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Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera of Amarapura Sangha Sabha:

Most Venerable Davuldena Nanissara Maha Thera

by Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne - Director: Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Colombo



Most Venerable Davuldena Nanissara Maha Thera

THE most venerable Rajakeeya Pandita Davuldena Nanissara Maha Thera, the Mahanayaka of Udarata Amarapura Nikaya, has been selected by the Maha Sangha of the Amarapura Sangha Sabha as it Supreme Mahanayaka Thera.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga the President, will hand over credentials to the newly appointed Maha Nayaka Thera at a State sponsored function at the BMICH today. The new Maha Nayaka Thera will function as the leader for the members of the entire Amarapura fraternity.

The exalted position was earlier held by the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Maha Thera who passed away last year.

In fact, the united Amarapura Sangha Sabha was the brainchild of the late Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera. Right after his appointment to the Mahanayakaship after the passing away of the Most Venerable Pelene Vajiranana Maha Nayaka Thera the new Nayaka Thera embarked on the mission of uniting all different sects which were more than thirty in number by that time.

The effort of the two Theras

In his effort he was assisted by the Most Venerable Weligama Nanaratana, the Present Maha Nayaka Thera of Siri Dhammarakkhitavansa Amarapura sect, who succeeded Madihe Maha Nayaka Maha Thera after his passing away in September 2003.

The effort of the two Maha Theras and many others bore fruit after about two decades and the entire Amarapura fraternity was represented by one single Maha Nayaka Thera. The late Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera, undoubtedly, was the most suitable and most respected occupant of the position.

His great personality and impeccable virtue made him not only the leader of the Amarapura Sangha but also the leader of the entire Sri Lanka Sangha. In this manner the position succeeded by the present Maha Nayaka Thera is truly exalted and has the potentiality of exerting influence on the entire Sangha community in the country.

The new Maha Nayaka Thera is highly suitable for the position with his excellent virtue and high erudition. Not only is he a respected elder among the Sri Lanka Sangha but also a scholar, teacher and missionary with international recognition.

Looking at the biographical history of the Maha Nayaka Thera: he was born in 1915 at Davuldena in Uva-Paranagama and was ordained at the young age of 15 as the Venerables Umale Siri Piyaratana, chief elder of the Udukinda division of the Amarapura sect and Umale Siri Pannananda, the then Mahanayaka Thera of Udarata Amarapura sect, as his teachers.

He had his higher education at Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda and completed it with flying colours and subsequently passed much coveted Rajakeeya Pandita examination in all three languages, Sinhala, Pali (and Prakrit) and Sanskrit.

These were the highest academic qualifications a Buddhist monk could achieve in those before-university days in this country and the Maha Nayaka Thera had them all.

Career of education

The Maha Nayaka Thera right away started a career of education. He has been the teacher for many hundreds of students, both lay and monastic, at various centres of learning both here and abroad.

In Sri Lanka, he was an instructor at Sri Gnanesvara Pirivena, Hunupitiya, Colombo, Siri Vajiranana Dharmayatanaya, Maharagama, and Vidyodaya Ayatanaya of Sri Lanka Buddhist and Pali University. Subsequently he served as the Dharma teacher at Ling Song and Chun Hwa Institutes of Education in Taiwan, first as a lecturer and then as a professor.

The Maha Nayaka Thera is fluent in English and undoubtedly this ability has added very much to his service to the Dhamma both here and abroad.

The Nayaka Thera has travelled very widely in both East and West. He has addressed Dhamma assemblies in USA, Europe, Russia, Mongolia and many other places. A good amount of his teaching life has been spent in Taiwan teaching Chinese Buddhists Theravada tradition.

Distinguished aspect

A distinguished aspect of the academic life of the Maha Nayaka Thera is his unsurpassed erudition in Sanskrit language and literature and the mastery of using that language which is not very easy. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that he is the foremost literary writer in Sanskrit language at the moment in the country.

The Venerable Nayaka Thera has authored many poetical works in Sanskrit language. Judging by the lucid style, grammatical accuracy and poetical beauty, his works bear close resemblance to those of classical Sanskrit writers such as Kalidasa and Kumaradasa.

Among his many Sanskrit works, Yati Dutam follows the Sandesa style and is written in the manner of a Sandesa sent to the Chief incumbent of the Vidyodaya Pirivena. Marangana Vijayam, Vairagya Cinta, Ashith Pushpamanjari and Dharma Cinta are fine examples of making use of the medium of poetical Sanskrit for describing matters of doctrinal importance.

That the Maha Nayaka Thera is not devoid of humour is shown by one of his latest books in Sanskrit-Svanastava-kavyam (An Odd to a Dog) in which he sarcastically views some of the social practices and finds, at times, dogs to be preferable to human beings.

Endowed with virtues

The new supreme Maha Nayaka Thera is endowed with the virtues described by the Buddha as part and parcel of a disciple who is an ornament to his Sangha.

The Buddha says that an ideal monastic follower of his should possess such virtues as cleverness, discipline, confidence, learnedness, being a bearer and a follower of the Dhamma. Undoubtedly the Maha Nayaka Thera possesses these qualities and many more.

His virtue, erudition and services have been recognized both locally and globally. The Asian Buddhist Congress for Peace has recognized his services by conferring on him its gold medal. The California Sangha Sabha, USA, honoured him by conferring on him a D. Litt.

Locally, he has received honorary title of 'Sanskrta Cakravarti' from Vidyodaya Pirivena, his alma mater. Similarly the Oriental Studies Society, Colombo, honoured him by conferring on him 'Grantha Visarada', and Amarapura Sangha Sabha by conferring on him 'Bhasantara Visarada Jina Sasana Kirti Sri'; Sri Rohana Sangha Sabha by conferring on him 'Daivibhasa Visarada'; and Udarata Amarapura Sanghasabha by conferring on him 'Tripitakacarya Mahopadhyaya'. Currently the Venerable Maha Thera is also the Maha Nayaka of Udarata Amarapura Samagri Sangha Sabha.

Humble and amicable

He is one of the most humble and amicable among the monks I have met. Exemplifying the Buddhist teaching on anatta, the Maha Nayaka Thera is msot unassuming and simple. The vast erudition seems to have made him even more humble. At his ripe age of nineties the Venerable Elder is undertaking a huge responsibility upon him.

One must appreciate his willingness for service, particularly, to the Sangha. Undoubtedly the new Maha Nayaka Thera will be a worthy successor to his illustrious predecessor, the late Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Maha Thera. I wholeheartedly wish good health, longevity and happiness to the new Maha Nayaka Maha Thera.

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