It is strange that the 50th death anniversary of Buddhist revivalist L.H. Mettananda went almost unnoticed, even at Ananda College where he was Principal from 1945 to 1953. We wonder whether the present generation of Anandians is even aware of his contributions to the school and Buddhist rights in general.

Mettananda passed away at the age of 73 on November 1, 1967.

In May this year a reader calling himself ‘Ratnapala’ commenting on an article on him in the Lanka Web, wrote:

“What’s become of the present day Anandians and Nalandians? – Only a few are left of those glorious Anandians tutored by Messrs. L H Mettananda, Col G W Rajapakse and the like. This is not to belittle the Ranaviruwos led by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who masterminded the victory over Tamil Racist Terrorism in Sri Lanka.

I have met many an Anandian, Nalandian and many more from the Buddhist schools that came into being during Col Olcott/ Anagraika Dharmapala times.

Educational institutions

I found it strange that I could ‘meet’ only a few, who had an affinity for the values that Col Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala would have loved to see from those schooled from these educational institutions. The most disappointing trait was their readiness to follow everything that is Royal / S. Thomas / Trinity – literally all western values – a kind of dog like devotion to their ways and manners. Beginning with ‘big matches’, old boy organisations, get-togethers and famously dinner-dances, they blindly follow the ethos of Royal / S. Thomas / Trinity and St Bridgets et al. They hardly had any pride for their country, history, culture or even Buddhism.”

Lokusathu Hewa Mettananda – better known as L.H. Mettananda – was born on March 19, 1894 at Kalawadumulla, Ambalangoda. He was the guiding spirit behind the Buddhist Commission Report that accelerated the United National Party’s ignominious defeat in the 1956 Parliamentary Elections, reducing that party’s number of seats in Parliament to eight.

Mettananda noticed that the Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake’s Government was neither prepared to give Government patronage to Buddhism as in the pre-colonial days nor was it keen to give to the Buddhists the same rights the Christians enjoyed in all spheres of society. Had the UNP rulers been far-sighted enough to enforce at least the latter policy, this country would have been spared of the many upheavals that followed. It is very unfortunate that UNP election manifestos failed to focus on the restoration of the rights of the majority which were trampled en masse by the British Raj.

Mettananda’s invaluable contribution

If not for Mettananda’s invaluable contribution, the watershed in Sri Lanka’s post-independence period i.e. 1956, which led to the socio-cultural emancipation of the vast majority of the people of this country, would not have been possible. Though front line politicians grabbed the lions’ share of the power and glory for the nation’s huge turn around in 1956, posterity is likely to concede a much greater share of credit to Mettananda and the Buddhist movement that he led in the first two decades following independence in 1948, for the sweeping changes that took place in the religious, educational and cultural spheres.

Among the many contenders to shoulder the mantle of Anagarika Dharmapala’s legacy and to continue his work to restore Buddhism to its due place in Lankan society particularly in the difficult transitional phase of the country’s history is L.H. Mettananda.

He gave voice to the calls of the Buddhists to re-establish a Buddhist Social Order as existed in the pre-colonial period, though has not materialized to date due to the machinations of anti-Buddhist forces and other dubious elements.

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