Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa, a respected monastic patriarch of the Amarapura Nikaya, a Theravada Buddhist order in Sri Lanka, and chief incumbent of Sri Dharmapalaramaya, a monastery on Mount Lavinia, died yesterday, aged 88. His health is reported to have been in gradual decline through last year and he was receiving medical treatment at a private hospital in Colombo at the time of his death.
The monk’s body has been returned to Sri Dharmapalaramaya, reports said, where fellow monastics and the laity can pay their final respects. A cremation ceremony is scheduled for 25 March at 4pm at Independence Square, Colombo. The ceremony is to be held with full state honors and will likely be attended by leading religious figures and politicians from across the island country.
Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa was selected as Mahanayaka Thera of the Amarapura Order in May 2017, after the passing of Ven. Agga Maha Panditha Davuldena Gnanissara Thero (1915–2017). Prior to that he had been given the title Aggamaha pandita (foremost great and wise one) by the government of Myanmar in March 2007.
He was known for giving sermons over national radio for more than 50 years, and for his humility and ecumenical spirit. Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa was a co-president of the global organization Religions for Peace. Additionally, he was the author of more than 36 books on subjects related to Buddhism dating back to the 1960s.
Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa’s talks drew audiences from around the world, including devotees in China, Germany, India, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, and the US. Siri Vajira Bhikkhu, a lecturer at Lumbini Buddhist University, offered his condolences from Nepal.
The Amarapura order was founded in 1800 and is named after the city of Amarapura in Burma (now Myanmar), the capital of Myanmar’s Konbaung dynasty, which ruled over the nation at the time. Today it is the largest Buddhist order in Sri Lanka with more than 16,000 bhikkhus under its tradition of ordination. It is notable as the first monastic lineage in Sri Lanka to be established not by a Buddhist king, but rather through collective action by Buddhist laypeople. The order thus had—and holds to this day—a greater allegiance to lay patrons, predominantly middle-class Sri Lankans and some international followers, than to political elites.
The order has played a role in the modernization of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as it has responded to increased contact with the Western world through trade, colonialism, and Christian missionary activity. The order has some 21 sub-orders under its patronage. In 2000, Sri Lanka issued a commemorative postage stamp to mark the 200th anniversary of the Amarapura order.
Most Ven. Aggamaha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammawasa Mahanayake Thera Passes Away (Daily News)
Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa Mahanayake Thero passes away (Ada Derana)
Mahanayake of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya Most Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa Nayaka Thera passed away yesterday (Daily Mirror)
Amarapura Maha Nikaya Chief Prelate passed away (Colombo Gazette)