A lifetime spent in spreading Buddhism | Daily News

A lifetime spent in spreading Buddhism

Today marks the 73rd birth anniversary of Most Venerable Banagala Upatissa Thera who is admired and respected even by other religious leaders including leaders of the Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jain faiths. The Thera has been spreading the principles of Buddhist philosophy around the world for nearly six decades.

The Thera was born on January 5, 1950, in Banagala, a remote village in the Matara Morawaka Koralaya. He was ordained at the age of 17 as a student of Ven. Banagala Seelarathana Thera and Ven. Hadigalle Pangnatissa Nayaka Thera, who was the main Sanghanayake of Dambadiva (India).

Since 1961, Ven. Banagala Upatissa Thera has been living in Varanasi. He received his basic education from schools in Vidisha and then graduated from Varanasi University with a degree in archaeology. He then studied pre-school education in Japan with the help of Takiko Yoshida. The Sapugaskanda Yoshida Pre-School, which was started with Yoshida’s donation, has now become the popular Yoshida International School in the area. Nineteen pre-schools in Sri Lanka were established across the country.

The Thera was greatly respected by Japanese Buddhists and established Japan’s first Theravada temple called Lankaji Temple in Sawara in 1984. He later became the Chief Congregant of Japan. Ven. Banagala Upatissa Nahimi became the President of the Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Society when present Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena held the position of Minister of Sacred Sites and Urban Development.

Buddhist devotees from many countries including India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and many other countries visit Sanchi annually, where the Thera worked to build a fully equipped four-storied pilgrimage centre.

During the humanitarian operations, he worked with Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders of the country to provide relief to the war-affected people in the Northern Province. For that purpose, by building the inter-faith organization for peace, he acted as its convener and currently as its president, and committed himself to a great work to unite these estranged Sri Lankans in brotherhood.

It is significant that Ven. Banagala Upatissa Thera is the only Buddhist monk invited to address the International Islamic Conference and the Asian Christian Conference.

When the late Pope Benedict XVI visited Sri Lanka in January 2015, outside of his tour plan, he came to the Maligakanda Agrasravaka Temple at the last moment and met Ven. Banagala Upatissa Thera.

Among the Buddhist people of India as well as among the people of other religions, Ven. Banagala Uptissa Thera is held in high esteem.

There is also a very close relationship between the present Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Ven Upatissa Thero. The diplomatic community says that “Rev. Banagala is one of the few people in the world who can find time to meet Prime Minister Modi at any time”.



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