Dhamma sacrificed himself for the Teaching, taking no heed of himself.
Nanda raised high the Dharma banner, rescuing the multitudes.
The Chief High Priest of Malaysia and Singapore, Venerable Dr K. Sri Dhammananda, passed away in Malaysia on August 31, at the age of 87. The Buddhist community mourned the loss of a great leader.
Born on March 18, 1919 in Sri Lanka, Ven. Dhammananda became a novice monk at 12 and was subsequently involved in Buddhist missionary work for 54 years. In 1952, he was invited to Malaysia to reside at the Buddhist Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur to teach Buddhism. He used simple language to teach the Dharma to both young and old and was a prolific writer. He emphasized the importance of peace and promoted interreligious harmony in Malaysia. In 1965, Ven. Dhammananda was acknowledged the Chief High Priest in Theravada Buddhism of Malaysia and Singapore.
Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananada and the Venerable Master Hua were good Dharma friends. When the Venerable Master led a delegation to Malaysia in 1978, Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda asked him how he viewed the two schools, southern and northern, of Buddhism. Without thinking, Master Hua replied, “Buddhism originally had no sects or factions. It was only because later generations misunderstood the truth that the two schools formed and rejected one another. Why do we harm each other when we are siblings? The Mahayana accuses the Theravada of being too small and the Theravada doesn’t respect Mahayana Dharma Masters. Actually, anyone who causes dissension and finds faults with others is not a Buddhist. We speak of the greater vehicle and the lesser vehicle, but actually there isn’t even one vehicle! By being selfish and self-benefiting, denigrating others to benefit ourselves, praising ourselves and slandering others, we are planting the causes for war.”
In 1979 Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda was invited as a distinguished guest to the Opening Ceremony of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). The Venerable Master told his disciples from Malaysia, “Everyone should go to listen to his lecture and draw near to this Dharma Master frequently. Drawing near to me is not as good as drawing near to him. Don’t worry that you will have no one to learn from when you are away from CTTB. Ven. Dhammananda is the only person that you can draw near to in Malaysia. In my opinion, not only in Malaysia but also in the world, there is no one who is more impeccable in integrity than he, for he is unwilling to take advantage of others.”
In his blessings, Ven. Dhammananada said, “The behavior of humankind has gone so far it is uncontrollable. It is due to lack of understanding, lack of tolerance, lack of patience, due to misunderstanding and ignorance. A religious institute like Dharma Realm Buddhist University is opened to open the eyes of those who are blind in this world, who cannot see a thing in proper perspective…I hope this Buddhist institute can contribute a lot to educate people all over the world. …On behalf of the Buddhist Community, we pray and hope that this country will prosper and may peace and happiness prevail among the citizens here in this country through this Buddhist institution. May the blessings of the Triple Jewel be upon you. May you all find peace and happiness.”
Later in the ceremony, Ven. Dhammananda was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from Dharma Realm Buddhist University. The Venerable Master said, “We give special welcome to Ven. Dhammananda, who has come all the way from Malaysia, and present him this Honoary Doctorate of Philosophy. All of you participating in this ceremony should study at the Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) and learn from Ven. Dhammananda. We shall go to the Buddhaland of the Dharma Realm together. In order to go there, you first have to come to CTTB . CTTB is the office of the Buddhaland of the Dharma Realm. If you wish to become a Buddha, you cannot make it if you do not come to CTTB to study at DRBU. Today is a good opportunity…”
In 1988, when the Venerable Master visited Malaysia, Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda offered the Buddhist Vihara as the site for him to transmit the Precepts for the Deceased. At that time over 600 plaques were set up for that ceremony.
In 1995, in his eulogy at the Veneraable Master Hua’s Nirvana ceremony, Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda pointed out in grief, “Throughout my association with him, my respect and admiration for his humility, intelligence, dedication, energy and warmth knew no bounds. …Although he was an orthodox follower of the Mahayana School of Buddhism, he nevertheless displayed a great openness of mind and recognized the transcendental essence of the Teachings of the Enlightened One. Although not English educated, he was able to bring the sublime teachings of the Buddha to the West and thereby inspired both Easterners and Westerners to follow his discipline and devotion to the study of the Dharma.
“He devoted his tremendous energy not only towards the noble task of teaching, but also to that of developing the more tangible, physical aspects of Dharma Practice. His greatest contribution in this area was the building of the magnificent edifice called the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which will long endure to symbolize the presence of the sublime Dharma in the West. It is not only a place of worship and a meditation centre; it is also a University and a renowned Buddhist Research and Translation Centre. Many millions of sentient beings will benefit from the work done at this centre for a long time to come.”
Ven. Dhammananda had been in and out of hospital because of a series of health complications. Despite his advanced age and failing health, he continued giving three Dharma talks a week and insisted on giving his last sermon on July 10 at his temple. The next day, he had to be admitted to hospital.
Through his teachings, Ven. Dhammananda urged people to practice virtue and promoted peace and harmony among all people of all faiths. His effort sparked Buddhism in Malaysia and he was the current President of the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.
During a life devoted to Buddhism, he authored 70 publications and had a worldwide impact. His agreeable personality, profound affinity with people, and benevolent mind made his passing very hard for those who were benefited and inspired. We hope his example will inspire later generations and cause the Buddhadharma flourish!