“Anagarika Dharmapala raised his voice during darkest era in Sri Lankan history”: President
Saturday, 20 September 2014 00:00
Anagarika Dharmapala worked relentlessly to uplift Sinhala Buddhists during the darkest era in Sri Lankan history when there was no opportunity for the people even to think about freedom, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “At that time there were no political parties in Sri Lanka. Also, there was not even a sign of such political groupings. Anagarika Dharmapala, living in a period in which on one side there were the colonial rulers and on the other, the people who lived with ignorance and subservience, but he succeeded in awaking Sri Lankans so that they could live with a certain amount of free movement,” he said.Speaking at ceremony marking the 150th birth anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala which was held at the Independence Square in Colombo today (September 17), he said that the great Anagarika knew the best way to freedom was the removal of the weaknesses of the nation and that the nation should be raised not by disturbing another nation, but by strengthening itself.The President said that Anagarika Dharmapala did not say only the Sinhalese are great or only the Sinhalese should live in this world. “It was the people who did not like to see our motherland to progress who labelled Anagarika Dharmapala a racist even when he taught people to learn from other countries as well. Anagarika Dharmapala was neither a racist nor an imprudent anti-colonialist.” He added that Anagarika’s intention was to uplift Sinhala Buddhists by ending their subservient mentality toward colonial rulers.Following is the full text of the speech:Today we are here to remember a great son of our motherland who was born in the 19th Century and completed a great mission to the Buddhists in the entire world.
The Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala performed his duty to uplift Sinhala Buddhists during a dark era in Sri Lankan history when there was no opportunity for the people even to think about freedom. At that time there were no political parties in Sri Lanka. Also, there was not even a sign of such political groupings. Anagarika Dharmapala lived in a period in which on one side there were the colonial rulers and on the other the people who lived in ignorance and subservience. But he succeeded in awaking Sri Lankans so that they could live with certain amount of free movement.
Anagarika Dharmapala started the fight for freedom after making the nation understand about the cleanliness, observing pansil and stop shameless, uncultured behaviour, through the books he wrote on the facts Buddhists should know.
We can imagine today how much difficulty he went through when he had to make people socially advance, giving the names for their identity and teaching them the pansil, to help the process of uplifting the nation. He knew the best way to freedom was the removal of the weaknesses of the nation. The nation should be raised not by disturbing another nation, but by strengthening our own nation. Though he was a nationalist, he learned not only about his country, but also about others’. He respected the other nations as well. He took examples from Greece, Japan and America. He asked Sinhalese to take examples from the development of those countries. In his sermons, he asked people to refrain from alcohol like Muslims, avoid eating flesh like Hindus, and earn money by working hard like English to lead to a good life.
He did not say only the Sinhalese are great or only the Sinhalese should live in this world. It was the people who did not like to see our motherland to be progressed, labelled Anagarika Dharmapala as a racist even when he taught people to learn from other countries as well.
Anagarika Dharmapala was neither a racist nor imprudent anti-colonialist. Also, he did not try to put himself in jail by indulging in false fights to win people’s sympathy. Once, when he was house arrested he had compassion even towards those who arrested him. And he wrote books for the betterment of the nation during the period of house-arrest.
If one wants to be a hero of the nation, he should have a comprehensive knowledge of your motherland. Anagarika Dharmapala did not work out his strategy merely by studying the Buddhists who lived in Colombo and suburbs. During his young age he had the opportunity to visit the places in the entire country as the interpreter of Sir Henry Steel Olcott. Hence he had an understanding of the people, lived in the country. That is why he had a forward vision. And that is why his program bore fruit more than the efforts of the others. Anagarika Dharmapala became a national hero with a wide knowledge of the heritage of this country.
It was Anagarika Dharmapala who spread Buddhism to most of the countries in the world, after the periods of King Dharmashoka and King Kanishka. He took the Buddhism to India where it was born but became lost later. And he propagated Buddhism to Europe and western countries as well. The Maha Bodhi Society which served the entire world was pioneered by Anagarika Dharmapala. It is reported that many British also became Buddhists after listening to the speech of Anagarika Dharmapala at the World Religious Parliament in Chicago. Though he was an anti-colonialist, the people respected him for the way he spoke. He did not preach in a manner for the people to distance from Buddhism.
He knew that through propagation of Buddhism alone is not sufficient to strengthen Sinhala Buddhists. Hence, taking a futuristic view, he created a chain of Buddhist schools such as Ananda College. The service rendered by the Anagarika by establishing 110 Buddhist schools is unparalleled. But, sadly, in some of those schools do not even have his name or the name of Mahabodhi Society today.
He was the first leader who realised the need for vocational studies for the Sinhalese. He used his family businesses to teach the Buddhist youth how to start match box industrial units. Today when we take effective steps to provide vocational studies to our youth, I can wonder about Anagarika’s great futuristic vision.
After King Dutugemunu the leader who received most insults and rancour was Anagarika Dharmapala. 10 years ago, people were afraid to say in public that they were Sinhala Buddhists. When I said I am a Sinhala Buddhist, many people criticised me. Nobody wanted to remember King Dutugemunu. Dharmapala was also labelled a racist. But we succeeded in changing that. We have brought this country to a position where we can proudly say we are Sinhala Buddhists or talk proudly about King Dutugemunu. Because we have given a backbone to our nation, today the films on kings and history are being made. We have given the nation a proud feeling that we could stand as equals among nations.
We have created a country where the people are not lazy and could live in a clean atmosphere and that is done to honour Anagarika Dharmapala.
During that era our people could not realise the true value of the services rendered by Anagarika Dharmapala. When that service is not understood, it is ridiculed and insulted. Today also the same thing is happening. Today’s efforts to build the nation are locally and internationally highly valuable. But when that value is not understood, people criticise saying, ‘What is the use of this development?’ But those patriots who love the country should realise this.
Although the services of Dharmapala were not understood then, it is highly valued today. Any service rendered may get recognition in future. Hence, the patriots who work for the progress of the country should not get discouraged by criticism.
The colonial rulers declared Keppetipola Clifton and others who fought for the freedom of the country as traitors. 60 years after independence, no government was ready to withdraw that gazette. But we, in 2005, declared that Keppetipola Nilame and others as patriotic heroes. Our intention is to end the subservience to colonial rule for once and all.
I declare today as Dharmapala Day to remember this patriotic leader and declare the entire year from today as Dharmapala Year. I remind that today, the 150th birth anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala.
May you all be blessed by the noble Triple Gem.
Pix by Sudath Silva