Remembering Bodhi (Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake)
Posted on February 28th, 2016


By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy The Island

One year has passed since your demise on the 4th of March 2015, yet it is just like yesterday! Your friends and old contemporaries in the medical faculty still remember how you campaigned against sadistic ragging practices by senior students at the University. Subsequently you formed The Sinhala Students Union (Three Sinhala Siswa Sanvidhanaya) to fight against university ragging, under the guidance of Ven. Baddegama Wimalawansa thero at Ode Temple Maradana.

During your internship you fell ill; President of the Ceylon Medical Council extended your internship on medical grounds, but a blooper on the part of a staff member nearly endangered your chances of practicing as a doctor! You became defiant when asked to repeat your internship and referred to your superiors, Dr. P.R. Anthonis, and Prof. M.H. Hamza, to vouch for your performances, yet the President (CMC) took a conclusive stance.

Your reaction at that moment may have stunned the President when you firmly  intimated to him that, ‘even if you had to beg on Colombo streets you wouldn’t repeat the internship’ again! The issue blew up out of proportion; hit the newspapers while the judiciary spoke in your favour. Dr. R.B. Lenora offered to meet all the legal expenses for you should the matter ended up in High Court! Queen’s Council S. Nadesan agreed to give free legal advice.

This incident drove you towards backroom politics and to form a youth organisation called ‘Sinhala Tharuna Sanvidhanaya. Dr. Sivali Ratwatte, Ven. Elle Gunawansa and a few other eminent personalities supported you to bring the SLFP to power during 1970 elections.

Dr. Sivali Ratwatte arranged your first meeting with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Mrs. B. asked you a single question – whether you could ‘galvanize the youth into action in such a short period of time? You unhesitatingly gave an affirmative answer and immediately sought support from the youth, liaised with the national newspapers, contacted some of the Buddhist clergy and other Sinhala Organisations and launched an effective campaign through the Sinhala Taruna Sanvidhanaya (STS). Your prime aim was to make Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike the Prime Minister after SLFP winning the 1970 elections.

When your efforts bore fruit Mrs. Bandaranaike gave you an open choice to work for her Government. Bodhi, You could have ended up as the Minister of Youth Affairs in her Cabinet, but your humility had no bounds; you made a modest request to her to regularise your internship and to get your name registered in the Ceylon Medical Register. Mrs. B willingly acceded to your request through the Minister of Health, Mr. W.P.G.Ariyadasa.

You soon became a popular paediatrician and very much interested in Anorexia Nervosa. With your research you published the first book on psychology in Ceylon called ‘Daruwage Heti Therum Ganna (Get to know about your child), which was akin to the Western doctor Dr. Benjamin Spock’s book on Baby and Child Care.

Dr. Arthur C. Clarke was your friend in Sri Lanka. Both you and Sir Arthur jointly authored the first book on space in Sinhala titled ‘OBA Vannek Handata Yai in 1961. Subsequently Sir Arthur persuaded you to go to the UK to further your medical knowledge and even offered you and Karuni his house at Nightingale Rod in London to reside where you and Karuni finally became the proud owners of Arthur C Clark’s historic residence in the UK.

Your training on Anorexia Nervosa at the Royal Free University Hospital in London, under Professor Gerald Russell, managed to upgrade yourself within one year to the position of a Registrar. Subsequently you became a Senior Registrar at St. Bartholomew’s North Middlesex Rotation under the NHS.

Bodhi, you proved your mettle in no time, diversified your field into psychiatry and rose up to the position of Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Tutor at Barking & Brentwood to train postgraduate psychiatrists. You managed to train over 120 graduates during a period of 12 years and conducted over nine annual symposia in psychiatry before earning the Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1990.

You were a man of immense talent. Apart from your medical knowledge and experience tentacles of your literal talents started to stretch both in Sinhala and English writing. Your very first article at the age of 7, published in the ‘Sinhala Jathiya’ newspaper under the caption Paropakaraya (helping fellow human beings) acted as a self-portrait of your character during whole of your life’s sojourn.

Karunarathne Abeysekera molded you into a junior broadcaster from his children’s programme Lama Mandapaya. That experience led you to handle more than one thousand broadcasts at the Radio Ceylon over a period of 25 long years, and also to become the first ever radio announcer to give ball-by-ball cricket commentary in Sinhala, from the Oval Cricket Grounds, while Mr. Ronnie De Mel was the Director of Broadcasting.

Despite all your meritorious deeds of saving thousands of human lives and being a humble and sympathetic doctor, it may have been a long outstanding debt from your previous birth that you had to repay in the form of Karma, according to the Buddhist beliefs, that affected your health and made you retire compulsorily due to ill health long before it was due, immediately after being conferred on you the Emeritus Status by the North East London Mental Heath Trust. You were the only Sri Lankan on medical records in the UK to have served on the Editorial Board of the internationally famed health journal, ‘Hospital Medicine’ (British Journal of Hospital Medicine).

Looking back at your life and the rapid progress you made, especially in the medical field, it was rather inexplicable to understand why the eminent Professors at the Temple of Neurology were unable to diagnose your ailment properly with sophisticated scans and numerous tests but decided to treat you continuously for ‘atypical-parkinsonism’.

Bodhi, my good friend, you could have lived much longer for the wellbeing of many a patient and for the society as a whole, but there comes a time that we all have to leave everything and bid adios to everything. However, you have left your medical legacy behind with your son Nuwan and youngest daughter Janani Bodhinayake, who continue to carry forward your name attached to the National Health Service in the UK as medical doctors, while Anuski Bodhinayake has turned into a business mogul as a Real Estate Agent in Canada.

We all miss and remember you on your first death anniversary in Sri Lanka. Most of your colleagues and old friends will be attending an all night Pirith Sangayana on the 4th night followed by a Sangika Dana on 5th of March in Colombo, organised by Karuni Bodhinayake


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