Most. Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Anunayake Thera (Left) the Chancellor of Sri Lanka Jayawardhanapura University of Sri Lanka, attending the 30th Anniversary of Inter-religious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace held at Japan Kyoto International Conference Centre, Mt Hiel and Seiryuken on 3-4 August 2017. The late Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera is seen with the representative of the Pope.
Today the Buddhist World, other religious heads, eminent local and international dignitaries and the lay public have been shocked on hearing of the demise of Ven. Prof Bellanwila Wimalaratana Nayaka Thera, who was the Chief incumbent of the Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya.
Sri Lanka and the world have lost a great Buddhist Leader and most sought after preacher in Buddha Dhamma both locally and overseas. The Thera worked tirelessly to instill human qualities, human values and harmony in people belonging to all religions.
Ven. Prof Bellanwila Wimalaratne Nayaka Thero won great respect from the community at large, was of pleasing character, approachable, charming, held high-profile responsibilities, provided community services and was a voice of reason for national reconciliation- a need of the hour.
The brother of the Thera, Ven Dr Bellanwila Dharmaratana Nayaka Thera, the present Religious Adviser for The Buddhist Library Singapore and Sanghanayake of Singapore was also a tower of strength and a guiding light for the late Ven. Thera.
Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera, a scholarly monk, obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree offering Sinhala, Pali and Economics from the Vidyalankara University of Kelaniya and in 1972 obtained an Honours Degree in Pali language and Literature from the University of Sri Lanka Vidyodaya Campus. He thereafter progressed in his academic achievement by obtaining a PhD from the university of Lancaster, U.K.in 1982.
With these academic and professional achievements the Thera went on to be the Principal at Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana and lecturer at Teacher Training College for Buddhist monks at Ratmalana. At Sri Jayawardenapura University he served as a visiting lecturer, lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor. The Thera also served as a visiting professor at the school of Oriental and African Studies – University of London U.K.
Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratne Thera was the Chancellor of the Sri Jayawardenapura University which he had served in different positions since 1980.
This scholarly monk also held many high-profile responsibilities and served on many Boards of Management at Academic Institutions.
He was a member of University Senate – University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Member Board of Management National Institute of Education – NIE, Academic Committee – Buddhist and Pali University and Academic Committee Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies University of Kelaniya. He was also a member of the National Education Commission, beginning his service in 2006. He was also a member of the Advisory Council of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress.
Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Nayaka Thero served as the Secretary General – Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha of Sriyomopali Mahanikaya and thereafter as the Anunayaka Thero. During this period the Ven. Thera was a tower strength to the Mahanayake Thera Ven. Ittepana Dhammalankara Thera, Ven. Prof. Kotapitiye Rahula Anu Nayaka Thero and the Nayaka Theras of the Kotte Chapter Temples which included the Sri Jayawardenarama Viharaya at Cotta Road. The priest was closely associated with Nayaka Thera Ven. Shastrapathi Devahandiye Sri Pangnasekera Thera. This also gave me an opportunity to meet the priest and other high priests of the Kotte Chapter including the Late Ven Sobhitha Nayaka Thera. Theese priests were always present at various pinkamas and almsgivings at the temple.
The late Ven. Prof Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera
- Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera, a scholarly monk, obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree offering Sinhala, Pali and Economics from the Vidyalankara University of Kelaniya and in 1972 obtained an Honours Degree in Pali language and Literature from the University of Sri Lanka Vidyodaya Campus
- This scholarly monk also held many high-profile responsibilities and served on many Boards of Management at Academic Institutions
- The funeral of late prelate Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera, will be held today at the Sri Jayewardenepura University grounds
- Fearless Ven. Wimalaratana Thera never stood for communal politics nor got onto any such stage during his illustrious life, full of spirits. Nor did he play hosannas to anyone how much mighty he would be since he did not expect any personal
favours from any person
In the international arena Ven. Prof. (Dr) Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera served as the Secretary General of the World Buddhist Sangha Council. He was also a frequent invitee among those who addressed many Buddhist and inter-religious conferences. These included the Inter-religious conference in New Delhi, India in 2009, General Assembly of Religions in Peace in New York in 2008, South Asia Interfaith Harmony Conclave in New Delhi in 2007, 7th General Conference of World Buddhist Sangha Council in Chinese Taipei in 2000 and Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment in Septmeber 2015.
The Ven. Thera was also a frequent visitor to the London Buddhist Viharaya and a close associate of Late Head monk Most Ven. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, the head of London Buddhist Vihara. He delivered the Anagarika Dharmapala 150th Birth Anniversary Oration at the London Buddhist Vihara.
Another noteworthy contribution of this great monk is the contribution he made during his monkhood to enrich Buddhist literature. Not only is he a voracious reader, reputed orator and Dhamma preacher, but also a brilliant writer in both Sinhala and English languages. The Ven. Thera published many books on Buddhism in English and Sinhalese which included: Buddhism Society and Environment, Concept of great Man in Buddhist literature and Iconography, Buddhism among other religions and Facts of Buddhism. He also translated to English Volume 1 of Anguttara Nikaya. ‘Manasa’, the Sinhala Translation of Mind Unshaken penned by Ohn Valters, Sanyutta Nikaya and Minisage Aagam are some of his other works.
The Ven. Thera served as Chairman of the Sri Lanka Community Department Foundation, Bellanwila which assists the people in the village in various community development projects and offers vocational guidance to young school leavers. In 1984 I remember as the Chairman of People’s Bank attending a function at the temple where the bank provided loans for those starting small businesses and helped in the purchase of three wheeled vehicles for the purpose of self-employment. There was also a gift of computers from Singapore to educate the youth in computer applications.
This was only a fraction of the many social service projects carried out under the guidance of the late Thera in the fields of providing education, training, skills development and providing job opportunities for the youth.
In inter-religious activities the priest played his role as the Co-President and founder Member of the Congress of Religions and was the President of Religion for Peace. He always stood for a unitary state and national unity.
He also worked very closely with all religious dignitaries to achieve peace and harmony.
The tributes paid by many religious leaders show the great respect they have for the lead role the late Thera played in inter-religious activities and in his attempts to bring people from all religions together.
The Ven. Thera came to the rescue of the business community at a time of a national crisis. This was the time when there was tension between Sinhalese and Muslims over the Halal registration. This became a very hot issue and was a threat which could have destroyed local businesses and the economy of the country. This was ultimately settled by both parties. Businessmen were assisted by their respective religious leaders with Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thero playing a lead role to ensure there was a peaceful solution to the problem.
The Ven. Thera also participated at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in the year 2008 and gave expert comments as a panelist. The priest also offered guidance to business leaders at all times.
Grand Esala Perehera
The Esala Perahera (Pageant) of the Bellanwila Viharaya commenced in 1950 under the guidance of Ven. Bellanwila Sri Somaratana Nayaka Thera. This was a very difficult period. However the pageant organised by this temple has now developed as a leading Esala Perahera in the Colombo District. The pageant is held with the participation of many traditional dancers, elephants and other processions; all displaying the rich cultural traditions of Sri Lanka. Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratna Thera was responsible for the Esala Perehera developing into one of the most looked forward to pageants in Colombo.
Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha -
The Maha Nayaka Thera of Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha Ven. Dr. Iththepane Dhammalankara Thera, Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Anu Nayaka Thera, Ven. Prof. Kotapitiye Rahula Anu Nayaka Thera, the Committee of the Kotte Maha Sangha, Late Ven Madhuluwawe Sobhitha Nayaka thera, a key member of the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha all combined to be a strong force for all Buddhists. The passing away of the Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Annunayake Thera has left great voids in the Buddha Sasana, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha and the Maha Sanga. The late Thera who was the voice of Sinhala Buddhists, spoke fearlessly in support of activities of national interest and was a guiding light for the youth of this country will be missed by all.
May the Ven. Thera attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!
(This article is authored by Prof. Lakshman R Watawala, President Sri Jayawardenaramaya Temple, Vice President All Ceylon Buddhist Congress and Vice President of the Sasana Sevaka Society (Colombo Branch) Narada Dharmayathanaya)