ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40

Scholar in Buddhism she always lent a helping hand

Sita Arunthavanathan

The well-known propagator of Dhamma, specially in the English language, Sita Arunthavanathan, passed away in late March 2006 at the age of 75 years. Born to the respected Windsor family in Galle, she had her early education at Sacred Heart Convent in the same town. Later she pursued higher studies at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya campus and obtained a Special Degree in Sinhala.

Taking a special interest in Buddhism she pursued postgraduate studies in Buddhism at the Post Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya obtaining a Masters Degree.

I came to know Sita pretty late in her life as a Dhamma friend in the course of my own efforts to propagate Dhamma in English, around the turn of the century. From then onwards she was closely associated with me in some way or other with all my Buddhist activities until her demise a few months ago.

She frequently delivered talks on the Dhamma at the weekly meeting of the Servants of the Buddha Society at Maitri Hall, Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya, and was also often a panelist at the monthly Buddhist panel discussions conducted by the Colombo YMBA on the third Sunday of every month at its Borella building.

She contributed valuable articles to Buddhist journals that I edit, namely, the Vesak Sirisara that is published every Vesak and The Buddhist, the journal of the Colombo Y.M.B.A. that publishes a special Vesak issue and three other small quarterly issues annually.

At my request many were the occasions she reviewed these Vesak journals. Fluent in speech and writing both in English and Sinhala, she recently translated an English Buddhist booklet on “The Buddha’s First Sermon” released by me.

Sita was an active participant in the Buddhist programmes of the SLBC in recent years. These included the popular five minutes Thought for the Day, which commences the daily English programmes of the SLBC; in the Steps of the Sakyamuni, a 15-minute short talk on the Dhamma; Has Buddhism the Answer?, a 30-minute discussion of the Dhamma, and above all the long standing and popular half hour Buddhist Forum that goes on the air every Tuesday at 9 p.m. She was introduced to the Buddhist Forum by Ven. Prof. Dhammavihari Thera, when he was Chairman of the Forum and continued until the very end of her life with me as Chairman. Incidentally, she was a student of the scholar Thera who was earlier Prof. Jothi Dhirasekera both at the University of Ceylon and later at the Post Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies. She had a clear and powerful voice which was helpful for her presentations over the electronic media.

She was also closely associated with the International Buddhist Centre at Wellawatta that has performed yeoman service over several decades for the propagation of the Dhamma. She was at different times the Secretary and President of this important centre.

Apart from articles she contributed to Buddhist journals, she also published articles in the leading English newspapers making available her writings on the Dhamma to a wider readership.

My association with her was confined to Buddhist activities but we are told that she led a versatile life being active in singing, drama, dancing and the affairs of her old school. Moreover, in her working life she held responsible positions being the administration officer of Consolidated Exports Ltd. At one time she was chief translator to the then Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, at Temple Trees.

She also had varied interests being one of the pioneers to act in the Sinhala dramas of Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra. Moreover, she was a singer and dancer and composed lyrics for the Police Bhakthi Gee for the Vesak season and for the versatile singing combination of P.L.A. Somapala and Chithra as well as singing with them on some occasions. It is said that she had a melodious voice.

To me personally, her demise is an irreparable loss. Whenever I sought her assistance for Buddhist work it was extended in full measure, willingly and enthusiastically. Her contribution covered broadcasting, journals, reviews, talks, panel discussions, and the translation of Buddhist Literature from English to Sinhala.

Her husband, an efficient retired Police Officer, predeceased her shortly before her death. To her six children and several grandchildren we extend our deep condolences and our wish is that they should take pride in her life lived with concern for the welfare of others.

May this capable and firmly committed Buddhist propagator realize early the peace and bliss of Nibbana.

By Rajah Kuruppu

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.