Little Bits of History

A Little Learning

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 1, 2012

Sir Henry Steele Olcott November 1, 1886: Ananda College is established. Sir Henry Steele Olcott partnered with Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero to create the Buddhist-English school at No.64, Maliban Road in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The school began with 37 students and C.W. Leadbeater was the first principal. At the time of opening, schools were required to be registered under the government. On January 16, 1889 Ananda filed the needed paperwork and the school received the registration in March of that year. Two new staff members also arrived at that time. By the end of the year, they were running out of space and the school moved to larger quarters.

Olcott was born in Orange, New Jersey, USA in 1832 and was a military officer, journalist, lawyer and the co-founder and first president of the Theosophical Society. He was the oldest of six children and raised as a Presbyterian. He studied at the college of the City of New York and later Columbia University but was forced to leave school when his father’s business failed. He served in the US Army during the American Civil War and helped to investigate Lincoln’s assassination. He became interested in his spiritual growth and in 1875 formed the Theosophical Society with several others. In December 1878 the Society was moved to India.

Olcott’s main interest, even before leaving the US, was Buddhism. He arrived in Colombo, Ceylon (a name given to the region by the Portuguese) or what is now called Sri Lanka on May 16, 1880 and was formally acknowledged as a Buddhist. One of his missions was to revitalize Buddhism in the region and to that end he and the Society he represented built several schools. Olcott also helped to design a Buddhist flag in 1885 and it was later adopted by the World Fellowship of Buddhists and as the universal flag of all Buddhist traditions.

Today, Ananda College is one of the greatest Buddhist schools in Asia. Their campus is located on more than 20 acres in the Maradana district of Colombo, the largest city of Sri Lanka. The school is open to boys in grades 1 through 13. The 8,000 boys are divided into four houses, each with a color: red, dark green, dark purple and navy blue. There is an academic staff of more than 250 with Principal L.M.D. Dharmasena in charge since 2009. Their vision statement is: To be a source of erudite individuals imbued with Buddhist Values who contribute to the well being of the society.

An educated man is thoroughly inoculated against humbug, thinks for himself and tries to give his thoughts, in speech or on paper, some style. – Alan K. Simpson

He who opens a school door, closes a prison. – Victor Hugo

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. – Robert M. Hutchins

Also on this day:

Michigan’s Bridge – In 1957, Mackinac Bridge opened.
Saint Nick – In 1894, Tsar Nicholas II began his reign.
When Harry Met Oscar (and Griselio) – In 1950, President Truman survived an assassination attempt.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on November 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

    This school is a very good example of how the so-called exploitation of the Far East actually resulted in a great up-lifting of the cultures there and in Europe and the United States. Good to remember that the military people were only the protectors of explorers and tradesmen who did much good in the meeting of the West and the East, Sir Henry Steele Olcott being one who continued his quest throughout his life.


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