Most Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero 1963-2018 So cha ahosi Pandito, Vyatto, Vinito, Visarado, Bahussuto, Dhammadharo*
He was Wise, Competent, Disciplined, Morally courageous, Deeply learned, Bearer of the Doctrine
Writing an appreciation of the services rendered to humanity by the Most Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero, is indeed a difficult task because of the extensive nature of his services. Using Sri Sambodhi Maha Viharaya (SSMV) in Colombo 07, Sri Lanka, as the focal point, he spread his services all over Sri Lanka and in Buddhist communities in other parts of the world. His unparalleled ability in organising and executing projects, brought results very rapidly, which left an enormous impact on society. As the Chief Incumbent of SSMV in Colombo 07 and Gunarathana Sri Sambodhi Sadaham Sevana of Naranwala, Delgoda,the Chairman of Sri Sambodhi Buddhist Meditation Centre in London and “The Buddhist” Media Network and Principal of The English Dhamma School at SSMV, the extent of services rendered by him is immeasurable.
He was born on 30th July 1963, in a village named Daranagama close to Biyagama in the Gampaha District and was named Ananda Neville Kumarapeli. Having completed his schooling in Biyagama and Royal College Colombo, he qualified to enter Kelaniya University. While awaiting entry to the University he ordained on 5th April 1985 under the guidance of Venerable Korathota Wimaladhamma Nayaka Thero of Dhammika Meditation Centre in Jaltara. He was fortunate to meet and work with the well-known Venerable Panadure Ariyadhamma Nayaka Thero who conducted Bodhi Puja while Venerable Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero conducted meditation programmes.
Having completed his university course successfully, he had the opportunity to work with Buddhist stalwarts at Sri Vajirarama Temple, such as the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thero, Most Venerable Ampitiye Rahula Maha Thero and Most Venerable Kotahene Piyadassi NayakaThero. These associations helped to develop patriotic feelings together with astrengthened commitment to Buddhism. In 1990 during the civil conflict, he, together with General Denzel Kobbekaduwa promoted a scheme to help the farmers affected by hardships, who had to sell their cattle to slaughter houses as they were in dire financial difficulties. He also formed a new scheme to donate dry rations to the affected villagers.
Realising the damage caused to the community by the unruly Television and Radio stations that sprung up, he wanted to start TV and Radio channels to promote Buddha’s teachings to Buddhists all over the world. At the request of Mr. Sarath N De Silva the former Chief Justice and past President of the Executive Committee of the SSMV, Mr. Mohandan Kanake, a Hindu devotee, donated broadcasting equipment to commence this project. With the invaluable services rendered by the previous Bhikkhus of the SSMV, Most Venarable Panadure Ariyadhamma Nayaka Thero and Most Venerable Piyadassi Nayaka Thero, the first Buddhist TV Channel of the world was launched on 29th June 2007 and named “The Buddhist”. This task was undertaken with the generous donations of well-wishers. The Channel progressed very rapidly and was soon propagating the Dhamma on 24 hours of the day throughout the year. On 15th May 2011, “The Buddhist FM radio” was also launched. This was followed by the publication of a print media magazine named “Sri Sambodhi” on 8th January 2012.
Previously, International Schools were established teaching only in the English medium, and training students for foreign examinations such as the London A Levels. This system created a class of youngsters with no knowledge of the Sri Lankan history, geography and culture. Observing the damage done, parents of some such students approached Most Venerable Piyadassi Nayaka Thero and requested him to start an English Medium Dhamma School at Sambodhi Vihara. In response to these requests, Most Venerable Piyadassi Nayaka Thero in June 1995, gave Venerable. Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero (who at that time was in the staff of the Vajiraramaya Dhamma School), the task of establishing the school and managing it as the Principal.Venerable Kusaladhamma Thero held this post for 22 years up to the time of his demise with very successful results where students excelled in the YMBA Dhamma and Abhidhamma examinations. He gave opportunities for students to announce and conduct programmes on Buddhist TV and Radio Channels. The Buddhist News programme was produced by the Dhamma school students.
The Buddha Vihara in the UK established by the Ambedkar International Mission in 1974 had been rendering a yeoman service in propagating the doctrine of Buddhism in the UK. Unfortunately, it had fallen on financial difficulties and the Mission was in the process of disposing of the Vihara. Under these circumstances, Venerable Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero was blessed with the pious opportunity of rescuing this great centre of Buddhism, which is the second oldest Buddhist Vihara in the UK, from being sold to a non-Buddhist organisation. Afterwards, the meritorious Venerable Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero, with lavish donations by the Buddhists living in Sri Lanka and abroad, purchased this Vihara in 2013, and established the Sri Sambodhi Community Development Foundation in 2014. It is also named as Sri Sambodhi Buddhist Meditation Centre. Every year since then, for the Kathina festival, he invited and arranged Maha Nayaka, Anu Nayaka and Nayaka Theros of all three Nikayas to visit the UK Vihara. He whole heartedly supported Vihara activities and showed a keen interest in the success of the Vihara in London.
As President of the ‘Parahitha Sanvidanaya’ (to assist those in need) and the ‘Sri Buddha Rashmi Samaja Sanwardhane Padanama’ (to develop and nurture a righteous society, enriched by the dhamma ), Venerable Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero provided a dynamic leadership to these organisations. He spanned the island of Sri Lanka with varied meritorious activities which touched the hearts and minds of countless people in Sri Lanka and across the world. These included helping Viaharas in financial difficulties, poor and destitute people disabled war heroes and people, affected by droughts and floods (Sambodhi Sahana Yathra). Realising the harm caused by contaminated food sold in the market he promoted a sales outlet for food without pesticides and other chemicals. He organised a series of ‘mahapinkam’ at sacred sites in Anuradhapura, Pollonnaruwa, Mahiyangana, Mihintale and Somawathie Chaitya, which were attended by a large number of Bhikkhus and over a million devotees observed Attanga Uposatha Sila. He also conducted ‘mahapinkams’ at Lumbini, Buddha Gaya, Isipathnaramaya and Kusinara in India. All these ‘mahapinkam’ were executed at a grand scale with ‘mal pahan’ puja. His missions did not stop within the Island of Sri Lanka. He disseminated dhamma in countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, China, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the UK.
On 3rd of March 2018, sadly, Venerable Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero passed away at the age of 54 after a short illness; the loss to the Buddhist community worldwide is incalculable. It is now our responsibility, especially for those in Sri Lanka and the UK, to continue with his exemplary work in protecting the Dhamma and helping all members of the community irrespective of their ethnic and religious origins, so that we can all live in peace and harmony showing generosity, tolerance and compassion to all sentient beings.
In addition to the wealth of merit brought forth by this noble Bhikkhu, he acquired a fathomless source of Kusala Kamma in this very life by tireless effort. May all this Kusala Kamma enable Most Venerable Daranagama Kusaladhamma Nayaka Thero to overcome the fetters of this perilous Sansara, extinguish all Kilesas and realise the Four Noble Truths and ultimately attain Buddhahood.
Don Ratnayaka & Jaliya Ekanayake
*The (Catukka) Sobhana Sutta (A 4.7)