Most Venerable Vidurupola Siri Piyatissa, Mahanayake
Thera of Udarata Amarapura Nikaya:
A great scholar of Sri Lanka
We commemorated the 54th death anniversary of the Late Most Venerable
Vidurupola Siri Piyatissa Mahanayaka Thera of the Udarata Amarapura
Nikaya who passed away on December 10, 1954.
This eulogy may not be enough justice to record all aspects of this
illustrative life for want of contemporary evidence other than hearsay
attributable to a very few sources.
Most Venerable Vidurupola Siri Piyatissa Mahanayaka Thera
So what I am trying to convey is only a glimpse of a chequered life
fruitfully spent in the cause of the country, Buddhist philosophy and
research made for the benefit of the posterity in the form of numerous
works in oriental languages and literature.
The latter part of the nineteenth century witnessed the birth of Ven.
Vidurupola Siri Piyatissa Thera who was later to become a great scholar
of Sri Lanka.
The Thera later to become the Mahanayake of the Udarata Amarapura
Nikaya was born on June 15, 1880 in the village of Vidurupola in the
Badulla District. The Thera’s father was Weerawanni Mudiyanselage
Appuhamy, a popular Ayurvedic physician and the mother Ekanayake
The Uva Rebellion of 1818 led by the Chief Keppetipola Dissava made
the British army learn a bitter lesson through his heroic struggles
fought in the Wellassa and Upper Uva. Keppetipola Dissava was however
caught, vanquished and beheaded by the English Governor.
The British never forgot the chivalrous valour of Sinhala rebels and
with bitter vengeance and hatred followed a scorch earth policy, setting
on fire and leaving in its trail no traces of paddy fields, chena
cultivations, livestock, homesteads and abodes of the rebellious areas.
The destruction wrought havoc on the entire Uva Province on all
spheres of social uplift, the worst being education. The rudimentary
system of schools run by missionaries imparted only 3R skills in
vernacular, continued even upto the time of the Thera’s birth. It is
unimaginable how a native from this damned backyard could later aspire
to be the erudite scholar to achieve international fame.
From early childhood he exuded an aptitudes for learning. The parents
having realised the child’s potential made him to familiarise with the
environment of the village temple.
There he associated children ordained of his age, young and elderly
monks and following on their foot steps inducted himself to a career of
learning based on Buddha Dhamma.
He was ordained on May 26, 1890 under the tutorship of Ven.
Panakanniye Amithasara Thera, but under guardianship of Vidurupola
Rathanajothi Mahanayake Thera, the incumbent priest of the temple.
After four and half years, the child now aged 15 was admitted on
February 22, 1895 to the Parama Dhamma Chetiya Pirivena, of Ratmalana, a
great place of learning of that time that continues even to date as an
acclaimed and recognised seat of learning for the Sangha.
Now aged 17 years, exactly after two years of hard work at the
Pirivena, he made rapid progress in the study of oriental languages and
the higher tenets of the Buddhist philosophy.
At 17, in the prime of his youth the boy was given totally to
learning and was satisfied on his accomplishment that he wrote and
produced his first book ‘Dhrushthantha Shataka Sannaya’ on February 22,
1897. This work gave him wide publicity and recognition and encouraged
his resolve to do more and more research and become an accomplished
His maiden publication earned him affection and plaudits of his
teachers and peers. It is the launch of this maiden publication, its
instant success that kept him on the determined track of further
research and 25 more manuscripts to be written and brought out in print.
The Thera’s formal induction to the order (Upasampada ceremony) was
held on August 18, 1899 in the temple of Vidurupola village in presence
of the Udarata Amarapura Sangha Karaka Sabha, presided over by the Most
Ven. Vidurupola Rathnajothi Mahanayake Thera.
He completed with several awards of prizes, the Pracheena Preliminary
Examination conducted by the Buddhist Theosophical Society in 1903. The
death occurred of the Ven. Vidurupola Rathanajothi Mahanayake Thera on
April 25, 1905.
He completed the Pracheena Intermediate Examination in the same year
and was awarded five prizes. Again with similar awards of prizes, the
Pracheena Final Examination was completed in 1910. One of the medals
awarded on the passing out the final examination was the coveted medal
With the demise of Ven. Rathanajothi Mahanayake Thera and the post
rendered vacant, the Karaka Sabha of the Udarata Amarapura Nikaya
unanimously decided to confer the title on Ven. Vidurupola Siri
Piyatissa Nayaka Thera.
The Thera acquitted the responsibilities of the Mahanayake of the
Udarata Amarapura Nikaya with utmost sense of dedication that the first
responsibility he discharged in the new post was to appoint a
‘vinayavadini’ Committee charged with the duty of maintaining the
discipline of the Nikaya.
Dawn of the 20th Century marked the emergence of a class of learned
monks with outstanding qualities of leadership, our Thera being a
prominent member among them. His position among the fraternity of monks
was such that he was nominated a representative to important
international conferences and had the honour to preside over some of
In 1919 he was selected to attend the ‘Bharath Maha Panditha
Conference’ in India. The Ven. Thera was accorded the singular honour of
presiding over the ‘Dharma Sangayana’ held at Vidyalankara Pirivena in
1953 and the ‘Chattha Sangayana’ held in Burma in 1954.
The contribution made by the Ven. Mahanayake Thera towards the spread
of Buddhism and the revival of literature was immense. His social and
religious interactions inundated routines during the entirety of his
After leading an extremely meritorious life making himself devoted to
the cause of the Buddhist clergy and community, the Mahanayake Thera
blissfully passed away on December 10, 1954.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!