Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thero

From time to time, in the world, you find extraordinary people who make or at least try to make a difference to the rest of the world. It is just like the story of the child and the star fish, where a young boy was trying his level best to give life to a starfish on the beach, while a well matured person was saying it was a waste of time and energy because millions of star fish dry up on the beach everyday.

The moral of the story is that you should continue your good work to make a difference to others regardless of various other distractions and discouragements.

Our tiny island of Sri Lanka has produced many such people in both the past and the present. If you look at the past, especially among Buddhist monks, we never had any chief sanga nayakas play a pivotal role on behalf of our motherland to make a difference. This is the unbelievable and untold truth, which is a reality even today.

We, as Sri Lankans, should be proud that such caliber of people are still living, and speak, act and demonstrate real justice on behalf of the country’s needy people. It is indeed beyond social service. We are fortunate to have such a living legend, who is one of the key personalities among all the past Presidents of Sri Lanka and even the present President of the country.

Most respected Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thero occupies a unique position in the country as not only an erudite Buddhist monk but also as someone who has devoted his whole life to helping the underprivileged people of Sri Lanka. He has spent over 40 years of his life in this cause, while making huge sacrifices and spent energy harnessing support for the large number of projects initiated by him.

While concentrating his efforts on ensuring the unity of the country, his achievements in other fields are also equally amazing. He masterminded projects to develop agriculture and protect our natural resources like water, oil, phosphate, forests, etc., when politicians attempted to dispose these resources to foreign nationals and foreign countries.

Thero has traveled widely across the country to bring peace & harmony to all the Sri Lankan communities living in this pearl of the Indian Ocean. Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thero also never confined his philanthropist activities to Sri Lankan soil but spread his wings to many parts of the world.

During Sri Lanka’s biggest tragedy, the disastrous Tsunami of 2006, Venerable Thero's temple, Dharmayatanaya became the centre for coordinating relief efforts. Container loads of relief were sent to all affected areas. Thero personally directed efforts to ensure that aid reached Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. Subsequently, he went on to engage lawyers to help internally displaced people obtain deeds and titles to their respective lands. Homes were built and furnished, schools were set up and children were given free books.

Special schools were set up to help street children under the newly formed Sri Lanka Lama Surakeeme Padanama. In these schools, orphans and child victims of terrorism are given scholarships to pursue their studies. Abandoned children are also taken into the care of safe hands.

Being a devoted Buddhist monk, everyone is equal to him. To ensure the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country, he mobilized public opinion, provided facilities for victims of terrorism and gave evidence before the Justice Sansoni Commission.

At the height of terrorist activities, Thero played a key role in protecting the so-called 'border villagers' by providing free books for children, food and security, and, thus, prevented them from abandoning their villages.

Another unique project was the vocational centre for disabled soldiers. His vision prevented far reaching consequences to the country and his ability to prevent such situations was admirable. A few such projects, not second to above, are as follows:

Created Mahaveli zones along side the Mahaveli project.
Building a giant Buddha statue in the Mahaveli zone facing Maduru Oya.
Establishing a Buddhist society in Jaffna.
Manufacturing and providing over 5000 mobile toilets to tsunami victims.
Housing project in the East - Ampara.
Invited all the politicians to his temple and advised against violence during elections. He convinced all the parties to endorse a non-violent election campaign.
Invited all Muslim religious leaders to the temple in a pageant in order to prevent unnecessary violence due to the Afghan attack on the ‘Pahiyan’ Buddha statues.
Implemented educational reforms by standardising education to provide equal
opportunities to all races as well as to enter into universities.
Pioneered the organization of mega Wesak festival and celebrations at Bauddaloka Mawatha during a very crucial time to avoid antireligious activity.
Orphans and child victims of terrorism were given scholarships to pursue their studies.
Established an organization to eliminate the habits of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Established an institution to prevent and investigate bribery and corruption in public service.

Another example to prove Thero’s capabilities as a multifaceted individual is his unique ability to write songs. He won a number of international awards for his creativity.

This is a brief profile that does not justify and give our living legend most Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thero his due place and recognition for his contributions toward the political, economical, social and technological advancements in the country, but we believe that small is beautiful and word of mouth is very powerful.