Mahathera, Shantapada

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Mahathera, Shantapada (1915-1987) Buddhist scholar and educationist, was born on 27 Falgun (mid-March) 1915, in the village of Chendirpuni of lohagara upazila in chittagong. His childhood name was Sushanta. His early education was at the Buddhist Vihara in his village. He briefly went to the Board school but had to discontinue studies because of ill health and family problems. However, he studied Pali, Bangla, English and Sanskrit and soon attained a high level of proficiency. At the age of 14 he entered the monastic order. He took his final vows at the age 20. After entering the novitiate, he studied Pali and the tripitaka along with other Buddhist scriptures under different scholars. He also studied for some time at Mohamuni Pali Tol at Pahartali and was awarded the title of 'Tripitaka Bisharad', that is, one well-versed in the Tripitaka. While at Pahartali he studied Sanskrit at the nearby Jagatpur Ashram. In later years he set up a Pali tol at the vihara in Mirzapur Gautam Ashram at Hathazari, which helped to spread Pali education and the study of the Buddhist scriptures. The tol was later converted into a college where he served as principal.

Shantapada was a reputed Buddhist scholar and an expert in reading ancient manuscripts. Apart from the languages he had learned as a youth, Shantapada also acquired Burmese, Sinhalese, and Thai. In 1979-80 he was a part-time lecturer of oriental languages at Chittagong University.

Shantapada wrote and translated many books on buddhism, among them, Milindaprashna, Dhatukatha, Apadan, Chariyapitak, Abguttaranikaya, Shilarthadipan and Abhidharmartha-sanggraha. Many of his scholarly essays on Buddhism, philosophy, history, literature and tradition were published in periodicals such as Sabghashakti, Jagajjyoti, Nalanda, Paramita and Krsti. Among the manuscripts he left unpublished at the time of his death were Prajvabhuminirdesh and Buddher Upadesh Sanggraha.

Shantapada contributed to the development of the Buddhist community as well as to the reform of Buddhism in Bangladesh and West Bengal. He helped establish many viharas in both parts of Bengal, including the International Buddhist Vihara at Merul Badda in Dhaka. He attended the Yangon Buddhist conference in 1954 and participated in the work of revising the Tripitaka. For his lifelong work for peace and humanity he was awarded the Peace Prize in 1982 at the International Peace Conference at Ulan Bator in Mongolia. [Sukomal Barua]