AGM of the Dharmavijaya Foundation
This by a young woman who has spent much of her life abroad in studies and career. I was pleasantly surprised as we were at the AGM of the Dharmavijaya Foundation (DVF) at its headquarters in Sarana Road, Colombo 7. I wondered at her remark and then agreed. Why I asked; it was a mere meeting, though important. The meeting however, was encapsulated by Buddhist principles: two pious monks seated sedately on the dais; observing the five precepts by those present; expression of gratitude and the transfer of merit to those departed who had served the DVF. Also all the Foundation activities detailed being buttressed by metta, karuna, muditha and upekka; encouraged and propagated within the great virtues of generosity, friendliness, cooperation and wisdom.
The Dharmavijaya Foundation was constituted in 1977 by a dedicated group of people, mostly professionals, with the Most Ven Madihe Pannaseeha Mahathera as chief promoter and patron. In 1979 it was incorporated by an Act of Parliament. Desamanya Olcott Gunasekera was the first president and served many times later until around 2014 when he entered the Sangha as an ordained monk residing in Vajiraramaya. He, now Sri Vijayaramaya Gnanaseeha Thera, was on the dais with the present Patron of the DVF, most Ven Thiricunamale Ananda Thera. Their short sermons at the end of the AGM were very inspiring.
The word Dharmavijaya is derived from the Edicts of Emperor Asoka, who changed his policy from ‘Victory by War’ (dikvijaya) to ‘Victory by Righteousness’ (dharmavijaya). The objective of the DVF is to “Promote the total development of man, both spiritually and physically, with the application of Buddhist principles to economic development and thereby establish a Righteous Society.” Their logo has stated on it in Sinhala and English: ‘Concord indeed is commendable’. A board of 30 trustees, men and women, chosen by consensus, which include lawyers, accountants, government servants, social workers, private sector representatives, accountants, engineers, and others supervise and plan activities of the DVF. Their expertise in various fields is tapped by the DVF for the benefit of those it serves. One unique feature as mentioned by the Most Ven Gnanaseeha Thera is that board meetings are weekly, Trustees meeting every Thursday evening.
The underlying principles of the Dharmavijaya Foundation are based on the five precepts contained in Buddhism but work is undertaken with other faiths and persons and organizations of all ethnic groups. Principles are to be of service to the community; to practice one’s religion and observe the ethical principles contained in the Five Precepts; to abstain from taking intoxicating drinks and to develop mindfulness. Considered the basic principles of a good society, attaining them is the main thrust of the Foundation.
Work is carried out throughout the country by temple-based Dharmavijaya Societies in villages, with the chief monk of each temple the president of the society.
A wide range of development issues are targeted from the Buddhist point of view. The work and activities carried out aim at achieving the ‘total development of man.’ Thus the four focus areas: education, health, economy, and morality. Equal emphasis is given each of the four aspects of development. The education programme provides scholarships for needy children, maintains reading centers, pre-schools and nurseries, emphasizes the importance of home-based early childhood development, and bhikkhu education. In the health program emphasis is on improving nutrition, holding health care days, eye-care, promotion of vegetarianism and healthy life, and conducting blood donation programs. Recently attention was focused on the spread of kidney disease in the NCP. Close links are maintained with other organizations within the UN system and outside it.
The economic development programme aims at poverty alleviation and control of alcoholism and addiction to drugs (including tobacco). Under promoting moral development, moral education through Dhamma schools is promoted.
AGM on 3 October 2018
As I mentioned earlier, the annual general meeting of the Foundation was an inspiring event in the presence and participation of the Most Ven Thiricunamale Ananda Mahathera and Ven Gnanaseeha Thera, both of whom delivered sermons at the end of the meeting, very much to the point and encouraging personal morality and commitment to service.
The Secretary of many years – Mr H D Premaratne – outlined in brief the work successfully carried out in the 39th year of the DVF, through his minutes of the previous AGM and annual report. He acknowledged the presence of relatives of past trustees of the DVF plus members of families of the present trustees and office bearers. Among other achievements was the granting of monthly allowances ranging from Rs 2,500 to 3,500 to 153 students.
The outgoing President, M D W Ariyawanse, then addressed the gathering when he thanked all Trustees and others for yet another year of successful implementation of projects and programmes. He said there existed 660 Dharmavijaya Societies spread across the country, some of which needed awakening. Two good societies per district would suffice, he said.
Electing the new committee was next on the agenda. The serene atmosphere was maintained in that elections went smoothly with all officers being selected unanimously. Mr Sumedha Amarasinghe was voted in as President for the year 2018/19, and Mr Premaratne as Secretary who added that younger persons were needed.
Most Ven Thiricunamale Ananda Mahathera stressed the fact that what the Most Ven Madihe Pannaseeha Mahathera envisaged as service to man so he could develop and thus the nation, has been successfully carried out this year too and the Foundation moves forward to its fortieth year of service. He noted that a strong sense of humanity brought trustees and others together to work for the benefit of society. He urged the new committee to go forward without the slightest feeling of discouragement. He left early as he had to visit Ven Hakmana Sumanasiri Thera who also serves the DVF in a supervisory capacity. He is hospitalized.
Ven Gnanaseeha Thera started his short address with the fact that the act of ‘making man’ never ceases and its consequent improving of society in its economy; health, education and morality too have to progress alongside.. He said the work of the DVF is even more relevant at present with the downward trend suffered by the nation. But the DVF can help in halting this deterioration having expertise and the will to serve in its members. He dwelt on the way the DVF tackles projects. A concept paper is drawn, presented to the Trustees at a weekly meeting and after careful study, is implemented, the DVF funding it. The north and east of the country have been given attention, so also Daham Schools which are of vital importance to impart moral values to children. Eighty percent Buddhist children island-wide are enrolled in these schools. Teachers in them must be given training, he pointed out.
Tea was served prior to the meeting. With the offer of merit to all who had served the DVF and particularly the founder, and blessings bestowed on those present by Ven Gnanaseeha Thera, the meeting was brought to a close. He said that all efforts made by participants in the four main areas of assistance given to the people of the country were “Bodhisatva acts which would lead to Nirvana.”