Sunday, 14 May 2023

Waskaduwe Subuthi Thera

Ven Waskaduwe Sri Subuthi Thera (1835-1917) was a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk and scholar.

Life events
He was born in Thotamuna in Waskaduwa village in 1935 as the youngest child of a family of seven children (Fernando, 2003). His father was Karunamuni Panis de Silva and his mother was Punchi Hami (Fernando, 2003). He entered the Buddhist order as a novice monk under the mentorship of Saranapala Seelakkhandha Thera of Sumanaramaya in Kalamulla (BJM, 1956; Fernando, 2003). After that, he was entrusted to Sri Sumangala Thera, the incumbent of Sri Pada Sabaragamuwa Division and the Pelmadulla Viharaya (BJM, 1956). Upon completion of his studies at Pelmadulla Viharaya, Subuthi Thera returned to Abhinawarama Temple in Waskaduwa (BJM, 1956). He received the higher ordination at the Udakukkhepa Seemawa in Balapitiya in 1859 from Sirisaddharma Vamsapala Dheerananda Nayaka Thera (Fernando, 2003).

A Pirivena to provide Pali education to Buddhist monks was established on the premises of Abhinawarama Temple later by Subuthi Thera (BJM, 1956). He also played a major part in the revision of Tripitaka that was carried out on the Pelmadulla Viharaya premises in the middle of the 1860s (BJM, 1956). At the time his fame as a Pali scholar had extended throughout the country and he was known among several foreign scholars (BJM, 1956). He was cited often in the works of the 19th century European and American scholars of Buddhism, such as Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893 A.D.), Robert Caesar Childers (1838-1876 A.D.), and Michael Viggo Fausböll [(1821-1908 A.D.) Mukherjee, 2018]. In recognition of Subhuthi Thera's scholarship and his participation in Orientalist research, bureaucrats in British India once presented him with a fragment of an alms bowl believed to have belonged to the Buddha himself, which had been discovered from the ruins of a Stupa at Nala Sopara in Maharashtra by the Indian archaeologist Bhagwan Lal Indraji [(1839-1888 A.D.) Mukherjee, 2018]. He also received some relics of the Buddha discovered from the excavation works carried out on Piprawa Stupa in 1898 by William C Peppe.

Prince Prisdang Chumsai, a grandson of King Rama III (1824-1851) of Siam arrived in Sri Lanka and became a Buddhist monk at Abhinawarama Temple in Waskaduwa on 1 November 1896 (Fernando, 2003). Subuthi Thera received the title of "Raja Guru" after being the mentor of this Prince who was living at Deepaduttarama Viharaya in Kotahena (BJM, 1956).

Subuthi Thera passed away on 19 April 1917 at the age of 82 (Fernando, 2003).

# Pali Nighantuwa (1864)
# Namamala (1876); this book was presented to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) when he arrived in Sri Lanka that year.

1) BJM, 1956. Buddha Jayanthi Memorials. Information Department. Government Press Ceylon. pp.49-51.
2) Fernando,. M., 2003. Kalutara (In Sinhala). Thejani Publications. ISBN:955-8818-00-3. pp.178-185.
3) Mukherjee, S., 2018. Relics in Transition: Material Mediations in Changing Worlds. Ars Orientalis, 48. pp.20-42.

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This page was last updated on 14 May 2023


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