Umandawa Global Buddhist Village

Umandawa Global Buddhist Village
Umandawa Global Buddhist Village or Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery (Sinhala: උමංදාව මහා විහාර අසපුව, උමංදාව බෞද්ධ විශ්ව ගම්මානය) is a modern religious place in Madahapola village near Malsiripura town in Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka. It is maintained under a controversial yellow-robed monk named Siri Samantha Badra (formerly Pitiduwe Siridhamma) who represents himself as an Arhat, one who has destroyed or abandoned four things: birth (Jati), the Asavas, the fetters (Samyojana), and the burden [(Bhara) De Silva, 2023]. Declaring oneself as an Arahat is controversial in Sri Lanka, as well as in other Theravada Buddhist countries and therefore, many people are sceptical of Siri Samantha Badra's claims of being an Arahat (De Silva, 2023). As a result of this, he lost the respect of his monastic peers, and his ideas are routinely criticised by monastics and laity (De Silva, 2023). More charges were levelled against him since he tried to act like a Buddha (De Silva, 2023).

Presently, Siri Samantha Badra represents a small minority of Buddhists but they include some celebrities, upper-middle-class wealthy individuals, and ordinary locals (De Silva, 2023). Politicians with ambitions attend his sermons and other programs with the expectation of receiving his assistance (De Silva, 2023).

A non-profit organization
The Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery functions as a Buddhist Monastery and a non-profit organization, which is registered under the brand name "Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery" and the company name "Siri Sadaham Ashramaya" which is based in Dehiwala, Colombo (Thilakarathne, 2021).

Siri Sadaham Ashramaya 
Siri Sadaham Ashramaya was established in 2004 by the monk Siri Samantha Badra to disseminate Dhamma for practical and spiritual benefits for the development of people (Thilakarathne, 2021). Since then, it has been the hub for many followers such as monks, nuns, volunteers, and donors of his teachings. Presently, Siri Sadaham Ashramaya is led by Siri Samantha Badra and an executive committee (Thilakarathne, 2021). Every member of this committee is a paid member and it is the body where most of the fundraising, administration and marketing activities of this company are carried out (Thilakarathne, 2021).

Establishment of Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery
As the idea of Siri Samantha Badra and his followers, Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery was established in 2015 as the second monastery of Siri Sadaham Ashramaya (De Silva, 2023; Thilakarathne, 2021). Umandawa means "the land of wise", originally derived from the Sanskrit word Ummaga (De Silva, 2023).

Presently, the community of Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery lives in an area of about 70 acres owned and administered by the community itself (Thilakarathne, 2021). The land was purchased in December 2015 with the financial support of a Buddhist monk (now deceased) and many other donors (Thilakarathne, 2021). The community consists of about 100 inhabitants, including monks, nuns, resident volunteers, donors, and retired members (Thilakarathne, 2021).

Bhikkhunis (Buddhist nuns) at Umandawa
The Bhikkhuni order in Sri Lanka was founded in the 3rd century B.C. but it began to decline around the 11th century A.D. (De Silva, 2023). Many individuals involved in the international movement revived the Bhikkhuni order in the country in the late 20th century and as of today, there are over 4,000 nuns across the country. However, this newly established Bhikkhuni order is not acknowledged by the government or monastic authority in Sri Lanka (De Silva, 2023).

A Samaneri (novice nuns) ordination of the Umandawa nuns was held in 2016 with the participation and guidance of one of the first Sri Lankan Bhikkhunis, the late Ven. Bhikkhuni Kolonnawe Kusuma who was ordained in 1996 in Sarnath, India (De Silva, 2023). The  Bhikkhunis in Umandawa live in a small, close-knit community and are directly supervised by Samanthabadra and his disciple monks (De Silva, 2023).

Umandawa Global Buddhist Village.
See also

1) De Silva, G., 2023. Umandawa: Buddhist Transformation in Modern Sri Lanka. Religions, 14(1), pp.1-18.
2) Thilakarathne, C.D., 2021. The role of adaptive capacity in supporting resilient livelihoods: an asset-based approach at Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery, Sri Lanka (Master's thesis, Norwegian University of Life Sciences). pp.8,38-39.

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This page was last updated on 27 May 2023
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