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Missionary Work

ධර්මදුත මෙහෙවර



The excellent command of the English language by monks who were ordained by Pelene Vajiranana Maha Nayaka Thera made them ideal ambassadors of Buddhism.

In 1929, Ven Narada was selected to represent Sri Lanka at the opening of a new vihara in Benares, India, where he served as a translator and there got his first taste of missionary work. In the years that followed, he traveled widely. By the time he passed away (1983), he had visited all continents, except the Antarctica. In many of the countries he was the first Theravada Buddhist monk to have set foot in recent times. In his travels he helped to establish Buddhist Societies in many countries. In the words of Olcott Gunasekera, Ven Narada had the erudition and the serenity, the gentleness and piety, and above all a perfect command of the English language to put across the most abstruse teachings of the Buddha in a simple, eloquent and persuasive manner. (See Ven Narada).

Ven Piydassi followed the footsteps of Ven Narada and travelled widely carrying the message of the Buddha both to the East and to the West. As a research student at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, USA , he got an opportunity to discuss the Dhamma with members of other faiths and address audiences keen on studying Buddhism. Being a profound scholar, extraordinary skill at communications, and a charisma of personality that cements scholarship to communication skills were identified by Professor Raplh Buultjens as the three attributes Ven Piyadassi possessed to be a successful missionary. (See Ven Piyadassi).

Both Ven Narada and Ven Piyadassi wrote in English and their publications helped the English readership to get a fine grasp of the religion.

In the early years, there were other Vajirarama monks who travelled and made contacts with Buddhist clergy in other countries. Ven Soma ( he was Victor E P Pulle – a Sinhala Catholic – prior to becoming a monk) with his friend Ven Kheminda (G S Prelis was his lay name) went to Japan in 1934 wityh the help of a Japanese scholar, N R M Ehara. There they translated the Chinese version of Vimuttimagga into English and publsied it as ‘Path to Freedom’. In 1936 they left Japan and spent time in Burma studying under the meditation teacher Jetavana Sayadaw before returning to Sri Lanka the following year.

The first Theravada Buddhist group from Sri Lanka to Germany in 1957 comprised the Vajirarama monks Ven Soma, Ven Kheminda and Ven Vinitha.