'Dharmapala's contribution transcended national boundaries'

by Upali Rupasinghe, Lanka Daily News, September 21, 2005

New Delhi, India -- "The contribution made by late Anagarika Dharmapala for the revival of Buddhism in India and for fostering and propagating it in Sri Lanka, Asia and in the West are enormous and his noble services for the benefit of mankind will be remembered by generations to come," said Sri Lanka's Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai Sumith Nakandala, addressing the 141st birth anniversary commemorative meeting of late Anagarika Dharmapala in Kolkata.

"His untiring efforts for the restoration of places of Buddhist interest in India such as Buddha Gaya and Sarnath are living, testimony to his dedication towards the Buddha Dharma," he said.

The commemorative meeting which was held at the Sri Dharmarajika Chetiya Vihara at the College Square, the first Buddhist temple constructed by Anagarika Dharmapala and enshrined with the relics of the Buddha was presided over by Justice Syamael Kumar Sen, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, West Bengal.

Earlier in the day there were a number of religious functions performed by residing monks at the Vihara and it was attended by a vast number of members of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, well-wishers and admirers of Anagarika Dharmapala.

A public meeting was started with garlanding the Dharmapala statue by distinguished invitees and administration of Panchaseela by Ven. Sudhammalankara Thera, Deputy General Secretary of the Maha Bodhi Society of India.

Nakandala, referring to the Anagarika's young days in Sri Lanka, said, he was initially inspired by the Buddhist revival movement which was led by Senior Buddhist monks, prominent social workers and national minded philanthropists. The culmination of the Buddhist revival movement was the famous debate led by Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Maha Nayake Thera. It was therefore natural for young Dharmapala to get attracted towards the Buddhist renaissance movement.

He was greatly inspired by association with Hikkaduwe Siri Sumangala Maha Thera, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and several other Buddhist and national leaders. "Over the years, he got assimilated into the main stream of the Buddhist revival movement and gradually became the key-spokesman for the movement. The works of Angarika Dharmapala were also related to the cultural revival of Sri Lanka. This period was also characterised by anti-imperialism in the island," he said.

Angagarika Dharmapala's contribution in different ways and means for the uplift of Buddhism after 'Ashoka the Great' is another chapter in the history of modern Buddhism. His work had transcended national boundaries.

His participation in the World Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893 is an important event in the history of Buddhism. His main paper on 'The World's Debt to Buddha' delivered there impressed the representatives of world religions. During his life time late Dharmapala had travelled widely carrying the noble message of the Buddha, he added.

Celebrating the birth anniversary of one of the great sons of the mankind should invariably remind us the relevance of the Buddha's message in the 21st century.

The message of the Buddha and what the Buddha has taught becomes more relevant today as it was the Buddha who had openly pronounced the importance of culture, religion and political pluralism. Apparently, these are the main pillars of the liberal democracy as it exists today. In liberal democracy, which is the most practical and conducive mode of governance, Buddhism will be called up to play a major role in the years to come.

It is therefore, important for us to realise these challenges and be prepared for the future in a world which is becoming highly globalised.

The best contribution we could pay for the late Anagarika Dharmapala is to realise these eminent challenges and respond effectively and positively," Mr. Nakandala said.

Shri Santosh Bikash Barua, a senior vice-president of the Maha Bodhi Society of India delivering the introduction speech said that it was the Anagarika who revived Buddhism in India after a gap of 800 years and his work is an inspiration to his followers who carry his vision and mission forward.
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