Sri Lanka issued a special stamp in honor of Ven. Dr. Henepola Gunaratana, known to his students as Bhante G, for his service to the nation and to Buddhism. Fri. Gunaratana, who is 95, is perhaps best known for his work at the Buddhist Vihara Society in Washington, DC, beginning in 1968, and his founding of the Bhavana Society retreat center in 1982, which earned him the Sri Lankan title of Chief Sanghanayaka. from North America. At an event hosted by Sri Lankan Minister of Transport, Highways and Media, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, several Sri Lankan officials and prominent monks praised Ven. Gunaratana.
Van. Gunaratana was born on December 7, 1927 and was ordained at the age of 20. He then spent five years in India, staying at the Mahabodhi Society, living in Sanchi, Delhi and Mumbai. After that, he spent 10 years in Malaysia teaching and spreading Buddhism, working as a religious advisor for the Sasana Abhivurdhiwardhana Society and other groups.
After moving to the United States, Ven. Gunaratana studied at the American University in Washington, DC, earning a doctorate in philosophy. He then taught at American University, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. During his time as a student, Ven. Gunaratana was asked by the US State Department to help resettle over 10 Vietnamese refugees.
Fri. Dr. Ethkandawaka Saddhajeewa Thera, co-abbot of the Bhavana Society, said Gunaratana was the first Buddhist clergyman to receive a military honor from the US Air Force for his services, adding, "He was also the first Bhikkhu to obtain a doctorate in the United States. (Daily News)
“He worked diligently to popularize the Buddhist temple in Washington. Following this, Sri Lankans and foreigners alike gathered around him. He received many invitations from universities to lecture on Buddhism,” said Ven. Saddhajeewa said. “Many of these scholars from these universities went on to take part in the decision-making and legislative processes of their countries. The Buddhist message of Thera therefore became a topic of discussion in many of these institutions. (Daily News)
Fri. Gunaratana is the author of several books, including The path to serenity and insight (Motilal Banarsidass 1985), and The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation (Buddhist Publishing Company 1988). His book Mindfulness in plain English (Wisdom Publication 1994) was a best-seller, earning it worldwide recognition. Mindfulness in plain English was at the top of The New York Times list of books for anyone interested in meditation in 2023. In the review, author Hope Reese writes, “This simple, accessible guide. . . is a favorite among meditation teachers and scientists. (The New York Times)
Fri. Saddhajeewa noted, "Today only a few bhikkhus in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions can be compared to Gunaratana Thera. Therefore, five years ago he was named one of the three most revered bhikkhus by Wisdom magazine. » (Daily News)
Fri. Prof. Kamburugamuwe Vajira Nayaka Thera, Chancellor of Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, also spoke at the ceremony, noting: “To be a good ambassador of the faith, one must fulfill three conditions. First you have to understand what you are preaching to the world. Then, he must have a good language of knowledge, and also charisma. Gunaratana Thera had it all in abundance. (Daily News)