Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was formed on 17th June 1880 and was incorporated by an Act of Parliament No. 25 of 1998.WHEREAS Col. Henry Steel Olcott, an American Theosophist and Madam Helena P. Blavatsky,a Russian author and Theosophist, inspired by the message of Buddhism disseminated by the ‘Panadura Debate’ of August, 1873, arrived in Sri Lanka on 17th May, 1880, and proclaimed themselves Buddhist by observing Thisarana Paanchaseela.
After the formation of Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society on 17th June 1880 the premises No.54, Maliban Street, Colombo has been bought by the society in 1885. Col. Olcott continued his social activities until his last days in this premises.
The First English School also started in this premises and Mr. Lead Beater was the first principal.This school was shifted to Maradana where present day Ananda College which became one of the formost colleges in Sri Lanka.
The "Bauddha Mandiraya", the epic center was constructed and formally opened on 28th January 1929 by His Excellency Sir Herbert Stanley Governor of Ceylon.Up to now there have been 29 Presidents who have rendered yeoman services.
The current President Mr. S. P. Weerasekara was elected at the 121st Annual General Meeting held on 2002 and continues the onerous duties strengthening the stability of the Society. He is in touch with many donor organizations abroad to obtain financial aid to refurbish the present building which is 79 years old.
WHEARE AS the said theosophists, perceiving the need for the upliftment of the people’s self- esteem in collaboration with Most Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda, Anagarika Dharmapala and other Buddhists Leaders founded the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society for the purpose of fostering education, traditional culture and national heritage and protecting Buddha Sasana and consequently the Society has managed as many as 420 public schools.
  • To foster and develop the Buddha Sasana and propagate the Buddhist doctrine, by establishing and maintaining Dhamma Schools, Abbhidhamma and Pali teaching Centers and by organizing lecture programmes, conferences, debates and workshops;
  • To establish Training Colleges for Bhikkus to make them learned and well established in the Dhamma and to promote the enrolment of suitable young persons in the Order;
  • To promote the advancement of Buddhist culture, literature and art;
  • To bring about the moral, cultural and social development of Buddhists and to protect their
  • To establish and maintain orphanages and homes for the aged, to grant assistance to persons affected by floods, cyclones, epidemics and other disasters;
  • To provide rest houses for pilgrims in Sri Lanka and abroad and organize other social service and welfare activities;
  • To establish and maintain pre-school, school, other Educational Institutions and Training Centers which could advance the objects of the Society and accordingly to grant financial aid, scholarship and facilities for the education and development of children;
  • To establish libraries, print, publish and sell books and periodicals relating to the objects of the Society;
  • To establish a center for the strengthening of Universal Brotherhood without distinction of race, religion, sex, caste or colour;
  • To encourage the study of comparative religions, philosophy and science;
  • To assist the promotion of universal peace; and
  • To do such and other acts conducive or incidental to the attainment of all or any of the above objects.

A Cycle of National  Progress


By Silva,
President of the B.T.S. (1940)


ANCIENT Hindu and event Greek Astronomers, divided time into Yuga and into cycle of sixty years.

A Sixty – year Cycle consists of three twenty –year periods or “Vinsati.” Brahma Vinsati is the period of growth. Next twenty years – Iswara Vinsati – is the period of concentration.

The Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was started on 17th June 1880.It has now passed all the period of a complete Cycle, and ‘starts a new cycle from an advance position, after accomplishing much that it aspired to do originally. So the history of the movement is the history of a national consciousness and aspirations. In giving an account of the work of the Society, it is proposed examine the conditions under which the new movement was born and trace its progress during these sixty years.

At the period when the movement started there was swing in the pendulum of public consciousness towards a scheme which had as its pivot a new order of things with “imitation” as its prominent ingredient.

Imitation may be the sincerest from of flattery. But there is no denying the fact that it is also the manifestation of a lack of the primary elements of self-esteem. As a rule most people in Ceylon did not get the chance to practice imitation. It was left to those who considered themselves more fortunate in acquiring knowledge of new languages and finding new opportunities for advancing their interests. They became the followers of governing classes. A few hundreds of Sinhalese imitate the Portuguese resident, attempted to speak his language, to dress like him, where possible and to lead an inferior exesistence. The same thing followed during the Dutch times, but appears that the Dutch were more exclusive and they did not encourage imitation. In fact they discouraged it.

Under British Rule

With the arrival of the British, there was freedom for people to do what they liked in regard to such matters. So the ranks of the imitators increased. Dress, named, language, were all in the imitator’s world, and at one time it was evident that no sacrifice was considered too great for the purpose. Some years ago journalist got sketched made of Ceylon imitation dress. These sketches were in interesting study. They began with shoes, socks and trousers with the cloth over it. Hats of all shapes and forms, ties of all design, coats, jackets, etc., and ended with all sorts of combination of these and permutation which could be counted in a hundred varieties. As for named, why, the Portuguese gave the bulk, the Dutch hardly any, and the English gave freedom to add Arthurs, Williams and Richards.

In regard to language, up to recent times it was the fashion in certain circles to tack on Portugues; fifty year ago it was considered a distinction. A few more years of such a calamity would have landed the people of this country in the category of the south Sea Islanders or the Negroes of Africa. Luckily this advance guard who made all this noise consisted only of an infinitesimal fraction of the population thought no doubt they were like a magnet attracting others to follow them. Nationalism was powerful enough to arrest this decline.

Where a people assimilated into their lives new ideas, they grow; where such ideas, are adopted by them for some immediate purpose they become impediments.

In the Middle Ages learning was pursued for its own sack. Europe started a new orientation when she began to build up an economic system based on the capacity for individual assertion. It was for them an experiment in civilization. It was introduced to Ceylon with a new scheme of education. The utilitarian system of education that had begun in Europe at the time was taken up and was pushed as far as possible. In this form of education Cultural direction was elbowed aside.

            The new system of education, that is, education for economic advantages, became one that ignored the religion of the people, under these narrowed conditions of life there was no room for the creation of a national consciousness.

A Popular Hero

It was at this time that the Buddhist monk, Mohottiwatte Gunananda, or better known as Migettuwatte Unnanse, came into prominence. He was ordained a Buddhist monk at the Kotahena Temple. He left the priesthood after a time. There is an unverified story that during this time he joined a class for the training of catechists held by the Rev. C. Alvis a well known Sinhalese Scholar, who himself left the Church at a subsequent period. Under him Migettuwatte learned Christian books and the works of Christian critics. He returned to the Buddhist priesthood again and remained ever afterwards a Samanera (novice). Without entering into Upasampada (full ordination) megattuwatte published books, pamphlets and leaflets in answer to those issued by Protestant missionaries. He further started a counter campaign, carrying war to his opponent’s camp.

            Before many years were out he became a popular hero. He was unorthodox in his methods. He engaged himself in public controversies. His most notable achievement was at Panadura in August, 1873. John Capper published “A full account of the Buddhist controversy held at Panadura in August 1873, by the ‘Ceylon Times’ special reporter with the addresses revised and amplified history. The book had a wider circulation than was ever expected by John Capper.

A Missionary’s Estimate

There is also a description of this controversy in the “Ceylon Friend” of September, 1873, by Rev.S. Langden, the well-known Missionary. His description is interesting as it comes from a Christian Minister at that time new to the country.

He writes:-

            “The most remarkable incident in my first three months of missionary experience and one of the most remarkable things I have ever witnessed was the great controversy, Christianity versus Buddhism. It proved in a striking manner the strong interest, nay more, the deep anxiety which exists among the masses of the people……. about their religion. It is one of the signs of the time………

            “When we arrived at the place appointed for the discussion we found that thousands had got there before us…. A more picturesque scene could hardly be imagined than the one which presented itself to us as we sat on that platform. On one side of it there were Rev. S. Coles, Church missionary, Mr. Tebb and myself, several native ministries and some lay members of the other side there was a large number-robed priests.

            “As the clock struck nine the priest Migettuwatte arose and commenced his address on the Buddhist side. There is that in his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home. He showed a consciousness of power with the people. In voice he has the advantage of his antagonist. It is of great compass and has a clear ring about it. His action is good and the long yellow robe thrown over one shoulder helps to make it impressive. His powers of persuasion show him to be a born orator.””

Three Days’ controversy

Rev. David de Silva, a learned and fluent speaker full of Pali and Sanskrit, and Mr. Sirimanne, a catechist who was known to be a popular speaker, were the advocates on the Christian side.

            Supporting the Buddhist champion were the learned High Priest of Adam’s Peak, Sipkaduwe sumangalabhidana Bulatgama Dhammalankara, Sri Sumanatissa Dhammalankara, Subhati, Potuwila Indajoti, Koggala Sanghatissa, Amaramoli, Gunarathna and Weligama Terunnanses-the ablest Original Scholars among the Buddhist Priests of the Island.

            The controversy lasted for three days, August 27, 28, 29. Each party made six discourses

            To quote the Rev. Mr. Langden again: “The last speaker was Migettuwatte. He (Migettuwatte) thanked the people for their attention, exhorted them to hold fast to Buddhism and then sat down. So ended this remarkable discussion. The people in the outer circle of the crowd raised a shout of applause crying Sadu! Sadu! But beyond that there was no demons tradition or disturbance
Whatever and that was to me the most surprising thing about it. I question if a controversy of that kind could be held in the presence of so many thousands in any country in Europe without disturbance.

A New Consciousness

This controversy awakened in the minds of the people a consciousness of strength and a felling of self-esteem which went beyond the confines of religious assertions. Capper’s book found its way to Europe. It was re-published in America. At that time students in the West knew very little of Pali literature; so the book, when it went into the hands of serious scholars, created a new interest in the religion and literature of Ceylon. Migettuwatte received numerous inquiries from Western scholars and others interested in religion. He laid the foundation for a new awakening which was the beginning of the growth of a movement of cultural progress in the Island which loosened the shackles of prejudice of race and creed, and has brought about today a spirit of co-operation and mutual understanding hardly dreamt of sixty years ago.

Man From The west

The account of the Panadura controversy attracted widespread attention and brought a man from the teachings of the Orient. He with his eminently practical mind gave the clue to constructive activity.

He was Col H.S.Olcott

Col Olcott was born in 1832 in new jersey, U.S.A. he was only 23 when his success in scientific agriculture led the Greek Government to offer him the chair.of Agriculture in the University of Athens. He declined the hounoer. He continued his Scientific researches in agriculture and when the American Civil war broke out he enlisted in the Northern Army. Shortly after he was appointed a commission to enquire into suspected frauds in the Army and the Navy Department and in spite of threats and intimidations he fought for four years though a storm of opposition and calumny till he sent the worst criminals to jail and his moral courage was shown out brightly. His Government bore testimony to the ‘, great zeal and fidelity which characterize his conduct under circumstances very trying to the integrity of an officer.

Sacrificed A Career

Col. Olcott who resigned from the war department and had been admitted to the Bar, , was earning a large income. He abandoned his practice, in 1875 and founded the Theosophical Society. He and his colleagues came to India in 1878 and in 1880 he began his work in Ceylon. From 1875 to 1906. 893 branches of the Theosophical Society were founded all over the world. The most northerly branch is in the Arctic Circle and the southern most is in New Zealand. Many difficulties confronted him. He steered the Society through many crisis. Through good and ill report he worked unwaveringly.

Such was the man who came to Ceylon in1880, attracted by the message of Buddhism. The arrival of a number of men from the west, who professed Buddhism and who proclaimed to the world the hertage of this Island, created an unusual stir. Vested interested and entrenched ideas were shaken to their foundations. Col. Olcott from the very start attracted to him a large circle of able and enthusiastic workers. He indicated in unmistakable terms the steps that were necessary to transform the new found enthusiasm into practical lines so that it might find a permanent place in the growth and progress of the country. No obstacle could stand in his way; antagonist propaganda gave strength to the movement, opposition of some of the Government officials added weight to his arguments.
Education of Children

            The one thing necessary, he pointed out, was to tack up the education of children into their own hands. The worked should be done by the people themselves; it should grow form the soil and the roots should go deep down. From 1880omwards he watched the movement, he gave his advice freely, he did not dictate he allowed those who were in the work to make many mistakes, to struggle, to achive, to quarrel to disagree and fight their battles. He was a genuine and a professed Buddhist which he proclaimed without hesitation to the whole world. He suggested the Buddhist flag and assisted in selecting  a design .He suggested the necessity for a public holiday on the full moon day of Wesak and got the Buddhists to ask for it; he suggested the importance of a Headquarters’ Buildings and got the Buddhists to purchase the Maliban Street and Norris Road site. He urged the importance of propaganda and the establishment of a newspaper, and “ Sarasavi Sandaresa” was the result. He impressed on all his colleagues that self- reliance was the quality that should be cultivated by those who aspire to do any effective work. His diary shows that from 1880 to 1906 he spent a certain period of time Ceylon practically each year. He loved the people of Ceylon with a love of intimate feeling he lived to see the work grow and strengthen beyond the expectations of those who started it. “The seeds were sown and they have grown to trees and are bearing an ample crop; my venerable Guru nothing in heaven or earth can stop the seed from bearing successive fresh crop on the trees,” thus he once addressed the High Priest Sumangala on a memorable occasion, He died at Adyar on 17th February, 1907.

Since that day, the 17th of February is celebrated in his memory as Olcott day in Ceylon.

Foundation of The Society

The Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was founded on 17th June, 1880,The list of original supporters of the Society show the names of learned Buddhist monks who influenced the life and thoughts of the Buddhists at  the time.

            The establishment of schools and the bringing together of Buddhist workers in a co – operative body without distinction of caste or position for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Buddhists of Ceylon, were the primary objects aimed at by the new Society.

            Many gathered round the movement to devote their time in attaining its objects. A few came from Europe and rendered invaluable service in work. Of these special mention should be made of C.W. Leadbeater and J. Bowles Daly. Leadbeater was Christian Minister before he came of Ceylon. His capacity for work was great He was a good organizer and an intelligent worker. During his short stay in Ceylon, he founded the Buddhist High School which eventually became Ananda College. He wrote to the press effectively meeting the criticisms leveled at the work of the Society. He founded the English supplement of the “Sarasavi Sandaresa” under name of “The Buddhist” Its weekly issued was extremely well edited and gained a great reputation.

Other Workers

J. Bowles Daly was an Irishmant who had in England identified himself with the Irish National Movement of Paranell and his band of workers. Daly was a journalist and was for some time a leader write on the “Daily Telegraph” His energy was boundless. He was outspoken both in his speech and his writings. The local English press had a very high regard for him and the European officers of the Government paid much attention to him and his outbursts of temper. The members of the local society dreaded his criticism. He never minced his words and was no respecter of persons. During his short stay he travel throughout the Island, and roused up the people to great enthusiasm.Mahinda College Galle and Dharmaraja Kandy, owe much to him.

            Among other Europeans who joined in the work, Mr. F.L.Woodward, who is now in retirement in Tasmania, rendered valuable service to both education and the religion. His name will long be remembered by his friends and colleagues and his pupils.

In this connection one should remember with gratitude the part played by Mrs. M.m. Higgins as a pioneer of Buddhist women’s Education in Ceylon. She lived for her work and died here after founding and carrying on the important work of women’s education.

            May names of those who devoted a great part of their time in the promotion of the objects of the Society easily occur. Of these those of A.E.Bultjean and Ven’ble Darmapala require special notice.

            At all times it is extremely difficult for a man to make up his mind to break away from tradition and pursue for himself a line of independent activity. The man who is able to do so is one who deserves well from those who value freedom and progress. He is qualified to make a success of what he undertakes. It is after all the sprit that defies the demands of expediency that eventually prevails and is able to take its proud place in the events of life.


A.E. Bultjens had to face difficulties and was able to contribute his quota in no small measure toward the forward march of the people of this country. There was a scholarship awarded on the result of the Cambridge local Examinations which enable a Ceylon man to pursue his studies in an English University. This scholarship was restricted to boy of the Royal College. After considerable public agitation it was thrown open to other schools. The very first year of the inauguration of the open completion – 1883-A.E. Bultjens of St. Thomas’ College was able to win. It was a great event in the scholastic world. Bultjens joined the Cambridge University. He was attracted to the study of philosophy and religion and before he left England he became a Buddhist. The news created a stis in Ceylon. At that time a normal Christian was not expected to change his religion. Bultgens came from a Christian  family, he was a Burgher and a departure from family tradition was considered in certain circles as almost a social offence. Moreover he was the most distinguished boy of the premier Christian college, and for him to forsake his religion was a disappointment to his teachers. He returned to Ceylon to face the frowns of his friends and relatives. This he did not mind, for at that time the torch of free thought was held high in England.

Beginnings of Ananda College

 About this time the Buddhists of Ceylon were attempting to organize a system of education for their children. A few Sinhalese schools had been opened and recognized after much opposition form those supporting vested interests. An English school was started in maliban street, pettah, by c.w.Leadbeater. Lead- beater left for Europe to engage himself in wider field of work in the theosophical society. Some of the members of the Buddhist theosophical society approached young Bultjens and invited him to join their work. Bultjens readily consented and from that day devoted his talents to the furtherance of the work of the Buddhist movement. He brought youth and intelligence, energy and enthusiasm to the movement. He soon organized the small school and brought it to a state of efficiency he persuaded his colleagues to seek a new site for the High school. He foresaw the possibilities of expansion and progress. The present site at Maradana was secured A small building came up and the Maliban street School was removed to maradana and became Ananda college.

A Difficult Task  

Bultjens’ task was an extremely difficult one. He had to face obstacles, one from his own contemporaries, relatives and friend and the other from unsympathetic government officials who were very  loth to encourage Buddhist in their attempt to alter the then existing methods in the conduct of schools. Bultjens’ name was displayed prominently on the boards of his old college as one of its most distinguished pupils; when he threw in his lot with the Buddhist in their activities, the authorities of st. Thomas’ college had his name erased from the honour boards. The news of this ill-advised action reached England and Labouchere of “truth” who commanded great influence on English liberal thought had deal to say on it. He pilloried the action of college authorities and in his inimitable way made much fun out of the incident. Bultjens tuned a blind eye to the incident and in the faith of his convictions and his devotion to his work he brought greater honour to his school. The times are different today. We have made progress in the spirits of appreciation of good and unselfish work and Bultjens’ college has restored his name to the honour boards.


Handing on the torch


Bultjens devoted his whole energy to the work of the Buddhists. He pushed the work of Ananda College and took up in addition the work of general manager of Buddhist schools. He travelled in the villages, he attended villages, he meetings and he helped in the establishment of schools. He edited the ‘Buddhist ,” a weekly Buddhist journal, where the news of the activities of Buddhist  work found a fitting place in addition to articles of scientific and literary value of translations of Buddhist Pali works Bultjens took a prominent part in all this work. Year after year the work grew both in volume and importance. Others gradually arose who were able to take an active part in the extension work and who were able and competent to assist him and relieve him out of the gathering work. After a number of years when ill-health intervened he was in the position to hand over his work with confidence to others who were his colleagues and to watch the further expansion of the movement he assisted so unselfishly and with such great personal sacrifice.


The Venerable Devamitta Dharmapala


  A flood which leaves behind it fertilizing material that brings sustenance and life to hundreds of thousands is always impressive. It is energy expressing  itself  irrespective of banks, boundaries and obstructions.

The life and career of Venerable Devamitta Dharmapala was a flood of energy  from beginning to end. It gained in momentum from year to year, never flagging in its onward rush. Disappointments, discouragements, age or ill-Handing on the torchid not alter his temperament, his purpose, or his activities in the slightest degree. His faith in himself was his great asset he had no use for “expediency” or tact. He was uncompromising in his views he met friends and opponent alike with a plain unmistakable expression of his own views.


New work


While still a young man he was brought in intimate contact with High Priest Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, Migettuwatte Gunananda and col.H.S.Olcott, among others who were laying the foundations of a national revival of the Sinhalese. He supplied in no small measure the translation into practical activity the ideals put forward by these early workers. He had left school and had embarked on a successful worldly career. He gave this up cheerfully at his own free will. He was not gaining any personal kudos by the change. There were very few people who at the time could admire his attitude. The mentality of Ceylon at that period was such that Dharmapala was looked upon as a foolish young man. They did not even give him the distinction of calling him a crank.

Young Dharmapala put his whole life into his new work.. He saw its potentialities. He was a free agent and independent and did not require favours from any one. He plunged himself in work; nothing was too small or big for him. He would clean his own room, make his own bed, attend to office work, write all the letters and take them to post himself, not as a matter of virtue but as a part of his daily routine. He would interpret for one he would translate a lecture for some one else, he would write original articles for the newspaper, he would discuss the policy of the editor and would correct proofs for him, and he would interview those who visited the office. He wrote to people all over Ceylon inviting them to visit the head office, and to contribute their “good will” towards the progress of the cause all were alike to him, whether one was old or young or a schoolboy, learned or  ignorant, rich or poor did not matter; he intuitively knew what each was able to contribute towards the common good. He spent well night fifteen to sixteen hours a day in intensive work. he had a pleasant manner, cheerful at all times; his written and spoken words were eloquent and their sincerity went to the hearts of all those who met him. This bundle of energy and goodwill continued his useful career at the Buddhist headquarters’ for nearly five years. He helped in the foundation of schools, and in Buddhist propaganda. He attracted men to new organization till the Colombo Buddhist theosophical society became a power in the land.


Visit to India



            In1891 Dharmapala visited the holy shrines of India. At Buddha Gaya his religious emotions were roused to such an extent that a further transformation occurred in his outlook on life. The work he had already strived for was progressing in a satisfactory manner. His energies called for a wider range of activities. What could a man aspire to do more than concentrate his attention in rescuing the holy places attached to his religion which had been left neglected for several centuries?

He formed the maha bodhi society. Its odject was the restoration to Buddhists of the holy sites of Buddhism and the re-establishment of Buddhism in its motherland. He met opposition from very influential quarters. The task was more difficult than he originally thought it to be. There were powerful vested interests which had to face. Nothing daunted he attacked the problem from various angles. He erected a pilgrims’ Rest at Buddha Gaya. He established a place for worship. He negotiated with the Mahant who was occupying the temple to induce him to give it over to the Buddhist. Next he devised a scheme to purchase the site attached to the temple. The site belongs to the Raja of Tikari and he had hopes that he would be able to purchase it at a price. There was remarkable response from the Buddhists of Ceylon. A certain number of them put togather fairly large sum (a very handsome contribution for that time). Support was promised from Burma. Siam too was approached. It is no secred that the king of Siam whould have generously responded to the appeal if the transaction with the Raja of Tikari could have been completed.



The Site Refused


            Influence was brought to bear the on those who administered the property of the Raja. Ultimately they refused to part with the land. This frustrated the second plan. The Buddhist of Ceylon who contributed their money left it to Darmapala to do whatever he liked with it. Darmapala conceived a third plan of action, that of asserting a legal claim to the holy site on behalf of the Buddhists. He wants before the Courts of Low and fought for the rights of the Buddhists. The litigation was a prolonged one. The case went from Court to Court and finally the High Court decided against the claims of the Buddhists. The case brought the Question of Buddhist Shrines in India to the notice of the world and a favorable opinion was created in India and elsewhere justifying the Buddhist point of view. The pursuit, however, was not abandoned. The fourth stage saw the energies of the Anargarika directed towards the spread of Buddhism in India. If India became Buddhist minded, the Holy Shrines naturally would oome into the hand of Buddhists.


In America



            In 1894 Dahrmapala was a Buddhist delegate to the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago. His addressed at the assemble created the favorable impression in America and elsewhere. He was well received and he became the first missionary of Buddhism in the West.

            Darmapala each year made additions, to his activities, but he never gave up one activity in order to engage himself in another. With him his order ideas grew in intensity as the time went on, new enter prises were only added to them. From then ceforward his missionary activities grew apace. He established his Headquarters in Calcutta. He continued his work in Ceylon through the maha Bodhi Society. He built a Vihara in Calcutta. He completed a handsome Vihara  and established a Buddhist institution at Isipatanan in Benares, one of the most sacred sites of Buddhism –the Deer Park – where the land Buddha preched his first sermon. He established activities in south India. He carried the flag to England and planted the Buddhist Mission and a Vihara in London undeterred by difficulties which met there.

            He never ceased using his eloquent words and his eloquent writings.  He contributed regularity interesting view and notes to his papers. He kept in touch with every movement that mattered. His sympathies were very wide when the school of the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society were in difficulties in 1928 the Anagarika was ill and confined to his bed, but his anxiety to save the situation was so great that he had consultations with his friends and rendered substantial financial assistance.


Charateristic Letters


            Anagarika Darmapala had a clear vision and an intuition that helped him to direct his energies to good purpose. I have before me two characteristic letters written by him to direct his energies to good purpose. I have before me two characteristic letters written by him in two different periods. One is dated 23rd September, 1886 (just 47 years ago) from Buddhist Headquarters; in it he appeals to youth who had just left school asking him to write a series of articles to the “Sarasavi Sandaresa” and help the cause. The acquaintance for med in response to that letter led to a life of long intimate friendship. The other is a letter written in 1930; it breathes the happy thoughts and aspirations of one though physically very ill, yet was mentally free and joyous. This reveals the speaker’s great success:


Maha-Bodhi Society
Founder and Director General—
Anagarika Dharmapala

Established 2435/1891

Maha-Bodhi Mandira,
                                                                                                Colombo, 07th Decr., 2474/1930.


W.A de Silva,


Peace and Happiness to all


My Dear Brother,

You may consider this as my dying request and hope that you will do something to strengthen the foundations of declining Buddhism.

None worked with greater zeal than myself for the welfare of the Theosophical Society. There was none to accompany Col. Alcott in his tour in February, 1986, in the villages. Had I not resigned my post in Education Department to work with him he would have left Ceylon in disgust.

The Theosophical Society in India has no sympathy with Buddhism. In America I found that in the Theosophical branches nothing is known of Buddhism. The T.S. teachers the existence of a personal creator and of eternal Atmen, Both is against the Dhamma. Moreover there is the cult of Krishnamurti and the order of the star. Lead beater is the Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. There is all confusion within the T.S. all the donations received by the T.S are spent on other things except Buddhism. The Colombo T.S. has received no donation from the Adyar T.S. The Ananda College property is paying yearly interest at 4% on Rs. 34,000. The Ananda, Nalanda, and the Buddha Mandira are maintained by the Buddhist Ceylon.

The Buddhist Press was the property of debenture-holders. In 1886 I got the shareholders to present their shares to the Theosophical Society and made the Buddhist Press the property of the T.S. For five years I labored hard to increase the usefulness of the “Sandaresa.”

The Adyar T.S. is also declining because of the Liberal Catholic Church and Krishnamurti cult. Since the last few months there is a conflict between Krishnamurti PARTY AND Lead beater party.

For 40 years I have preached the pure Dhamma and I know the Dhamma is appreciated by a large number of Europeans.

The pure Dhamma is strong enough to do its work without the help of Theosophy. Sinhalese Buddhists  have conserved the pure Dhamma for 2,200 years. I am now feeble and my strength is failing. But I have made the Maha-Bodhi Society Strong.

There are two beautiful Viharas-one in Calcutta and the other is at Isipatana, Benares. There is a large Dharmasala at Gaya, and another at Buddhagaya. A new Pansala is being built at Perambur, Madras. The London Buddhist Mission is built on solid foundations. Mrs. Mary Foster and myself have spent over a lakh of Rupees to establish the Mission at 41, Gloucester Road.

I have spent over Rs. 40,000 to establish the Maha-Bodhi Press and the Sinhala Buddhaya.

For 38 years I have kept up the English Maha-Bodhi Journal.
We have a splendid Oriental library at the Calcutta Vihara.

The cost of building the Calcutta Vihara amount to RS. 125,000. The Vihara at Isipatana has cost us Rs. 109,000. For 20 years I have kept up the Maha Bodhi free school at Sarnath.

There is no Buddhist Girls’ School in Malikanda. All the Buddhist girls attend the Chifton School. When they leave school they are no longer Buddhists. Buddhism depends on Buddhist mothers.

We want a big Buddhist Press. The Buddhist Press and the Maha-Bodhi Press can be amalgamated and form one United Buddhist Press.

The “Bauddaya” and the “Sandaresa” are both tottering. The two should be amalgamated and a powerful Buddhist newspaper started. Buddhist patronizes the Silumina. The two Buddhists Societies should work in Co-operation the name Theosophical is utterly misleading. The Maha-Bodhi Society shall carry on the propaganda and the Buddhist National Education Society take up the local educational work. I remember in 1914 when you returned from your European tour we got together and started a new Educational Society.

Col. Olcott started the Sinhalese National Educational Buddhist Fund in 1881. The T.S. appropriated the Found in 1885. I promose that the Maha-Bodhi Mandira, Maligakanda, be converted into a high grade Girl’s School and get our Buddhist girls under our control.

The M.B. Press and the Bauddhaya, the Buddhist Press and the Sandaresa should be located in the Bauddha Mandira. It is a Buddhist building.

These are the suggestions which I hope you and the T.S. members will consider.
Yours ever affectionately,


Establishment of Newspaper


The Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was organized at the very start on lines in which associations were formed in America. In addition to constitution. An association hall, a library and reading room, a newspaper was established. The Society got a charter affiliating it to the parent Theosophical Society with its seven or eight kindred branches established throughout the world. Members received certificates of membership. During the early times of the Societp they were initiated ceremoniously.

A flag for the Buddhists was introduced. The present Buddhists flag of six colours was designed and prepared for the Society. It became very popular and it caught on rapidly and extended throughout the Island to all Buddhist countries and became recognized Buddhist Flag in the world.


Powerful Paper


The Society started its annual dinner when each year all members sat down to a dinner at the Headquarters of the Society and made a practical demonstration of the brotherhood of the members at a time when there were differences in Caste and class. All castes and all class united and year after year this union was cemented not only at the dinner of the Society but also extended to Social functions.

The newspaper “Sarasavisandaresa” created a place for itself as a powerful exponent of Buddhist and national public opinion. “Sarasavisandaresa” was started in Dec., 3rd 1880, with Veragama Punchi Banda as its Editor. Veragama soon became the foremost Sinhalese writer; Pandit Vergama Bandara brought a new spirit into Sinhalese writing. He introduced a fine style, elegant and popular, which created a new era in Sinhalese prose composition. Anagarika Dharmapala as a young man took an active part in the management of the paper. A few years later Veragama Bandara died and Anagarika Dharmapala left for Japan, Chicago and India. The Editor’s place was filled by the appointment of Pandit Karunaratne.

There was about this time a young man H.S. Perera-who contributed very readable paragraphs to the “Sandaresa” who lived in Kandy and who showed a keen journalistic sense. He was a private clerk to justice Lawrie, at that time District Judge of Kandy. Lawrie was interested in history and archaeology and was compiling his very valuable book ‘The Gazetter of the Central Province” H.S. Perera did some of the work of the Gazetteer.

The “Sandaresa” asked H.S. Perera whether he would come as Managing Editor and what his terms would be. H.S. Perera was waiting for an opportunity to put his dreams into some practical form; he wanted a platform and he accepted the offer and as for his terms he said, “Find a room for me and give me just sufficient money for my meals.”


New Life


He came and took over the office, the paper and everything pertaining to it and fixed his own salary at Thirty Rupees a month. He devoted all his talents to the work of the paper. He gave a new life to the Sinhalese newspaper. He never published mere translations. He rewrote all the news. He appealed direct to his readers in the news, in the letters, in the special articles, in the paragraphs and in the leaders. He led public opinion as nobody ever had done before. He encouraged his correspondents and gave them the news Sense. The “Sandaresa” and its Managing Editor very soon became an institution to be reckoned with.

At this time there were many sacrosanct classes in Ceylon. A Mudaliyar was a great master minor Headman were masters. Government servants never made mistakes, the Civil Service and the Government one dared not even mention by name much less subject to criticism. H.S. Perera started showing up these institutions which were entrenched in their own importance, as human ones as frail and vulnerable as other institutions. He continually wrote asking the public to give up their fear of the ant hill (humbas baya). The timid man, he said, was cautions that he would not approach an ant-hill lest it may be harboring a deadly cobra. The very word ANT HILL FEAR was adapted by him and it became popular. In this manner he tried to remove the inferiority complex which was very pronounced in the country. He started analyzing the doing and misdoings of Mudaliyars, Presidents of Village Tribunals and minor officials subjecting them to stern criticism; and holding them up to ridicule when it became necessary to do so. He trained his correspondents to supply him with facts, he investigated matters himself before he seriously took them up. He extended the sphere of his criticism to public societies and members of religious bodies and to the doings of those known as higher officials. He found interesting copy in ridiculing farewell functions given to officials, the practice of decorating rest houses and putting up of pandals whenever a Government Agent when on circuit. He attacked the practice of the supply of free previsions to officials on circuit as a part of the duty of minor headmen. These writings gradually had their effect. Villagers particularly began to feel that they had their rights and could not be led by the fear of those entrusted with administrating the country. Government had to take notice of the criticisms. They were couched in fine language, direct and to the point, and never bordered on anything like personal abuse and the use of vulgar invective. H.S Perera gave plain unvarnished facts and based his criticism and his advice both to the Government and the public in a dignified manner. When the higher Government officials began to come under his castigations there was apparent alarm. Their first impulse was to ask Government to ignore the writings. This could not allow that. He developed a way of drawing the attention of the Colonial Secretary and the Governor and inquiring from them as to the steps they had taken in remedying the grievances he had exposed.


Cry of Sedition


Then arose the cry of “sedition” and those interested in suppressing what they called a “new danger to the peace and prosperity of the Island” turned to their ally in the English press. There was editorial demand that the growing tendency of the creation of a seditious “native” Press should be sternly suppressed. The word Bolshevism was not known at the time. H.S. Perera worked quietly and followed his own line of action. He strengthened himself by getting some of the local Legislative Council to bring matters to the notice of the Government. When he found the artificial opposition that was being created against his work he got himself in touch with journalists and public men in England. He was fortunate in getting their ear and was able to get questions asked in parliament. So the local Government found they could not suppress him and they had to put up with him. The hitherto suppressed public opinion found a ready means of expression. The sacrosanct idols were broken one by one and were brought down from their high pedestals and opinion began to express itself without let or hindrance. Some one has said that the real influence of a journalist can be gauged from libel actions brought against him. H.S Perera had to face more than one action in the Courts for civil and criminal libel and he had scores of threats of libel actions and lawyers’ letters. He never flinched and in his long career never had to apologize and withdraw a word of what he wrote.


“The Buddhist”


The ‘Buddhist,” an English supplement to the “Sandaresa” was started by C.W Lead beater and edited by him. The paper made a mark for itself. L.C. Wijesinghe Mudaliyar and A.E Bultjens, and D.B. Jayatilaka followed in the editorial chair; later the present writer took it up.

In the year 1918 the “Buddhist” was handed over to the Y.M.B.A and is being continued today as a monthly magazine.

The Society created many admirers outside Ceylon through its publication. “sanderasa” found its way to India, Strait Settlements, Malay, Java, Japan, Siam, China, Australia, North and South America. Wherever Sinhalese were working in these lands most of them kept a life line with the Island through the columns of the paper and also assisted the Society from time to time by making money contributions. The settlers in Homebush, Australia, collected a fund endowed a scholarship at Ananda College.


National Fund


At the very inception of the Society Colonel Olcott started a Buddhist National Fund which was placed under trustees especially appointed for the purpose. The Buddhist National Fund came to over Rs. 6,000 and with it was purchased the site and old buildings of the present Buddhist Headquarters in Maliban Street and Norris Road.

At a later time through the untiring efforts of the then Secretary, Mr. W.H.W. Perera, the Society was able to put up the present imposing building facing Norris Road.

The promotion of education became the most important work of the Society. The necessity for placing Buddhist children under Buddhist influence from their early years was recognized and from year to year the results of this policy demonstrated the wisdom of the step. In 1880 when the Society started there were only two Buddhist schools in the Island-one at Dodanduwa Conducted under the supervision of piyarathna Nayaka Thero, and the other at Panadura under the supervision of Gunaratana Nayaka Thero. These had an attendance of 246 children and received as Government Grants a sum of Rs.532-70. Whereas there was at the time 805 schools conducted by Christian Missionaries with an attendance of 78.086 children receiving Government Grants to the extent of 174,420 rupees.




The new organization which aspired to enter into the field of education was opposed, and difficulties placed in its way by the Government. The Director of Education visualizes a conflict of interests and the introduction of a dissension which the new organization was likely to create. Its ability to take its part in the education programme was doubted. Difficulties were placed on the path by the enactment of regulations likely to hamper their progress. The energy and determination of those who formed the new movement and the intelligent help and guidance they received enabled them to overcome these obstacles which acted as an impetus and activity throughout the country. The report of 1892, that is twelve years after the establishment of the Society, shows 25 boys’ schools, 11 girls’ schools and 10 mixed schools, a total, i.e., in 1903 there were under the management of the Society 174 schools with an attendance of about 30,000 children. The importance of the establishment of Buddhists schools had been realizes and within the period of 24 years in addition to the number of schools under the management of the Society, a very large number of Buddhist schools under the management of other Societies and private individuals came into existence. These schools assisted in the promotion of the objects of the Society.




In 1915 the Society went through a very difficult time. Martial Law was proclaimed in Ceylon. Most of the leaders of the Buddhist community were subjected to detention and imprisonment. Government ceased paying grants to schools and decided to have all its schools closed. The disaster looked as if all national progress was to cease. The way in which people of this island rose to the occasion to meet a difficult situation without distinction or religion or caste and met the crisis is the beginning of a great epoch. Within a short time they united to destroy a system of Government which was capable of being so disastrously misused and the present system of Government was evolved. So far as the Buddhist Theosophical Society is concerned it partook of the new awakening. Buddhists rallied round it as they never did before. The Society was strengthened with new members and a constitution was registered. It planned its future work and strengthened with new members and a constitution was registered. It planned its future work and strengthened what had already been built up. Funds came in to meet all these new requirements.

In 1925 there were 260 schools under the management of the Society with a staff of 1, 906 teachers, Today (1940) the Society has under its management 420 schools.

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