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Ven.Dr.Witharandeniye Kassapa Nayake Thera - O.B.E.
Ven.Witharandeniye Kassapa Thera was born on the 16th of September, 1953 at Witharandeniya of Hambantota District in the Southern Province called "Ruhuna" of Sri Lanka and was ordained at the age of 14 years old as a Buddhist monk in 1968 at Gang?r?maya Temple in Colombo under the preceptor, the Most Ven. Deundara Wachchissara N?yaka Thera and Ven.Dr.Galaboda Gnanissara Nayaka thera.
Since then he received his training as a novice monk at Sri Jinaratana Bhikkhu Training Centre, at Gang?r?maya in Colombo until completion of his monastic studies of junior, senior and secondary education whereupon he completed the Pirivena (Monastic College). He proceeded to advance his higher education in 1977 entering to the University of Sri Lanka, Kelaniya Campus, where he studied Sinhala, Pali and Buddhist Civilization. The authority of Sri Jinaratana Bhikkhu Training College and the University College appointed him as a teacher while he was still an undergraduate of the university in 1980. He graduated in 1981 and remained a member of the staff even after the graduation until 1983 when he was selected to teach at Sudharm?r?ma University Pirivena in Avissawella for a short period and later on he followed his M.A. course at the University of Birmingham U.K. in his community involvement.
Ven. Kassapa was sent to Tanzania in 1983 to propagate the teachings of the Lord Buddha by the World Fellowship of Buddhists as the incumbent of Dar Es Salaam Buddhist Temple in Tanzania, East Africa. This particular Buddhist temple which was first established in 1922 by Sri Lankan expatriates remained at the time the only Buddhist temple in Africa. This energetic strong and active young monk travelled in many parts of Africa - Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana on Buddhist and cultural missions while he was residence in Tanzania. This eminent venerable monk was responsible for introducing Buddhism to the son of President Julius Nyrere the former and first President of Tanzania. The President's son Mr. Andrew Nyrere became a Buddhist under the guidance of Ven. Kassapa where he later came to Sri Lanka for further studies of Buddhism at Gang?r?maya temple for one year. Needless to say such a privilege would naturally be of great joy to Ven. Kassapa and for all Buddhists who are in search of peace for themselves as well as for others.
In 1986 Ven. Kassapa was invited by The Baba Saheb Ambedkar Buddhist Association in Birmingham, United Kingdom, to teach Buddhism and lay the foundation for Buddhist cultural and social activities amongst the Ambedkarite Indian Buddhist community. However devoted and motivated by the teachings of the Buddha his activities were not confined only to one stratum of the community. He was determined to make available the Buddha Dhamma to all the different nationalities - Sri Lankans, Indians, Burmese, Thais, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, English and Europeans.
As his ordained followers and activities increased he had to establish temples with Sri Lankan monks in many cities and towns in the United Kingdom. Ven. Kassapa founded the EAST MIDLANDS BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION in the city of Derby in 1987 where he managed to buy suitable residence for monks in Leicester city which is known today "The Leicester Buddhist Vihara". To this day he remains the prominent patron of the Association and temple. He was dedicated to the establishment of this temple single-handedly. The temple is flourishing as a place of worship for Buddhists in Leicestershire. Since his arrival in the United Kingdom and up to 1992 he has been working in the West Midlands for the benefit of Indian and other communities from his base in Birmingham.
In 1988 the Government of the former Soviet Union and the Most Ven. Hambo L?ma, the Chief Sangha Nayaka of Mongolia and the Soviet Union cordially invited Ven. Kassapa thera to set up the "SOVIET ANGLO FRIENDSHIP ORGANISATION." Since Ven. Kassapa's visit to the former Soviet Union there has been significant activity between the two countries culminating in the visit of the Most Ven. Hambo L?ma to the United Kingdom in 1988. In 1989 Ven. Kassapa pioneered a Buddhist newspaper named "THE WISDOM" where learned Buddhist scholars contributed to the newspaper in providing articles. The newspaper distributed free of charge was well circulated among Buddhists and in educational institutes in the United Kingdom.
In 1992 the The MIDLANDS INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION of the United Kingdom came into existence under the guidance of Ven. Kassapa. The present address of the Association is 216 New John Street West, Hockley, Birmingham, B19 3UA. The premise of the Association is also a place of worship and residence for the monks. Local branches have been established in the cities of Derby, Manchester and Bristol.
In addition to all stated services above Ven. Kassapa also founded the INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST RELIEF ORGANISATION (I.B.R.O.) with the assistance of the devoted members who are dedicated to the peace and prosperity of humanity. In recognition of these services The United Nations granted the I.B.R.O. permission under the "IN SPECIAL CONSULTATIVE STATUS WITH THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED NATIONS" to carry out its activities as a "NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION". At present, the I.B.R.O. operates branches in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Belorussia, Tanzania, Italy, Switzerland, India, Germany, United States of America (Texas and New York), Malaysia, Brazil, Zambia and France.
The management committee pledges that with hard work courage and enterprise it will pay keen attention to achieve targets and work together with other charity organizations such as Red Cross, Oxfam, Spastic and others.
Every year a particular project is selected from the Third World for which money is allocated. The I.B.R.O. will respond to natural disasters anywhere in the world. In 1996 wells were drilled for villagers in Malawi. The Same year in 1996 a second project was initiated and completed in Thailand for women who have been infected by HIV viruses. The next project the I.B.R.O. offered to distribute hundred thousand spectacles to remote villages in Sri Lanka. The work is ongoing. This project is specially assigned to help people who cannot afford to buy spectacles. The local branch of the I.B.R.O. in Sri Lanka is working hard with volunteers towards this goal. The scholarships were provided for the education of the children of impoverished families in Sri Lanka.
In spite of the incapability of providing enough to meet the needs of the beneficiaries of the Organization, the I.B.R.O. will continue to do its best to accomplish their obligations. This organization is meanwhile donating wheel chairs, artificial limbs, crutches, walking and hearing aids to those who are in urgent need of them.
In 1996 Ven. Kassapa inaugurated the MILAN BUDDHIST SOCIETY with the establishment of the first ever Buddhist temple " Lank?r?maya" on the 30th of March in 1997 in Milan, Italy. This society caters to the spiritual and cultural needs of over two hundred thousand Sri Lankans in Italy. He is also a life Patron of the Lank?r?maya Temple.
Although Ven. Kassapa is involved in numerous religious and social activities he still finds time to teach Buddhism in schools in England and Wales. This gives him an added impetus as Buddhism is now recognized in British schools and included in the curriculum. Ven. Kassapa attends international conferences and seminars regularly on inter - faith matters. Also in 2002 he started "THE BUDDHIST CULTURAL AND COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION IN THE U.K." to bring together all Buddhists in order to create strong bonds of support and goodwill among the various ethnic groups in the region.
Ven.Kassapa has been conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sri Lanka "Ruhunu Campus" by its Senate for his untiring work for humanity. Simultaneously the Supreme Sangha Council of Sri Lanka "Rohana Chapter" conferred another Honorary Doctorate for the marvellous services for international community.
In January 2008 he was conferred O.B.E. (OFFICER FOR "ORDER OF BRITISH EMPIRE") by Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth -ll on Her New Year Honour list for his untiring relief works for the world community during last two and half decades. This is one of the highest honours one can be conferred by British Queen. At present Ven.Kassapa is the only Sri Lankan Buddhist monk who holds this prestigious honour from Great Britain.
Very recently in the month of June 2008 the President of Sri Lanka His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse honoured Ven.Kassapa thera with an invitation to his Official Residence in Colombo- Sri Lanka because of the untiring dedication of his team for the world community. Currently he is the president of the both organisation and engaged with Buddhist Chaplain in Aston University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.