Venerable Pemasiri Maha Thera is a Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk of deep understanding and exceptional kindness, humor and compassion. Bhante Pemasiri lives and teaches the Buddha’s way of life.
Born on December 5th 1941, even from his youngest age he showed keen interest in uncovering the underlying truths. Part of this big undertaking included, as he puts it, 'his craze' about things spiritual, figuring out this thing called the mind and meditation.
While engaged in his search, going through learning things like hypnotism, conjuring, yoga asanas, martial arts, different meditation techniques and others, he finally came across what is now known as 'the Mahasi method'. This immediately struck home with him and so, with some difficulty, he acquired his parents permission and started frequenting the original meditation center in Kanduboda.
Most of his late teens have been thus spent either staying in the center or travelling there almost daily from his home in the village of Kidagammulla of the Gampaha district. It was in the Kanduboda center where he properly properly learned meditation from highly qualified and respected masters with ven. Sumatipala (Abbot and founder of Vipasanna Meditation Centre in Kanduboda) acting as his main teacher. Staying there also allowed him to learn teaching meditation from the Burmese Masters from Mahasi tradition namely U Sujata as well as coming in close contact with other prominent masters such as U Pandita Sayadaw and later on also U Webu Sayadaw.
While alternating intensive practice with periods of being the center's meditating odd-jobs-man, he decided to ordain. He secured his parents' consent, albeit with great difficulty. And in 1963 he received his samanera (novice) ordination which was followed in 1965 by his upasampada (full bhikkhu) ordination.
Even after his ordination he still continued switching between meditation-only with spells of meditation combined with other activities. Those grew significantly and included also studying Dhamma and Vinaya as well as a meditation teacher's training which eventually became meditation teaching. As a result, in 1969, he obtained official Burmese Master's recognition as a meditation teacher and later on also as a teacher of meditation teachers. His thirst for learning never really dried out and so when occasions and his teacher permitted, he spent periods of secluded practice in various remote forest hermitages and or learning new 'meditation techniques' - both in Sri Lanka and abroad. Of note is his about 12 year period of practicing what has later become known as 'Goenka'.
On passing away of his beloved teacher ven. Sumathipala in 1982, ven. Pemasiri became the chief incumbent of the center. After 5 years of untiring work, he relinquished this position and spent about a year abroad, travelling India, Myanmar and Thailand in search of a new teacher as well as so called 'new meditation styles.' Some time after returning to Sri Lanka, upon combined requests of U Pandita and some prominent lay supporters he consented and became the chief incumbent at the Lanka Vipassana Centre in Colombo, where stayed for twelve years. After about a year's stay in Australia he was invited to come to Kanduboda and start a new place on the original center's lands.
He is currently still the abbot at the Sumathipala Nahimi Senasun Arana, a dwelling place that emphasizes a put-in-practice Dhamma approach to the teaching of the Buddha as opposed to the ritual-religious approach. Ven. Pemasiri Thera has become a genius in the field of meditation by giving meditation instructions to thousands of meditators over the course of more than 50 years. His students, not only from Sri Lanka but also from around the world, and from various religious backgrounds, call him their guide in life and not just a meditation teacher. Going to the core of their unique experiences, he leads them to the point of seeing the true nature of existence.