Saturday Magazine

Reminiscing 50 Years of Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala

Let us for a moment take a good look around us. Then, after a little while it becomes quite clear that although the 21st century is surrounded by heaps of hi-tech gadgetry, a majority of us have undergone a strange metamorphosis, turning ourselves into mere senseless statues devoid of sensitive feelings but with diversified interests focused solely on gaining material wealth.

As a consequence, we may find that despite being rich substantially people are extremely poor spiritually and that the ever-increasing need to foster the growth of mental development and spiritual improvement is at a record high now almost in all walks of life. If people are to lead meaningful and healthier lives beneficial not only to themselves but to others as well as the environment they live in, virtue has to be inculcated in everybody’s inner mind starting from the very young.

As far as the Buddhist community is concerned what better way is there other then the Daham pasala which provides them with an excellent foundation upon which a meaningful existence of virtue and intellect along with a proper insight could first be moulded. Indeed, the Daham pasala plays a major role and bears a responsibility in maintaining and preserving the inseparable bonds between the Sinhala Buddhist and Buddha's doctrine.

Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala at Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya was established half a century ago on 20 May 1957. The efforts and perseverance of our great founder, the late Viharadhipathi and the Chief Sangha Nayake for Ratmalana Chapter of Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dhamma Maha Sangha Sabha, Most Ven. Bellanwila Sri Somaratana Nayake Thera resulted in the founding of this much-needed institute and it has certainly illuminated the minds of scores of young students with the light of Dhamma ever since, to this very day.

The late Ven Prof. Kotagama Vachissara Thera, former lecturer at Vidyodaya University read the first letters to the inaugural batch of 50 students of the Sri Bodhiraja Daham pasala. Within no time indeed, it became the guiding star that spread Daham knowledge into several surrounding villages as well.

Our first principal was the late Viharadhipathi of the London Buddhist Vihara and Chief Sanga Nayake of UK, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayake thera OBE. Thereafter, the present Viharadhipathi of Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya, also adviser to Buddhist Library Singapore and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Singapore Ven. Bellanwila Dhammaratana Nayake Thera took over its mantle and thus a rock solid infrastructure materialised on which the Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala thrives today.

Thereafter the present Viharadhikari of Bellanwila Rajamaha Viharaya and Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura Ven Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Nayake thera who is also the Lekakadhikari, Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dhamma maha Sangha Sabha became the principal who continues to be our venerable patron. He remains a tower of strength behind the Daham Pasala’s numerous achievements that we see today.

The next principal, Ven. Aththidiye Seelaratana Thera also made an immense contribution towards the improvement and the development of the Daham pasala. Ven Attapatukande Ananda Thera, an Assistant Principal and Dharmacarya of Ananda College, Colombo 10, the fifth principal of the Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala, has held the post for almost 30 years and effectively steered the Daham Pasala into the new millennium in all its present day glory. The two vice principals, Ven. Pattiyawela Chandaloka Thera, Dharmacharya, Royal College, Colombo 07, and Ven. Boralesgamuwe Pemaratana Thera provide invaluable support in running day to day activities such as conducting classes and general administration.

As the principal next in line, the foresight and vision of Ven. Boralesgamuwe Premaratana Thera has enabled computerisation of student and programme data as well as development of extra curricular activities. Plans are underway to commence courses in English as well. The dedicated services of Ven. Nugegoda Revatha, Ven. Weedagama Hemaratana, Ven. Kosgoda Chandajoti, Ven. Keeriptiya Somaratana and Ven. Aththidiye Punyaratana and other monks along with the encouragement of more than 30 members of highly qualified staff, guide and motivate the student population of over 1500.

The Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala received a new three-storey building complete with furniture last year along with a state of the art computer laboratory with all necessary accessories. A well quipped library is also available for students to improve themselves in all fields. The three houses Shradhha, Virya and Pragna often conduct inter-house competitions in knowledge of Daham, art, essay, oratory and debating, poetry recitation, prose composition and drama and issue a tri-monthly newsletter and a monthly journal. Thus it is no wonder that most our students excel at the YMBA, Kesbewe Shashanarakshaka Mandalaya, Colombo District and All Island competitions and walk away with quite a number of certificates, prizes and trophies every year. In addition, a biannual prize giving is also held.

Most Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Nayake thera in the capacity of Ven. Patron of Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala awards special prices to bright students obtaining high grades at the Daham Pasal Final and Dharmacharya examinations and personally donated all prizes given away at every biannual prize giving so that parents are not burdened with these essential tasks. In addition to offering scholarships to the needy students of the Daham Pasala as well as in the area, our venerable patron constructed at his personal expense a completely furnished two-storey building that was declared open in the year 2000.

The Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala organises annual educational field trips enabling students to visit ancient historical shrines and sites of educational and archaeological importance so that they gain knowledge through external resources as well apart from books. Student awareness and participation in common welfare activities are developed through monthly Poya Day programmes. Furthermore, annual Vesak lanterns and Buddhist devotional song competitions held on these days encourage in drawing and directing the young students’ attention in preserving Buddhist culture and art.

Several commemorative ceremonies have been held in the past in memory of our founder, Most Ven. Bellanwila Sri Somaratana Nayake Thera. The 30 year completion ceremony was held in 1987 and a special series of Inter Daham Pasala Competitions within the Kesbewa Shashanarakshaka Mandalaya was organised in 1993 and the winner was awarded the "Bellanwila Sri Somaratana Memorial Trophy". During this event the then students of Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala donated a sum of Rs. 5,000 to the Sri Somaratana Memorial Fund, in addition to their efforts and teamwork displayed towards making the series of events a complete success.

Thus it certainly is a great pleasure indeed to reminisce the 50-year-old history of Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala and its greatest wealth today is the very well disciplined and spiritually rich Buddhist citizens produced so far. All present students of Sri Bodhiraja Daham Pasala are well aware that they will someday be responsible for a well mannered virtuous society capable of maintaining and preserving the Noble Buddhist Heritage before handing it over to the next generation. May the blessings of the Triple Gem guide and protect everybody towards achieving this worthy cause.

by Laskhman S. Perera,
Tutorial Staff Member.

 

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