Dharmasena Weeraratna

Mr. Dharmasena Weeraratna passed away on May 18, 2001 and his loss is deeply felt by the members of the German Dharmaduta Society, of which he was a founder member and Vice-President. His family and numerous friends have also borne this loss with fortitude as it came at the end of a period of ill health. The brother of Mr. Asoka Weeraratna, the late Venerable Dhammanishanthi Thera, he stood by him, working assiduously to extend support in all the activities geared to the establishment of the Buddhist Mission to Berlin. While his brother did not spare himself in planning and executing the daunting task and the organisation of all the preparatory work, both here and abroad. Dharmasena gave him unstinted assistance, working behind the scene but with dedication and devotion, in building up the infra-structure for the promotion and realisation of the objective, which received island-wide acclamation.

Dharmasena, whom I came to know through my association with Asoka, started his youthful career as a strong-willed lad receiving first-hand training and grasping the rudiments of the business and the craft under his father, in the jewellery mart, attached to their residence, in Minuwangoda, Galle. Although he had received a sound education at St. Aloysius College, Galle, one of the outstanding schools of the city, he developed an aptitude for enlarging and enhancing not only his father’s business, nurtured and honed by four unbroken family generations but also the reputation and excellence, recognised by esteemed clients. He was able, therefore to forge close links with the craftsmen and various specialists in the field of jewellery manufacture and thereby perform a valuable managerial role.

After the demise of his father his marriage to a respectable family in Colombo, he made the best use of the experience and ability he gained in Galle, to set up a flourishing jewellery enterprise under the ancestral name ’P. J. Weeraratna & Sons’. Both the brothers combined their business abilities and supplied quality jewellery to a large clientele. Though the business became well-known and the prospects were bright, Asoka’s long-standing yearning to give up the lay life and seek ordination as a forest-dwelling monk along with similar monks, led to the parting of the ways as Dharmasena was compelled to proceed alone. It is here that we see how Dharmasena responded to the brother’s determination to forsake secular gain and adapted himself to the task of supporting the brother.

Dharmasena is remembered as a person who combined his proficiency and principled attitude to business with an unfailing devotion to Buddhist values and principles in his life. He was a gifted raconteur, recalling incidents and events in discussions where he showed his mature under standing of men and matters in an emphatic and challenging style. He evinced particular interest in the political and social changes of the day, debating with his associates and trying to get the better of them.

He was not only a pleasant conversationalist but an avid reader, an observant writer and critic, who contributed thought-provoking articles to various dailies and magazines. In his writings, he focused special attention on a variety of issues, advocating the path of righteousness and ethical rectitude, emphasising also the importance of Buddhist values and their significance.

He also espoused Buddhist and nationalist causes and served as a member of the Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya led by Mr. L. H. Mettananda.

Dharmasena Weeraratna gave evidence before the Press Commission as a member of the BJB team, which included Mr. L. H. Mettananda, Mr. Gunaseela Vitanage, Mr. T. U. de Silva, Dr. K. N. Jayatilaka and Mr. K. H. M. Sumathipala, among others. The Report of the Press Commission (1964 ) headed by Mr. K. D. de Silva, led to far reaching reforms of the national press in the mid - sixties and early seventies.

We grieve today that Dharmasena is no more, but remember him with affection for the services he rendered in an exemplary way. The German Dharmaduta Society, which, he and his brother Asoka strove hard to set up and promote the spread of Buddhism in Germany and other countries, remains as a lasting monument to their combined effort. His two sons, who have now taken up the kindled torch of Buddhism, themselves ardent practising Buddhists, must indeed derive solace and contentment that the foundation laid by their forebears would grow in strength to support an international edifice for propagating knowledge and practice of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha Dhamma, in the West.
Jayadeva Tilakasiri