Establishment of the Sri Lanka Sangha Sabha

Lanka Daily News, May 20, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- August 26, 2001 marked another milestone in Dhammadutta work in the South East Asian region. For the first time in modern history, Sri Lankan monks on Dhammadutta mission outside Sri Lanka have deemed it fit to organise themselves under one sangha umbrella group to work together for the betterment of the society with the guidance of the Buddha Sasana.

The newly formed Sangha Sabha will serve as a platform for bhikkhus from Malaysia and Singapore to exchange ideas on training Dhammadutta work and techniques, socio-welfare work, etc.

There is also a long-term plan to recruit suitable bhikkhus from Sri Lanka to undergo training in English and Mandarin language proficiency, public relations, Buddhist apologetics, Sutta Study and Commentaries, local cultures, etc. before dispatching them to various parts in the region to meet the needs of the ever growing demand for Dhamma for Buddhist seekers in Malaysia and Singapore.

The President of the Sangha Sabha is the Most Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera of the world renowned Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Bhante who hails from Kirinde, Matara has also been the Chief Sanghanayaka for Malaysia and Singapore since 1965. The Sangha Sabha consists of 35 Bhikkhus from 18 Buddhist temples and societies in Malaysia and Singapore.

The previous night a group of 26 Sri Lankan bhikkhus held an all night chanting to bless the sovereign, the government, the people and the nation on the occasion of celebrating the Independence Day of Malaysia which fell on 31 August. The Maha Pirith Ceremony was initiated by Ven. Dhammananda in 1965 and has been held every year in the month of August uninterruptedly to commemorate Malaysia's independence from the British in 1957. Prior to the Maha Pirith recited by Sri Lankan bhikkhus from the Vajrayana and Mahayana tradition are also invited to chant their suttras. This is to underscore the great sense of fellowship enjoyed by the Buddhists of various traditions in Malaysia.

The Maha Pirith was listed as one of Malaysia's national events in conjunction with Independence Day. The occasion was graced by Datuk Sri Dr. Lim, Keng Yaik, the Minister of Primary Industries.The contribution of Sri Lankan bhikkhus to the rebirth and development of Buddhism in South East Asia has been immense, especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. This revival which began in the early 20th century has been sparked mainly by the exodus of Lankans to Malaya who brought with them able religious teachers from Lanka to cater to the Sinhala devotees' spiritual and cultural needs.

Some of these bhikkhus however have gone beyond their primary duties of catering to the Sinhalese to serve the greater Buddhist population. Among the notable early bhikkhus were the late Ven. Sri K. Gunaratana Nayaka Maha Thera, the late Ven. Narada Maha Thera, the late Ven. Ananda Mangala Nayaka Maha Thera, the late Ven. Sri P. Pemaratana Nayaka Maha Thera, Ven. Mahaweera Nayaka Maha Thera and Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera. Both Ven. Mahaweera and Ven. Dhammananda together have a span of 120 years of Dhammadutta work in the region between them.

These venerable theras have achieved great success in their Dhammadutta mission in this region and truly contributed to the rebirth of Buddhism in the region after a lapse of almost a thousand years. They have also inspired a second generation of able bhikkhus in the likes of Ven. W. Sarada Maha Thera, Ven. B. Dhammaratana Thera, Ven. E. Indaratana Thera, Ven. B. Saranankara Maha Thera, Ven. K. Dhammaratana Thera, Ven. K. Sri Pemaloka Maha Thera, Ven. N. Sumana Thera, Ven. Dr. K. Gunaratana Thera, Ven. G. Udita Thera, the list goes on.

The number of Si Lankan bhikkhus who came to the region in the last century was small and most of the success achieved by these theras was in an individual capacity. The Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society (SAWS) being the oldest Buddhist Society in Malaysia formed in 1895 decided to carry out Venerable Dhammananda's suggestion to convene a Sri Lankan Sangha Conference to chart the future direction of Dhammadutta work carried out by Sri Lankan bhikkhus in the region who in the year 2001 have reached forty in number. This would give a great synergistic effect by creating platform for exchange of ideas while adding strength to spearhead certain landmark directions in Dhammadutta work for the region.

The Sangha Sabha will meet regularly to achieve its objectives and to organise regular Sangha meetings to chart future directions.

The future of Buddhism depends on a solid foundation of Sila. A strong Sangha founded on Sila and supported by a community of Dhamma- inspired lay persons will ensure that the Buddha Sasana will progress, not decline.