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DateLine Sunday, 8 April 2007

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Government Gazette

A great man of vision and mission

Ananda Mivanapalana :



Ananda Collage (1968)

The unfortunate death of Mr. Ananda Mivanapalana 54 years ago was sad news for thousands of young men and women of the revolutionary intellectual and religious movements - the All Ceylon Buddhist Students Union - started by the Dutch Buddhist monk - Bhikku Dhammapala in early forties of the 20th Century.

Ananda Mivanapalana - educated at the two premier Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka - Dharmaraja in Kandy and Ananda in Colombo, was invited by that great educationist P. de S. Kularatne to join Ananda's teaching staff.

Young Mivanapalana adopted the national dress - the white cloth, banian and shawl-along with Kularatne. Mettananda, Malalasekera, Adikaram and D. T. Devendra and with several such men of distinction. He discarded the western dress never to use it again.

While doing so, he attended the Law College, became a lawyer specialising in company law and motor traffic law. On his visits to Kandy on legal matters he listened to Bhikku Dharmmapala's inspiring lectures on Buddha Dhamma delivered at the Kandy Buddhist Association. He had developed a wide range of contacts as he was the secretary to 17 leading bus companies in the island.

The young minds of Dharmaraja, Trinity and Mahamaya, after listening to Bhikku Dharmmapala decided to form a Buddhist Students Union in Kandy. At the inaugural session at Udawattakela Temple, Ananda Mivanapalana too was present. P. D. Uduwela of Dharmaraja was elected first secretary of the Kandy Buddhist Students Union.

Instead of chanting panca sheela, the Buddhist Students of the newly formed union started their meetings with the reading of the following.

Aspirations

I will seek my strength in purity of life,

I will seek my honour in sincerity of speech.

I will seek my joy in readiness to serve.

Therefore, I promise to myself

To do what I think to be my duty

To speak what I think to be the truth

To help others in what I think to be fair.

If I go wrong, I shall not make it worse by trying to excuse, but I will accept full responsibility for action and reaction for motive and effect.

May the sincerity of this resolution give me the strength to fulfil my duties towards my self and others"

This writer remembers an "atasil session" at the remote school of Pujapitiya. Among the visitors who had observed 'atasil' there were M. W. Tilekaratne, Edwin Ariyadasa, Siri Gunasinghe, Newton de Silva, H. S. Perera and this writer.

Ananda Mivanapalana brought all of us to the remote school. At some sessions, Stanley Tilakeratne, Stanley Jayaweera, Henry Dissanayake and W. Panditaratne and many such students who came to prominence later on were there.

Once Mr. Mivanapalana arranged a debate between the Buddhist Students of Colombo and Kandy in 1949. Colombo team was consisted of all university men but the Kandy team did not have university students. The Kandy team did equally well and this writer as a S. S. C. students led the Kandy team. Such was the spirit of Mivanapalana who was pushing forward this great intellectual movement.

Mivanapalana's training of Buddhist students was such as they never loss their heads. For instance, W. M. Tilakeratne became the governor of the Central Bank. Stanley Tilakeratne became the speaker of the Parliament, Stanley Jayaweera a class one diplomat, Siri Gunasinghe and Vinnie Vitarana the renowned professors and P. D. Udawela, the Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration - all these men remained as humble as they were under the guidance of Mivanapalana and Bhikku Dhammapala.

Campaigned for free education

Mr. Mivanapalana who had seen how the poor were denied of higher educations and good schooling became a strong supporter of C. W. W. Kannaangara's efforts to introduce free education scheme to Sri Lanka. Mivanapalana could not stand reactionary arguments and sentiments against free education.

Therefore, he arranged hundreds of public meetings all over the country. He took along with him, his life long friends - Prof. Gunapala Malalasekara and Dr. E. W. Adikaram who addressed several meetings daily till the Free Education Bill was introduced to the House.

At these meetings over one hundred thousand signatures were collected in support of the Free Education Bill. For this campaign the money came from the purse of this generous man Mivanapalana. If not for this great man, free education scheme could have been crushed by the reactionary forces.

Shanthi Valley Model School

Mivanapalan's thirst for education reforms was never quenched. He was thinking of a model of an educational institution-an agro-based school which imparts all round education. He purchased 1000 acres of uncultivated lands near the village of Mimure in Matale district, in early fifties; one had to walk 12 miles from Corbert's gap in Rangala to reach the site of the proposed school.

Two buildings of St. Martin's tea estate were obtained and 25 students desiring university entrance were selected from different schools in the island.

Three young people resigned from jobs to teach at the new school without pay - Edwin Ariyadasa of editorial staff of the Observer, K.H.M. Sumathipala from Dinamina editorial and this writer from Sri Rahula College Katugastota. Among those 25, this writer remembers Atauda Seneviratne from Tholangamuwa Central School. He became a cabinet minister under the previous administration.

Mivanapalana walked 12 miles with us to reach the school site. Academic sessions were started during the first week of January 1953. We were to get a set of new teachers by January 1954 - they were leading educationists - E.W. Adikaram, Henry Van Zeyst, Lionel Lokuliyana and Keerthi Dissanayake who became the Prof. of Education at Colombo University later on.

The vision this great educational experimentation came to an end with the demise of Ananda Mivanapalana on 12 th April 1953. Mr. Mivanapalana was the father of 5 children - three daughters and two sons - Indrani (married to Tissa Devendra), Mangala, Manel, Ashoka and Shivanthi Mala. All these children freely mixed with Buddhist Students.

Publications

For the use of the ACBSU and the Shanthi Valley School, Mivanapalana established a printing press in the vicinity of his home - Shanthi Nagar in 1949, Edwin Ariyadasa edited the magazine "BEES" which carried several articles by the learned ones and Buddhist Students.

Ananda Mivanapalana delivered a series of lectures on psychology at the Kandy Buddhist Association. He was deeply interested in clinical psychology. He treated several students having mental illness. Once he brought a young ACBSU man who received treatment at Mulleriyawa, kept him at a house named Hillwood.

He was a case of schizophrenia and Mivanapalana restored him to mental health. It was from Ananda Mivanapalana that this writer learnt the first lesson on psychoanalysis and interpretation of dreams.

Mivanapalana found a great similarity between pure Buddha Dharmma and the teaching of J. Krishnamurthi. He loved to listen to Krishnamurthi and read his lectures. When Krishnamurthi was staying in Colombo, once Mivanapalana sought a private audience with him.

At the given time early in the morning, he and a few friends of his went to the residence. They were led into a carpeted room. Krishnamurthi in his pure white Indian dress came in, all got up to greet him.

After the exchange of greetings Krishnamurthi smiled with everybody and sat on the ground and turned his eyes on to the ground. All were there for 15 minutes; no exchange of words; there was silence and peace that was very beautiful. Krishnamurthi once again looked everybody, smilingly got up from his seat, did namaskara and slowly walked out of the room. This profound experience was ever green in Mivanapalana's memory.

Last Visit to Shanthi Valley

When we were at Shanthi Valley - 25 students, 3 teachers and 2 servants - Ananda Mivanapalana came with a lot of books, a weight lifting set, food stuff and sweet meats.

We all saw in him a father figure. He did not know and we too did not know that it was his last visit to the school of his dreams. We all left the school for the New Year vacation. On the 13th April 1953, we heard of the death of this great man. With him, his school also came to an end.

May he attain the bliss of emancipation.

A commemorative meeting will be held on Friday 20 April 5.30 p.m. at the National Library Services Auditorium, Independence Avenue.

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