Funeral of late Sangha Nayaka Thera of Great Britain

by TISSA MADAWELA, Lanka Everything, Dec 21, 2006

London, UK -- Ignoring the biting winter cold hundreds of friends and devotees of the late Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Maha Nayaka Thera, gathered at the West London Crematorium in Kensal Green, London to bid farewell at his funeral.

In the afternoon a religious ceremony including the Pansakula was held at the London Buddhist Vihara where the late Thera's body was kept for public to view and pay respect. More than 100 Buddhist Priests from various temples in England, Sri Lanka, Europe and the United States of America attended the ceremony. Late Nayaka Thera's sister and her family were also there. The temple premises over flowed with grieving devotees who came in their thousands to pay respect to the most venerable Nayaka Thera.

Acting Head of London Buddhist Vihara Ven. Bogoda Seelavimala Thera presented the Anusasana. Other leading Sri Lankan priests who attended the ceremony also paid tributes to the Nayaka Thera representing Maha Sangha in general in their respective countries. At the crematorium many from different faith groups as well as Buddhist temples and other groups that the late Maha Nayaka Thera had associations paid their tributes. Many spoke of the late Mahanayaka Thera's dedication to the work of spreading the word of Dhamma, unprecedented kindness shown towards every one who came to him for advice, assistance or guidance and tireless commitment to the programme of inter faith dialogue.

High Commissioner for Sri Lanka H.E. Kshenuka Seneviratne read a special condolence message sent by his Excellency President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse. In his message, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: "I was deeply sorrowed to hear the news that the Most Venerable Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, the Viharadhipathi of the London Buddhist Temple and the Chief Sangha Nayaka of the United Kingdom passed away. Among many recent Sri Lankan emissaries engaged in propagating Buddhism, the late Sangha Peethru Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was in the true sense of the term, an outstanding proponent of the word of the Buddha.

The venerable Thera, born in 1928 entered the Buddhist order in 1943 and received higher ordination at the Malwatta Maha Viharaya, Kandy, in 1949. He received his basic education in the Pathiraja Pirivena, Agalawatta and mastered his knowledge of Buddhism at Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda to receive his "Rajakeeya Panditha" degree. He passed his B.A. Honours at the Vidyodaya University. He functioned as the Parivenadhipathy of the Paramadhammachetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana and the Principal of the Pirivena Training College of the same Pirivena to render an enormous service to his motherland.

He received his Masters in Sanskrit from the University of Calcutta, India, and was well-versed in the languages of Pali, English, Hindi, and Sinhala and he was highly proficient in the knowledge of the "Thripitakaya". At the request of the late Ven. Professor Hammalawa Saddhatissa Nayaka Thera, the Ven. Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera migrated to the United Kingdom in 1967 and earned public accolade immensely for his propagation of Buddhism in Europe to stabilise religious harmony and world peace.

The oldest of the Buddhist institutions established in Europe under the patronage of Anagarika Dharmapala was the London Buddhist Temple. As a longstanding Viharadhipathi of that temple, the late venerable Nayaka Thera imparted among the Europeans, the pure Buddhism lucidly while propagating and promoting Buddhism. These services, which brought international fame to Sri Lanka in large measure, I do appreciate deeply.

The late Venerable Nayaka Thera, at the request of the English Buddhist people founded the Buddhist Association of the United Kingdom in 1974 and occupying the position as its Director established a Dhamma school to promote the Buddhism education among children. In recognition of his Sanskrit literary compositions, he was given a doctorate by England and the Myanmar Government honoured him with the title "Aggamaha Saddhamma Jothikadhaja" while Maha Chulalankara University of Thailand bestowed upon him the honourary title "Dharmadutha Visarada".

The great wisdom, wide book knowledge, sharp intelligence, talents accrued as a Pandit, international awareness, his mission of Dhamma propagation and selfless service, all of which were his innate qualities brought upon him all this fortune. He occupied numerous positions in Buddhist as well as inter-religious organisations and was the Vice President of the World Buddhist Monks' Congress. He was an acknowledged academic as a prolific book writer and as a Lecturer of several Universities. After he was appointed as the "Sangha Nayaka of the United Kingdom" the United Kingdom Government bestowed upon him the honourary title of M.B.E. a title awarded to the people of distinction. That is a great honour to Sri Lanka.

The death of a Sangha Peethru who has an illustrious record of 40 years in the Buddhist clergy, who was an international emissary of Buddha Dhamma and an ardent follower of Buddha's path of living is a great sorrow and an unbearable loss to the country. On behalf of the people of Sri Lanka and on my own behalf I pay my homage to the late Ven. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, the Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain and wish him the supreme bliss of "Nibbana" while conveying my gratitude to United Kingdom Government and to the innumerable devotees who looked after him while he was domiciled in Europe.