Henepola Gunaratana


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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk. He is affectionately known as Bhante G Bhante Gunaratana and is currently the abbot of the Bhavana Society, a monastery and meditation retreat center that he founded in High View, West Virginia, in 1985.

Henepola Gunaratana was born Ekanayaka Mudiyanselage Ukkubanda on December 7, 1927, in the small Sri Lankan village of Henepola. At 7, he began attending a school run by Catholic missionary nuns in Medagama. It was the closest school to his home and attracted many students as it provided them with a warm meal. A year later, Gunaratana would switch to the new primary school opened by the Buddhist temple in Dehideniya.

After four years, he left formal education at 11 in order to train for a noviceship at a temple in Kosinna, Rambukkana District. However, this initial novitiate was cut short. Three months later, he was brought home by his father when a letter was sent saying that one of the temple youths had injured Gunaratana's wrist with a rock. He remained home for short time before leaving again, in January 1939, for another temple in Malandeniya Village, Kurunegala District.

Impressing his teacher, Venerable Kiribatkumbure Sonuttara Mahathera, with the progress of his religious education, he was soon ordained as a novice at 12 with the permission of his father. His preceptor for the ceremony was the oldest monk in the district, Venerable Alagoda Sumanatissa Nayaka Mahathera.

Gunaratana would go on to receive upasampada in 1947, at the age of 20, in Kandy. He took his ordained name, Henepola Gunaratana, in the Sinhalese custom. The first name denotes his birthplace, and the surname is a spiritual concept. He was then educated at Vidyasekhara Pirivena Junior College, a monk's school in Gampaha. He received his higher education in Sri Lanka at Vidyalankara College in Kelaniya and the Buddhist Missionary College (an affiliate of the Maha Bodhi Society) in Colombo.

After his education, he was sent to India for missionary work as a representative of the Maha Bodhi Society. He primarily served the Untouchables in Sanchi, Delhi, and Bombay. During this time in India, through his work with the Venerable Pannatissa, Gunaratana met with several dignitaries such as Prime Minister Nehru, Mahendra of Nepal, and the Dalai Lama over the course of 1956.

He also went on to serve as a religious advisor to the Malaysian Sasana Abhivurdhiwardhana Society, Buddhist Missionary Society, and Buddhist Youth Federation. Following this, he served as an educator for Kishon Dial School and Temple Road Girls' School. He was also the principal of the Buddhist Institute of Kuala Lumpur.

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