Ven. H. Saddhatissa's commemoration at Sravasti - India
By TILAK S. FERNANDO
The Seventh death anniversary of the late Ven. Hamallawe Saddhatissa will be commemorated on 12 February 1997 at Sravasthi, India. The commemoration ceremony organised by The Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre, Kingsbury Road, London NW9 is linked with a pilgrimage to the Holy city of Sravasti with several other tours to Lumbini ( birth place of the Lord Buddha), Buddhagaya ( where Lord Buddha attained Supreme Enlightenment), Varanasi ( Saranath, where the Lord Buddha preached his First Sermon, Kushinara (where the Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinibbana-death) and also Rajagiri and Nalanda. On this commemorative day New World Buddhist Foundation will be open at Nava Jetavana Maha Vihara and the commemorative meeting will be held in memory of its founder, the Late Ven. Dr. Hammalawe Saddhatissa There.
The Late Ven. Hamallawe Saddhatissa first arrived in London in 1951, when there was only a handful of Buddhists and one Buddhist Vihara. Within thirty two years he was instrumental in making Buddhism increasingly popular in the Western Hemisphere, both as a subject and a religion. Today there are a great number of Buddhists in England who have migrated from countries such as Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka and so forth. Dr. Saddhatissa felt, as a member of the Sangha who was on a spiritual mission to the West, it was the bounden duty of the Sangha to fulfil the spiritual needs of those Buddhists. During his thirty two years in the UK he was able to open 163 Buddhist Centres all over the country, and it was his pride and joy, and moreover his mission, to inaugurate more and more centres to foster the yearnings of dedicated Buddhists.
Whenever he opened a new Budduhist Centre, Ven. Dr. H. Saddhatissa always referred to the old adage & said how the Buddha started preaching the Dhamma under a tree with only five monks and, in the course of time, how the Dhamma turned out to be a religion of the world.
Referring to modern times Ven. Dr. Saddhatissa quoted Rabindranath Tagore who conducted his first few lessons under a tree and explained how that tree branched out, later to become internationally renowned Institute called The Shanthi Nikethana, out of pure dedication.
The Late Ven. H.Saddhatissa became the Head of London Buddhist Vihara in 1958. On the expiry of the lease of the building he appealed to The Maha Bodhi Society in Sri Lanka and found a new home for the Vihara at 5 Heathfiled Gardens in Chiswick, London on 24 April 1964. Upon his official retirement, as the first Buddhist Prelate in the UK, Dr. Saddhatissa moved from the London Buddhist Vihara to International Buddhist Centre, Patron of which is Aggamahapanditha Balangoda Ven. Ananda Maitree Thera. That was his last mission to open a Buddhist Centre in England Seven years ago. Since his demise, Saddatissa International Buddhist Centre at Willesden, NW London, moved to Kingbury, another part of London in the Northwest.
As a mark of respect to the Guru, his pupils at Sri Saddatissa International Buddhist Centre have turned this abode into a World Buddhist Centre with different faculties such as Sinhala Dhamma School in Kent. Today this Buddhist Centre is becoming increasingly popular in the heart of London among Sri Lankan expatriate community as well as other ethnic Buddhist communities living in and around London since it has diversified its activities and services through a separate division called The Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation engaged in welfare and religious work to the community in London irrespective of ethnic, religious or age differences.
One of its main aims is to orientate the second generation of Sri Lankans born and bred in the UK with their parental cultural heritage, including the learning art of Sinhala and, most importantly of human values. The Sinhala and Dhamma classes conducted by The Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation is very much popular with the adult non-Sinhalese community , as much as with the young. The results of such attempts are demonstrated often when English gentlemen stand up on stage, during various functions of The Foundation, and give eloquent speeches in Sinhala all written by themselves.
On May 25 and 26 1996 The World Buddhist Foundation created history in London with the exposition of Lord Buddha's corporeal Relics to thousands of Buddhist devotees for the first time in London. The exposition became so popular that the relics had to be taken to Germany, Switzerland, France and also to Birmingham to accede to many popular requests of the devotees.
Those who want to participate in the Ven. Dr. H. Saddhatissa's commemoration programme at Sravasti and pilgrimage are requested to contact Sri Saddhatissa Buddhist Centre, 311, Kingsbury Road, London NW9 9PE, England. Tel 0181-204-3301 - Fax 0181-933-9395.