Asoka Weeraratna Birth Centenary Postage Stamp and Special Commemorative Cover issued by Philatelic Bureau of Sri Lanka.
Posted on December 14th, 2018

German Dharmaduta Society

In commemoration of the Birth Centenary of Asoka Weeraratna (Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanissanti Thera), who played a pioneering role in the dissemination of Buddhism in post – war Germany by establishing the Berlin Buddhist Vihara in 1957, the Philatelic Bureau of Sri Lanka’s Department of Post, released a Commemorative Postage stamp in the denomination of Rs. 15.00 and a Special Commemorative Cover at the Mahaweli Centre, Colombo on December 12, 2018.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero, in a keynote address, drew attention to the period of time when he was closely associated with Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanissanti Thero, to put a stop to State patronage of the Inland Fisheries scheme (in the late 1980s). Ven. Sobitha said that though Ven. Dhammanissanti was a forest dwelling monk, he was not oblivious to the happenings in the world outside. He was prepared to come forward to protect the Buddha Sasana if the need arose. Ven. Dhammanissanti was alarmed when he came to know that the then Government of Sri Lanka had begun encouraging people to breed fish in home garden ponds, and kill and eat them for almost every meal, in clear violation of fundamental Buddhist tenets. Realizing the danger to the Buddha Sasana and the sanctity of the First Precept, if this state policy became firmly entrenched, Ven. Dhammanissanti began a public campaign with the support of Buddhist monks including the Maha Nayakas of the three Nikayas, and the laity to oppose these plans. With growing support from the Buddhist public Ven. Dhammanissanti, was finally able to convince President R. Premadasa of the folly of these policies encouraging Buddhists to adopt wrong livelihoods in infringement of Panchseela (Five Precepts) and the long term adverse consequences to the Buddhist respect for the sanctity of life. It was also a clear violation of Article 9 of the Constitution which mandates the State to protect and foster Buddhism. The final result was that President Premadasa withdrew state sponsorship of inland fisheries.

Ven. Sobitha further said that Ven. Dhammanissanti had committed his entire life for the cause of Buddhism and its uplift and therefore was suitably qualified for the high honour of being named and recognized as the ‘Deveni Dharmapala’ (second Anagarika Dharmapala). His life was an inspiration to all Buddhists, Ven. Sobitha concluded.

Mr. Jagath Sumathipala, President of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, said that Asoka Weeraratna will be gratefully remembered as a Buddhist National Hero who had made a significant contribution to the uplift of the Buddha Sasana in a challenging period of time in the last century, at the forthcoming celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ACBC in year 2019.

The commemorative event was provided with musical entertainment by the children of the Sri Bodhiraja Children’s Home in Embilipitiya. They sang both Viridu and group songs in praise of Asoka Weeraratna (Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanissanti) particularly focused on his role in propagating Buddhism in Europe and safeguarding the Buddha Sasana from being undermined by State economic policies.

A Video Documentary on the role played by Asoka Weeraratna and the German Dhramaduta Society in engaging in Buddhist activities in Germany to this day was screened.

Buddhist Monks namely Ven. Dikwelle Seelasumana (who had served for nearly a decade at the Berlin Vihara in Germany) and Ven. Rambukkana Dhammavasa (resident monk at the Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya founded by Asoka Weeraratna) delivered sermons.

Professor Jayasiri Lankage (President, German Dharmaduta Society), Harsha Gunasena ( President, Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya Sanrakkshana Mandalaya), Senaka Weeraratna (Hony. Secretary, German Dharmaduta Society), and Dr. Manel Lakdivdas (former President, German Dharmaduta Society) also spoke. Hemantha Ranavaka (Secretary, Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya Sanrakkshana Mandalaya) was the compere of the day’s proceedings.

German Dharmaduta Society

December 14, 2018

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