Ritualism is not Buddhism – Venerable Galkande Dhammananda
Posted on July 31st, 2021

Raj Gonsalkorale

The multi religious and multi ethnic approach taken by the Walpola Rahula Institute (WRI) and its head, Venerable Galkande Dhammananda to advance social healing amongst all people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere is set to take a major step forward with the increasing focus on online programs that could potentially reach vast audiences from the comfort of their homes. In the context of widespread ritualism experienced and expressed as Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the focus on Buddha’s teachings on the principles of his doctrine and the need for society to be healed of many mental wounds they carry, the WRI and Venerable Dhammananda offers a breath of fresh air to those who are confused and even disillusioned with ritualism that is being expressed as Buddhism.

The uniqueness of the Walpola Rahula Institute in Sri Lanka, begun by Venerable Galkande Dhammananda the only Monk pupil of late Walpola Rahula Thero, probably one the greatest visionaries of our time, is depicted by the above notice that greets all visitors to the Institute at its entrance.

It is unlikely that any other Buddhist institution in Sri Lanka portrays Buddha’s fundamental message to human beings as the WRI has done. On account of this openness, it has attracted patrons from all ethnicities, religions and diverse backgrounds, to its premises and its activities. Human Rights Advocate Radhika Coomaraswamy who was a guest speaker at an event conducted by the WRI a while ago said she felt safe” in the environment of the WRI.

Over the last 6 years, the Walpola Rahula Institute, led by Ven Dhammananda, and with the participation of its volunteers, and staff have been working tirelessly conducting projects, programs and discussions to achieve ‘Social Healing’. Ven Dhammananda’s consistent message has been that the principle of dependent origination or Paticca Samuppada” is the cause for many conflicts and they have risen from wounded minds which give rise to unwholesome thoughts and which in turn give rise to unfortunate and harmful action, and that this cycle repeats itself without a healing of the wounded. Taken as a collective, societies, which are collection of individuals, in turn experience this same phenomenon of dependent origination, and they will continue to deviate from right thought and right action unless there is social healing. The fundamental theme underlying activities of the WRI has been the dictum Bahujana Hithaya, Bahujana Sukhaya”, for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many.

The Twin Schools Project that was done in 2017, linking two under privileged rural schools, one a Tamil medium school in Therankadal, near Killinochchi and the other, a Sinhala medium school in Kebithigollewa, near Anuradhapura, epitomised the objective of social healing through joint activities between the two schools, transcending man made barriers that stood in the way of social healing through closer human interaction. It needs to be noted that these two schools were located in areas that experienced the hostilities during the last war between LTTE combatants and the Sri Lankan Forces.

This, and many other programs initiated by Ven Dhammananda, including an educational program for young novice Monks, multi religious discussion forums, counselling for victims of floods and other natural disasters, as well as victims of man-made disasters such as attacks on Muslims, and Christians like the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, were all directed towards drawing attention for the need for social healing to overcome conflict.

Another notable event in 2019 was the translation into English of one of late Venerable Walpola Rahula’s seminal works, Sathoyadaya, into English. This was all the more significant as the scholarly translation was done by a person of Tamil ethnicity, Mr Niranjan Selvadurai.

In keeping with the times arising from the COVID pandemic, and the inability to arrange face to face programs, Ven Dhammananda chartered a new course to bring healing messages via online platforms commencing in 2020.

On the 21st of June this year, eLanka and other eJournals like the Sri Lanka Guardian  carried articles about the expansion of online programs on social healing being conducted by the Walpola Rahula Institute (WRI) of Sri Lanka (see https://www.elanka.com.au/walpola-rahula-institute-sri-lanka-expands-online-programs-on-social-healing-by-a-well-wisher-of-the-walpola-rahula-institute/. This article provided some details about the current and intended activities of the WRI.

The WRI has made much progress to broad base online programs and two key developments have happened in the recent past. A specialist on program development (both technical and on content, design and themes) has been recruited, along with another person, who is a Tamil, to assist with program development as well as to undertake and provide translations to Tamil of all programs conducted in Sinhala. Their mobilisation has been delayed due to the COVID pandemic and travel restrictions, but it is very likely that the program development work will commence in August and September.

All such programs will be broadcast over the YouTube channel Rahula Dhammavahini”, and other means such as Podcasts. The overriding theme that Venerable Galkande Dhammananda will be focusing on will be social healing.  Venerable Dhammananda and the WRI is being assisted by forty patrons who have subscribed to participate in this broad based online program and meet all connected expenditure for a period of one year. It is noteworthy that amongst the 40 Patrons are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils, showing clearly that the doors of the Walpola Rahula Institute are open to everyone irrespective of their religion or ethnicity.

Mini Studio construction work begins on the 15th of July 2021

While programs will be recorded in a temporary studio arrangement within the premises of the WRI, progress has been made on the new mini studio construction that commenced on the 15th of July. Over 70 persons belonging to all ethnicities and religions have contributed to this project, and are still doing so. It is likely that the building will have a roof within the next 4-6 weeks, and internal work would commence soon after. All internal work will be supervised by an expert in sound engineering in order to ensure programs of the highest quality are produced and broadcast to well-wishers and the general public

Progress on the 21st of July 2021

Progress on the 26th of July 2021

More information on the progress, and on the planned programs will be available from mid-August onwards. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to get more information or wish to make a contribution towards the studio construction project may do so by contacting the following

Venerable Galkande Dhammananda (galkandedhammananda@gmail.com) and/or Kamal Jayashantha, WRI Program Coordinator & Research Officer (Email wriprogcoordinator@gmail.com)

Regular programs including monthly Poya day Metta meditation sessions, remembrance events such as birthdays, death anniversaries, customary seventh day and 3 month’s family blessings for loved ones who have passed away, are conducted regularly using online methodologies. Besides this, a monthly Dhamma discussion with Venerable Uduhavara Ananda Thero takes place on the 3rd Sunday of every month.

Recordings of past programs are available on the YouTube channel Rahula Dhammavahini (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=rahula+dhamma+vahini)

WRI also has a calendar program where a person could take one day every month as a remembrance day for loved ones. During the Monthly Metta session, all such persons nominated by a person who has taken a day during that month, will be remembered and blessings invoked on them. Those who wish to support the WRI and its activities could do so with a contribution of Rs 5000/= for the allocation of one day every year.

Ven Dhammananda does not encourage material offerings to him for any event or programs he conducts, and instead appeals to those who wish to make such offerings to do so to one of projects conducted by the WRI. This is entirely voluntary and anyone who wishes to invoke blessings to a loved is free to do so and contact Ven Dhammananda in advance of the day in question.

The Walpola Rahula Trust also boasts of a library that has a collection of over 6000 valuable books, collected by late Venerable Walpola Rahula over many years. The Library is now the corner stone of the Walpola Rahula Research Centre and its catalogue may be accessed via the WRI website (http:www.walpolarahula.institute/library/). Books that will be of interest to a research library focussing on Social Healing would be welcome and the Research Officer Mr Kamal Jayashantha (wriprogcoordinator@gmail.com) may be contacted in advance if donors have any books they wish to donate to the library. Future research oriented programs are being worked out now, and details will be made available soon. 

Programs and activities, including reports and photographs of past activities, area available on the WRI website at http://www.walpolarahula.institute/

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