Venerable Ampitiya Sri Rahula Thera preferred meditation in a forest abode to life in an urban temple. So, under the guidance of Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha thera, he went to the hermitage affiliated to the Peradeniya University where he lived and preached the Dhamma to undergraduates in Sinhala and English.
Sensing the potential of the abode in Bowala, an extent of 60 acres, where foreign professionals and wealthy businessmen sought refuge in the Dhamma, the Ven. Ampitiya Rahula initiated improvements in the hermitage. Today there are cubicles or ‘kuti’ for priests and laymen for meditation.
Sri Rahula Thera who has reached his 95th year, is presently indisposed, and convalescing at the Sri Vajirarama Dharmayatanaya in Maharagama.
He laid much emphasis on principles than on materialistic values. When instructing students at the Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya and at ‘Olcott Lodge’ a students’ home he always quoted an English saying ‘plain living and high thinking’ prior to stressing, the importance of culture, customs and religion.
Vajiragnana Daham Pasala was the apple of his eye. He was also keen on the progress of hermitages to attract foreigners and educate them on ‘Theravada’ Buddhism.
Rare qualities of a Bhikkhu are found in him. He never handles money. Barefooted he would go from house to house to obtain alms with his Bowl in the manner Bhikkhus were accustomed to in the beginning.
He was born on December 29, 1914 to a wealthy reputed family, at Ampitiya, a suburb of Kandy constantly receiving the blessing of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Simon Rajapaksha he was named Dharmadasa and later came to be known as Venerable Ampitiya Sri Rahula Thera.
On attaining school going age, young Dharmadasa was admitted to St. Mary’s College at Ampitiya, a Catholic educational institution. Since his parents were devoted Buddhists , they were keen that their son gained knowledge in Buddhism.
He was sent to the Dalukgolle temple Daham Pasala. Having gained sufficient knowledge in Buddhism, Christianity and the English language, he was admitted to the order of the Sangha on 4th May 1936 and his preceptor was Ven. Sri Saddhamma Jothipala Kavidhaja Vinayacharya Sri Revatha Thera, chief incumbent of Kamburugamuwa Deragiri temple.
He attended Vajiraramaya temple while residing at the Dodanduwa hermitage. He received his higher ordination at Udakukkhepa Seema Malakaya at Kelaniya on June 30, 1936.
Venerable Sri Vajiragnana Thera, Venerable Thalangama Indrusara Thera and Venerable Ahangama Sri Pagngnaloka Thera, chief priests were the mentors of Sri Rahula Thera.
Venerable Ampitiya Sri Rahula Thera was interested in acquiring knowledge, wisdom and discipline. So he was chosen as the disciple in attendance of Venerable Sri Vajiragnana Thera.
The chief priest having comprehended the erudition, versatility, obedience and discipline of Venerable Rahula Thera, entrusted affairs of the Daham Pasala and the editing of the magazine Baudda Lamaya to him. He also delivered weekly sermons, at the Olcott Lodge, a students hostel.
On 21st April 1958, the Maharagama Sasana Sevaka Society was incorporated, which on a later date came to be known as the ‘Maharagama Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya,’ the religious institute Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Thera and Venerable Ampitiya Sri Rahula Thera displaying a closely knit brotherhood looked after with devotion and dedication.Ven. Ampitiya Sri Rahula Thera became known for his sermons broadcast over the air waves and is a rare personality in the present day Bhikkhu society.
He is worthy of respect, emulation and should be held in high esteem for the invaluable service, sacrifice and dedication displayed to uplift the cause of Buddhism.
“May he live long, to serve the ‘Buddha Sasana.’
Written by by Sumanawansa Rajapaksha