Spiritual Advisors Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana

Updated 6th May 2011

The Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) is fortunate to have as its Spiritual Advisors Venerable Dr Balangoda Ananda Maitreya and Venerable Henepola Gunaratana.

In 1991 when plans were made to start BGKT with the first meeting in January 1992, 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.

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 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. 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. 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, 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 best known books are:

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-)

For a photograph of Venerable Henepola Gunaratana see the Eight Lifetime Precepts page of this website.

We are all very grateful to Venerable Henepola Gunaratana for his inspiring example and visits to our group. Upasika Panna of our group 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. He also gave Upasika Canda her Buddhist name and the Panca Sila (Five Precepts) at a retreat in Cumbria in 1995.

He was born in Sri Lanka. He became a Novice Monk at the age of 12 and received full ordianation in 1947 at the age of 20. He moved to the USA in 1968. Venerable Henepola Gunaratana 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.

For more information about Venerable Henepola Gunaratana and the Eight Lifetime Precepts (an expansion of the Ajivatthamaka Sila), see the Bhavana Society website at:


His best known books are:

Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: an introductory guide to deeper states of meditation. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2009. (ISBN 0-86171-529-2)

Bhavana Vandana: Bhavana Devotions Compiled by Dr Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thera. Second edition. High View, West Virginia (USA): Bhavana Society, 2001. (Available from Bhavana Society, Rt1, PO Box 218-3, High View, West Virginia, WV26808, USA.) (www.bhavanasociety.org)

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Path of the Buddha. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2001. (ISBN 0-86171-176-9)

Journey to Mindfulness: The Autobiography of Bhante G. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2003. (ISBN 0-86171-347-8)

Mindfulness in Plain English.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Updated and expanded edition. Boston (USA): Wisdom Publications, 2002. (ISBN 0-86171-321-4)