Ven Matara Gnanarama Mahathero (1901-1992)
Dedduwa Jayathungage Don Bastian family of the Bajjima Village in Tikkannagoda ( Presently known as Uduwe) in the deep south of Sri Lanka was blessed with a child on 11th December 1901. Named as Don Dias Jayathunga , the devout parents offered this young child on his seventh birthday to the service of sasana under the tutelage of Ven Dedduwe Wimalajothi of Aliyatholla Temple, who was related to the family in his lay life.
Young Jayathunga was ordained in December 1917 with the given name of Ven Matara Gnanarama under the patronage of Ven Matale Aggadhammalankara Thero. Young samanera Gnanarama was bent on perfecting his knowledge in dhamma pursued the dhamma education with utmost zeal. He received higher ordination on 10th July 1922 under Ven Sastrawelliye Upasena Nayaka Thero.
Bent on experiencing wisdom Venerable thero gave up almost all mundane comforts for the sake of the final goal. Diligently Venerable Thero studied the sutta pitaka and other associated writings of commentaries in particular to the path to liberation. Having mastered all the aspects of Tipitaka, Logics, Chandolankara, Other contemporary philosophies this extra ordinary sage pursued on the path with diligent practice.Some nights he spent without a wink of sleep absorbed in the deep states of samadhi. Even though the blessed one’s doctrine was received, accepted and venerated for over two thousand years there were no monks who were interested in following Buddha’s path. Buddhist clergy took it as granted that the path to Nibbana is not for them. In this background only very few wanted to develop their mind to follow the path. Ven Gnanananda was one of such.
During the 1951 Most Venerable Kadawedduwe Jinalankara Maha Swaminwahnse started a programme of activities for upholding the diminishing status of Sangha Sasana in Sri Lanka, and invited Ven Gnanarama to head the programme of Sri Kalyani Yogasrama Sansthawa. During the auspices year of 2500 Buddha Jayanthi several Burmese meditation masters arrived in Sri Lanka. Ven Matara Gnanarama thero joined the retreats conducted by these excellent teachers at Danawkande Sri Mangala Yogasramaya, and advanced rapidly on the path of insight meditation. Having observed the extra ordinary talent and zeal of Venerable Gnanarama, the Burmese masters taught him every aspect of practice to be learned by a Kammattanacari (fully fledged Meditation teacher).
During this time another rare opportunity opened up for the advancement of sasana in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist philanthropist Asoka Weerarathna who selected a land and developed the forest hermitage at Meethirigala was searching for a teacher to head this meditation center for Bhikkus. Mr Weerarathna was able to persuade Venerable Gnanarama to take up this position. At this Nissarana Wanaya center countless Bhikkus and lay devotees both local and foreign received instructions for their advancement on the path and many reaped benefit. Some of these instructions were recorded on tape and were made available in printed form as well. The recorded talks can be downloaded from internet. Several books written based on the talks have been translated to western languages and have helped hundreds of seekers in the west.
Venerable Loku Swaminwahanse had such a personality that those who met him for the first time too were attracted to him as with parental respect. He was never interested in worldly gains and high positions and spent almost every minuite not spent on teaching, on meditation. Venerable thero expected all students in Nissarana wanaya to follow his example and deligently reap the results of such practice.
Having lit the lamp of practice in the then darkened Sangha sphere, he generated such an interest among the bhikkus of all sects they too were attracted to practice . This interest in the pursuance of the path of practice created by Venerable Maha Thero has kept the Dhamma of the blessed one in the land of Sinhala todate.
Venerable Loku Swaminwahanse passed on to blissful existence on 30th April 1992 and the cremation took place on 7th May 1992 among thousands of devotees at Galduwa Yogasrama premises.