It gives me great pleasure to wish my dear friend, Ven. Dr. Pannila Ananda Nayaka Maha Thera, a very happy 73rd birthday. Even though I am four years older Ven. Ananda and I have tracked a great deal of mileage together on this current earthly journey. He has been one of my closest associates and confidantes since he was ordained in 1957 by his three teachers: the late Ven. Kongoda Pemananda Nayaka Thera, Ven. Walgammulle Pannarama Nayaka Maha Thera, and Ven. Ellakkala Dhammarama Maha Thera. Ven. Ananda and I were even roommates together at University of Kelaniya way back in the day.
Ven. Ananda has many talents and he is a born leader. To begin with he is an accomplished linguist; having first mastered Pali with Honors in university, he became fluent in Japanese after he received a scholarship for advanced study at Kyoto University in Japan, learned Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan; and mastered Spanish while here with me in Los Angeles.
I invited him to join me here in America in 1978, and together we became the co-founders of the Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara; at that time the second Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara. In such capacity we both faced numerous difficulties – including being ridiculed, stoned, and mocked at by strangers on the streets for wearing our orange robes. At the time, most people had never met or even seen a Buddhist monk in the US, and we were continually called Hare Krishnas and derided for our appearance.
Ven. Ananda has many talents and he is a born leader. To begin with he is an accomplished linguist; having first mastered Pali with Honors in university, he became fluent in Japanese after he received a scholarship for advanced s tudy at Kyoto University in Japan, learned Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan; and mastered Spanish while here with me in Los Angeles
In those early days we were even put down by some of the conservative members of the early Sri Lankan immigrants who criticized us because we were young, progressive in our thinking, and interested in reaching out to American people so we could spread the Buddha’s teachings here. Confronting these people required compassion and a great deal of patience, but eventually we founded Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara along with Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara Nayaka Maha Thera on Crenshaw Boulevard in 1980; we are still here today. This was a turning point for both of us. Ven. Ananda I went on to co-found the Houston Buddhist Vihara in 1988 and he became its first Abbot. Ven. Ananda was influential in bringing Ven. Alavala Subuthi to America and in the subsequent founding of the Las Vegas Buddhist Vihara. This was also the case of bringing Ven. Watogala Saranasiri to in this country; both of whom were resident monks at Dharma Vijaya before we supported them in the founding of their temples in Las Vegas nevada and Riverside, California.Ven. Kaburagalle Nanda Maha Thera was also later brought to America by Ven. Pannila Ananda, and he has since founded the Dallas Buddhist Vihara and developed and Houston Buddhist Vihara, Texas.
These aforementioned temples were the pioneer temples in the US; there are now over 100 Sri Lankan temples in various parts of the country. Over the years Ven. Ananda has assisted many of our new American temples.
He was credited for bringing Ven. Dr. Basnagoda Rahula to America, and sending him to the university here to become a Professor of English Literature; he is currently the Abbot of the Houston Buddhist Vihara.
Ven. Ananda, with the support of donors in Taiwan, built 35 school buildings for Gampaha District children, which are now maintained by the Government. He also built a special wing for monks in the Wathupitiwala Hospital and furnished it with a very expensive and high-tech MRI machine.
Ven. Ananda started the Pathiraja Pirivena in Attanagala, which is used for the training of samaneras – not only young boys from Sri Lanka, but from rural Cambodia and Bangladesh as well. Since its founding, hundreds of new monks for the Sangha were trained at this wonderful facility. In addition to the pirivena, twelve temples in the Attanagala area are also under the administrative aegis of Ven. Ananda, and his leadership in the Sri Lankan Sangha is highly esteemed.
He was awarded with the title of Mahaopajjraya by the Malwatta Chapter of the Sangha – along with a Doctorate degree. He is currently the Preceptor for all monks in Sri Lanka that receive higher ordination from this Chapter.
My friend, Ven. Ananda, is a highly-accomplished Sangha member, and I am very proud to have been associated with him for over sixty years. I know that he will continue to perform many more meritorious deeds in the coming years, and I wish him long life and the Blessings of the Triple Gem.
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