The prominent Bangladeshi Buddhist monk Ven. U Pannya Jota Mathathera, locally known as Guru Bhante, died at the age of 65 on Monday while undergoing treatment at Chittagong Max Hospital in Chattogram, Bangladesh. According to Dr. Ang Chalu, deputy director of Bandarban Division of Population Control and Family Planning, Ven. U Pannya Jota was under observation in the hospital’s intensive care unit after suffering a cardiac arrest on the morning of 10 April.
“He was renowned as a speaker and very versatile where people across Bangladesh and Myanmar and India went to listen to his discourses, which were lucid and simple and therefore left all enthralled. He wrote a few books but will always be remembered for his talks,” Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhipala, general secretary of the Bengal Buddhist Association, Kolkata, India, stated in a condolence message shared on social media. (Bhikkhu Bodhipala Facebook)
“He changed the face of Bandarban through the construction of the well known stupas or zadis out of which are the Rama Zadi and the Buddha Dhatu Zadi, also known as the Swarna or Golden Temple. These two have today become tourist hotspots. He had also constructed a monastery in Yangon, Myanmar, and in Thailand and India. He was a dreamer, which can be seen in his works. At such a short span he could do many works is stupendous in itself,” Ven. Bodhipala continued. (Bhikkhu Bodhipala Facebook)
Ven. U Pannya Jota was born in 1955 to the Bohmong royal family, one of three hereditary chiefdoms in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of modern-day Bangladesh. He completed his honors and post-graduate degrees in Dhaka University’s Department of Law. He later passed the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examination and became a judge and magistrate in the Bangladesh government, serving for about eight years. In 1990, he resigned and was ordained as a Buddhist monk under the preceptorship of Ven. U Pandita, the abbot of Ching Mrong Bihar in CHT. He became known as U Pannya Jota and worked tirelessly for Buddhism and society—mostly for the deprived children of CHT.
Ven. U Pannya Jota’s teachings had a profound appeal for people from all walks of life and every religious community. He made a great contribution to restoring communal equilibrium, not only in Bangladesh but also in neighboring India and Myanmar. Besides teaching, the venerable spent much of his time practicing meditation, and studied under many great meditation masters from India and Myanmar.
“With the utmost reverence, I bow to the great flow of life of this great man. In many countries, including Bangladesh, his contribution will always remain radiant. We have truly lost this great sangha member! Anicca vata sankhara [impermanent, alas, are all formations!]. I pay my deep respect to him with the transformation of my merits,” said Ven. Ratanananda, a resident of Chottagram Buddhist Temple.
As a lay devotee, Ven. U Pannya Jota was a singer and composed the famous Marma song “Shangraima” in 1975, which is still the most popular song during the Marma community’s Sangrain festival, which marks the end of the year. He also formed a music band named The Royal Artists Group.
As a monastic, Ven. U Pannya Jota founded several temples, some of which are under construction in Bangladesh and outside the country, including Buddha Dhatu Jadi, known as Golden Temple, in Bandarban District, Bangladesh Buddhist Monastery in Myanmar, and Buddha Gaya Temple, which is under construction in Bodh Gaya, India. Buddha Dhatu Jadi is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Bangladesh and a tourist hotspot in Bandarban.
Ven. U Pannya Jota published six books which are widely read by Buddhists in Bangladesh. He also established the Be Happy Learning Centre (Orphanage and Free School) in Bandarban, where around 137 children are currently studying.
The Daily Star newspaperreported that Ven. U Pannya Jota’s body would be kept in a casket before a cremation ceremony to be held at a suitable time.