Gangodawila Soma Thero
|Gangodawila Soma Thero|
Ven.Gangodawila Soma Thero in a meditating posture
|School||Amarapura Sri Dharmarakkhita (Theravada Sri Lanka)|
24 April 1948|
Gangodawila (Sri Lanka)
|Died||12 December 2003
St. Petersburg (Russia)
|Title||Chief incumbent of Buddhist Temple Victoria(Australia)|
|Teacher||Most Ven.Madihe Pannaseeha Thero|
Gangodawila Soma Thero (Sinhala:පුජ්ය ගංගොඩවිල සෝම හිමි) (24 April 1948 – 12 December 2003) was a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka. Following tradition, he used the name of his birthplace, Gangodawila, in front of his name. Ven. Soma thero followed the example set by his teacher, Most Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha thero and served the Buddha Dhamma and the Sinhala Buddhists both as a learned monk and as a social reformer.
He was truly a disciple of the Buddha, who had that ability to be 'ujupatipanno' forthright. He was admired even by non-Buddhists for that quality alone. He was posthumously respected with a yellow flag raised in almost every household both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Venerable Gangodavila Soma thus became a household name in every corner of the society.
The cause of his death remains in dispute by some.
Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera was born in Gangodawila, a semi-urban locality in the outskirts of the capital city of Colombo.
Soma Thera was ordained as novice in 1974 when he was 26 years of age under the tutelage of two of the most revered monks in Sri Lanka – Most Reverend Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera and Venerable Ampitiye Rahula Maha Thera. He received training at the Bhikkhu Training Centre, Maharagama – an institution established by the monks mentioned above.
Having obtained his higher ordination in 1976, Some Thera continued to study the Buddhist texts in Pali, their original language, according to Theravada tradition. He was particularly interested in doing research into the teachings of the Buddha and have written several books on the subject.
He saw his mission to mould the younger generation to live according to the Dhamma. He rallied round him a youth organisation called Tharunu Saviya ("Strength of the Youth").
A keen student of meditation, he took time off to be in solitude in distant, lonely locations. His interest in meditating on the qualities of the Buddha made him work on an exhaustive study on the subject. His published work Buddhastupa is a useful guide to those interested in such meditation.
Soma Thera's links with Victoria (Australia) dates back to 1986, when he was invited by some Sri Lankans to spend time preaching the Dhamma. After six months he returned to Sri Lanka. When he came back in 1989, the groundwork had been done to set up the Buddhist Vihara Victoria.
The Buddhist Vihara Victoria
The Buddhist Vihara Victoria, a new temple, was established in 1993 at Noble Park, Victoria. This was established in view of spreading the Dhamma to not only the Sri Lankan community but also other nationalities. As the premises are not big enough to provide the Buddhist service on a global scale, Soma There bought another 5-acre (20,000 m2) block of land with the help of the community to found the Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara. 800 trees were planted on the land and necessary plans were drawn up.
Prior to being ordained, Venerable Soma had been engaged in business, but had worked closely with the Siri Vajiragnana Dharmayathanaya as a student leader and lay preacher. Educated at Isipathana College, Colombo, formerly Greenlands College, Venerable Soma, in lay life known as Somaratna played Rugby for the school.
Venerable Soma first visited Australia in 1986, when he came on an invitation from the Buddhist temple at Richmond, where he stayed for a period of three months. Venerable Soma realised that Mahayana practices had a strong foothold in Australia and felt that there was a need for a Vihara where Theravada practices could be followed correctly. When he returned to Australia in 1989, Venerable Soma established the first Sinhala Vihara in Melbourne. This was known as the Melbourne Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara and was situated at Regent Street in Springvale. In 1993, he moved away from the Melbourne Sri Lankan Buddhist Vihara and established Buddhist Vihara Victoria at 21 Rich Street, Noble Park. Later, this Vihara was moved to Berwick and is called the Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara. It was established with the intention of becoming a Buddhist Education, Research and Information Centre for scholars of the Dhamma and to cater to all those who were interested in the study and practice of the Dhamma.
In 1996 he returned to Sri Lanka after seven years in Australia. This was intended to be a short stay to revitalise his spiritual development and to be at the side of his father who had suffered a stroke. The stay was extended as his father became more gravely ill and his presence was required to comfort his mother who was also ailing.
When Venerable Soma returned to Australia for a short visit, he launched a campaign to raise funds to reconstruct several tanks in these areas so that the villagers could engage in their traditional occupation of agriculture and be assured that they would not want for food. To support and sustain the villagers, he organised the local Buddhist monks at the village Viharas to move more closely with the people and help them in various ways.
On his return to Sri Lanka he was also appalled to note that alcoholism was rife in the country. He immediately began a campaign to open the eyes of the nation, especially the younger generation to the depravities of drink.
He also carried out a campaign to root out misconceptions entertained by all Buddhists with regard to the worship of Hindu deities practiced by Buddhists, and especially the practice of having Hindu Kovils as an integral part of a Buddhist Vihara. He also campaigned against the bringing in of Sai Baba worship into Buddhism.
He also helped in the establishment of the Sinhala School at Brunswick, which today boasts nearly 200 students.
Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera of the Vajiraramaya Maharagama died in St. Petersburg, Russia on 12 December 2003 in his 56th year. He was in Russia to accept an honorary doctorate conferred by the Russian Government. He was rushed to a hospital in St Petersburg after a heart attack. He underwent two emergency operations.
Wild speculation needs sources: Sri Lankans were shocked and saddened by his death. The circumstances of his death aroused suspicion. It was widely believed that he was murdered by Christian fundamentalists. Therefore two autopsy tests were carried out. A commission was appointed to investigate the death. Out of the four people in the commission, 3 deduced that it was intentional but the other thought the evidence was not enough.
- "Sri Lankan Buddhists Target Christians for Monk's Death". WorldWide Religious News. 23 December 2003.
- Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara (incl. sermons and videos)
- Dhamma Talks
- Most Ven Soma Thera at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)
- Most Ven Gangodawila Soma Thero MP3 Sermons,E-Books and Videos