Great Buddhist revivalist
Anagarika Dharmapala - 146th birth anniversary fell
on September 17:
Text of the speech by Deputy Higher Education
Minister Nandimitra Ekanayake at the 146th birth anniversary of
Anagarika Dharmapala at Mulaganda Kuti Viharaya Varanasi on September
Sri Lanka a very tiny island with a small Sinhala population in
comparison with other countries was subjected to waves of invasions
throughout history, not only the Westerners but also several Indian
communities, Arabian and the King of Jawa invaded but none of them could
capture this country until our own leaders betrayed the freedom of the
It is because of nothing other than the blessings of the Blessed One,
Gautama Buddha, the blessings of the Tooth relics at Dalada Maligawa,
Kandy and Somawathi Pagoda and the blessings of the Sri Maha Bodhi
towards this Nation, whenever the country was in trouble or unstable,
there emerged a leader to save the nation. Great kings like Walagamba,
Gajaba, Dhutugamunu, Wejayabahu and Parakkramabahu the great were such
leaders. Ven Asarana Sarana Saranakkara Sanagaraja was born for the
revival of Buddhism which was on the verge of the extinction during the
latter part of Kandyan period.
Similarly when the country was about to be captured by the LTTE,
President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the reigns of the country and
saved the Nation. It was really a miracle at a time when the powerful
nations of the West forced us to come to a settlement with the
terrorists, ignoring that our Armed Forces under the leadership of the
President completely eradicated the LTTE menace.
Anagarika Dharmapala is a distinguished son of Sri Lanka with many
similarities to Mahatma Ghandhi in India. He too fought in a peaceful
manner against the suppression of the colonial rulers, against the
plight of the Sinhala Nation has fallen into and against the harassments
towards the religion of the Sinhalese, the discrimination against the
Sinhalese and the Buddhists. He was also in the forefront of the
struggle against imperialism and was dedicated to improve the economy of
the Sinhala people.
Since his childhood he was forced to say prayers to the Holy Mary for
some hours each day and study The Bible. But his ideas were fashioned in
conformity to the Buddhist way of life. He later came under the
influence of Mahanayakes like Ven Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thera and Ven
Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.
After meeting with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and Madam Blavatski, he
started to serve his race and religion. There were a very limited number
of schools in the Sinhala areas of the country at that time. Along with
Colonel Olcott and CW Lebdeter, Angarika Dharmapala commenced
establishing Buddhist schools around the country. When his father
expired, Madam Blavatski sent some money to him make use for funeral
expenses. He utilized instead this money to establish Rajagiriya
Anagarika Dharmapala’s services towards Buddhism were tremendous at a
time when even worshipping the Gautama Buddha was prohibited. He played
a leading role to resuscitate Buddhism not only in the Motherland but
also extended his services for the revival of Buddhism in India as well.
In 1891, when Anagarika Dharmapala was on a pilgrimage to the Maha Bodhi
Temple where Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained ‘Buddhahood’,
experienced a shock to find the temple was under the ownership of ‘Mahantha’,
a Shiva priest.
The Buddhist image was transformed into a Hindu icon. Buddhists were
not allowed even to worship. He started a massive campaign with the
assistance of Buddhists around the world to get the ownership of Buddha
Gaya, the most precious holy site to Buddhists, inspired by the thoughts
of Sri Edwin Arnold the author of Light of Asia. Dharmapala after a
difficult struggle for a couple of years, initiated a lawsuit against
Mahantha. After a protracted struggle the court appointed the Maha Bodhi
Society as the caretaker of Buddha Gaya. This Maha Bodhi Society founded
in 1891 was the brainchild of Anagarika Dharmapala. The main objective
was the restoration of Buddhist control over Buddha Gaya, the main site
of the four ancient Buddhist holy places.
In addition, Kushi Nagar the sight of the Enlightened One Gatuama
Buddha’s Parinibbana, has once again became a major attraction for
Buddhists due to the efforts of Dharmapala. This great leader started
building temples in India with the financial assistant of Marie Foster.
He founded the London Buddhist Vihara in 1926 outside the Asian
He established a trust in 1930 and started publishing a Buddhist
journal titled Maha Bodhi to continue his mission for the future
generation. He toured as a Buddhist missionary to Japan. Maha Bodhi
Society later became the centre for propagating Buddhism world over.
His patriotic ideas inspired future leaders to flight for the freedom
of the Motherland from imperialists. This great Buddhist leader was
ordained a Bhikku in 1933 at this Holy land and passed away in December
of the same year at the age of 68.
His last words at the time of his death was that “I would like to be
born again 25 times to spread the Dhamma of the Enlightened One, Gautama