Rev. Bodhi’s Biography
Beginning to Serve the people
1979 the year that Ven. Bodhananda arrived in Batu Ambe
he found the village did not have any basic facilities such as water, electricity, telephones and sanitary facilities. Although the villagers were a set of strong minded people they were indulging heavily on alcohol, cannabis and crime. It was alarming to note that the youth were following the footsteps of their adults. Amidst tough opposition the young monk began to instill cultural and moral values in them. The temple was used as a place for education and for development of spirituality.
Pre-schools, Children groups and Mothers groups were set up to improve the living standards. The men and women were trained to make use of the natural resources available, to their benefit. The struggle of 09 months produced results He was available to slowly but gradually turn the mentality of the villages around. The police left the youth alone and encouraged them to support the young priest. He was able to draw the attention of the government officers concerned, who on seeing the actual transformation of the village started releasing funds for development.
The strenuous work had its toll on the monk. Ven. Bodhananda had to retire to quieter, less exhaustive surroundings. His efforts were not in vain. He had begun what he always wanted to do. Today, Batu Ambe is one of the most developed villages in the Kandy district. It was an area where people were very malicious and illiterate and they were beastly. with all these obstacles and risking the life went ahead regardless. During which period he became seriously ill and on medical grounds he was compelled to relinquish his services much to his disliking.
1980 Ven. Bodhananda enrolled at the Sarvodaya Bhikku (Priest)
Training Center at Pathakada in the Ratnapura District to follow a course in ‘Rural Leadership’ and successfully completed same at the end of the year. He also made use of this period to recover and restore himself to full health to proceed in his interrupted journey fortifying himself with leadership training.
1981 Having heard of the pathetically
poor patients in hospital with not even the barest of essentials available to them, the monk launched out a campaign for donations of food items for the hospitalized patients. The first donation came from him-the ‘Pirikara’ (the offerings made to the priests by laymen) consisting of Powdered Milk, Tea Leaves and Sugar. He walked more than 16 kilometers from Pathakada to the Kahawatte Hospital with a few others, collecting whatever he got for the patients. Having distributed these items among the patients in the Maternity and Tuberculosis wards, he chanted ‘Pirith’ to invoke blessings upon them and entertained them to tea. (He chose these wards particularly because the mothers were under-nourished and too poor and to purchase extra nutrition and where the TB patients were concerned apart from being under-nourished they were shunned by the public. They needed love and concern.)
This became a practice every Sunday with the participation of school children.. As time passed the businessmen in the area too contributed voluntarily. This project launched to uplift the poor is carried out to-date.
1982 Soon after the Hospital Visiting Project
Rev. Bodhananda Thero initiated an extra education day at Gankanda Vidyalaya (School) every Saturday from 7.30a.m. to 2.30p.m.for Religious education and guidance to develop the spiritual values of the children. The afternoons were devoted to solving problems of parents and teachers and for counseling.
He conducted programmes to the Samanera Bikkhu (Trainees for Priesthood) on love and care for mankind. He instilled in them very essence of the Dhamma (the Buddha Teaching) through which he himself was leading his life. He conducted them through his visits to the hospitals, orphanages and prisons. These lives touched him deeply. He explained to the other monks and the Samanera the ways of life. He taught them how to feel for these miserable people, how to empathies with them. They needed love, compassion and human needs looked into in a humane angle. During his visits he brought them food and essential basic requirements and clothing. He gave them consolation physically as well as mentally by chanting Pirith and Preaching Bana.
1983 On the 24th July being a Full Moon Poya Day
a new spiritual guidance programme called “Sheela Samadhanaya for the Young” was inaugurated to instill moral values through spirituality.
“How to Lead A Quality life” was the subject of a series of lectures for school children in the Pelmadulla area conducted by the Ven. Thero. This programme was so conducted by him that it helped identify disturbed children, who were then removed to short term residential counseling programmes with the consent of parents. This was a popular programme for parents with problem children.
In 1983 the July ethnic riots broke out in all parts of the country. The Ven.Thero voluntarily called up the youth in setting up Home Guard Committees as a preventive measure in all of the Ratnapura District, to safeguard the minority estate workers.
1984 The Ministry of Justice called for public support
for the correction and guidance of prisoners. Ven. Bodhananda conducted several rounds of talks with the Secretary to point out the advantage of spiritual guidance and social service for these convicts in reformation and rehabilitation instead of imprisonment. And for the first time in the Judicial history of Sri Lanka 06 convicts were directed by a Magistrate’s Court for rehabilitation in a private institution. At the end of the year, Police statistics revealed that of the 106 rehabilitated by Ven. Bodhananda only 08 have reverted to crime. In spite of the grave dangers that was prevailing amongst the underworld (Mafia) he did not hesitate to proceed with the brave stance he undertook.
The undisputed success ratio was the only point of argument needed with the Attorney General who accepted it and “Drug addicts and Minor Criminals Residential Rehabilitation Programmes”by NGO’s was legalized by the Public services Act of 1993. Ven. Bodhananda Thero was recognized for this concept and honored.
Projects were launched to educate the public and prevent crime and child abuse and the new problem of drug addiction with its’ horrid results. More than 300,000 children from 330 schools have participated in these awareness programmes.
This year also saw the Thero Coordinating his crime prevention programmes and cooperating with the Police and other Non Governmental Organizations with such intensity involving unemployed youth that drew the attention of the then Prime Minister Hon. Ranasinghe Premadasa, who created the “Home Guard Service” to assist the Police, whilst also providing employment to youth.
1987 Ven. Bodhananda had come a long way from whence he came
He named his little organization the “Mithuru Mithuro Movement” (meaning Compassionate Friends) and sought out new premises. He purchased a 7 1/2 acre plot of land from the government with the greatest of difficulty due to heavy financial constraints.
But that was not all, Ven. Bodhananda was becoming popular in the area. For some this was too much to bear. Undesirable elements spread ugly rumors and created antagonism among the community. The disruptive force was led by a politician of the area, who believed that his popularity was at stake. He made two attempts on the Thero’s life. However, due to evasive moves upon receiving early information, he managed to escape unhurt. A third attempt was made by the JVP (Peoples Liberation Front), who were hardcore terrorists, whose area leader kept a gun on the Thero’s head. This instance too he survived by meeting the leaders face to face to clarify details. On realizing their error they apologized and left.
The monk was ready to proceed from his new headquarters, a 10 by 12 ft. mud hut with a thatched roof. This was not as bad as the first, few days and nights, which were spent under a couple of slanted galvanized sheets. He had with him 05 residents and 01 staff member. Life was hard. There weren’t even the basic facilities for him and his team. The villagers did not have electricity, drinking water nor sanitary facilities. There weren’t any proper roads. Rev. Bodhi’s first mission was to gather the people of area together, educate them on the importance of hygiene and together with the youth started building toilets and wells for drinking water. He coordinated with Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya fame and received assistance from the Embassy of the Netherlands for this project.
1988 More hazels were in store for Rev. Bodhi
There were still these henchmen of local politicians who were opposing his social work as the youth of the area were gathering around him. He was labeled as an government activist and harassed to extremes. But Rev. Bodhi is a “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” type of person. He kept going. He visited the illicit liquor dens and gambling spots in the villages to educate the people on the ill effects of liquor and gambling the repercussions and effects of it on family harmony and children mentality. The villagers started to accept him as their mentor. They brought their problems to him and sought his advice.
Meanwhile, Rev. Bodhi was progressing in the construction of the office and dormitory buildings and the Education center, the finances however, was hard to come by. His Village Re-awakening and Children and Youth programmes were not fund generating but were always with available resources. Finally he sought aid from diplomatic missions and other donor agencies and received support from:
- South Korean Embassy – Rs.1.5 million worth of Vocational Training equipment.
- Forut – Rs.1.2 Million worth of equipment for Vocational Training.
- Canadian High Commission – Rs.100,000/= worth of educational equipment and books.
- Phasellus auctor augue
In addition, he persuaded the Colombo Plan Secretariat to extend their sponsorship for local and overseas training on Drug Rehabilitation to others too, than only to government officers. Rev. Bodhi was selected for training and successfully completed a 20 day national and another 15 day overseas (Singapore) training programme which helped him immensely in his rehabilitation of drug abusers programme.
In the meantime, Juvenile Crime and Child Abuse Prevention Units were organized in 350 schools in the Ratnapura District as a project to protect children. In the terrorist uprising of 1988/89, only very few youth from the district were involved. Of these, a majority surrendered to the government. As a result of the Ven.Thero’s involvement in social reforming activities he was appointed to the Independent Committee of Inquiry by His Excellency Ranasinghe Premadasa – President of Sri Lanka, and was responsible for organizing rehabilitation camps for these disillusioned youth, one of which was located at the premises of the Mithuru-Mithuro Movement.
As an Adult
Ven. Bodhananda is a tireless worker. There seems to be nothing that can deter him. He seems to have been born to be of service to others. This far thinking man is involved in total dedication to persevere to achieve success in his projects.
Ven. Kuppiyawatte Bodhananda has a deep rooted desire to create a totally Drug and Substance abuse free nation of Sri Lankans. All his social activities are aimed at prevention of abuse, rehabilitation of abusers and successful re-integration into society of ex-abusers. The key function of his organization Mithuru Mithuro Movement is to design, introduce and implement programmes for the prevention and rehabilitation of addicts.
The issue of drug abuse is a critical social problem and a development issue in Sri Lanka. Having extended its vicious tentacles to shatter the decent and peaceful lifestyles of citizens, it has also deteriorated the cultural, moral, human and spiritual values in a closely knitted Sri Lankan society, particularly of its youth. Nearly 40% of the inmates of our prisons are those convicted for drug related offences(NDDCB Reports). According to surveys conducted by our groups it is estimated that there are 100,000 heroin addicts and over 200,000 cannabis addicts (Mithuru-Mithuro Files).
Addressing the drug issue, both the Government and Non Governmental Organizations believe that it is a development issue. Hence, it is our opinion that not only drug prevention or demand reduction should be given priority, treatment and rehabilitation shall also be integrated into the programmes. Prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts shall be the total components of the programme; such an approach provides opportunity to consider habits and behaviors of individuals and also their functions in a subjective manner enhancing the quality and the effectiveness of the programme.
MITHURU MITHURO MOVEMENT
“Mithuru Mithuro” which means “Compassionate Friends” was initiated in 1984 and was registered under government ordnance as an NGO in 1993 to provide assistance and support to the rural communities and its youth in particular. The actual reforming and rehabilitation of youth began back in 1987 with the youth offenders being directed by the judiciary to Ven. K. Bodhananda of Mithuru Mithuro & is the first ever of its nature in Sri Lanka.Prevention programmes became an integral part of the ongoing treatment programme.
Juvenile delinquency and youth offenders in crime grew at an alarming rate with these groups falling victim to drugs. Ven. Bodhananda opened the doors for all drug addicts who wished to reform and parents who desired support for their children. The rehabilitation programme with active participation of parents and family was launched with all clients in residence.
The year 1993 saw the Ministry of Justice legalizing
Community Service by criminals as well as drug addicts as a penalty, whilst in the care of non-governmental organizations. This was based on the success achieved by Ven. Bodhi of Mithuru Mithuro Movement in the implementation of the Therapeutic Community System and was taken as a Pilot Project.
His Excellency D.B.Wijetunge, President of Sri Lanka acknowledged the programme and honored the efforts of Ven. Bodhananda with a personal visit to the Institute to see for himself the achievements and to express his encouraging sentiments.
The Government and Non-Governmental Organizations soon recognized the programme for its effectiveness. Support and advice for its activities was forthcoming. The altruistic enthusiasm in protecting the vulnerable and providing hope for the hopeless, led to the sponsorship of Ven. K. Bodhananda Thero for a special training programme, by the Colombo Plan Secretariat, at Day Top International Inc. USA, on the Therapeutic Community System.
The Thero was the only member of the two NGO and 12 government officers who participated in the training programme, to impart with the knowledge and experience gained, to affect a Therapeutic Community System for the benefit of the so many victims of drug abuse. In effect, Ven. Bodhananda Thero brought the TC System to Sri Lanka and implemented it.And so the Therapeutic Community System was introduced for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of drug addicts and to date Mithuru Mithuro is the only organization in Sri Lanka to do so.
In view of the increase in the rate of addiction in the country and it’s dangerous consequences an extensive campaign was launched in the latter part of 1999, for the prevention of drugs abuse for children and youth and for the society in general in the form of rehabilitation and awareness using every conceivable method.
The Mithuru Mithuro Movement, which began with one center at it’s inception in 1994 has expanded its activities up-to 05 centers in three districts in the island. Rev. Bodhi has separate programmes for residents in different stages of rehabilitation. The 05 centers together have a total of over 500 residents in various stages of rehabilitation.
Mithuru Mithuro Movement was expanded over
four major populated districts in island wide (Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara & Ratnapura) up to 10 residential rehabilitation centers. Currently nearly 700 residents are being enrolled with the T&R program and also more than 10,000 addicts have been socialized.
The firm belief in the programme centered on prevention of drug abuse through awareness, has proven realistically effective with true commitment and sheer perseverance, in achieving the objectives. In a clear demonstration of support, sections of the public have voluntarily joined our efforts which have been tremendously encouraging.
Thus, Ven. Bodhananda, has been successful, through public awareness and community inducement, on preventive measures against drugs from grass root level. “What Goes Around, Comes Around”-it certainly has. For the Pelmadulla Division in the Ratnapura district is already a heroin free zone!
If one is to get an opportunity of meeting the Venerable Thero his story about his Center For Drug Rehabilitation And Human Values Development Research Studies would be a brief;
“This center is my life. At a time when human beings themselves have become inhuman, and human values have deteriorated the world over, I find the strength to go on, here-the strength to re-double my efforts to succeed.”
“When I first came to this place, it had nothing. The villagers had no basic facilities, no electricity, no drinking water, and no telephones and there wasn’t even a road. I established base on a hill one mile from the main road with the 05 youth in rehabilitation and 01 staff member. A little mud hut was put up, 10ft. by 12ft in size with a thatched roof. Life was difficult, yet we were determined to make this place productive. Our efforts were not in vain, for today we have here the Headquarters of the Mithuru Mithuro Movement consisting of an Office complex, a hostel for about 80 residents, a meditation center, workshop, a community hall, vocational training unit, counseling room and a library. Construction has begun on an auditorium with a capacity to seat a hundred people. I have expanded my services to a total of 05 centers now in which are about a 500 residents recovering and rehabilitating.”
He would at this stage proudly continue…
“Today ours is the largest and most successful Rehabilitation Organization, whether government or non government in the whole of Sri Lanka. Various tools of measurements are been used to assess and evaluate the success of our programme. The Therapeutic Community System of Rehabilitation is being conducted in 71 countries the world over and in Sri Lanka ours is the only organization to adopt it.”
….and would conclude,
“My vision is a drug free society. We are responsible for the next person, in my capacity as a Buddhist monk; I will do the maximum possible to help any person to lead a better life through love and concern. When there is love, with a little effort everything is possible. Through the development of moral, human, cultural, social and spiritual values there would be no requirement for drugs and other intoxicants.”
Probably the Venerable Kuppiyawatte Bodhananda is treading on the footsteps of the Reverend Mother Theresa of Culcutta.A Rare Gem Indeed, of Humanity and Love…..
It has been learnt then that drug addicts need to re-consider their positions
attitudes and behavioral patterns and identify themselves through self-realization. They need to change positively from the hedonistic culture they yearn to live in. This they cannot do alone, they need help from another.
Venerable Kuppiyawatte Bodhananda Thero has dedicated himself for the uplift of man, in a deep rooted desire to create a drug free society, by identifying the contributory factors to addiction as socio-economic, socio-environmental and self discipline.
Ven. Bodhanada Thero has strived hard to rehabilitate drug addicts and prevent future addicts through a combination of development of human, moral, cultural and spiritual values with a healthy lifestyle and economic stability. These ever innovative methods and activities involving community education and participation and his determination, has proved beyond reasonable doubt, the success of his efforts.