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A Short History of Banabhante’s Departur/Parinibbana


file244Dr. Hena Barua-

V

enerable Sadhanananda Mahathera was widely known as Banabhante. He was born at 115. Mogban Mouza in Rangamati Sadar Upozila under Rangamati Hill Tracts on 8th January 1920 in a religious family. His father’s name was Mr. Harumohan Chakma and Mrs. Birpudi Chakma was his mother. He was known as Rathindralal Chakma in the family. He was the eldest among five brothers and one sister.

Rathindra was very calm and quite by nature from his childhood. When he was of school going age, he was admitted himself into a local middle English School. As a student he was intelligent and meritorious and after passing class III he left School. From the very beginning he was different from others; he did not spend much time in playing with other playmates. He was devoted to read books on literatures and religions. In his early life he came across with few incidents which had brought a great change in his life. One day he went to see a dead body of a girl about II years of age at his village and the parents of that dead girl was weeping loudly as they were stricken by grief at the death of their daughter. By seeing that painful scene, Rathindra was sad and thought that life is uncertain and death is suffering which invites sorrow. Another incident that strikes his innocent mind when he went to see a young housewife died of high


fever in the same village. The parents and husband of that dead woman were deeply sod soocked and crying for her. By observing that situation he thought that nobody could escape from death what ever might be young or old at any time. Death is dangerous. He thought if he would get married his wife might die and he had to suffer from sorrow like the husband he had just seen.

Rathindralal Chakma was very kind to all living beings from his early life. When he was home, he looked thoughtful and unable to concentrate in household works. He always tried to find out quite place and to stay alone. He kept aloof from others and avoided crowd. He was loyal to his parents as well as gentle, pious and man of good moral character. He had opportunity to need many books on Buddhism and other books on literature. He deeply felt about the sufferings of human life and searching ways to leave household life like Goutama Buddha. He thought by himself- ‘if Siddhartha Goutama being a prince could leave Kingdom, wealth, parents and relatives to become an ascetic, why couldn’t I do that? Two other great disciples of Buddha- Sariputta and Moggallana became ascetic leaving all their wealth. I have nothing in comparison to them, why couldn’t I? I will leave home and find ways to get rid of sufferings.’ He was prepared and determined to leave home. At that time his father died and grief has stricken the family members. He was only 22 years of old man. He had to take the responsibility of the family after death of his father. He decided to start silk-yarn business to earn or living. He had gone to Demagiri in India, brought silk-yarn to sell local women weavers. After running that business for eight months he again thought to leave home. He thought it would be better if he could run that business without speaking with the women, but it was impossible to run the business without speaking to them as women were his main customers. There-after he joined as a salesman in Mr. Biraj Mohan Dewan’s shop at old Rangamati bazar. During his service period he read many books such as The Gita, epic Mahabharat and other books on Bengali literature at the end of working hours at night. Sometimes he attended traditional Bengali theatre (Jatra) and religious group songs (Kirtan) usually performed at night. He used to think after attending these shows, the role played by actors as king, ministers in the play turned into a simple common man with the coming of dawn. All these events played key role in changing his mind. During that period, he came in contact with a pious man Mr. Gajendralal Barua from Nankhain of Patiya Upazila, Chittagong. Both of them became friendly and spend a good time together exchanging views about religion. Mr.Gajendralal Barua observed Rathindra’s deep interest in religion and advised him to become a Buddhist monk. He helped him. They visited Chittagong town and met with the chief monk of Nandan Kanan Buddhhist Temple and held a discussion about Rathindra’s ordination. A date was fixed after mutual agreement.

He returned from Chittagong and met with his employer Mr. Biraj Mohan Dewan, told him that he was going to be a Samana and sought his permission to leave job under him. He met his mother and described his desire to become a Samana. His mother blessed him. On a fixed date he left his native village and boarded on a motor launch along with Gajandralal Barua and reached Chittagong town after a day long journey in the river Karnafuli. In 1949 on a full moon day of Bengali calendar month of Falgun, he took ordination as a novice at Nandan Kanan Buddhist Temple in Chittagong at the age of 29.He was ordained by ven. Dipankar Bhikkhu B.A and named as Rathindra Shraman. He resided here for about two to three months along with other monks and strictly followed rules of novice. While staying in that vihara, he found none of the Bhikkhus following Dhutanga. One day Rathindra Shraman requested his teacher Dipankar Bhante to define ‘Lokottara’.  It is a term for the four paths, four paths’ fruitions of a Noble one with Nibbana. His teacher was unable to explain it properly and replied that he could not free himself yet, how could he be able to show him the paths of freedom and make him understand Lokottara Dhamma! He advised him, ‘There is much dense forest in Chittagong Hill Tracts, where you can meditate and fulfill your desire’. Rathindra Shraman left Chittagong Nandan Kanan Buddhist Temple and started towards Dhanpata. Before reaching Dhanpata he stayed at Betagi Buddhist Temple at Rangunia and Chittagong Buddhist Temple, a holy place under Kaptai upazila for a few days and he had some discussion about Buddhism with the chief monks of these temples.

Text Box: It is a term for the four paths, four paths' fruitions of a Noble one with Nibbana. His teacher was unable to explain it properly and replied that he could not free himself yet, how could he be able to show him the paths of freedom and make him understand Lokottara Dhamma! He advised him, 'There is much dense forest in Chittagong Hill Tracts, where you can meditate and fulfill your desire'. Rathindra Shraman left Chittagong Nandan Kanan Buddhist Temple and started towards Dhanpata. Before reaching Dhanpata he stayed at Betagi Buddhist Temple at Rangunia and Chittagong Buddhist Temple, a holy place under Kaptai upazila for a few days and he had some discussion about Buddhism with the chief monks of these temples.Rathindra Shraman reached in a village temple in Mogban on a full moon day of Boishakh in 1949. Soon afterwards he suffered from dysentery and recovered from it with his mother’s intensive care. He left that village temple and visited two other Buddhist temple at Khagrachari and Dholyachari under Bilaichari Upazila. He then came back to Dhanpata and started meditation under a large Boira tree at the top of the small hillock, this place known as Shailaj Ghat. Villagers addressed him as “bana-shraman”. He meditated without sleep and upto his Parinibbana he did not lie on bed and passed day and night sitting on a chair. He meditated for 12 years and advanced towards Lokottara.

In 1960 Pakistan Govt. constructed Kaptai Hydro-electric dam and an area of 450 square miles inundated by water of dam. About 18,000 families were rehabilitated in new places in other parts of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Nishimoni Chakma, a pious man, a devotee of Bana Shraman, requested him to shift Dighinala in Khagrachari District. Mr. Kalparanjan Chakma and Nishimoni Chakma shifted him from Dhanpata to Dighinala by road jeep. They made a kutir for Bana Shraman. He made a rule for the devotees; no female laity was allowed to enter into kutir without accompanying a male while offering alms to him. He used to give audience and preached the truth of Dhamma every devotees regularly. His ability to explain truth of Buddhism spread out near and abroad. Increased number of devotees came to pay respect and to listen his valuable sermon (dhamma deshona).

At certain time, chief monk of Rangapani Chakma Raj-vihara, Rajguru Agravangsha Mahathera visited to Dighinala and proposed Bana Shraman to be formally ordained as a Bhikkhu, the higher ordination (Upasampada). At first he refused to be ordained because he thought his association with other Bhikkhus would hamper his attainment of the goal which he aimed during his long period of meditation. But on persuasion of Gyanashri Bhante he finally agreed and a great religious function was held on the day of his formal ordination as Bhikkhu (Upasampada) on 27th June, Tuesday 1961 at Maini Boalkhali Udaksima, Dighinala Upazila, Khagrachari Hill Tracts. He was named as ‘SADHANANANDA BHIKKHU’. All devotees addressed him “BANABHANTE” with due respect because he had meditated in the forest for a long time. He stayed in Dighinala for about 10 years. On invitation of a devoted laity he came to Durchari Buddha Vihara from Dighinala in 1970 under Baghaichari Upazila in Kachalang area where a large number of displaced people affected by Kaptai dam rehabitated. He attended many religious function in surrounding villages and preached doctrine of Buddhism among thousands of devotees and able to draw their faith in Buddhism. He left Durchari Buddha Vihara after 3 months and came to Tintila Buddha Vihara, under langadu upazila on invitation of Babu Anil Bihari Chakma, Chairman of local Union Parishad. In 1971 during liberation war period he temporarily shifted to Bhaibonchara Buddha Vihara. At the end of Bangladesh liberation war he returned to Tintila Buddha Vihara and stayed there upto 1975. The process of Kathinacivara dana was first introduced in 1973 by his holiness Banabhante at Tintila Bana Vihara, Langadu based on tradition initiated by Maha Upasika Vishakha, a great female laity disciple of Lord Buddha 2556 years ago. In 1976 on the invitation of Chakma Royal Family and other leading devotees from Rangamati. His holiness venerable Banabhante came to Rangamati Rajbana Vihara and resided here up to 26th January 2012. Regularly he provided the main theme of Buddhism among thousands of devotees from home and abroad. Apart from Kathinacivara dana, Banabhante’s birthday was celebrated on 8th January in each year at Rajbana Vihara. Other religious functions are also observed with devotion arround the year. Devotees came to pay respect to him and venerable Banabhante blessed them whole heartedly.

Due to aging process venerable Banabhante gradually lost his Physical activities. He could not walk and his right hand was completely paralyzed. He spent his time in sitting position in a chair and never lied on bed. Devoted Bhikkhus, Samaneras, Doctors and Upasaka-Upasikas took care of him regularly. Sometimes he suffered from cough, abdominal distention and neuralgia. Regularly his health was checked up but every finding was found within normal limit. Respected Banabhante refused to take allopathic drugs and liked to take natural drugs from leaves and trees as like Lord Buddha. But he never lost his memory and provided Dhamma Deshona like a young energetic Bhikkhu. He was habituated to very minimum amount of meal.

After 93rd birthday ceremony on 8th January 2012, venerable Banabhante became ill and had been suffering from pneumonia. Local doctors of Rangamati treated him but his condition was not improved. He refused to take meal and he was unable to provide Dhamma Deshona to devotees. His condition gradually deteriorated. A medical board was arranged by local doctors of Rangamati and specialist from Chittagong on 26th January 2012. Medical board suggested that Banabhante needed Intensive care unit support. According to suggestion of medical board senior Bhikkhus and vihara committee of Rajbana vihara agreed to shift him abroad hospital for better management. But it was not possible to shift him abroad hospital as because Banabhante’s condition deteriorated rapidly. There after he was referred to Square Hospital Dhaka on 27th January 2012 by Air Ambulance. At Square Hospital (ICU cabin no. 437, bed no. 07) Intensive care unit support was provided to venerable Banabhante. Frequently medical board was arranged by all types of specialists and proper medical management was provided to him. In spite of better medical services his condition was not improved and every finding changed rapidly. All types of medical management were failed to cure our venerable Banabhante and he had got Mahaparinibbana on 30th January at 3:56 pm, Monday 2012. The cause of Banabhante’s Mahaparinibbana was pneumonia with septicemic shock.

 

Devotees of our respected Banabhante’s were deeply shocked at his departure. His holy dead body was preserved by ven. william of Thailand and kept in the Rest house of Banbhante at Rajbana Vihara, Rangamati Hill Tract. We lost him but we should follow his valuable advices to get free from sorrow. q


 

Ref. : 1. Basic informations of this article has been collected from the book “Manob Kalyane Banabhante” by Purna Mohan Chakma.

2. Personal informations. (As member of medical board)

 

The Writer: Rd. Hena Barua, MBBS. MCPS. DGO. FCPS. M.S. Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Chittagong. & Advisor Banabhante Saddhamma Unnayan Upasak/Upasika Parisad, Chittagong.

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