20th Death Anniversary of Ven. Gangodawila Somarathana Thero


The lamp that illuminated the lives of Buddhists was extinguished 20 years ago on 12 December 2003. He was Gangodawila Somarathana Thero. He passed away in St. Petersburg, Russia. His demise cannot be constituted as natural. This thought lives in many of our minds still. Did he pass away or was he passed away! After 1815, the European invaders ensured we did not have a Sinhala Buddhist leader. Any promising leaders that emerged had to flee the nation or died in their prime. Dharmapalathuma left our nation, Walisingha Harishchandrathuma died at a young age, Ariyadhamma Thero from Panadura passed away at a young age. The same fate was faced by Gangodawila Somarathana thero.

Somarathana thero was born on 20th April 1948 in Gangodawila. He became ordained on 24 September 1974. He watched with pain as the nation & the Sasana declined. He was meditating in a forest in Ampara and on foot arrived in Maharagama. It was a milestone and a major turning point for Sinhala Buddhists the world over. Somathero drew attention to the wrongs committed by the Sinhala Buddhists themselves. He urged them to address their faults. He asked them not to fall prey to the traps set by the foreign invaders to destroy the nation & its people. He appealed to the namesake Buddhists to adjust their lives. He explained about the evangelical invasion & the hindunization of Buddhism across Sri Lanka. Many of these hometruths hurt listeners. When Minister Ashroff was bulldozing the Deegavapi Chaithya, not many came forward to protest. Yet, Somathero came out in public and through numerous media channels challenged anyone for a debate. How many can remember the role played by Soma thero to protect the Deegavapi Chaithya! Many in Ampara have forgotten Soma thero though his yeomen service to bring the Sinhala Buddhists towards the path of Dhamma via numerous publications written by him, continue to serve as a reminder of the great personality that we lost. Many of these books addressed areas that the Sinhala Buddhists were traversing the wrong path. “Wake up my nation” is one of these valuable texts. He was against the usage of any type of substance (drugs & alcohol) and played a pivotal role in trying to save people from its addiction. He openly faulted the Government, he became a headache to the media editors who were living off sponsorships of other faiths. He was also a headache to those who found it easy to give roofing sheets and other goods to convert Buddhists to their faiths. This was the point that threats to this life began to increase, when his sermons drew Buddhists to self-realization and was making that awakening of the nation possible. The politicians that promised to protect, foster and preserve Buddhism did nothing of the sort upon coming to power. This was why Somathero from the Maharagama Sri Vajiradhamma temple on 21 December 2001 commenced the Dhamma vijaya drawing lakhs of youth. Islandwide Buddhist programs were held. It was a sight the enemies were not too pleased with. The rejuvenation of the youth around a single thero was not aligned to the overall agenda. The kalusuddas referred to be Dharmapalathuma began to insult and ridicule Somarathana thero. They even referred to him as trying to be duplicate Buddha.

On 14 September 2003 was one of his most memorable sermons in Kandy. He addressed the  Bhikkhus in Sri Lanka. He asked them to come forward to defend the nation and the Dhamma. He beckoned them to arise to chase away the enemies from the nation. He ended his sermon by declaring that before the next sermon, everyone would unite with each bringing 5 persons. Sadly, he did not live to attend the next sermon. He was invited to Russia, to confer a title for his publication. Why was he invited to a nation that did not have Buddhists? The man largely known to have been instrumental in arranging this convocation passed away recently, having being in virtual house-arrest for corporate crimes. However, the Commission that looked into the sudden death of Somarathana thero has still not been released to the public.

Somarathana Thero passed away on 12 December 2003. He did not pass away in vain. He lit the lives of many sleeping Buddhists. He showed them the path. He explained to them the threats and challenges the nation was faced. He showed the dhamma path that Buddhists needed to follow. His passing away was a major blow to all Buddhists.

Let today, remind us that not only are those challenges alive, they have doubled and need the Sinhala Buddhists to again rise united in resolve to save themselves, the dhamma, the Sangha and the Nation.






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