An Eulogy for Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge
Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge, pre-eminent Sri Lankan Buddhist Scholar, notable Historian, International Civil Servant and Diplomat, and world recognised Buddhist leader passed away on August 6, 2014. He was 85 years of age.
Dr. Mohan Kumararatne of Huntington Beach, Ca, USA who has been active in patriotic endeavours overseas and having in his capacity as Chairman of the Ranviru Foundation in Los Angeles raised funds among Sri Lankan expatriates in California for the 50, 000 houses for soldiers program ( Api Wenuwen Api housing project) was invited by the family of the late Dr. Guruge to deliver a funeral oration at the Memorial Service for Dr. Ananda W.P Guruge, held at the Rose Hills Chapel in Whittier, Ca, on Saturday August 16th, 2014.
The text of Dr. Mohan Kumararatne's funeral oration is appended below:
Hon Clergy, Mrs Dharshanika Guruge and family members, Ladies and Gentlemen
I will limit my comments to my personal relationship with Deshamanya Kalakeerti Prof Ananda Guruge. I first met Prof Guruge for the first time in the year 1995. By that time I was fully aware of the high esteem, that Prof Guruge was held by the Sri Lankan people. I had read some of his books and was aware of the fact that he was an authority on Buddhism, I knew that he was a retired Senior Civil Servant, I was aware that he was a national and international diplomat of great repute. I was also aware that he was awarded the highest honours a Sri Lankan citizen can aspire to, Deshamanya for exceptional national service and Kalakeerthi for his literary contributions. However, until 1995 I had not met him or known him at a personal level. In 1995, Prof and Mrs Guruge moved to our community in Huntington Beach, CA and overnight, I became his closest Sri Lankan neighbor. I took it as a gift from the heavens.
According to the Managala Sutta, the Buddha states in the first stanza:
Asevanacha balanam, Pandithanancha Sevana
Pujaja Pujaniyanam, Etham managala Muththamam
The stanza states do not associate with the weak of mind, associate with the wise
Honor those who are worthy of honor
This is the supreme blessing
Ladies and Gentlemen, I decided to follow this good advice from the Buddha, and took it upon myself to develop a close personal association with Prof Ananda Guruge. I wanted to listen to him, learn from him and of course seek his advice. I visited his home on a regular basis, and he was an automatic and honored guest, anytime I had a function at my residence. I talked to him by phone regularly and communicated with him by email. We car pooled together for Sri Lankan functions. Overtime we became not only neighbors, bur close friends. However, I always addressed him as Professor. Many a time I consulted him for guidance on personal as well as community related matters. He helped me with formulation and translation of documents from Sinhala to English and vice versa. He educated me on the role of the Buddhha, Dhamma and the Sangha in the History and Culture of Sri Lanka and its people. As a close advisor to Prime Ministers and Presidents of Contemporary Sri Lanka, he informed me about the real reasons why certain actions were taken by Presidents and successive governments. He told me of his role as our top diplomat in Washington during the terrorist war. Following these discussions, I had a better understanding of these subjects and sometimes I had to change my beliefs on these subjects. For example, I was totally opposed to President Jayewardena signing the Gandhi Jayewardene pact, inviting the Indian Peace Keeping Forces to Sri Lanka. Prof Guruge explained to me that the pact was signed by President Jayawardena under duress, in order to avoid the imminent threat of invasion by India.
He was a great storyteller. During our conversations, he told me many stories about people and events, as they unfolded in real time. He had the unique ability to make a personal connection with the people he interacted with. He told me the story of how he was welcomed and hosted by the Station Master Jaffna, on his arrival at the Jaffna Station by the Yal Devi in 1954 to take up his first first appointment as a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service. The station Master was my grandfather the late Sirisena D.A. Weerasinghe. Prof Guruge went on to tell me the story of Mr. Weerasinghe, who was a poet, who wrote about the ruins of Seruwavila. Prof. Guruge was a valuable member of our community who was involved in the Huntington Beach High School District. He motivated students from the high School to the graduate level to follow their dreams. In 2004 he motivated my wife Savithri to pursue a doctoral degree in Religious Studies at the University of the West. Prof Guruge was Savithri’s mentor and faculty advisor. Prof Guruge’s academic standards of course were very high, and It took Savithri 10 long years to obtain her Doctorate on May 16th 2014. Savithri therefore has the unique distinction of being the last student to obtain her doctorate, under the direct supervision of the leading Buddhist scholar of our times, Prof Ananda Guruge.
Prof Guruge was a philanthropist who donated not only cash but also his personal papers and books to various charities and libraries. Anytime I asked him for donations for Sri Lanka charities, he gave lavishly, with no questions asked.
Prof Guruge, had a great impact on policy, at a national and international level. As a Buddhist scholar of repute, he had a great impact on Buddhist Thinking. Therefore his death is a great loss to Sri Lanka, the World and Buddhism. At the same time, he was a good friend and neighbor. Therefore it is also a personal loss to me, my family and our community. We will miss him deeply. May his journey through Samsara be short, may he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana
Main Photo: Taken on the occasion of the Graduation Ceremony held at the University of the West on Saturday May 17th 2014, where Mrs. Savithri Kumararatne was conferred her Doctorate in Religious Studies. Her Faculty Advisor and Mentor was Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge. Pic shows from left to right Natalie Kumaratne, Savithri Kumararatne, Prof. Ananda Guruge and Dr. Mohan Kumararatne
Bottom Picture: Dr. Mohan Kumararatne (in white national dress) handing over a cheque worth Sri Lankan Rupees 12.5 million to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a brief function held in the Temple Trees ( Picture by Sudath de Silva )