On the 4th of March 2015, Sri Lanka lost one of the most admired personalities in London. Born to a suburban Sinhala family background in Bentota, Buddhadasa Bodhinayake blossomed as an outstanding character from his secondary education at Ananda College and became a man of the world!
At Ananda College he held many responsible positions as senior prefect, president of the literary union, leader in English and Sinhala debating teams (in the same year) a record at Ananda College, which has not been broken so far. He was also the winner of junior, senior and open college oratorical championships and ‘essay awards’. He was the onlyAnandian, who had won five all Ceylon Oratorical Championships (Radio Ceylon) plus the UNO Day Gold Medal.
When ‘Bodhi’ ( his pet name) entered the medial faculty, he was subjected to a horrible ragging session that made him fight tooth and nail against such sadistic practices adopted by the senior students to traumatisenewcomers, both physically and mentally. He was the first medical student to stand and fight against such joshing for which he received absolute support from the university youth that helped him to form the first Sinhala students union (Tri Sinhala Sisva Sanvidhanaya), under the guidance of Venerable Baddegama Wimalawansa Anunayake thero at the Lanka Vidyalaya at Ode Temple Maradana, to fight against ragging.
Upon graduating in 1969 from the Faculty of Medicine Colombo, he worked under the founder President of Ceylon College of Surgeons, Dr. P.R. Anthoniz and Prof M.H. Hamza, Consultant Pediatrician at Lady Ridgeway Hospital. During his internship he contracted hepatitis and had to go home, at which point the President of the Ceylon Medical Council extended his internship. (He was under the impression he qualified for medical leave)!
Due to a lapse on the part of the hospital subject clerk, ‘Bodhi’ too completely having overlooked in signing some of the vital official papers relating to his ‘medical’ leave, had gone home to Bentota. On his return, however, the clerk got him signed those relevant papers to regularise the matter, yet, the President of the Medical Council took a rigid stance stating that his internship was invalid, ‘merely because he had not placed his signature on a particular piece of paper’ and he should re-do the internship from the beginning!
Both Dr. Anthoniz and Prof. Hamza supported him officially, while the President of the Medical Council turned a Nelsonian eye to the problem. The matter became too complex to the extent that even the national newspapers highlighted issue; The Ceylon Daily News supported his case to the hilt, while the judiciary took the view that ‘the signing of the papers was only a formality’! The late Dr. R.B. Lenora offered ‘Bodhi’ all expenses should the case continued up to High Court level; Mr. S. Nadesan, Q.C very generously offered him free legal advice should the matter end up in courts. Despite such an opposition against a ‘ridiculous judgement’, the President of the Medial Council became adamant by turning a blind eye to the problem and was determined to penalise him.
Agitated young Bodhinayake told the President of the Medical Council, ‘even if he had to sell newspapers on the Colombo pavement he was not prepared to continue his internship from scratch.
President’s reaction was uncompromising and his words were harsh: “Young man, this is the law of the Medical Council & only the Parliament can change the Law“! Young Bodhi reacted by saying, ” Sir, in that case, we will have to change the Parliament, haven’t we“? He simply walked out of his room.
That encouraged him to get involved in background politics and to forget about medicine for a while. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake then formed a special organisation called ‘Sinhala Tharuna Sanvidhanaya (Sinhala Youth Organisation) with the help of Dr. Sivali Ratwatte, Ven. Alle Gunawansa Thero etc., for the purpose of overturning the existed government and to form a new SLFP government, during the 1970 general elections.
This enable him to see Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was the SLFP candidate with the help of her brother, Dr. Sivali Ratwatte. Subsequently he introduced Nimal Siripala de Silva to Mrs. Bandaranaike as a member of the Sihala Tharuna Sanvidhanaya.
During the meeting he had with Mrs. Bandaranaike she put a straight question to him bluntly: ” Dr. Bodhinayake, do you think you could galvanise the youth into action in such a short period of time to support the SLFP in the forthcoming elections“?
His affirmative answer was: “Yes ma’am“. He then immediately went into action by seeking support from the youth, national newspapers, some bhikkhus and Sinhala organisations to execute an effective campaign out of the newly formed socio-political wing of the SLFP, Sinhala Taruna Sanvidhanaya (STS). In doing so, he appointed Dr. Sivali Ratwatte as the leader of the organisation. Their main aim was to help Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike win the 1970 elections and form a SLFP government. One of the original members of the STS was Nimal Siripala de Silva, whom he introduced to Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who has remained in the SLFP up to this day as the most senior member of the SLFP
Mrs. B.with young Bodhinayake with Nimal Siripala de Silva (holding files)
As an appreciation for the hard work done by young Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake, after the grand victory of Mrs. Bandaranaike, she wanted to know what Bodhi wanted? He could have ended up as the Minister of Youth Affairs or as the Minister of Health in the new Government, yet he was humble enough to seek his internship regularised in the Ceylon Medical Council to be able to work as a doctor to serve the nation.
Minister of Health at the time Mr. W.P.G. Ariyadasa spent no time in acceding to his request to the Prime Minister. Under the advice and guidance of the Attorney general, as instructed by the new Premier it was done promptly . Next it was the opportunity for young and proud Dr. Bodhinayake to face the President of the Ceylon Medical Council. So, one bright morning he approached him in his office and said to him boldly thus:
” Sir, could you remember once you told me that Medical Council Regulations had to be changed to register my name in CMC, and I told you in return that we have to change the government instead to do so? Now, as you can see, we have managed to change the government and also have a new Prime Ministe,r Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike…”
Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake continued working as a medical doctor attached to the Ministry of Health ever since, and became popular as a pediatrician. Subsequently Mrs. Bandaranaike elected him to the National Youth Council. Simultaneously, the Governor General, Sir William Gopallawa, appointed him as a member of the Three Member National Advisory Board of the Government with Dr. D.W.Abeykoon (who later became Chairman of the Bar Council) and Mr. A J Rajasuriya, Head of the CID to deal with the young JVP rebel detainees following the insurrection to study their appeals and to make justifiable decisions, which he accomplished without any bias.
Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake Chaired the first 14 member UNESCO International Symposium on health and acted as Chairman of the State Advisory Board on Scientific Literature in Sri Lanka. He was the youngest Asian to have won a UNESCO award for original scientific writing in 1966.
As a young qualified junior pediatrician, Buddhadasa Bodhinayake became interested in Anorexia Nervosa. With that as a backdrop and intensive research, he published his first book in Sri Lanka on psychology of children called ‘Daruwage Heti Therum Ganna( Facts to know about your child) . He has also published papers on Anorexia Nervosa and Adolescent Medicine in Sri Lanka – (1975-80 UNESCO publications).
Life in UK
When he arrived in the UK in 1974, he was very fortunate in being selected as a trainee for The Royal Free-University College-Frien rotation, which included Royal Free Anorexia Nervosa Unit. It was world famous and was headed by Professor Gerald Russell. Under less than a year of working at the Royal Free, he was appointed as Registrar. Subsequently, he became a Senior Registrar at St. Bartholomew’s North Middlesex, Worley Rotation. With the passage of time, he worked as Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Tutor to train post graduates at Barking & Brentwood , where the Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists congratulated him formally on two occasions.
Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake conducted over nine annual symposia in psychiatry, trained over 120 graduate trainees during a period of 12 years and earned his Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1990. On early retirement, due to ill health, he was honoured, by having conferred on him the Emeritus Status by the North East London Mental Health Trust. Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake was the only Sri Lankan who has served on the Editorial Board of the famed International review journal ‘Hospital Medicine’, formerly known as the British Journal of Hospital Medicine published in the UK.
In his psychiatric lectures he always made reference to meditation for over 20 years in the UK putting into practice meditation as a therapy. He very much believed in the theory that contemplation could be beneficial to anyone. At the beginning it was however taken as a pun for discussion. Some laughed at the use of meditation in psychiatry because at initial stages it was seen as an alien topi. But seemingly it became acceptable with more and more applications coming out to the world and in the medical press about the advantages of medication in the practice of psychiatric medicine.
Buddhadasa Bodhinayake started writing Sinhala when he was 7 years old; his first article was ‘Paropakaraya’ (helping fellow human beings) in the ‘ Sinhala Jathiya’newspaper. A leading light those days in Broadcasting, Karunaratne Abeysekera, helped him to come into the broadcasting arena and made him a junior broadcaster in his (Abeysekera’s) children’s programme ‘Lama Mandapaya’.
Over a period of 25 years , Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhinayake handled over one thousand broadcasts in the Radio Ceylon with an average of 3-4 programmes a week. He became the first Radio announcer to give ball-by-ball cricket commentary in Sinhala from the Oval cricket grounds when Mr. Ronnie De Mel was the Director of Broadcasting despite many others claiming that they were the first!
Inspired by the first science magazine in Sri Lanka published by E.W. Adikaram he launched his own magazine ‘ Vidya’ from the time he entered the medical faculty with the help of Prof. Tuley de Silva, Prof. Carlo Fonseka, Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda, Prof Kirthi Samaranayake, Prof Ariyaratne Balasuriya and the vice principal of Ananda Mr. C.M. Weeraratne and continued its publication for over 25 years continuously unabated, with the heaviest weight of the magazine falling on his fiancé Karuna Ramanayake, who did a gigantic work by spending long hours at the press.
He considered the greatest honour he received during his life time as the opportunity of being the Chief Guest of the Ananda College prize giving in 1993 at the invitation of his alma mater in the presence of an audience of 2000, which included students, teachers, old boys, parents and other distinguished visitors.
Dr. Bodhinayake associated with Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka and jointly authored Sri Lanka’s first book on Space titled‘OBA Vannek Handata Yaiin 1961 (someone like you will go to the Moon). Later Sir Arthur advised, persuaded and encouraged him to go London and offered accommodation as well in his London house where his brother Fred Clarke lived at the time.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke at his London House,
Finally, Bodhinayakes became proud owners of Sir Arthur C Clarke’s London house at Nightingale Road, Bounds Green in North London, where he lived until his death on the 4th of March 2015. age of 74, after a long and hard fought battle of illness.
May he attain Nibbana.