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An erudite Bhikku dedicated to uplift the Sasana

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Appreciation for a unique personality: Dr. Welamitiyawe Sri Kusaladhamma Nayake Thera

By Eng. Dimuthu Punsara Colambage

Lecturer, University of Moratuwa

punsarauom@gmail.com

The Most Venerable Tripitakavageeshwaracharya, Upadhyaya, Aggamahasaddhammajotikadhaja, Dr. Welamitiyawe Dharmakeerthi Sri Kusaladhamma Nayake Thera, Parivenadhipathi and Director of Vidyalankara Pirivena, Peliyagoda and Chancellor of University of Kelaniya, Chief Sangha Nayake of Colombo- Chilaw two divisions who passed away after a brief illness at the age of 84, the funeral is scheduled to take place at the Independence Square today (31) with full state honours. The nayake thera was a prelate having led an exemplary life of a disciplined and selfless religious leader can be described as a great prelate who was prudent, wise, erudite and learned in the Dhamma according to the discourse of the Buddha.

Ven. Thera was a great prelate endowed with a unique personality of his own. Over 30 years he had provided the leadership to Vidyalankara Pirivena, Peliyagoda, the crest jewel of Education for the Buddhist monks. He was a great Buddhist prelate who has rendered an enormous religious service over a long period of seventy years to uplift the Buddhist education in Sri Lanka. He was the guide of all religious and socio-cultural activities launched in affiliation with Vidyalankara tradition.

Vidyodaya Pirivena in Maligakanda and Vidyalankara pirivena in Peliyagoda are the two main reputed Buddhist educational institutions in the country. Vidyalankara pirivena was founded on Nov 1, 1875, by Most. Ven. Ratmalane Sri Dharmaloka Maha Thera, a prominent Buddhist scholar in 19th century. The parivenadhipathi position was succeeded by great scholars of Most Ven. Ratmalane Sri Dharmarama Nayake Thera, Lunupokune Sri Dharmananda Nayake Thera, Kiriwattuduwe Sri Pragnasara Nayake Thera, Yakkaduwe Sri Pragnarama Thera and Nattandiye Sri Pragnakara Nayake Thera. The seventh parivenadhipathi position was conferred to our speaker, the Most Ven. Sri Kusaladhamma Nayake Thera in 1990.

Vidyalankara Pirivena has functioned over period of 146 years as a great seat of Buddhist learning which has spread its fame not only Sri Lanka but also over the world. The pirivena is carved the name in gold as a reputed centre of education renaissance of Sri Lanka. As one of the main Buddhist educational institutes, the pirivena has contributed for the betterment of the country, nation, Buddhism and oriental studies including Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit languages. They have initiated a separate tradition in their academic works which is called as Vidyalankara tradition. Ven Kusaladhamma Nayake thera tried his best to protect and continue the Vidyalankara tradition to future.

Eighty-four years ago, on Feb 20, 1937 a son was born to the family of Palihawadana Arachchilage John Sinyo and Ratnayake Mudiyanselage Gunamalethana who were residing at the village of Welamitiyawa in Kurunegala district. He was the third of the family with seven children and named as Tikiri Banda. It may be due to the merits accumulated over a ling cycle of Sansara, Little Tikiri Banda was destined to enter the Buddhist order of Sangha at a later date and handed over his responsibilities to Hurukgamuwe Gunaratana thera, chief incumbent of Hurukgamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya. Due to the untiring efforts of Most Ven. Yakkaduwe Sri Pragnarama Nayake Thera, then parivenadhipathi of Vidyalankara Pirivena, little boy was taken to Vidyalankara Pirivena,.

The boy was lucky to see and participate to the prestigious tripitaka sangayana in Vidyalankara Pirivena in 1950s. At the end of Tripitaka Sangayana, he was ordained as a novice monk under the tutelage of Most Ven. Kiriwattuduwe Sri Pragnasara Nayake Thera, parivenadhipathi of Vidyalankara Pirivena and first vice chancellor of Vidyalankara University. At the pirivena, he was able to enrich his young life as a buddhist monk in close association and company of most learned and celebrated Buddhist monks of caliber of Ven. Kotahene Pagnakeerti Thera, Walpola Rahula Thera, Bambarende Siri Seewali Thera, Hedipannala Pragnaloka Thera, Degammeda Sumanajoti Thera, Etulgama Dewarakkitha Thera etc. The novice monk was higher ordinated at Malwathu Maha Viharaya, Kandy in 1957.

When Vidyalankara pirivena was elevated to the university level in 1959, Ven. Kusaladhamma Thera was eligible to enter the university as a member of the first student intake due to the excellent academic records in piriven life. After completing the Bachelor of Art degree in Sinhala, he was invited to the academic staff in the university. Ven. Thera refused the invitation and started his career as a teacher of his own alma mater, Vidyalankara Pirivena in 1963. Later he was appointed as the inaugural director of Pannipitiya Vidyalankara Pirivena, an affiliated branch pirivena of his almamater.

In 1983 Ven. Kusaladhamma thera was nominated to the next parivenadhipathi position by Vidyalankara council due to the recommendation Most. Ven. Yakkaduwe Pragnarama Nayake Thera., After the demise of of Ven. Pragnarama thera In 1986, Ven. Kusaladhamma thera was eligible to become the head master of the pirivena, but paying respect to the teachers, Ven. Kusaladhamma thera handed over the parivenadhipathi position to Nattandiye Pragnakara Nayake Thera, one of his teachers who was alive in those days. Thus, Kusaladhamma thera was appointed as the director of the pirivena.

In 1990, Ven Pragnakara thera was passed away and then Ven. Welamitiyawe Sri Kusaladhamma thera was elevated to the parivenadhipathi position. The supreme sangha council of Malwatta chapter of siam sect conferred the prestigious positions of Chief Sanghanayake of Colombo Chilaw two divisions and Upadhyaya position with ‘Tripitaka Vageeshwaracharya’ and ‘Dharma Keerthi Sri’ titles. As the chief monk of western Sri Lanka, Ven. Nayake thera rendered a great leadership to the Sri Lankan sangha community. While serving as the Upadhyaya of Malwathu Maha Viharaya, he hold the leadership of upasampada ceremonies of thousands of novice monks.

Ven. Thera was appointed as the chancellor of Kelaniya University in 1997 by the President of Sri Lanka. Kusaladhamma thera made the reputation of the names of Vidyalankara pirivena and Kelaniya university known world ever. In addition to being the principal and director of Vidyalankara Pirivena, Nayake thera became the chief incumbent of more than 40 temples including Ratmalana Purana Viharaya, Hunupitiya Wijayasundararamaya, Waragoda Bodhirukkharamaya, Keragala Padmawathi Pirivena, Dematagoda Dharmaprasada Viharaya, Nattandiya Vidyaratna Pirivena, Galahitiyawa Weluwanaramaya, Batapota Sarananda Pothgul Viharaya, Gonawala Wardhanaramaya.

Most Venerable Nayaka Thera has become famous for his qualities of humbleness and friendliness. He accepted all the invitations for Dhamma sermons, almsgivings, opening ceremonies throughout the country without concerning his health conditions. Nayake thera helped thousands of disable people to protect and secure their lives.

The people of our country are familiar with his name do much. It is not necessary to reiterate that the venerable thera had performed an enormous service on behalf of the country and the religion. The voice he raised on behalf of the Sinhalese Buddhist was unique.

The selfless services rendered by Most Ven. Welamitiyawe Kusaladhamma Nayake Thera, brought greater light to the Buddha Sasana. His actions portrayed a most efficient and esteemed personality. The Most Ven. nayake Thera earned the respect of the Maha Sangha by his tireless efforts towards the unification of the three Maha Sangha chapters. Most Ven. Welamitiyawe Kusaladhamma Nayake Thera was a mine of knowledge. His pleasant charismatic personality, along with his humbleness added colour to his brilliance. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.



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SL defenceless, warn experts

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New COVID variants

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Due to the lax testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), there is a strong possibility that any new variant of COVID-19 entering the country, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday commenting on the detection of a new coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa.

Even a travel ban would be useless unless the country enhances its testing and surveillance capacities, Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh said that PCR tests were not conducted on passengers on arrival and that it was likely that even those not fully vaccinated were entering the country. “Gene sequencing in respect of those infected with COVID inside the country was at a minimal level, and therefore, there is no way we can find out whether a new variant has entered the country until it is too late.

“There are two state-of-the-art labs in the BIA but no tests are done there. We are not ready, at all. Several nations are imposing travel bans on travellers from South Africa and the region. Perhaps, we should follow suit. However, the fact that we don’t test those coming in means that even a travel ban might be useless,” he said.

Kumudesh added that the number of PCR tests conducted had dropped to such a low level that reagents used in some labs for PCR testing are now nearing the expiry dates. The attitude of health officials at the airport is such that everyone operates on the basis that testing of passengers is not important.

Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya yesterday said the detection of the new South African variant was potentially very bad news for all countries, and certainly for Sri Lanka.

“We still don’t have sufficient data on this, but I am very worried. It was only discovered a few days ago, but the scanty evidence strongly indicates that this new variant is driving a rapid increase in infections in S Africa. Only 100 cases have been confirmed officially, but reports indicate it may be 90% of new cases since Wed in Johannusburg,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said that his best guess was that three out of four South Africans had been infected by COVID during the pandemic. Thus, a large number of them had acquired natural immunity. Moreover, 25% of others have been vaccinated.

“So this rapid spread despite a lot of immunity is very disturbing. This really points to this new variant—B1.1.529—being both more infectious and also significantly immune resistant. Something that also matches with its particular mutations,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said he was not surprised at the emergence of the new variant because contrary to many experts who drink the kool-aid, there is no scientific basis to think SARS-CoV-2 had matured in its evolution. It might still have a lot of potential to evolve greater immune evasion and virulence, and that we should act on that basis.

“Second, because most of the world is following the misguided strategy of just accepting the virus (hey you – USA, UK, Sri Lanka…), the virus has plenty of chances to keep on mutating more because the truth is more of the virus is circulating than ever before. Third, despite a lot of nonsense about how T-cell immunity is going to protect us, there’s really no evidence that either infection or current vaccines and boosters will ever give us long-lasting immunity. We simply don’t know.”

Countries like South Africa, Peru, etc., who had such high levels of infection that much of their population was infected more than once, still continue to suffer new waves of infection.

“So this is bad news for all of us humans on planet earth, but very definitely for us in Sri Lanka. Why? Because based on how our medical establishment and govt authorities think, we will be slow or refuse to put the necessary border controls in to prevent this entering. And when it does enter-which is inevitable if this variant spreads globally–we will be slow to detect its entry, we will refuse to sound the alarm, and we will do everything but actually attempt to stop it. That’s been our track record, so why would it change? Worth noting that if this starts a new wave in Southern Africa, it’s just three to four months after their third wave. So just as immunity starts waning appreciably from natural infection (or vaccines). That gives us a strong hint of what our future holds unless we end this pandemic.”

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Navy deploys lagoon craft at Kurinchankerny until construction of new bridge

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Residents waiting for the boat

Sri Lanka Navy began providing transport facilities at the Kurinchankerny lagoon following the recent tragedy that claimed several lives. This service will continue until the construction of a new bridge at Kurinchankerny, Kinniya in Trincomalee is completed.

This initiative was set in motion following the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne. The Navy deployed a Lagoon Craft, capable of carrying 25 passengers safely at a time from Thursday (25) under the supervision of the Eastern Naval Command. The lagoon craft will be in service from 7.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. and from 12.00 noon to 2.00 p.m. each day. Further, the Navy erected a temporary jetty to allow passengers to board the vessel safely.

A schoolgirl on her way to the ferry
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UN Assistant Secretary General during talks with President pledges to work closely with Sri Lanka

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The United Nations will always work closely with Sri Lanka, said Khaled Khiari, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political, Peacebuilding and Peace Operations. Khiari made these remarks when he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday (25).

UN Assistant Secretary General Khiari is visiting Sri Lanka as a follow-up to the bilateral meeting with the President and the UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres held in September this year on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Khiari conveyed the best wishes of UN Secretary-General Guterres to President Rajapaksa and said that the UN is willing to engage in a constructive and positive engagement with Sri Lanka.

Expressing satisfaction over the President’s affection and interest in the environment, the Assistant Secretary General appreciated Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The President explained that steps are being taken to plant 100,000 mangroves with the assistance of the Navy and actions are being taken to prevent climate change through environmental conservation programmes.

President Rajapaksa expressed gratitude to the UN agencies and donors that have assisted Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to make the vaccination drive successful and in facing other challenges in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The President pointed out that the government’s development programme implemented in the North and East after the end of the war in 2009 had brought about rapid development. The President recalled his invitation made while participating in the UN General Assembly to the diaspora to work together with all communities after visiting Sri Lanka. The President said that he hoped that the invitation would be met with positive initiatives.

The two sides exchanged views on unity and relations between communities. An environment where all communities can live freely has been made available in Sri Lanka. The President pointed out that the Minister of Justice is from the Muslim community, the Attorney General is from the Tamil community and many of those holding other key posts are of different communities. President Rajapaksa said the government has undertaken a great task in building unity among the communities and therefore, no one should have any doubt in this regard.

Both sides were of the view that education was fundamental to unity among the communities. President Rajapaksa said that the process by which South Africa has been able to end apartheid and move forward will be studied and the lessons that can be learned from it and what can be implemented will be looked into. The President also expressed hope that the United Nations will provide assistance in this regard.

Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, and Political Officer at the UN Peace Operations Department’s Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department Chiaki Ota were also present.

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