He pursued his mission in life with courage, determination and commitment ALEC ROBERTSON It is 15 years since Deshabandu Alec Robertson – preacher, writer and broadcaster of the Dhamma and one-time Member of Parliament – passed away. Alec Robertson was born in Gampola on October 30, 1928, and died on the last day of 2002, [...]




He pursued his mission in life with courage, determination and commitment


It is 15 years since Deshabandu Alec Robertson – preacher, writer and broadcaster of the Dhamma and one-time Member of Parliament – passed away.

Alec Robertson was born in Gampola on October 30, 1928, and died on the last day of 2002, at the age of 74. His working life was dedicated mainly to the Buddhist cause – propagating the Dhamma through talks, discussions, books and articles to Buddhist journals and newspapers.

Propagating the Dhamma

One of his most significant contributions was the popularisation of the weekly Dhamma discussions in English at Maitri Hall, Lauries’ Road, Bambalapitiya. He was closely associated with the Servants of the Buddha Society, which has conducted Buddhist discussions on Saturday evenings for almost half a century. He started taking part in these meetings while he was still at school. He became the society’s Assistant Secretary when he was just 21 years. Later, he became secretary, and served as president for an uninterrupted 30 years, from 1969.

He relinquished this office only when he realised that declining health would not permit him to discharge the duties of this office effectively. But he continued to be associated with the society as its adviser until his demise.

His voice and personality reverberated in the Maitri Hall, where he chaired the society’s meetings and gave a Dhamma talk every first Saturday of the month. When the scheduled speaker could not turn up, Alec Robertson would give the talk himself, often asking the audience to suggest a topic.

Mr. Robertson had a prodigious memory. His knowledge of the Dhamma was extensive, based on his studies of Pali, the Dhamma, the Abhidhamma, and commentaries, as well as through his association with Buddhist scholars, monks and laymen.


Mr. Robertson was also for many years associated with broadcasting, giving Dhamma talks on the radio and participating in Dhamma radio discussions.  For several decades he participated in one of the most popular Buddhist radio programmes at that time, namely, the “Buddhist Forum”. In this forum, a number of Buddhist scholars discuss various aspects of the Dhamma and entertain subjects for discussions from listeners.  Participants in this forum apart from Mr. Robertson included at that time the Late S. R. Wijayatilake, a former Judge of the Supreme Court and the late Austin De Silva, a dedicated Buddhist worker. Mr. Robertson became the Chairman of the Buddhist Forum later and continued to perform the task, except for brief intervals, until his death, a period of two and half a decades.


As a writer, Mr. Robertson had many Buddhist publications to his credit. These include the “Buddhist Attitude To Christianity”; “Nibbana – Happiness Supreme”, “The Triple Gem and the Uposatha”, and “Buddha, the Healer Incomparable”. He also regularly contributed articles to the newspapers, Buddhist journals and the Buddhist annual, “Vesak Sirisara”.

Although known largely as a promoter of the Dhamma among English-speaking people, Alec Robertson also had a good command of the Sinhala language. As a young man he travelled to different parts of the country giving talks, usually in Sinhala, at the invitation of Buddhist organisations in the outstations.

Openly challenged eminent Western scholars

He strived at all times to share his knowledge about the latent power held within the human mind. His messages were directed at awakening people to recognize this great untapped and unseen capacity within them and to introduce the teachings of the Dharma as the path to greater self-awareness. Deshabandu Robertson masterfully used the Dhamma to explain the most abstract concepts such as the doctrine of impermanency that has even posed challenges to Western psychologists.

Deshabandu Robertson was well read in the discipline of Western psychology. He openly challenged eminent western scholars like Dr J. B. Reihn’s conceptualization of the human mind as inconclusive on the strength of the deeper understanding he had developed through the teachings of the Dhamma. Continually asserting his belief that the Lord Buddha has been the greatest ever psychologist the world has ever seen.


His outstanding services in the cause of the Dhamma were recognised by the State when the J.R. Jayewardene administration conferred on him the title of Deshabandu. Later, the Premadasa government appointed him as a Member of Parliament.

He served for five years as an MP, focusing largely on Buddhism, social welfare and education. The UNP assigned him to the Avissawella electorate, and his addresses to the constituents were mainly on the Dhamma and its practice.

Commemorative stamp

In recognition of the yeoman service rendered to the nation and Buddha sasana by the well-known propagator and preacher of the Dharma, Deshabandu Alec Robertson, a commemorative stamp was issued on October 30, 2013 under the National Heroes category. This was arranged to mark his 85th birthday.

Mr. Robertson pursued his mission in life with determination, courage and commitment. May his onward journey in Samsara be smooth and brief, and may he realise early the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Prof. Mahendra Fernando

You left a legacy as an exceptional mother, individual and human being

 Caroline Kuruwitaarachchi

My mother-in-law died at the prime age of 100 plus years which longevity she presumably inherited from the genes of the forefathers of her clan as almost all her sisters and the brother lived longer years. She was blessed to enjoy the association of four generations during her long life span which is definitely a rare feat in modern days. We, including her four daughters and one son and in-laws were fortunate enough to enjoy the long association with her and being married to the eldest of the family I was graciously happy to enjoy the longest period amongst the in-laws.

She and her husband brought up the children in a studious environment as both of them were teachers, and afforded them the best education in Colombo’s leading schools. All of them excelled in their education in their selected disciplines, most of them in local campuses.

There were different aspects to her personality. She was a caring wife, devoted mother, disciplined teacher, respected personality in the local community and a concerned relative to the members of her clan.

Being a school teacher she retired prematurely to look after her husband, who was a school principal. He predeceased her. Until she reached a hundred, she was able to maintain good health and died peacefully at the home of her son. Her daughters and the son looked after their mother with extreme dedication, attending to her daily needs and medication on a regular basis, taking turns with the sons and daughter-in-law and the grandchildren.One of her children predeceased her due to illness and she did a yeoman service looking after her mother with extreme care and dedication. We missed her caring assistance ever after.

My mother-in-law was truly steadfast in her devotion as a Buddhist, observing sil on full moon days until she became feeble in the final stage of her life. She regularly provided alms to the Maha Sangha and to those observed sil. She along with her children and her close relations gathered at the Kalapaluwaa Gothama Tapovnaya annually to offer alms to the Maha Sanga and she spearheaded this ceremony for more than 50 years. It is still being continued by her children and the relations. I was fortunate enough to associate with this annual religious ceremony for more than 40 years. We spent many nights preparing the alms at the temple premises and still reminisce about the great memories lingering in our minds.

She performed numerous meritorious deeds in terms of alms giving, donations to the local temples and bestowed all these merits to her husband. She reminisced with much veneration about her journey to India and Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha to visit the places of significance in the life of Buddha.

So here’s to you mother (all the sons and daughter-in-law called her Amma). You left a legacy and reputation as an excellent and exceptional mother, individual and human being. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana in your sojourn in Samsara.

Nimal Shantha


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