Viharadhipati Nayaka Thera (the Chief Incumbent High Priest) of the Kelaniya
Though clear and detailed historical records of the lineage of monks at Kelaniya temple are not available to us, both Pali and Sinhala literary sources, and inscriptional remains bear evidence to collect information on the great personalities of Buddhist priests that graced the Kelaniya temple. Sri Parakramabahu Wilgammula Mahathera is one such historical academic figure who illuminated the then Buddhasa sana with his erudite scholarship and remarkable tutorship.
We are blessed to read the records of Kela öiya temple since the reign of Kandyan king Sri Vikramarajasinha. Following are the mahatheras to hold the chief incumbent-ship since Kandyan era.
Most Ven. Professor Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhita Mahathera
Most Ven. Professor Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhitha Maha thera is the present Chief Incumbent (Viharadhipati )of the historic Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya and Kitsirimevan Kelani vih araya.
The Nayaka thera was born to Appuhami Dassanayake and Podihamine Dassanayake of Kollupitiya, Colombo. He is the fifth in the family of four brothers and two sisters. Brothers are Upali Dassanayake, Nimal Dassanayake, Nihal Dassanayake and Sunil Dassanayake and the sisters are Sudharma Dassanayake & Pushpa Dassanayake. Dassanayake. Educated in the Royal College, Colombo he holds brilliant childhood records both in studies and sports.
Entering the sasana (the Buddhist order of monks) in the 1960s under the preceptorship of the then Chief Incumbent of the Kelani Temple Ven. Thalewela Vijitha Dhammarakkhitha Thera, novice Mahinda Sangharakkhitha studied scripture at the Gangarama Temple in Hunupitiya and was graduated from the Vidyalankara Campus of the University of Ceylon studying Buddhist Philosophy and French language in 1979. Thereafter, Sangharakkhitha Thera was awarded a two year scholarship to conduct a research at the Sorbonne University to gain a postgraduate degree in French language leading to Masters and doctoral research that he obtained from the University of Delhi.
Returning to Sri Lanka, Sangharakkhitha Thera joined the academic staff of the University of Kelaniya in 1993 where he became a Professor of Buddhist Studies (2006), Head of the Dept. (2006 – 2008) and acting Dean on several occations.
His broad academic career contributes the country with teaching, research, publication and administrtative work at the seats of higher learning specially the University of Kelaniya. He teaches and researched specially in the field of Buddhist ethics and psychology. Some of his contributions (books and articles ) to the academic world given below.
1997 Disciplinary Rules for the Laity
1999 Buddha's Biography as Taught by the Buddha
2005 Sampindita mahanidana
2006 Life of the Buddha as depicted in Sampindita mahanidana)
2007 Vilgammula Sangharaja, the Chief Incumbent of the Kitsirimevan Kelaniviharaya
2007 A Breif introduction to Madhyamaka Philosophy
2008 Translation of The Dynamic Buddhist Psychology
2010 Mahayana Buddhist Teachers
Sangharakkhitha Thera was appointed chief incumbent of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara in 1992. Since then his unique leadership and guidance pawed the way for the Kelaniya temple to be marked in the world map much brighter as a place of worship for the Buddhist world and a seat of learning for international students.
Mentioned below are only a few of present Nayaka Thera's contributions to grace the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya. construction of the two storied Talewela Wijita Dhammarakkhita Memorial Cultural centre with the sponsorship of Most Ven. Ryugen Tanaka and Most ven. Ryusho Tanaka of the Ryugen Shoja of Hiroshima, Japan, construction of the alms hall with resident rooms for monks with the sponsorship of Mrs. Hirai Eisho of Japan, Mrs. Amari Wijegunawardhane, and Mr. Priyanta Kariyapperuma, construction of the new three storied desidence house with modern resident rooms for monks and visitors; and a conference hall, construction of the traditional giant entrances (the southern entrance ) with the sponsorship of Gamlath Ganegoda family, the western entrance with the sponsorship of the Nawaloka group of companies, the northern entrance with the sponsorship of Siera company, construction of the giant Avalokite § vara Bodhisattva Statue with the sponsorship of the Nawaloka group of companies, construction of the giant Maithreya Bodhisattva Statue with the sponsorship of Dr. Saman Weerasinghe and Dr. Priyadarshanee Weerasinghe.
Sangharakkhitha Thera started Kalyani Institute of Buddhist Studies – the only English medium pirivena for Buddhist novices in Sri Lanka – to train and educate young Buddhist novices (from many countries) in traditional training of oriental languages, Buddhism and foreign languages (specially English). The institute is now emerging as a popular for Buddhist learning at all levels and training centre for future Buddhist missionaries.
Kalyani Dhamma School educating and disciplining the children of Kelaniya and suburbs on dhamma and vinaya in Sunday mornings reached new heights of development wit the guidance of the Nayaka thera conducting classes both in Sinhala and English meadia and educating nearl 4000 stuentd with a tutorial staff of about one hundred dedicated teachers.
Present Nayaka Thera of the Kalaniya temple dedicatedly worked to maitain and enrich the historic foreign relationship with the Kelaniya temple. Amomg many Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist temples from South Asia, East Asia and Europe having cordial relationship with the Kelaniya temple, Ryugen Shoja temple of South Hiroshima, Japan outstands for decades. With the chief incumbentship of (late) Moast Ven. Bhikkhuni Ryugen Tanaka and Ryusho Tanaka functions as a sister temple for decades. Ven. Nayaka Thera is also the chief Religious advisor of the Fukuoka Dhamma Circle, Fukuoka, Japan.
Most Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhita Thera is the teacher and precepter of his two disciples Ven. Deniyaye Pa aloka Buddharakkhita Thera and Ven. Pahalagannoruwe Samita Dhammarakkhita Thera.