Presently Most Active Monks and Nuns
1. Venerables Asvaghosam, 2.Nanapunnika, 3.Sumangala, and 4.Sudarsana among monks, and among the nun 5.Dhammavati are the most prominent personalities at present. The most active monks are mainly from the Sakyas except Venerable Sumangala. An introduction of the most activc monks should help us to understand the matter more clearly.
1. Venerable Asvaghosa (he prefers to spell his name using W instead of v, as practiced in Nepal), son of Mr Candrajyoti and Mrs Laksmimaya Sakya of Ukubahal, Patan was born in 1926. His name was Buddharatna and he was married before he became a teenager. The marriage was arranged by his parents, which was a normal practice at that time. As the result of association with Venerables Dharmaloka and Amrtananda, he left home at age 18 and received ordination under the preceptorship of U Candramani Mahasthavira and Acaryaship of Venerable Amrtananda. This took place at Kusinagara, India in January 1944. He then received the name Asvaghosa by which we known him at present.
Prior to his becoming a novice, Venerable Asvaghosa gained informal education in Sanskrit in his locality, the single facility available at that time. After ordination as Samanera he studied Hindi at Kusinagar under Venerable Dharmaraksita. Shortly after, they went to Sri Lanka together. Venerable Asvaghosa studied Pali, Buddhism and Literature at Mahamantinda Pirivena (monk’s college), in Matara, for eight years and received his higher ordination under the preceptorship of Venerable Dharmakirti Sri Dhammavasa Nayaka Mahasthavira (1888–1949), principle of the Pirivena in 1st May 1949. He left Sri Lanka in 1952 for higher education at Saranatha Banaras in India where he remained till 1959.
Venerable Asvaghosa served as manager of Anandakuti Vidyapitha, a Buddhist Boarding High school in Kathmandu during 1961-68. He also has shown great diligence in preparing booklets and editing magazines. He was principle editior of the Ananda Bhoomi Buddhist monthly since its incepeion in 1972 up to 1990. He is still editing the Dharmakirti, a Buddhist monthly magazine since 1984. His labour in nearly every publication of Dharmakirti Publications is indispensable. He has composed 72 Booklets on Buddhism.
The prominent monk Asvaghosa participated in International Buddhist conferences held in the Republic of China in 1956 and led Buddhhist delegations from Nepal to Mangolia in 1977. He had led many pilgrimages to holy places to India. He is Dharmanusasaka (Religious Director) of Dharmakirti Adhyayana Gosthi, Svayambhu Jnanamala Bhajana Khalah (group) and the Buddhist Youth Group of Kathmandu. He has led many different activities beyond these organisations and travelled to different parts of Nepal in his tenure.
Venerable Asvaghosa is a prudent student of secular subjects as well, especially Marxism. He is sometimes thought to be swayed by leftist political thought. He has intimate contact with the top leaders of United Marxist Leninist Party (UMLP), the second largest political party of Nepal. After the first general election for the national assembly, he was nominated as a member of upper house by the reformed communist party during 1991 – 1993. He raised different Buddhist matters in parliament, among which the proposal for declaring Nepal a secular country was most significant. After this, he served a short period as Deputy Chairman for the Lumbhini Development Trust.
Venerable Asvaghosa conducted religious services for three years and founded a sizeable Vihara at Banepa in 1974 called Dhyanakuti Vihara. He has also been running quite an active Vihara in the heart of Kathmandu called Sangharama since 1982. He has more than 20 ordined disciples studying in Nepal and abroad. These days he keeps busy performing religious servies, giving lessons, preparing booklets and editing magazines as usual.
2. Another most active monk Venerable Nanapunnika was born in 1940 at Tanasena of Western Nepal near Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. He was the son of Mr Suryalala and Mrs Candramaya Sakya. He took Pali lessons from Venerable Buddhaghosa Mahasthavira while a teenaged in Patan, Nepal. He received ordination under the preceptorship of Venerable U Visuddhabhivamsa in 1956, and higher ordination under the preceptorship of Sayadew U Suriyabhaivamsa in Burma in 1958.
Venerable Nanapunnika completed degree of Sasanadhaja Dhammacariya in Buddhist monastic studies run by the Burmese government in 1963. He served in preparing the Pali and Burmese Encyclopaedia published by the Burmese Government in 1966. He graduated from Tribhuvana University, Kathmandu in 1976.
Venerable Nanapunnika attended the fifth Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace held in Mongolia as the Nepalese delegate and was elected as an executive member of the organization in 1980’s. He went on religious tours as an interpreter with Aggamahapandita Mahasi Sayadew of Burma through Nepal and India in 1981. He served Buddhism by staying at the West Midland Buddhist Vihara in Birmingham, England Between 1979–1982. He has visited USA, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and England, etc. many times.
Venerable Nanapunnika is the founder of a few notable religious Viharas such as the Visvasanti Vihara, Kathmandu and the Veluvanarama Vihara, Thecho. He has also reconstructed the Manimandapa Vihara in Patan. He also established a foundation Santisukhavasa Publications. He served as a member of the Lumbini Development Trust for two years. He is the rector of Buddhist studies (Pariyatti Siksa) in Nepal. He is the religious director of the International Meditation Vihara in Kathmandu.
Venerable Nanapunnika is an expert translator of Burmese into Nepali and Nepala Bhasa. He has published altogether 37 books and booklets including many Translations of works by Burmese scholars on Pali Buddhism. He is now kept busy translating, preaching, teaching meditation and founding a monks training Vihara in Kathmandu. He received the award Srestha Sirapa for his translation of the Burmese novel Yomha Mhyay into Nepala Bhasa or Newari.
3. Another notable active monk Venerable Sumangala was born in Patan on the 30th of March 1930, receiving the name Bhakta krisna Silakar from his parents. In the prime of his youth he came in to contact with Theravada monks staying in Srisumangala Vihara. After attending religious services and studying for a few years in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka he was determined to ordain. He went to Burma for the purpose and received Samanera ordination at the World Peace Pagoda, Rangoon and Bhikkhu or higher ordination at Sein Ma Ma Kyaung (Vihara), Mawlamyine in 1959.
Venerable Sumangala Mahathera practised intensive Vipassana Meditation at Sasana Yeikta, Yangon, Myanmar in 1959. He received a M.A. degree in Buddhist Philosophy from Rissho University, Tokyo, Japan in 1960’s. He also holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies from Vidyalankara University, Sri Lanka. He is the author of Buddhist Meditation and An Introduction to Meditation.
An energetic monk, Venerable Sumangala first served Theravada by giving lessons and teaching meditation. Later he contributed his efforts to constructing different Viharas. So far he has developed Ganamaha Vihara and Pranidhipurna Maha Vihara. He founded Buddha Vihara and the International Meditation Vihara, the most active Viharas in Kathmandu. He is also the principal founder of Siddhartha Sisu Niketan, a Primary School at Buddha Vihara, Kathmandu.
Venerable Sumangala has travelled to many countries of the world e.g., India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippine, R.O.C. South Korea, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Soviet Republic, france and the United States of America. He travels abraod regularly every year.
Internationally known monk Venerable Sumangala has served in many international - level activities. He is the founder director of ACRP and a member of WCRP, President of Religion and Peace Academy-Nepal and the Regional Vihara of the ACRP and WCRP, Nepal Chapter . He attended all regular conferences of the ACRP held in Singapore, New Delhi, Kathmandu, and 3rd and 4th WCRP conferences held at Louvaire, Belgium in 1974 and in Princeton, New Gersey, USA in 1984, respectively. He was formerly Vice President of Dharmodaya Sabha, which is the regional Vihara of WFB in Nepal. He has participated in the 15th-19th WFB Conferences held in Kathmandu, Sri Lanka, Los Angeles, Seoul and Bangkok, respectively. He has also participated in Asian Buddhist conferences held at New Delhi, Moscow and Tokyo.
A diligent monk, Venerable Sumangala recently completed preliminary construction on the Home for the Aged at Banepa and again engaged in construction of the central building for Se Mi Kyo in Kathmandu, with whom he has served since its establishment there in 1976. He is constantly busy directing his affairs and contacting his numerous friends in different parts of the world.
4. Another notably active monk Venerable Sudarsan was born in 1938, at Bahi Nani, Vaku Bahala in Lalitapur. The son of Mr Nhucheraja and Mrs Harsamaya Sakya, he was given the name Lumbiniraja. He was ordained as Samanera at Kusinagara in India under the preceptorship of Venerable U Chandramani Mahasthavira in 1950 and as a Bhikkhu in Saranath, India, under the preceptorship of Sanghamahanayaka Prajnananda on the 30th of November 1064.
The high scholar monk Venerable Sudarsana is an authority in Buddhist history, archaeology, evolution and propagation of religion in Nepal. He is highly regarded for his high standard of literary work and as a religious organiser. He has also founded important Viharas.
Venerable Sudarsan completed his bachelor’s degree from Tribhuvan University and was the first monk to ever take the examination of SLC (School Leaving Certificate) run by the Minister of Education of Nepal. He was conferred the Sahityaratna degree on Nepala Bhasa literature by Nepala Rastriya Vidyapitha, Biraganja in 1978 and the Kovida degree in Hindi literature in Calcutta in 1954. He obtained his MA, Merit first division, in Nepalese Culture, History and Archaeology from Tribhuvan University in 1980. He received the reward Mahendra Vidyabhusna ‘Kha’ and Gokulacanda Medal for obtaining the highest mark in his master’s degree examination.
Venerable Sudarsan has long devoted his services in education. He taught at Sila Pathasala (School) in Tanasena in 1950 and at Anandakuti Science Collage during 1970-72. He has lectured on Nepalese History and Culture at Tribhuvan University since 1980 till present.
Venerable Sudarsan participated in several international conferences and tours. He travelled to the USA, Israel, Egypt, India, Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Sought Korea as a member of the Youth Seminar on World Religion (YSWR) in 1982. He went on world tour as Senior Director of YSWR in 1984. He participated in the world Religion Conference for Atomic Disarmament held in Rajagrha in India in 1982 and the International Buddhist Conference at Lumbhini in 1979. He also participated in the 6th Synod (Sangayana) of Theravada Buddhists in Rangyoon (Yangoon) Myanmar in 1954.
The courageous monk Venerable Sudarsan has led Buddhist pilgrimages organized by the Jnanamala Bhajana Khalah (group), managing special trains and buses for 500 devotees to Lumbini, Kusinagar, Sravasti, Buddhagaya and Rajagrha in 1963, and for 560 devotees to Lumbini, Kusinagar, Sravasti, Delhi, Agara, Sanchi, Ahanta Elora, Bombay, Nalanda, Rajgrha and Saranatha in 1968 and for 620 devotees in 1977.
Venerable Sudarsna rebuilt the Ganamaha Vihara in 1961 and founded Srikirti Vihara in 1976. He was the Key person in organizing short term mass ordinations on many occasions, among which 86 persons of various backgrounds and 73 persons from the sakyas lineage were ordinaed in April and November of 1985, respectively are notable. Eighty-seven women were also ordined en masse in 1988. These shortterm ordination ceremonies were all conducted in Srikirti Vihara.
Venerable Sudarsan has also written dramas, which are admitted into the curriculum for the BA and MA degree at Tribhuvan University. He wrote 67 booklets on various aspects of Buddhism: 7 in Nepali, 22 in Nepala Bhasa, 8 translated, 18 edited, 8 dramas and 4 miscellaneous. His articles are published frequently in different periodicals. He received rewards for his historical play king jayaprakasa. Recently, he is conferred a reward Bhasa Thuva by Nepal Bhasa Parisada, Kathmandu in 5 November 1996 for his prolonged services on literary works in Nepala Bhasa (Newari Language).
Presently Venerable Sudarsan is busy teaching at Tribhuvan Univiersity, doing research on Lumbhini, managing the Srikirti Vihara, creating radio and television programmes broadcast by the Nepalese government, and organising various programmes and activities for the promotion of Buddhism.
Anagarikas or nuns of Nepal have been playing an important role in Buddhism of the country. After the cessation of Buddhist nun’s (Theravada Bhiksuni lineage) tradition, a special kind of a ordination was introduced for female devotees in Theravada Buddhist countries. This is called Tilasheyn in Burma, Silamata in Sri Lanka and Maechi in Thailand. In Nepal it is called Anagarika and was introduced in the very beginning of the Theravada in 1930. Anagarikas Ratnapali, Dharmapali and Sanghapali were the first. The eight precept holder Anagarikas were mostly ordained in their old age and had not much opportunity to gain a proper education. Therefore, they remained helpers to monks and are not well known. Anagarikad Dharmacari and Khemacari were the most notable nuns among the first generation.
Since the 1970’s, nuns also started to take on active roles, especially in the heart of Kathmandu. Nuns Dhammavati, Gunavati and Ratnamanjari worked together to establish Dharmakirti Vihara (nunnery). Other nuns helping at Dharmakirti Vihara at present are Anagarikas Anupama and Viryavati. Anagarikas Nanasila and Satyasila are managing Sakyasingha Vihara. At Sri Sumangala Vihara Anagarikas Susila, Nekkhamaparami, Vijita and others are helping. The outstanding nuns are Madhavi, Uppalavanna, Sangharaksita, Kamala, Kusuma, Sujata, Nanavati and Satyaparami. Many nuns are also assisting the monks.
A few Anagarikas of the Secound and third generations gained higher education and engaged in different religious and educational activities. Still it should be said that their practical achievements in the field of religion far exceed the value of any secular degree.
A list of 84 nuns was published in a booklet of their regulations issued in 1992 (Nepala Vyapi Anagarika Sanghapinigu Niyamatah). Eight nuns are studying in Burma and two each in Taiwan and Thailand. At present, the total number of nuns is near one hundred. The most prominent among them is Anagarika Dharmavati.
5. Anagarika Dharmavati, daughter of Mr Harsamana and Mrs Herathakum Sakya, was born at Ukubahala, patan in 1934. She was the third child of her parents. Her lay name was Ganesakumari. She gained familiarity with the newly introduced Theravada Buddhism in her teens due to her mother’s acquaintance with some monks who were staying at Sri Sumangala Vihara located in near her home.
Ganesakumari was only 14 years old when she became determined to be ordained. She went ahead with her purpose when she met a Burmese student monk named Dhammavudha who came to Nepal in 1950. She continued her religious study with Venerable Buddhaghosa for a few months and then left home for Kusinagar, India before continuing on to Burma the same year. She was fully supported by her mother and friends but her father was against her leaving home. She faced various difficulties of her journey.
Ganesakumari received ordination at Kusinagar under the preceptorship of U Chandramani Mahasthavira. As she was still under age to apply for a passport, she hurried to Burma without proper documents in order to escape her father’s attempts to bring her back. After receiving a pardon for her illegal immigrate in, she went to study at Khemarama Nunnery in mawalamyine in southern Burma in 1952.
Anagarika Dhammavati returned form Burma along with two senior nuns, Gunavati and Ratnamanjari in 1963 and carried out religious activities in Kathmandu Valley. She founded Dharmakirti Vihara, a nunnery in the Kathmandu city, in 1966 as an accommodation for nuns and she remains teaching and preaching Buddhism to all walks of life. She is famous for her Dharma instructions, especially among Newar women.
Anagarika Dhammavati and Anagarika Gunavati jointly established a group of devotees the Dharmakirti Bauddha Adhyayana Gosthi (Buddhist Study Group) in 1971, aiming at different activities and publishing Buddhist literature. It has turned out to be one of the leading publisher on Nepal. The objective of the nunnery are published in a small booklet Dharmakirti Vihara Today, 1975. In 1987 she celebrated both her Golden and Silver Anniversary, 50 years of age and 25 years of Buddhist activities. She was conferred the Agga Mahaganthavacaka Pandita degree by the Burmese Government in 1992 at Gabhaye in Yangon for her tireless effort to spread Buddhism in Nepal. So far, she has compiled 35 booklets on Buddhism in Nepala Bhasa.
Anagarika Dhammavati is closely involved with the question of the status of Buddhist nuns (Bhikkhuni). She has participated in some international conferences on Buddhist Women. In 1987 (Feb 11-17) she was the leading personality from Nepal to participate at International Conference on Buddhist Nuns held in Buddhagaya India for discussing the bhiksuni tradition (proper Buddhist nun). She participated in conferences held in Taiwan and USA with the same aim. She was criticized by her oppoenents when news broke of her ordination in the Taiwanese Bhiksuni tradition. She supports Bhiksuni ordined in the Taiwanese Mahayana Tradition and uses her Viharas as accommodation for those of the Bhiksuni tradition. She remains however in Anagarika robes and is discrete in activities country to Theravada Buddhism. Still she consents to be called and calls herself a Bhiksuni. She has established a nunnery for the International Bhikshuni Sangha at Lumbini in 1994.
Anagarika Dhammavati is now 64 years old but still active in giving Theravada lessons, preparing booklets and communicating with more than 50 friends and disciples connected to Dharmakirti Vihara in the country and abroad. She is a great supporter of Sangharama Vihara headed by Venerable Asvaghosa Mahasthavira. She is decidedly the most active and prominent nun in the history of Anagarikas in Mordern Nepal.