Umandawa Global Buddhist Village (උමංදාව විශ්ව බෞද්ධ ගම්මානය)

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Umandawa Global Buddhist Village (or Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery) is a recently developed a so called Buddhist religious village operated by the controversial monk named Siri Samanthabhadra Thero who has self proclaimed to have reached the stage of supreme bliss (Arahath stage) and operates under the name of Siri Samanthabhadra Maha Arahath Thero. Umandawa it self is marketed as a personal retreat for everybody.

Umandawa is open from 7 am to 5 pm at all days, for the whole week, throughout the entire year. The entrance is free for everyone. All visitors are welcomed by monks and nuns who are assigned as a welcome committee to deal with visitor and guest relations. They tend to all questions and inquiries, and also perform guided tours of the land. For the guests its provides a wide range of Buddhist spiritual programs and accommodation options. This is within the community grounds for guests who wish to experience and learn about the lifestyle of the community (Thilakarathne, 2021).

Umandawa Global Buddhist Village (or Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery) community functions as a Buddhist Monastery and a non-profit organization, which is registered under the brand name ‘Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery’ and the company name ‘Siri Sadaham Ashramaya’. Siri Sadaham Ashramaya, based in Dehiwala, is where most of the fundraising, administration and marketing activities are coordinated. (Thilakarathne, 2021).

Umandawa sells itself as a self sufficient community with organic farming by the community themselves. The land is approximately 70 acres which was purchased with financial support of a monk (now diseased) who had been a doctor before entering the priesthood. according to the community of the monks. The land has been an abandoned coconut plantation before changing hands in 2015.

Siri Samanthabhadra Thero

Siri Samanthabhadra was born in 1975 in  Pitiduwa, Galle and entered priesthood in the year 2000 as Pitiduwe Siridhamma. With his impressive gift for articulation of ideas and the ability to attract listeners, he became a popular preacher soon after. With the growth of the popularity and the followers, he changed his name to Siri Samanthabhadra and after the self proclamation of him reaching Arhath stage calls himself the Samanthabhadra Maha Arahath Thero. The name Samanthabhadra itself is a name used to call Buddha himself in Tibetan Buddhism.

In Theravada Buddhism there are three states before reaching Buddhahood or enlightenment. These are (in order of ascent) Sowan, Sakurdagamee, Anagaami and Arahat. Being the sublime state just before hitting the target, Arahat is a condition of great ‘holiness.’ An arahat is a person who has eliminated all the unwholesome roots which underlie the fetters– who upon their death will not be reborn in any world, since the bonds (fetters) that bind a person to the samsara have been finally dissolved. Although many Buddhists sees Siri Samanthabhadra as successful businessman in robes, he does have a considerable number of followers.

His most common way of getting the limelight is by creating controversy by attacking the Buddhist practices irking most Buddhists in the country other than his faithfulls. He has successfully managed to to maintain the limelight on himself by making one controversial statement after one another for the past few years.

Jayasinghe, S. summarizes his character as ; there isn’t any doubt that the monk is a public performer. Revd Samanthahadra wants effect or impact. Like a theatre man, he performs for an audience. The audience is the key thing and he knows that.

However there is no denying that thousands follow him. Ambitious politicians flock around hoping for sponsorship. Overseas, an eager diaspora awaits  him. There is strangely little distinction between the educated classes and the barely illiterate when it comes to religious following among Third World people. The poorer the people the more religiosity. The readiness to believe prevails. Critical faculties are pushed aside (Jayasinghe, 2019).

References

  1. Thilakarathne, C. D. (2021). The Role of Adaptive Capacity in Supporting Resilient Livelihoods: An Asset-Based Approach at Umandawa Maha Vihara Monastery, Sri Lanka. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of International Environmental and Development Studies.
  2. Jayasinghe, S. (2019, March 09). Revd Pitiduwe Siri Samanthabhadra: Pretender or savant? Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/revd-pitiduwe-siri-samanthabhadra-pretender-or-savant/
  3. Umandawa. (2022, May 03). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://umandawa.org/
  4. Wasala, R. R. (2017, September 14). LankaWeb – case of a modern day arahant – I. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2017/09/30/case-of-a-modern-day-arahant-i/
  5. Wasala, R. R. (2017, October 2). LankaWeb – case of a modern day Arahant – ii. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2017/10/02/case-of-a-modern-day-arahant-ii/
  6. Siri Samanthabhadra. (2020, August 17). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://en.everybodywiki.com/Siri_Samanthabhadra

Also See

Map of Umandawa Global Buddhist Village

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Traveling Directions to Umandawa Global Buddhist Village

Route from Kurunegala to Umandawa Global Buddhist Village

Through : Malsiripura
Distance : 36 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map

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