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Biography of Venerable Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thera

Venerable Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thera was born on the 7th of December, 1927 in a small village named Henepola and ordained at the age of 12 as a Buddhist monk at a small temple in Malandeniya Village in Kurunegala District in Sri Lanka. His preceptor was Venerable Kiribatkumbure Sonuttara Mahathera. He received his basic Buddhist education at a small monks' school called Vidyasekhara Pirivena, Gampaha.

At the age of 20 he was given higher ordination in Kandy in 1947. He received his higher education from Vidyalankara College in Kelaniya and Buddhist Missionary College of Mahabodhi Society in Colombo. Subsequently he was sent to India for five years of missionary work for the Mahabodhi Society, serving the Harijana (untouchable) people in Sanchi, Delhi, and Bombay.

Later he spent ten years as a missionary in Malaysia, serving as religious advisor to the Sasana Abhivurdhiwardhana Society, Buddhist Missionary Society and the Buddhist Youth Federation of Malaysia. He has been a teacher in Kishon Dial School and Temple Road Girls' School and Principal of the Buddhist Institute of Kuala Lumpur.

At the invitation of the Sasana Sevaka Society, Bhante Gunaratana came to the United States in 1968 to serve as Honourary General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, D.C. In 1980 he was appointed President of the Society. During his years at the Vihara, he has taught courses in Buddhism, conducted meditation retreats, and lectured widely throughout the United States and Canada.

The Venerable has also pursued his scholarly interests by earning a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The American University. He taught courses on Buddhism at The American University, Georgetown University, Bucknell University, PA, and University of Maryland. Also he has lectured at many universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He is the author of Come and See, The Path of Serenity and Insight, The Jhanas and Mindfulness In Plain English (1994 Wisdom Publication's best seller list ). His articles have been published in the U.S.A., Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, England and France.

Bhante Gunaratana was the Buddhist chaplain at The American University, counseling students interested in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. He is now president of the Bhavana Society and abbot of the monastery in West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, about 100 miles west of Washington, D.C. He continues to teach meditation and conduct retreats worldwide.

Some articles written by the Venerable available on-line are:-

  • Growth and development of Buddhist Organizations.
  • Going upstream.
  • Sex, Celebacy and the Spiritual life.
  • The Buddhist View of Death.


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