Living a Spiritually Awakened Life
Today, the name that shines the crest of Buddhism in Bangladesh is none other than the Most Respected Venerable Sadhanananda Mahathera, popularly and lovingly known as Bana Bhante ‘The Forest Monk’. ‘Bana Bhante’, a name of great sanctity pronounced with high veneration among the Buddhist and Non-Buddhist of all walks of life living in Bangladesh and abroad. He was loved and respected by peoples regardless of ethnicity and religious backgrounds.
Most Respected Venerable Bana Bhante (1920-2012) was born on 8 January 1920 in Murughona village of the Moghban Mauza in Rangamati hill tracts of Bangladesh. Sadhanananda was his given name, his original name was Rathindra Chakma.' Rathindra began his early education in a local primary school, but for some reason or other could not pursue further studies beyond the primary level. Though he left the school perhaps to assist his parents in the household work, he never lost interest in reading books, particularly books on literature, biographies of famous writers, poets and religious books.
In 1943 when he was 23, he suffered a setback when his father Haru Mohan passed away. Being the eldest of the six siblings, Rathindra had to take the burden of the family. He is said to have engaged himself in a petty business like buying silk from the Rangamati Bazar and selling it to the womenfolk in different villages of his locality. Duting this time, He saw one of the most remarkable incident in his life, which gave an insight to the true nature of life. He saw the death of an eleven year old girl, the only child of their parents, which led him to set forth in search of a way to end the suffering.
A turning point came in his life while searching for a way when he met Mr. Gajendra Lal Barua from Chittagong, while working in a shopping place at Rangamati Bazar. With the help of Mr Barua, Rathindra traveled to Nandan Kanan Buddha Vihara aspiring to enter monastic life. It was in 1949 in his 29th year that Rathindra was ordained as Samanera, a novice monk at the Nandan Kanan Buddha Vihara under the supervision of its head monk Nandan Kanan Buddha Vihara Ven. Dipankar Shreegyan Mahathera.
Having been admitted to the holy monastic life, Rathindra was very keen to strictly follow the rules of the Vinaya, but many of his fellow Samanera at the Vihara were found to be violating them. In search of a better and suitable place for a disciplined Samanera life, Rathindra then left Chittagong and returned to his village home, and went into meditations in the deep forests at a place called Dhanpata. Rathindra used to come out of his meditation place only once a day in the morning to collect alms, and the rest of the day and night he was found to be absorbed in profound mediation without fear and care of hot and cold, rains or wild animals. The local people were overwhelmed to see this and then constructed for him a hut at the foothills of the forest. Without teacher in the woods, he practice meditation for 12 long years in solitude by remembering the lives of the Chief disciples of the Buddha and great disciples of the Buddha.
The Most Revered Venerable
Sadhanananda Mahathera (Bana Bhante)
In 1960 this place was submerged on construction of Kaptai Dam, Rathindra was moved to Dighinala in Khagrachari and he continued with his meditation practice. In June 27, 1961 he was given Upasampada at Boyalkhali vihara and came to be known as Sadhanananda Bhikkhu. He is said to have lived in Boyalkhali for a period of ten years before moving to Longadu in the district of Rangamati in 1970. At Longadu, he settled at a place called Tintilla in the deep forests. It is from here that his name and fame as a distinguished monk, his mode of life and meditation in the deep forests, his religious sermons and depth of knowledge in Buddhism spread all over Chittagong Hill Tracts as well as in the country and abroad. As the fragrance of his virtue spreads in all directions, he came to be known as Bana Bhante ‘The Forest Monk’. All this shows his great contributions to the development of Buddhism in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In 1975, Bana Bhante was invited to Rangamati and a piece of land was offered by the Chakma Royal Family to established a Vihara. Bana Bhante was reluctant to accept the invitation but on being requested by His Chief disciple Ven. Nandapal Mahathera to accept the invitation, He gladly accepted the invitation. Bana Bhante sent Ven. Nandapal Mahathera to oversee the construction work of Vihara. In 1976, Bana Bhante was brought to Rangamati from Longadu at the personal interest and initiative of the Chakma Raja and the royal family. This vihara came to be known as Rajbana Vihara. Bana Bhante formally received the Mahathera title on 14 February, 1980.
As the name of Bana Bhante pervades in all directions with the fragrance of his virtue, people from all walks of life came to see him and take blessings. Even a glimpse of Bana Bhante would make the people go home happily. Such was the love and respect for Bana Bhante that Rajbana Vihara became an holy place. Bana Bhante is believed to have attained the Buddhist Highest state of perfection (Arahant), one who has extinguished all deﬁlements.
During the period of his life, Bana Bhante served the people regardless of race, gender, religious backgrounds and always taught the people to practice compassion and loving kindness. He authored many books, booklets, poems, religious songs and articles. Because of his spiritual power acquired through 12 long years of meditation in the deep forests of Dhanpata, To this day still, Most Respected Venerable Bana Bhante has become an object of ultimate veneration and living embodiment of the Buddha.
Most Respected Venerable Bana Bhante passed away at the age of 93 leaving a behind a great legacy of Dhamma for his Monastic disciples and lay followers . He was on life support at Square Hospital with multi-organ failure and respiratory problems due to old age. He was flown in to the hospital by a chopper on January 27, 2012 Friday noon as he fell unconscious on January 26, 2012 Thursday night. Hospital sources said Bana Bhante breathed his last around 3:15pm at the intensive care unit. His body relics is kept at Raj Bana Vihara, Rangamati.