Ven Gnanasiha thera of Siri Vajiraramaya
Deshabandu Olcott Gunasekera who was the Founder President of the Dharmavijaya Foundation and for 31 years who held that position. entered Most esteemed Buddhist order as a venerated Bhikkhu of Siri Vajiraramaya, by the name Ven. Gnanasiha on the 5th of March in 2015. In the same year on the 1st of April he received higher ordination at the Bauddha Seema Malaka in the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayatanaya in Maharagama, and resides now at Siri Vajirarama in Bambalapitiya where the incumbent Bhikkhu is the Most Ven. Aggamaha Pandita Thirikunamale Ananda thera. Ever since 2016 on a proposition made by the Mahanayaka thera at the annual general meeting of the dharmavijaya Foundation, he makes his presence at the weekly meeting every Thursday in the capacity of the advisor.
The Buddha Sasana Karya Sadhaka Committee in anticipation of obtaining his wide knowledge and experience, made him a special request to serve them in the capacity of an honorary member, participating in the decisions to be takes with an impact on the sasana. For the benefit of these seeking the Dhamma both here and abroad he has complied several books in English, as well as in Sinhala. He has the special capacity to deliver sermons in both Sinhala and English.
In lay life he served as a devout dayaka of the Most Venerable Aggamaha Pandita Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, working closely with him for the welfare of the society as well as for the Sasana. The course of the action was based on the four fold aspects of development expounded by Buddha, ie. economic, educational, health and culture, the corner stones of the Dharmavijaya Foundation that serve the Sasana as well as the society, paving the way for better standard all levels.
In the calendar year 2007 (Buddhist year 2550) on the occasion of the completion of 200 years of the Sri Dharmnarakshitha sector of the Amarapura Kikaye, Mr.Olcott Gunasekera was awarded the honorary title “Sasana Ranjana of Dhammavijthava”, as due recognition of the services rendered by him for the Sasana as well as for the society.
In his early years of life he had his primary education in Galle, Hatton and Kandy in keeping with his father’s transfers as a government officer. Thereafter he had his secondary education at Royal College, Colombo and entered University of Ceylon, Peradeniya in 1953. Completing the university education in Eastern history to obtained a Honour Degree with a first class. In 1957 he received the ‘Ashok’ award given by the Government of India for the study of Indian History. He did his post graduate studies at the Post Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya leading to his Masters Degree for which he highly qualified. In 1975 Mr. Olcott Gunasekera followed a Management Training course with the Stanford University of America.
Mr.Olcott Gunasekera joined the prestigious Civil service of Sri Lanka in 1958. He has proved his efficacy serving in different passions such as Assistant Director of Education, Deputy Commissioner of Official Language and later as the acting Commissioner there Additional Director of the Treasury, Commissioner of Co-operative Service, and subsequently as the Chairman of the Co-operative services Centre.
From time to time between 1981-1991 he served as the Regional consultant of the Co-operative credit and marketing Institute of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
He rendered on excellent service, all on voluntary basis. In addition to being the President, of the Dharmavijaya Foundation and the Deputy President of the Sri Lanka Temperance Association of Sri Lanka. He held the position of the deputy President of the Royal Asiatic Society. He also actively participated is a member of the Buddha Sasana Executive Committee…………. and as an executive member of the International organization working on the legal frame works for tobacco control.
In the Presidential Commission Buddha Sasana appointed in 2001, he served as a member and as well in the subsequently set up Presidential Commission on Tobacco and Alcohol that led the way to the Frame Work Convention Alliance (F.C.A)
Several Buddhist Conferences held at the initiative of the Government in 2015, were organized with the yeomen service given by the Mr.Olcott Gunasekera. In the Buddhist year 2550 he was active in the Buddha Jayanthi Advisory Committee and sub committees, giving fullest support.
For having written over a hundred articles on Buddhism, history of Buddhism as well as on various issues as Narcotics, in the year 2005 he was honored with a “Desha Bandhu” title.
Having the benefit of close association with the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka thera, from his early youth he was led on the path that widened with the passing years. The world tour with the late prelate in 1964 was perhaps the trigger point that got him to go steadfastly on the path.
The deep understanding he cultivated of the late prelate’s attitudes, thoughts and his plans, stood him in good stead in putting them into practice through the Sasana Sevaka Society that functioned in the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayatanaya and in the Dharmavijaya Foundation set up by the Maha Nayaka thera.
History of several social institutions such as Thurunu Saviya, The Buddhist Information Centre, Samma Ajeewa Samajaya, Dharmaviyaya Founndation, Washington Viharaya has an record the yeoman services rendered by Mr.Olcott Gunasekera often ahead by times.