President, Pelpola Vipassi Foundation, Director, General, Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Free Nursery School, Director World Peace Buddhist temple and Japan-Sri Lanka Cultural Centre and Director General (Foreign Affairs), International Council on the Propagation of Buddhism affiliated to the Buddhasasana Ministry and so on.
This is a brief account of the indefatigable services rendered by this illustrious Buddhaputra discarding all barriers as to community, caste, creed or other petty differences, who had been born in Sri Lanka for the good fortune of the motherland.
Building a close friendship and mutual relations with Japan since 1974, Ven. Vipassi Thera has been rendering a great service towards the benefit and welfare of the Buddhasasana, Sri Lanka nation and its people for a period of over four decades. His greatness lies in the fact that he had been able to coax and muster the support of a band of willing Japanese philanthropists and donors to reach funds and other assistance for this religions and social work without having to spend a red cent on his own. The record of services rendered had out smarted almost all clerical and lay philanthropists in this country so much so that a brief account of this nature would not suffice to describe them all. This article therefore would only delve on a few outstanding contributions made by him for record.
Holding the positions of Deputy Administrator of the branches of the Mahabodhi Society of India in Calcutta and Buddha Gaya, Deputy Administrator and Examiner of the Sarnath Mahabodhi Society and the Mahabodhi Society Branch in Mumbai he had rendered a vital service towards Buddhist missionary work in India for more than 4 years.
Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thera has the credit of launching the fund in aid of the Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa 'Ran Viyana' (Golden Canopy) project by handing over the initial nucleus contribution of Rs 3 million to then Prime Minister R Premadasa through the then Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyaratne.
Apart from this he has sponsored the building of Buddha statues, dagobas, Sanghavasayas and belfries in many a temple throughout the country and altogether new temples in several areas in the country and abroad. The Peace Pagoda situated along the path to Sri Pada traversed by pilgrims every year, was set up by Ven. Vipassi Thera with the assistance of Japanese donors. The Dharmasala beside the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is another symbol of his philanthropy.
He has donated Budu Meduras and other buildings to many schools in the city and countryside. Every year nearly 200 children receive free pre-school education and training at the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Free Nursery School he runs at the Pelpola Vipassi Foundation premises in Borella for the last 30 years or more.
Another trait of Ven. Vipassi Thera is to make the nucleus donation wherever funds are launched for any social or religious work. He made the initial donations of Rs 4 million to President's Fund, Rs 4 million to the Mahaweli Fund, Rs 4 million to the Sevana Fund. He built and donated a new surgical ward costing Rs 50 million to the Colombo Castle Street Women's hospital. In response to a request made by then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, he built and donated the Vijaya Kumaratunga Memorial hospital at Seeduwa. He used his good offices to obtain Japanese funding for the Samanalawewa and Moragahakanda projects of the accelerated Mahaweli Development Scheme.
Following the Tsunami catastrophe, he donated drugs worth Rs 12 million to the Ministry of Health and built new houses to several people who lost their abodes. He has also built houses for many low income group homeless families.
It was Ven. Vipassi Thera who was instrumental in initiating direct air links between Sri Lanka and Japan. When the inaugural Sri Lankan flight from Colombo landed at Narita Airport in Japan carrying a Sri Lankan delegation led by Sri Lankan Chairman Rakitha Wickramanayake, Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thera organized a grand reception to the Sri Lankan delegation at the New Otani hotel in Tokyo. Ven. Vipassi Thera also came forward to assist the Sri Lanka Disabled Athletics team to participate in the Para-Olympics held in Kobe, Japan in September 1989. He not only paid up the membership fees owed by Sri Lanka, but also facilitated the trip to Japan for the 60 member team, including officials by purchasing their air tickets at his expense utilising the money raised by selling his own Mercedes-Benz Limousine for their cause.
He has donated schoolbooks and bags for the benefit of numerous children belonging to members of the Security Forces and Police and low income families on many occasions. The donations made to children of the Armed Forces and Police members exceeded Rs 80 million each in value. He has also donated funds exceeding Rs 60 million towards the welfare of disabled war and Police heroes.
Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thera influenced his erstwhile friend and Japanese Philanthropist Rioichi Sasakawa to make large donations, including the Sasakawa Hall which promotes the study of Japanese language among Sri Lankan youth. All this proves the high esteem Ven. Vipassi Thera commands among the Japanese philanthropists. Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thera is a highly patriotic minded Buddhaputra who always stood for the country's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. On March 10, 2006, he organized a three day Nawagraha Bali Shanthikarma involving blessings on the country for the ending of terrorism and return of peace. This ritual was a sequel to an article published in an Indian journal which said that the trauma of terrorism faced by Sri Lanka was caused due to the inauspicious time of the declaration of the country's independence and a 'navagraha' pooja of this nature was suitable to overcome this malady for the country.
As the article also suggested that the country's leader should inaugurate the ritual by personally lighting an oil lamp at the venue, Ven. Vipassi Thera met then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and discussed the matter at length and obtained his approval to conduct a ritual of this nature which was nationally significant. Finally on March 10, 2006 morning Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the President arrived at the Ratnapura Maha Saman Devalaya and inaugurated the Bali Shanthikarma by personally lighting the oil lamp.
He was followed by Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunge, Presidential Chief of Staff Gamini Senarath, Uva Governor and now Chief Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa who accompanied him.
After lighting of the oil lamps and the ritual started off, Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thera whispered to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and predicted that the President would succeed in ushering in peace within a period of three years. True to his word the Humanitarian war to liberate the country from terrorism ended in 2009 bringing back peace and freedom to the nation. I was with Ven. Vipassi Thera in Japan where I had gone for a mission on behalf of the Pelpola Vipassi Foundation.
The two of us watched the manner in which our people back in Sri Lanka were celebrating the victory on the internet. Ven. Vipassi Thera who was deeply overcome with emotion, recalled that this was the result of the Bali Shanthikarma they organized three years ago in 2006.
The video footage of the Ratnapura Bali Shanthikarma where he made this nationally important prediction, is still preserved at the Pelpola Vipassi Foundation. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa held the portfolio of Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, he attended a ceremony held at the Pelpola Vipassi Foundation as the Chief Guest.
Ven. Vipassi Thero in his welcome address predicted that Mahinda Rajapaksa would be the President of this country one day. This prediction too has come true today. The video clip of this famous speech is still being preserved at the Pelpola Vipassi Foundation.
The social and religious service rendered by Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thero is unending. I take this opportunity to appreciate his services and wish Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Thero success in all his endeavours and good health and long life to enable him to continue his valuable services for many more years.
P D R P Rajapakse / Secretary / Pelpola Vipassi Foundation