About Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayake Thero

“The country cannot be developed without the development of man. Let us develop man as well as the country”

most-venerable-madihe-pannasiha-mahanayake-theroIf one were to question about the highest of meritorious deeds in terms of Buddhism, the correct answer would be to help with the development of man. This implies the development of mind. Buddhism has in analysis that man has the potential for the development of mind, and in Pali this has been expounded as ‘Manassa Ussanathaya Manusso.’ The above paradigm that. ‘The country cannot be developed without the development of man. Let us develop man as well as the country’, was based thus on the doctrine of Buddhism.

Man’s development could be classified into three stages i.e. in mundane life, in life beyond death and in the achievement of the super mundane. Development of mundane life means the development in economic, educational, health and cultural factors. To be reborn in heavenly realm could be termed as the development of life after death. What is meant as the super mundane development is the treading on the path leading to the four stages in spiritual development and their attainment leading to the enlightenment of Nibbana.

Following a planned course of action is a universally accepted norm. This was expounded first by the Buddha, which was exemplified with his own noble life having the benefits thus accrued. If we wish to have development on these lines we too should have a proper plan. What needs to come first is the development in mundane life and herein a plan for that is given in five stages. It is simple and wonderful and it would lead one without fail to the development in the three stages classified above.

All should aspire to fall in line with the Buddhist paradigm, ‘The country cannot be developed without the development of man’. Let us develop man as well as the country? This should be given fullest support and wide publicity. Whilst actively following the methodology relevant to one’s self one should also make an attempt to initiate near and dear ones, particularly females to follow this course of action, given below.

1. Foetus in the womb :

The initial step is aimed at the development of the foetus as expounded in the doctrine of Buddhism and proven by modern science. In the contemporary times of the Buddha certain mothers had sought the blessing of the Buddha to the embryo in the womb, seeking to get it to accept the triple gem. Thereafter the medical advice for the physical development of the mind & matter is to be followed, which was termed in Pali as ‘gabba pariharan adaasi’, or “gab perahera” in Sinhala.

The requirement for the physical development had been enumerated as follows. The food intake should suit the mother as well as the foetus whose physical condition is tender. It could be affected even by extreme heat or cold. Pregnant mothers following the traditional practices would not consume food with extreme heat, cold, salt or sour. The usual movement of turning, bending or rolling was done by the mother with care for the foetus within the womb.

In order to ensure sound mental conditioning of the unborn child mother would frequent places of worship, listen to sermons, observe precepts and would even meditate. To reduce unwholesome thoughts and to cultivate wholesome thoughts she would read and think about known heroes. As the time for the delivery of the child draws close, the discourse chanted by the Arahat thera Angulimala would be repeated for her as a blessing, as well as various other discourses expounded by the Buddha and the arhat theros. The father too need to bear the responsibility of the physical and mental well being of the unborn child by being supportive to the pregnant mother. If this knowledge is transmitted by you to any woman in association with you, you would certainly acquire merits.

2. At birth and upto 15 years
This is the phase where a child grows up in the company of parents. He would perhaps aspire for a university career. The drop-outs would benefit with any employment, and those who fail to get employed should seek self generated earnings as upheld even by the Buddha. In this phase if one does not wish to be ordained, the path thereafter would lead to a married life.

3. From the age of 35 years up to 60 years
The family life should be harmonious in this phase with four pronged development in the fields of economy, education, health and culture. The time available at least at this phase should be best utilized for the development of the mundane life as well as the life beyond death, resorting to gain merits with ‘dana, seela and bhavana’ i.e. benefaction, moral conduct and meditation. Dissemination of the line of thought enumerated herein among the near and dear ones would indeed be noble.

4. 60 years until death

There is the time to withdraw from wordly activities and to concentrate more on a religious life. Responsibilities a householder carries in lay life should be made lighter by getting the children married on time and by suitably dividing ones possessions among them. Relief gained thereby should be the basis for the religious life. ‘Seela, Samadhi and Prugna’ i.e moral conduct, unruffled state of mind and wisdom gained with profound practice of Buddhism, should be the goals set for this phase. This line of thought too should be disseminated to the near and dear ones.

A time for religious observance in general
The Buddha in his life time had walked about twenty miles per day delivering sermons for the well being and development of the worldly beings. Spending seven or eight months on such activities is a great social service indeed. He could overcome the exhaustion by being absorbed in ‘Samapaththi’ the fruition of the state of Arahat. Lay Buddhists in general had been engaged in about an half hour in religious observances.

Such an allocated time in a present day household could be for the observance of the five precepts, chanting of the discourse on loving kindness, ‘Karaniya Metta Sutta’, for at least five minutes of meditation and for the reading of about two pages of a religious book, the contents of which could be for contemplation. This could be followed by salutation to the parents and other elders.

Buddhists in bygone times were in the habit of constant contemplation of the term “Arahan”, which means totally free from unwholesome thoughts, a great quality of an enlightened Buddha. We in the modern times should resort to this repititive utterance, if we are unable to contemplate on the total greatness of the Buddha. Buddhists in the past used a rosary to keep count of this utterance. The observance of a regular time for veneration of the triple gem would ensure better health both physically and mentally, improve the knowledge of the doctrine and elevate the moral standard of the family as a whole making them more humane.

Sri Lanka was known as the ‘Dhamma Dveepa’ i.e. the land of high moral standards and the granary of the Orient, when the policy followed in terms of Buddhism in the development of the country was parallely followed in the development of man. Spreading from the country of its origin this Buddhist paradigm was taken up by other countries in their development. We should overcome commercial, religious, regional and political diversities to rally round the sole aim of developing what is wholesome and banishing the unwholesome.

All those born as merited human beings should read the methodology of this paradigm with great care making it the basis of their lives and endeavour to get the near and dear one too acquainted with it.

We aim at making Sri Lanka a land of high moral standards i.e. a ‘Dhamma Dveepa’ with the four pronged development in the fields of economy, education, health and culture which could be achieved only by developing what is wholesome and banishing the unwholesome, evidently spreading now in the country instead of the five precepts. This indeed is a disgrace. Perhaps a twist in the right direction could be given if the females in particular take a determined stand. Females who are followers of other religions too could join in this endeavour which would indeed be welcome. The policy formulated for the purpose would be common for all for banishing unwholesome is recognized by all in general. The accepted norms of the wholesome is generally based on the religious doctrine. Therefore followers of other religions should formulate their course of action accordingly.

In his service for forty-five years the Buddha was mainly concerned with the development of the human mind, which is the best of human development. The Buddha departed leaving behind in this world the doctrine he expounded, and generations of Bhikkhus to keep it activated which continue up to date. It was one in this lineage, known as Arahat Nigrodha who made a revolutionary transformation of Emperor Ashoka of India from his brutal nature, and he later was famed for being a just and pious ruler earning the epithet ‘Dharmashoka’. He is said to have built eighty four thousand edifices & developed the country as well and the neighbouring countries by forming alliances . The paradigm that the development of man ensures the development of a country. was thereby proven and the paradigm gained acceptance among right thinking human beings. Here is an example that illustrates the paradigm

A wise father cut into pieces a paper with a world map and sketch of a man on the reverse. He jumbled the pieces and told his son who is equally wise to make the world map. He made many futile efforts and sat aside feeling tired. Then he noticed the reverse that had some lines that had been cut, but he could perceive the pieces could be fitted to make the sketch of a man, and he had the wisdom to know the world map to should be make with it. Having done it he gleefully told his father that he had made the world. The father questioned how it was done. The son responded saying how the man was made thereby making the world map on the reverse.

A profile in brief of the Most Venerable Aggamahapandita Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera a luminary of southern Sri Lanka who dedicated his life for the welfare of the country, the nation and the Buddha Sasana.
(21st June 1913 – 08th Sept 2003)
On the 21st of June in 1913 a child was born in Madihe, Matara destined to make a revival of the Buddha Sasana, His parents were James Carolis Pujithagunawardhana, a school principal and Bella Anjalina Dhirasekera, a pious Buddhist devotee and he was named as Benson Wilmet Pujithagunawardhana. As a child with promising potential he was admitted to St.Thomas college in Matara to be educated in the English medium. Although his father was a Christian, he was influenced more by his mother who was a devout Buddhist and he nurtured a desire to enter the Order of Buddhist monks. In keeping with that wish he was ordained on the 24th of June in 1926 as Madihe Pannasiha, at the age of 13 in the Devagiri Vihara in Kamburugamuwa under the tutelage of Ven Siri Sudhamma Jothipala Kavidhaja Vinayacharya Veragampita Siri Revatha thera.
However before long he was taken into the folds of the Most Venerable Palane Siri Vajiragnana Mahanayake thera, the incumbent Bhikkhu of Vajiraramaya in Bambalapitiya. As a Samanera Bhikkhu he was of service to the temple and was able to win the goodwill of its patrons. Having acquired a profound knowledge of the doctrine and proficiency of languages with the guidance of the erudite Guru thera, higher ordination was bestowed on him on the 9th of June 1933 with the tutelage of Ven. Siri Revata nayake thero and the recitation of transaction statement (karmavagacharya) was done by Ven. Palane Siri Vajiragnana thera, Ven. Polwatte Dhammathilaka Thera and Ven. Ahangama Panditha Siri Pannaloka thera. Being in the folds of Most Ven. Palane Vajiragnana thera he had the freedom to learn the doctrine to his heart’s content, as well as to acquire linguistic proficiency in oriental languages. Enrolled as a student for the ‘Vidya Visharada’ degree conducted by the University College in Colombo initiated by Professor Gunapala Malalasekera, he graduated in 1941. As a participant in the Buddhist mission to China in 1941 on an invitation extended by Ven Thaishu of China to revive Theravada Buddhist tradition there, he was accompanied by Ven. Soma and Ven. Kheminda, two resident monks of the Vajiraramaya. The mission was a initial land mark in his service to the Buddha Sasana.

In 1951 he pioneered the establishment of the “Akhila Mission in Nepal” intended to promote international amity among the Bhikkhus. He participated at the ‘Chatta Sangayana’ held in Burma in 1951 and was select to the appointed board for the purification of the doctrine.

With the appointment as a member to the commission authorized to review Buddhist information he came in contact with the contemporary persons of the Buddhist leaders in Sri Lanka both lay and ordained and with the ongoing preparation for the Buddha Jayanthi, marking 2500 of the doctrine of the Buddha being delivered. The Venerable Bhikkhu thus had an opportunity to widen his vision with regard to burning issues that had an impact on the Buddha Sasana.

With the demise of his Guru the Most Veneravle Palane Siri Vajiragnana Mahanayaka thera, he was appointed as the Mahanayake thera of the Dhamaarakshita faction of the Amarapura Chapter at the age of 44, on the 21st Nov. 1955.

As a felicitation to the Guru thera renowned for his erudition and leadership he initiated the establishment of the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayatanaya as a Bhikkhu Training Centre, ably assisted by Ven. Ampitiye Siri Rahula thera and with the patronage of the Sasana Sevaka (Servants of the Buddha Sasana) society including Mr. D.L.F.Pedris. The brotherhood of the two Venerable Bhikkhus in service to the Buddha Sasana by this endeavour has brought in its wake long lasting results.

Ven.Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayake thera pioneered the introduction of Theravada Buddhism in the United States setting up the Washington Buddhist temple in 1965. At the national level the country had the benefit of a fear-less leadership in the issues such as the takeover of private schools, the approval of Poya holidays, youth unrest and even in the terrorist actions of the exponents of the Tamil Eelam. The Mahanayake thera over six decades lobbied for the cause of wholesome development with the slogan that ‘Country cannot be developed without the development of man as on individual’ This high ideal is to be achieved with a four pronged course of action, i.e. economic, educational, health and moral which was targeted to reach the highest of the rulers and the lowest at community level. The Venerable Bhikkhu gave leadership for this purpose in example and with advice in written and spoken word ‘intended to facilitate a better social environment. Having dedicated his valuable life for altruistic service to the Buddha Sasana in particular and to the humanity in general he was acclaimed by rights thinking people here and abroad.

In recognition of the disciplined life he led as a Bhikkhu rendering invaluable service in keeping with the doctrine both as a missionary and as a literati he was accredited with the status of Most Venerable Mahanayake of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha and the title ‘Aggamahapandita’ was bestowed on him by Burma (Myanmar) as the entire international community of Buddhists shared the benefits. As a stalwart in contemporary society he was held in high esteem particularly by the Southern Sri Lanka from which part of the country he hailed. Blessed with longevity he lived to be 91 years and passed away mindfully on the 8th of September 2003, having to succumb to the law of impermanence of mind and matter.

Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayake Thera Memorial Museum
All objects, documents, books and photographs with archival value and sermons delivered by the Most Venerated Bhikkhu Madihe Pannasihe Mahanayake Thera, and those that pertain to the life of Most Ven. Ampitiye Rahula Nayake thera and to the life of their guru Most Ven. Palane Siri Vajiragnana thera and other contemporary prelates such as Ven. Narada Nayake thera and Piyadassi Nayake Thera who were resident monks in Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya. Those that pertain to Ven. Gangodawila Soma thera’s life too are in the collection kept in this memorial museum. Designed by the architect Mr.U.N.C.Gunasekera receiving substantial financial support given by the contemporary Minister of Tourism Mr.Milinda Moragoda and the Sanasili Foundation and with the support of other generous donors the Museum was made a reality, parallel to the golden jubilee celebration of the Sasana Sevaka (Servants of the Buddha Sasana) Society.
The Memorial Museum is located in the premises of the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayatanaya in Maharagama, and was declared open on the 21st of June in 2007 by the then President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse. The upper storey of the museum is equipped with modern digital implements for the purpose of animating the philosophical line of thought expounded by the Ven. Aggamahapandita Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayake Thera. The initiative for this was taken by Mr. Mahida Madihahewa, present Chairman of the Employees Trust Fund and Senior Vice President of the Sasana Sevaka Society with the co-operation extended by Ms. Nanda Wickramaratne and family. The Museum too gives an altruistic service on the model set by the Ven. thera himself in his life-time, to give guidance to a better way of life even for you.

In recognition of the excellent service rendered to the Buddha Sasana in particular and the entire humanity in general the following honorary degrees were conferred on him by various seats of learning at religious national and university level.

1 1941 ‘Vidya Visharada’ degree, University of Ceylon
2 1956 ‘Siri Vajiragnana Dharmakeerthi Sri’ an award conferred by the Dharmarakshitha faction of the Amarapura Chapter
3 1983 ‘Pravachana Visharada’ degree Buddha Shravaka faculty of Dhamma.
4 1985 D.Litt degree University of Sri Lanka, Peradeniya
5 1987 ‘Sammana Pandita’ degree Society of Oriental languages
6 1987 ‘ Maha mahopadyaya’ award conferred by Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sanghe Sabha.
7 1991 ‘Sahitya Chakravarti’ honorary degree, Sri Lanka University of Buddhist and Pali Studies.
8 1992 ‘Most Venerable Mahanayake’ status conferred by Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha.
9 1995 ‘Sri Lanka Sambuddha Sasana Chakravarthi’ award conferred by Aarogya Seva Society in Matara.
10 1996 ‘Aggamahapandita’ degree awarded by the Burma Sangha Sabha recognized by the State of Myanmar.
11 1996 Temperance and Peace prize for Asia given by the Southern and Far Eastern regional organization of International wholesome temperates.
12 1997 ‘Buddha Sasana Shiromani’ award conferred by the Vidyalankara Pirivena, Peliyagoda.
13 1998 Ph.D Degree awarded by the International Open University for alternative medicine.
14 1998 The award for the year 1998 by the Sarvodaya Trust Fund
15 1999 Ph.D degree awarded by the University of Maha Chulalankara, Thailand.
16 2000 ‘Asarana Sarana Sahashra’ awarded by the Sri Lanka volunteers Organisation.
17 2001 ‘Tripitaka Vageeshwaracharya’ award conferred by Sri Rohana Sangha Sabha.
18 2001 ‘Sahitya Shoori’ honorary degree conferred by the University of Sabaragamuwa.
19 2001 ‘Jathyabhimani Sasana Sobhana award conferred by the Mahamahinda Bhikkhu Foundation of the city of Colombo.
20 2002 Honorary Diploma award by the Sri Lanka Abacus computer technology faculty.