Sri Lankan diplomat and renowned Buddhist scholar Ananda Wahihana Palliya Guruge, 85, passed away in Rosemead, California, on 6 August, following an academic tour in China and Australia. The funeral will be held on 16 August in the Sky Rose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier.
The respected scholar demonstrated academic prowess right from an early age, going on to win an undergraduate scholarship to the Arts Faculty of the University of Ceylon in 1947 (sinhalanet). There he majored in Sanskrit, with a minor in history, and completed his degree with a first class honors. His brilliance continued when he was directly accepted to the University of London for his PhD. He wrote his thesis on the
Settling in the United States, Guruge was closely associated with the UN and UNESCO. In 1985, he was invited to be the Sri Lankan ambassador to UNESCO and France, and in 1992 was designated ambassador to the US. He was a forward-thinking academic leader, and in the top tier for historical and Buddhist studies. From 1996, he served as professor and director of Religious Studies at the University of the West (formerly Hsi Lai University) in Los Angeles where, at the Fifth International Conference on Humanistic Buddhism in January 2004, he was honored by the International Academy of Buddhism (IAB) as the IAB Honoree of the Year 2003 (Lankaweb). A few years later, in 2010, Guruge assumed the roles of the university’s dean of academic affairs, director of the IAB and editor of the Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism. He had been a patron of the European Buddhist Union and vice-president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists since 1988, and since 1989, had been an honorary consultative editor for the Encyclopedia of Buddhism. He was also president of the World Buddhist University Council in Bangkok (Guruge 2010, 294).
On 9 August, in Sri Lanka’s national newspaper the Daily News, President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his condolences over the loss of Ananda Guruge: “An internationally renowned Buddhist scholar, Dr Guruge was an erudite speaker and writer on Buddhism, who did a yeoman service to propagate the teachings of Buddhism abroad,” he said. The letter details Guruge’s exceptional work in Buddhist studies; he wrote “53 books on Buddhism, more than 175 research articles on Asian History, Buddhism and Education and also translated the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle Mahavamsa into English.”
The following is part of Guruge’s convocation speech at the University of Ruhuna in 2004:
“Born in a family hailing from the border of Agaliya and Akuretiya in rural Baddegama, I was blessed with an education which I received from my parents, my teachers in my schools and University and supplemented diligently with my lifelong devotion to learning, I am proud to say, I am entirely made in Sri Lanka. In a career of over half a century, I have achieved much in several fields of activity. I have done so because of my deep-seated confidence that there is nothing that a fervent, hard-working and deeply committed Sri Lankan boy or girl cannot achieve in this world. I share my little mantra with you. Face the world with faith and confidence, telling yourself, I am a Sri Lankan and the whole world is open for me.”(Lankaweb)
Ananda W. P. Guruge will be remembered for his immense contribution not only to Buddhist studies, but also to the advancement of art, history, and religious studies.
Guruge, Ananda 2010. “Buddhism Today and Aesthetic Creativity.” www.lulu.com