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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 Mudiyanselage Muthumenike.

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 author.

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 ‘Swarna Mudrika’.

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 them.

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 life span.

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!

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