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Mahasthabir, Aryabangsha


Mahasthabir, Aryabangsha (1915-1994) Buddhist scholar and social worker, was born on 22 October 1915 in the village of' Lakhera under patiya upazila, chittagong district. In 1931 he was initiated into the novitiate by Shrimat Prajnalankar Mahasthabir, abbot of the local Lakhera Abhaya Vihara. He went to Sri Lanka in 1933. He studied at Oriental College for nine years and became proficient in Pali literature and in the tripitaka, the Buddhist scripture. He also learnt the Sinhalese language and literature. After taking upasampada, or becoming a mendicant friar, he assumed the title 'Shrisaddharmacharya'. Returning home in 1941, he took charge of the Lakhera Abhaya Vihara as its abbot and came to be recognised as 'Visharad', or expert, in Pali, Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidharma by the Bengal Education Board.

Aryabangsha set up tols, or schools, for the propagation of Pali in his native village and erected a large and beautiful statue of Buddha at the Lakhera Abhaya Vihara. At the invitation of the mahabodhi society in 1949, he took over charge of an orphanage adjacent to the office of the Society. In 1950 he was appointed abbot of the Vihara run by the Mahabodhi Society in Delhi and remained in that post until his death. It was at his initiative that BR Ambedakar, along with more than 50,000 followers, converted to buddhism in 1956 on the occasion of the birthday celebrations of Buddha at Nagpur. Aryabangsha also converted thousands of people to Buddhism in Delhi, Agra, Aligarh and Bihar the same year.

In 1988 he became president of the Mahabodhi Society and worked for it until his death. He was fluent in several languages, and wrote books in English, Bangla, and Hindi. Among his writings are Gems of the Dhamma, Teachings of the Buddha, and Buddhism and World Peace (4 volumes), Saral Baudhha Bandanabidhi in Bangla, and both Tathagat Ka Upadesh, Buddhanushasan and Triratna Vandana in Hindi. He died in New Delhi on 2 October 1994. [Bhikkhu Sunithananda]