Who is on the ATBA Committee?
The Auckland Theravada Buddhist Association is fortunate to have an excellent managing committee of 15 competent, intelligent, trustworthy and reliable devotees of the Buddha. They meet once a month with the Spiritual Director, Ajahn Chandako, to discuss ATBA events and the development of Vimutti Monastery.
Dr. Freddie Abeysekara is the current president of the ATBA and Dr. Benita Amaratunga is vice-president. Together with Mike Hew, Edward and Priscilla Dawson, Dr. Gamini Ediriweera, Sumana Abeysekara and Vinitha Weerasinghe, they have formed the backbone of the committee for three decades. Their consistent reliability though the long haul has been the ATBA’s great strength and has enabled a small group of lay people to grow into a large organisation that supports a forest monastery.
Freddie organises the weekly Sunday evening meditations and helps to oversee the ATBA finances. His wife Sumana has done most of the landscaping at the Auckland Vihara and helps to organise food for large events. They and Benita can always be found at the centre of ATBA activities. Benita has been a stalwart supporter of Vimutti Monastery since its beginning, and her name has been nearly synonymous with the children’s Dhamma school. She initiated the classes at the Auckland Vihara to teach children the basics of Buddhism, and she devotes a great amount of her time to the school’s administration.
As the secretary, Mike helps with the administrative side of the association. Along with his many other duties, he organises the visas for the resident monastics and keeps a record of everything discussed and decided at all committee meetings. Mike’s wife Rosalind handles the registration for the Vimutti meditation retreats. Priscilla and Edward are the treasurers, and, together with Freddie and Mike, pay the bills, send receipts and manage the bank accounts. As the ATBA and Vimutti Monastery have developed, the task of managing the monetary side of the organisation has grown to a full time job. The finances are handled in a transparent manner, so that all donations and expenditures can be inspected by any member of the ATBA and are posted at the Auckland Vihara. Edward also helps with much of the monastery’s practical maintenance, assisting with building and landscaping projects.
Gamini is a selfless elder of the Sri Lankan community who helps in many ways, including looking after the medical needs of the Sangha. Vinitha is in charge of organising the meal rosters for the monastery. This demanding task requires tremendous ongoing dedication, and in the nine years that monks have been living at Vimutti or the Vihara, they have never once gone hungry. (If you would like to join the dana meal roster, please contact Vinitha at 09-269-8933.)
Newer members of the ATBA committee have displayed reliability equal to that of the elders. K. G. Dayananda and Chandra Ananda can be seen at nearly every meditation retreat and Good Kamma Day working bee. They help to manage retreats and look after the landscaping. Dr. Chintaka Samaranayaka represents the ATBA at the New Zealand Buddhist Council. He and Dr. Sachi Koddipily founded the Auckland University Buddhist Association in 2006 when they were students. Together they help to reach out to the younger generation and have set up the Facebook page for Vimutti Monastery. Vimutti on Facebook. Bruce Glover, Wi Promson and Anoja Devendra were all on the pilgrimage to Thailand led by Ajahn Chandako in 2012, so they have much first hand experience of the Thai Forest Tradition. Bruce and Wi liaise with the Thai community and help with cleaning, landscaping, land purchase and accounting. Anoja and her husband Harsha have helped with many building projects.
There are also a number of former ATBA committee members who have devoted a great amount of their time and energy in recent years: Raja Gooneratne, Cliff Constable, John Hibbs, Nuk Thompson, Jeevendra Pathirage and Maree Williams. Their efforts are not forgotten.
One committee member who retired this year deserves special mention: Sunil Wettewa. Sunil has decided to return to his home country of Sri Lanka to assist his family there. He will be missed greatly. Renowned for his big-hearted generosity, humility and metta, he is one of the most loved of all the people associated with Vimutti Monastery. Since discovering Vimutti shortly after it was founded, Sunil has been foremost in reliability, attending nearly every Dhamma talk, meditation workshop, retreat, working bee, food fair and committee meeting.
Sunil has been the committee member most familiar with the monastery property, and for many years he has worked tirelessly to make paths, build huts, plant trees, mow grass, clear weeds, maintain the vehicles and organise donations. It is often the case that when everyone else has already gone home after a Good Kamma Day, and darkness has set in, Sunil is still outside working, rain or shine. In memory of his father (also a dedicated Buddhist meditator), Sunil offered and helped build the Stream Kuti, to be used as the abbot’s hut for Ajahn Chandako. In many respects, it would have been much more difficult to establish Vimutti Monastery if Sunil had not been an integral member of the team for the last nine years. We are all indebted to his boundless service, and through the power of his good kamma may he have a smooth and pleasant path to Enlightenment.