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Valivita Saraṇaṅkara was born in Sri Lanka in 1698 and became a novice monk at a time when Buddhism in that country had become utterly corrupt. Finding neither encouragement nor scholarly guidance from within the Sangha, Saraṇaṅkara educated himself and gradually earned a reputation for learning and personal piety.

In time he attracted others who were likewise deeply interested in the Dhamma and under his leadership these disciples went on to form a separate reformed branch of the Sri Lankan Saṅgha in 1753. Saraṇaṅkara was an energetic organizer, a prolific writer and commentator and founded numerous monasteries. When he was finally appointed leader of all monks in Sri Lanka he wrote the phrase: 'Oh monk! Be not proud' on the door to his room so he could see it every day when he went out. Saraṇaṅkara died in 1788.