Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero (born 1 July 1961) is the founder of Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery.

Gnanananda Thero was born to the Roman Catholic family, parented by Cristy Kabraal and Violet Perera. The circumstances that followed his birth were ‘miraculous’, as the whole family became Buddhists just 6 months after his birth, going so far as to give up their main source of income: ‘animal husbandry for meat’ (a livelihood advised against by the Buddha).

Opportunity for Buddhist education was therefore available to him from childhood. Ordained on March 26th, 1979 (i.e. at age 17) under Ven. Dambagasare Shri Sumedhankara Thero and Ven. Dikwelle Pannananda Thero at Seruwavila, he received a traditional Buddhist academic education and entered the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Having understood the inability to achieve what he wanted in a university, he quit and started visiting meditation centers and hermitages. Having practiced and preached Dhamma for years, he founded Mahamevnawa in 1999 under the guidance of Ven. Kotapola Amarakitti Thero, in Waduwava, Polgahawela.

Mahamevnawa is currently spreading steadily under his guidance (It has around 40 branch monasteries for meditation throughout Sri Lanka, and overseas: Canada, USA, Australia), UK, and Germany. He now teaches Buddhism (Theravada), emphasizing the need to practice it in pure form (i.e. as in the Suttas) and casting off what is not advocated by the Buddha.

“Our Teacher, the Buddha has taught that birth as a human being is, indeed, a very rare achievement. Fortunately, we have now obtained that rare achievement. Yet, we have to remember that man’s greatness does not lie either in his nationality, caste, clan or any such feature. His greatness depends solely on his conduct. Man’s experiencing of happiness and suffering, too, is related to his three modes of action, namely mental, verbal and physical action. The Buddha devoted all his life to save man from dukkha – suffering. We are followers of the Buddha and our fervent hope is to see a world full of people who are freed from dukkha. Mankind’s wonderful treasure of wisdom is the Teaching of the Buddha. This doctrine illuminates our lives bringing happiness and joy. Go in search of this wonderful Dhamma yourself, lead your life accordingly, get rid of your suffering and join that fortunate band of people who experience the Supreme Bliss ” — A Message by the Venerable Thero

Thousands of practicing Buddhists are associated with Mahamevnawa. “Maha stupa vandanawa” conducted on the 2nd February, 2008 at Anuradhapura with participation of over 100000 disciples, bears evidence for the popularity his Damma program has achieved in Sri Lanka. The Most Ven Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero has written many books based on the teachings of Buddha. These publications are aimed to emphasize uncontaminated Buddhism that can be comprehended by anyone who reads it.

The Most Ven Thero has also commenced a culture in Sri Lanka (traditionally known as Damma Island – Island full of Buddha’s Teachings) to preach Buddha’s teaching in the national language of Sinhala, even though the teachings are traditionally preached in the Pali language. Many disciples believe that they are now able to preach Buddha’s teachings with the right understanding.

“It is a common thing to be the target of criticism and slanders when one becomes a popular figure. I was the target for endless criticism from Sri Lankan monks. It is difficult to develop Buddhism in Sri Lanka….I also started reciting Pirit in Pali mixed with Sinhalese. People did not understand even the meanings of the verses used for the homage to the Buddha. It is useless to recite Pali verses beautifully to the common people who can not understand them. To be honest, people know that most monks do not even live in temples. I wanted to establish a real genuine monastic centre. I wanted to provide a true understanding of the Dhamma to the innocent people, who believed that all their problems could be solved by Bodhi Pujas.

Ven. Bhikkhu Kiribathgoda Gnanananda, founder of Mahamevnawa Meditation Monasteries