Appointed head of the Amarapura Sect, with over 16,000 Bhikkus under its tradition of ordination
Ever since the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka 23 centuries ago,Buddhism has remained the defining force that has shaped the life and soul of the nation. And the country has been blessed with a lineage of great Theras who have not only guided the people along the Dhamma preached by the Buddha, but also as guardians of the nation.
The newly inducted Uttaritara Mahanayaka Thera of the Amarapura Mahanikaya, the Most Venerable Agga Maha Pandita Kotugoda Dhammawasa Thera, with his noteworthy contribution to the protection, perpetuation and propagation of Buddhism, has been a towering figure in contemporary Buddhist history of Sri Lanka. Uttaritara Mahanayaka Thera, in keeping with a tradition dating back to the reign of Sinhalese kings, received his credentials from His Excellency President, Maithripala Sirisena, at a state ceremony held at Independence Square on August 3, 2017.
The Most Venerable Thera was born on the 26th of January 1933 at Kotugoda, in Minuwangoda, to devoted Buddhist parents Endavitharanage Haramanis Rodrigo – a planter by profession and his wife Selestina Rodrigo. His lay name was Sirimevan.
Young Sirimevan, who inherited the virtue of entering the Buddhist Order, was ordained as Kotugoda Dhammawasa, on the 17th of August 1948, at Sri Dharmapalarama Vihara, Galkissa, under the tutelage of Venerable Unavatune Dhammapala Thera.
Dhammawasa, the Samanera Bhikku, received his early education at Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana, and his higher education at Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda. He gained higher ordination in 1954.
The hallmark of the Most Venerable Thera was the excellent delivery of Dhamma sermons in a distinctive style and expository skills that caught the attention of the audience. Consequently, the name of young Dhammawansa Thera began to rank amongst senior Bhikkus who were well known for Dhamma sermons at the time. Uttaritara Mahanayaka Thera is credited with the distinction of having delivered sermons over national radio for over 50 years. His sermons have also been widely attended by audiences overseas during his great efforts of propagating Buddhism in India, Nepal, China, Japan, Germany, USA, Russia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Pakistan and Mongolia. His efforts in spreading the Buddha’s word outside Sri Lanka has resulted in the establishment of Buddhist temples overseas such as the Sri Lankarama in Burma and the Charumati Temple in Nepal.
The Uttaritara Mahanayaka Thera has also been a prolific author, having published more than 36 books on various subjects related to Buddhism since the 1960s.
In recognition of his services to the Buddhist Order as well as his brilliance as an erudite Buddhist scholar, the then 37-year-old Dhammawasa Thera was elected to the Executive Council of the Amarapura Chapter of the Amarapura Sect in 1970. He was appointed Anunayaka of the Amarapura Chapter in 1990 and Lekhakadhikari in 2001. In 2016, he became the Mahanayaka Thera of the chapter. The Thera has been honoured with numerous honorary titles in Sri Lanka and abroad. They include the Agga Maha Panditha Degree conferred by the Burmese Government, Mahopadhayaya title from the Amarapura Sangha Council, and the honorary titles Thripitaka Visharada, Prawachana Kirthi Sri Shasana Sobhana, Sri Sumangala Vidyawathansa, and Sri Sambuddha Sasana Dharmakathika Kirthidhara.
Besides his pre-eminent service to the Buddhist Order, Dhammawasa Thera has also been a “Guardian God of the Nation”, strongly standing against any issue that went against the broader socio-cultural or national interests of the country.
He was elected Uttararitara Mahanayaka Thera of the Amarapura Great Sect (which comprises all 22 Chapters of the Amarapura Sect, with over 16,000 Bhikkus under its tradition of ordination) in May this year, following the demise of his predecessor Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Davuldena Gnanissara Thera.
Let us wish our Uttaritara Mahanayaka Thera good health and long life for continuation of his great services as a towering figure in the contemporary Buddhist Order of Sri Lanka.