Arizona International Buddhist Meditation Center
Bhante Ananda, Chief Monk
Bhante Ananda Siyabalagoda is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Gangaramaya Temple in Sri Lanka. Bhante has over 30 years practicing and training as a Buddhist counselor, teacher, social worker and community member in Malaysia, Singapore, the UK and the USA. He studied at the State University of New York majoring in Religious Studies and is well used to working within varied Eastern and Western cultures. Bhante Ananda's dedication to service for the community was instilled in him by his teacher the renowned Venerable Galboda Siri Gnanissara Nayaka Thero. He has had close involvement in inter-faith activities working as a chaplain at the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He is an experienced meditation teacher and has conducted classes for patients, their families and hospital employees. He has lived in the States for more than 25 years and is familiar with the problems faced by Americans. Although we are Buddhist monks, we plan our community center to be non-sectarian, emphasizing loving kindness, compassion and caring.
Venerable Galboda Siri Gnanissara Nayaka Thero
Bhante Ananda's teacher is Venerable Galboda Siri Gnanissara Nayaka Thero, Head of Gangaramaya Temple in Sri Lanka. Some background on Ven. Gnanissara will help you realize where Bhante Ananda gets his boundless enthusiasm and total dedication to serving the community.
Ven. Galboda Siri Gnanissara was born on the 13th of December 1943. His parents were Galboda Kankanamge Dona Juwanis and Amarawickrama Liyanage Selenahamy.
After completing his primay education, he was brought to Gangaramaya by Ven. Galboda Dewananda and handed over to to Ven. Dewundara Vacissara Thero. On that occasion, Ven. Dewananda predicted. "This boy was born under Sinha Lagna (Planetaria sign of Leo) and will be like a lion in the future."
On the 8th of November 1954 he was ordained as Galboda Gnanissara. Dewundara Ratanajothi was also one of his teachers. His lay sponsor was Dr. D.E. Wijewardane. He said "If you do well, Podi Hamuduruwo, (small monk) I'll send you even to England for your studies". He made a promise on that day. On the same day he was established the Sri Gnaneshwara Pirivena at Gangaramaya with a few novices. Ven. Galboda Gnanissara studied the Dhamma and other essential subjects at this Pirivena. On the 21st of June 1967 he graduated from the University of Vidyodaya. (Jayawardhanapura).
During this time Ven. Dewundara Vacissara Thero began to suffer vision problems. As a result Podi Hamuduruwo (Ven. Gnanissara) had to give up further studies to carry on the various projects - both religious and national - that his teacher had started. Due to his forunate birth (good Karma) wisdom, and indefatigable energy, whatever he set his mind on, became a success. Such vast and varied projects have received praise and appreciation from the Buddhist clergy and the laymen alike.
The international recognition of Gangaramaya Temple, is due mainly to the efforts of Podi Hamuduruwo. He was very instrumental in counteracting the anti-Buddhist forces and strengthening the power of the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka in general and in Colombo especially.
Ven. Gnanissara has performed an immense service to the under-privileged youths and traditional artists. Projects include the Sri Jinaratana Vocational Training Centre - a professional training institute with branches in various parts of Sri Lanka. Thousands of unemployed are able gain employable skills through the school. The English Academy provides English education for those who would have had no access to the English language. Sumangala Dhamma School and the pre-school on the little island named Singithi Uyana, make their valuable contributions towards the education of children. Other projects include the beautifully artistic Vihara premises. The Vihara Mandira, Atavisi Buddha Pooja Mandira, Bodhimandapa, the preaching hall and the Simamalaka are all works of art and inspire saddha in the devotees. Today Beira Lake with its serene and beautiful environs is a tourist attraction.
Ven. Gnanissara has revived and developed the services initiated by his predecessors with the willing support of the various committees of Gangaramaya, as well as that of many highly esteemed individuals. These include the Governor General William Gopallewa, Presidents J.R. Jayewardene and (R. Premadasa the first woman Prime Minister), Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranayake and her family and the Ratwatte family. Ven. Gnanissara has the inherent ability to attract goodwill and support. This quality has enabled him to turn his selfless visions into reality.
Ven. Gnanissara the ever energetic Bhikkhu became the Head of Gangaramaya at quite a young age. The prediction of Ven. Devananda, when he handed over the young lad (who later was to be Podi Hamuduruwo) the Ven. Vacissara, has to be judged in the light of what Podi Hamuduruwo has achieved so successfully.