On behalf of Moanoghar we accord our warm congratulations to Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera, the key founder of Moanoghar on his being awarded with the Ekushey Padak 2022. On 3 February the Ministry of Cultural Affairs announced the list of the Ekushey Padak 2022 winners. 24 distinguished persons have been awarded this year in recognition of their contributions in different field. Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera has been awarded in the category of social service.
The Ekushey Padak is the second highest civilian award in Bangladesh. The Award consists of a gold medal weighing 35 grams, Tk. 400,000 and a certificate. The Prime Minister will present the awards through an event.
We, the Moanoghar family members are very happy with this state recognition for the works and contribution of Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera to the selfless service to the thousands of orphans and destitute children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and beyond.
It is worthwhile to mention here that Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera is a pioneer to apply the Buddhist values and principles in social works in the greater Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). He first established an orphanage named Parbattya Chattal Boudha Anath Ashram at Boalkhali in Dighinala in 1961 in order for imparting shelter and education to the orphans. Later in 1974 Moanoghar was established at Rangapani village in Rangamati under his direct guidance and financial support from him. During the conflict period in the CHT, Parbattya Chattal Boudha Anath Ashram (PCBAA) was destroyed. However, Moanoghar has remained fully functioning until today. For its contribution in spreading the light of education, Moanoghar is now recognised as a ‘light house’ in the hills.
Beyond the hills, Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera established many educational institutions such as in Chittagong, Joypurhat and Rangpur.
Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera came to Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1958 as a Head Priest at Mubachari Buddhist Vihara in Mahalchari. After two years, that Buddhist Vihara was submerged in the water when the Kaptai Dam was completed. Then Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera moved to Boalkhali Deshabala Raj Buddhist Vihara in Dighinala.
In the wake of the Kaptai Dam, Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera witnessed the social turmoil and sufferings of the hill people. He was moved by the unbearable brunt of the Kaptai Dam inflicted on the mass people therein. Alongside these sufferings caused by the Kaptai Dam, he witnessed the social vices, uncertainties in lives and livelihood, and lack of education and other social services. He himself being an orphan in his early life, he was moved by the sufferings of the orphaned and destitute children in the locality.
Under these circumstances, despite his being a Buddhist monk, he could not keep himself aside from the social reality. He engaged himself in the social work being inspired by the motto of “for the wellbeing of the many, for the happiness of the many” as taught by the Buddha to his disciples. He translated the principles of metta-karuna-mudita (loving kindness-compassion-emphatic sympathy) into his social actions. In this regard, he started to work on providing education as a means of removing illiteracy, poverty, superstitious beliefs and other social evils from the society. For moral education, he established Pali Tolls and Colleges alongside the educational institutions for general education. He allowed the Sramanas (novices) and bhikkhus (monks) to receive general education from general educational institutions. Notable that during that time, there was a common view among the Buddhist communities that the Sramanas and Bhikkhus to should not receive general education from the lay educational institutions. Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera challenged this social perception. He encouraged Sramanas and Bhikkhus to receive both moral and general education.
Thanks to his farsightedness and pragmatic social engagement, we have got many educational institutions such as PCBAA and Moanoghar. As a social engagement Guru Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera he trained up his disciples and motivated them into social engagement. Among his luminous disciples some names are worthy to mention here such as Ven. Bimal Tissya Mahathera, Ven. Prajnananda Mahethera and Ven. Shraddhalankar Mahathera, who have been playing revolutionary roles to spread education in the hills and beyond.
As a practice of his social intervention, Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera mobilized the neighbouring families of his Bouddha Vihara to save ‘handful rice’ (moosti chal) which was utilized to establish a school and to feed the orphans sheltered at the Buddhist Vihara. Alongside, he motivated the well off families to donate rice and the Bhikkhu Sangha to make donations for this purpose. Savings of moosti chal was instrumental to shaping the idea of Moanoghar and its mother institution – PCBAA.
Ven. Jnanashree Mathera sowed the seed of social engagement through setting up PCBAA in 1961. Now we can see the results of his action. Thousands of orphans and marginalised children received education from Moanoghar and other educational institutions. Many of them are doing jobs in different government and non-government agencies at home and abroad. They have been playing important roles for the development of society and the country on the whole. The educational institutions set up by him are providing education to hundreds of hundred children.
This noble work and contribution made by the most Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera has been recognised by the state through award of the Ekushey Padak 2022. We are very proud of him.
We, on behalf of Moanoghar, share our happiness with him and all on this grand moment.
May the most Ven. Jnanashree Mahathera long live among us, and bless us to keep on our mission “for the wellbeing of the many, for the happiness of the many”.