The 146th anniversary of the birth of Anagarika Dharmapala
By Berni Wijesekera
The 146th anniversary of the birth of Anagarika Dharmapala fell on September 17. The entire Buddhist world commemorated it. The Mahabodhi Society celebrated it as a national hero’s day in Bihar, in Varnasi (Isipatana). Born to a rich family from the South, the Hewawitharana clan of H. Don Carolis, Anagarika being fully aware with the misery of the masses gave up a luxurious life to share his life with the poorest of the poor. Because of the downfall of Buddhist education during the colonial rule he fought a relentless battle to give Buddhist education its rightful place, while always believing and respecting all other religions. He had his early education at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia and later at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena.
Moral forceHe represented a dynamic moral force that united all races and dedicated his entire life to serve the poor sans caste, race or religion. With his inborn wisdom to overcome ignorance, he said in a newsletter, in Sahanapur, Punjab (India) that though there was enough food to feed all, caste, creed and other such obstacles were making millions suffer. His compassionate heart and dedication in eradicating poverty opened the eyes of the affluent Western world to help poor nations to face this issue. Next to Dr BR Ambedkar, Anagarika Dharmapala proved to be the greatest Buddhist missionary who was involved in services to humanity.
Anagarika, besides lecturing in the Dhamma, firmly rooted the Mahabodhi Society concept in India, instilling the concepts of righteous living, respecting parents, elders, benefactors, rich or poor without consideration to race. He also encouraged vegetarianism.
Life in Buddha
Nursed and nurtured by the Mahabodhi Society in Buddhagaya, the Head Priest Pelawatte Sri Seewalee and his juniors are doing an excellent job in carrying on his work. There is a school for all, irrespective of their cast or creed where Sinhala, English and the mother tongues of students are used. Pirith is chanted in Sinhala.
Mr. Upali Gunasekera, speaking on Anagarika Dharmapala, maintains that the work carried out by the great leader, who sought social justice and strove to improve Buddhist education in the country, was instrumental in inculcating moral and spiritual values in the young of this country.
He says: “The Anagarika had instilled strong values against killing animals for food, again a significant principle of the Buddha. We cannot forget the immense work carried out by him for Buddhism and its future both in Sri Lanka and in India.”
The Principal of Nalanda College, Colombo 10
Mr. Ranjith Jayasundera, said that Anagarika Dharmapala, created a renaissance in Sinhalese and Buddhist education. He is a national hero who should be remembered for all time. He had a vision to serve humanity by coaxing them to emerge from dark valleys, to be courageous and truthful. The Anagarika commanded respect even at international religious forums.
“Today schools like Ananda, Dharmaraja, Nalanda, Mahinda, Dharmasoka, Maliyadeva wouldn’t exist if not for his vision. One can’t do great things but small things with loving kindness” was Mr. Jayasundera’s view.