E R GOONERATNE – SCHOLAR OF THE SRI LANKAN RENAISSANCE
Edmund R Gooneratne was the most prominent occupant of AtapattuWalawwa. He was a Diarists, Nationalists, Internationalists active in the Buddhist Revival of the 19th century, Secretary Pali Text Society, a friend of Ananda Coomaraswamy, Col Henry Olcott, Ven Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thero, Maharaja jyotindra Mohun Tagore etc. In essence E R Gooneratne's Perspective, Idealism, Values, diplomacy, realism,
Modernity and intellectual sophistication was a great asset to a country that was trying to rid itself from colonialism and imperialism. He was an ideal candidate to help in the renaissance because of his multiple talents which he engaged in simultaneously helped to enhance and develop the revival of a subjugated people. He unfortunately is a unsung hero.
E R Gooneratne sponsored eduction and gave leadership to the revival of civilian and Buddhist education. Bataduwe Ratanajothi School still functioning is one such example. He started the First Pirivena in the south in around 1880s at the Gooneratne Mudalindaramaya, in Matara and the Simbali Avasaya in Galle. (now Gooneratne Mudalindaramaya) He was in the editorial Board of the magazine Serendipity a successor to the abandoned magazine the Orientalis.
He was the Secretary of the Pali Text Society of Sri Lanka and translated many Buddhists Pali texts which was published by the society in London. They were Telakahatagatha, Dhatukatha, Vimanavastu, Prajamadhu, Anguthara Nikaya etc. Gooneratne was a friend of Ananda Coomaraswamy and translated two important texts Rupavaliyaa artistic cannon which the Kandyan painters relied on and Sariputra. Both are printed as appendices in Ananda Coomaraswamy's book Mediaval Sinhalese Art.
BUDDHIST INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITY
In December 1883 he visited Buddha gaya in the company of two Buddhist priests. During his visit he enjoyed the hospitality of the Maharaja Jyotindra Tagore and an uncle of Rabindranath and has written a vivid description of the Maharaja's summer palace the Emerald Bower. During his visit he presented a Mal Asanaya, a flower platform to Buddha Gaya as described in Monier Williams and General Cunninghams books on Buddha Gaya.
Visited in King Chulalongkorn twice in Bangkok and obtained help for a scholarship at Vidiyodaya Pirivena. He probably also discussed the possibility of the King becoming the Patron of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka which his friend Jinnawarawansa thero was promoting. He obtained the document Vimmanavastu from the King which he later translated and published.
He sponsored initially two Japanese Buddhists monks to study in Sri Lanka in 1880's The first Ven Kozen Gooneratne was the first Japanese Theravada priest ordained at Malwatte Temple in Kandy in 1892 who was a companion to Anagarika Dharmapala in his fight to establish Buddha Gaya as a Buddhist site. He took the name Gooneratne as a mark of respect to E.R.Gooneratne his sponsor. The other Shaku Soen the teacher of the now famous D T Susuki was the pioneer who took Buddhism to America. Six other Japanese Student monks studied at Simbali Avasaya the pirivena he established in his Residence AtapattuWalawwa.
Patron of Buddhist Revival
A trustee of the Mahabodhi he actively took part in the Buddhist revival and the social reform group in the 1890's. He repaired and reconstructed the Buddhuge and the Buddha Statue in Sri Mahabodhi in Anuradhapura. A netramangalya was performed in 1911 at which the main address was by Walisinha Harischandra who was the pioneer nationalist who fought for the restoration of the sacred city of Anuradhapura. He spoke about the Chinese monk Hsien Tsang on the great vihara's of Buddha Gaya who's diaries helped General Cunningham in the resotoration and reconstruction of Buddha Gaya. Ven Revatha Thero gave the anusasana on Ekko Puggalo from Angutatranikaya and later advised that more people should follow the example of
E R Gooneratne.
A recent inscription has been found in the ancient Buddhist temple in Dambulla confirming that E.R Gooneratne and Ceciliana Illangakoon built the Buddha statue in the 3rd cave.
He peacefully passed away in 1914 at the age of 69.