Updated 28th March 2020
BGKT’s Founder Spiritual Advisors Ven B Ananda Maitreya Ven Henepola Gunaratana
The Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) (BGKT) is fortunate to have as its founder Spiritual Advisors Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana.
BGKT was founded in September 1991. Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru DLitt DLitt one of the world’s most senior Theravada Buddhist Bhikkhus (Monks) and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera (an internationally respected meditation master and author who has been resident in the USA for many years) agreed to become BGKT’s spiritual advisors.
Jacquetta Gomes’s memories of Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana are included in “Recalling TCH, the Society and Summer Schools Past: Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili (Jacquetta Gomes) remembers speakers at the Buddhist Society’s Summer Schools”, The Middle Way: Journal of The Buddhist Society [London], 89(4) (February 2015) pages 289-296. https://thebuddhistsociety.org/MW.90.Anniversary.pdf
Venerable Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita Abhidhaja Maharatthaguru DLitt DLitt (24th August 1896 – 18th July 1998)
Venerable Ananda Maitreya was ordained as a novice Bhikkhu [Monk] on 2nd March 1911 in Sri Lanka. His upasampada (higher ordination) was conducted on 14th July 1916. He was Mahanayaka (Head) of the Amarapura Nikaya of the Sangha in Sri Lanka and had been a participant at the historic sixth Sangayama [Buddhist Council], held in Burma in 1954-56. That Council was held to coincide with Buddha Jayanthi, the 2500th anniversary of the passing away of the Buddha. Members of the Sangha from the five Theravada Buddhist countries of South-East Asia [Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia] attended this Council. The purpose of these Councils is to rehearse (Sangayama means Rehearsal) and compare their respective copies of the Tipitaka [Pali Canon], the teachings of the Buddha, in order to ensure that purity and accuracy has been maintained over the years. The previous five Councils had all been held under royal patronage in India and Sri Lanka. An important Council was convened in the 3rd century BC by Emperor Asoka of India after his conversion to Buddhism, when he found that wrong teachings were being taught and practised by the Sangha. That Council saw the expulsion of many unsuitable monks.
The Burmese government wished the Sixth Council to produce an authorized version of the Tipitaka [Pali Canon]. Venerable Ananda Maitreya was the Sri Lankan representative on the final editing committee. He had also served as chairman of the Council for a few weeks during its third session in 1956. The Burmese government subsequently conferred upon him the honorific title of Agga Mahapandita [Chief Great Scholar]. After his 100th birthday he was invited to Burma where he received their highest religious title, Abhidhaja Maharatthagura (His Eminence, the Great Spiritual Teacher of the Nation).
Venerable Ananda Maitreya frequently stayed at the London Buddhist Vihara. He was popular with everyone, and valued for his long and deep experience of being a member of the Sangha. Most of the questions he was asked he answered in relation to his many years of being a Bhikkhu.
The 87-year-old Venerable Ananda Maitreya and Anagarika Munindra were guest speakers at the Buddhist Society Summer School in 1982. Despite his great age Venerable Ananda Maitreya stood to give a talk on “The Three-Factored Path”. This talk appeared in the February 1983 issue of The Middle Way: Journal of The Buddhist Society [London]. When Jacquetta Gomes attended the 1982 Buddhist Society Summer School, she already knew Venerable Ananda Maitreya from the London Buddhist Vihara. At the Summer School she went to his room to take something he needed, and waited outside the open door while he was talking to Venerable Sumedho and Venerable Amaro on the subject of the monastic life. From where she was standing, she could overhear the conversation, and it was interesting to hear Venerable Amaro asking the elderly Venerable Ananda Maitreya questions based on the latter’s decades-long experience of being a Bhikkhu [Monk], a Buddhist Elder and leader. Venerable Ananda Maitreya eventually asked her to come in and present the required item.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya was already well known to the Forest Sangha at Cittaviveka Chithurst Monastery. In 1981 he stayed at Chithurst and convened the assembly which authorized Venerable Sumedho to be a Preceptor and conduct Bhikkhu Ordinations. For this purpose, Venerable Ananda Maitreya conducted the ceremony to establish a Sima (bounded area of consecrated ground) for which he had the necessary qualifications according to the Vinaya rules. Ordinations have to be conducted on a Sima. The Cittaviveka Sangha named the new Sima the ‘Ananda Maitreya Sima’.
Venerable Ananda Maitreya authorised Jacquetta Gomes Upasika Jayasili to teach in 1983. He gave a talk at her wedding in 1986, and performed the wedding blessings. That talk appeared in his book, Buddhism – Lectures and Essays, under the title ‘A talk given at Chiswick Buddhist Vihara at an English Buddhist girl’s wedding’. He conducted the ceremony in which she was given the Bodhicari Precepts in 1994. She will always remember him with gratitude for his inspiration and indefatigable efforts to develop Theravada Buddhism in the West.
For more information about Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya see the article by Bhikkhu Bodhi at:
His publications include:
The Dhammapada: The Path of Truth. Translated by Venerable Dr. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera. Berkeley, California (USA): Parallax Press, 1995. (ISBN 0-938077-87-2)
Buddhism: Lectures and Essays. Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt. Sri Lanka, Colombo, Samayawardhana, 1993. (ISBN 955-570-038-9) (Chapter 7 Family Life (A talk given at an English Buddhist girl’s wedding…) is the talk given by Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya at the wedding blessing of Titus and Jacquetta Gomes at the London Buddhist Vihara.)
Venerable Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera (7th December 1927-)
BGKT is very grateful to Venerable Henepola Gunaratana for his inspiring example and visits to our group.
He gave Upasika Canda her Buddhist name and the Panca Sila (Five Precepts) at a retreat in for BGKT and Keswick Buddhist Group (Theravada) in Cumbria in 1995.
Venerable Henepola Gunaratana was born in Sri Lanka in 1927. He became a Novice Monk at the age of 12 and received full ordination in 1947 at the age of 20. He moved to the USA in 1968. He is Head of the Bhavana Society (which he co-founded in 1985) in West Virginia USA. In 1996 he was awarded the title Chief Sangha Nayaka (Head Theravada Bhikkhu [Buddhist Monk]) of North America. He has led meditation retreats, and taught Buddhism in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia. He is an internationally respected meditation master and author.
Further information about Venerable Henepola Gunaratana and Buddhist resources are available on the Bhavana Society website https://bhavanasociety.org
For more information about Venerable Henepola Gunaratana see
His biography is Journey to Mindfulness: The Autobiography of Bhante G. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2003. (ISBN 0-86171-347-8)
Venerable Henepola Gunaratana’s publications are listed on The Bhavana Society’s website
His best known books are the In Plain English series published by Wisdom Books
The Eight Lifetime Precepts (an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila Eight Precepts with Right Livelihood as the Eighth )
Upasika Panna a member of BGKT received her name from him when she took the Eight Lifetime Precepts (an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila), at Gaia House in England in 2007.
The Bhavana Society website has a page on The Eight Lifetime Precepts:
The Eight Lifetime Precepts (an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila) are explained in Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Path of the Buddha. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2001. (ISBN 0-86171-176-9), “Higher precepts for Lay People” pages 123-126.
Chanting of The Eight Lifetime Precepts (an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila) is explained in Bhavana Vandana: Bhavana Devotions, Compiled by Dr Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thera. Published by The Bhavana Society, High View, West Virginia USA. (Second edition, 2001)).