. Sumangala to propagate Buddhism and to uplift the Pirivena education he was appointed as the Nayaka Thera of Sri Pada.

He extended his service irrespective of caste, religion or social status of the people. While keeping Vidyodaya as the centre for excellence on oriental learning he helped the community of monks irrespective of different sects to establish Pirivenas in different parts of the island.

The pupils of Ven. Sumangala who were brought under his guidance and strict supervision continue to serve Sri Lanka, its people, education and Buddhism. Thus this great and pious prelate rendered a tremendous service until his demise that took place in 1911.

In conclusion I would like to consider the ceremonial activities organized by the members of the Vidyodaya community for the 98th anniversary of the late Hikkaduve Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera as the acts of gratitude, kindness and veneration.

Further I hope that the past pupils of this great institution and the Sri Lankan Buddhists may try to find out the possibilities of reintroducing the Pirivena education system as established by Sri Sumangala and other eminent Buddhist monks of Sri Lanka. This endeavour will help to preserve the high quality of the Pirivena education in this island.

29 04 2009 - Daily News





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P2.08   Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero (Himi)

Jeanne Jayasinghe


Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero passed away in St. Petersburg on 12th December 2003 after a heart attack. Born on 24th April 1948, Venerable Soma was in his 56th year. He was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1974 at the age of 26.

Prior to being ordained Venerable Soma had been engaged in business, but had worked closely with the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya as a student leader and lay preacher. His teachers were the most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka Thero and Venerable Ampitiye Rahula Thero. His love and veneration for his teachers was exceeded only by his deep and abiding veneration of Lord Buddha.

Educated at Isipathana Vidyalaya, formerly Greenlands College, Venerable Soma, in lay life known as Somaratna played Rugby for the school.

Venerable Soma first visited Australia in 1986, when he came on an invitation from the Buddhist temple at Richmond, where he stayed for a period of three months. Venerable Soma realised that Mahayana practices had a strong foothold in Australia and felt that there was a need for a Vihara where Theravada practices could be followed correctly. When he returned to Australia in 1989, Venerable Soma established the first Sinhala Vihara in Melbourne. This was known as the Melbourne Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara and was situated at Regent Street in Springvale. In 1993, he moved away from the Melbourne Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara and established Buddhist Vihara Victoria at 21 Rich Street, Noble Park. Later, this Vihara was moved to Berwick and is called the Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara.

Venerable Soma was a farsighted person and his vision was to pave the way to establishing a centre of Buddhist philosophy in Australia. Sakyamuni Sambudddha Vihara was established with the intention of becoming a Buddhist Education, Research and Information Centre for scholars of the Dhamma and to cater to all those who were interested in the study and practice of the Dhamma.

In 1996 he returned to Sri Lanka after seven years in Australia. This was intended to be a short stay to revitalise his spiritual development and to be at the side of his father who had suffered a stroke. The stay was extended as his father became more gravely ill and his presence was required to comfort his mother who was also ailing. While in Sri Lanka Venerable Soma became aware that Buddhists and the Dhamma were increasingly under siege from various outside influences that threatened to distort the word of Lord Buddha and destroy Buddhism. He was moved by the plight of the rural people, especially those living in areas under threat from terrorist attacks, who were undergoing great hardship and suffering and had no one to turn to for help.

When Venerable Soma returned to Australia for a short visit, he launched a campaign to raise funds to reconstruct several tanks in these areas so that the villagers could engage in their traditional occupation of agriculture and be assured that they would not want for food. To support and sustain the villagers, he organised the local Buddhist monks at the village Viharas to move more closely with the people and help them in various ways.

On his return to Sri Lanka he was also appalled to note that alcoholism was rife in the country. He immediately began a campaign to open the eyes of the nation, especially the younger generation to the depravities of drink.

He also carried out a campaign to root out misconceptions entertained by all Buddhists with regard to the worship of Hindu deities practiced by Buddhists, and especially the practice of having Hindu Kovils as an integral part of a Buddhist Vihara. He also campaigned against the bringing in of Sai Baba worship into Buddhism. These campaigns were not against those who held beliefs in other religions. His campaign was against engaging in these practices and beliefs and identifying them with the Buddha's teachings. His message was that as Buddhists, we did not need to turn to any "higher power", as the Buddha had shown the way to peace, prosperity and contentment through the Dhamma.

 Venerable Soma was a great man. His greatness lay in the fact that he was not afraid to speak out where he saw a wrong. If someone engaged in practices that were contrary to the teachings of Lord Buddha, he was not slow to point this out at the same time explaining what practices should be followed. Many people have followed his advice and have profited from this. He worked tirelessly in Sri Lanka to awaken the nation, especially the younger generation, to the Dhamma. He travelled far and wide and everywhere he went his sermons were well attended. His sermons were generally held in a Vihara so that everyone who wished to could attend. Even the few sermons he conducted in private houses attracted large crowds some coming out of curiosity to see the Monk who, single handed, had succeeded in waking up a nation not only appealing to Buddhists, but also to many who were non-Buddhists but who were wise enough to understand the truth of his words.

When Venerable Soma spoke out he did so frankly and fearlessly. He did not believe in sugar coating unpalatable truths in order to spare the feelings of individuals. His forthrightness may offended some, but those who had the wisdom understood his message without ambiguity. Those who did not wish to hear the truth, found refuge in taking offence and finding fault with the Thero. In all his work, his inspiration was always Lord Buddha.

His deep and abiding veneration of Lord Buddha was evident in his words. His knowledge of the Dhamma was profound and was reflected in the many books he wrote. His final book was completed the night before his untimely passing away.

One of the most remembered of his qualities was his service to the sick. Whenever he learned of someone being in hospital or being very ill, he would make all efforts to be at the sick persons bedside to comfort the family and the sick person by chanting pirith and with encouraging words. If someone had lost a dear one, The Thero would speak words of comfort to help the person come to terms with his or her loss.

Venerable Soma had the courage of his convictions and would face any adverse situation strong in his belief that since his actions were just and righteous, he would win through. This courage helped him to face the darkest period of his life during the late eighties and early nineties in Australia. Many were the calumnies thrown at him during this time, but he forbore to answer those who maligned him. Realising that he could not be destroyed in this manner, one by one his critics were silenced or reduced to carrying out whispering campaigns, which more often than not could not be sustained due to lack of interest. Once his fame began to spread in Sri Lanka and many people came to know Venerable Soma, those who sought to discredit him found it was even harder to get people interested in what they had to say against him.

Being an outgoing person, Venerable Soma was one of the prime movers in the Interfaith group which was very active in the Greater Dandenong area. Realising the importance of networking, Venerable Soma set about building a network of contacts in the Springvale, later the Greater Dandenong Council, and also with the politicians of the area, at both the federal and state levels. Such was the strength of the ties his network that invitations sent out to participate in the Katthina ceremony, were always accepted and it was not unusual to have at least 20 to 25 people from the interfaith group, the council and federal and state MPs attending these functions. He also made appearances on ABC television as a panellist in discussions on theological matters to give the Buddhist point of view.

He was also consulted when Sri Lankans wished to establish a Vihara. He travelled to many cities in Australia to advice devotees on these matters. His advice was always to keep in mind that any Vihara should be open to anyone who wished to learn about and practice the Dhamma, and should not have a narrow focus as only catering to the needs of Sri Lankans. However, it was also necessary to ensure that the pristine Dhamma was followed and the traditions of Theravada practices were followed. He also helped in the establishment of the Sinhala School at Brunswick, which today boasts nearly 200 students.

Buddhist monks from the Vietnamese and Cambodian communities had become his close friends. Following his advice, they have within a short period constructed their Viharas and are close to completing these projects.

The contribution made by Venerable Soma to Buddhists the world over cannot be quantified. Through his frequent travels to many countries, he sought to teach the pristine words of the Buddha Dhamma to those who had forgotten or had never been given this valuable wisdom. He never sought self aggrandisement, whatever steps he took, was in keeping with his motive of furthering the good of the Buddha Sasana. His efforts in Sri Lanka had the effect of bringing to the fore several younger monks who found a champion in Venerable Soma. He gave them the courage to come forward and work for the betterment of the Sasana, which they had been unable to do, as they received no encouragement from the senior monks who had up to then been silent.

Sri Lanka has lost a son who loved his motherland dearly. The people have lost a leader who helped them to be aware of their great Buddhist heritage and made them realise their capability as a nation. Buddists around the world have lost a teacher who taught them how to make the Buddha Dhamma a part of their life and not limit it to something precious tucked away and limited to a temple.

As dayakas of the Vihara that Venerable Soma established, we should uphold Buddhist values in the way he showed us through example and precept, making sure that our actions are always in keeping with the Dhamma. This is the way in which we can alway honour our Soma Hamuduruwo.

In five years Venerable Soma achieved much more than many people achieve in a lifetime.






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P2.09   Sikkim Mahinda Thero: A national hero of Sri Lanka

Shital Pradhan


I first heard about S Mahinda Thero during 2005 while at Kolkata when I was asked by one of a stamp dealer whether I was interested on a 20 paise stamp of S Mahinda Thero issued by Sri Lankan Postal Department in early 1970s. I collect philatelic items on Buddhism but I never have the sense of hearing about the person who he was talking about. He told me, as I was from Sikkim so I might be interested to know more about the person and he went on to add it was Sikkim Mahinda Thero, a Buddhist monk who is regarded as a national hero, a famous poet in the Sinhalese language whose poetry promoted patriotism and the revival of Buddhism to this part of the Island. He promised to send me the stamp of S Mahinda Thero from Colombo through mail but since then I had never herad from him. But towards my limited concern it was enough to have knowledge of such person who is keeping the name Sikkim with honour and pride in Sri Lanka.

I had the name of S Mahinda Thero within me but never got an opportunity to look at more about him until a year back when I was told by my younger brother about his penpal friend from Sri Lanka. I believe she could help me increase my little knowledge about S Mahinda Thero. A letter arrived from Gayani Amarasinghe after a month I had penned down. She was more than curious about my inquiry about their national hero; according to her they call him "Tibbet Jathika Sikkimmhe Mahinda Thero" which means The Mahinda Thero of Sikkim the Tibbetian. She even added his poems are found in the school text books too. My fascination towards this Buddhist monk cum poet was growing.

Gayani writes in her letter recalling how her father would remember the uncertain death of S Mahinda Thero on March 16th 1951 was little expected when the country needed more of his patroic poetry then. Her father would sing lullabies of the great poet for his younger brother and even she had heard her father sing for her when as a child. Gayani shared her favourite S Mahinda Thero's poem (English translation) she liked the most:

"Freedom is a diamond crown

Religion is a diamond lamp

If (someone is) able to protect these

It's you my child."

More than fifty years after his death he is still remembered as a nation's delight. The role played by S Mahinda Thero in invoking the national pride among the locals through his writings were widely appreciated and till today had been described by some as being more Sri Lankan than the Sri Lankans themselves. His writing along with the revival of Buddhism also promoted patriotism, national pride, equality and national independence.

Here I take a reference of an article "Tibet and Sri Lanka" written by Venerable Dhammika, where a small background about S Mahinda Thero is shared. According to the article S Mahinda Thero was born into a noble family in Gangtok as Tashi Namgyal in 1901. This cleared my earlier confusion about the name of S Mahinda Thero, where Gayani wrote he was born Vasilingal, I was rather confused and to similar extent I found the other name of the great reverend where he is referred as Tasilmgal, so these names are nothing but poor version of Tashi Namgyal. Nevertheless of his four brothers one was the Prime Minister of Sikkim, another became a professor of the Tibetan language at Calcutta University, while the third brother like Mahinda beacame a monk and joined him to Sri Lanka. The monk brother latter got his name Punnaji.

There is an interesting incident about how Mahinda came to Sri Lanka; it was a German monk Nyanatiloka at his tour at Australia during the broke-out of the First World War was denied permission to Sri Lanka, his resing place then. Instead he left for Tibet, since it was another Buddhist hub. But to his surprise Tibetan borders were closed to the visitor and he landed at Sikkim, then an unknown mountain country. He was helped by the royal family of Sikkim, where he involved in the matters of the state of Sikkim's Sangha. It took very less time for a German monk to convince sending monks to Sri Lanka would help reform the religious fronts in the Sikkim State itself. Thus Tashi Namgyal and his other brother came to learn Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The two brothers went on to settle in Sri Lnka for rest of his life and came to be known as Ven. Sikkim Mahinda Thero and Ven. Sikkim Punnaji. Well little is known about the Ven. Sikkim Punnaji!

In 1914, they arrived at Nyanatiloka's Island Hermitage at Dodonduwa. Later they studied at both Mahabodhi College and Vidyodaya Pirivena. In 1930 Mahinda took his lower ordination under the great Venerable Lunupokune Dharmananda and in 1931 his higher ordination. He quickly mastered the Sinhalese language and later used his considerable facility in it to write a large amount of fine poetry. His writings exposed and condemned the national apathy that existed and were fervent appeals to awaken patriotic feelings.

In his life time he wrote over 40 books both prose and verse in Sinhala. He passed away on May 16, 1951 and it is believed that his ashes are still kept in a pot hanging on the roof of the Mahabellana Temple. When Mahinda came to Sri Lanka he was a layman but after his death he is regarded as a national hero. A man with a single cloth to wrap his body has a statue after him at a temple in Panadura, a road named after him 'S. Mahinda Himi Mawatha and finally honouring him with a postage stamp.

S Mahinda Thero was born in Sikkim but he was often referred as from Tibet simply of one reason that Tibet was a more popular name then Sikkim in those days. Here I am sharing the words of Venerable Dhammika who state "He (S Mahinda Thero) is mainly remembered today for the religious poems and verses that he wrote for children, a genre virtually unknown before him. He also wrote rousing patriotic poetry urging Sri Lankans to be proud of their own culture and religion and to struggle for independence from Britain. Recently some erotic love poetry has come to light as well. Mahinda's other literary works include a translation from Pali into Sinhalese of the classical poem Sadhammopijana and a biography of King Prakamabahu."

A popular anecdote on S Mahinda Thero says, a few years back a Chinese scholar was send to Sri Lanka from China to research on the writings of the Mahinda on the purpose of highlighting the Chinese contribution to Sinhalese literature. But when it was discovered that Mahinda was from Sikkim and not Tibet, the research was closed down. Out here can this not be a fitting tribute if we (?), from Sikkim collect his memoirs and preserve it, what more can be done about a person who speaks pride to be a Sikkimese?

Nidahasa Maha Muhudak ve
Ehi Ulpata Puta numba ve
Ebawa Sihikota Melove
Yutukama Itukalayutu ve,

(If the ocean is the freedom, its fountain is the baby in the cradle. When the son is told that it is his responsibility to protect the motherland from various challenges, the motherly lover affection also flows along with it.)






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P2.10   Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera

Col. Olcutt & Ven. Sumangala

Whatsoever a book is in your hand, go through it with much interest and implant the subject matter in your mind. Thereby, it enables you to proliferate and enrich your knowledge. Pick up even a piece of paper of any sort thrown on the road, if there is something which you are ignorant of , learn it.”

The above lines were uttered by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thera, during the era when Sri Lanka was under the British Colonialism. Since the introduction of Buddhism in 246 BC and the establishment, Sri Lanka had been a Buddhist country. Unfortunately, the invasion of the British and its impact on Buddhism and the innocent Buddhists, had drastic effects on the people. They were converted to Christian religion. The apostate sovereign could no longer protect the Sasana. There upon, the holy places of Buddhist worship that should have been in the possession of Buddhists were controlled by the followers of another religion. Both Buddhist Bhikkhus and lay people became helpless.

How could the Sri Lankan patriots endure the gravity of such a tragedy caused by the foreign rulers? Sri Lanka fell into the hands of the British on March 2, 1815, which had been protected by the ancestors even at the cost of their lives. The Sinhala Flag which fluttered proudly was replaced by the British Flag. At the end of the 19th century, the Sinhala Buddhists had to suffer various inexplicable plights. Such an unreasonable influence caused the Sinhalese a great deal of torment and oppression. All their social, religious and educational responsibilities were grabbed and suppressed by the British.

At such a critical moment a child was born on January 20, 1827 to a couple. Abeyweera Gunawardhana and Dandagoda Gamage, in a beautiful village named Hettigoda in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The child was Don Nikulas. The Sinhalese who were deprived of their culture, traditions, customs, religion and their homes, had to go through Baptism. This little Nikulas had to be baptized in a church after his birth. With the passage of time, there came an auspicious time to introduce him to books as it was an important landmark in his life. It was a custom and was usual to go to a learned Buddhist monk to get a child’s first reading done. Through there were lay teachers, his parents took the child to Ven. Sobita Nayaka Thera, the erudite monk, for his first reading, which was done in May 1832.

Having obtained permission from his parents, he entered the dispensation of the Buddha in 1840 and adopted a new name Sumangala, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thera. From his childhood onwards, he was skilful and had a deep respect for Buddhism. Having gone to Parama Dhamma Cetiya Temple, he obtained invaluable advices from Ven. Valane Sri Siddhartha Nayaka Thera, the Viharadhipathi. He learned Sinhala and Pali with the assistance of Ven. Thotagamuwe Pannamgoda Jethuththara Thera and Ven. Bowila Sri Dhammananda Thera. Furthermore, he acquired a good knowledge of English from Jhon Coraneris Abeywardhana and gained a good knowledge of the Sanskrit language from Brahmin Kashinatha Vidyalankara. Likewise, he received advice from Ven. Batuwantudawe Devarakshita Thera.

Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thera was the embodiment of various praiseworthy qualities. He was obedient, faithful and graceful to his teachers. He grew up gradually along with the thought of restoring Buddhism to its rightful place. In 1847, he obtained his Higher Ordination, “Upasampada” at Pushparama Uposathagara in Kandy. During the Uposatha ceremony, he presented some Sanskrit slokas composed by himself. But the presiding bhikkhus were doubtful. They did not accept that such a small Samanera could compose Sanskrit slokas in that manner. It was a challenging matter to him. In order to dispel their doubts, he in their presence made some Sanskrit slokas within a short time. It was indeed an astonishing incident that they had ever experienced.

The tremendous negative impact of the English education on Sinhala culture and civilization was unjustifiable. At that time, there was not a single press where he could print and publish at least a magazine. The magazine he wanted to publish was especially written with regard to regain Sri Lanka’s identity as a nation and to restore the lost prestige. It cannot be said that there were no presses. There were but they were controlled by the British rulers. But, he did not shrink back. He was daunties in his courage. He imbued himself with a great self-determination and dared to establish a press called Lankopakara in Galle in 1862. It was there where he printed a significant and influential magazine named “Sudarshana”.

Ven. Bulathgama Siri Dhammalankara Sumanatissa Thera including other bhikkhus and lay people ventured to contribute their support for the publication of this important issue. It brought forth a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm in him. As a result, there appeared in 1863 “Buddha Vag Saraya”, in 1873 Magazine of Doctrinal Studies appeared. It was published with the profound hope to challenge the irresponsible propaganda work, foreign missionaries and thereby, to reassure the dynamic and inherent strength of Sri Lankan ancient culture and civilization.

It is not notable that during his struggle for the long life of Buddhism, he did not forget to render literary service. He would have published countless books in various languages if he had not had to devote his time to revise and amend Thripitaka and Sinhala arts and literature to serve society. There was literary significance not only in his books published but also in his articles published in several languages such as Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and English. There is no doubt to say that his numerous issues were published in order to challenge the British power. This great deal of issue was compiled together and considered as one as “Brahmadharma or Anusasana Sangrahaya”. In 1887 appeared a Sinhala grammar book called Warnaritiya. In 1847, there appeared Sinhala translation of Mahavamsa, which could win the hearts of many and it was considered as one of his best literary publications, “Sidathsangraha Sannaya, Simawibhagaya, Kavsekara Sannaya, Sandhi Sangrahaya” were some of his publications which reflected his multi-skilled qualities.

Amidst all his publications, the commentary of Balawatara or Balawatara Tika is the most appropriate and explicit witness for the reflection of his immense scholastic knowledge. Apart from these, when he was residing in Galle, he published Ladbhitulawa, Atmaparikshawa, monthly publication-Sudarshana, in 1862 Lankaloka, Samaya Sangarawa with his tremendous effort. Under the approval of Robert Robinson, the post of leadership in “Sri Pada or Adams Peak” was conferred to him in 1864. It was the time when the foreign rulers were imposing various techniques, where Buddhists were deprived of religious liberty. Despite the risk to his life, his services, rendered for the sake of the nation, religion, art, architecture and literature, were unforgettable and remarkable.

The great hope spreading the light of education was aroused in the hearts of Buddhists. He too had a great desire to inculcate the Buddhist education in the Buddhist society. But, the one and only problem he had was that there was no place where he could do so. So, he popped on to Colombo and worked to sort out a congenial and accessible place at all. Being subjected to love, reverence and gratitude of the devout Buddhists, he could set up an educational centre, Vidyodaya Pirivena by name, at a holy place at Maligakanda Road in June 1873. Moreover, he held a council in the Pelmadulla Sri Sudharshana Dhamma Hall to protect and fortify the Sasana. On May 17, 1880, there arrived in this colony, an American Theosophist Col. H. S. Olcott. He was at once attracted by Ven. Sumangala Nayaka Thera and joined in his movement. With great courage, Olcott started to work with Ven. Sumangala Nayaka Thera for the revival of Buddhism, Buddhist culture and education.

Furthermore, he was appointed as the chief of Siam Nikaya. Simultaneously, he became Viharadhipathi of the Paramadhamma Cetiya Pirivena. Later, he went to Paramananda Temple in Kotahena on the request of the citizens of the place. There upon, he founded by Vidyadhara Sabha at Maligakanda. Still, this Sabha is doing a good service to the Buddhist Society. At this critical moments, Ven. H. Sumangala Nayaka Thera and Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, both erudite theologians, challenged the Christian missionaries to an open debate on the merits of their respective religions. The debating skills of both overwhelmed their opponents.

As death is inevitable and common to all, Ven. H. Sumangala Nayaka Thera, after his several years of social, educational and religious work in Colonial Ceylon passed away on April 20, 1911. It was an irrevocable loss to the Buddhist world. Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera, the eminent scholar, with a wide knowledge of Buddhism and the Buddhist philosophy, contributed a lot for the welfare of humanity. His noble services not only influenced the literature, art and architecture of people wherever he went but also helped them to be more compassionate and tolerant. He helped in redeeming the privileges of this nation and the Buddhist religion if not in the government service at least in the estimation of society.

In this regard, every year, we commemorate the anniversary of the passing away of the late Most Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera on April 29 at the Vidyodaya Pirivena to show our due respect and gratitude to him. This year, the 98th anniversary of the Nayaka Thera is going to be commemorated at the Vidyodaya Pirivena under the patronage of the Principal of the Vidyodaya Pirivena, the Most Ven. Balangoda Sobhitha Nayaka Thera.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

01 05 2009 - Budusarana





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P2.11   Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera:

Major contributor to revival of international Buddhist studies

Prof. Y Karunadasa

If we are to properly appraise the international dimension of Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera’s contribution to Pali and Buddhist studies, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves first with knowledge of how modern academic studies in Buddhism began. As we all know, in the continent of Asia today there are three main Buddhist traditions which coincide with three main geographical regions.
The first is Theravada Buddhism which prevails in South and South-East Asia (Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Kambojia and Laos). The second is Vajrayana Buddhism which prevails in North Asia (the Himalayan Region and Mongolia). The third is Mahayana Buddhism which prevails in East Asia (Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan).
Each of the three Buddhist traditions has as its literary base a Buddhist Canon of its own, the first in Pali, the second in Tibetan and the third in Chinese. Interaction and mutual influence between the three Buddhist traditions, one cannot completely rule out. However, it would not be incorrect to say that until modern times they developed in comparative isolation.

Modern scholars

What we call modern academic studies in Buddhism can be said to begin when this isolationism broke down and the literary sources belonging to the three major Buddhist traditions in Asia came to the attention of modern scholars. The process began in the first quarter of the 19th century when literary works of each tradition came to be discovered one after the other.

Sanskrit Buddhist studies

Among those literary sources the first that came to the attention of modern scholars were Sanskrit works belonging to the Mahayana. This was made possible by the distribution in the libraries of Calcutta, London and Paris of a large number of manuscripts which were collected from Nepal by B. H. Hodgson, the British Resident of the country, during the years 1821-1841.
Among these manuscripts were some of the most important Mahayana Sutras such as Karandavyuha, Vajrasuci, Lamkavatara, Saddharmapundarika and many versions of the Prajnaparamita Sutras.
One of the earliest to do research on these materials was Eugene Burnoff from France. His ‘Lotus de la Bonne Loi’, the French translation of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra published in 1852 was the first rendering into a European language of a Buddhist literary work. It was some seven years earlier that Eugene Burnoff wrote his well-known History of Indian Buddhism, which secured his place as the founder of modern Buddhist scholarship in the West.
The Nepalese manuscripts which thus led to the beginning of modern studies in Buddhism came to the attention of the Indian scholars as well. In the 1870’s Rajendra Lal Mitra and Hara Prasad Sastri made a catalogue of the Buddhist manuscripts in the libraries in Nepal and this helped to bring out critical editions and annotated translations of a large number of Mahayana works.
The field of Sanskrit Buddhist studies became further enlarged by the discovery in Central Asia of no less than 26 texts of the Central Asian Sanskrit Buddhist Canon and manuscripts remains of many other Buddhist works. Along with this must be mentioned the Gilgit Manuscripts discovered by Nalinaksha Dutt and which he published in eight volumes.
The credit of pioneering modern studies in Tibetan Buddhism should go to Csoma de Koros, a native of Transylvania. For it was his Analysis of the Kanjur published in Asiatic Researches, Vol. 20, 1936 that drew the attention of modern scholars to Tibetan Buddhism.
Two years earlier he published a Tibetan Grammar and a Tibetan Dictionary which greatly facilitated the study of Tibetan language. Another pioneer of Tibetan studies was Sarath Chandra Das from India. He collected a great deal of material from the ancient libraries of Sakya and Samaya monasteries in Lhasa and prepared a Tibetan-English Dictionary. Csoma’s Analysis of the Kanjur was translated into French with numerous additions by Leon Feer in 1891 and this has helped to establish Tibetan studies on a firmer footing.
This was followed by the Index to the Tanjur published by Laloir (Paris, 1933). The Tibetan Tripitaka is now available in five editions, the latest being the Peking Edition prepared under the supervision of D.T. Suzuki.
Modern studies in Chinese Buddhism could be said to begin with the publication in 1883 of Bunyin Nanjio’s Catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka. It was based on the Dragon Edition of the Tripitaka brought out during the reign of Emperor Chien-Lung (1735-96). Nanjio’s catalogue opened up the biggest collection of Buddhist literary works presented in a single language but containing within itself the teachings of almost all schools of Buddhist thought.

International expeditions

A new edition of the Chinese Tripitakas, Taisho-shin-shir-Daizokyo, running to some eighty-five volumes, was made available during the years 1918-1925, with Junjiro Takakusu as its Chief Editor. Based upon this edition were published two Japanese translations. One is Kokuyaku Issaikyo in 150 volumes and the other, Kokuyaku Daizokyo in 28 volumes.
Among the catalogues of the Chinese Tripitaka published during the last one hundred years the most famous is the one we referred to earlier, Buyui Nanjio’s Catalogue published in 1883. Among others are Table du Taisho-Issaiykyo published in Tokyo in 1931 and G. Ono’s Bussho Kaisetsu Daiitun, which is a Dictionary of the Buddhist Bibliography in twelve volumes (1933-35). Together with this must be mentioned the Hobogirin, an encyclopaedic dictionary of Buddhism after the Chinese and Japanese sources, which was started in 1929 under the direction of Sylvain Levi and Takakusu.
The latest addition to the field of Buddhist studies was the discovery of the priceless Buddhist manuscripts and artifacts of the lost civilization of Central Asia. Central Asia’s greatest legacy to Buddhist studies is the vast collection of manuscripts which were discovered in different parts of the region through a series of international expeditions, explorations and excavations.

Oldest manuscript

The manuscripts discovered in Central Asia are either of original Sanskrit texts or of their translations into indigenous languages and dialects. Among the languages into which Buddhist texts were translated were: (1) Kuchean, also called Tokharian A, an Indo-Europeon language spoken in the Northern edge of the Tarim Basin and its sister language (2) Karashahrian or Tokhorian B, which was the language of ancient Agnidesa, (3) Nordarsh or Khotanese, also called Saka and North-Aryan, which was another Indo-European language spoken in the Tarim Basin, (4) Sogdian, an Iranian language of the region around Samarikand and (5) Uighur, an old Turkish dialect derived from Syriac and written in an Aramaic alphabet.
Among the manuscript remains discovered in Central Asia the most important were the fragments of no less than 26 texts of the Buddhist Canon in Sanskrit. Among others were the Udanavarga of Dharmatrata, which is the Sarvastivada version of the Dhammapada, Kalpanamanditika of Kumaralata, the only available work belonging to the Sautrantika School of Buddhism, Satapancasatatika and Sariputraprakarana of Asvaghosa.
One priceless discovery from Central Asia is a recession of the Prakrit Dhammapada in the Kharosthi script. It is said to be the oldest manuscript now extant of any Indian text and the only literary text written in North Western dialect of the Gandhara region.
It is against this background that we need to understand how Pali Buddhist literary sources came to the attention of modern scholars and the contribution made by Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera towards its success.

Pali Text Society

The translation of the Mahavamsa into English by George Turnour in 1837 and of the Dhammapada into Latin by Fausboll ten years later were the first important attempts by European scholars to introduce Pali literature to the West. However, it was some ten years earlier that Eugene Burnoff and Christian Lassen published their famous introduction to Pali, ‘Un Essay sur le Palie’ which paved the way for Pali studies in the West.
However, it was due to the role played by Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera that Pali and Theravada Buddhist studies assumed a more international dimension embracing Japan, India and the continents of Europe and America. It is well-known that Professor Rhys Davids, who established the Pali Text Society of London and thus paved the way for an unprecedented resurgence in Pali and Theravada Buddhist studies, learnt Pali with Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera, who was then the chief incumbent of the Vidyodaya College. After his return to England in 1881, Professor Rhys Davids was invited to give Hibbert Lectures in the U.S.A. and it was as a result of these lectures that the Harvard Oriental Series was initiated by the University of Harvard.

World religions

It was on the invitation of the Pali Text Society that a number of illustrious Pali scholars such as V. Trenckner, R. Chalmers, K.E. Neumann, Leon Feer, F.L. Woodward, R. Morris and E. Hardy edited and translated both Pali canonical and exegetical works.
It is also to the credit of the Pali Text Society, which is located in Oxford now, that we have Romanized editions of all the Pali Buddhist canonical texts, the post-canonical and pre-commentarial works such as the Petakopadesa, as well as Pali commentaries, sub-commentaries and the Abhidhamma compendiums of the medieval period.
Chizen Akanuma (1884-1937), the first-ever Japanese Professor of Pali Buddhism perfected his knowledge of Pali under the guidance of Venerable Nanissara Thera of the Vidyodaya Pirivena. Chizen Akanuma is well-known for the Comparative Catalogue of Chinese Agamas and Pali Nikayas (1929) and The Dictionary of Proper Names of Indian Buddhism (1931).
Pali and Theravada Buddhist studies in the sub-continent of India too, is, to a great extent, associated with Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera. Satish Chandra Vidyabhusan, an illustrious Sanskritist who specialized in Indian Logic came to Sri Lanka in 1910 and studied for six months with our Venerable Nayaka Thera. An equally illustrious Indian scholar was Venerable Dharmananda Kosambi. He came to Sri Lanka several times and in 1902 he became a Samanera and learnt Pali with our Nayaka Thera.
Venerable Dharmananda became the first-ever Professor of Pali at Fergusson College in Poona. In this capacity he was able to produce a number of eminent scholars and it is through these scholars that the Pali language came to be taught in schools and colleges of the Deccan.
Venerable Bhikkhu Dharmananda Kosambi was also instrumental in getting a large number of Pali texts published as Devanagari editions. Later when he served for some time at the National University of Gujarat which was founded by Mahatma Gandhi, he published several Buddhist texts in Marathi and Gujarati. One such text was the Suttanipata which he translated into Marathi. His Navanita-tika on the Abhidhammatthasangaha and Dipika on the Visuddhimagga are two distinct contributions to the study of Theravada Abhidhamma.

Theravada version of Buddhism

What has been observed so far brings into focus the role played, both directly and indirectly, by Venerable Sumangala Nayaka Thera in initiating and promoting Pali and Theavada Buddhist studies in several countries in the world.
His position in this regard is on par with those whose initial work paved the way for a resurgence of studies relating to Sanskrit Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism. It is when we look at the scenario in this light that we can understand the international dimension of Venerable Nayaka Thera’s contribution to Pali and Theravada Buddhist Studies.
In concluding this appraisal of our Nayaka Thera’s contribution to Pali and Buddhist studies, there is another thing that needs mention here. It is well-known that Anagarika Dhammapala was the main spokesman for Buddhism at the Parliament of Religions held in USA in 1893.
What is less known, however, is that a paper prepared by our venerable Nayaka Thera, under the title Orthodox Southern Buddhism was also read at one of the sessions of the Parliament of World Religions.
The Theravada was based on the, namely the Pali own was had their own corpus of Buddhist literature. Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism the region which includes Sri Lanka and four countries in South-East Asia. The Buddhism that prevails in these countries is called Theravada Buddhism, Theravada or Southern.
It is also called Pali Buddhism because both its canonical and exegetical works are written in Pali. What makes Theravada Buddhism different from all other schools of Buddhist thought is that it seeks to interpret the word of the Buddha in the light of its own Abhidhamma. It may be mentioned here in parenthesis that both in preserving and disseminating the Theravada version of Buddhism it was our country that played the leading role.
For as we all know, it was in Sri Lanka that all the commentaries, sub-commentaries, compendiums and other expository works related to the Pali Buddhist Canon were compiled before they found their way to the neighbouring Buddhist countries in South East Asia.
The second geographical zone which corresponds to another major Buddhist tradition is the Himalayan Region (Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim) and Mongolia. The Buddhism that developed in this region could be called Tibetan Buddhism because it is mainly based on the teachings embodied in the Tibetan Tripitaka, the Mongolian version of the Tripitaka being a rendering from the Tibetan.





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P2.12   S. Mahinda Thera: Poet and freedom fighter


When we talk about Buddhism in Sri Lanka, we can think of so many people who have done so much towards the revival of this great religion in the country. What is so significant about this is that some of these people were not even Sri Lankans, but belonging to other countries and nationalities.

One such person was Col. Henry Steele Olcott, who we have already featured in this page in a past issue. Another example of such a great person was S. Mahinda Thera of Tibet. His services were rendered through poetry not only towards the revival of Buddhism, but also to promote patriotism, national pride, equality and national independence.

S. Mahinda Thera had been described by some as being more Sri Lankan than the Sri Lankans themselves. The locals' struggles against their colonial masters were ably supported by 'outsiders' like S. Mahinda Thera.

The Thera, known in the country as Tibet Jathika S. Mahinda Himi, arrived in Sri Lanka in 1912 as a 14-year-old boy. He entered the Buddhist Order at the famous Polgasduwa temple; he was ordained by Piyaratana Nayake Thera at Sailabimbaramaya, Dodanduwa.

Known in his lay life as Tasilmgal, he was ordained as S. Mahinda (the S standing for Sikkim). He arrived in the island from the Tibet-Sikkim region, but preferred to be associated with Tibet instead of Sikkim as the former was better known among Sri Lankans.

This was a time when the British were ruling our country. Since the 1848 Matale rebellion, which had failed, no significant struggle had taken place against the colonial government. Some local chieftains had started supporting the colonial masters, while some had just given up any thoughts of regaining freedom.

The Thera had seen and realised the danger which lay in these new developments and decided to promote "a new man who loves his motherland more than anything else". Towards this end, he used his poetic talent to the best of his ability. He mastered the local language and called on Sri Lankans to rise up from their slumber and fight the British to regain their lost freedom.

Through his writings, both prose and verse, he called on all, the young and old, men and women, to march towards freedom.

He wrote many inspiring poems such as "Nidahase Dehena", "Nidahase Manthraya", "Lanka Matha", "Jathika Thotilla", "Ada Lak Mawage Puttu", "Nidahasa", "Videshikayakugen Lak Mawata Namaskarayak" and "Sinhala Jathiya" which became extremely popular among many generations of the reading public.

Many of his poems have been adapted to various other forms, while some are also available in CD format. The following is an example of his patriotic writing:

Nidahasa maha muhudak ve
Ehi ulpata putha numba ve
Ebawa sihikota melove
Yutukama itukalayutu ve.

(If the ocean is the freedom, its fountain is the baby in the cradle. Dear son, you should keep this in mind and fulfill your responsibility in protecting the motherland from various challenges. )

Mahinda Thera died 57 years ago, on May 16, 1951. It is believed that his ashes are still kept in a pot hanging on the roof of the Mahabellana Temple without any proper means of protection. A statue of him also adorns a temple in Panadura, which was his spiritual base.

Events are held across the island to commemorate his death anniversary, but many Sri Lankans believe that this national hero has not been given the respect or recognition he deserves.





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P2.13   Ven Madihe Pannaseeha Nayaka Swaminwahanse

Born to a Methodist father and a Buddhist mother in Madihe, down South on July 21, 1913, the Thera entered the Buddhist order on June 24, 1926 at Divigalahena, Kamburupitiya. He has completed 77 years as a Bhikku. He learnt his basic lessons of Buddhism from Ven.Siridhamma Kavidhaja Vinayacharya Weragampita Siri Revatha Thera who was highly respected as the tutor of Ven. S.Mahinda, the Tibetan monk who became famous for his patriotic poems.

As a novice monk he went to Colombo on January 27, 1927 for further studies under erudite preacher Most Ven. Pelene Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, at the Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya. The young Bhikku continued his Dhamma studies and at the age of 20 received his Upasampada on June 9, 1933 at Udakukchepa Simamalakaya. At the time he went to the Vajiraramaya, its dhamma school was conducted by Ven.Naradha Thera. He completed the Pracheena in 1935 and obtained Vidya Visharadha Degree from Colombo University College, in 1941. This was a Degree course initiated by late Prof.Gunapala Malalaseraka.

Among the titles he received include Sri Vajiragnana Dhamma Keerthi and Sri Dhammarakshitha Viharavanshalankara (1955), Uttareetha Mahanayake (1992) and Agga Mahapanditha Sarvodaya Jatika Sammanaya (1998). The funeral will take place at the Independence Square on Saturday with full state honours.

Most Venerable Rajakiya Panditha Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka Thera of Amarapura Sri Dharmarakkhita Nikaya, is  an eminent Buddhist scholar, the Nayaka Thera was conferred honorary Ph.D from the University of Peradeniya in 1987 and ‘Agga Maha Panditha’ the honorific title from the Burmese Government in 1996 to appreciate his services to the Buddha Sasana.

Among the numerous services to the Sasana, his contribution to the propagation of Theravada Buddhism overseas takes a special place. He pioneered the establishment of Buddhist ‘viharayas’ in Western countries. As a result of his efforts there are several temples in cities like Washington, Los Angeles, New York and also in countries like Canada and Australia. He founded the Dharma Vijaya Foundation in 1979. He assisted Monks and Samaneras to receive a sound education. He was an erudite preacher and Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike listened to his sermons on the radio.

Most Venerable Maha thero passed away 8th September 2003 at the National Hospital. He was 90 years old. May he attain the final bliss.






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P2.14  Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera

The beacon of the Buddha Sasana

Colombo, Sri Lanka - Born in the village of Madihe within the four gravets of Matara district in the ancient Ruhuna, to a Sinhala school master named James Carolis Pujitha Gunawardhana, better known as Madihe Maha Iskole Mahatmaya, descending from the Pujitha Gunawardhana family circle, which had produced eminent scholars such as Ven. Madihe Siri Sumitta Dhammakanda Thera, author of the poetical version of Ummagga Jataka, Sutana Jataka, Dalada Puda etc. and Carolis Pujitha Gunawardhana, who was associated with the designing of the Buddhist flag on 17th April, 1885.

James Carolis Pujitha Gunawardhana married a grand daughter of another Sinhala scholar of the same period, named Bella Angelina Dhirasekera. Her father, Disneris Dias Dhirasekera was the store-keeper of the salterns at Hambantota, Kirinda and Bundala.

Although Pujitha Gunawardhana and Dhirasekera families were devoted Buddhists, James Carolis Pujitha Gunawardhana, head teacher of the Methodist Mission School, Paramulla, Matara, happened to be a Christian. The Methodist father spent his full time for his teaching profession, while the Buddhist mother was engaged in bringing up her children according to the Buddhist way of life.

There was no Buddhist temple at the locality at that time. The present temple is situated in a premises, a portion of which has been gifted by the Methodist father. As there was no place close by for worship, a separate Buddhist service room was in existence in the house of the Methodist father and periodical reciting such as all night pirith and the preaching of the Dhamma and alms giving to Bhikkhus were done.

Occasionally, Methodist priests made visits to the house and they performed their religious observances in the house without creating any problems.

The happy parents produced 2 sons and 3 daughters and according to the father's wishes named them Charlotte Stella, Charles Lindon, Thames Sansi, Arlotte Kinsor and the youngest, Benson Wilmot, who was born on June 21, 1913. All the others have passed away except the youngest.

Benson Wilmot started his education in the English medium at St. Thomas' Girls' High School, Matara, till 10 years of age and received admission to St. Thomas' Boys High School, Matara. Arrangements were made to send him to Mahinda College, Galle, where his elder brother was attending, but owing to a sudden sickness he could not hence remained at St. Thomas' Matara.

At the age of 13 years he showed an interest to enter the Buddhist Order. The news spread and leading Buddhist priests were after him. It became a problem to the mother, who was anxious to give him over and rushed to Devagiri Vihara, Kamburugamuwa and explained her problem to Ven. Weragampita Revata Maha Thera, the Guru Deva of Ven. Palane Siri Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, who jumped at the idea and stated that Devagiri Vihara was founded by Ven. Madihe Siri Sumitta Dhamakanda Maha Thera, descendant of the Pujitha Gunawardhana family and as such the only place to which the boy should be entrusted was the Devagiri Vihara and not anywhere else.

The mother agreed happily remembering the forecast of the astrologer, who cast the boys horoscope that one day this boy would be a renowned leader, either as a Buddhist priest or a laity.


The ordination was held at Devagiri Vihara, Kabmurugamuwa on June 24, 1926 in the presence of a gathering of relations and well-wishers. The noted absentees were the father, who had disappeared and the elder brother, who was on the sick bed. He was named Madihe Pangnashiha at the ordination.

Vidya Visaradha Title

The Colombo University College opened a course of training for the degree of Vidya Visarada. All those who had followed the course were holders of the title "Rajakeeya Panditha" and Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Thera happened to be an exception. However, at the final examination he fared better than some of his colleagues in the class.

Elected Maha Nayaka

An election by secret vote was held on November 27, 1955 at Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya, to select the Maha Nayaka Thera to succeed Ven. Palane Vagiragnana Nayake Thera. At the election those 141 Bhikkus of the Nikaya who had cast their votes, Ven. Madihe Pannasiha received 109, and the other contended 32 votes. Accordingly, Ven. Madihe Pannasiha was elected the Maha Nayaka Thera of the Amarapura Sri Dharmarakkhita Nikaya by a clear majority vote.

The certificate of appointment of Maha Nayake was handed over by the most elderly Maha Thera of the said Nikaya at Vajiraramaya Bambalapitiya, in the presence of a very large gathering of Nayake Theras of the 3 Nikayas, viz. Siam, Amarapura and Ramanna and leaders of the Buddhist laity presided over by Ven. Kiriwattuduwe Pangnasara Maha Nayaka Thera.

A few days after the appointment, Sir Cyril de Soysa and R. Premadasa the late President, an MMC Colombo at that time had called on the Maha Nayaka Thera individually and after conferring his good wishes had made a request which has come to effect and that was to incorporate all sects of the Amarapura Nikaya to one. The first Vinaya Karma was held at Maharagama on 13.07.69. It has not only united the Nikaya, but also made him the head of the united Amarapura Nikaya.

Buddhist Committee of Inquiring

In April 1954 a committee was appointed by the all Ceylon Buddhist Congress composed of members from Buddhist clergy and laity in order to ascertain salient facts about the conditions and ways of Buddhist life. Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Thera was among the members of that committee which issued its report on 4th February 1956.

Buddha Sasasana Committee

Sir Oliver Goonetilake, Governor-General appointed a Buddha Sasana Commission on March 4, 1957 under the chairmanship of Ven. Kalukondayawe Pangnasekera Maha Nayaka Thera and Ven. Madihe Pannasiha was also a member of that Commission, which issued its report after visiting Buddhist countries abroad.

After this report was issued it was Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, who took up the issues such as taking over all assisted schools to the government and making all Poya days public holidays instead of Sundays. Both these issues were given effect to on December 1, 1960 and January 1 respectively.

Propagation of Buddhism

The Thera visited China in 1946 for the propagation of Theravada Buddhism. He had to return after a stay of 9 months owing to internal disturbances in China.

He also visited Khatmandu in Nepal for a higher ordination of Bhikahkus in 1951 and in 1954 to establish a Seema Malaka in Lalith Pura, Nepal and renamed the Buddhist Vihara.

There from "Young Sumangala Vihara" to "Sri Sumangala Vihare". Ven. Thera visited Burma on 4th January, 1954 and attended the Dharma Sangayanava and in 1956 during the 2500 Buddha Jayantiya took part in the establishment of a Seema Malaka .

The Maha Nayaka Thera left for America on 27th March, 1964 on an invitation from the Asia Foundation to gain an idea of the educational training prevailing there, ways and means of rural development, and also for the propagation of Theravada Buddhism in America. He spent 5 months there and made arrangements to establish a Vihara in Washington in 1964. Other places of his visit were England, West Indies, Scotland, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore. On his return he established the Buddhist Information Centre at Greenpath, Colombo, the first of its kind in order to furnish information to any interested in Buddhism. The World Buddhist Directory is published by this Information Center.

Thurunu Saviya

After returning from USA the Maha Nayaka Thera organised the "Thurunu Saviya" at Maharagama to organise and train the youths of this country. The Maha Nayaka Thera considered that the young generation in Sri Lanka should be directed in the correct lines. This movement attracted many youths and this resulted in a society called "Samma Ajeeva Sangamaya" in 1974. This was necessary to counter the increasing rate of drug addiction and alcoholism among the youths of this country. The Ven. Maha Nayaka Thera played an important role in the rehabilitation of youths after the insurrection of 1971.

Dharma Vijaya Foundation

The Dharma Vijaya Foundation established in 1979 under the patronage of the Maha Nayaka Thera has noble objectives. To make Sri Lanka a Dharma Deepa or a country where righteous people live, to develop the economy and the culture of the country simultaneously and also to serve the poor in their social needs and education.

Temperance Movement

He succeeded the Ven. Kalubondayawe Pangnasekera Maha Nayaka Thera as the president of the Sri Lanka Temperance Movement, to carry out the good work commenced during the early part of the 20th century.

The Thera was conferred an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Peradeniya in 1987, and the honorific title Agga Maha Panditha from Burma in the year 1996.

The Maha Nayaka Thera is a popular preacher and also a prolific writer who has enlightened many hearts. He has many publications and articles which are thought provoking and containing a mine of information.

His fearlessness in expressing view on national matters and his devotion to a cause has made him a respected personality by all here and abroad.

21 06 2003 - Daily News





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P2.15   The prelate with a mission of peace

The Most Ven. Aggamahapandita Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera

Prof. Dhammavihari Thera


When the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera passed away on September 9, 2003, the country, irrespective of caste or creed differences, mourned his death. Since then, over the carpet of time, of whatever colour that may be, life has rolled on. We witness today many disastrous things happening in this little island. Diabolic forces of evil have been unleashed and are at work both on the lives of people and institutions in Sri Lanka. Lawlessness and anarchy have descended upon our land. In this situation, my memory brings back to me a few lines of poetry which I had read more than 60 years ago as a young student.

I prayed to God who never heard.
My desperate soul grew numb.

The life-long wish and prayer of our revered late prelate was ‘Peace on earth and goodwill among men’. In upholding that policy, he was no more and no less than a son of the Buddha (Buddha-putta or Sakyaputtiya-samana). The Buddha preached 'Sukhino va khemino hontu sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta' (May all life everywhere be safe and secure. May they all enjoy happiness and comfort.)

Our Mahanayaka Thera knew well enough the socio-political identity of Sri Lanka. He knew perfectly well the demographic details of Sri Lanka. He knew every detail of the ethnic distribution of people. He could not be fooled about ‘traditional homelands’, not even by the top brass of the day. He told the political leaders of all ages and all colours that as far back as the 5th century A.D. Chinese traveller Fa Hsien, who visited Sri Lanka, referred to this country as the Land of the Lion People or ‘Shih tse Kuo’.

The tragedy was that the prelate’s words fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, the nation is now called upon to pay too high a price for this incorrigible political deafness of our leaders.

The Mahanayaka Thera’s message to the nation — his political philosophy throughout his life — was: "Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic multi-religious land where people had learnt to live in peace and harmony. They had done so for centuries, respecting each other's relative rights and privileges.”

He maintained that economic, social and cultural considerations of this country did not justify the division of this little island on any basis. His only prayer for Sri Lankans was territorial integrity. World history, he insisted, had proved the disastrous consequences of such division on ethnic lines with international support.

But disastrously, bloc-power of political leadership in this country, not wisdom, has always had the bigger say on their side. Consequently, what needs to happen has happened. Everybody now has equally well to pay the price for it.

For nearly a decade now, the world has been trying to see the truth of religion and the missing dimension of statecraft. But we are sad to notice that wise statesmanship of Sri Lanka has already drained off its last drop of religion into the black sea of politics. We pray ‘Glory be to these generations of political leaders of this country’.

With all of them, religion remained the never-used handkerchief in the upper pocket of their political shirts. May their souls rest in peace. R.I.P! But let us not forget that in the world today religion is still being used by some shrewder men as a carrier of political ideologies across the globe.

Equally zealous was our magnanimous prelate in creating a generation of young disciples from among the bhikkus of this country to carry forward the torch of Buddhist learning, both within this country and the world outside.

With the unstinted support of his younger strong arm of Venerable Ampitiye Rahula Maha Thera, now almost in his 90s, the Mahanayaka Thera established for this purpose the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayatanaya of Maharagama for the education of young monks in the Dhamma and the Vinaya in conformity with the traditional norms of the Sasana. He threw it open to all nikayas in the island. Its educational policies, we insist, need to be kept updated and religiously robust all the time. In the revered memory of the founder, its lay supporters enthusiastically look up to the fulfilment of those wishes. But good intentions alone do not always suffice. Vigilance and vigour must keep pace together all the time.

During these last two years, the absence of the Mahanayaka Thera has been felt in many areas of life. For more than half his life time of over 90 years, he was the Mahanayaka Thera of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya.

As we look back on this vast stretch of time during which his dominant presence was felt through the length and breadth of this little island, we often feel that many crisis situations of recent times in our country could have been averted with his wisdom and judgement. May his upward ascent in his spiritual journey be swift and smooth, with never a look back on what he has left behind!

Sunday Times





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P2.16   Ven. Narada Maha Thera

Gunaseela Vihanage

Ven. Narada Maha Thera

Ven. Narada Maha Thera was born as Sumanapala Perera in July 14, 1898, Kotahena, Sri Lanka.

Educated and was an outstanding student in a Christian missionary school. Studied in a Buddhist Sunday School at a very early age.

Ordained as a novice at 18 and was tutored by the famous Pelene Vajiranana Mahanayaka Thera. Studied languages and Abhidhamma. Received his higher ordination at age 20 and studied at the Ceylon University College. Received traditional monastic education as well as studies in philosophy, logic and ethics. Joined the Servants of the Buddha society, an active Buddhist missionary foundation, where he was inspired by their missionary commitments.

In 1929, he was selected to represent Sri Lanka for the opening of a new vihara in Benares, India, where he served as a translator, due to his excellent command of the English language, and there got his first taste of missionary work. Had since traveled widely, mostly in South East Asian countries. In 1956, he was in England for extensive missionary work. In his missionary work overseas he always ensured there was a nucleus of devout Buddhist to carry on the good work he initiated. He was the President of the London Buddhist Vihara Society.

He also helped to establish Chapter House (Sima) and Buddhist Societies in many countries. Amid these active missionary activities he undertook many literary works in both Singala and English, including translation works, and many of his text are classical reference for Buddhist studies as well as resources for Buddhist Sunday School including the famous Buddha and His Teachings.






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P2.17   Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya 


The 99th birthday of the Most Ven. Aggamahapanditha Balangoda Anandamaitreya Mahanayake Thera was celebrated at The Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre, Kingsbury, North West London on 23 August 1994. The Ven. Mahanayake was observing the lent of Rainy Season (Vassna Retreat) in London at the time.

Addressing the large gathering on this occasion Ven. Thera said : ‘You are celebrating my birthday and I am reaching my 99th year. That means my life span is fast coming to an end. Is this a thing to celebrate ? Well ! as for me, it is a thing for celebration, because nearer I go towards death happier I feel, as I know nearing my death means I am moving towards a new birth. My humble wish is to be reborn over and over again among human beings for the service of the Buddha Dhamma. In this life I could not fulfil my wish to its pristine purity. But I know in my next life I will be more influential, better learned, much stronger and capable of carrying out my service to propagate Buddhism in the world. It is common knowledge in Sri Lanka that my aspiration is to attain Buddha hood some day in the distant future. Perhaps it will be decided when I see Lord Maitreya’.


Q. I am sure people in Sri Lanka would like to know something about your life prior to your priesthood . Would you like to talk about it?

A. I was born on 23 August 1896 to Heenmenike and Mathies Appuhamy. Fourteen days after I was born my mother had died and my saddened father had left the village altogether. It was my uncle Dingirihamy Mudalali (father’s brother) and his wife Yasohamine who brought me up. To me they were my parents.

Q. What were you called in your childhood, and what made you to enter priesthood?

A. My (gihi) name was Punchi Mahattaya. At the age of 9 an eminent figure from the Mahabodhi Society, Brahmacharya Walisinghe Harrischandra visited my school, Kumara Vidyalaya, in 1905, and delivered a speech on Buddhist way of life. Having listened to his talk, I thought I should follow the true Buddhist path and be a model like the gentleman himself. Those days everyone respected and honoured monks. At the age of 15, after a ‘ battle’ with my ‘parents’ to obtain their blessing to take up robes, I received their consent in 1911. Finally I was ordained as a ‘Samanera’, at Nandaramaya, Balangoda Udumulla Temple, which was also built by my uncle Dingiri Mudalali.

Q. In a spiritual context, how would you explain the moral decadence of the people in Sri Lanka over the years ?

A. Towards the latter part of the British rule Sri Lankans lived a happy and a pious life. Their aim was to uphold their culture and religion. When foreign influence was encroaching upon the Lankan society people like Anagarika Dharmapala fought against such tide waves . They foresaw the impact and the damage the foreign influence was going to have on the Country. That was the main purpose set forth to oust the British and seek Independence. But once we received our Independence, our National leaders, in my opinion, did not understand the very purpose of achieving that freedom. Therefore, they carried on as before, and the result was that the country went from bad to worse.

Q. We didn’t really reap the benefits out of our Independence , is that what you mean ?

A. During the British rule, at least the Europeans listened to our peoples’ claims and their agitation, but our leaders turned a deaf ear to any public outcry. By Sri Lanka becoming more liberalised, it caused a steep decline in cultural and religious values. Soon, people started to divide themselves into various political groups, whereas during the Colonial regime there was complete unity among the people. That unity was associated with preserving Buddhism and our cultural values, but today’s deterioration on moral cultural, economical and spiritual values are due to this division of our own people. They are only interested in competing against each other and promoting their own political parties and not religion or cultural values.

Q. In the light of reference to ‘ Devas’ (Gods) in Buddhist ‘ prayers’ such as in ‘Ethipiso Bagawa…., Eththa Watcha Chamhehi ….. Swakhato Bhagawatho..etc…’ can you reconcile such references with the concept of an Omnipresent God, as referred to in Hinduism ?

A. Buddhists don’t believe in an Omnipresent or Omnipotent God. Every man, according to Buddhist philosophy, has the opportunity to be born in one of six Deva Worlds as a Deva, if one lives a morally good clean life. In other words, there are people who have ascended to higher worlds due to their good Karma. There are some earth bound Devas too, who are very near us. Humans can transfer merit to some Devas, but not to every Deva. Merely repeating gathas like a parrot such as ‘ Aaaka satt tarta bhummatta or Ethha Watha Chamhehi’, out of habit, or offering alms, for the sake of name and fame , there is nothing to transfer as merit to Devas, and people cannot expect protection from Devas in such circumstances. Today when they want to give alms to priests some go in search of Nayaka Theros, famous priests ( ‘ big guns’… with an infectious laugh ) and forget the poor monks who lead religious and secluded lives. Out of such alms giving people cannot expect any help from Devas! It is my personal belief that Devas have forgotten our country, unfortunately !

Q. Today Lord Buddha’s message is being interpreted to the world in various forms, such as Hinayana, Mahayana and Vagirayana. Do you agree that these different interpretations tend to blur Buddha’s basic message ?

A. There may be different schools of thought, different rituals and rites among various sects, but the underlined factor is that Buddhists are all united in Lord Buddha’s ‘ Attangika Magga’ ( 8 fold path). Rituals and ceremonies are unimportant but what matters is the quality of life one leads and whether it is pure and unblemished. Then you will find you are on the way to progress, in Lord Buddha’s point of view.

Q. How would you analyse the terms ‘Soul’ and ‘Athma’ ? Lord Buddha taught that the word ‘soul’ had no meaning . How would you account for the cycle of rebirth taking the concept of soul as interpreted by other religions?

A. There are two ways of explaining this if we take the Sun as a simple example. A teacher, who takes a class of young children, may use the conventional language to tell his students that the Sun is rising and setting, although there is no such thing, but the phenomena takes place due to the rotation of the earth. When the same teacher takes an advanced class he has to use ‘deeper’ language and use scientific examples and perhaps be more philosophical. Likewise, Buddha’s teachings varied according to the level of inteligence of the seekers of the truth and he used the words such as ‘Soul’ and ‘Athma’ as appropriate. But to those aspirants who had opened up their intelligence, Lord Buddha taught the Vipassana Meditation – dealing with topics such as ‘what is life? What is man (matter + mind)?’; Mind is a series of impermanent occurrences to be taken as unchanging essence or ‘soul’; Physical body is also a stream of material state subject to momentary change and there is nothing to be taken as ego, entity or ‘soul’. This practice of understanding one’s own nature, Buddha said, was not practicable to use in the ‘ ordinary world’.

Q. The subject of paranormal phenomena is being explored in depth today in the Western world. In the University of Edinburgh, a Chair has been set up for the sake of Parapsychology which involves the study of Ghosts. What are your views on Ghosts or Bhuthayas as we call them?

A. Well! when a man dies, sometimes he is born in a different world with a subtle body due to his attachment to his family. In that subtle (astral) body form the dead person can live for some time till he ascends to a higher world with the help of meritorious deeds done by his relatives. In that body such a person can travel faster than light because it moves with the mind.

Q. How is that only some people can see such subtle bodies and others not ?

A. Some dead persons in that state can make their astral bodies become solid so that others may see it. Others are not able to do it and, therefore, they cannot show themselves.

Q. There is a belief in Sri Lanka that people are always born under various ‘Ganas’ such as Rakksa, Deva and Manussa Gana. Is it a fact?

A. It is only an astrological interpretation. Now, I belong to Raksa Gana but I am not cruel at all ( highly tickled with laughter ).

Q. Today a lot of Buddhists are becoming Sai Baba devotees. In view of the confused state of mind in certain Buddhist quarters, could you throw some light on the subject ?

A. I also visited Sai Baba some 20 years or so ago when I was nearly going blind with Cataract. Everyone advised me against an operation and, I was very confused. Suddenly a Dayaka in our temple, who could not speak English paid my travelling expenses and invited me to accompany him to India, as an interpreter, to see Sai Baba. When I saw Sai Baba at Whitefield, Bangalore, he came to me straight, out of the crowd, and blessed me with his usual gesture of waving his right hand and walked away from me. After taking a few yards, suddenly he turned back and walked towards me again. Next, he put both his hands on my shoulders, smiled and said ‘ Get your eyes operated, it will be successful’. I told Sai Baba, that it was exactly I was contemplating in my mind to ask him. He simply smiled again and repeated, ‘Don’t you worry, operation will be successful’ and went away.

Q. What was your instant reaction ?

A. I was stunned because even without having to ask the question Sai Baba knew exactly my thoughts. According to me, He is a very powerful person with some wonderful psychic powers. He is regarded as incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a world teacher, coming Messiah, advanced yogi etc., by various people. But to me, he is one who has tremendous powers and highly spirutually elevated personality.

Q. So, then, as a Buddhist there is no harm in following Sai Baba ?

A. Well! supposing if you were to visit a Harley Street specialist for a consultation or to get some treatment, is it harmful to your religion ? (smilingly) . Likewise, people go to Sai Baba to clear their doubts, seek help for various forms of mental, psychical psychological etc. There is no harm at all in doing so.

I will tell you another story. In Anguttra Nikaya, Lord Buddha referred to six great teachers who were true believers in a creator God called Brahmma. These teachers taught people how to follow a morally good path in life to develop their jhanas (spiritual knowledge). Those who practised such disciplines were later born in Brahma world. So, The Buddha said, the pupils were not even Buddhists but followers of Brahmma God, yet they listened to their teachers with open minds, respected their masters’ teaching and followed their good advice and led pure and moral lives which helped them to earn much merit. They were consequently reborn in Deva and Brahmma worlds.

Q. What happened to your sight after you met Sai Baba ?

A. Two weeks after I returned back to Sri Lanka I went completely blind in both my eyes. Immediately I entered the general hospital and got my right eye operated on. It was successful. Later the left eye was operated on. Now I can read big letters even without having to wear spectacles.

Q. Do you think that Sai Baba helped you and encouraged to undergo your eye operations ?

A. Yes ! Yes ! His blessings on me also have helped me a great deal.

Q. How would you categorise Buddhists in Sri Lanka today- Average, Deep or just ritualistic ?

A. People in every village and town are now becoming more and more interested in the practice of meditation. Specially it is encouraging to see mostly the youth, both male and female, becoming interested in Vippassana meditation. In my view, the uneducated are getting caught up in ritualistic practices which was not found some 50 years ago. But on the whole, Buddhism is now improving among the educated classes and it is a very good sign.

Q. In Sri Lanka you are regarded as one of the most respected and holy monks who has reached spiritual enlightenment to a very high degree. Yet in some sections of the society there were subtle criticism about your close association with the late President Premadasa , who was a politician. What are your comments?

A. I am not a politician and I do not belong to any political party. People have totally misunderstood me. I knew Mr. Premadasa as a young boy who came to our temple to read my Dhamma School books. I was very much familiar with him long before he entered politics. Later when I was in the USA he had named a new village in my home town Balangoda , under his Gam Udawa project. He called it the Ananda Maitreya Gama, and I did not even know about it as I was in the USA at the time. When I returned to Sri Lanka I went to thank him. He asked me whether it was not a good idea to live close to Colombo , at my age, as it was tiresome for me to travel to and from Balangoda. Within a week he showed me a video film of a plot of land and asked me, ‘Hamuduruwane do you like this place?’ It was a calm place near a river and ideal for my meditation, I told him so. When I was in England two years later, he phoned me and asked me return to Sri Lanka to take over the new temple which he had already built without my knowledge. He had already named it Battaramulla Chitta Viveka Asramaya . When I saw him in Colombo again he told me, ‘ Hamuduruwane, this is my religious obligation as I have a great regard for you, and this has nothing to do with politics. I do not want you to get involved in politics or become a UNP supporter.’ It is true that I went to see some of his Gam Udawa programmes, and that was purely out of my own accord to see what they were like. Even Mrs. Bandranaiyke has told me the same thing , not to get involved in politics, when she was the Prime Minister. Late Dr. N.M.Perera had made a request in his last will for me to perform his funeral rites . The moment I heard about it I went and did everything to fulfill his last wishes.

Q. Looking back at your past, would you comment on the lax discipline of some of the modern monks. Do you agree that Vinaya Council in Sri Lanka has not pulled its weight to cleanse the Sangha of such deviants? Some years ago the Vinaya Council exercised stringent powers of discipline. Why has it failed to deliver?

A. Some years ago Bhikkus were much engrossed in keeping to Vinaya. Even now in most temples there are many disciplined monks. If there was a lax in discipline I can only think of the new University education, followed by monks taking up teaching careers. Even among them I know quite a few who are trying to maintain highly disciplined Orders. Here and there you will always find a black sheep, you can’t avoid it. Even during Lord Buddha’s time there were 250 bhikkus who were living in a monastery misbehaving. They were dancing with women and sleeping with women . Women were singing and playing the harp, and they were entertaining the monks etc. Ultimately Lord Buddha had to send Ven. Sariputta to chase the undisciplined monks away ( laughter….) . My advice is, if you come across an undisciplined monk, try and explain to him the purpose of his becoming a bhikku, in a loving and caring manner, otherwise if you condemn him he will become incorrigible.

Q. What are you future plans?

A. To do some service to Dhamma whenever I get an opportunity. But the problem is that I never get a free moment, whether I am in Sri Lanka , England or in the USA, people are gathering to see me and they seek advice. I suppose it is also a form of service . My main aim is to attain to a higher level of mind development. I will do it. My conscience says that I am going to do it. I do not want to be born in heavenly worlds when I am dead. I would like to be born in Sri Lanka as a human being to develop Buddhism further and propagate Lord Buddha’s philosophy throughout the world in its pristine purity. I have this strong feeling and urge within me. Apart from that, as many people are aware, my aspiration is to attain Buddhahood in the distant future someday. Perhaps it will be decided when I see Lord Maitreya.

24 09 1994 - The Island

 Footnote: The Most Ven. Aggamahapanditha Balangoda Anandamaitreya Mahanayake Thero passed away on 18th July 1998  at the age of 103.  May he attain Nibbana.






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P2.18   Dr. E. W. Adikaram: an unwavering loyalty to truth



Twenty years ago, Dr. Edward Winifred Adikaram passed away. If someone said that Dr. Adikaram was the greatest person in Sri Lankan history, it is not a surprise. Dr. Adikaram never associated with any political party during his lifetime, because he used to say that the voter who gave power to the elector, but the voter has no authority to correct the errors of the elected person.

So he abstained from voting at all elections throughout his life. He had no affiliation to any political party or politician.

He wrote a series of Sithuvili books numbering up to 58 as at the time of his death. Those books were intended to influence the reader in a revolutionary way of thinking. The mind of Dr. Adikaram was the product of a fascinating synthesis of many cultures and religious teachings. It was this blend of various traditions and influences that made him such an interesting writer, speaker, debater and controversialist. His radical views on certain issues upset many, for he was not afraid to express his unorthodox views on social, educational, religious and philosophical issues.

His convictions were deeply rooted and it is a tribute to the nobility of his character that he did not mind contradicting others, even those who were in positions of power and authority, and thereby risk incurring their disfavour. For him the only thing that mattered in life was an unwavering loyalty to truth.

And it cannot be helped if some get disturbed or offended after listening to that which one considers to be true. To the end of his life Dr. Adikaram remained an iconoclast in Sri Lanka society. There were some who much disliked him.

Once Dr. Adikaram asked "Are you a Sinhalese? If you are a Sinhalese, how do you know that? I have asked this question from many who call themselves Sinhalese. I have so far never received a satisfactory reply from any of them.

"I have also asked those why say they are Tamils, Telegus etc as to know they know that they are Tamils, Telegus and so on. From them too, I have never heard a satisfactory reply," he said. Dr. Adikaram said; "There is only one human race. We are human beings and not Sinhalese, Tamil or English. Biologically this is so. But those who are fettered with the belief that there is racial difference, are incapable of seeing this fact.

Apart from espousing, as Dr. E. W. Adikaram did the cause of freedom of thought and expression, he led a simple and exemplary life, a burden neither to himself nor to others. In his efforts to wean the young away from evil and to direct them along the path of virtue, he conceived what he called a Thinker's Movement.

This movement performs a unique service through talks and publications. Once while returning to Colombo by train after public talks in schools, university, higher educational institutes in Kandy. Dr. Adikaram was with me observing the beautiful scenery of the hill country. He showed me a 'Kaduru' tree in the middle of a paddy field and said to me that it was the most beautiful scenery he saw during that journey.

He showed a great unpleasantness toward smoking. On this journey in the train a passenger requested a box of matches from Dr. Adikaram. What for? he asked. "To light a cigarette" was the answer. "Even if I have a box of matches, I won't give it to you for that purpose, Dr. Adikaram answered fearlessly. Then he thought it appropriate to tell the passenger the unfortunate results of smoking.

On another day travelling in the train to Badulla to give public talks in Badulla he came across another passenger smoking a cigarette holding a child in his arms. Dr. Adikaram reprimanded the father severely and said, "If you want to destroy yourself by smoking, leave the child alone."

One day the organiser of the Sarvodaya Movement Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne visited him at his home and had wanted to donate a motor vehicle for his social service work. But he declined it because of Dr. Ariyaratne's habit of smoking. Getting closer and working with Dr. Adikaram is not easy. I have worked and associated with him very closely.

Naturally a person who associated with him advanced in knowledge, character and personality and was able to face difficulties and hardships in life courageously.

Left-wing political leaders like Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe, Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, Leslie Gunawardene and I. M. R. A. Iriyagolla associated Dr. Adikaram very closely.

During his student days in London, Dr. Adikaram worked with some of the left political leaders. When he came back to Ceylon he was in the 'Suriya Mal' campaign.

He believed them in the ultimate aim of liberating the country from the foreign yoke but did not hold their view of the means to achieve that end and so he gave up.

Dr. Adikaram ardently supported the state free education scheme pioneered by the father of free education Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara. Education and culture should cease to be the monopoly of the well-to-do classes and no child should be denied the advantage of a good education merely because of the unfortunate circumstance of being born into a poverty-stricken family, he said.

He played a prominent role in establishing schools in the island for underprivileged Buddhist children.

Vidyakara Vidyalaya at Maharagama founded in 1937, Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda in 1940, Ananda Sastralaya at Matugama, Ananda Balika Vidyalaya at Kotte, the Maha Vidyalayas at Battaramulla, Udahamulla and Karawenella and Nigroda Vidyalaya - the Mahamaya of today established in 1941 at Nugegoda are among the institutions he helped found.

With the struggle for free education successfully concluded, Dr. Adikaram thereafter directed his efforts primarily to the task of removing obstacles to the imparting of modern scientific knowledge through the Sinhala medium. He thereby kindled an interest in science throughout the country.

He was well-known for his contributions on scientific topics to popular journals and also for his radio broadcasts on Science Journal. In 1953 he issued through the Department of Education a dictionary of technical terms for the use of students. Most of the technical terms used in science studies in our school even today are of his coinage.

His physical presence is no more but his moral teachings will be cherished all the time.






Personalities History

Articles Index

P2.19   Dr. E. W. Adikaram - a unique educator




MARCH 29, 2005 marks the birth centenary of Dr. E. W. Adikaram, a unique educator of 20th century Sri Lanka. The event was commemorated at Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, scene of his activities as a school principal for 11 years and at Ananda Balika Vidyalaya, Kotte, where Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse unveiled his statue and chaired a public meeting in his honour.

Born on March 29, 1905, the early life of Edward Winifred Adikaram was marked by devotion to the practices of Theravada Buddhism and willingness to live strictly by its principles. At age 14 a talk at the Dhamma school aroused his naturally compassionate disposition and caused him to give up meat-eating.

He became vegetarian not in order to acquire religious merit, he later explained. It had one and only one meaning: it is because flesh invariably came from the killing of animals. Kindness to animals assumed legendary proportions in his life.

Anecdotes about this, as about other traits of his character, are abundant. Some of these stories border on the incredible and some are actually fictitious, but they all show how non-conformist he could be in acting according to his convictions.

As a young man, he entered Colombo University College and offered science and mathematics at the first examination, but later switched to the study of Pali and Sanskrit.

After graduation, he went to England on a government scholarship and entered the London School of Oriental Studies and obtained an M.A. degree in 1931 and in 1933 a Ph.D. based on the thesis "Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon", hailed by the likes of I. B. Horner and A. K. Warder as a model of careful research.

Returning to Lanka, he reverted to his position as assistant teacher at Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte. Though armed with a Ph.D. from London University, he preferred this modest job in a grant-aided school to service under the British government in a more remunerative capacity.

Documents at the British Museum Library had convinced him of the grave injustices perpetrated by the colonial administration of Ceylon. He was therefore keen to join forces with others who worked for the overthrow of the imperial yoke.

A personal friend of leading leftists like N. M. Perera, Colvin R. de Silva and Leslie Gunawardana, he would have joined them in the LSSP, but for the fact that he could not agree with its policy of end justifying the means.

He did not believe that a peaceful society could be built through the use of force. He preferred a non-violent approach to political and economic independence, and for a time collaborated with Mr. Jayawardhana (Jayaramdas) of Wellampitiya, who was a leading Gandhi-inspired movement and advocated the wearing of home-spun cloth and consumption of local food.

In 1934 the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society, elevated Dr. Adikaram to the Principalship of Ananda Sastralaya, one of the oldest schools under its management. Dr. A lost no time to create in his school what he regarded as essential aspects of a Buddhist atmosphere.

He made the hostel vegetarian and strictly prohibited tobacco and alcohol in the school premises. When he held a fun-fair to raise funds for the school, he advertised its special features as 'no drinking, no dancing, no gambling'.

Many people complained that he was an 'extremist', nevertheless Dr. A became a very successful principal, earning the A Grade College status for his school within a few years, according to the official grading prevailing at the time.

He championed the cause of Buddhist education at national level and campaigned against Christian missionary activity, although Jesus Christ was a person he profoundly respected. Within a short time he became widely known as a powerful Buddhist worker.

His school was a unique institution brimming with high enthusiasm for the principles he espoused. Those who passed through its portals imbibed at least a little of the Adikaram spirit. Many considered it a privilege to be part of his team.

In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, the British military authorities commandeered the premises of Ananda Sastralaya. Dr. A was compelled to operate his school from 'branches' at Battaramulla, Udahamulla, Matugama, Ruwanwella and Hathagoda.

After the war, Ananda Sastralaya, Matugama, became an independent assisted school and the other four branches became leading government schools in their respective areas.

Around this period Dr. A also founded Vidyakara Vidyalaya, Maharagama (1937) and Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda (1940). The latter, starting under the distinguished principalship of Mrs. P. B. Fernando, soon became the premier girls' school in the Nugegoda area.

Dr. Adikaram did all this in pursuit of the principle of 'Buddhist education'. If he was 'extremist' in going all the way with his principles, he was no less uncompromising when he suspected the validity of the very same principles.

He began to be uneasy about many of his own assumptions after reading the works of J. Krishnamurti, the famous Indian religious philosopher, who invited people to question every belief, every pre-conceived notion and every habit of thought.

At this time Krishnamurti had broken away from the Theosophical Movement (which nurtured him and hailed him as the future 'World Teacher') and was proclaiming a message of inward liberation by observation of the ways of one's mind, rejecting the rituals and other paraphernalia of organised religion.

He also rejected nationalism as a fatally divisive force in the world. To Dr. A all this seemed to be very much in tune with the teachings of the Buddha seen in some of the oldest Buddhist texts. He began to lose interest in the trappings of organised religion.

With misgivings about the religious establishment, he naturally began to ask himself if it was proper for him to remain as Principal of a Buddhist school.

In 1945, in a move that took friends and admirers by surprise, he took leave from the Principalship of Ananda Sastralaya and proceeded on a 'spiritual pilgrimage' to India.

The Theosophical Society hosted him at its sprawling headquarters by the beach at Adyar, then the suburb of the city of Madras. He in turn helped the Society by producing a Catalogue of Pali and Sinhala Manuscripts in its library, a well-known centre for Indological research.

After this he undertook an extended tour of India, visiting famed religious gurus like Ramana Maharshi and yogis at Rishikesh in the foothills of the Himalayas. Returning to Lanka after these experiences, he resigned from his prestigious post - at age 41, and at the height of his popularity as a dynamic leader and a man of unimpeachable moral stature.

Leaving Ananda Sastralaya, Dr. A effectively parted company with the social/religious establishment. (However, rather uncharacteristically, arguably also inconsistently, he returned to it later for a few short forays).

A decisive event was his first personal meeting with Krishnamurti in 1947, soon after the latter returned to India since the start of the Second World War.

From then on until 1982 he met Krishnamurti regularly during his annual visits to India. He also organised three Krishnamurti lecture tours to Sri Lanka.

For most of this time, Dr. A was mainly engaged in a process of self-examination - which by its very nature is simultaneously an examination of how religious and social forces condition the psyche of any human being.
From around 1950, he began to hold public discussions about this self-exploration and its significance. He was a skilful communicator whose style of speaking was simple and logical and completely devoid of sentimentally and rhetoric. That he drew audiences shows the attractiveness of the unadorned truth.

The few exceptions to this major pre-occupation must be mentioned. The first was the single-minded support he gave to the Free Education movement of Mr. C. W. W. Kannangara.

In the company of a few similarly inclined activists, Dr. A addressed meeting after meeting in various parts of the country, advocating the adoption of the Kannangara reforms.

The public opinion this campaign generated was the driving force that made the then State Council to accept the Kannangara plan for free education in Sri Lanka from the kindergarten to the university.

Again, in 1954, on a disagreement with the Buddhist Theosophical Society over a matter connected with Ananda Sastralaya, Dr. A entered the fury of BTS politics and offered himself for the post of General Manger of Schools in that organisation. In a keenly contested election, he defeated P. de S. Kularatna, the incumbent manager.

Typically, his two-year tenure as GM/BTS was also marked by controversy. He tried to ban cadeting in BTS schools, saying that military training was incompatible with the tenets of Buddhism. This move provoked furious opposition, and was abandoned by his successors in the BTS who did not share his pacifist ambitions.

Yet again, in 1966, when I. M. R. A. Iriyagolla, a close friend, became Minister of Education in the Dudley Senanayake government, Dr. A accepted nomination to the National Council of Higher Education, precursor to the UGC.

He remained in it as long as Mr. Iriyagolla was Minister of Education. Later, in the early 1970s, he also served for three years as Chancellor of Sri Jayawardhanapura University.

These interventions in educational management remind us of another role that Dr. A played. After his early training at Colombo University College, he remained a keen follower of developments in the world of science.

He was also an ardent observer of the dynamics of nature in its varied aspects, sometimes spending the better part of a morning watching the blossoming of a flower, or the growth of a tendril on a creeper, or the activities of a family of birds or a colony of insects.

All this and his eminent training in languages made him an effective writer on scientific and environmental subjects. He produced a series of textbooks in General Science and edited a news magazine on science for a considerable period of time. In this way he became a pioneer in developing a scientific lexicon in Sinhala.

Based on his talks and discussions with people in various meetings and assemblies, Dr. A published 58 booklets dealing with issues ranging from the ill effects of smoking and meat-eating to complex religious and philosophical topics like meditation, the idea of the self and the teaching of impermanence.
This was a kid of intense communication and was in reality another facet of his role as an educator. His life-long desire was to plant the seeds of a compassionate and sane society.

To this end he established three institutions that he hoped would lead people to an understanding of the causes that make us confused and callous and divisive. The Young Thinkers' Club, the Vegetarian Society and the Krishnamurti Centre are these institutions.
He devoted a great deal of attention to the Krishnamurti Centre because he saw in Krishnamurti's teachings a beacon of much needed light to our confused and embattled minds.

As noted above, he did not see any contradiction in the basic approach of the Buddha and Krishnamurti to the human predicament. His mind too was ardently dedicated to that same approach.

He was essentially a man of religion, convinced by his own explorations that change can come about in the human mind, that primal sensitivity could be restored and selfish desire and consequent suffering eliminated.

It would be correct to say that his faith in the human ability to waken to truths beyond mundane experience remained unshaken to the end.

Casual readers of his later writings there may be who regard him as a rationalist fighting superstitious beliefs or a left-leaning free thinker and social reformer with a scientific bent of mind. Perhaps all these were aspects of his many-faceted personality, but it would be a mistake to regard him as a liberal modernist.

To understand this, one should read what he says on subjects like motherhood and work, abortion, birth control and the modern pre-occupation with economic advancement. Neither was he an indiscriminate follower of Krishnamurti.

He was a social activist having his own way of doing things and his lifestyle was very different from that of Krishnamurti. Rationalist-Buddhist, modernist, Krishamurtian - one of these labels would exactly fit. Like all great persons, Dr. A defies easy description.

With his intervention the Krishnamurti Centre acquired from the UDA a block of land in a scenic location at Beddagana, Kotte. He planned to construct a study centre here for people to read the writings of Krishnamurti and follow audio and video tapes of his lectures and conversations.

It was also meant to be a quiet place for interested people to exit from the hurly-burly life for a few days and take a fresh look at things - a place where you studied yourself rather than other things. Unfortunately, Dr. A did not live to see this dream fulfilled.

It was left to his friends and colleagues in the Krishnamurti Centre of Sri Lanka to build its headquarters here and open it to the public some years after his demise. This chaste Study Centre (208, Beddgana North, Duwa Road, Kotte) on the banks of the Diyawanna Lake stands today as a fitting monument to a unique educator that Sri Lanka produced in the 20th century.

Dr. Adikaram - author, scholar and teacher, founder of schools and institutions, humanist and environmentalist, activist for private and public morality, and above all, explorer of the eternal verities of life - passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of December 28, 1985.






Personalities History

Articles Index


P2.20   Dr. E. W. Adikaram - Life & Time


The following is from an article written by Prof. Mahinda Palihawadana to Sri Lanka newspapers in connection with a symposium held on Dec 28, 2000 at the J. R. Jayewardene Cultural Centre, Colombo, in appreciation of the services of Dr Adikaram, founder of the Sri Lanka Vegetarian Society. Prof. J. B. Disanayaka (Colombo University), Mr Vipin Chand from Chennai, India, Cardiologist Dr D. P. Atukorale, Mrs. Penny Jayewardene (Poorna Health Care Trust) and SLVS President. Mahinda Palihawadana participated as panellists at the symposium. The relevance of vegetarianism for the creation of a cruelty-free and healthy society was a principal topic of discussion.

Dr E W Adikaram’s 15th death anniversary falls on Dec. 28, 2000. He can be counted among the few very uncommon public figures of Sri Lanka during the 20th century.

Dr Adikaram began life as an ardent traditional Buddhist. Listening to a talk at the Dhamma (Buddhist religious) school at age 14, his compassion for animals was heightened and he gave up meat-eating. He remained a vegetarian to the very end of his life. In later times he said that he was vegetarian not in order to gain religious merit or avoid its opposite, but simply because meat came from the killing of animals.

As a young man, he entered Colombo University College (then an affiliate of the University of London) and did the first-year examination with science and mathematics, but later switched to the study of Pali and Sanskrit. He proceeded to England on a government scholarship and did graduate studies at the London School of Oriental Studies, securing a master’s degree in 1931 and the Ph.D. in 1933, based on the thesis “Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon” which has been hailed as a model of careful research.

On his return, he obtained a teaching position at Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, a grant-aided school run by the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS), saying he would not serve under the British government in any capacity. Having read documents on the administration of Ceylon at the British Museum Library, he felt deeply aggrieved and was keen to join forces with others who worked for a nationalist and Buddhist revival and the overthrow of the imperial yoke. A personal friend of Drs N.M. Perera and Colvin R. de Silva, who went to become stalwarts of the Leftist Movement of Sri Lanka, he would have joined them in their LSSP political party, but for the fact that he was totally against the use of violence to achieve any purpose whatsoever. He had already become an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, and joined the Navajeevana movement of Mr. Jayawardhana of Wellampitiya, a Gandhian who changed his name to Jayaramdas and advocated the wearing of home-spun khadi and the consumption of country rice in place of imported foods that were then fashionable among the middle class people of the time.

In 1934, Dr. S.A. Wickramasinghe, then General Manager of BTS schools, asked Dr Adikaram to take over the Principalship of Ananda Sastralaya. Dr Adikaram lost no time to create in his school what he envisioned as a true Buddhist atmosphere. He made the diet of the students’ hostel vegetarian and tobacco and alcohol were forbidden within the premises, whatever the function or occasion. In spite of his detractors, whose main complaint was that he was an ‘extremist’, Dr A. became a hugely successful Principal. He championed the cause of Buddhist education and campaigned against Christian missionaries, although he entertained a profound respect for the personality of Jesus Christ. The name Adikaram became a household word among Buddhist workers all over the country and a bye-word for honesty, forthrightness and courage of conviction. His school was a unique institution and those who passed through its portals imbibed the Adikaram spirit at least to a little extent. For many, it was a privilege to be part of the team.

If Dr A. was ‘extremist’ in that he was for going the whole way with his principles, he was no less unconventional when it appeared to him that his ‘principles’ themselves may be suspect.

Someone had given him a booklet which he at first thought was written by Gandhi, but was actually a work by Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti invited his readers to question every belief, every pre-conceived notion and every habit of thought. He had severed connections with the Theosophical movement and was proclaiming a message of inward liberation by understanding the ways of one’s own mind, rejecting the rituals and the paraphernalia of organised religion. He also rejected nationalism as a fatally divisive force in the world. To Dr A. all this seemed to be very much in line with the teachings of the Buddha that one encountered in some of the oldest Buddhist texts, like parts of the Sutta Nipata. He began to turn away from the trappings of organised religion, and in this he felt he was getting nearer to the Buddha rather than turning away from him. He was now ready to question the rightness of what he himself had been advocating thus far in his life.

Sincerity was the hallmark of Adikaram. It was natural therefore, that he was unwilling to continue as Principal of Ananda Sastralaya, knowing full well that he could no longer satisfy the expectations of parents and the management. He had not publicly come out with these sentiments, but in a move that surprised the large circle of his friends and admirers, he resigned from his post in 1945, at age 40 and at the height of his popularity as a dynamic leader and a man of unimpeachable moral stature.

The next 40 years of his life constitutes the story of a vastly changed individual. An in-depth discussion of that would be worth the while but is impossible in a short article. I will only try to highlight in broad strokes a few significant aspects.

Leaving the Sastralaya, Dr A effectively parted company with the social/religious establishment (although of course he sporadically returned to it for short spells). For most of the time thereafter, what he did was essentially to engage in a process of self-examination in tandem with an examination of the psychological implications of the habits and activities of religion and society. In the late nineteen forties or early in 1950, he started contributing a series of articles to the Lankadeepa in which he publicised these explorations. “I wrote these articles primarily for my own benefit. At any time, one’s mind exists in a state of great confusion. It is either attracted to the things we come across, or is repelled by them; or else it is simply indifferent. The problems of life cannot be resolved by such a mind. An effective and clean mind can come about only when one has seen what now makes it ineffective and unclean. Therefore, for some time now, I have been trying to examine ruthlessly the deep-seated ideas and thoughts that pass through my mind. What I am presenting in these articles are the results of that examination.”

Dr A’s articles on religious practices evoked great public interest. What he wrote about the “self-deceptions” inherent in our religious activities such as the rituals of worship was like a deliberate act of stirring a hornets’ nest. Terrific criticisms were levelled against his views, but he was undeterred. He continued writing provocative articles and soon went on to tackle further sensitive subjects like national customs, national language and national culture. National divisions are based on a grand lie, which ignores the essential oneness of the human species. The foundation of the idea of “my nation” is the idea of “me” and this needless division of humankind in terms of us and them is what has created all those acts of mass murder called war.

Dr A continued speaking in this strain in public assemblies, radio discussions, newspaper articles, pamphlets and books and in small private group discussions. The criticisms levelled at him he treated as an opportunity to explore these issues in greater depth and he invariably relished any opportunity to show the weaknesses of the thinking behind these criticisms. In these exchanges, he displayed not only his sharp wit and quick repartee, but also his quintessential human kindness and cheerful sense of humour. To a man who said that smoking was good for the cold weather he replied “Perhaps, if it is the burning end that you stick in your mouth”. His response to a friend who said, “All this is true, but what can one individual do?” reveals his own motivation better than anything else: “But surely, if you see a drowning man, you won’t refuse to help, just because you can’t rescue all the people who are getting drowned in the world?”

Although Dr A. exposed the loopholes in the arguments of his critics with sharpness and clarity, he never resorted to personal attacks. Many of his critics were Buddhist monks and he answered their criticisms by pointing out that their views were inconsistent with the Buddha’s statements found in the Pali canon, from which he was able to quote freely. As time passed, a considerable number of monks agreed with most of what he said and even admired his intellectual honesty. Sadly, few were able to translate agreement into conviction. His personal friendship with members of the Sangha was such that he could easily say what most others dared not to. One of his frequent sayings was, “If only we could convert some of our monks to Buddhism...” – which, though a joke was also a serious statement.

As he criss-crossed the country holding talks and discussions, he sensed the pulse of society and became conscious of the disasters the nation was to face in the years to come. He was deeply anguished and began to urge his audiences to face this issue squarely. Nothing illustrates this sense of urgency than an appeal to parents that he made in a talk given at Sudarshi Hall, Colombo, on January 1, 1976: “I wonder if you are aware that we are caught today in the jaws of an impending disaster? That we are all falling into an abyss where none of us would want to be? Please consider that in another 15 or 20 years, your children may have to face the gun. That is the reality of the world today. If you see that, will you not want to do something to save them from that disaster? Please don’t think that your children will somehow escape . This is an enormous problem which I wish I had the time to discuss with you for days on end. Don’t think that as a parent you can bring up your children separated from others. They will not grow up without being affected by the influence of radio, newspaper, school and all such things. You can’t bring them up inside a closed room. They will inevitably come to associate with other children. So the parents who love their children must consider, must deeply ponder, how shall we bring up not only our children, but also the children of others.”


Based on his talks and discussions with people in various fora, Dr A published 58 booklets that dealt with various issues ranging from the ill effects of smoking and meat-eating to complex religious and philosophical topics. He also established three institutions that he hoped would contribute to a deeper understanding of the causes that make us confused and callous and so lay the foundation for a saner society. The Young Thinkers’ Club, the Vegetarian Society and the Krishnamurti Centre are those institutions. He devoted a great deal of attention to the Krishnamurti Centre because he felt that Krishnamurti’s teachings are a beacon of much needed light to our confused and embattled minds.

Dr Adikaram passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of December 28, 1985.

Institutions founded by Dr. E.W.Adikaram:

  1. Schools: Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda; Ananda Sastralaya, Matugama; Vidyakara Vidyalaya, Maharagama; Nigrodha Vidyalaya, Gangodawila and branches of Ananda Sastralaya at Ruwanwella and Malabe, now known as Madhya Maha Vidyalayas. All of these are state-run schools at present.

  2. Krishnamurti Centre, Sri Lanka, belongs to the network of study centres in various parts of the world, run by people who are interested in the teachings of J. Krishnamurti.

  3. Taruna Sitivili Samajaya or Young Thinkers’ Forum, for the discussion of contemporary social, religious, ethical and ecological issues. At one time it had over 8000 members, mostly youths, drawn from all parts of Sri Lanka. Defunct since Dr. A’s death.

  4. Sri Lanka Vegetarian Society, Colombo and Matara. The Colombo society was defunct between 1987 and 1997. It was revived and re-vamped in June 1997. See Reviving Dr Adikaram’s Vegetarian Society.

Principal Publications of Dr. Adikaram:

  1. Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon, 1946

  2. Catalogue of Pali and Sinhalese Manuscripts at the Theosophical Society Library, Adyar

  3. The Pali Reader

  4. The Dhammapada, an English Translation

  5. Asoka Lipi (Sinhala translation of the Inscriptions of Asoka)

  6. Paramanuva (A Sinhala work on The Atom)

  7. Sitivili

  8. Dr A also edited a Sinhala magazine on science named navina vidyava, wrote a series of school texts on General Science and numerous newspaper articles on a variety of subjects such as social criticism, physical and environmental sciences etc.


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Be a lamp unto Yourself
As the Buddha was dying, Ananda thero asked who would be their teacher after death.
He replied to his disciple -

"Be lamps unto yourselves.
Be refuges unto yourselves.
Take yourself no external refuge.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.
And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead,
Shall be a lamp unto themselves,
Shall betake themselves as no external refuge,
But holding fast to the truth as their lamp,
Holding fast to the truth as their refuge,
Shall not look for refuge to anyone else besides themselves,
It is they who shall reach to the very topmost height;
But they must be anxious to learn."

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