The Jummaland (Chittagong Hill Tracts) is situated in the South-Eastern part of the Bangladesh. The total population of Buddhists isnearly 3 million roughly. They areChakmas, Tanchangyas, Mros orMurungs, Chaks, Marmas, andBaruas. The Chakmas, Tanchangyas, Mros, Chaks andMarmas are living in Jummalandsince pre-historic periods. TheTanchanyas, Chaks and Mros arethe sub-tribe of Chakmas. Approximately, 90% of Buddhists (Chakmas, Tanchangyas, Chaks, Mros and Marmas) are living in the Jummaland and the rest 10%(Baruas) living in the plain districts. They all are the followers of the Theravada Traditional Buddhism.
Highest Holiness Venerable Sadhanananda Mahathera is well known as “Bana Bhante” which means Forest Monk. Prior of his receive Novice Monk (Shramanera) Ordination; his house-hold name was Mr. Ratindra Chakma. He was born on January 8, 1920 at the Dhanapata, Moroghona village of Maghban Mouza under the Rangamati jurisdiction, the then Chakma Royal Kingdom (now Jummaland or Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh). Later, the Moroghona village along with thousands of Jumma villages as well as Chakma Royal Palace was submerged under the water by the Kaptai Hydro-Electrical Project in 1964-65.
Mr. Ratindra belongs from middle class family of ChakmaNation. His father name was Mr. Haru MohanChakma and mother Mrs. Birpudi Chakma.He was the eldest son of his parents. He hasfour brothers and one sister.Since his early life,
Mr. Ratindra was verygentle, honest, polite, kind, noble, andreligious. Occasionally, he used to practice meditation in asecluded place in the midst of his works and studies. He was educated up to class four standards only from their village primaryschool. As he was not interested in general study, he gives up for further education. Even, he is not interest to join with others children to play. In comparison to others, he was different by nature and was averse to enjoying pleasure and comfort. However, he would spend most of his time in studying history, science, literature, religious books and the books relating to the biographies of the famous writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists. He wasread life story of the famous authors like Poet Rabindra NathTagore, Kamini Roy, and even Ramayana and Mahabharata. Heearned an enormous inspiration for the future course of life throughthe reading of books. But, he also interested to watching the dramas and theatres and listening the Folklore (Kabigaan) in the village. He was deeply thinking after listening and watching it. Herealized that the life is just like a drama with full of suffering.
One day in 1924, at the age of five, Mr. Ratindra was meditating ina secluded place and suddenly visions arise to him. After a while vision was disappeared and then he was clearly realized andunderstood about the vision which is the sign of the light of wisdom.Since then, he practice meditation frequently in secluded place, whenever gets chance. In around 1940-41, Mr. Ratindra was an employee by Mr. BirajMohan Dewan in a shop at Rangamati Bazar. During those days Mr.Dewan was Headman as well as landlord. Even though, never happy with his wealthy and always express unsatisfactory and suffered mentally. Mr. Ratindra carefully observes and remarks on Mr. Dewan opinions and expressions. When turned 29 years old, Mr. Ratindra was faced one of the remarkable episode in his life, which is given an opportunity to renounced the world. It was an eleven year old girl, the onlychildren of their parent suddenly died in their village. All of herrelatives and villagers came and get together. The dead body waskept aside near the veranda. On the other-hand, the parent and
relatives of the dead body’s crying loudly. Sometimes hitting their fore-head; sometime hitting their head with trees, sometimes hittingtheir chest, sometime become senseless, etc. A young Ratindra is watching carefully all these scenarios silently from one side. He realized that one day, he has to die like this girl and also have to cry like her parents and relatives. After watching this episode, he strongly determined that he will not be joining in the worldly life.He will renounce the world for searching the truth of this suffering like the Enlightened One. After few days of that episode, Mr. Ratindra decided to meet Ven.Dipankar Srigyan Mahathera, who was Chief Abbot of the NandanKanan Buddhist Temple, Chittagong (here Mahathera is pali and Mahasthavir is Bengali. I prepare Pali).
By the help of Dr. Gajendra Lal Barua, he met Ven. Mahathera and was ordained as a Novice monk (Shramanera) under him in1949 at the age of 29; which was full moonday in the month of March. His Novice-hood named was given Ven. RatindraShramanera by his Preceptor. During his stay at Nandan Kanan, Ven.Ratindra was diligently studies many Buddhist religious books whatever he got in the Temple library as well as from his Preceptor. After 3/4 months studies he became well-known about the teaching of Buddha on theoretical knowledge. But, he is not much happy withthat and he always thinking about practical approach. He always ask himself
– Where and how it possible to achieve spiritual wisdom? Shaving head, wearing saffron robes and wandering hereand there is no use, if I unable to achieve supreme wisdom. He also remarks on his Preceptor that- “Precept or always expresses byhimself - oh! Suffering; oh! Very suffering; oh! Life is full of suffering; and so on”. But, Ven. Ratindra did not understand that his Preceptor’s suffering means. He think that - his Preceptor is highlyeducated, scholar, teacher, highly respected and prominent monk.
What he doesn’t have? What he wants? Why expressing suffering? One day, Ven. Ratindra went to meet to his Preceptor. He pays homage to him, after that he sit one side with join palm and ask aquestion. Bhante! Can you tell me-What is and how is feeling of “Spiritual Wisdom”? His Preceptor replied! Ven. Ratindra, I did not achieve that goal. I do not have any ideas about it. So, I amsorry. After got unsatisfactory answered from his Preceptor; Ven.Ratindra started thinking deeply and realized that his Preceptor is Tripitaka scholar as well as first B.A graduate monk in those days that he failed to answer my question – than nobody will be able to answer it. He determined that he have to go for searching theSpiritual Wisdom by himself. He asks the permission from his Preceptor to leave NandanKanan in order to find out it. So, after got permission, he decided to leave NandanKanan at the end of 1949 and went to Chitmorong Buddhist Temple, one of the oldest Temple in Chakma RoyalKingdom. During his stay at there, he was asked the same questions to the Chief Abbot of the Temple, what he was asked to his Preceptor. The Chief Abbot alsofailed to answer. Instead of that- he comment to him, “It is not easy, it is very difficult and impossible task that for ordinary monks and novices like you and me to achieve that goal”. After few months there, Ven. Ratindra left the temple and took shelter in the dense forest. After wandering a month, he arrived at Dulyasuri BuddhistTemple. Even there, he failed to find the suitable secluded place forhim to meditate. After a month later, he left the Dulyasuri and went Reingkyan Kengrasuri Buddhist Temple under the Bilaisuri Police Station. He did not have any suitable and secluded place there too. After few weeks, he decided to wander again in order to find a suitable place for practice. So, he was many places, such as Betagi Aranya Kutir, Rauzan, and Kaptai dense forest, etc. as a wanderingascetic novice monk before reaching Dhanapata. Before Dhanapata, Ven. Ratindra achieves some sort sainthoodduring his wandering periods in the dense forest. We can say, FirstPsychic Power –
while he was living in the dense forest in betweenDhanapata and Kosalyagona areas. On one remarkable night, it washeavily rain with strong storms and thundered in those areas wherehe uses to live. In the morning, he came nearest village is calledChongrasuri for alms-round with fully dried robes. When see him without any sign of wets in his robes, the villager becamesurprised. The villagers started talking each other about him. Later, the news had spread all over. So, that was the first
“PsychicPower” shown by the Ven. Ratindra to the public, most probably it was happened after 8/9 months of his Novice-hood. When Ven. Ratindra arrived at Dhanapata in end of 1949, hechooses the dense forest of those areas and will be suitable for him to practice. So, firmly decided not to move anywhere any more until and unless reach his final goal. He also thinking deeply, how he will be progress his practice without teacher. Later, he firmly determined to practice in order to achieved and final discover the blissful wisdom by any means like the great Scientist
Sir IsaacNewton - who discovered the Laws of Motion and Gravitation;
Galileo Galilei – who discovered the Law of the Pendulum;
Neil Armstrong - first man to walk on the moon; and
Lord Buddha discovered blissful Nibbana,
by their determination, dedication, hard works, effort and sacrifices.
He took oath to observe minimum Five Duthanga (Kammathana) out of 13 and determined to becomemore ascetic life style monk in the dense forest.
Ven. Ratindra secluded place was very far from the village. Nobody does know where he meditate, eats, sleep, drink, etc. Hedepends on alms-round (Pindapat) from the nearest village only.During the rainy season, he comes to collect alms food only afterevery 3/4 days. During the winter faced cold without enough woolen clothes.
He carried with him only tri-civaras (three robes) as part of his ascetic practice, which is called “Tri-civaric Duthanga”. After around 5/6 years (1954/55) in the dense forest, he became popular on his ascetic life style and practice. Later, the villagers built a hut (first hut) for himat the bank of Jogonasuri River aftergot permission from him and invited to stay there. He also meditated many months under a Bodhi Tree near his hut. About two years later in 1957, a piece of land donated by Mr. Tejmoni Chakma for the construction of a hutat Selajghat. The villagers built the second hut and invited him to stay there. It became permanent hut till he was at Dhanapata. So, from 1949-1960(around 11 years), he was diligently in concentration at a stretch for 11 years in solitude. When he come in the village to alms-round, people call him
Ratindra Shraman and later became well-known as Bana Sadhak (Bana means forest and Sadhak means meditator) which meaning is “practicing meditation in the forest”.
Duringthis 11 years period of times, the villagers had proved many ways,
through his psychic power that “Bana Sadhak became anenlightened being”. Since,
His name and fame spread all over the county and abroad as “Bana Bhante”. As mentioned earlier, thousands of villages, Chakma Royal Palace including
Bana Bhante’s hut and dense forest areas started submerging under the water in 1960 by the Kaptai Hydro-ElectricalProject. All villagers compelled to move from their ancestral land to different places and directions. The Dhanapata villager moved to Diginala, northern part of the Kingdom. Bana Bhante was spent many days without the villager. Later, he could not found any people for alms-round. After a month, a close lay supporter Mr.Nishi Moni Chakma and others on behalf of the villager came to invite and to take him to Diginala in the end of 1960. The villager constructed a small hut for him to practice meditation at Diginala, which was secluded and far from their village. After came there,started diligently ascetic practice again. After few months later at Diginala, the lay supporters organize a FullOrdination Ceremony (Bhikkhu Upasampada) after obtainedpermission from Bana Bhante. So, in the middle of 1961, Ven.Ratindra Shramanera took Full Ordination as a Bhikkhu under the Preceptor of Ven. Gunalankar Mahathera at the age of 41. Many prominent monks were present during his ordination ceremony; such as Ven. Jinavamsa Mahathera, Ven. Ananda Mitra Mahathera, Ven. Rajguru Aggavamsa Mahathera, and Ven. Gyanasri Thera andso on. His full ordination named given as Ven. Sadhanananda Bhikkhu .
So, from 1949-1961 (12 years), he was meditated as anascetic Novice Monk at Dhanapata and Diginala dense forest. Priorof his Bhikkhu Ordination, he never accepted any invitation fromthe public. After his Bhikkhu Ordination, he started to accept public invitation with strict condition according to Vinaya. He was for 10years (1961-70) after his Full Ordination at Diginala. In middle of 1970, Bana Bhante was shifted to Dursuri from Diginala and was 6/7 months there. Later on earnest request from Mr. Anil Bihari Chakma(Headman and Chairman)moved to Tintilya of Longaduat the end of 1970. In 1971,after 11 years (11 Vassa = RainRetreat) of his Bhikkhu-hood,
Bana Bhante started giving Dhamma Discourses publicly on his Spiritual journey and achievements. According tothe Vinaya (disciplinary rules and code of conduct in Buddhism), a ordinaryBhikkhu, who not reach minimum 10 Vassa, which means 10 years of his Bhikkhu-hood would not allowed him to be in-charge (Abbot) of a Monastery or Temple as well as not permitted to give Dhamma Discourses publicly. Prior of that, he must have to stay and studies Dhamma-Vinaya under his Preceptor or senior Bhikkhu until reach 10 Vassa. But, in case of Bana Bhante, question does not arise. He already enlightened, when he was in Dhanapata as an ascetic Novice monk.
During his stay at Tintilya in 1973 for the first time in history “Kathina Chivara Dana” was offered to him by the lay supporters, which first introduced by the Chief female lay benefactor named Visaka during the life time of Exalted One. It was the most remarkable event in Buddhist history in Chakma Royal Kingdom.Chakma Rajmata Benita Roy, Royal family members and devoteesfrom Rangamati was also attended in the Katina Ceremony. Headedby Chakma Rajmata Benita Roy, they invited to
Bana Bhante to attend at Katina Dana Ceremony at Raj Vihar which was held on October-November, 1974. He was accepted. When he came toattend in the ceremony, the devotees headed by Chakma RajmataBenita Roy and Rajmata Aroti Roy earnestly requested again todwell at Rangamati permanently.
Bana Bhante was accepted their invitation as well, which should be after 3 years in 1977.
He was dwelt at Tintilya and preached profound Dhamma-Vinaya for 7 years (1970-77).In 1975, a piece of land was donated by the Chakma Royal family and constructed Raj Bana Vihar. After finished the construction, Bana Bhante sent his disciple headed by Ven. NanadapalBhikkhu at Raj Bana Vihar,Rangamati.In 1977,
Bana Bhante along with his disciples shifted to permanently at Rangamati from Tintilya, where the present Raj Bana Vihar was constructed. Since then he has been staying there till now On 14th February 1981, after reached 20 Vassa (Rain Retreat)
BanaBhante was awarded the title as “Mahathera” by the Sangha community of Bangladesh which was sponsored by the Chakma Royal Family and devotees at Raj Bana Vihar. At present, the Raj Bana Vihar has become an international tourist spot of pilgrimages and is regularly visited by diplomats and other dignitaries of both home and abroad.
Bana Bhante’s life time scheduled from 1925 - 1949 (age 5 to29=24 years) as a layman; from 1949 -1961(age 29 to 41=12 years) as a Novice Monk (Shramanera); from 1961-1981(age 41 to 61= 20years) as a Bhikkhu; and from 1981-2010 (age 61 to 91 = 30 years) as a Mahathera (till today). As Bhikkhu and Mahathera, he had reached 49 Vassa (Rain Retreat) in 2009.During this periods, BanaBhante spent uncountable days and nights in secluded dense forest inside the caves, under the trees, huts, bank of the rivers, open field, and slept onthe bush; travel many plains, slopes and hills; crossed many streams and rivers; walked uncountable kilometers on foots; suffered unbearable; shivered due to cold; wetted due torain; unable to slept due to hunger, cold, and rain; millions of visible and invisible sentient beings was around him as good friends and some are as bad friends too; and spent uncountabledays and nights without foods; sacrifices his whole life; forsearching wisdom and blissful happiness what he had now. Finally, by his firm determination, dedication, devotion, practice meditation, morality, compassionate, equanimity, effort, energy, loving-kindness, patience, sacrifices, hard works, diligent, etc. he had achieved what he wants. After achieved in the final stage, he came out in the public to teach the truth what he found. The truth is Four Noble Truth, such as Truth of Suffering, Truth of the Cause of Suffering, Truth of the End of Suffering, and Truth of the Path Leading to End of Suffering; as well as the truth of right path which is Noble Eightfold Path, such as Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort,Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Bana Bhante is universally recognized to have attained the Arahatship and regarded as Savaka Buddha, which is last stage of sainthood in Buddhism. The definition of Arahant means, one who istotally free from all defilements- greed, hatred, delusion, desire, ridof ignorance, craving, and future birth. The destination of Arahant isto
Nibbana, which is Supreme and Blissful Happiness.
“Sabbe Satta Sukita Hontu, Sabba Dukkha Vinasantu”
- By: Ven. Pragya Jyoti, Goldfields Meditation Centre,On 8th January 2010, Australia