Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University
Sri Lanka, as the headquarters of Theravada Buddhism, has a long and proud documented history which runs back to well over 2000 years. Despite the fact that India occupies the unique prestige to claim the original land of Buddhism, Sri Lanka is placed in no lesser dignity for preserving the sacred doctrine of Tathagata ever since it was officially introduced and established in 237 BC by Arahant Mahinda and his missionary group under the patronage of emperor Asoka of India and king Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura was the then capital of Sri Lanka and Maha Vihara which was established within the Maha Meghavana Park, was the alma mater of Theravada Buddhism. Ever since, Buddhism found a safe haven to flourish in this ‘paradise in the east’ or ‘the pearl in the Indian Ocean’. Maha Vihara tradition has carved a niche of its own in the Buddhist world by producing millions of Buddhist scholars and billions of academic works. During its long sojourn Buddhism had its own ups and downs due to magnanimous patron kings and devotees on the one hand, and some occasional adversaries on the other. Nevertheless, Buddhism not only could stand tall against all odds, but also it was able to quench the thirst of billions of devotees who were seeking refuge in the noble Triple Gems.
Such is the greatness of this noble doctrine which is capable of providing solace to the spiritual refugees from all walks of life. Maha Vihara and Anuradhapura have been the hallmark of Buddhist spiritualism and scholarship. Buddhasravaka Dharmapeetha was established on 13th June 1969 (Poson Poya Day) within the same Maha Vihara premises under the Act No. 16 of 1968 with the objective of producing noble monks and great Buddhist scholars. Most Venerable Induruwe Uttarananda Adhikarana Nayaka Thero (later Maha Nayaka) was the first ever Dean or the Head of this newly established Dharamapeetha institute. Venerable Kodagoda Nanaloka Nayaka Thero, Venerable Hendiyagala Seelaratana Nayaka Thero, Venerable Balapitiye Visuddhaloka Nayaka Thero, Venerable Raddalle Pannaloka Nayaka Thero, Venerable Uduwe Janananda Nayaka Thero, Erevula Somaratana Nayaka Thero, Venerable Kotaneluwe Chandajothi Nayaka Thero, and Venerable Doratiyawe Sobhita Nayaka Thero were the other Heads of the Buddhasravaka Dharmapeetha which imparted Dhamma to 100s of monks producing great Buddhist scholars. Out of them, 321 student monks from 1974 to 1993 could successfully complete the 5 year Tripitakavedi Degree programme.
Buddhasravaka Dharmapithaya could veritably produce some great Buddhist scholars for nearly 3 decades but then there was a dark era which prompted the government to reform the institute and convert the same to a fully residential university at the same premises on 1st July 1997 under the Buddhasravaka Bhiksu Act No. 26 of 1996. Venerable Attudawe Chandasiri Nayaka Thero and Venerable Attangane Ratanapala Nayaka Thero were respectively appointed as the competent authority during the vacuum until Venerable Waragoda Pemaratana Nayaka Thero took over as the first ever Mahopadhyaya or Vice Chancellor of the newly established Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University. Venerable Karagaswewe Wimalananda Nayaka Thero and Venerable Godagama Mangala Nayaka Thero were to follow doing a commendable service as the Heads of this Buddhist institute. Venerable Thumbulle Seelakkhandha Nayaka Thero is the present Mahopadhyaya and he is working hard to upgrade the standard of Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University to new heights despite some challenges on and off. Mr. R.M.B Muthubanda is assisting as the registrar for the smooth functioning of the institute. As at present, Mr. Jayasena Payagala and Mr. Tissa Bandara work here as the covering bursar and covering librarian respectively.
The objectives of both Buddhasravaka Dharmapeethaya and Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University are more or less identical as follows;
- To train the student monks in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Buddha
- To promote teaching and researching Buddhist meditation among the student monks
- To train the student monks for the propagation of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and abroad
- To encourage the study and researching of Buddhism
- To promote Buddhist culture and values
- To do any other things connected with or incidental to any of the aforesaid objectives
As per the Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University Act, the four prelates of the four main Buddhist sects in Sri Lanka such as,
- Malvatu Chapter of the Shyamopali Sect
- Asgiri Chapter of the Shyamopali Sect
- Supreme Council of the Amarapura Sect and
- Sri Lanka Ramanna Sect,
alternatively become the Maha Mahopadhyaya or the Chancellor of this university.
The academic activities of the Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University are divided into four Departments or Divisions as follows,
- Department of Buddhist Studies
- Department of Practical Buddhist Studies
- Department of Languages and
- Department of Social Sciences & Comparative Studies.
Venerable Dr. Kadawatgama Piyaratana Thero, Venerable Dr. Kallanciye Ratanasiri Thero, Venerable Dr. Kanangamuwe Rahula Thero and Venerable Waradiwela Wijayasumana Thero lead the academic activities as the Heads of the four Departments and also play a vital role in coordinating the academic and administrative activities. This university offers both Special degree (4 years) and General degree (3 years) programmes covering a comprehensive field of different disciplines as follows:
- Department of Buddhist Studies – Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Civilisation
- Department of Practical Buddhist Studies – Buddhist monk and the contemporary social consciousness, Meditation and Yoga, Buddhist Psychology and Counselling
- Department of Languages – Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and English
- Department of Social Sciences and Comparative Studies – Library Science, Sociology, Psychology, Archaeology, Educational Science and Philosophy
Besides, the Department of Practical Buddhist Studies also offers
- Certificate Course in Computer Studies
- Certificate Course in Mass communication
while the Department of Languages offers
- Certificate Course in Japanese Language
- Certificate Course in Tamil Language
Several External Courses are also conducted by the university at present in order to facilitate the external lay students in particular to enhance their knowledge in different fields as follows:
- Department of Practical Buddhist Studies –
- Certificate Course in Management
- Certificate Course in Computer Science
- Certificate Course in Computer Science for Professionals
- Department of Languages (External English Courses – EEC Programme) –
- Preliminary Course in English
- Certificate Course in English
- Diploma Course in English.
Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University has also initiated an External Degree Programme to propagate Buddhism and several other subjects among the lay society and this programme would definitely become a beacon of light to the many multitudes in this relatively less privileged area.
With ‘Mahinda Chintana’, the political manifesto of the present government, Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University seems to have a better prospect of achieving its noble goals. Accordingly, the Mahinda Chintana, one of the best and farsighted political manifestoes produced after the independence, Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University is being shifted to a new location in Anuradhapura and will be upgraded to a new height as a full fledged international Buddhist university.
Sri Lanka at present, is enjoying a fresh freedom and independence with the dawn of a new era of political achievement thanks to our modern day hero, His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksha and his trusted defence mechanism have been able to effectively crush the LTTE terrorism which has been a menace to the whole South Asian region in the past few decades. Hopefully, we believe that the President Rajapaksha is an able leader whom we have been much sought after to fill a political vacuum in this country and we all wish that he could bring about a renaissance to Sri Lanka and rebuild the nation in the years to come.
Buddhism and Buddhist monks have a crucial role to play in this regard and Buddhasravaka Bhiksu University should also aim at reconciling and bridging all Sri Lankans to live in one country under one flag keeping in mind the age old golden adage, ‘united we stand; divided we fall’.