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Most Ven. Brahmanagama Muditha Maha Thera : A visionary for all seasons

19 October 2018 01:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • A distinguished Sanghapitru, a father among the Sangha and an erudite scholar
     
  • Certainly not the average taskmaster monk who was no fun
     
  • Acclaimed in North America as a “temple builder” and a veritable “temple troubleshooter”
     
  • His sagacity resolved the issues plaguing Hilda Jayawardhanaramaya in Ottawa

 


 

A distinguished Sanghapitru, a father among the Sangha, an erudite scholar and a sagacious Buddhist monk, Bhante Muditha, is one of the leading Sri Lankan Buddhist monks in the West who has been engaged in Buddhist missionary work among Buddhist communities across North America for over two decades.   

Today, whatever I am, whatever I have accomplished as a simple Buddhist monk, I owe it all to Bhante Muditha’s caring, continued guidance and spiritual direction.

Bhante Muditha indeed lives up to his name, “Muditha” which means feeling happy and joyous at accomplishments and successes of ones fellow beings.  Bhante Muditha had recruited over 20 young Sri Lankan monks, thus opening opportunities for them to be actively engaged in Buddhist missionary service and propagation of Dhamma in North America who are doing well today and have brought honour and respect to Sri Lanka and the temples they serve. I, his student from the age 10, am so very fortunate to be one among them-then and now as well!  

His elevation to the prestigious rank of the ‘CHIEF SANGHA NAYAKA OF CANADA’ by the Supreme Sangha Karaka Sabha of the Kotte Samagri Sangha Sabha of the Syamopali Maha Chapter comes at a time in North America when his guidance and counsel are most needed, especially in terms of the increasing numbers of North American seekers of Buddha Dhamma flocking to our Buddhist temples for spiritual guidance both in the USA and in Canada. Today we salute the Most Ven.

Brahmanagama Muditha Maha Thera in filial veneration and wish him our congratulatory blessings!  

Born on October 10, 1952 in the village of Brahmanagama in the Colombo District, Bhante Muditha, in his late teens - at the dawn of the flowering season of his adolescence - when youthful fantasies and ambitions become a teenager’s priority - had made a firm commitment to dedicate himself to the Buddha Sasana and sought ordination as a Samanera - a novice - postulant to Monkhood. After two years of rigorous training, Bhante Muditha received “UPASAMPADA” or higher ordination on June 25, 1972 under the Upadhyayaship (Preceptorship) of the late Most Venerable Mawittara Ariyawamsa Maha Thera, with the Most Venerable Anu Nayaka, Kirulapone Somananda Maha Thera and the Most Venerable Paragastota Piyarathana Maha Thera participating as co- preceptors.  


 

Bhante Muditha had recruited over 20 young Sri Lankan monks, thus opening opportunities for them to be actively engaged in Buddhist missionary service and propagation of Dhamma in North America who are doing well today and have brought honour and respect to Sri Lanka and the temples they serve

 


Bhante Muditha was sent to the Monastic College of Higher Studies, the Maharagama Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya in the suburbs of Colombo, founded by his eminence and the supreme head of the Amarapura Nikaya, the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera (rector) and the Most Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Maha Thera (Principal of the Monastic College). Having graduated from college, Bhante Muditha was managing the Kandy branch of the college at the Primrose Garden Monastery located in the idyllic and salubrious eastern hills of Kandy training novices/samaneras and newly-ordained Bhikkhus.  

It was in 1985 that I met Bhante Muditha for the first time; myself, a ten-year-old samanera postulant from the city of Chittagong in Bangladesh.   

The Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera and the Most Venerable Ampitiye Sri Rahula Maha Thera had assigned Bhante Muditha to take care of us, the novices.  

In those tender years of my life, but for Bhante Muditha’s loving, caring guidance and his endearing ways, most likely, I would not have survived. Amid a terrible feeling of loneliness far away and far removed from my parents and family in a strange land with strange people who spoke a different language, it was our Muditha Hamuduruwo who brought us up playing, an impossible double role of being both a father and a mother to us at that age when we could not do many things ourselves without help. He taught us how to keep our bodies, the environment, the dormitories, refectory and the shrine rooms, halls and the garden etc., clean...  

When it was bath time and the taps didn’t function well, himself pouring water over our heads and bathing us! He washed our robes, a thing I could hardly handle at ten! He taught us good habits, good manners, those important rules of etiquette, how to talk, exchange pleasantries, how to respect one another and especially the elders, and the rubrics of rituals and committing to memory the Suttas and the Chant (Pirith) and how to preach a sermon or homily and so on and on...! But above all, he taught us the vernacular (Sinhala), the language of the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka starting with the first letter of the Sinhala alphabet, then, Pali, the canonical language and even Sanskrit.  

Bhante Muditha proved to be the greatest teacher I’ve ever had, given those difficult, growing years of my life. He’s also the most disciplined and no-nonsense, yet the most compassionate and the most lenient teacher I had ever known! He was certainly not the average taskmaster monk who was no fun! We treated  Bhante Muditha with such awe that to be punished by him for some misdeed was considered ‘a privilege’!  

Bhante Muditha is a born teacher! When I sat for the Praacina Panditha examination and the results came and found that I had achieved a First Class Honours, with the award of the “Rajakiya (Royal) Pandith” title! It was the happiest day of my life! My gratitude overflowing, I remember rushing to Bhante Muditha to break the good news and worshiping at his feet in filial love and reverence!   

In the end, thanks to Bhante Muditha, to my own surprise, I found myself totally transformed into a perfect Sinhala Sri Lankan, although the notion of my Bengali identity as a citizen of Bangladesh lay intact and competing, perhaps, dormant...!  

Bhante Muditha arrived at Los Angel is Buddhist Vihara USA in 1989 as an assistant monk in residence helping its Viharadhipathi, Venerable Ahangama Dhammarama Nayaka Thera in the task of erecting the temple at a new site.   

In 1992, invited by the Most Ven. Kulugammana Dhammawasa Nayaka Thera, Viharadhipathi of the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre, and the Most Ven. Dr. Madawela Punnaji Maha Thera, designated Foreign Missions Director, Bhante Muditha who knew both the monks well from the Dharmayathanaya College days lost no time showing up in Toronto from LA in good time for the launch of the new vihara which was then located in an apartment complex. Bhante Muditha was present at the newly-founded.  

West End Temple’s dedication and blessings in February 1993, presided over by his eminence, the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Maha Thera. The West End Buddhist Temple honours the three venerable co-founders of the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre as its THRIMURTHI!   

In 1995, at the suggestion of Bhante Brahmanagama Muditha Maha Thera, who was the Deputy Administrator of the West End Buddhist Temple & Meditation Centre, Viharadhipathi, Ven. Dhammawasa Nayaka Thera invited me to join the West End Buddhist Temple as monk in residence and to pursue secular education at the prestigious University of Toronto where I did my undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies.  

Bhante Muditha is widely known here in North America as a “temple builder” and a veritable “temple troubleshooter!” I have heard some comparing him to a king maker who never aspires to be the king! Such is the exemplary spirit of humility of our Muditha Hamuduruwo!  

 

Bhante Muditha proved to be the greatest teacher I’ve ever had,  given those difficult, growing years of my life. He’s also the most  disciplined and no-nonsense, yet the most compassionate and the most  lenient teacher I had ever known! 

 


In the mid ‘90s, while he was the Deputy Administrator of the West End Buddhist Temple in Mississauga, he was assigned the task of looking after the USA Buddhist community. Bhante Muditha moved to the city of Detroit in 1997 and established the now thriving Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara in Michigan, USA.  

In 2008, when Ottawa’s first Theravada temple, The Hilda Jayawardhanaramaya had hit hard times and its devotees sought help from the West End Buddhist Temple, it was Bhante Muditha’s sagacity/wisdom and counsel that resolved the issues plaguing the said temple. There a number of temples in the USA and Canada that run under his guidance.   

Not very long ago, a friend-writer drew my attention to an article he had written on “The Fatherhood of Lord Buddha!” appearing in the West End Buddhist’ Temple Journal which took me back to my own childhood and tender teens in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka . A great article it was! The article noted that in Sri Lankan Buddhist literature and lore, in common parlance and even in the scriptures, Budhuhamuduruwo had been referred to as “Budhu Piya” - Father - and “Budhu-Meniyo” - Mother..! Along with it, he had included this poem by an unknown author:-  

 


FATHERHOOD  


“Where Father is, there’s Love!

When our hearts are light,

The Day is Bright!

With Father’s Love, there’s a song

We knew that nothing will go wrong

With his Love, there’s always a smile

To make things worthwhile!

With his Love there’s quiet and peace;

Yea! We are in a place where turmoils cease!

Once in a while we may be out of touch

But Father would help shape us and do so much!

Father is ones best friend tried and true

Someone we can tell our troubles to!

Father! We never yearned for riches or silver and gold

The treasures you have given me cannot be bought or sold!”  

 

 

This beautiful poem is the very epitome of the Most Ven. Brahmanagama Muditha Maha Thera - embodying his great sterling, Buddha-like virtues that have always been an inspiration to me!   

Yea, we monks don’t cry even for joy! So, venerable sir, to YOU - joyously and gratefully, with a tear or two I cannot hide - my guru and mentor, in filial devotion, to YOU I offer this Pooja in veneration in the shrine of my heart! May you deign to accept my poor offering! May YOU live long by the grace of the Noble Triple Gem!  
(The writer is The Urban Buddhist Monk, Founder and President of ‘Canada: A Mindful and Kind Nation.’ 


Resident Monk of the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre, Mississauga, Canada)

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