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Venerable Kadavadduwe Jinavamsa
The Great Reformer

Me vada pilivela hari na".

In temples around the island he saw only ceremonies merit-making and rather noisy pinkamas. Ownership and nurture of temple property, learning (sometimes becoming a money making vocation) power and position seemed to fill the lives of the Bikkhus.

"Is this what we became monks for" he questioned with a deeply troubled mind. "Is this what the Buddha taught us?"

In 1949, the year of National Independence with the Buddha Jayanthi just not far away he began writing a series of articles to newspapers on the need for reform of the sangha. "The purpose of becoming a monk," he wrote uncompromisingly, "is for the attainment of Nibbana, the escape from all suffering — Sabha Dukkha Nissaranam Nibbanam Sachchi Karanaththaya".

His eloquence in writing in writing, preaching and his radio talks contributed much to the Buddhist revival of that time and also to the success of his own movement. Tall, thin, ascetic-looking and severely self-disciplined Ven. Jinavamsa was indeed, an inspiring figure.

This popular campaigner for the purity and integrity of the sangha was sometimes harassed and even threatened with violence as reformers often are. But he was never embittered, nor would he ever give up.

In May 1950, he was able to take a practical step towards his ideal. Though it was not sangha reform on a large scale, it was a viable alternative. A wealthy dayake promised to build him a centre for training monks in meditation and the pure bikkhu life.

Soon he was joined by the Ven. Matara Gnanarama, a pioneer in the field of Buddhist meditation. Other pious monks and laymen gathered around them. Forest hermitages far from the corrupting influence of the village and city came up in all parts of the island; forested Nimalava, Mithirigala where peace and quiet are a palpable presence, serene Nauyane, Puhulwela lonely and remote Kutumbigala by the sea and the ‘sylvan Galduwa Yogashramaya to name just a few. Today there are 150 of them. They are peopled with over 1500 meditating monks (among them many illustrious bhikkhus lead by the Ven. Nauyane Ariyadhamma, the best known of them all) whose everyday life is the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha.

Together these Aranyas were known as the Sansthawa and thus was born Jinavamsa thera’s brainchild. Under his able guidance it grew into a very successful well managed, self contained Vanavasi Sangha Sabha with its own bhikkhu rituals and Kathikawatha, a beacon of light to both priests and laymen.

Years passed, the Great Reformer advanced into peaceful old age with his dreams fulfilled, residing quietly and meditatively at the Galduwa Yogeshramaya.

Recalling an often repeated saying of his, ‘Deyak natha’ (meaning that the human personality is without any permanent essence or cure, Anatta) it would seem that this saintly thera was not without the Aryan Path and its fruits (Phala).

July 13, 2003. It was the night of the Esala Poya, the full moon shone brightly over the Galduva Yogeshramaya, the Ven. Jinavamsa called his pupil monks around him and advised them on the Dhamma. He then recalled with joy the purity and quality of his bhikkhu life. Around 10 p.m. this wonderful Buddha Puthra mindfully and calmly passed away.

Do we need to wish for him the attainment of Nibbana?

I wonder!


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