VEN. ELLAWALA MEDHANANDA Part 2
Posted on May 23rd, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

After ordination, Ven. Medhananda continued to live at Sri Sumangalaramaya, Napawela, Getahatta.  That remains his permanent address today.

When Medhananda first went there,   the temple was very new. It had an image house but no image. Loku Hamuduruwo, Ven. Soratha got a stone mason down from India and   had a Buddha statue made. He also constructed a bodhighara. The villagers were poor and could not support the temple very much. They sent dry rations as dane. When Ven. Soratha died, Medhananda was placed in n charge of the temple. Ven. Medhananda developed the vihara. He provided an access road, boundary wall, library.

Ven. Soratha had started a daham pasala in the temple in 1946. Medhananda taught there from the time he was a samanera and after higher ordination he took complete charge of the daham pasala. Medhananda came to Napawela every week end, from where ever he was, to supervise the daham pasala.  the village had retired teachers and retired principals but they were not prepared to   teach in the daham pasala, complained Medhananda. Medhananda therefore turned to past students and appointed them as teachers. Even today the teachers are those he taught, said his biographer.

Medhananda expanded the activities of the daham pasala. He held an annual celebration, with an art exhibition. We organized daham pasal trips to places of importance in Sri Lanka. We took them to sites of archeological interest and asked them to write reports on them.  We did all this with great difficulty, said Medhananda.

Medhananda was concerned about the future of those living in Napawela. Napawela residents could only hope to get employment as drivers of vehicles, he said. Medhananda tried to improve their prospects. He started a free tuition class in the temple, for ‘school exams’. This was probably for O levels, perhaps A level too.    Medhananda also established a computer training institute in the temple later on.  

Ven. Medhananda acquired Hendadola estate and distributed it to the villagers. This was probably during Land Reform. The estate had 76 acres of untapped rubber. He told the new owners to cut and sell the trees. He had got a permit for this. Medhananda said he went to Hendadola every week to see whether they were cultivating the land. He had an EN 1956 Peugeot car, at the time, recalled Medhananda.

From 1970 Medhananda has held a   well attended all day Nikini pinkama in August. For the first thirty years this pinkama was held in Anuradhapura. Thereafter Medhananda moved it to other places, such as Buddhangala, Tissamaharama, Tantirimalai, Seruwila.    This pinkama continues today.

 Ven. Ellawala Medhananda was a popular bana preacher. He received invitations to preach from all over the island.  In Anuradhapura after listening to a sermon from Medhananda, a member of the audience   donated his house and land. Medhananda   used the donation to establish a temple, Ranasiharamaya, near Mawatagama.

Medhananda‘s personal needs as a bhikkhu would have been minimal. Therefore his salary as teacher was spent on the schools he was teaching in. The pirikara he received was used to help monks in poor temples. He found dayakas for these temples, who were prepared to give monthly donations.   He also arranged pilgrimages to these temples, to help boost   the income of the temple.   Medhananda had once provided robes and ata pirikara to all the viharas in Trincomalee and Vavuniya for Katina. 

Medhananda has been involved in a wide range of activities, possibly far wider than most activist monks. Medhananda was head of Napawela Grameeya Nishpadana Mandalaya,   Chairman of Balangoda Deaf and Blind school and advisor to Senior citizens Home, Mallawapitiya, Kurunegala.

During his time in the Department of Education, he was involved in the preparation of History text book for grades 3, 4, 5 and 9. He   helped prepared question papers for O level and A level, also to set standards for Pirivena exams.

Medhananda ‘s archaeological research was recognized at  national , provincial  and district level. He was a member of Advisory council, Department of Archeology, a   member of Mahavamsa committee, and   member of the At lipi Commission, Colombo.  He was Coordinator for  Attakata translations. He was President of Ratnapura District Cultural Board,  and the Ratnapura Archaeological committee. He was  Research chairmen, Sabaragamu  itihasa Puravidya gavesana Ayathanaya.   

Ven. Medhananda  held positions in Sangha  organizations at local and national level. He was a Member of the Buddha Sasana   Fund. He was  a member of   Sabaragamu Maha Sangha Sabha, Ratnapura and Eheliyagoda  Sasanaraksaka bala mandalaya. He was secretary of  Rajya sansta Bauddha bala Mandalaya, Balangoda, and  of Trinikaya bhikshu bala mandalaya, Eheliyagoda. He was  also  Advisor to  Arugam bay Aukana  Committee and  the  Tarulengala Aranyaya, Hulannuge.    

Ven. Medhananda  did not have very high opinion of the lay Buddhists. Those who help and support the Sangha  are very few, he said. We carry on as monks with great difficulty, he lamented. Buddhists do not value the Sangha. They do not help to develop  the temples. Very few think that they must protect and preserve the Sangha.

 Monks never fail to carry out their duties but if they  see any  little lapse or mistake on our part,  the public insult and scold us. That is the reward the Sangha gets. That is why they leave robes.   And so the Sangha lose fine monks.” 

But the public may have their reasons. A school teacher had refused to help Medhananda  when he was leaving to study at Ratmalana.  She had said ‘why bother, he will leave robes, we need  not help him.’ Medhananda was not pleased, but I think that the teacher’s view  cannot be dismissed.  ( continued)

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