S. Mahinda Thero (1901-1951)
When we talk about Buddhism in Sri Lanka, we can think of so many people who have done so much towards the revival of this great religion in the country. What is so significant about this is that some of these people were not even Sri Lankans, but belonging to other countries and nationalities. Such a Sangha member was S.Mahinda Thero.
He was born around 1901 in Sikkim in Tibet and was named as Pempa Tendupi Serky Cherin. Serky received a scholarship, with an annual allowance of six rupees, to study Buddhism in Ceylon and arrived there in Ceylon on 1912 or 1914. He was ordained by Piyaratana Nayake Thera at Sailabimbaramaya, Dodanduwa, under the supervision of Ven Gnanaloka Maha Thero of German origin who himself was such a beacon of light in buddhist Ceylon.
He was then sent to the Vidyodaya Pirivena in Maradana, and admitted to a school there to learn English. After this, he returned to the temple in Polgasduwa, and learned Sinhala and Pali languages., His mentor Gnanaloka, being a German national, was arrested With the outbreak of World War I. That resulted in , S. Mahinda Thero was also interned twice by the British government of Ceylon.
He was later ordained into the Amarapura Nikaya as Sikkim Mahinda, although he used his name as S. Mahinda. He was re-ordained into the Shyamopali Nikaya on 16 June 1930, and obtained Upasampada later that year. He identified himself as a Tibetan, presumably because it was better known in Ceylon and was a leading Buddhist country in Asia.
Since the 1848 Matale rebellion, which had failed, no significant struggle had taken place against the colonial government. Some local chieftains had started supporting the colonial masters, while some had just given up any thoughts of regaining freedom.
The Thera had seen and realised the danger which lay in these new developments and decided to promote “a new man who loves his motherland more than anything else”. Towards this end, he used his poetic talent to the best of his ability. He mastered the local language and called on Sri Lankans to rise up from their slumber and fight the British to regain their lost freedom.
Through his writings, both prose and verse, he called on all, the young and old, men and women, to march towards freedom.[audio https://archive.org/download/Sinhala-Gee-2/Sunil_Edirisinghe_Lak_Wasiyan.mp3]
He wrote many inspiring poems such as “Nidahase Dehena”, “Nidahase Manthraya”, “Lanka Matha”, “Jathika Thotilla”, “Ada Lak Mawage Puttu”, “Nidahasa”, “Videshikayakugen Lak Mawata Namaskarayak” and “Sinhala Jathiya” which became extremely popular among many generations of the reading public.
S.Mahinda Thera served as a teacher at Nalanda College, Colombo from 1934 to 1936. S. Mahinda soon became fluent in the Sinhala language, and established himself as a poet and author. He has written over 40 books, most of them poems inspiring patriotism. His first book was Ova Muthu Dama, written around 1921 and his final book is believed to be Sri Pada. In his works, he has focused on the past glory of the country and the weaknesses of it’s people in the present, urging them to work towards their freedom. He also wrote several books for children as well, and in these too he has tried to inspire patriotism upon the reader.His most famous works includeNidahase Dehena, Nidahase Manthraya, Lanka Matha, Jathika Thotilla, Ada Lak Mawage Puttu, Nidahasa, Videshikayakugen Lak Mawata Namaskarayak and Sinhala Jathiya. He was also a member of the temperance movement as the basis for the independence movement of Sri Lanka. After the country gained independence in 1948, he was acknowledged as a national hero for his literary works inspiring the independence movement.
Mahinda Thera died 57 years ago, on May 16, 1951. It is believed that his ashes are still kept in a pot hanging on the roof of the Mahabellana Temple without any proper means of protection. A statue of him also adorns a temple in Panadura, which was his spiritual base.