Great disciplinarian monk who respected true values

by Sarath Edirisinghe, Lanka Daily News, Jan 17, 2008

Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa Anunayake Thera’s death anniversary falls today

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Late Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa Anunayake Thera was born on December 8 1913 in Baddegama into a distinguished family which hails from down-south and he came to Colombo at the age of nine.

He was ordained at the age of nineteen under the pupillage of Ven. Medaduwe Vipulasena Mahanayaka Thera and he received his higher ordination at the age of twenty six. He studied Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil and English at Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda and excelled among others passing Praccena Pandita examination in 1945.

In appreciation of his academic and literary work, the University of Vidyodaya appointed him as a lecturer who taught Sinhala language, Buddhist Philosophy and Civilisation. He was nominated to administrative committee and executive working committee of Ramanna Maha Nikaya respectively in 1953 and 1963.

The University of Sri Jayewardenepura conferred honorary D Litt on Him for his contribution to academic writings. He was adorned with the higher status in the Nikaya as Anunayake-deputy prelate till his passing away on January 17, 1993.

Late Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa Anunayake Thera of the Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya was the founder of Srisudarshana Vidyalaya at Kaikavala, Matale in 1942. Sri Lanka Vidyala Maha Pirivena at Maradana, Colombo in 1947 and Mayurapada Pirivena at Talangama South in 1950.

He extended his service towards the children of the down trodden society in remote villages, such as Dimbulagala, Yakkure, Sorivila and Aralagamvila, and commenced to build up schools with the assistance of the government for them to improve their standards of literacy.

Moreover, in Mumbai, India the school Takshila which was established in 1969 by Anunayake Thera extended a great service for the uplift of Indian children to eliminate caste-based social dissension which accorded the peaceful social revolution by Dr. Ambedkar, the great Indian philosopher.

This was a result yielded from Maha Mahinda International Dharmadutha Society which was set up by Anunayake Thera in 1963.

He led Buddhist missions to other countries in the West and East. He persisted and persuaded the competent monks who were equipped with foreign languages and Buddhist studies to engage in dissemination of Buddhist philosophy in the international arena.

For this purpose in 1954 he ordained 500 children as novices at Independence Square in Colombo.

His determination to accomplish his mission is now carried forward by his erudite pupillage namely, Ven. Dr. Amaravansa Thera, Ven. Professor Madagama Nandawansa Thera, Ven. Dr. Gunasiri Thera, Ven. Dr. Ananda Thera, Ven. Gunavansa Thera, Ven. Sirinivasa Thera and Ven. Aggadhamma Thera in other countries.

Anunayake Thera’s vision towards internationalising Buddhist philosophy made those monks to learn various languages such as Hindi, Japanese, Korean, English and French while maintaining high standards of learning Pali and Sanskrit.

Ven. Elle Gunavansa Thera, Ven. Silogama Wimala Thera and Ven. Bandagiriye Somavansa Thera who follow the foot-steps of the Anunayake Thera with linkage to international missions deal with current social problems and lead philanthropic and social activities for children and needy people.

The Anunayake Thera closely associated the erudite monks such as late Ven. Yakkaduve Pragnarama Thera Ven. Kiriwattuduwe Pragnasara Thera Ven. Henpitagedara Gnanaseeha Thera Ven. Akuratiye Amaravanse Thera and Ven. Horana Vajiragnana Thera and leaders such as Dudley Senanayake, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who dedicated towards Buddhist practices.

He acquainted sensitively the disciplinary rules and practices for the well-being of the Mahasanga in the Nikaya. This recognition and the rapport made him to be conferred the title of Sugathavansalankara tripikakavagisvaracarya Anunayake of Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya.

He belonged to a group of versatile and dedicated monks who had an equal interest in multifaceted activities to benefit the Sri Lankan society.

The Anunayake Thera guided people of various races, for unity and prosperity, of Sri Lanka.

During the last decades of twentieth century due to several causes mainly on account of internal dissension and discord within Buddhist Sangha fraternity and the indifference of the people to uphold and non-observance of the sacred rituals and disciplinary practices, especially due to colonial influence, the Sri Lankans began to assimilate foreign customs, ways of life, dress and langauge resulting in transformation of their local lifestyle.

He kept abreast with other contemporary Nayaka Thera such as late Ven. Akuratiye Amarawansa Nayake Thera to give utmost attention and devotion to religious activities, being aware of the standards to which the Sri Lankans had fallen.

His contribution to flourish Buddhism reflected through his commitment to bring about the Buddhist commission report in 1956 into light. Ode temple which is known as Sri Lanka Vidyalaya Pirivena produced several top notched scholars, at national and international level. One of its greatest teachers, scholar and administrator of all time was most reverent Baddegama Wimalavansa Thera.

He was a successful religious entrepreneur, philanthropist, indeed of the great erudite monks of Sri Lanka in modern times. He was a fabulous teacher who got thousands of monks and laymen to learn freely with available facilities during his life time. He wanted all of his pupils to know what the mission they were involved in.

He provided honorary counselling or advice and directions to persons who had aptitude for higher studies. After 1950 there had been no employment for young people who passed Senior School Certificate Examination in Sinhala.

He set up an office for Sinhala national language at Ode temple. It is no wonder, with such guidance over seventy five per cent of the students of Sri Lanka Vidyalaya Pirivena walked into the universities.

Amazingly what an output here was, some entered the Sri Lankan administrative service, some became academies in the universities, and some head the private sector.

One should not falter to mention the graduate, lawyer and the prestigious politician Mahinda Rajapaksa the President of Sri Lanka as one of the renowned student who boomed under the pupillage of Anunayake Thera.

The Anunayake Thera vividly reflected practising discipline himself and set an example to others by deed as well. Being a Great disciplinarian of par excellence he taught everyone to respect to true values. His exemplary character induced monks as well the laymen to practise values and to apply them in day to day life.

He devoted to uphold the Vinaya and scholarship among monks. Ven. Nayake Thera had powerful and persuasive influence for the good of his generation and for the future generation’s time to come in. He was acclaimed by the certainty of his enduring impact on generations yet unborn.

Undoubtedly Anunayake Thera had courage vision, and character and he was full of efficiency and industry. In 1958, he advocated communal harmony to restore peace and rebuild the ruined living conditions by providing houses for the people in Trincomalee following the communal riots.

Moreover, he instilled the spirit of selfless, social and religious service and high patriotic endeavour. In 1960, a training centre for disabled was set up in Hokandara, Sri Lanka.

The Anunayake Thera was a multidimensional and multifaceted personality who adorned everything whatever he touched and undertook, and infused new life into it and made it living institution.

In all spheres such as working for people and reforming the society we could see the imprint of his personality and the versatility of his genius. He opened the eyes of new generation to an entirely new literary genre. He was above all else, a committed, engaged intellectual who was one of the finest monks of his day.

His writings such as Sinhala Tupavansaya, Jinacarita Vyakyava, Darmapradipika Sanskaranaya, Sankya Shabdakosaya, Balabodhini Sannaya, Demala Vyakaranaya and Bhasha Parinamaya are classic literal creations with highest academic value. He wrote 28 texts from which 11 contributed to perennial collection of Sinhala classics which stood for his scholarly credit.

He was dedicated towards through his writings to make the people educated morally and ethically. His wide readership benefited very much from his broad knowledge couched in his own style of his writings.

He was also a prolific writer; he rendered an unforgettable service through his brilliant writings by enlightening politicians, academics and scholars in Sri Lanka.

It is notable to quote a paragraph which contains the very crux of his thinking on the Sri Lankan ideology.

He was very active and productive to furnish to provide guide lines with prominent figures, such as, “It is the characteristic of an intelligent community, understanding realities according to contemporary needs and moulding the behavioural patterns.

In this endeavour the youth have to lead the task. In the perspective of Sri Lankan society, the Buddhist monks had been carrying out this objective with understanding over 2000 years.

Giving up those for being old and embracing for being novel - both are weaknesses. The world contracts so as to be a courtyard of the same house. Hence, we have to be mindful about mimicking and wrong view”.

Even in the Sri Lankan national policies, irrespective of political distortions, through his knowledge of all religions he appraised our national culture and heritage in the perspective of Buddhist thinking.

This versatile erudite monk passed away leaving a great fleet of pupillage with great calibre. Ven. Nayake Thera will be continuously remembered as we owe a deep sense of gratitude to as he hailed from the descending generations of great disciples of the Buddha.

The fraternity of Buddhist monks and Buddhists in general respect Anunayake Thera for his devotion to preserve Buddha Sasana which includes Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha through which Anunayake Thera contributed to uphold standards of Sri Lankan community.

May he Attain Nibbana.