Ven. Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Nayaka Thera:
by Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera
Disciplined behaviour, vast erudition, excellent memory, the remarkable ability to remain calm and serene amidst difficult circumstances, and charismatic personality are the hallmarks of a great bhikku.
Our Venerable Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Nayaka Thera is endowed with all these qualities and more. He reminds us of the celebrated members of the Bhanaka tradition who were responsible for the oral transmission of the Word of the Buddha until it was committed to writing.
Ven. Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Nayaka Thera is from the remote village of Kakkapalliya, near Chilaw in the North-Western Province. He was born on the 20th of January, 1929. He began his primary education at the Hiripitiya Vidyalaya.
From his childhood days he showed a great inclination to the Dhamma and it was this inclination that made him become a novice monk when he was only seventeen years old.
He received his ordination at the well-known Sri Nivesaramaya in Ponnankanniya under the tutelage of Ven. Kakkapalliye Sri Devananda Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the temple, Ven. Mudukatuwe Gnanarama Nayaka Thera (who later served on the academic staff of the Vidyalankara University) and Ven. Mudukatuwe Seelananda Maha Thera.
The Most Venerable Kiriwaththuduwe Pannasara Nayaka Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the internationally known Vidyalankara Pirivena, was his Preceptor. When he reached the twentieth year, the mandatory age for Higher Ordination, he was conferred the Higher Ordination at the Uposatha Hall of the Malwatta Viharaya in 1949.
It was in 1953 that our Venerable Nayaka Thera sat for the Pracheena Intermediate Examination as a candidate from the Maliyadeva Pirivena in Kurunegala. In consideration of his superlative performance at the examination he was placed first in order of merit and was declared the first in the whole Island.
His reputation as a diligent and intelligent student spread fast at the Vidyalankara Pirivena. While he was yet a student there he had the rare distinction of being selected for the Tripitaka Sangayana organised by the Vidyalankara Pirivena. For two consecutive years (1951-1953) he served it as a full-time participant winning the accolades of his seniors and peers.
He was so dedicated to the task that he soon learnt the Burmese script and developed a special ability to read the ancient Sinhala script. In recognition of this special skill he was entrusted with the important task of reading the Mahavagga Pali written in ancient Sinhala script. This indeed was a singular privilege and honour received by him, while yet being a student.
In 1953 Venerable Nayaka Thera was appointed to the academic staff of the Vidyalankara Pirivena, and in the same year he received an appointment as a teacher in the Peliyagoda Gurukula Vidyalaya. The heavy load of work he had to shoulder did not deter him from pursuing advanced studies in Pali and Buddhism.
In 1956 he sat for the Senior School Certificate Examination in the English medium, and subsequently passed the University Entrance Examination and was admitted to the University of Ceylon in 1959. At the University he followed a Special Honours course in Pali with Eastern Philosophy and Psychology as his subsidiary subjects.
He was awarded the Honours Degree in 1963, and in recognition of his brilliant performance at the examination he was appointed as a probationary Assistant Lecturer at the same university. However, in 1964 he opted to move to Vidyalankara University in the capacity of a permanent lecturer in the Department of Pali.
In 1969 the Venerable Nayaka Thera proceeded to the University of Lancaster for his doctoral research, and successfully completed it in 1972, obtaining the Ph.D degree for his doctoral thesis on “Studies in Buddhist Social Thought”. Upon his return to the Vidyalankara University he was promoted to Senior Lectureship in Pali.
In 1980 he also served as the Dean of the Paramadhamma Buddhist Institute and conducted a course for Buddhist monks interested in Buddhist missionary activities in foreign countries.
The Venerable Nayaka Thera reached the culmination of his academic career when he had the very rare privilege of being appointed by the President of Sri Lanka as the first ever Vice Chancellor of the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka.
During his tenure as Vice Chancellor (1982-88), with the guidance of the late Venerable Professor Walpola Rahula, he was able to establish it as a centre of excellence for Buddhist Studies attracting both local and foreign students.
In his second year as its Vice Chancellor he was able to get the university admitted as a fully-fledged member of the Commonwealth Union of Universities.
The establishment of the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, under the Vice-Chancellorship of our Venerable Nayaka Thera is certainly one of the most significant contributions to Bhikkhu education in modern time.
It was during his tenure that the Sri Lanka Journal of Buddhist Studies was founded and the library was well-equipped with the most important reference material for Buddhist Studies.
In brief, it was our Venerable Nayaka Thera who laid the foundation for the University’s successful continuance and further development under the leadership of his successors.After the Venerable Nayaka Thera had served two terms as the Vice Chancellor of the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka he was invited by the Buddhist Institute of the Fo Kwang Sang Monastery in Taiwan to teach Pali and Buddhism (1989-90).
In 1992 he was invited to the University of the West in California to conduct courses on Buddhist studies. Subsequently he also had the opportunity of teaching at the Buddhist Library of Singapore, at Foo Ei Chan Buddhist College and at the Buddhist Mission in Singapore.
At present the Venerable Nayaka Thera is in the Chi Lin Buddhist College in Hong Kong teaching courses on Pali and Buddhist Studies. And at the same time he is also serving as a Visiting Professor at the Centre of Buddhist Studies of University of Hong Kong.
In spite of his devoted commitment to teaching, the Venerable Nayaka Thera has been able to participate in many international Seminars and Conferences on Buddhist Studies, and is a much sought after keynote speaker. His greatest work of research is his Dictionary of Pali Idioms.
He is now preparing its second volume. It speaks volumes for his thorough familiarity with the Pali Buddhist Canon and the Theravada Buddhist exegetical literature. His latest contribution to Buddhist Studies is “The First and Second Buddhist Councils, Five Versions, English Translations from Pali and Chinese”, which he prepared in collaboration with Mary M. Y. Fung and S. K. Siu.
Venerable Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Nayaka Thera is an excellent communicator of the Dhamma. His profound knowledge and eloquence, coupled with his simple but very effective style of communication has endeared him to many.
He could perhaps be the most popular teacher of Buddhism and Pali language to foreign students. Not only is he a good teacher but is also a listener. His unhurried ways of behaviour and simple style of living is worthy of emulation by anyone aspiring to be a good teacher.
It is, indeed, not an exaggeration to say that Venerable Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Nayaka Thera is an epitome of Buddhist recluseship, a treasure house of Dhamma knowledge, a role model for all bhikkhus, and an invaluable jewel in the Sangha Sasana.