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Mahasthavir, Prajnalok


Mahasthavir, Prajnalok (1879-1971) Buddhist preacher, educationist and writer, was born on 31 December 1879 in the village of Vaidyapara in boalkhali upazila, Chittagong. His childhood name was Dharmaraj Barua. At the age of 21, he came in contact with Acharya Punnachar Mahasthavir and received from him shramanya and upasampada at Shakamuni Vihara. In 1909 at Naikhaine he studied dharma-vinaya. He wrote two books, Pali Patham Siksha for teaching Pali and Vikshu Kartavya O Grhi Kartavya for teaching the vikshus and non-vikshus their essential everyday duties.

In 1913 Prajnalok went to Sri Lanka to study the tripitaka under Upasen Mahasthavir, principal of Saddharmodaya Mahavidyalaya. On his return, he and his young vikshu student friends formed an association called 'Zinshasan Samagam' and devoted himself to propagating buddhism. In 1922 he established Vidarshanaram Vihara in the village of Kanaimadari in patiya upazila and Sudarshan Vihara in the village of Mayani in sitakunda upazila. At this time he translated with necessary commentaries Vikshu Patimokska. He then left for Akyab, where he established the Bangiya Bauddha Samiti and vihara with support from Bengali Buddhists. He was made principal of Dharmadut Vihara there.

While in Akyab, Prajnalok compiled and wrote Danamavjari, Kathin Chivardananisangsa and Ratnamala Bishodhan. In 1928 he set up the Buddhist Mission Press and published Sanghashakti. He compiled and edited Milinda Prashna (translation, 2 vol), Theragatha, Lokaniti, Telaktaha Gatha (translation), Pali Tripitaka (pamphlet), Prabas Suhrd, Grhiniti, Namrup, Buddher Dharma Parichaya.

On Prajnalok's birthday on 31 December 1933, Burma's most venerable group of vikshus organised a mahasanghadan or grand assembly to award him the title of 'Buddha Shasan Birzasthambha Shasan Dhwaj'. After the Buddhist Mission Press was destroyed in bombing during the Second World War, he walked back home through north Burma and Assam.

During the famine and epidemics of 1945, Prajnalok organised a relief body with headquarters in the village of Tekota in Patiya. Towards the end of 1948, he again went to Burma and edited Buddher Yoganiti, Bidarshan Bhavana, Aryasatya, dhammapada, Sutta Vibhanga and other books. For his religious work and social services, the Burmese government awarded him the title of 'Agga Mahapandit' (1954). He died in Chittagong on 12 May 1971. [Bhikkhu Sunithananda]