LORD BUDDHA SHRINE AT THE VIHARA
VEN Dr RAJAKEEYA PANDIT JULAMPITIYE
GNANARATANA MAHA THERA
ADHIKARANA NAYAKE OF INDIA
ABBOT OF THE DEVĀVAROHANA MAITRI VIHARA
Ven. Julampitiye Gnanaratana Nayake Maha Thera is the son of Mr and Mrs. D. J. Rajapaksha, of Udajulampitiya, Mulkirigala. He attended Ulhitiyawa mixed school for his elementary education and later joined the temple attached to the Purvarama Pirivena, Kirinda. He was ordained in 1962 under the tutelage of Ven. Katukurunde Sri Dhirananda Nayaka Thera, an erudite scholar monk who graced the Southern Province.
Ven. Aparekke Devananda and Ven. Getamanne Sri Piyaratne were the teachers who guided Ven. Gnanaratane at the initial stage. Ven. Gnanaratana completed seven years of Elementary Pirivena Education at Purvarama Pirivena and joined the Vidyalankara Maha Pirivena. He did very well at the Oriental Studies Society (Prachina) Examination and was successful in obtaining the Siamese Royal Prize.
After passing the Final Examination he came back to the Purvarama Pirivena and served as an assistant teacher. Later Ven. Gnanaratana joined the Vidyalankara University, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and obtained BA Hons. Degree.
In the year 1980 he proceeded to Lucknow University and obtained the B.A. Degree in Hindi. On his return to the island he was appointed an Assistant Lecturer in Hindi at Vidyalankara University Sri Lanka. Ven. Gnanaratana returned to India in 1989 and obtained the PhD degree in Hindi from Lucknow University.
He later joined the Hindu University of Benares and obtained an MA in Pali. Later Ven. Gnanaratana turned his attention to these words of the Buddha. 'Charatha Bikkave' oh! Bhikkus go forth for the propagation of Dhamma." Ven Gnanaratana proceeded to the Buddhist Vihara in Birmingham, England. After two years at the Birmingham Vihara he returned to India. He was in search of a suitable place to reside to commence the propagation of the Dhamma. Fortunately he met Ven. Madabovita Soma Thera who was residing in Sankassa which is one of the important places associated with life of the Buddha. It was the most blessed place where the Buddha delivered the all important Vijam discourse to the deities including Buddha's mother who had been born in the world of deities. After delivering the "Vijam" he descended to earth where the present site of the Sankassa Vihara is and Ven. Gnanaratana rented a room at the pilgrims rest and continued the search for a place suitable for the intended vihara.
At this juncture he met Ven. Wijayasoma who willingly granted Ven. Gnanaratana a piece of land for the purpose and invited him to commence the work for the propagation of the Dhamma. His Dhammaduta work was enlivened by the close association of the late Ven. Metiwala Sangharatana Maha Thera the incumbent priest of Jetawanarama.
It must be mentioned here that Ven. Gnanaratana was ably assisted by Ven. Professor Kamburupitiye Sri Indaratana Nayaka Thera who put his heart and soul to improve the Vihara at Sankassa.
He allowed Ven. Gnanaratana to make use of the school premises which was under his care and made available all possible facilities for him to continue his work in propagating the Dhamma. Ven. Galagedera Pannananda Thera also assisted him.
Ven. Gnanaratana who commenced the work of Devāvarohana Maithree Buddha Vihara was able to complete the work on account of unfailing support of the Sri Lankan devotees. At present Sankassa Vihara has a complete pilgrims rest which is a great boon to the visiting pilgrims.
On account of the valuable services rendered by Ven. Gnanaratana towards the Buddha Sasana, the Executive Committee headed by the Maha Nayake of the Malwatta Chapter has conferred on him the tile, "Siri Sugata Dharmaduta Vibushana" along with the rare and unique title of the chief Sangha Nayake of the Bharata Desha (India).
Ven. Dr. Julampitiye Punyasara Thera, Monk in Charge of the Vihara
MURALS AT THE VIHARA
THE HISTORIC SACRED SITE OF SANKASSA
Sankassa also known as Sankissa was a town in India at the time of Lord Buddha. It is thirty leagues from Savatthi. Currently it has ruins of old monasteries and Buddhist monuments.
Sankassa received its fame from statements recorded in the ancient commentaries to the Tipitaka. It was at Sankassa that the Buddha returned to earth, after preaching the Abhidhamma Pitaka to his mother and the deities in Tusita, a celestial abode. As the time approached for the Buddha to leave Tusita, Moggallana announced his impending return to the multitude, who had been waiting at Savatthi, fed by Culla Anathapindika, while Moggallana expounded the Dhamma. They then made their way to Sankassa. The descent of the Buddha took place on the day of the Mahapavarana festival.
On this occasion was preached the Parosahassa Játaka to proclaim to the multitude the unparalleled wisdom of Sáriputta. It is said that the Buddha's descent to Sankassa had provided opportunity for Moggallána to show his eminence in iddhi, Anuruddha in dibbacakkhu, and Punna in skill in preaching, and the Buddha wished to give Sariputta a chance of shining in his wisdom. He therefore asked of Sáriputta questions which no one else could answer. The opening words of the Sáriputta Sutta are supposed to refer to this descent from Tusita. From Sankassa the Buddha proceeded to Jetavana.
A shrine was erected on the spot where the Buddha's right foot first touched the ground at Sankassa. When the Chinese pilgrims, Hiuen Tsiang and Fa Hien, visited the place, they found three ladders, which had been built of brick and stone by the ancients, to commemorate the Buddha's descent, but the ladders were nearly sunk in the earth.
The Ruins at Sankassa and some visiting devotees from Burma and Sri Lanka
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