Venerable Henepola Gunaratana, Ph.D.

For his excellence in International Missionary Work, Author, and Renowned Meditation Teacher.

Venerable Henepola Gunaratna is Awarded the Lifetime Achievement for his lifelong commitment to Dharma, his international missionary work in meditation practices, and his many publications on Buddhist Philosophies.

Venerable Henepola Gunaratana was born Ekanayaka Mudiyanselage Ukkubanda on December 7, 1927, in the small Sri Lankan village of Henepola. He was ordained as a novice at 12 in a temple in Malandeniya Village, Kurunegala District. He received upasampada in 1947, aged 20, in Kandy. He was first educated at Vidyasekhara Pirivena Junior College, a monks’ school in Gampaha. He received his higher education in Sri Lanka at Vidyalankara College in Kelaniya and the Buddhist Missionary College (an affiliate of the Maha Bodhi Society) in Colombo.

Before coming to the United States, he spent five years of missionary work with Harijanas (Untouchable) of India and ten years in Malaysia. He has taught in several settings, including the Buddhist Vihara of Washington D.C, where he served as President and a Buddhist Chaplain. He earned his PhD in Philosophy at the University in Washington D.C.

In 1985 Ven. Gunaratna co-founded the Bhavana Society and became its Abbott. He wanted to teach meditation in an environment allowing for longer retreats and intense practice free of the trappings of a city vihara. He continues to teach in the direct, compassionate style that characterizes his books and articles. Ven. Gunaratna conveys a well-rounded approach to Buddhist Dhamma, touching on all aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path. He emphasizes Mehta Bhavana (the cultivation of loving-friendliness) as a basis for sammasamadhi, or right concentration. As a teacher, he is known for emphasizing both Samadhi and Mehta as part of spiritual training.

In 1996 Ven. Gunaratna received the title of Chief Sangha Nayaka Thera for North America. This acknowledged his status as the highest-ranking monk of his sect in the United States and Canada. Initially published in 2003, his autobiography, Journey to Mindfulness, was updated in 2017 with an “Expanded Anniversary Edition” adding five new chapters. In 2005, the Sri Henepola Gunaratna Scholarship Trust was founded under his guidance. This trust fund provides educational opportunities for poverty-stricken children in the rural areas of Sri Lanka.

Ven. Gunaratna continues to write books and articles, lead retreats, and teach at the Bhavana Society. On his 90th birthday, December 7, 2017, he decided to no longer accept invitations requiring long-distance travel. He says, “Thank you all for your kind consideration of Mehta.”

Sri Lanka Foundation International would like to Thank and Acknowledge Ven. Henepola Gunaratna for serving meditation centers worldwide and for his strong scholarly background and lifelong commitment to Dhamma.