A great prelate turns 100

Ven. Weveldeniye Medhalankara thero, the Chief incumbent of the Mirigama Sasana Wardana Pirivena is a rare national treasure indeed. He will be celebrating his 100th birthday on Sunday, December 7 (inevitably earning the title of "oldest living prelate in Sri Lanka"). He epitomises virtuous which are fast disappearing in individuals who hold high posts in society today.

The long drive to Mirigama was worth it as it revoked my belief in mankind … in a world or country where the clergy (not generalising merely referring to a minority or majority for that matter) is seen to demand many comforts Ven. Medhalankara thero dismisses it, literally living a simple life, practising what he preaches.

Modest to the core, the admirable monk dispels any notions of hubris about his health and longevity.

How does he remain as fit as fiddle, unaffected by present afflictions such as high blood pressure, stress and diabetes?

‘By leading a disciplined life and caring for others more than self,’ was the answer given by Ven. Maradankelle Suseema Thero, a protégé of the Chief incumbent.

‘He wakes up at 3 am and does his own work despite the availability of the many disciples around him,’ elaborated Ven.Suseema thero with unbridled admiration for his mentor. ‘We take pleasure in taking care of our Chief, but it is very rarely that he ever looks out for us. If ever there is a sick monk , the Nayake Thera will visit him in his room, often washing his ‘padikkama’ (spittoon). Further adding to his popularity is his ability to mingle with everyone irrespective of his status or rank, ‘He would forego the chance to partake of his meals in solidarity, preferring the common dining room allocated for the monks in the temple. His prime concern for others has indeed kept him in his prime.

The outpouring of admiration and love towards this illustrious priest was apparent to us by the throng of visitors at the temple, each person was greeted warmly by the prelate who did not display an ounce of impatience. ‘It is his humble attitude that makes him approachable, a visitor is never turned away and he ensures that he or she is duly treated.

The prelate smilingly reminisced of an incident: ‘I was sweeping the garden one morning and two high ranking officials from a government institution approached me, requesting me to take them to the Chief monk! When they were politely told that I was The Chief, they were amazed and apologetic, unable to comprehend the fact that I would take on such duties, despite the multitude of younger monks in the temple.

He attributes his happiness to his disciples who care for him in addition to maintaining the temple according to his wishes.

His destiny

‘Thaththa kamathi nam mama kamathi (if father agrees I will comply) had been his answer to a question whether he wanted to be a monk posed by his village monk Ven.Wadduwe Dambadinha Thero.

His destiny was mapped accordingly. He was taken to his present place but ordained at the Abhayagiri Poorwaramaya in Anuradhapura. Subsequently, he lectured there after the completion of his studies. Due to an unfortunate situation where his mentor (the chief of Mirigama Sasana Pirivena at the time) became blind he was requested to assist at MSP but the monks at Nittambuwa were reluctant to let him go. After a period of 10 years he was compelled to assist his mentor, thus moving back to Mirigama permanently. He was conferred the title of Maha Nayaka Thero of the Ramanna Chapter a few years ago.

I listened with unconcealed awe as Ven. Weweldeniye Medhalankara thero recalled the past; his soothing voice reminded me of the peaceful days when I used to sit next to my grandfather listening to old stories.

An exemplary life lived to the fullest in accordance with the teachings of the Enlightened One makes the one hundredth birthday of Ven.Weweldeniye Medhalankara’s a fulfilling and meaningful milestone for this great personage as well as for Sri Lanka.

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