LankaWeb – An Orderly English Upasaka

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By Dr Tilak S. Fernando

Lord Buddha said on his deathbed: Don’t believe what others say just because others say it! Do not believe it because you have heard it from a wise being, but only believe something when you know it in your Heart.

The Heart is supposed to be the seat of feeling, which changes in a fraction of an instant regarding emotions. At the same time, it is designed for spiritual experience and wisdom! When someone is not inclined to spirituality or has no wisdom, one can blindly follow the path of life. Nature consists of both good and evil to overcome and maintain balance, which means the universe exists on dualism. Whoever goes beyond dualism can taste the Absolute and smell its fragrance or discover its intrinsically enlightened state of mind.

Nature consists of both good and evil to overcome and maintain balance: which means the universe exists on dualism. Whoever goes beyond dualism can taste the Absolute and smell its fragrance or discover its intrinsically enlightened state of mind.

A homeless

buddhists recite ‘gatha’ daily, especially on Poya (full moon) day observing ‘Ata Sil’. They promise to abide by the five main precepts mentioned by Lord Buddha to lead a practical life. One person who achieved such a state of mind was Anagarika Dharmapala. On September 17, 1864, one of the richest Buddhist entrepreneurs in Ceylon – Don Carolis Hewavitharana and Mallika Hewavitharana gave birth to Don David Hewavitharana.

Young Hewavitharana attended Royal College, St. Thomas’ College and St. Benedict’s College in Colombo. Growing up from childhood to adulthood, he observed that many Buddhists were heading for some alien and unnatural phenomenon, which resulted in Buddhism on the verge of collapse in Ceylon.

It is very difficult for a human being to observe these five principles regularly in a lifetime, but Don David Hewavitharana had taken the oath of chastity in his youth. After ordination as Anagarika Dharmapala, he became the first Sri Lankan Buddhist evangelist to contribute to non-violent Buddhist nationalism and patriotism.

Anagarika Dharmapala means a ‘a homeless’ and ‘the protector of the dhamma’
respectively. He began to travel the world dressed in the robe of a Buddhist devotee and as a religious propagandist, thus placing himself halfway between a Buddhist priest and a layman.

Buddhists regarded Anagarika Dharmapala as the pioneer of the revival of Buddhism in India, when Buddhism was virtually extinct for several centuries. He also became known as the first Buddhist to preach Buddhist philosophy in Asia, North America, and Europe. When Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky created the Theosophical Society, Anagarika Dharmapala became a prominent reformer and revivalist of Buddhism in Ceylon. He was known as the fundamental dignitary of the Western agenda, thus becoming one of the most revered Buddhists of the 20th century.

Andrew Redhead

Anagarika Dharmapala lived 157 years ago. But Andrew Redhead of Warrington, Cheshire, UK, a Christian born and unmarried at the age of thirty-five, rushed to Sri Saddhatissa Buddhist Center in North West London
twenty-three years ago. He wanted to become a Buddhist, ordained by Aggamahapandittha Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayake Thera. The eminent monk was the patron of the Buddhist Center, and the Venerable observed the rainy season (Vassana retreat) in London at this time.

Andrew wanted to know if he had drifted into an emotional state that was foreign to him? He then started reading books on Buddhism at the age of eleven and acquired a good knowledge of philosophy. He later became a firm believer in one of Lord Buddha’s sermons, which he memorized:

Brethren, you have neither mother nor father to take care of you. If you don’t care about each other, who else. me ask will do it? Brothers, whoever would like to sit with me, wait for the sick“.

It may seem quite unnatural for an eleven year old English boy to have developed an interest in theology at such a young age and transformed into a completely different faith! But in Andrew’s case, it was an internal and automatic revolution or a spiritual incentive! He then began to focus on what was familiar to him in the Christian Bible. “Reap according to what you sow”: And concluded that it was because of its positive karma in the previous birth that followed him.

After such a spiritual awakening, Andrew began to read more and more books on Buddhism and embarked on other meditation experiences. It was hard for Andrew to focus on a single thought at first as his mind was working overtime! He thought it looked like an eleven year old boy falling off a push bike endless times while trying to balance himself to stay on two wheels. However, after many proverbial falls, he managed to master meditation.


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