Venerable Kripasharan Mahāsthavir- By Sukomal Barua

Ven. Kripasaran Mahathera
Ven. Kripasaran Mahathera (1865-1927)

Venerable Kripasharan Mahāsthavir (1865-1927), Buddhist monk and scholar, who greatly contributed to the reawakening of Buddhism and the spread of education among Buddhists of undivided Bengal, was born on 22 June 1865 in the village of Unainpura in Patiya Upazila of Chittagong district. He lost his father at an early age and attained Pravrajya and upasampada orders under Sudan Mahāsthavir, head of the village monastery. He was named Chandrajyoti at this time but was known as Kripasharan all his life.

After receiving upasampada, he visited Buddhist holy sites but found them in a pitiable condition. He then resolved to work for the reawakening of Buddhism. He instituted the Mahanagar Vihāra at a dilapidated old house on Malanga Lane (later Bowbazar Street) in Kolkata. He also founded the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha in 1891 to spread the message of Buddhism. Later, this society established the Dharmankur Bauddha Vihāra, which served as the centre of Buddhist religious activities, education, culture and tradition. At this time, Kripasharan studied dharma, Vinaya and Pāli with Mahābir Mahāsthavir.

Kripasharan donated all his earnings for the development of Buddhism and the Buddhist community. In order to spread the message of Buddhism among Bangla speakers, he translated the Tripitaka into Bangla. He collected the Tripitaka and other rare books on Buddhism, and donated them to a library that he had founded and named Gunalangkar Pathagar, after the Buddhist scholar Gunalangkar Sthavir.

In 1908, Kripasharan started publishing the monthly Jagatjyoti, which later became the mouthpiece of the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha. The magazine published articles on Buddhist education, culture, tradition, literature, philosophy, history, archaeology etc.

Kripasharan maintained good relations with the Buddhist monks of Tibet, Burma (now Myanmar), Arakan and Sri Lanka. Invited by the founder of the Mahabodhi Society, Anagarik Dharmapal, Kripasharan visited Sri Lanka in 1912, where he studied Pāli and Buddhist treatises. He also studied Pāli in Burma.

Kripasharan made schooling free for boys and girls at Bauddha Dharmankur Vihāra and established night schools for day labourers. He also established a centre where women could learn and study religion and moral philosophy. He helped establish monasteries and libraries at many places in undivided Bengal and at Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. He died on 30 April 1927 at Dharmankur Vihara in Kolkata.

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