The Theosophical Society (TS) came into being in Sri Lanka under a Charter issued by Adyar in 1926. The Charter was signed by Annie BESANT, the second International President of the Theosophical Society. Her predecessor in office, Henry Steel OLCOTT, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, together with Helena P. BLAVATSKY arrived in Sri Lanka, (then called Ceylon) in May 1880 where they worked unstintingly for the benefit of all its people, especially in the fields of education and civil law.
Olcott encouraged the Ceylonese people, who were still under British rule, to handle their own affairs with dignity and confidence. It was a time when the Buddhists of the country were frightened and ashamed to call themselves Buddhists openly, due to the fear of economic persecution instigated by the missionaries. Olcott could not tolerate this prejudice and started the Buddhist educational movement and the Colombo branch of the Buddhist Theosophical Society. He opened numerous Buddhist schools all over the country, wrote the first Buddhist Catechism, the Sinhala translation of which is still widely used in the country, designed the BUDDHIST FLAG (1886) and had the Wesak fullmoon day, a day of great significance to the Buddhists, declared a public holiday.
By 1935 there were 407,904 children, or 65%, receiving an education in Buddhist schools of which 229 were administered by the TS.
Olcott, who died in 1903, is the only foreigner to be recognized by the Sri Lankan government as a National Hero. His statue stands opposite the Fort Railway Station in Colombo and the street on which it stands is called Olcott Mawatha. Olcott Day is a public holiday when his statue is garlanded with flowers.
In 1994, the main Lodge, Besant Lodge in Colombo, consisted of 43 members. The Section has a Council comprised of a General Secretary, a Vice-President, a National Secretary, a National Treasurer, and seven committee members. The members of the Section Council are responsible for the running of the TS in Sri Lanka. They are all elected members, whose term of office is three years. There were formerly seven lodges in the country, but, owing to unfavorable conditions and circumstances, only three were functioning in 1994.
The present position therefore is that there will be in future six lodges, viz. Besant Lodge and Lanka Lodge in Colombo, Hamsa Lodge in Badulla, Lotus Lodge in Veyangoda, Kandy Lodge and Galle Lodge.
The Besant Lodge sends out a Newsletter to its members three times a year. It was started in January 1993 and is compiled and edited by the General Secretary. It includes programs on various aspects of Theosophy and its teachings. A copy is sent to the Headquarters at Adyar in order to keep them informed of the activities of the Theosophical Society in Sri Lanka. There was recently brought out a little booklet called “Theosophy — The Divine Wisdom,” which has been printed for free distribution. In an effort to create greater awareness of the teachings of Theosophy and of the existence of the Theosophical Society itself, members are encouraged to give these booklets out to as many people as possible so that they may know what the Theosophical Society stands for and become familiar with its tenets. Periodically, articles on Theosophy are sent to the national newspapers for publication in order to achieve the same purpose of reaching out to a wider audience.
As a result of the decline of membership and lodges, the Sri Lanka Theosophical Society has now become a Presidential Agency and lost its section status.
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