Ven Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Maha Swaminweahanse
Reproducing in ectronic media in memory of his death anniversay which fell on 23 August) The 99th birthday of the Most Ven. Aggamahapanditha Balangoda Anandamaitreya Mahanayake Thero was celebrated at The Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre, Kingsbury, North West London on 23 August 1994. The Ven. Mahanayake was observing the lent of Rainy Season (Vassna Retreat) in London at the time. Addressing the large gathering on this occasion Ven. Thera said : ‘ You are celebrating my birthday and I am reaching my 99th year. That means my life span is fast coming to an end. Is this a thing to celebrate ? Well ! as for me, it is a thing for celebration, because nearer I go towards death happier I feel, as I know nearing my death means I am moving towards a new birth. My humble wish is to be reborn over and over again among human beings for the service of the Buddha Dhamma. In this life I could not fulfil my wish to its pristine purity. But I know in my next life I will be more influential, better learned, much stronger and capable of carrying out my service to propagate Buddhism in the world. It is common knowledge in Sri Lanka that my aspiration is to attain Buddha hood some day in the distant future. Perhaps it will be decided when I see Lord Maitreya’. Q. I am sure people in Sri Lanka would like to know something about your life prior to your priesthood. Would you like to talk about it? A. I was born on 23 August 1896 to Heenmenike and Mathies Appuhamy. Fourteen days after I was born my mother had died and my saddened father had left the village altogether. It was my uncle Dingirihamy Mudalali (father’s brother) and his wife Yasohamine who brought me up. To me they were my parents. Q. What were you called in your childhood, and what made you to enter priesthood? A. My (gihi) name was Punchi Mahattaya. At the age of 9 an eminent figure from the Mahabodhi Society, Brahmacharya Walisinghe Harrischandra visited my school, Kumara Vidyalaya, in 1905, and delivered a speech on Buddhist way of life. Having listened to his talk, I thought I should follow the true Buddhist path and be a model like the gentleman himself. Those days everyone respected and honored monks. At the age of 15, after a ‘ battle’ with my ‘parents’ to obtain their blessing to take up robes, I received their consent in 1911. Finally I was ordained as a ‘Samanera’, at Nandaramaya, Balangoda Udumulla Temple, which was also built by my uncle Dingiri Mudalali. Q. In a spiritual context, how would you explain the moral decadence of the people in Sri Lanka over the years? A. Towards the latter part of the British rule Sri Lankans lived a happy and a pious life. Their aim was to uphold their culture and religion. When foreign influence was encroaching upon the Lankan society people like Anagarika Dharmapala fought against such tide waves. They foresaw the impact and the damage the foreign influence was going to have on the Country.
That was the main purpose set forth to oust the British and seek Independence. But once we received our Independence, our National leaders, in my opinion, did not understand the very purpose of achieving that freedom. Therefore, they carried on as before, and the result was that the country went from bad to worse. Q. We didn’t really reap the benefits out of our Independence, is that what you mean? A. During the British rule, at least the Europeans listened to our peoples’ claims and their agitation, but our leaders turned a deaf ear to any public outcry. By Sri Lanka becoming more liberalized, it caused a steep decline in cultural and religious values. Soon, people started to divide themselves into various political groups, whereas during the Colonial regime there was complete unity among the people. That unity was associated with preserving Buddhism and our cultural values, but today’s deterioration on moral cultural, economical and spiritual values are due to this division of our own...
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