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'Anagarika Dharmapala rendered lasting service to Buddhism'

Colombo East Group Corr.

Sri Lanka's history does not indicate a layman who has rendered such a lasting service to Buddhism and its survival as Anagarika Dharmapala since kings Dutugemunu, Kassapa V. Vijayabahu I, Parakramabahu I, Parakramabahu II, and Parakramabahu VI, said Dr. Risiman Amarasinghe, Director, Dharmapala Olcott International Research Foundation of Lanka when he delivered a lecture on 'Dharmapala and his work' at a Dharmapala commemoration meeting sponsored by the Colombo South Research Circle at Suvisuddharama Hall, Wellawatte last Saturday.

He said when the observance and practice of Buddhism was at an ebb in the country due to the pressure of the colonial government at the time Dharmapala strove hard almost at the risk of his life to revive Buddhism here. He went round the island in his caravan inculcating Buddhist thinking and the value of living according to Buddhist culture.

Thereby he brought about a renaissance in Buddhist practice. In this endeavour he was ably assisted by another eminent Buddhist leader Valisinghe Harischandra, who spent all his wealth to clear the jungles, then covering the shrines in the city of Anuradhapura and around it. After he had cleared the jungle and restored most of the ancient shrines, Buddhist monks were able to occupy them. Thereafter many monks were able to enjoy the incumbency of most of the ancient Buddhist shrines seen today.

When Colonel Olcott began his Buddhist educational campaign after founding the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Colombo, Dharmapala whole heartedly supported him.

It was Dharmapala who went round the country translating into Sinhala the speeches delivered by Olcott in English. Dharmapala supported the Buddhist Theosophical Society and the Buddhist Defence Committee Olcott initiated as an active member of both. With the support of leading Buddhist monks like Vens. Migettuwatte Gunananda, Hikkaduwe Sumangala and Weligama Sumangala he restored many Buddhist places of worship in India including Buddhagaya for generations of Buddhists all over the world to worship. In Dharmapala's religious propagation activities he received the financial support of his affluent grandfather Lansage Don Andiris Perera Dharmagunawardena whose munificence as a buddhist leader of the time is recorded by Col. Olcott in the journal 'The Buddhist' Vol. II, 1889-1890. In fact he helped his father Hewavitaranage Don Carolis to set up the famous furniture Shop by that name in Colombo.

While Dharmapala's grandfather and father generated income in business, he depended solely on them for his Buddhist religious and educational activities which they willingly supported. He visited foreign countries to propagate Buddhism. In this regard his epoch making address at American Institutions are well known.

His address to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 impacted vastly in the spread of Buddhism in the west. Dharmapala helped to found Ananda College in Colombo and Dharmaraja College and Mahamaya Girls' College in Kandy.

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