The Bangladesh Sangharaj Bhikkhu Mahasabha—the Supreme Sangha Council of Bangladesh (SSCB)—on 20 May appointed Venerable Jnanashree Mahathera, 95, as the 13th Buddhist supreme patriarch of Bangladesh.
The SSCB issued a press release on 20 May stating that a meeting of the Executive Council of the SSBC had been convened. During the meeting, which was conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was passed unanimously by the second deputy-supreme patriarch and the Executive Council under the chairmanship of Ven. Buddharakkhita Mahathera, acting president of the SSBC.
“Due to COVID-19, none of the 61 members of the Executive Council except the acting president and one member spoke about the supreme patriarch election, because everyone was worried about the current situation,” Ven. S. Lokajit Thera, SSBC secretary-general, said of the of election process.
“As soon as the 12th supreme patriarch His Holiness Ven. Dharmasen Mahathera died on 21 March, I talked to the acting president of the SSBC and decided with the president that if the situation was a little normal, at least if the monks could move, a meeting of the Executive Council would be called and the supreme patriarch would be elected,” Venerable Lokajit explained. “It was because the current constitution of SSBC states that if the supreme patriarch dies, the new supreme patriarch should be elected by an Executive Council meeting within 15 days, and then a general meeting will be held to approve the supreme patriarch. The night before the funeral of the late supreme patriarch, the new supreme patriarch will be appointed.”
The SSBC also officially expressed condolences for the demise of the 12th supreme patriarch, Ven. Dharmasen Mahathera, who passed away at the age of 92, and the prominent monk Ven. U Pannya Jota Mathathera, who passed away at the age of 65 on 13 May. Offerings were also made for a peaceful the world free from COVID-19.
Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera was born on 18 November 1925 in Domkhali Village of North Gujra in Chittagong District, Bangladesh. He is currently the abbot of Chittagong Buddhist Monastery. Ven. Jnanashree became a novice monk in 1944 and was ordained as a bhikkhu in 1949. In 1956, he moved from Chittagong to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). As a monk, Ven. Jnanashree was not only confined to religious services, he also worked for the development of the deprived Buddhist community in the hilly region, taking the initiative to spread general education along with religious pursuits. He established many religious and educational institutions in the hilly and plains areas of Chittagong.
In 1981, Ven. Jnanashree established the Parbatya Chattal (Chittagong Hill Tracts) Buddhist Orphanage in Dighinala, which is now under Khagrachari District. In 1984, he established Moanoghar, a socio-educational organization, in Rangapani Village in Rangamati District of CHT. A residential school was set up under Moanoghar for the general education of poor, orphaned, and helpless children. Over the years, Moanoghar has turned into one of the most popular educational institutions for indigenous children in CHT, providing free or highly subsidized education for orphaned and poor children from all over the region. Outside of the CHT, Ven. Jnanashree has also set up various educational institutions in the Chittagong, Joypurhat, and Rangpur districts of Bangladesh.
“The arrival of Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera opened a new horizon in the spread of education among indigenous Buddhists,” said Ven. Sadhanajyoti Bhikkhu, joint-secretary of the Hill Monks Association-Bangladesh, and secretary-general of the Hill Buddhist Mission. “He was the first to establish an orphanage based on a Buddhist monastery, and started a system of religious education as well as general education for poor, orphaned, and helpless children.”
There are two supreme councils for the Buddhist sangha in Bangladesh: the Bangladesh Sangharaj Bhikkhu Mahasabha, for which Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera is the 13th supreme patriarch, and the Bangladesh Bouddha Bhikkhu Mahasabha. Apart from these two organizations, there are other Buddhist sangha councils among ethnic Chakma and Marma monks in the CHT.
According to the constitution of the SSBC, the 13th supreme patriarch Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera will be formally appointed on the night before the funeral of the late supreme patriarch Ven. Dharmasen Mahathera, which will be held after the relaxations of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রামে বৌদ্ধদের মধ্যে শিক্ষা বিস্তারে
বাঙালি বৌদ্ধভিক্ষু ও ড. জ্ঞানশ্রী মহাথেরোর অবদান (Atish Dipankar Facebook)
Ven. Shaddhammaditya Jnanashree Mahathera (Moanoghar)
S Lokajit Bhikkhu (Facebook)