Research on Ven. Ananda Metteyya’s
Continued from 05-02-2010
E. J. Harris states “Ananda Metteyya Thera came to
England intending to stay on permanently and that
failure sent him back to Burma. Most probably, his visit
was intended to begin a process that would eventually
produce an indigenous Monastic Sangha in the West”. A
few days after the interview of the Daily Telegraph
reporter, he left England not because his mission
failed, but on the advice of his doctors. Not only on
the few occasions he came to England, and several times
he went to Sri Lanka, but also delivered sermons under
various themes. It is said he preferred the climate in
At a later date the indigenous Theravada monasteries
namely Chithurst and Amarawathi were started and Ananda
Metteyya Thera’s dream was fulfilled.
In later years between 1912 and 1913 Bhikkhu Ananda
Meeteyya became critically ill. “With gallstone trouble
superimposed on his chronic asthma”. ‘He was operated on
twice’ Cassius Pereira wrote, and on the urgent advice
of his doctors, he reluctantly decided to leave the
Order. He left robes in May 1914. As a layman he came to
London on his way to California, where his only sister
On the 12, September of the same year, Bennett’s
brother-in-law and sister came to take him to America.
“A passage from Liverpool was booked but the ship’s
doctor refused Bennett permission to board because he
feared the American authorities would deny him a landing
permit on health grounds”. His sister and her eight year
daughter were forced to enter the deck as the ship was
casting off without him. Bennett, now a lay person, “was
left to the mercy of British well-wishers”. Bennett
lived in Liverpool till the end of 1916.
His short life span had been dedicated for the
propagation of Buddhism. He frequently wrote for The
Buddhist Review, and took every effort to help the
Buddhist movement, though he was severely sick. An
Outline of Buddhism or Religion of Burma 1910 was
published during his life time. The Wisdom of Aryas was
his last book which was launched in 1923. Tirelessly and
ignoring his own physical problems, he gave lectures and
wrote about the teachings of the Buddha whenever needed.
In 1916 The World War interrupted. Bennett faced
terrible difficulties including a shortage of medicine
and food. But he bore difficulties courageously. As the
reports say, his health gradually deteriorated up to the
critical level. Being in such pain and difficulties he
had given lectures on Buddhism.
His friends took him to a new house in Clapham Junction
area. With the help of H.P. Fernando & Co., of Colombo,
he published ‘The Buddhist Review’ journal in January
1917. It shows his dedication and determination. Bennett
edited the 1918-1920 volumes too. But he apologised
about his physical inability in the 1921 issue.
On 09 March 1923 Bennett died. Among the friends those
who were present when he died, was Lt. Col. Francis John
Payne. He organised the Buddhist funeral service. The
body lay at 90, Eccles Road, Clapham Junction. According
to the cemetery records Francis John Payne had purchased
three grave plots numbering 1588, 1589 and 1590. The
body was buried in block number 1588 on 14 March 1923.
The block numbers 1589 and 1590 were acquired by Francis
John Payne on the 24 March 1924. The deeds were received
by him on the 07 June 1937.
Addressing the gathering of the tenth death anniversary
meeting J.F. Payne disclosed his motivation thus, “I was
able to buy the grave together with two other plots, so
I am the freeholder of the Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya’s
When there comes forward a genuine authority, I will
hand over the title to it. It forms a plot of fifteen
square feet, and on these three plots you could erect a
little stupa or monument, to him who brought Buddhism
into this country.”
Many Englishmen became Buddhist monks due to the example
set by Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya. There are many Buddhist
temples in the UK now. Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya’s effort
to propagate Buddhism to the Western world was difficult
at that time. But the challenge was accepted. Listening
to his sermons many of the educated westerners were
convinced to enter the Order of Sangha.
Dr. W. Arthur de Silva and Mrs. Silva, H. Don Carolis,
John Ellesen Richard Pereira, gave every possible help
to him. Sir D.B. Jayatillake, Dr. C.A. Hewavitarane,
Anagarika Dharmapala, Dr. Cassius Pereira, Roy de Mel,
A.P. de Zoyza, Dayananda Hewavitarana and Dr. S.A.
Wickremasinghe were some of the Sri Lankans who had
known Ven. Ananda Metteyya. Francis John Payne on the
occasion of the tenth death anniversary generously
declared that “The Hewavitarana family has done great
things for the resuscitation of Buddhism”.
The personal qualities of Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya have
been mentioned by reporters and other associates. For
instance, Clifford Bax reveals that Ananda Metteyya as a
Buddhist, was an alert and powerful personality; and as
‘a poor man, dwelling unknown in London, he was a sick
creature prematurely old”. As he was putting on his
overcoat, I heard Meena Gunn saying, ‘Why it is riddled
with months’, and Bennett responding, ‘They are such
pretty little things’ and Meena continuing, ‘Some day we
must get you a new one: this coat is too full of holes’,
and Bennett answered, shyly with a pun, ‘But, you see, I
am supposed to be a holy man’.
Miss Louise Balls, (the sister of the founding Hon.
Secretary of the original Buddhist Society, Dr. Ernest
R. Rost) has written a touching account on his last few
days of life. “Though suffering terrible pain, he was
still compassionately aware of a singing beggar in the
road, and sent his landlady out with money within a few
hours of his death”.
Even at the death bed Ananda Metteyya had done
everything to encourage others in the activities of the
Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland. The
President Christmas Humphreys and Dr. Cassias Pereira
have revealed that Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya has done a
tremendous service to the propagation of Buddhism in the
We cannot undermine the great service rendered for the
propagation of Buddhism by Anagarika Dharmapala. He came
to London, in 1925, on his way to the USA. In 1926 he
came again to London and bought a property at 86 Medley
Road, Ealing at Middlesex for a temple. But it did not
In 1928, he bought another property at 41, Gloucester
Road, Regent’s Park. Ven. Hegoda Nandasara, Ven.
Dehigaspe Pannasara and Paravahera Vagiranana came there
as resident monks with Brahmacari Devapriya Walisinghe.
Later in 1930 Ven. Nandasara and Ven. Pannasara returned
to Sri Lanka.
In 1932 two Indian monks namely Ven. Rahula
Sanskrityayana and Ven. Ananda Kausalyayana arrived and
stayed there. Ven. Rambukwelle Siddhartha was the
incumbent during 1933 to 1937. Ven. Dehigaspe Pannasara
became the last Viharadhipathi during 1938 to 1940,
before the temple officially closed. The property, which
Anagarika Dharmapala had purchased, was sold and the
money deposited in the Mahabodhi Society’s account.
Christmas Humphreys describes this period in this way.
“As mentioned elsewhere, the Vihara closed in 1940 and
did not open until 1954. During those years the most
hopeful and interesting project was the idea of a
Buddhist Vihara Society, whose main target was the
creation of a Vihara and ostensibly a Theravadin Sangha.
This idea was furthered by five Sinhalese
philanthropists headed by Sir Cyril de Zoysa. After the
formation of a trust to re-establish the Vihara, the
above mentioned managed to buy a lease on the property
at 10, Ovington Gardens, S.W. 3, which forthwith was
opened on Vesak Day, 1954”.
In 1954, Ven. Narada Maha Thera became the first
incumbent of the newly formed London Buddhist Vihara.
Between 1955 and 1956 Ven. Mirisse Gunasiri Maha Thera
became the successor. In 1957 Ven. Prof. Hammalawa
Saddhatissa Maha Thera was brought to the incumbency.
The London Buddhist Vihara was permanently established.
It was shifted to No. 5 Heathfield Gardens in 1964. The
property purchased at Barrow Gate during the tenure of
Ven. Prof. Hammalawa Saddhatissa was sold and the new
place at Dharmapala Building, The Avenue, Chiswick, W4
1UD, was acquired during the tenure of Ven. Dr. Medagama
Vajiragnana. (21 May 1994) After his demise Ven. Bogoda
Seelawimala succeeded him, in 2007.
To conclude this article I would recollect the words of
E.J. Harris, Christmas Humphreys and J.F. McKechnie
(former Bhikkhu Silacara).
“Unmarked grave... Was an injustice to a person who, in
his writing, communicated the message of Buddha with
poetic sensitivity and a scientific directness which
still speaks to us today?” “Flowers and incense were
placed on the grave by members of the large gathering
assembled, and so there passed from human sight a man
whom history may some time honour for bringing to
England as a living faith the message of the
“We do well to pay homage to the memory of such a great
man...... Such a man is well worthy of the homage of
Buddhists everywhere, here and now, and always.” It is
up to us now to erect a fitting tomb-stone in the memory
of Ven. Ananda Metteyya, who established permanently the
Order of Buddhist Sangha in this country.
The impact of Ananda Metteyya to the propagation of
Buddhism can be described as follows.
His example and lecturers led Westerners to come to the
Buddhist Order of Sangha. Prominent among them was Ven.
Nyanathiloke. He made several German translations of
Visuddhimagga and Abhidhamma Pitaka. His Buddhist
Dictionary and the ‘Path to Deliverance’ became popular
among western readers. Ven. Nyanathiloke contributed
articles and reviews regularly to the journals of the
Buddhist Society in Leipzig (Germany) which was started
by Dr, Seidenstuecker in 1903.
Ven. Ananda Metteyya bore difficulties in the British
soil as the pioneer monk in saffron robes. So he has
paved the way for other Buddhist monks to continue the