Professor Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera, was one of Sri Lanka’s foremost academic scholars, one of the pioneers of Buddhist renaissance, and an outstanding public figure. Prof. Malalasekera’s contribution to the Buddhist canon of knowledge, history, cultural development, linguistic and numerous other academic disciplines elevated him to the status of a global thought leader on Buddhist affairs.
Throughout his life, Professor Malalasekera made many contributions to various spheres of activities, which are too numerous to mention, however, foremost amongst these achievements, are his contribution to the worldwide spread of Buddhism, its teachings, and philosophy both locally and internationally. He was the inspiration, and founder of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, and its first President as well.
Born : November 9, 1899, at Malamulla, Panadura to parents M.S. Peiris Malalasekera and Dona Selestina Kuruppu Jayawardhana.
Primary and Secondary Education : At St. John’s College, Panadura, 1906 – 1917
Tertiary Education : Entered Ceylon Medical College, 1917 – 1918. Passed B.A. (London) Examination (External), 1919
Teacher : Ananda College, Colombo, 1921
Vice Principal : Ananda College, Colombo, 1922
Acting Principal : Ananda College, Colombo, 1923
Post-Graduate Studies : School of Oriental Studies, University of London 1923-26. M.A. and Ph.D. (simultaneously) University of London, 1925
Principal : Nalanda College, Colombo, 1926
Lecturer : In Sinhalese, Pali and Sanskrit, Ceylon University College, 1927
D.Litt. : University of London, 1938
Professor : Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhalese, 1939
Dean : Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Ceylon, 1942
Editor-in-Chief : Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 1956
Ambassador : U.S.S.R., 1957-1961; concurrently accredited to Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia, 1959-1961
High Commissioner : In Canada 1961- 1963
Permanent Representative : for Ceylon at the U.N. 1961-1963, At the U.N. served as Chaiman, Security Council; Member, Fact-finding Mission to Saigon, and in the Committee on Information from Non-self Governing Territories
Chairman : National Council of Higher Education 1967- 1971
Other degrees and honors : Hon. D. Phil (Moscow); Hon. D.Lit. (Ceylon); Hon. D. Lit. (Vidyodaya University of Ceylon 1960); Imperial Honor of the Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.)1953; Chevalier de I’Order Nationale du Merite (France); Commander of the Order of Mani Saraphon (Cambodia); Buddhasasanavepullahitadhara (Burma); Membre d’honneur de I’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient
Activities in Religions, Academic, Literary, and Cultural Organizations : Joint-Secretary of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (A.C.B.C.) for two consecutive years from 1927; Vice President of the A.C.B.C. from 1937-1939; its President for 19 consecutive years from 1939-1957, in which year he left the island on a diplomatic assignment. On his return in 1967, elected President and functioned in that capacity till the time of his death
Founder-President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, 1950-1958
Chairman, Lumbini Restoration Project Committee of UNESCO
Member, Special Committee on Education (1945) ; Chairman, Central Advisory Board for Education; Member, Commission on Higher Education in Swabhhasha (1954); Member, Official Language Commission (1956)
Vice President, English Association (Ceylon Branch); Founder-member Classical Association of Ceylon; President, Asian Archaeological Congress; President, Asian Cultural Organization; President, Indian Philosophical Congress
Hon. Secretary, Ceylon Society of Arts; President, Arts Council of Ceylon; Member, Committee on Re-organization of the National Service of Radio Ceylon Member, Editorial Committee of the Sinhalese Etymological Dictionary; Chairman of the Editorial Board and Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Represented Sri Lanka at the Conference of Living Faiths Within the Empire (London, 1924); World Fellowship of Faiths (London, 1936); East-West Philosopher’s Conference (Hawaii, 1949); Indian Philosophical Congress (India, on several occasions) ; International Congress of Orientalists (several times); All Indian Oriental Conference (India, several times); Pakistan Philosophical Congress (Karachchi 1955); Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (several symposia); Symposium on Buddhism’s Contribution to Art, Letters and Philosophy (New Delhi, 1956); Convocation of Religion for World Peace (San Francisco, 1965)
Vijaya Prasanna Malalasekera , youngest son of Professor (born 8 August 1945) is a Sri Lankan lawyer, corporate executive and sportsman. Chairman, Bogala Graphite and Asian Cotton Mills, he was the Chairman, Interim Committee for the Board of Control for Cricket.
After attending Royal College, Colombo, he studied at Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University, where he won blues for cricket. Having gained his MA, he was called to the bar as a Barrister at the Inner Temple. On returning to Sri Lanka he became an advocate and began his private practice. Following a major crisis, he was appointed as Chairman of the Interim Committee for the Board of Control for Cricket by the President of the country. At present he is the Chairman of Bogala Graphite and Asian Cotton Mills as well as Director of Carson Cumberbatch & Company and Brown & Company.