Ananda where Buddhist Youth Blossoms
Colonial rulers, Christian Missionaries and their local converters were conspiring to suppress Buddhism in Sri Lanka and to curb the aspirations of Sinhala Buddhists. Christian schools educated the youth in their own style. Education of Sinhala Buddhists was available in the temple and Sinhala schools. Such schools provided limited education in limited subjects up to a limited standard in Sinhala medium.
The Christian children had been for a considerable time receiving education in the English medium in English schools. These Children were at an advantage in obtaining employment in the Public Sector as well as in the Private Sector. It was a time when the people in Colombo and its environs felt ashamed to call themselves Buddhists. One had to be educated in English to get a good job. One had to be able to speak English to be recognized as somebody.
Unfortunately for Sinhala Buddhists there were no English medium schools to attend since such schools were managed by Missionaries. The Buddhist parents were afraid to send them to such schools lest their children be converted. Even the children who were admitted found themselves strangers in a strange environment.
It was during such a time in 1886 that the first Buddhist school names Ananda Vidyalaya was incepted in Pettah. Colonel Henry Steel Olcott with a few Sinhala Buddhist supporters were responsible for founding Ananda Vidyalaya. Only a few boys attended the school then. But the numbers began to increase rapidly. Buddhist parents in and around Colombo began to send their children to Ananda. Later the school came to be called Ananda College.
Ananda College was fortunate from her inception in having Principals like C. W. Leadbeater, A. E. Bultjens and D. B. Jayathilake and dedicated teachers. This good fortune continued for a very long time. The College was managed by the Buddhist Theosophical Society. The managers too happened to be erudite noble men.
Of course, Ananda had to complete with long established Mission schools in Colombo and the College Authorities encountered with innumerable problems. Moreover, Anandians on leaving school were discriminated against in every sphere of academic, social and sports activities. Anandians were not welcome in employment circles. Like all pioneers in all ventures Anandians had to suffer in venturing into the field of English education. Like pioneers they faced outside forces of arrogance, segregations and humiliation. But they possessed one supreme virtue and that the moral strength and mental framework derived through Buddhist Education.
Pupils of Ananda were given an education in a new atmosphere with a religious and moral foundation to develop their young minds to face the problems of life with tolerance and equanimity. They were imbued with moral values and religious observances. Panche Seela was administered at the morning assembly. At the end of the day’s work the boys sang verses in praise of the Buddha at the assembly or in the class rooms.
After shifting to the new premises at Maradana, Ananda began to develop quickly. Funds were raised from Buddhist Public. New buildings were erected. Staff was increased by employing new teachers. Lost time had to be made up everyone worked with a purpose.
The curriculum included all the standard subjects taught at other English Schools. In addition Buddhism and Sinhala literature were taught with special attention. These included Subhasitaya, Lowedasangarava, Guttila Kavyaya, Jataka stories, the life of the Buddha and essentials of Buddhism couched in the vers “Sabba papassa akaranam kusalassa upasampada: schitta pariyodapanam etam Buddhanu Sasanam” . As the boys advanced they were thought the truth of the lines “Labho alabho ayaso yaso ca- ninda pasamsa sukham ca dukkham”. Besides these teachings of Lord Buddha the boys were inspired with the conviction that Dhamma the doctrine protects those who live in accordance with the Dhamma (“Dhammo have rakkhati Dhamma chari”).
The boys were also encouraged to participate in all sports activities popular at the time. These included cricket, boxing, athletics and football. Competition was needed for improvement. Practice alone was insufficient. The Christian Schools even showed a reluctance to provide such opportunities. Even the State Schools acted likewise. However, with the limited facilities available the boys entered the arena of sports and competed successfully in due course.
In this regards too, credit must go to the teachers who worked not as mere paid workers but as devoted volunteers dedicated to instill in the minds of their wards the heights virtues of healthy competition. The boys carried this message of playing the game both at work and play. In spite of the biased attitudes of certain envious authorities the boys remained loyal to their School and true to their faith. So disciplined were the Anandians and true to themselves that they conducted themselves honorably and wisely as citizens of Mother Lanka.
Very soon Ananda appealed to Sinhala Buddhist parents especially from the south. Other Buddhist English Schools were started by the Buddhist Theosophical Society throughout the Island. These institutions followed Ananda as their model. Time being Ananda was growing fast. The Principal in collaboration with the teachers sent out to the world a band of disciplined youth distinguished not as copies of the Occident but as models of the Orient.
By early twentieth century many Sinhala Buddhist boys educated at Ananda began to compete with others for employment under Government and Private Organizations. The majority returned to their respective rural areas to be self-employed as planters or businessmen.
1918 saw the development of Ananda being accelerated. There came to Ananda a distinguished Sinhala Buddhist Graduate who acted as a catalyst that helped to change Ananda into something new and strange. He was none other than P. de S. Kularatne, a young man just returned from England. Mr. Kularatne took charge of studies and sports. He persuaded some of the experienced teachers from outside to join the staff. Science and arts subjects were equally well taught. Some of the brightest boys were attracted to Ananda due to the excellent staff. Scholarships were awarded to bright students as well as poor boys. Sinhala Buddhist parents were encouraged to send their children to Ananda.
Anandians of the first generation had no school ties to “pull”, no heads of departments to support them, no good Samaritans to intervene, no mediators to plead for them and no politicians to present their grievances. They had to seek and find for themselves. If they failed they had to grin and bear. But they had been taught to be self-reliant “attahi attano natho” and to be their own matters. Moreover, they had been disciplined to be satisfied with what they received and to endeavor for greater success without delay “appamadena sampadetha”.
By now Ananda had attained full maturity and its achievements far surpassed those of older English Schools. During this period of excellence Ananda secured first place at the Cambridge Senior Examination, had own senior appointments, scholarships and also excelled in Athletics, Cadetting and Cricket. There was Ananda, a premier Buddhist College, where Sinhala youths blossomed and thereafter the youths of Ananda continued to blossom and still blossom and still blossom today.
Now the time has come for all Anandians, both past and present and all Sinhala Buddhists to feel proud of Ananda and salute Ananda College on reaching the much coveted century in years.
Religion and education always go hand in hand. Since the ancient times, temple was the center of the society in Sri Lanka. Buddhism and Buddhist education were intermingled to build up a better society in our country and history gives authentication to this. Consequently, a human society with virtuous qualities came into be in this country.
Due to numerous foreign invasions, Buddhist education inclined to deteriorate dramatically for centuries. People were forced to embrace other religions. When it is 19th century, people were tempted to obtain Portuguese and Dutch names instead of their native names. Sinhalese as a nation were condemned by the foreign rulers and their administrators. Many a heroes stood against this and sacrificed their lives for the sake of their motherland.
When it is the middle of the 19th century certain patriotic noble personalities were making a mammoth attempt to revive Buddhist education in our motherland. Among them two erudite sages namely the Most Ven: Hikkaduwwe Sri Sumangala Thero and Migettuwatte Sri Gunananda Thero initiated the venture of saving the noble doctrine of Lord Buddha and Buddhist education. As a result of great debates viz “Panadurawadaya” held from 26 to 28th August in 1873, there was an immense progress in Buddhist education and culture. Consequently, Panadurawadaya, the series of debates on Buddhism against mythologies prevailed in the contemporary society, had publicity internationally. Having heard about the great debates, Col. Henry Steel Olcott, a theosophist from America landed the Sri Lankan shores with the intension of seeking the real philosophy and the truth of Buddhism, with the accompaniment of Madam Helena Blavatsky. They assisted the society for the revival of Buddhist education in Sri Lanka and pioneered in establishing Buddhist educational institutions in the island in which only two Buddhist institutions were available whereas 744 missionary schools subsisted. Col. Henry Steel Olcott along with patriotic Buddhist priests initiated “Sinhala Buddhist Fund” in order to rehabilitate Buddhist education in Sri Lanka.
It was 23rd of October 1886, when Buddhist Theosophical Society discussed and arrived at a conclusion of establishing a Buddhist English School in Sri Lanka, as a result of the decision made, the first Buddhist English Educational Institution was established in the hall of the Buddhist Theosophical Society at No.54, Maliban Street,Pettha in November 1886.
Mr. C. W. Leadbeater was privileged to be the first Principal of Ananda College with 37 students in 1886. Later in 1888 the number became 160 and the premises were moved to Maradana in 1885 to be Ananda College at present.
The land plot that Ananda College was established is a blessed land on which several historical events had taken place. It was the premises of Ananda that set a blessed location for the main organizing hub of the struggle for independence in the first half of the 20th century. Most of the religious issues were discussed in this consecrated ground. It is a honor to state that Buddhist flag designed under the guidance of the Most Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero and Col. Henry Steel Olcott. This is a historical premises where globally renowned personalities namely Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisinghe Harischandra, Mahathma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, the founder of the educational system based of aesthetic education.
Ananda College was pioneered by world renowned personalities as Principals. M. U. Moore, as a principal had a philosophical aspect of directing children to adapt their life through Buddhist philosophy and insight.
Ananda College Colombo, fondly called Mother Ananda has been serving the nation unceasingly for 126 years nurturing and inculcating scholars to be numerous professionals in different strata of life bringing glory to their alma mater.
Environment of Ananda is serene and tranquil. Anandians are fortified with the Moto of Ananda “Appa Mado Amatha Padam: that means “Diligence leads to perfection”.
Ananda College incepted as a result of Buddhist Renaissance taken place in the 19th century stands still as a light house to the nation nurturing countless erudite scholars, professionals, patriotic heroes and well-disciplined citizens who serve for the name of the Motherland Sri Lanka.