Dr. Ananda Guruge Passes Away
By Podinilame Dissanayake —
Dr. Ananda Guruge, Buddhist scholar, author and former civil servant passed away today (August 6th, 2014), while returning home to Los Angeles, from a speech delivery tour to China and Australia. He was one of the eminent personalities produced by his native country Sri Lanka, whose engagement in productive aspects was not confined to a singular field. He was a brilliant student at Dharmaraja College Kandy, who won scholarships, first to enter university of Colombo for his Bachelors and later to University of London for his doctoral studies.
Guruge began his illustrious career as a young cadet in the much sought civil service of the newly independent Ceylon and quickly rose to be the senior assistant secretary of the Prime minister and served under two premiers, Mr. Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kothlawela until he went on to head the government program to celebrate the 2500 year of Budddha Jayanthi, in 1956.
In 1965 he was appointed as the additional secretary to the ministry of education. Dr. Guruge later served as ambassador to many countries including the United States. His service as an academic came through in US when he held position as the Director of Religious Studies, Dean of Academic Affairs, and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism at the University of West. He was also appointed as patron and office bearer of many world Buddhist organizations. Dr. Guruge has authored many books exceeding 50, centered on religion, history and education. He has also published around 175 research papers on the same subjects. He was an eminent speaker and was closely associated with the UN and UNESCO. In his keynote address at the United Nations’ celebration of the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, he observed;
“……..As regards the Buddhist literary treasures, Sri Lanka has preserved up to modern times the indispensable tools for the study of the authentic teachings of the Buddha such as the Pali language, the most comprehensive Pali Tripitaka and the extensive commentarial literature. China, likewise, has safeguarded the equally comprehensive Sanskrit Canon in the form of the Agamansutras in addition to the massive literature of Mahayana Sutras. Korea disseminated the Chinese Canon twelve centuries ago by means of wood-block printing and seventy-five years before the Gutenberg Bible was printed, the same Buddhist Canon was printed in Korea using movable metal type. Japan in 1924, made this enormous literary heritage available to the world through the Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripitaka”.
He concluded thus.
“…….In Sri Lanka itself was demonstrated how, even in a civil war involving incredible insecurity due to terrorist acts, the national government provided food, education and health care to people of the rebel-held areas for nearly three decades at national expense. This practical application of Buddhist principles of Loving Kindness and Compassion has been recently described in detail by a well-informed writer in the esteemed journal “The New Yorker.” Reflecting the experience elsewhere, he used the adverb “Bizarrely” to express his surprise. If he knew better, he could have told the world how Buddhism continues to pave the way for peace, harmony and co-existence by using another more expressive alliterative adverb, namely “Buddhistically”.
Dr. Guruge lived in the outskirts of Los Angeles and was a regular participant in worthy religious and communal activities. His demise is moaned by many. The funeral is expected to take place in Los Angeles.