By Ven.W. Samita
Birmingham Buddhist Maha Vihara, UK
O.B.E. (ORDER OF BRITISH EMPIRE) has been conferred to Ven. Dr.Witharandeniye Kassapa by Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth ll for his untiring relief work for the world community during last two and half decades.
The chief incumbent of the Birmingham Buddhist Maha Vihara, the President of the Midlands International Buddhist association in the U.K., and the President of the International Buddhist Relief Organisation (I.B.R.O.) attached to the United Nations, Ven.Dr.Witharandeniye Kassapa is being honourably felicitated with the O.B.E. (ORDER OF BRITISH EMPIRE) by her Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth -ll
He has been nominated to receive Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ruhuna-Sri Lanka by its Senate and by the Supreme Sangha Council of Rohana in appreciation of his services rendered towards community in the world in 2003. The University of Ruhuna, honourably felicitated only five Buddhist monks around the world. This is the first time a Buddhist monk from United Kingdom has been honoured with double doctorates from two recognised and established institutions.
He was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1968 at the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo under the preceptor, the Most Ven. Deundara Wachchissara Nayaka Thera and the Most Ven.Galaboda Gnanissara Nayake thera. Ven. Kassapa received his training as a novice monk at the Sri Jinaratana Bhikkhu Training Centre, at Gangaramaya, Colombo from 1968. After the completion of his monastic studies he enrolled for junior, senior and secondary education whereupon he completed the Pirivena education in 1977. He proceeded to advance his education and therefore entered the University of Sri Lanka, Kelaniya Campus, where he studied Sinhala, Pali and Buddhist Civilisation. He graduated from the University in 1981. It merits mention that the authority of the Sri Jinaratana Bhikkhu Training College and the University College appointed him as one of the teachers in 1980 while he was still an undergraduate at the university. He remained on the staff after graduation until 1983 when he was selected to teach at Sudharmarama University Pirivena in Avissawella for a short period.
He started his humanitarian services to humanity as well as animals when he was working for the “World Fellowship of Buddhists” based in Bangkok, Thailand in 1983. He was sent to Tanzania, East Africa by the World Fellowship of Buddhists as the incumbent of the Dar Es Salaam Buddhist temple. While he was residing in Tanzania, he travelled many parts of Africa including Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa on Buddhist welfare and Cultural missions. In 1986, he was invited by the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Buddhist Association in Birmingham, United Kingdom to teach Buddhism and lay the foundation for Buddhist cultural and social activities amongst the Ambedkarite Indian Buddhist Community. In 1987, he founded the East Midlands Buddhist Association known as Leicester Buddhist Vihara, where he is very happy to see its development what he started.
In 1988, the Chief Sangha Nayake of Mongolia, the Most Ven.Hambo lama invited Ven.Kassapa, through the former government of Soviet Union to set up the “Soviet Anglo Friendship Organisation” (SAFO), where there is a branch of the I.B.R.O. is been set up in Byelorussia at present. In 1989, Ven.Kassapa pioneered a News paper named “The Wisdom” which was circulated amongst Buddhist and non-Buddhists in the United Kingdom free of charge.
In 1992, he founded the International Buddhist Relief Organisation (I.B.R.O.) which was recognised by the United Nations. Presently I.B.R.O. has branches in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Tanzania, Italy, Switzerland, India, Germany, United States, Brazil, Zambia, Malawi, France and Byelorussia.
In 1986, IBRO drilled water wells for the villages of Malawi. In the same year a project was initiated to treat women who have been infected with HIV. Another project was launched to distribute on hundred thousand spectacles to most needed people in Sri Lanka and regularly a financial grants been organised for the children whom are the poorest of the poor. Wheel chairs and crutches are been provided for the needy people.
He initiated to support and established various projects in Weligama, Southern Sri Lanka after the Boxing Day tsunami disaster in Indian Ocean in 2003. At present over 250 small business have been re-established and doing well with the support of financial support of the I.B.R.O. while over 500 students from primary, secondary and university have been receiving financial support for their education. The nursery is running well where there are over 100 children studying for their primary education.
Beside these services I.B.R.O. is ever ready to assist any natural disasters any where in the world. It has been financially contributing recent natural disasters in Pakistan, Bangladesh and United Kingdom flooding areas as well. With its financial capabilities I.B.R.O. is well equipped to address in certain level.
In 1996 Ven.Kassapa inaugurated the first ever Buddhist temple by the name of Sri Lankaramaya in Milan-Italy, where he is patron of the society. Well before 2002 there was not a single Buddhist temple in Italy even though there have been over 200 hundred thousand expatriates working in this particular country. In the event of death or any other important event Ven.Kassapa had to travel regularly to Italy. Taking this in to consideration he decided to establish first ever Buddhist temple in the industrial city of Milan.
In 2002, He inaugurated the Midlands Buddhist Community Association which is promoting of Buddhist cultural activities.
Academically he has been achieved to receive a degree on Buddhism from the University of Sri Lanka while he has completed his Masters in Community involvement from the University of Birmingham, in United Kingdom, as well as oriental studies from Pracheena Society of Sri Lanka.
Considering all these services the Queen accepted Ven.Kassapa as one of the outstanding figures in the British society who is bring honour to United Kingdom.
His achievements and activities can be seen visiting www.buddhist-mahavihara.com or www.ibro.co.uk