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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2424

A Special Birthday: 75th birthday of Agga Maha Panditha Reverend Walpola Piyananda

By Bhadraji Mahinda - Reporting From , Los Angeles, California

The 75th birthday of Agga Maha Panditha Reverend Walpola Piyananda, the Chief Sanga Nayaka of America was held at the Wat Padhammachart (Thai Buddhist Temple) in La Puente, California, on Saturday September 29th. Reverend Walpola Piyananda is the chief incumbent at the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara (Temple) in Los Angeles California which was established in 1982.

The Reverend has been in the US since 1976 and had to go through many trials and tribulations because of rifts and disagreements between some of the Dayakas or the devotees at the time.

Named Bulegoda Aarachchige Piyasena, he was born in the South of Sri Lanka in 1943 on October 2nd. Even as a young boy he meditated in a small cave at the back of the family home which was near Polathu Oya (a branch of the Modara river) in a scenic mountainous area.

He was ordained at the young age of eleven. That day in 1955, October 26th, the temple bells rang on their own accord as a good omen telling of a great future.

Even as a novice, he was preaching Bana (Buddha’s words of wisdom) and was well-known for his oratory skills as the “seven-year-old Samanera”. In 1957, he attended classes at Gunodaya Pirivena in Mahamodara. He also attended evening SSC classes at Stafford College in Colombo and passed his exams with flying colors. He was allowed in to Vidyalankara Pirivena before he even knew the results of this exam.

In 1963, he was selected to the Vidyodaya University with honors though he was younger than eighteen years- (the eligible age for acceptance). While walking three miles to the campus, he said out loud the writings of great king Asoka and Sandesha Kawya (poems) and memorized them. With the untimely death of Reverend Kotagama Wachissara from an overdose of anesthesia, Reverend Walpola Piyananda was given the visiting lecturer post at the university. Here in the campus, he shared a room with Reverend Pannila Ananda who later became the Chief Sanganayaka of Atthanagalla.

Arrived in the USA in 1976, in 1978, he became the chief monk at the newly formed temple on Beachwood Avenue in Hollywood in 1978. His longtime friend Reverend Pannila Ananda also joined him here. After some difficulties with antagonistic laymen, facing many adversaries and obstacles, he was able to establish the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara on Crenshaw Avenue. It serves a large community of Sri Lankan Americans as well as devotees of other nationalities. Many Buddhist temples in the States came to be, with the help of Reverend Piyananda and some devoted generous Dayakas. In 1979, he and Reverend Havanpola Rathanasara formed the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California to protect any Buddhist monks from any person or group who would try to destroy, defame of deny their rights.

In October 1979, a white American was ordained and later a black American became a monk. A temple was opened in Houston, Texas and then in Queens, New York. Other temples came to be in Florida, Georgia and Las Vegas, Nevada and Oregon. There are also other temples in California in Sun Valley and Riverside that were initiated by Reverend Piyananda.

Reverend Walpola Piyananda has written several books in English which have been translated into Sinhala by Bhadraji Mahinda Jayatilaka. These are: 1) Saffron Days in LA, 2) A Bodhi Tree Grows in LA, 3) Away from LA and 4) Thus We Heard. His latest book titled Sharing Buddhism in the Western World was released on his 75th birthday.

While some people in Sri Lanka sometimes spend unnecessarily for celebrations, on this occasion, the emphasis was on meditation and Buddha’s teachings. Buddha Poojas were conducted by Venerable Wathogala Saranasiri and Venerable Makandure Dhammapeethi. Meditation sessions were conducted by Venerable Heenbunne Kondanna and Venerable Kalutara Mitta. Dhamma talks were given by Venerable Mandawala Seelawimala and Venerable Dedunupitiye Upananda. A pubic meeting was presided over a large audience by Venerable Pannila Ananda. Later the Maha Sangha chanted Pirith and blessed Reverend Piyananda and everyone.

- Asian Tribune -

A Special Birthday: 75th birthday of Agga Maha Panditha Reverend Walpola Piyananda
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