In the tapestry of Buddhism’s rich heritage, one figure stands as a beacon of wisdom, dedication, and international outreach—Most Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunarathana Thero. Born on December 7, 1927, in Henepola, Galagedara, Kandy, Sri Lanka, Bhante Gunarathana has spent over seven decades in monastic life, shaping the course of Theravada Buddhism across the globe.
His spiritual journey began in 1941 when, as Kuda Banda, he joined the Buddhist order under the guidance of Ven Kiribathkumbure Sonuththaraa Thero. His quest for knowledge led him to Vidyasekara Pirivena of Bandiyamulla and Vidyalankara Pirivena of Peliyagoda, where he received a profound education from eminent scholars. In 1947, he was ordained at Malwathu Maha Viharaya in Kandy.
Bhante Gunarathana’s international mission started when he undertook Foreign Mission training at Padanaghara Pirivena, Maradana. His tireless efforts spanned Malaysia, Vietnam, and eventually the United States, where he played a pivotal role in establishing Theravada Buddhism. Notably, he was appointed as a Colonel by the U.S. Government in 1975 to counsel Vietnamese migrants who had fled the war.
One of his significant contributions is the Bhavana Society, a meditation center in West Virginia, USA, recognized by National Geographic. This oasis of Dhamma, spanning 50 acres, has been a training ground for monks and lay devotees, fostering mindfulness and meditation.
Bhante Gunarathana’s commitment to education is evident in his academic achievements, holding degrees in Philosophy, including a Ph.D. His oratory skills and command over multiple languages make him a distinguished teacher. His notable publications, such as “Mindfulness in Plain English,” have been translated into numerous languages, making them accessible to a global audience.
As he celebrates his 96th birthday, Bhante Gunarathana continues to inspire and guide through his teachings, books, and the legacy of the Bhavana Society. His life serves as a testament to the transformative power of mindfulness and the universality of Buddhist principles.
May Most Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunarathana Thero be blessed with continued good health and the strength to illuminate the path of Dhamma for generations to come.