The respected monk and patriarch of one of the major schools of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism, Venerable Napana Premasiri Thero, passed away on 17 November while undergoing treatment at Peradeniya Teaching Hospital in central Sri Lanka. He was 98 years old. His funeral and cremation ceremony were held on 22 November with full state honors at Bandaranaike National School in Warapitiya, Kundasale, near Kandy.
“Most Ven. Napana Premasiri Mahanayaka Thero’s wisdom in Dhamma, purity, and virtue were a blessing and exemplary to the society,” said Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the cremation ceremony. Rajapaksa added that the void that Ven. Napane Premasiri Thero would leave in his absence for Buddhism, the nation, for all the Buddhists across the globe, and personally for himself was immense. (PMD News)
Rajapaksa continued: “The Most Venerable Chief Prelate rendered an invaluable service to our country and his demise is a loss to us all.” (News First)
Others present at the cremation ceremony included Buddhist leaders, heads of other religions, political leaders, including ministers and members of the parliament, and members of the general public.
The Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said he was deeply saddened to hear of the demise of Ven. Premasiri Thero. “He was a pious and kindhearted Buddhist monk who was full of knowledge of the Dhamma,” said Cardinal Ranjith. “Many times he held my hands and blessed me. In doing so, I saw it as a symbol of true humanity and the openness of the perfect obedience to the discipleship of Lord Buddha.” (UCA News)
Muslim representatives from the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s largest body of Islamic scholars, also paid their respects to Ven. Premasiri.
Ven. Napana Premasiri Thero had been the chief prelate, or senior-most monk, of the Ramanna Maha Nikaya, one of Sri Lanka’s three major Buddhist orders. He was appointed as head of the order on 3 September 2012, after the death of the previous chief prelate, Ven. Weweldeniye Medhalankara Thero, the 12th chief prelate, who passed away at the age of 103.
Ven. Premasiri Thero was born on 30 November 1922, in Napana Village, Kandy. He entered the monkhood in 1933 and took higher ordination in 1943. Among his accomplishments was being accorded the title of “Aggamaha Pandit,” (a Pali title meaning “foremost great and wise one”) the highest honor given by the government of Myanmar.
Nuwan Attapattu, a teacher, said the monk worked hard to build a virtuous society: “Ven. Premasiri Thero lived a very simple and exemplary life for all. The monk highly appreciated national unity. He donated two acres of land worth of millions to a Tamil cemetery” (UCA News)
Ven. Premasiri’s successor as head of the Ramanna Nikaya, Ven. Makkulawe Wimala Thero, has been appointed as the 14th chief prelate, following the convention that the new head of the order should be appointed before the cremation ceremony of the previous person holding the position.
“Most Ven. Napana Premasiri Mahanayaka thero’s wisdom in Dhamma, purity and virtue were a blessing and exemplary to the society” -President states at the cremation ceremony (President’s Media Division News)
Final rites of late Ramanna Sect Chief Prelate held with state honours (News First)
Sri Lanka mourns chief Buddhist monk (Union of Catholic Asian News)
Mahanayaka of Ramanna Maha Nikaya, Most Venerable Napane Premasiri Thero passes away (Daily News)