From Sunday, 13th September, a number of grand scale events will commence in UK to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala, the founder of the London Buddhist Vihara and The Maha Bodhi movement. The Most Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thero, Head of the Vihara, has been the driving force behind a series of special tributes prepared to honour the life and work of this great Sri Lankan Buddhist visionary. The celebrations in UK form part of a global series of functions and events, focussed to happen around his actual birthdate of September 17, 1864, including many in Sri Lanka, which have been earmarked for this dedicated servant of the Buddha.
The week-long programme will launch at the Vihara in Chiswick, the oldest Buddhist temple outside Asia, with a night-long chanting on 13th September by the Sri Lankan Maha Sangha, representing all UK temples. This will be followed by an offering of Dana to the Maha Sangha on14th September and on the same evening, a unique 7-day Exhibition will commence, to honour and share awareness with the general public on Anagarika Dharmapala’s life and work.
‘The Flowering of Buddhism’ Exhibition (Sep 13-20 Eves 6-9pm)
This Exhibition will be open to the public each evening from 6 -9pm until 20th September in the Vihara premises, at the Dharmapala Building, The Avenue, Chiswick, London W4 1UD (nearest tube: Turnham Green). It is sponsored and supported by the UK Past Pupils Associations of several Sri Lankan Schools, namely the leading Buddhist colleges and vidyalayas: Ananda, Visakha, Devi Balika, Dharmaraja, Mahinda, Nalanda and Musaeus who will also be joined by the Association of Sri Lanka Lawyers in UK as well as the teachers and parents of the Vihara’s SundayDhamma School. On each day of the Exhibition, a well-known guest speaker will address the gathering, as well as opportunities to see films and recordings about the Anagarika. Refreshments will be offered to attendees and all are welcome.
The Flowering of Buddhism tells the story of one of the great sons of Sri Lanka, who was born in the 19th Century in British Ceylon as David Hewavitarne, at a time when colonial values were profoundly altering the island’s people. Steeped in Buddhist values, he takes up the name of Anagarika Dharmapala and helps to galvanise his native countrymen into believing they can reclaim their cultural and religious heritage. His endeavours as a social reformer are also remembered for planting the seeds of the Ceylonese people’s struggle for independence. However, he will be most remembered for his work in reviving Buddhism. Dharmapala was able to restore the rights of Buddhists to manage and worship at all the most significant holiest shrines of their own faith. Since his work, the sites such as where the Buddha most gained Enlightenment, at Buddha Gaya, where he preached his first sermon (dhammacakka sutta) at Sarnath and where he passed away (paranibbana) at Kusinara are now visited each year by millions of pilgrims from all over the world. The Anagarika was a tireless traveller who spoke passionately to audiences globally about Buddhism being a world religion, and this eventually led to London Buddhist Vihara, the first Buddhist Temple outside Asia, being founded in UK in 1926.
The Flowering of Buddhism Exhibition provides visitors the opportunity of understanding a unique individual, his dedicated contribution to Buddhism and the other renowned figures in the Buddhist Revivalist movement in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, ie Migettuwatte Sri Gunananda Thero, Sir Edwin Arnold, Col Henry Steel Olcott, Helena Blavatsky, Mary Foster, Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero and Christmas Humphreys.
Exhibition Dates and Sponsors:
Sep 14th-Past Pupils Association of Visakha in the UK- Chief Guest: The Mayor of Ealing,Councillor Kamaljit Dhindsa
Sep 15th- Association of SriLankan Lawyers in the UK-Chief Guest: Sri Lanka High Commissioner, His Excellency Dr.Christopher Nonis
Sep 16th- Devi Balika Vidyalaya Old Girls in UK – Chief Guest: President of the Buddhist Society: Dr Desmond Biddulph
Sep 17th- Dharmaraja College Old Boys Union – UK and LBV Sunday Rahula Dhamma School- Chief Guest: The Vicar, Father Kevin Morris, St Michael & All Angels Church, Bedford Park
Sep 18th – Association of Old Mahindians in the UK and Musaeus College Past Pupils Association in UK – Chief Guest: Deputy Mayor of Hounslow, Councillor Bishnu Bahadur Gurung
Sep 19th – Old Nalandians Association in the UK – Chief Guest: Ven. Prof Bellanwila Wimalaratana, Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura
Sep 20th- Association of Old Anandians in UK – Chief Guest: Prof Asanga Tilakaratne, Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Colombo
Anagarika Dharmapala Celebration at Hammersmith Town Hall – Sep 21st
The Vihara Management Committee and Co-Ordinators of the London Buddhist Vihara, together with various collaborators, including The Buddhist Society and the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, formed a special Anagarika Dharmapala Celebration Committee to bring together distinguished speakers from the Buddhist world for an invitation-only evening to honour and venerate Anagarika Dharmapala, focussing on his profound influence in spreading the Dhamma globally.
The speakers will be welcomed by Ven Bogoda Seelawimala and will include Ajahn Amaro, Abbot of the Amaravati Monastery; Professor Bellanwila Wimalaratne, Chancellor of the University of SriJayewardenepura; Desmond Biddulph, President of The Buddhist Society plus other distinguished speakers; and the keynote speaker will be Professor Asanga Tilakaratne. Prof Tilakaratne is presently the Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Colombo, and was formerly Head of the Department of Buddhist Philosophy in the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the University of Kelaniya.
Other events that the London Buddhist Vihara have produced to remember their founder has included the Children of the Sunday Dhamma School presenting a unique drama depicting the historical life of the Anagarika, entitled ‘The Shining Light in The Age of Darkness’. This which was staged at this year’s Rahula Dhamma Day Concert in April, to the delight of parents and well-wishers of the Vihara. The Dhamma School Children are now again contributing to the Birthday Celebration by entering into an Essay and Public Speaking Competition based on the Anagarika. In addition, the Temple has commissioned a short documentary on the history of the London Buddhist Vihara, as a 150th Birthday Tribute to its founder. This documentary has been devotedly produced by Tissa Madawela, using original material from Sri Lanka and from the Vihara’s own archive. This film will in due course be made available to watch both in DVD form and also via the temple’s website. All these events have been initiated and nurtured by Ven Seelawimala with the intention of honouring the greatest Buddhist revivalist since Emperor Ashoka and the first person to teach the Buddha Dhamma in three continents: Asia, North America, and Europe.