The Bengal Buddhist Association (BBA), also known as the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha, in Kolkata, India, on 22 June honored the 155th anniversary of the birth of its founder Venerable Kripasaran Mahasthavir (1865–1927), a Buddhist monk and revivalist of Buddhism on the Indian sub-continent. To mark the occasion, the BBA also organized an online seminar on the life of Ven. Kripasaran.
Hosted by BBA secretary-general Ven. Dr. Bhikkhu Bodhipala, the seminar was attended by many distinguished personalities, including: Ven. Buddhapriya Bhikkhu, president of the Siddhartha United Social Welfare Mission, Kolkata; Aiswarya Biswas, professor at the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Calcutta; Sumit Kumar Barua, assistant professor at the Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Siyad Abul Maksud, a Bangladeshi journalist, columnist, and writer; and Shimul Barua, professor and principle of Latifa Siddiqui College, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
“Celebrating his birth anniversary is an opportune moment for all of us to not only rededicate ourselves to walk his path and rejuvenate ourselves to regenerate the Buddhist culture to its pristine heights that it once enjoyed, but also at the same time it is an opportunity for us to evaluate Kripasaran and his work, which he did not only for his community but followed the Buddha’s dictum of Bahujana Hitaya, Bahujana Sukhaya [for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many] in letter and spirit.,” said Ven. Bodhipala in a tribute to Ven. Kripasaran shared on social media. “We do feel it a necessity as this period is of immense significance as he was the main responsible figure to bring together all the Buddhists living scattered in different parts of India who had migrated in different periods of time and settled wherever their work and livelihood took them.”
Ven. Kripasaran was born on 22 June 1865 in the village of Unainpura, in the Chittagong district of undivided Bengal (now in Bangladesh), and passed away on 30 April 1927 at the BBA. He came to Kolkata with the aim of serving Buddhists and established the BBA in 1892—a contemporary of Mahabodhi Society of India, established by Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933) in 1891 to resuscitate Buddhism and restore ancient Buddhist heritage sites in India.
In 1900, Ven. Kripasaran established the Dharmankur Vihar adjunct with the BBA, and worked tirelessly for the revival of Buddhism in India. Subsequently, he established Buddhist temples at Simla, Himachal Pradesh, in 1907; Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in 1907; Dibrugharh, Assam, in 1908; Shillong, Meghalaya, in 1908; Ranchi, Jharkhand, in 1915; Darjeeling, West Bengal, in 1919; and Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, in 1922, all located in present-day India.
Ven. Kripasaran also contributed to the development of Pali language and Buddhist scholarship. Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee (1864–1924), chancellor of Calcutta University, always supported Ven. Kripasaran and aided his activities. With this help, Ven. Kripasaran was able to affiliate with many schools and colleges in Chittagong, where he introduced Pali studies. At Kripasaran’s insistence, higher studies in Pali were introduced at the University of Calcutta by Ashutosh Mookerjee.
He also recommended the Indian government to introduce scholarships for higher studies in Pali and Buddhist studies at the University of London. Ven. Kripasaran selected Benimadhab Barua (1888–1948), Indologist and internationally recognized scholar of Buddhism, to study at the University of London with scholarships in 1914. In 1917, Benimadhab Barua became the first Asian to be awarded the D.Litt. degree from the University of London, and later served as a professor at the Department of Pali in Calcutta University.
In 1909, Ven. Kripasaran founded a library, and went on to establish the Kripasaran Free Institution in 1912. He began publication of the journal Jagajjyoti in 1908, which has remianed in print until today, receiving wide praise from writers and readers.
Seminar panellist Abul Maksud paid homage to Ven. Kripasaran on Monday: “I pay my deep respects to the memory of the 155th birth anniversary of Kripasaran Mahasthavir. He was not only a religious leader, he was a social reformer and contributed to Bengali society as a whole so that people could become educated. He left an unforgettable achievement by establishing the Bengal Buddhist Association in 1892.”
Ven’ble Karmayogi Kripasaran Mahasthavir (Bhikkhu Bodhipala Facebook)
Celebration of the 155 Birth Anniversary of Venerable Kripasaran Mahasthavir (WBF India Facebook)