Ven Bellana Gnanawimala Maha Thero
Born on March 26, 1920 as the youngest of the eight children of Bellana Vitanage Baron Appuhamy and Palliyagoda Vitanage Amarishamy in the village of Bellana in the Pasyodun Korale of the Kalutara District, he was named Bellana Vitanage Nonis. Having had his early education in the Bellana Primary School, he was admitted to the Order under the tutelage of Rantotuwila Sorata Nayaka Thero on 23 May, 1929 at Bellana Sri Dharmapala Pirivena and was named Bellana Gnanawimala. He was admitted to the Higher Ordination on 4 June, 1940 at the Mangala Uposathagara of the Raja Maha Vihara , Kotte Sri Jayawardenepura under the Mentorship of Ven. Kirielle Wimalasara Nayaka Thero.
Bellana Gnanawimala Thero received his education as a Buddhist monk from the Bellana Dharmapala Pirivena where he studied Sinhala, Pali Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi , History and Logic. Sitting the Pracina Final Examination the Ven. Thero was awarded the Pracina Pandit Degree with First Class Honors. Subsequently he submitted a thesis titled Heladiva Atuva Yugaye Adhyapanaya (The Education in Sri Lanka During the Age of the Commentaries) to the Vidyodaya University and was awarded the M.A.Degree by that institution.
In 1945 Venerable Gnanawimala followed a course in Buddhist Missionary Work Abroad at Mahabodhi Dharmaduta Vidyalaya under the mentorship of Venerable Parawahera Vajiragnana Nayaka Thero, and subsequently proceeded to India in 1947 for missionary work. Thereafter Rev Ganawimala has visited England, America, France, Japan Taiwan, Malaysia Thailand, Korea and China on various occasions representing Sri Lanka in religious activities.
As a Buddhist teacher Venerable Gnanawimala started his career at the Bellana Sri Dharmapala Pirivena and was appointed its Principal in 1950. He held that position till 1976 and did a great deal for the development of religious and scholarly education In 1976 Gnanawimala Thero was appointed as a lecturer in the Vidyodaya Pirivena at Maligakanda. Subsequently, he was appointed the Deputy Principal of that Pirivena and continued till 2006 rendering yeoman service for Buddhist education while being at the same time a visiting Lecturer at the Vidyodaya University.
The Most Reverend Bellana Gnanawimala Maha Nayaka Thero is renowned as a great scholar, a highly skilled teacher, an accomplished astrologer, and as a much respected Buddhist prelate. The Nayaka Thero was the editor of the fifth part of the Mahavamsa which was completed in 2011. He held the post of the Maha Nayaka of the Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha and is the eleventh Maha Nayaka of that Order.
Among the special services rendered by Venerable Ganawimala Thero of particular significance is his contributions to his own Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabhava. He was appointed to the Karaka Sangha Sabha of the Bentara Vihara Chapter and was made its Chief Prelate in 1984. Following that in 1999 he was elected as the Anu Nayaka of the Sri Kalyani Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha and in the following year the Sabha elected him as the Maha Nayaka .
Another significant aspect of the accomplishments of the Maha Nayuaka Thero is his contribution as a scholar. He has a large number of books on linguistic and religious themes to his credit.. Among his writings are, the Dhamma books Sadaham (1950), Patthana Naya Nirupanaya ( (1962), Jivana Ratava Ha Sasara Pevetma (1992), Penena Lova Tula Nopenena Lovak (1998), Manasa Saru Karana Dehemi Situvili (1999) , Vismita Vishvaya Sisara (2000), and the scholarly works Asoka Silalekhana (1964), Sri Sumangala Satakaya (Pali verses 1987), Allahabad Sila Lekhanaya(1998), Sanskruta Sabdarnavaya( (part 2,1999) and the translations Abhijnana Sakuntalaya (1964), Jatakamala (1965), Ratnavali Natakaya (1965),and Buddha Caritaya ( first five chapters).In addition Ven. Gnanawimala has contributed a large number of articles to newspapers and symposia . Among those articles ones dealing with hypnotism, astrology and Antarabhavaya ( the existence between two births) received a great deal of attention .
The services rendered by the Ven. Mahanayaka Thero to religious, educational and social institutions are rich and varied.He has held many responsible positions contributing a great deal to the Sri Lankan society at large. To name a few, the Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Buddha Sasana, the Chair of the Committee on Piriven Education, Chief Editor and Chairman of the Mahavamsa Compilation Committee for Volume V, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Astrologer;s Association ( for 12 years), Member of the Supreme Council of the Buddhasravaka Bhikkhu University and Committee Member of the Pracina Bhasopakara Society.
In recognition of the vast contribution of the Ven. Maha Nayaka Thero, many institutions here and abroad have conferred Honorary Titles on him. Some of them are, The Honorary D.Litt by the Buddhasravaka Bhikkhu University (2004), the Bauddha Sahitya Suri by the Vidyalankara Pirivena, and Sri Sumangala Vidyawatamsa by the Vidyodaya Pirivena. The government of Myanmar has conferred on him the title Agga Maha Pandita .
Furthermore during his tenure the following procedures were brought in to operation
- In 1960 Dharnapala Pirivena converted in to university affiliated institution for the benefit of poor children in the field of higher Education.
- In 1960 serving as an additional lecture of Vidyodaya University he was able to develop further management activities of the pirivena.
- After 25 years of excellent service he was appointed as the Deputy Principal of Vidyodaya Pirivena
- He has published many books and letters in English, Pali, Hindi and Sanskrit.
- Further it is worthwhile to mention that he was awarded the degree of D.Lit by great board of Bikkus, University of Anuradhapura in 2004, for the excellent religious and national services done to the nation.
- Later in many Occasion, he received many honorary position because of the services done to the Buddhist and none Buddhist communities in Sri Lanka.
On the 05th of October 2014, Venerable Bellana Gnanawimala Thero, The Maha Nayaka of the Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha, passed away at the age of 94.
Listen to a Talk on Life After Death given on SLBC by Maha Thero:[audio https://archive.org/download/Gold-Talks/142_venBellanaGnanawimalaMahathero_afterDeath.mp3]