The Urban Dharma Newsletter - November, 2011
In This Issue: ‘Free’ Books on Buddhism
1. Quote – Buddhaghosa, "Visuddhimagga"
2. The Visuddhimagga
4. The Buddha and his Teachings
5. Ven. Narada Mahathera
–– –– –– –– ––
A very important book from early Buddhism, has for the first time, been made available for free download. It is the ‘Visuddhimagga’ also known as ‘The Path of Purification.’ It is a PDF and a file size of 2.70 MB.
Download the Visuddhimagga @
Another book just added to Urban Dharma is ‘The Buddha and His Teachings” by Ven. Narada Mahathera. This is a classic introduction to Buddhism and well worth the time to download and read.
Download the Buddha and His Teachings @
And a new book by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu ‘Selves and Not-Self’ the Buddhist Teaching on Anatta.
Download ‘Selves and Not-Self’ @
1. Quote – Buddhaghosa, "Visuddhimagga"
Compassion is characterized as promoting the aspect of allaying suffering. Its function resides in not [enduring] others' suffering. It is manifested as non-cruelty. Its proximate cause is to see helplessness in those overwhelmed by suffering. It succeeds when it makes cruelty subside, and it fails when it produces sorrow.
2. The Visuddhimagga
The Visuddhimagga —here rendered ‘Path of Purification’— is perhaps unique in the literature of the world. It systematically summarizes and interprets the teaching of the Buddha contained in the Pall Tip4aka, which is now recognized in Europe as the oldest and most authentic record of the Buddha’s words. As the principal non-canonical authority of the Theravdda, it forms the hub of a complete and coherent method of exegesis of the Tipitaka, using the ‘Abhidhamma method’ as it is called. And it sets out detailed practical instructions for developing purification.
Background and Main Facts
The works of Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa fill more than thirty volumes in the Pall Text Society’s Latin-script edition; but what is known of the writer himself is meagre enough for a page or two to contain the bare facts.
Before dealing with those facts, however, and in order that they may appear oriented, it is worth while first to digress a little by noting how Pall literature falls naturally into three main historical periods. The early or classical period, which may be called the First Period, begins with the Tipitaka itself in the 6th century B.C. and ends with the Milinda-pañha about five (?) centuries later. These works, composed in India, were brought to Ceylon, where they were maintained in Pali but written about in Sinhalese. By the first century A.C. Sanskrit (independently of the rise of Mahayana) or a vernacular had pn~bably quite displaced Pali as the medium of study in all the Buddhist ‘schools’ on the Indian mainland. Literary activity in Ceylon declined and, it seems, fell into virtual abeyance between A.C. 150 and 350, as will appear below. The first Pali renascence was under way in Ceylon and South India by about 400 and was made viable by Bhadantäcariya Buddhaghosa. This can be called the Middle Period. Many of its principal figures were Indian. It developed in several centres in the South Indian mainland and spread to Burma, and it can be said to have lasted till about the 12th century. Meanwhile the renewed literary activity again declined in Ceylon till it was eclipsed by the disastrous invasion of the 11th century. The second renascence, or the Third Period as it may be termed, begins in the following century with Ceylon’s recovery, coinciding more or less with major political changes in Burma. In Ceylon it lasted for several centuries and in Burma for much longer, though India about that time or soon after lost all forms of Buddhism. But this period does not concern the present purpose and is only sketched in for the sake of perspective.
The recorded facts relating from the standpoint of Ceylon to the rise of the Middle Period are very few, and it is worth while tabling them.
Why did Bhadantãcariya Buddhaghosa come to Ceylon? And why did his work become famous beyond the island’s shores? The bare facts without some interpretion will hardly answer these questions. Certainly any interpretation must be speculative; but if this is borne in mind, some attempt (without claim for originality) may perhaps be made on the following lines.
Up till the reign of King Vattagamani Abbaya in the first century B.C. the Great Monastery, founded by Asoka’s son, the Arahant Mahinda, and hitherto without a rival for the royal favour, had preserved a reputation for the saintliness of its bhikkhus. The violent upsets in his reign followed by his founding of the Abhayagiri Monastery, its secession and schism, changed the whole situation at home. Sensing insecurity, the Great Monastery took the precaution to commit the Tipitaka for the first time to writing, doing so in the provinces away from the king’s presence. Now by about the end of the first century B.C. (dates are very vague), with Sanskrit Buddhist literature just launching out upon its long era of magnificence, Sanskrit was on its way to become a language of international culture. In Ceylon the Great Monastery, already committed by tradition to strict othodoxy based on Pall, had been confirmed in that attitude by the schism of its rival, which now began publicly to study the new ideas from India. In the first century B.C. probably the influx of Sanskrit thought was still quite small, so that the Great Monastery could well maintain its name in Anurãdhapura as the principal centre of learning by developing its ancient Tipitaka commentaries in Sinhalese. This might account for the shift of emphasis from practice to scholarship in King Vattagamani’s reign. Evidence shows great activity in this latter field throughout the first century B.C., and all this material was doubtless written down too.
In the first century A.C. Sanskrit Buddhism (‘Hinayana’, and perhaps by then Mahayana) was growing rapidly and spreading abroad. The Abhayagiri Monastery would naturally have been busy studying and advocating some of these weighty developments while the Great Monastery had nothing new to offer: the rival was thus able, at some risk, to appear go-ahead and up-to-date while the old institution perhaps began to fall behind for want of new material, new inspiration and international connexions, because its studies being restricted to the orthodox presentation in the Sinhalese language, it had already done what it could in developing Tipitaka learning (on the mainland Theravada was doubtless deeper in the same predicament). Anyway we find that from the first century onwards its constructive scholarship dries up, and instead, with the reign of King Bhãtika Abhaya (B.C. 20-AC. 9), public wrangles begin to break out between the two monasteries. This scene indeed drags on, gradually worsening through the next three centuries, almost bare as they are of illuminating information. King Vasabha’s reign (A.C. 66-110) seems to be the last mentioned in the Commentaries as we have them now, from which it may be assumed that soon afterwards they were closed (or no longer kept up), nothing further being added. Perhaps the Great Monastery, now living only on its past, was itself getting infected with heresies. But without speculating on the immediate reasons that induced it to let its chain of teachers lapse and to cease adding to its body of Sinhalese learning, it is enough to note that the situation went on deteriorating, further complicated by intrigues, till in Mahasena’s reign (A.C. 277-304) things came to a head.
With the persecution of the Great Monastery given royal assent and the expulsion of its bhikkhus from the capital, the Abhayagiri Monastery enjoyed nine years of triumph. But the ancient institution rallied its supporters in the southern provinces and the king repented. The bhikkhus returned and the king restored the buildings, which had been stripped to adorn the rival. Still, Great Monastery must have foreseen, after this affair, that unless it could successfully compete with Sanskrit it had small hope of holding its position. With that the Only course open was to launch a drive for the rehabilitation of Pali—a drive to bring the study of that language up to a standard fit to compete with the ‘modem’ Sanskrit in the field of international Buddhist culture: by cultivating Pali at home and abroad it could assure its position at home. It was a rvolutionary project, involving the displacement of Sinhalese by Pali as the language for the study and discussion of Buddhist teachings, and the founding of a school of Pali literary composition. Earlier it would doubtless have been impracticable; but the atmosphere had changed. Though various Sanskrit non-Mahayana sects are well known to have continued to flourish all over India, there is almost nothing to show the status of the Pali language there by now. Only the Mahavaiñsa quoted below suggests that the Theravada sect there had not only put aside but lost perhaps all of its old non-Pitaka material dating from Asoka’s time.2 One may guess that the pattern of things in Ceylon only echoed a process that had gone much further in India. But in the island of Ceylon the ancient body of learning, much of it pre-Asokan, had been kept lying by, as it were maturing in its two and a half centuries of neglect, and it had now acquired a new and great potential value due to the purity of its pedigree in contrast with the welter of new original thinking. Theravada centres of learning on the mainland were also doubtless much interested and themselves anxious for help in a repristinization.3 Without such cooperation there was little hope of success.
It is not known what was the first original Pall composition in this period; but the Dipavamsa (dealing with historical evidence) belongs here (for it ends with Mahasena’s reign and is quoted in the Samantapdsddiká), and quite possibly the Vimuttimagga (dealing with practice—see below) was another early attempt by the Great Monastery in this period (4th cent.) to reassert its supremacy through original Pali literary composition: there will have been others too.4 Of course, much of this is very conjectural. Still it is plain enough that by 400 A.C. a movement had begun, not confined to Ceylon, and that the time was ripe for the crucial work, for a Pali recension of the Sinhalese Commentaries with their unique tradition. Only the right personality, able to handle it competently, was yet lacking. That personality appeared in the first quarter of the fifth century.
Dare anyone a limit place
On benefits that virtue brings,
Without which virtue clansmen find
No footing in the dispensation?
No Ganges, and no Yarnunã
No Sarabhü, Sarassathi,
Or flowing Aciravati,
Or noble River of Mahi,
Is able to wash out the stain
In things that breathe here in the world;
For only virtue’s water can
Wash out the stain in living things.
No breezes that come bringing rain,
No balm of yellow sandalwood,
No necklaces beside, or gems
Or soft effulgence of moonbeams,
Can here avail to calm and soothe
Men’s fevers in this world; whereas
This noble, this supremely cool,
Well-guarded virtue quells the flame.
Where is there to be found the scent
That can with virtue’s scent compare,
And that is borne against the wind
As easily as with it? Where
Can such another stair be found
That climbs, as virtue does, to heaven?
Or yet another door that gives
Onto the City of Nibbana?
Shine as they may, there are no kings
Adorned with jewelry and pearls
That shine as does a man restrained
Adorned with virtue’s ornament.
Virtue entirely does away
With dread of self-blame and the like;
Their virtue to the virtuous
Gives gladness always by its fame.
From this brief sketch it may be known
How virtue brings reward, and how
This root of all good qualities
Robs of its power every fault.
Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa was a 5th-century Indian Theravadin Buddhist commentator and scholar. His name means "Voice of the Buddha" in the Pāli language. His best-known work is the Visuddhimagga, or Path of Purification, a comprehensive summary and analysis of the Theravada understanding of the Buddha's path to liberation. The interpretations provided by Buddhaghosa have generally constituted the orthodox understanding of Theravada scriptures since at least the 12th century CE. He is generally recognized by both Western scholars and Theravadins as the most important commentator of the Theravada.
Limited reliable information is available about the life of Buddhaghosa. Three primary sources of information exist: short prologues and epilogues attached to Buddhaghosa's works; details of his life recorded in the Mahavamsa, a Sri Lankan chronicle; and a later biographical work called the Buddhaghosuppatti. A few other sources discuss the life of Buddhaghosa, but do not appear to add any reliable material. The biographical excerpts attached to works attributed to Buddhaghosa reveal relatively few details of his life, but were presumably added at the time of his actual composition. Largely identical in form, these short excerpts describe Buddhaghosa as having come to Sri Lanka from India, and settled in Anuradhapura. Besides this information, they provide only short lists of teachers, supporters, and associates of Buddhaghosa, whose names are not generally to be found elsewhere for comparison. The Mahavamsa records that Buddhaghosa was born into a Brahmin family in the kingdom of Magadhi. He is said to have been born near Bodh Gaya, and to have been a master of the Vedas, traveling through India engaging in philosophical debates. Only upon encountering a Buddhist monk named Revata was Buddhaghosa bested in debate, first being defeated in a dispute over the meaning of a Vedic doctrine, and then being confounded by the presentation of a teaching from the Abhidhamma. Impressed, Buddhaghosa became a Buddhist monk and undertook the study of the Tipitaka and its commentaries. On finding a text for which the commentary had been lost in India, Buddhaghosa determined to travel to Sri Lanka to study a Sinhalese commentary that was believed to have been preserved. In Sri Lanka, Buddhaghosa began to study what was apparently a very large volume of commentarial texts that had been assembled and preserved by the monks of the Mahavihara. Buddhaghosa sought permission to synthesize the assembled Sinhalese-language commentaries into a comprehensive single commentary composed in the Pali language. The elder monks sought to first test Buddhaghosa's knowledge, by assigning him the task of elaborating the doctrine regarding two verses of the suttas; Buddhaghosa replied by composing the Visuddhimagga. His abilities were further tested when deities intervened and hid the text of his book, twice forcing him to recreate it from scratch. When the three texts were found to completely summarize all of the Tripitaka and match in every respect, the monks acceded to his request and provided Buddhaghosa with the full body of their commentaries. Buddhaghosa went on to write commentaries on most of the other major books of the Pali Canon, with his works becoming the definitive Theravadin interpretation of the scriptures. Having synthesized or translated the whole of the Sinhalese commentary preserved at the Mahavihara, Buddhaghosa reportedly returned to India, making a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya to pay his respects to the bodhi tree. The details of the Mahavamsa account cannot readily be verified; while it is generally regarded by Western scholars as having been embellished with legendary events (such as the hiding of Buddhaghosa's text by the gods), in the absence of contradictory evidence it is assumed to be generally accurate. While the Mahavamsa claims that Buddhaghosa was born in northern India near Bodh Gaya, the epilogues to his commentaries make reference to only one location in India as being a place of at least temporary residence: Kanci in southern India. Some scholars thus conclude (among them Oskar von Hinüber and A.P. Buddhadatta) that Buddhaghosa was actually born in southern India, and was relocated in later biographies to give him closer ties to the region of the Buddha. The Buddhaghosuppatti, a later biographical text, is generally regarded by Western scholars as being legend rather than history. It adds to the Mahavamsa tale certain details, such as the identity of Buddhaghosa's parents and his village, as well as several dramatic episodes, such as the conversion of Buddhaghosa's father and Buddhaghosa's role in deciding a legal case. It also explains the eventual loss of the Sinhalese originals that Buddhaghosa worked from in creating his Pali commentaries by claiming that Buddhaghosa collected and burnt the original manuscripts once his work was completed.
Writings and translations
Buddhaghosa was reputedly responsible for an extensive project of synthesizing and translating a large body of Sinhala commentaries on the Pāli Canon. His Visuddhimagga (Pāli: Path of Purification) is a comprehensive manual of Theravada Buddhism that is still read and studied today. The Mahavamsa ascribes a great many books to Buddhaghosa's composition, some of which are not believed to have been his work, but rather were composed later and attributed to him.
Influence and Legacy
In the 12th century, the Sri Lankan monk Sariputta became the leading scholar of the Theravada following the reunification of the Sri Lankan monastic community by King Parakramabahu I. Sariputta incorporated many of the works of Buddhaghosa into his own interpretations. In subsequent years, many monks from Theravada traditions in Southeast Asia sought ordination or re-ordination in Sri Lanka because of the reputation of the Sri Lankan Mahavihara lineage for doctrinal purity and scholarship. The result was the spread of the teachings of the Mahavihara tradition- and thus Buddhaghosa- throughout the Theravada world. Buddhaghosa's commentaries thereby became the standard method by which the Theravada scriptures were understood, establishing Buddhaghosa as the definitive interpreter of Theravada doctrine. In later years, Buddhaghosa's fame and influence inspired various accolades. His life story was recorded, in an expanded and likely exaggerated form, in a Pali chronicle known as the Buddhaghosuppatti, or "The Development of the Career of Buddhaghosa". Despite the general belief that he was Indian by birth, he later may have been claimed by the Mon people of Burma as an attempt to assert primacy over Sri Lanka in the development of Theravada tradition. Other scholars believe that the Mon records refer to another figure, but whose name and personal history are much in the mold of the Indian Buddhaghosa. Finally, Buddhaghosa's works likely played a significant role in the revival and preservation of the Pali language as the scriptural language of the Theravada, and as a lingua franca in the exchange of ideas, texts, and scholars between Sri Lanka and the Theravada countries of mainland Southeast Asia. The development of new analyses of Theravada doctrine, both in Pali and Sinhalese, seems to have dried up prior to Buddhaghosa's emergence in Sri Lanka. In India, new schools of Buddhist philosophy (such as the Mahayana) were emerging, many of them making use of classical Sanskrit both as a scriptural language and as a language of philosophical discourse. The monks of the Mahavihara may have attempted to counter the growth of such schools by re-emphasizing the study and composition in Pali, along with the study of previously disused secondary sources that may have vanished in India, as evidenced by the Mahavamsa. Early indications of this resurgence in the use of Pali as a literary language may be visible in the composition of the Dipavamsa and the Vimuttimagga, both dating to shortly before Buddhaghosa's arrival in Sri Lanka. The addition of Buddhaghosa's works- which combined the pedigree of the oldest Sinhalese commentaries with the use of Pali, a language shared by all of the Theravada learning centers of the time- provided a significant boost to the revitalization of the Pali language and the Theravada intellectual tradition, possibly aiding the Theravada school in surviving the challenge to its position posed by emerging Buddhist schools of mainland India.
4. The Buddha and his Teachings – By Venerable Narada Mahathera
This book is one of the clearest and most detailed introductions to the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. It explains the common basic of all Buddhism in simple and lucid language.
The first part of the work is devoted to the life of the Buddha. The remainder of the book explains in detail the Buddha’s teachings, the final chapters showinig the relevance of Buddhism to the problems of modern life.
The Buddha and his teachings provide a good source of information for those who wish to understand the life of the Buddha and his fundamental teachings.
……..though primarily intended for the students and beginners rather than scholars, the reader will find it an extremely valuable handbook, offering a sound foundation to the basic tenets of Buddhism as found in its original pali tradition.
Besides providing a comprehensive account of the life of the Buddha and his chief disciples, the moral and ethical code of conduct, culminating in the ten perfections, a considerable portion of the book deals with current issues in Buddhist studies regarding karma, rebirth and nibbana. It also includes an introduction to Buddhist meditation with particular reference to the practice of the four sublime states (or brahma viharas) namely Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (sympathetic joy), and Upekkha (equanimity).
5. Ven. Narada Mahathera
"My mission abroad was never to proselytize but merely to present the teachings of the Buddha to those who are interested. I found numerous such persons. To those who believed in God, I said, if you are convinced of God and if it is beneficial, by all means you may believe in him. But for my part, I told them that I could do better without depending on him."
These words of Ven. Narada Maha Thera (Ceylon Daily News - 21.12.1966) showed the same spirit, even after 2500 years after the Parinibbana of the Buddha, of the following utterance of the Buddha. "Aparuta tesam amatassa dvara ye sotavanto pamuncantu saddham Vihimsa sanni pagunam na bhasim - Dhammam panitam manujesu brahme" ti (Mahapadana Sutta, Digha Nikaya) - "Open are the doors to the deathless those who have ears repose trust".
The Buddha during his 45 years after Enlightenment travelled the length and breath of North India beating the 'drum of deathlessness' (amata dundubhim) so that intelligent beings could listen to the teaching and become followers of the Buddha by reposing trust in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.
Ven. Narada lived for 85 years. He was born on July 14, 1898 to Kalonis Perera (father) and Pabilina de Silva (mother) who were living in Kotahena. It was a Christian environment but the influence of Anagarika Dharmapala, who was vehemently criticizing the Sinhala people for slavishly giving Christian names to their children, was visible in that the name given to the new born was Sumanapala. He had his secondary education at St. Benedict's College, Kotahena. His learning ability and his excellent ways drew the attention of the padres, especially Father James, who once had remarked that young Sumanapala was most suitable to be a cleric of the Catholic Church. His familiarity with Christian rituals and his deep knowledge of Christianity stood in good stead when he travelled in the West as a Buddhist missionary.
Period of Preparation
The First World War was ending in 1918 and the suffering and carnage a war brings may have influenced young Sumanapala who was reaching the age of 18 years. His uncle was a dayaka at Vajiraramaya and this brought Sumanapala into contact with the Most Venerable Pelene Vajiragnana Maha Nayaka Thera. The Maha Nayaka Thera had the ability to spot talent and on his 18th birthday Sumanapala was ordained at Vajiraramaya taking the name 'Narada'. Two years later he gained his higher ordination or upasampada.
Ven. Narada could not have had a better teacher to learn the Buddha Dhamma than the Most Venerable Pelene Vajiragnana Maha Nayaka Thera. As an external student, he studied Ethics and Philosophy at the University College, Colombo, where he was able to associate closely with Ven. Rambukwelle Siddhartha Thera, an oriental scholar monk of repute. At the Vajiraramaya, he also met Dr. Cassius Perera (later Ven. Kassapa) and together they started the Servants of Buddha Society in 1921. Alec Robertson, who later was a President of this Society, wrote as follows to the Narada Felicitation Volume (1979), 'As a young and promising monk of only 21 years of age, he (Ven. Narada) showed exceptional intellectual prowess matched by an equal degree of spiritual fervour. With the mature guidance and advice of Dr. Cassius Perera he mastered the English language and in course of time became an eloquent and convincing speaker who captivated the minds of the English educated Buddhists with his sermons which were characterized by their clarity and discernment.' Ven. Narada also had the companionship of that soft spoken and talented English monk, Ven. Metteyya, who was residing at the Vajiraramaya.
First visit abroad
Ven. Narada was 31 years old when he made his first debut in the international world. Due to the untiring effort of Anagarika Dharmapala the Mulagandakuti Vihara at Sarnath, India was completed in 1929 and there was an invitation to the maha sangha to participate at the opening ceremony. Sri Lanka's delegation, which included Ven. Narada, was led by Ven. Kahawe Ratanasara Nayaka Thera, the head of the Vidyodaya Pirivena. It was fortuitous that it fell on the shoulders of Ven. Narada to conduct all proceedings at this historic function. The opening was attended by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru whom Ven. Narada met for the first time.
Successful Missions of Ven. Narada Maha Thera
During Ven. Narada's fifty years of missionary work, which ended with his demise on October 20, 1983, he had visited all continents, except the Antarctica. In many of the countries he was the first Theravada Buddhist monk to have set foot in recent times. Due to the work of oriental studies' societies like the Pali Text Society and the Royal Asiatic Societies, the excavations of Buddhist sites by eminent archaeologists like Sir Aurel Stein and Cunningham, and the missionary work of persons like Anagarika Dharmapala, there was much interest both in the West and the East to know more of Theravada Buddhism.
Ven. Narada Maha Thera fitted this bill very well. He had the erudition and the serenity, the gentleness and piety, and above all a perfect command of the English language to put across the most abstruse teachings of the Buddha in a simple, eloquent and persuasive manner. Some of his books like the English translation of the Dhammapada and Buddhism in a Nutshell had been translated to several languages and at times preceded his visits. Because of his publications there was an eagerness to see him in person and, hence, he was able to command the respect of the audience. Furthermore, his compassion was all pervasive, and because of his vegetarian ways, his special love for children and his amiable demeanour and countenance he was able to reach the hearts of everyone.
His most successful missions in Asia were in Indonesia, Nepal, Singapore, and Vietnam. His first visit to Indonesia was in 1934 when he carried a bo-sapling from the sacred bodhi tree in Anuradhapura and planted it in the precincts of the famous Borobudur temple. He is remembered as the first Theravada bhikkhu to have set foot in Indonesia in a thousand years. During his mission in June 1959 to participate in the Vesak festivities in Borobudur, he ordained 2 Chinese, 2 Indonesian and 2 Balanese persons and established a sima for the conduct of vinaya acts of monks. When he revisited Borobudur in 1969, which was his 4th visit, he was overjoyed when he saw that the bo-sapling planted by him 35 years ago had 'grown and matured into a huge tree covering a vast area around the Borobudur shrine'. It also symbolised the establishment of the Theravada Buddhist tradition in Indonesia. In March 1982 Ven. Narada conducted his 12th dhammaduta mission to Indonesia and the year later he was again in Indonesia to officiate at the Poson festivities. That happened to be his last mission because he passed away soon after his return.
Ven. Narada Maha Thera considered Vietnam as his second home. In some of his missions he stayed for over one year counselling and serving the people. He has undertaken over 17 dhammaduta missions to Vietnam. In 1966 after his 6th mission he was asked whether he has a special liking for Vietnam and his reply bespeaks for himself as a true Buddhist missionary. "I regard the whole world as my motherland, all people as my brothers and sisters. I prefer to work in Vietnam because the Vietnamese Buddhists are badly in need of voluntary religious workers to propagate the Buddha's message."
Even during the height of the Vietnamese war he did not abandon his Vietnamese dayakas. Once in 1963 because of the delay in returning the assistance of the US embassy had to be sought to know of his whereabouts. He had many successes in Vietnam. At the Jetavana Vihara [*] in Saigon the Vesak celebrations were jointly organised by the entire Buddhist community belonging to all sects because of his leadership. In 1969 he opened a Buddhist school with a full curriculum. In 1973 the foundation stone for a Buddhist hall and library was laid. In 1974 for the first time an all night pirit ceremony was held in Vietnam at the Jetavana Vihara following Sinhala tradition. The Sakyamuni Vihara [*], situated about 100 miles away from Saigon, was the centrepiece of his missionary work in Vietnam. All the elements of a Sinhala Buddhist temple and the architectural traditions of Sri Lanka were featured. He would not have minded if he were to pass away there.
To Nepal he led over six dhammaduta missions. The most notable was the mission in 1946, when he led a delegation consisting of Ven. Piyadassi, Ven. Amitananda of Nepal, who was residing at the Vajiraramaya, Prof. M. D. Ratnasuriya and Prof. M. B. Ariyapala to meet with the King of Nepal. His mission was to obtain a royal decree for the return of the Theravada monks who were exiled to India. He was not only successful to get royal pardon but also was able to get the day of Vesak declared a public holiday. Ven Narada Maha Thera was highly respected by the Nepalese royalty and this helped in the firm establishment of the Theravada sangha in Nepal. The ties between the Nepalese and the Sihala sangha have since grown from strength to strength.
The Lankaramaya established by the Ven. Thera with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Community along with the Sima for ecclesiastical acts was the first Theravada temple in Singapore. From Vietnam the Ven. Thera visited the neighbouring countries on dhammaduta work. Missions to Cambodia and Laos (1959) are recorded. Ven Narada Maha Thera was accorded the title of Sadhu Maha by the Sangharaja and the King of Laos during his visit in recognition of his services to the Sasana in the countries of Indochina. Prior to his mission to Laos, the Ven. Thera, who travelled to Rangoon by ship, flew to Peking (now Beijing), China (24.07.1959) accompanied by Ven. Dhammaruci, a Chinese monk who was studying in Sri Lanka. He took with him Buddha relics and presented them to Chao Pu-Chu, the Vice President, and General Secretary of the Buddhist Association of China.
On the invitation of the President of the Buddhist Society of New South Wales the Ven. Thera visited Sydney in March 1955. As there was no temple at the time he stayed in the house of Mr. Berkley, the President of the Society. A few years earlier Mr. Berkley has met Ven. Narada Maha Thera in Colombo and had become a Buddhist. He spent three months in Australia engaged in dhammaduta work.
Ven. Maha Thera's visit to Africa was in 1947. Before his goodwill mission a farewell was accorded to him by the Colombo YMBA on March 24, 1947. The invitation was from Mr. D. A. S. Nanayakkara of the Tanzania Colony Civil Service as the President of the Dar-es-Salam YMBA. This goodwill mission, which lasted 40 days, took him to Mombasa, Dar-es-Salam, Zanzibar, and Nairobi. Commenting on this mission he said, "During my stay I emphasized the need for Christian neighbourliness, Muslim brotherhood, Hindu oneness, and Buddhist maitree."
During his visit to the USA in 1959, he was invited by the Sri Lanka's Ambassador, Mr. R. S. S. Gunewardena and the Burmese Ambassador U. Win to spend the vassana in Washington. He declined because of his other engagements in Europe. A public lecture was given by him at the Washington Memorial. The Ven. Maha Thera was honoured by the Humanist Award given by the Roiscrucian Society. He wrote an article to the Roiscrucian digest of July 1959, with the title 'A Plea for Peace and Disarmament'. His thinking is summarised by his concluding lines. "One Western poet sang 'East is East and West is West. The twain shall never meet'.
"With all humility it may be said,
East is East and West is West.
The twain will ever meet.
Not in peace, but in love
For all in peace to live"
The first dhammaduta mission of the Ven. Maha Thera to England was in June 1949. He delivered a lecture at China House and Mr. Christmas Humphreys presided at the meeting. In 1954, he revisited England at the invitation of Sir Cyril Soysa to be the head of the first Buddhist Vihara in London, located at Kensington. He left after 6 months. In 1956 he was invited by the World Congress of Faiths, Switzerland to deliver a talk on 'The Buddhist View of the Contemporary Situation'. After a visit of Ven. Narada Maha Thera a Buddhist Society was formed in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1957. On his return he had engagements in Holland, Rome, Greece and Egypt. In 1963, the Ven. Thera visited Germany and France.
Ven. Narada Maha Thera Museum
Ven. Narada Maha Thera is undoubtedly one of the greatest Buddhist missionaries of the 20th century. The Times Collection of paper cuttings, maintained at the National Archives, was the main source for this article, besides other secondary sources. But it is extremely scrappy with many voids. It will be useful in tracing the history of the spread of Buddhism in the world to reconstruct a chronological record of the many dhammaduta missions of Ven. Narada Maha Thera. There were intentions to set up a Narada Thera Museum at the Vajiraramaya temple (Ceylon Daily News - 17.12.83). Later events indicate that it has been only wishful thinking. A project of this nature should draw the attention of all concerned Buddhists, especially those who are associated with the Vajiraramaya Temple.
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