Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera, the last of pupils of the Most Venerable Pelene Vajiragnana Mahanayake Thera, passed away peacefully on February 17, creating a deep void in the Bhikkhu Sasana. Born on December 24, 1914, Ven. Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera was born to Simon Rajapaksa and Karuna Rajapaksa who named him Dharmadasa, which one could say, when we appraise the life he led, forestall his future. He had his early education at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Ampitiya and learnt Buddha Dhamma at the DhammaSchool in Alukgolla Raja Maha Viharaya. He had his ordination on May 6, 1936 and higher ordination on July 30 the same year. He was over 21 years of age when he became a monk and took that momentous step out of his own conviction.
My association with this noble personality commenced in 1948 as a student of Vajirarama Dhamma School of which he was principal and Venerable Narada Maha Thera the patron. I still treasure the prize-book received in 1952 with their signatures for my achievement at the ‘senior form’ for coming in the first division at the English Dhamma examination conducted by Colombo YMBA. This association with him along with Ven. Narada Maha Thera, Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Maha Thera (later Mahanayake Thera of Amarapura Dharmarakshitha Mahanikaya) and Ven. Piyadassi Maha Thera profoundly influenced my life. These associations I maintained during my university days at Peradeniya and then after 1958 as member, Hony. Secretary, Vice President, President and President Emeritus of the Sasana Sevaka Society of Maharagama. Finally, he became my preceptor when I received ordination at the age of 80 in March 2015. As in my case, during the lifetime of Ven. Ampitiye Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera who was addressed lovingly as our Loku Hamuduruwo, he would have kindled the lives of thousands of young minds to lead a life beneficial to them and to the society. How fruitful is the life of a monk who is distinguished, disciplined, profound, learned, upholds the noble teachings and leads a life in accordance to the Dhamma.
How fruitful is the life of a monk who is distinguished, disciplined, profound, learned, upholds the noble teachings and leads a life in accordance to the Dhamma
The mission in his life was to bring into being monks with those six qualities he himself possessed. Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Thera and he received the mandate from their teacher the Most Venerable Pelene Vajiragnana Mahanayake Thera and together devoted their lives to accomplish this task. Moulding people is no easy task and some of their pupils abandoned midstream. But we have gems like the Most Venerable Thirikunamale Ananda Mahanayake Thera, Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Maha Thera, Chief Sanghanayake of North America, the late Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera, who jerked to attention the slumbering Buddhist laity of Sri Lanka, Venerable Digamadulle Wimalananda Maha Thera, heading the Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara in Australia, Venerable Hakmana Sumanasiri Maha Thera, who with great devotion heads the 7,000 strong Siri Vajiragnana Dhamma School, started by the late Nayaka Thera in 1975, to name a few. If I list all of them, it will be in hundreds.
One name I am duty-bound to mention is Venerable Menikbove Dipaloka Thera. Seeing a sick Bhikkhu unattended by other Bhikkhus, the Buddha after attending to him personally made this famous statement: “Bhikkhus, you have no mother, you have no father, who might tend to you. If you do not tend to one another, who then will tend to you? Whoever who tends to me, should tend to the sick.”Venerable Dipaloka Thera for 15 long years was the personal attendant to Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula NayakaThera. I can most affirmatively state that Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera reaped in this very life the good kamma he acquired by caring for the novice monks who were in his charge, like a caring mother. I remember how, on many an occasion, he brought up the question of providing nutritious food for young Samanera monks.
I do not think Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera ever wholeheartedly liked newly-trained young monks going abroad on Dhammadutawork. His position was that there was so much to do in Sri Lanka to make this thrice blessed country by the Buddha’s visit a Dharmadvīpa once again. As his wish was not coming true, he ventured into different parts of the country to set up centres for the dissemination of Dhamma. First, he went to Maha Oya and led a very difficult life depending on the daily alms round or pindapāta. We had to bring him back because he fell ill. But the Venerable Thera was successful in establishing outposts at the Bovalawatta forest hermitage, Primrose Vajiraramaya at Kandy, Peradeniya University Viharaya, Ambakote Siri Sugata Tapovanaya at Digana and Katupotakanda hermitage at Mihintale. This was again pioneering work and shows his determination and relentless courage.
He did not recognise me when I worshipped at his feet after my ordination five years ago; I too cannot remember the day he last smiled at me knowingly. A question that has bothered me over and over again is why a person with such noble qualities, who had worked assiduously for the good of many, ending life in this manner. Many years ago, I went to see celebrated Dhamma teacher Ajahn Chah and the same thought crossed my mind. It is no wonder Lord Buddha said Samsāra was unfathomable.
May Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Nayaka Thera attain the bliss of Nibbana!