Ambagahawatte Indrasabhawara Gnanasami Thera

Ven Ambagahawatte Indrasabhawara Gnanasami Thera (1830-1886) was a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk and the founder of Sri Lanka Ramanna Nikaya, one of the three major Buddhist orders in the country.

Life events
Born in 1830 at Ambagahawatta in Akmeemana in Galle, he entered the Buddhist order on 15 June 1847 by the name Saranankara (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009). He studied for several years under his mentor Bentara Atthadassi Thera of Siyam Nikaya and received Upasampada (Higher Order) from him in 1855 at Malwatta Viharaya and again in 1856 at the Kalyani River (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009; Kariyawasam, 1973).

However, Saranankara Thera was dissatisfied with the way he was ordained at the two Upasampada ceremonies (Kariyawasam, 1973). Therefore, he gave up robes but again joined the Buddhist order as a Samanera [(novice monk) BJM, 1956; Kariyawasam, 1973]. He proceeded to Paramananda Viharaya at Galle and started to learn under Bulathgama Sirisumanathissa Thera of Amarapura Nikaya (BJM, 1956; Kariyawasam, 1973). After expressing his willingness to get Upasampada in Burma (present Myanmar), he along with other two monks (Dipegoda Silakkhanda Thera and Pelpola Dhammadassi Thera) and two Samaneras (Weligama Dhammapala Thera and Kodagoda Sumangala Thera) embarked from the Galle harbour for Myanmar on 10 October 1860 (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009).

He received the Upasampada from Sangharaja Thera under the patronage of King Mendung in Mandalay on 25 February 1861 and changed his name to Indrasabhawara Gnanasami (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009). After the Upasampada ceremony, he returned to Sri Lanka on 18 August 1862 and took residence at Vijayananda Viharaya at Welitara (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009). He with the participation of 24 monks performed the first Upasampada ceremony of the newly-formed Ramanna Nikaya on four novice monks on 12 June 1864 at the Udakukkhepa-sima in Mahamodara, Galle (Goonatilake, 2009). 

In the same year, Indrasabhawara Thera established a monastic center at the Mula Maha Viharaya (or Dharmagupta Pirivena) at Payagala where he resided (BJM, 1956; Goonatilake, 2009). On 15 February 1880, he was appointed the Mahanayaka of the Ramanna Nikaya (Goonatilake, 2009).

Indrasabhawara Gnanasami Thera passed away in 1886. His tomb at Payagala Mula Maha Viharaya was designated by the government as an archaeological protected monument in 2005.

1) BJM, 1956. Buddha Jayanthi Memorials. Information Department. Government Press Ceylon. pp.31-33.
2) Goonatilake, H., 2009. Sri Lanka-Myanmar Historical Relations in Religion, Culture and Polity. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 55, pp.77-114.
3) Kariyawasam, T., 1973. Religious activities and the development of a new poetical tradition in Sinhalese, 1852-1906. University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (United Kingdom). pp.41-44.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1401. 8 July 2005.

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This page was last updated on 5 February 2023

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