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Home > Events > at Kularatne Hall, Ananda College : Olcott Oration 2016 today

at Kularatne Hall, Ananda College : Olcott Oration 2016 today

World history finds its greatness and attraction through the services rendered by philanthropists. A person whoever he is, achieves greatness through ideologies borne in his mind and to the extent of effectiveness and favourable consequences resulting therefrom.
If there was any person who was capable of uplifting the Sinhala Buddhists who were helpless due to colonial rule, although their forefathers enjoyed sublime virtues enriched with the advent of Arahath Mahinda, his achievement in re-establishing a golden era in this country makes him really great and sublime.
Col. Henry Steele Olcott clamoured and awakened a nation that was fast a sleep without any vigour to rise up. He was the pioneer who agitated to give due place to Buddhism and the reformer who compelled the colonial government that existed at that time to declare the Vesak Full Moon Day, a public holiday. He was the architect who designed the six coloured Buddhist Flag that has gained universal recognition. He was one of the pioneers responsible for the establishment of National Schools such as Ananda College.
earing the 130th Anniversary celebrations of establishment of Ananda College, Colombo, it is our duty to remember our founders including Col. Henry Steele Olcott who was able to create history through his immeasurable service towards the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Ananda College Old Boys’ Association organizes Olcott Oration on a timely theme every year as a part of celebrations of the founders.
This year, the Olcott Oration is scheduled to be held today, 20th November 2016 at the Kularatne Auditorium, Ananda College. The event is to be started sharp at 16.30 pm. This year, the oration will be delivered by Prof. Rohan Attele, who is the Professor of Mathematics and Chairman, Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Chicago State University. A distinguished Old Anandian, Prof. Rohan Attele, will deliver this year’s Oration on the topic “the Unreasonable success of Mathematics and role of IT in driving national economies”.
As has been the case year-after-year, we expect a full house for this year’s Oration. The audience will comprise of Old Boys of Ananda College, Principal and academic staff, distinguished invitees including eminent academics, scholars and professionals in various fields. Several embassies are also invited to grace the occasion as well. Col. Olcott whose contribution towards the betterment of our country, nation, religion, justice and good conduct has been so great, therefore remains in our hearts forever.
His motto was “The best religion is nothing but the Truth”. He established the Theosophical Society at New York in America on the 17th November 1875, towards the achievements of his goal.
As a result of his endeavor towards justice, good conduct, universal fraternity and freedom many erudites around the world gathered around him. We have to record our highest gratitude to Madam Helena Blavatsky who assisted him in all his endeavours. Col. Olcott was an American. However when we look into his clan, we note that his parents were English and had migrated to America. He was the eldest of a family of six siblings. This great child was born on August 2, 1832.
As an enthusiastic scholar, his research in agriculture in particular paved way for him to become the Head of a Department at Athens University of Greece. However he declined to accept this honour and instead he established an educational institution in agriculture because he preferred to serve his mother country. During the American Civil War, he joined the army and through his achievements was appointed colonel. American government appreciated his bravery and sharp wisdom, appointed him Commissioner to investigate and report on corruption in the American army. He performed this task very well.
For some time he practised as a lawyer. Although he was a Christian by birth, he came across a copy of the Panadura Controversy by Ven. Migettuwaththe Gunananda Thera, in Ceylon.
He who was in search of the Truth and found it in Buddhist philosophy highlighted in this famous controversy. Col. Olcott made an extensive study of Buddhism. Consequently with a team of people, including Madam Blavatsy came to Ceylon (then) on May 17, 1880 and at Vijayananda, Pirivena at Weliwatta, Galle. Col. Olcott and Madam Blavatsky became true Buddhists by accepting the Triple Gem and observing Panchaseela, from Ven. Akmeemana Dharmarama, Chief Monk.
Through his close association with intellectuals such as Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, Chief Monk, Ven. Miggettuwatte Gunananda Thera and Ven. Waskaduwe Sri Subuthi Thera, Col. Olcott realised the sad plight of the Sinhala Buddhists at that time. Considering the gravity of this, he thought of the need to unite and create a formidable workforce to act fast.
He realised the need to provide Buddhist children with an appropriate Buddhist environment through a systematic Buddhist education and to achieve this objective, he established the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society on June 17, 1880. He thought that the future prosperity of the nation, will depend on the good conduct and education of the living children, and therefore purchased a building at Maliban Street, where the Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society office was established and subsequently used the same building where an English school was established with 37 children. W. Lead Beater was appointed Principal.
Mr. Leadbeater, an Englishman, provided education free of charge till 1889. After 1889 A. E. Bultjourns was appointed principal and when the number of children increased and the school was shifted to Maradana, present day Ananda College which became one of the foremost colleges in Sri Lanka, found its beginnings at a small hall in Pettah. This was through the foresight and wisdom of Col. Olcott. Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was able to establish many Buddhist schools.
With a sense of pride we have to point out to the country that as a result of pursuing the thinking of Col. Olcott, Colombo Buddhist Theosophical Society was able to establish 460 Buddhist schools, including leading colleges such as Ananda, Nalanda, Dharmapala, Dharmaraja, Visakha and Musaeus College.
Amid various adversities, difficulties, obstacles, great men like Col. Olcott who directed our nation in the proper direction towards advancement at a stage when Sinhala Buddhists had forgotten their good culture and traditions, it is our duty to commemorate them with a sense of deep gratitude. Younger generation in particular must be knowledgable about the excellent qualities of this great leader, about his life and history and follow his path leading to advancement of our country.
When we remember the fact that great schools of learning such as Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja produced national leaders and others who did a lot for their country and also when we remember that colleges for ladies like Musaeus and Viskha produced heroic mothers for the country, we can imagine that they get the blessings and grace of Col. Olcott who may be at a higher place in the universe.
Our nation was gifted with heroins and heroes, such as Viharamaha Devi, Dutugemunu, Parkramabahu the Great. We can remember the manner in which even a great person like Anagarika Dharmapala was brought to the forefront with the able guidance of this rare type of great men like Col. Olcott and in that we observe that differences such as religion, race, or caste or black or white are not at all barriers, when such great men go in search of the Truth.
Col. Olcott made every endeavour to awaken the Buddhist and to impress English rulers to prove that Sinhalese are a great race. Although he belonged to a different faith, he embraced Buddhism and the immense contribution made by him for Buddhism and Sinhala people. Every Sinhalese in the past, present and future is indebted to him. Finally at a time he was able to see that his efforts have become fruitful, he became very happy and expressed his sentiments before Rev. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Chief Monk, whom Col. Olcott considered as teacher.
“Seeds have been sown. These have grown and become large trees. My dear Rev. Sir, No force on this earth or above can stop its growth and fruition in the future.”

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