125th Anniversary of Birth of Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya
Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru
DLitt DLitt (23rd August 1896 - 18th July 1998)
Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) BGKT
Venerable Ananda Maitreya was one of the most respected Buddhist monks of the twentieth century in Sri Lanka.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya was born near Balangoda in Sri Lanka. He was ordained as a novice on 2 March 1911 in Sri Lanka. His upasampada [higher ordination] was conducted on 14 July 1916 in Balangoda Sri Lanka. Although he travelled overseas, he remained rooted in Balangoda and opened Dhammananda Pirivena a monastic college for novice Monks in Balangoda.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya played important roles in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. He served as a lecturer in Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhalese at Ananda College in Colombo. When Nalanda College in Colombo was opened in 1925, he became the first teacher of Buddhism On opening in 1959 Vidyodaya University appointed him a Professor of Mahayana Buddhism in 1959, Dean of the Faculty of Buddhist studies in 1963, and Vice Chancellor in 1966. In 1969, Venerable Ananda Maitreya was appointed as the Mahanayaka [Head] of Amarapura Nikaya of the Sangha in Sri Lanka.
His most famous role was as a participant at the historic sixth Sangayama [Buddhist Council], held in Burma in 1954-56. That Council was held to coincide with Buddha Jayanthi, the 2500th anniversary of the passing away of the Buddha. Members of the Sangha [Community of Buddhist Monks] from the five Theravada Buddhist countries of South-East Asia (Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand) attended this Council. The purpose of these Councils is to rehearse [Sangayama means rehearsal] and compare their respective copies of the Tipitaka [Pali Canon], the Buddhist Scriptures, in order to ensure that purity and accuracy has been maintained over the years. The previous five Councils had all been held under royal patronage in India and Sri Lanka. The Burmese government wished the Sixth Council to produce an authorized version of the Tipitaka [Pali Canon]. Venerable Ananda Maitreya was the Sri Lankan representative on the final editing committee. He had also served as chairman of the Council for a few weeks during its third session in 1956. The Burmese government subsequently conferred upon him the honorific title of Agga Mahapandita [Chief Great Scholar]. After his 100th birthday he was invited to Burma where he received their highest religious title, Abhidhaja Maharatthagura [His Eminence, the Great Spiritual Teacher of the Nation].
Venerable Ananda Maitreya visited many countries including Burma, Canada, China, France, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Phillippines, Singapore and Thailand. He led mediation retreats and gave talks.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya first visited England in 1973 to spend the Vassa [rains] retreat at the Buddhist centre at Oakenholt near Oxford.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya became well known in the West in the 1970s through Ronald Eyre’s 1977 BBC TV series The Long Search. Ven Ananda Maitreya appeared in the episode Buddhism: Footprint of the Buddha filmed in Sri Lanka. The book of the series includes a photograph of Venerable Ananda Maitreya.
In 1981, Venerable Ananda Maitreya stayed at Cittaviveka Chithurst Monastery in the UK [Forest Sangha tradition]. He convened the assembly which authorized the Abbot of at Cittaviveka Venerable Sumedho to conduct Bhikkhu Ordinations and be a Preceptor. Ordinations have to be conducted on a Sima [bounded area of consecrated ground]; consequently, Venerable Ananda Maitreya conducted the ceremony to establish a Sima at Cittaviveka. The new Sima was named the Ananda Maitreya Sima.
I met Venerable Ananda Maitreya at the London Buddhist Vihara. He authorized me to become a Sangha Authorized Dhamma Teacher in 1983. I was the first person outside the USA to take the Bodhicari Precepts in a ceremony at the London Buddhist Vihara on 3 August 1994, with Venerable Ananda Maitreya as the Preceptor. The Bodhicari Precepts were developed at the Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles in 1991, and were approved by Venerable Ananda Maitreya from Sri Lanka. Bodhicaris and Bodhicarinis are “practitioners of the Buddha Dhamma who have attainment of enlightenment as their goal”. Dhamma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara offers 3 sets of Precepts: Upasakas and Upasikas take Panca Sila [five precepts]; Dhammacaris take nine precepts; and Bodhicaris take 12 precepts. The Dhammacari and Bodhicari Precepts are an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila [Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth]. Venerable Ananda Maitreya wrote “The perfect moral conduct or character can be categorised under the Eight Precepts called Ajivatthamaka Sila. These are refraining from eight unwholesome ways, namely, killing, taking what is not given; a life devoted to sensuality; falsehood, slandering, backbiting, harsh speech, gossip; and wrong livelihood. All the good conduct and keeping Precepts or Patimokkha rules of Buddhist monks are included in these eight Precepts”. Nine Special Qualities of a Buddha & Other Essays, 1995 page 16.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya gave a talk and wedding blessing at our wedding blessing at The London Buddhist Vihara. The talk he gave is included in the book Buddhism: Lectures and Essays by Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya. This book is available on this website.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya and I jointly wrote the booklet Introducing Buddhism to accompany the Introducing Buddhism course I taught on in the 1980s at The Buddhist Society London [the oldest Buddhist organisation in the UK]. Websites offering Introducing Buddhism include Access to Insight, Google Books and TBE Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia. Introducing Buddhism has been published by Buddhist organisations in England, Malaysia (as Buddhism A Quick Introduction), Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and the USA. Introducing Buddhism was launched by the BCC Buddhist Cultural Centre Sri Lanka with 24 other books under the patronage of world famous Bhikkhu and author Venerable Dr K. Sri Dhammananda Chief Sangha Nayaka of Malaysia and Singapore on 20 December 1997. The most widely known edition was published in Taiwan by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation. This booklet is available on this website.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya died on 18 July 1998 at the age of 101 in Sri Lanka. He had a state funeral in Balangoda his birth place. 400 monks and 100000 lay people attended including representatives from other countries.
Our Buddhist Group Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) BGKT is fortunate to have as its Founder Spiritual Advisors Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru DLitt DLitt, and Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera (an internationally respected meditation master and author who has been resident in the USA for many years).
BGKT was founded in 1991 and will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021.
By Jacquetta Gomes Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili
Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) BGKT
“A Time for Parting”, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist Publication Society [BPS] Newsletter, (No 40 Third Mailing 1998) (1998).
“Most Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithreya thera”, The Sri Lanka Guardian [Colombo],
(17 July 2010).
Buddhism: Lectures and Essays. Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt. Sri Lanka, Colombo, Samayawardhana, 1993. (ISBN 955-570-038-9).
Chapter 7 “Family Life” of Venerable Ananda Maitreya’s book Buddhism: Lectures and Essays, is his talk at our wedding blessing at The London Buddhist Vihara
The Dhammapada: The Path of Truth, Translated by Venerable Dr. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera, Berkeley, California (USA), Parallax Press, 1995. (ISBN 0-938077-87-2).
Introducing Buddhism, Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt, and Jayasili (Jacquetta Gomes), Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada), 3rd edition, 2003.
Introducing Buddhism, Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt, and Jayasili (Jacquetta Gomes), BCC Buddhist Cultural Centre Sri Lanka (1997). (Book code B548) (ISBN 955-9219-90-1).
Introducing Buddhism. Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt, and Jayasili (Jacquetta Gomes), Taipei, Taiwan, The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, 2008 reprint of 2007. (Book code EN074).
(This includes as an appendix the booklet: Requirements and Ceremonies for The Five Precepts [Panca Sila], The Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth [Ajivatthamaka Sila], Dhamma Teachers Certificate, issued by the Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) and Ketumati Buddhist Vihara at Wesak 2006, updated February 2010).
Nine Special Qualities of the Buddha & Other Essays, Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, London, World Buddhist Foundation, 1995.
Ronald Eyre On the Long Search: His own account of a three - year journey, London, BBC British Broadcasting Corporation, 1977. (ISBN 0-563-17601-6).
“Spiritual Advisors Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana”
"Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya: A Personal Appreciation", by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 5 June 2010,