The Late Ven. Dharmakirti Sri
Kamburupitiye Gunaratana Maha
Born in Sri Lanka on 5th April, 1891, the Late Ven. Dharmakirti Sri Kamburupitiye Gunaratana Maha
Nayaka Thero of Malaya and Singapore and Chief Priest of the Mahindarama Buddhist (Sri Lanka) Temple. 2, Jalan Kampar, Penang, was the youngest son of the Chief Headman of Kamburupitiye. He retired into Holy life as a novice monk at the early age of nine. He came to Penang as a voluntary worker on 26th July, 1926 and had worked for Buddhist welfare since then. He was an authority on the Buddha-Dhamma, a Pali and Sanskrit scholar, and had published numerous books and brochures on Buddhism, some of which had been printed for the third and fourth times. All his books were for free distribution, the costs of printing, etc., being donate by anonymous donors.
The Maha Thero had been very popular not only in Penang but also throughout Malaya and Singapore and had been giving public lectures and preachings.
He was the religious adviser to the Wesak Holiday Committee, the Wesak Celebration Committee, the Penang Buddhist Association, the Mahindarama Temple Buddhist Association, the Mahindarama Sunday Pali School, the Nanodaya Buddhist Association, the Penang Juvenile Buddhist Welfare Center and the Penang Buddhist Youth Center of which he was the patron and founder.
The weekly Sunday preaching at the Penang Buddhist Association and at the Mahidarama Buddhist (Sri Lanka) Temple since he set foot on Penang proved very popular. His simple and humble but most dignified manner impressed all who had the honour and the good fortune to meet him. He was held in high esteem and admiration by all Buddhists and non-buddhist. Even the small children brought their hands together in salutation saying "Phor Tharn" whenever they happened to be in his presence. His noble qualities and charming personality won him many close friends and admirers not only among Buddhists but also people of other faiths.
The welfare of the poor and the needy was always uppermost in his mind. His constant request to the devotees was to help the poor and the needy. His happiest moments were when he was doing some service to the poor. Once, he requested the devotees to donate the cloth which was meant for his robe that he received once a year during the "Kathina" to the poor remarking that the robes he had would last for one more year.
The devotees were so moved by his sacrifice, love and compassion that they combined their efforts and bought cloth and materials, made into suits of clothings and made presentations of two suits of clothing and made presentations of two suits to each of the inmates of the entire Jubilee Home at Sungei Dua, Penang. Another noble gesture of his was when devotees brought gifts and present for him, he made distributions of these to he poor who are in dire need of assistance.
In 1933 and 1934, he went on pilgrimages tot he sacred places in India, and had made a tour of Malaya as a goodwill mission in 1933, visiting every important town in Malaya from Kota Bharu to Singapore.
On 7th April, 1955 he was conferred the high ecclesiastical title of chief High Priest for Malaya and Singapore. He has also given the Honorary title of "Dharmakirti Sri" at an August ceremony conducted at the ancient and historic Chapter House at Malwatta, Kandy (Sri Lanka).
Celebrations to commemorate the promotion and the titles conferred on the Maha Thero were held on Full Moon Day, Sunday, 30th October, 1955 with an elaborate program which included Buddha-Puja, Sangha-Dana, Feeding of the Poor, Presentation of Address, Preaching of the Buddha-Dhamma and Chanting of the Parittas.
He passed away peacefully at 2.00 a.m. on Sunday, 19th January, 1964 at the ripe age of 73. The funeral, attended by over 3,00 people of all walks of life, took place at 2.00 p.m. on Wednesday, 22nd January, 1964 and was cremated at the Batu Gantong Crematorium, Penang.