Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara, an eminent Buddhist monk and educator, was born on February 28, 1920 in Havanpola, Sri Lanka, and was the eldest Buddhist monk in Los Angeles at the time of his death. He tred the path of the Buddha since he entered the monastery at age twelve, taking his final ordination in 1940 at age twenty. At age 30, he joined the teaching staff at the Pirivena school at Kurunegala. He received his B.A. in Pali and Philosophy from the University of Ceylon in 1954. In 1957 he was a delegate to the United Nations from Sri Lanka while attending Columbia University in New York, from which he received an M.A. in Education in 1958. In 1965 he received a Ph.D in Education from the University of London and accepted an appointment as Senior Lecturer, Departments of Education and Buddhist Studies, at the Vidyalankara campus of the University of Kelaniya, where he served until 1980. He was also founder of the Post-graduate Institute of Buddhist Studies, Vidyalankara Campus of the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
In 1980 Dr. Ratanasara emigrated to the United States, settled in Los Angeles and devoted himself to the promulgation of inter-Buddhist, inter-religious understanding and education. He initiated the establishment of the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California, an organization of Buddhist clergy of all traditions, serving as its president. He also served as Executive President emeritus of the American Buddhist Congress, a national organization of Buddhist temples and organizations, of which he is a founding member. In 1983 he founded the College of Buddhist Studies, Los Angeles and was the president and a member of the academic staff.
Dr. Ratanasara played an active role in inter-religious understanding for twenty years. He served as a Board Director for numerous international conferences on religion and peace. He was a member of the executive Council of the Interreligious Council of So. California and served as a Vice President. He served as Co-Chair for the on going Buddhist- Roman Catholic dialogue in Los Angeles. In 1992 Ven. Ratanasara was named the Chief Sangha Nayake (Judicial Patriarch) for the Western Hemisphere for his lineage, formalizing his role as chief advisor of his tradition. In 1995 he founded the Buddhist Studies International Center in Iriyaweteya, Sri Lanka, which has become a center for those who want to study Buddhism and meditate in a true Buddhist cultural setting. Buddhist Studies International is a center of training for American, Latin American, Korean, Indian, and Bangladesh students wanting to become teachers of Buddhism in their native homelands.
He published a number of articles and books on education and Buddhism, and at the time of his death was working on: "The Path to Perfection: A Buddhist Psychological View of Personality, growth and Development."