Professor A.D.T.E. Perera – A Farewell Tribute
Posted on October 2nd, 2023

by Dr. Harsha Perera

                                             Prof. A.D.T.E. Perera
Prof. A.D.T.E. Perera, eminent scholar of Buddhist Art and Archeology, passed away on 2023.09.16. at the age of 87 years.  

A.D.T.E. Perera was born on 1936.04.29 at the Sarikkamulla village, Panadura in Sri Lanka. His father was D.B. Perera, a planter, and his mother was Perl Danthanarayana.

Perera had his primary and secondary school education at St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, and attended Sunday school (Daham Pasela) which was close to his house. It was at an impressive age and at this venue i.e., Sri Taksala Vidyalaya, that Perera was able to form a close bond with a well-known archaeologist and scholar monk Ven. Medauyangoda Wemalakirthi Thero, who resided at a nearby temple named ‘Sirinandana Pirivena’.

University of Peradeniya

In the late 1950s Perera gained entry to the University of Peradeniya. He studied Pali, Sanskrit, and Buddhist philosophy for a Bachelor’s degree in Arts. He was in the last batch of students of Prof. Senarath Paranavitana, who served as the Professor of Archeology at the University of Ceylon from 1957 to 1961.

Upon leaving the University in 1962 Perera served as a teacher at both the St. Sebastian College and Sri Taksala Vidyalaya for a short period of time. Thereafter he worked as a Press Officer for a limited period and also as a Deputy Editor of the ‘Ceylon Daly News’, during the era of Esmond Wickremesinghe.

He obtained his Master’s Degree from the University of Kelaniya and the DLitt degree (Doctor of Letters) from the Malwatte Chapter of the Siam Nikaya.

His scholarly interests in Buddhism led him to establish contact with VenBaddegama Wimalawansa Thero, then Head of the ‘Odey Pansala’ at Maradana. Also known as Sri Lanka Vidyalaya. He did some lecturing at this temple cum school.

In the mid-1960s Perera married Sujatha Perera, whom he had first met at the Sri Taksala Vidyalaya.

Assistant Editor of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism

During the 1960s Perera had a rapid rise in his career when he was appointed as an Assistant Editor of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism with the approval of Prof. Gunapala Malalasekara who was the Chief Editor.  The Office was based at the Peradeniya University. During the 1970s A.D.T.E. Perera’s articles were published in English and Sinhala newspapers on topics relating to Archeology and Buddhist Art. He delivered lectures at the National Museum, the Royal Asiatic Society, and the YMBA. He also took part in a Radio Ceylon program moderated by LucienBulathsinhala, a reputed playwright, author, and stage drama producer. Perera’s writings dealt with concepts underlying Asanagara, Sandakada Pahana, and the rock carvings at Isurumuniya and Sigiriya, etc.

He drew wide public attention with his pronouncements based on pioneering research that Sigiriya was built by the legendary King Ravana whose name finds mention in the Hindu Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’. Arthur C. Clarke, the world-renowned Science fiction writer, upon reading the writings of A.D.T.E. Perera obtained some ideas from Perera for his popular television series ‘Mysterious World’. Their friendship continued since then.

Australian National University (ANU)

In 1979 Perera travelled to Canberra, Australia with his family to pursue post-graduate studies at the Australian National University (ANU) under the supervision of Prof. A.L. Basham. He submitted his thesis entitled ‘Evolution of Buddha Image’. He was asked to re-submit it with corrections after he returned to Sri Lanka. He was caught up with the work in Sri Lanka to spare time for revising and resubmitting his thesis to ANU.  During his stay in Canberra, he delivered Guest Lectures at the ANU and attended several international conferences held in Australia.  

In the early 1980s upon returning to Sri Lanka, Perera participated at various International Conferences held in Nepal, India, Hong Kong, etc.

‘World of Buddhism’ Journal

In 1984 A.D.T.E. Perera co–founded the international Buddhist journal ‘World of Buddhism’ together with the famous monk Venerable Mapalagama Wipulasara Maha Thera (1925 – 2000), who was both an Artist and Sculptor (primarily Buddha statues).   He continued with the ‘World of Buddhism’ Journal as the Editor until his wife passed away in 2012. It was an indefatigable effort on his part to create Buddhist Opinion via this Journal.  

Prof. Perera’s articles were regularly published in various international journals such as ‘East and West’ in Rome, ‘Studies in Indo – Asian Art and Culture, New Delhi, and CHISSAN, Tokyo, and also in Magazines the Buddhist’, ‘World Buddhism’, and newspapers e.g., Sunday Observer, Daily News, Island, etc.

In the 1990s his path crossed that of the well-regarded Scholar monk and the First Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, Ven. (Prof.) Paravahera Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thero, who resided at the Padanaga Viharaya, Maradana. It was a propitious meeting. Favourable for in-depth Buddhist scholarly work.

‘Buddhism in Ancient Arabia and Israel’

Thereafter both scholars began to work and conduct research jointly on esoteric topics. Through intense research, they were able to discover that Buddhism was the earliest religion in the Arabian region. This finding caused a sensation in academia. In 2013, A.D.T.E. Perera’s book named ‘Buddhism in Ancient Arabia and Israel’ won the Buddhist literary award in 2014. It was later translated into Sinhala.

Perera also kept close contact with leaders of other religions. In the late 80s, he visited the Ambassador College, U.S.A, founded by Herman W. Armstrong, on the invitation of the late. Dr. Hoeh of California and delivered several Lectures at this institution. In the 1990s he also delivered several talks at the Sai Baba Center at Barnes Place, Colombo 07, and visited Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India, the residence of Sai Sathya Baba in 1992.  

In the early 90s, A.D.T.E. Perera was appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico, USA. There too he continued his scholarly work.

Upon returning to the Island in the late 90s he joined the ‘Island’ newspaper as a Deputy Editor and in addition, he served as an Editor of the Etymological Sinhala English Dictionary with the collaboration of Dr. Saddhamangala Karunarathna, former Commissioner of Archaeology (1979 – 1983).

All Buddhist Congress of Democrats

In 2000 A.D.T.E. Perera founded a Buddhist organization named ‘All Buddhist Congress of Democrats’, (‘ABCD’) at the Padanagara Viharaya, Maradana.  

Here is a news report published in the ‘Asian Tribune’ (now defunct) on the 10th of December 2002.

‘ Establish a National Museum to honour heroes of the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka

At a public seminar sponsored by the All Buddhist Congress of Democrats on the topic ‘Sinhalayo — The Great Heroic Nation Nurtured by the Sinhala Bhikkhu Fraternity’ and held on November 18, 2002, at the J. R. Jayewardene Cultural Centre, Colombo, the following Resolution was adopted unanimously:

“Considering the courageous role patriotic elements have played in the revival and restoration of Buddhism in the face of a ruthless policy of discrimination and suppression on the part of the Western Christian colonial powers, and considering the undying debt of this nation to remember the heroic struggle of the Bhikkhu fraternity and supportive laity to protect and preserve the Buddha Dhamma in its pristine form,

This House resolves to call on the Govt. of Sri Lanka to establish a National Museum dedicated to honouring the heroes of the Buddhist revival whose valiant efforts against the dark forces of Western colonialism and bigotry, helped to safeguard and sustain Buddhism for the benefit of countless numbers of future generations.”

The resolution was proposed by Senaka Weeraratna and seconded by Professor A. D. T. E. Perera.

Most Ven. Aggamahapanditha Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera presided at the Meeting.

Ven. Bellana Sri Gnanawimala Mahanayake Thera, Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Nayake Thera, Dr. P. R. Anthonis, the well-known surgeon, Dr. Harischandra Wijetunga, Kalasuri Arisen Ahubudu and Professor A. D. T. E. Perera, Hony. Secretary of   the All Buddhist Congress of Democrats, addressed the meeting.’

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

Olcott Gunasekera

Olcott Gunasekera (the founder and President of the Dharmavijaya Foundation, founded in 1977 and now known as Ven. Vajiraramaye Ñãnãsiha Thero) made the following observation:

There are many noble Resolutions like this but have not materialized. The recommendations of the Buddha Sasana Commission of 2002, the 20 Point Action Plan of the 2600 Sambuddhatva Jayanthi, and the ten-year programme handed to His Excellency at the end of the term of office of the Sambuddhatva Jayanti Presidential Committee are recent events. There are resolutions passed by the Buddhist Leaders’ International Conference held in 1982 and the International Buddhist Conference sponsored for the first time by the State in 1998. There are enough warnings given by the members of the Maha Sangha, and especially Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera. Buddhists seem to be taken for granted and their tolerance is misused by all governments. The Buddhist leadership has to think of a way out of this impasse.”

Professor Perera delivered monthly lectures under the auspices of the All Buddhist Congress of Democrats, (‘ABCD’) at several temples, in Bambalapitiya and elsewhere. In 2004 the Annual General Meeting of the ABCD was held at the J.R. Jayewardene Cultural Centre, Colombo 7, and awards were handed over to the eminent surgeon, Deshamanya Dr. P. R. Anthonis and Ven. (Dr.) Telagapatha Dammakirthi Thero, in recognition of their services to the wellbeing of the community.

Prof. Perera performed an immense service at the Buddhist Cultural Centre (BCC) at Nadimala, Dehiwala on the invitation of Ven. Kirama Wimalajhoti Thera. There he translated several books into English namely Buddhavamsa-aṭṭhakathā (also known as The Lineage of Buddhas) (in 2011), Chriyapitaka Atthakatha, Vimanavatthy Aṭṭhakathāand Jataka Aṭṭhakathā.

German Dharmaduta Society

Prof. Perera also served as the Vice – President of the German Dharmaduta Society which maintains the Berlin Vihara in Germany and visited Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya (all three institutions of which were founded by Asoka Weeraratna later known as Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanissanti Thero).

Professor Perera leaves behind a son and daughter. The son Dr. Harsha Perera, Attorney at Law, is a famous writer and scholar, while the daughter Priyanwada Perera is a science graduate teacher. His wife the late Mrs. Sujatha Perera, who gained her Master’s degree, passed away in 2012.

Professor A.D.T.E. Perera spent his entire life devoted to the cause of both the nation i.e., Sri Lanka, and the Religion i.e., Buddhism. He supported the idea of ‘Rata, Jathiya, Agama’ with great conviction. His services are unparalleled.   

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Dr. Harsha Perera

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