“Of the many heroes who will live in our hearts and minds of a grateful nation, Anagarika Dharmapala shines as the brightest star among many other distinguished stars of the galaxy of heroes”. Why...?

Because at a time when the Sinhalese had degenerated into sloth and complacency, and totally given up fighting the gargantuan might of the colonizer, succumbing to their pressures with passive submission; when a strong missionary influence was attempting to turn the Buddhist island into its Christian faith; when many were converting for material gain and making it a status symbol, while Buddhists were made to feel second rate, Dharmapala came forward alone; roaring like an enraged lion to convulse his people to get up and give up their imbecilic fear of the ‘white man’.

Article by : Sri Lankan Supreme Court Justice Shirani Bandaranayake

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Anagarika Dharmapala

It was on April 29, 1933 that Anagarika Dharmapala died at Saranath at the age of 69 gazing at the Mulagandakuti Vihara, where he spent his last days, wishing that he be "reborn again twenty-five times to spread Lord Buddha's Dhamma".

He was born to a wealthy and influential Buddhist family on September 17, 1864 renowned for their piety and generosity. Named Don David in conformity with the fashion in vogue he was sent to St. Thomas' College, a missionary school where he pursued his studies with diligence.

His mother, Mrs. Mallika Hewavitarne exerted a salutary influence in fashioning his attitude to the Buddhist way of life; he also came under the benign influence of two of the greatest Buddhist savants of the day, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera and Ven. Migettuwatte Sri Gunananda Thera.

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Hewavitarne Industrial School

Many people remember Anagarika Dharmapala for his religious zeal. But there was another aspect to this national figure - his practical vision regarding the alleviation of poverty. The Hewavitarna School, though neglected now, remains a testament to this vision.

Few associate the Hewavitarne School, a rather nondescript building in Rajagiriya with one of Sri Lanka's foremost religious figures, Anagarika Dharmapala. Today, though neglected, the school remains a testament to the Anagarika's pragmatic vision, an aspect of this great man often overshadowed by his religious zeal.

Article by : Dilrukshi Handunetti in The Sunday Times

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London Buddhist Vihara: Impetus and Consolidation - 1925-28

Both the London Buddhist Vihara and the British Mahabodhi Society, which administered it up to the end of 1985, owe their existence to the untiring efforts of one man: the Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka.

Born as David Hewavitarne in 1864, he came under the influence of Col. H.S. Olcott and Mme H.P. Blavatsky, the founders of The Theosophical Society. Later he renounced the householder's life and spent his remaining years in reviving Buddhism in India and Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known until 1972), and making it known and appreciated in the West, particularly in Great Britain and the USA.

Due to his efforts, The Mahabodhi Society was formally established on 31 May 1891 in Calcutta with the specific purpose of restoring Bodh-Gaya (the Buddhagaya of history) to Buddhist hands from which it had passed seven hundred years previously. Much later, in July 1925, whilst convalescing at a Swiss nursing home, he conceived the idea of Dhamma assistance to Britain: "It is too bad that although Ceylon Buddhists have been friends of England, yet no attempt has been made to enlighten them (English people) regarding the Dhamma."

Article by : M. P. Amarasuriya

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The War Years: 1939-1945

Just as a pan-European Buddhist Movement was taking shape, hostilities commenced in Europe on 1 September 1938, and Buddhist activities everywhere were consequently disrupted. The 13th and final Annual General Meeting of the British Mahabodhi Society was held on 5 November.

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Decline and Resurrection: 1964-81

The news of the termination of the ten-year lease on 10 Ovington Gardens followed hard on the difficult transitional period of new management. Whilst there were obvious disadvantages (a centre in the heart of London) – the peculiar nature of a Vihara necessitated a locality far from the madding crowd. Many would think it incongruous for a centre exhorting renunciation to be situated so close to one of the capital's leading departmental stores, such as Harrods, but nevertheless one clear advantage was accessibility, which facilitated large attendances at the regular activities.

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The Downward Path: 1982-85

Subsequent developments at the Vihara suggested that it had 'lost its way' insofar as the original and prime purpose of the Centre was concerned. Misgivings in the mind of Russell Webb, the Hon. Secretary led him to compile a confidential report as early as 20.7.1980. Since this is now part of history, there is no sound reason why it should not be finally divulged. The main points which it contained are as follows:

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Litigation, Aftermath and Resurgence

Following the banishment of the British Mahabodhi Society from the Vihara premises, both defendants and plaintiffs had recourse to the law to clarify and/or justify their actions. The former relied on a freelance solicitor, J. White of London N. 3 whilst the Angarika Dharmapala Trust retained the services of Hetty & Co. of Southall, Middlesex. Affidavits were duly completed and submitted for consideration by all the parties concerned and, unbelievably, the legal wrangling was pursued for well over five years. Finally, in the summer of 1991, the High Court delivered judgment in favour of the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust and the Public Trustee of Sri Lanka.

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