The famous Buddhist spiritual leader, the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri Thera, died on May 16 at the age of 84. Chandrasiri Thera, the mahanayaka (Grand Chief) of the monastic order of Amarapura, had received medical treatment in a hospital in Colombo before his death.
Last rites for Ven. Chandrasiri Thera was seen in Independence Square in Colombo on Sunday. Thousands of Buddhist monks and lay people, as well as dignitaries including Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene, and several ministers and members of parliament attended the massive public procession.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe said the late Ven. Chandrasiri Thera had "bravely defended his beliefs during times of national, Buddha Sasanika and social unrest". He also referred to the monk as a father figure to the Sri Lankan monastic community who had ensured that his integrity was preserved. (News Radio)
The President offered a note of condolence in the special guest book at the service and attended the cremation ceremony of Ven. Candrasiri Thera.
Fri. Chandrasiri Thera was appointed as Supreme Mahanayaka, or Chief Prelate, of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya in July 2021. His predecessor was the late Most Venerable Aggamahapandita Kotugoda Dhammavasa Mahanayake Thera (1933–2021). Born on December 20, 1939 in Dodampahala, southern Sri Lanka, Ven. Chandrasiri Thera was the son of Ediriweera Patabandige Saranelis Silva and Edirisuriya Patabandige Misinona. He entered the monastic order as a novice in 1950 and was fully ordained in 1962.
Fri. Chandrasiri Thera was considered a pioneer for his work in establishing quarters for monks, as well as Thapowana meditation centers, and for founding a Buddhist educational institution.
Bishop Harold Anthony Perera, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL), said in a statement, “His passing is a great loss to the country and its people at this hour.” (UCA News)
In the statement, co-signed by Bishop JD Anthony Jayakody, General Secretary of the CBCSL, the two offered their “sincere sympathies and condolences to the Chief Prelates as well as to all Buddhist brethren” across the country. (UCA News)
Prior to his appointment as Mahanayake, Ven. Chandrasiri Thera served as the Mahanayake of Kalyanivamsa Chapter from 2013, having served as Deputy Mahanayake Thera and Nayake Thera Head of Legal Affairs in the same chapter.
Devotees and disciples mourned the loss of this revered spiritual leader, cherishing the memories of his remarkable contributions to the propagation and preservation of the Dharma. Nuwani Hasaranga, a Sunday school teacher, expressed his gratitude to Ven. Chandrasiri Thera's humility and openness, saying, “He was a great teacher who was loved and respected by all the countrymen. (UCA News)
In Sri Lanka, where Buddhism is the state religion, 70,2% of the population of some 20 million people identify as Theravada Buddhists, according to 2012 census data. Hindus made up 12,6% of population, Muslims 9,7%, Christians 7,4% and others 0,05%. While the constitution of Sri Lanka stipulates freedom of religion and the right to equality for all citizens, Buddhism enjoys special privileges under the constitution. Today, the country is home to some 6 Buddhist monasteries and around 000 monks.