people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia
”There are millions of sounds but no single sound can hear one of them. Only the Silence can hear all. There are many thought moments but No single thought can see them. Only the stillness can see all these moments ” – Upul Gamage, Nilambe.
The view above is from the “Rock of Invitation” at Mihintale where Mahinda. the son of India’s King Asoka arrived to introduce Buddhism to King Devanampiyatissa in 3rd Century BC. This is one of so many sacred pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. Starting at the foot of the mountain, 1840 granite steps brings you to this impressive space. You can also drive half-way up the mountain passing ancient caves before continuing on foot to see the former monasteries and bathing pools.
Mihintale is an approx. 30 minute drive from Anuradhapura which was the royal capital for over 1000 years. While not developed on the grand scale of Bagan in Burma or Angkor in Cambodia, Anuradhapura is filled with archaeological wonders- huge dagobas (stupas), brick towers, ancient temples and pools built during a civilization which created amazing irrigation systems. As the kingdoms shifted due to various invasions, many of the sites have remained alive as places of worship. The most sacred is the Sri Maha Boddhi Tree, grown from a cutting of the original Boddhi tree in Bodhgaya brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Sanghamitta, the sister of Mahinda.
This sacred boddhi tree is considered the oldest historically documented tree in the world. The Bodhivamsa is a written detailed narative of all events from bringing the tree from Bodhgaya until its planting. The tree has been tended by an uninterupted succession of guardians for over 2000 years. Throngs of devotees come to make offerings, especially on poya (full moon) days.
During the main festival times, these sacred sites can be very crowded with pilgrims but other times, you can enjoy blissful walks in silence. Sri Lanka is blessed with so many wonderful places off the main roads where you simply connect with nature- seeing birds, wild peacocks, maybe a wild elephant!
All of these sacred spots hold stories…
And here it is…. the peak of Ritigala, from where Hanoman leapt back to India to inform Rama that he had found Sita, who had been kidnapped by Rahwana.
Stories also tell of Hanoman having dropped medicinal plants and herbs on Ritigala during his flight back from the Himalaya. Today you can venture into the Ritigala Nature Reserve and explore the ruins of an extensive monastic complex. You can still see the grinding stones for medicinal herbs and the stone baths where monks ran a monastery hospital.
Ritigala was established as a place of refuge as early as 4th century BC by a group of reformist monks who were devoted to austerity and dissociation from traditional life. Pathways lead across stone bridges to rest areas for meditation.
Oh, imagine themes of urinal stones that could be created today to detach yourself from… ha!
And some may be asking where the women’s rest rooms are?
It is good to know that Bhikkhuni ordination in Sri Lanka was restored in 1991
so the female sangha is safe and well.
You can watch some You Tube Links below.
This trip began for me with a short retreat at Nilambe Meditation Center in the cool hills above Kandy. A special place for anyone to un-plug and re-charge- and really totally un-plug as there is no electricity. Just beautiful candlelight at night.
Nilambe carries the spirit of the beloved founder Godwin Samararatne, who passed away in 2000. Godwin was a lay meditation teacher remembered for his gentle and compassionate way of sharing teachings in simple language.
Also, just outside of Kandy, Sanatha Suwaya is a new wellness center with plans to officially open soon offering a variety of activities including meditation, yoga and ayurveda cooking. This is a branch organization of Bhante Sujatha, a Sri Lankan monk who founded Blue Lotus Temple in Illinois in the US.
See more on:
and learn more about Bhante Sujatha- the Loving Kindness Monk:
Visiting these peaceful places, it is hard to imagine the years of war which ravaged parts of Sri Lanka and may peace continue to prevail on this beautiful island.
With all the continued political nonsense and senseless violence in the world, it is important to cultivate some silence in the mind during times when it is so easy to become overwhelmed by news and media.
Nilambe teaches that “Silence is a Friend…. a teacher who teaches us about how to listen to ourself- how to understand ourselves and how to communicate with ourselves, so we can in turn listen to benefit others.”
Hope you can all take some time to enjoy some silence and may love and light extend out to all.
Vesak Lights at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.
It is nice to be based here for a few days to explore the area at a relaxing pace.
I stayed at a charming family guesthouse in town called Little Paradise and they arranged a delightful Tuk Tuk driver named Lalith:
Each evening was indeed paradise sampling a different yummy Sri Lankan curry:
More upscale accommodations near Anuradhapura, check out:
Amith de Silva, our wonderful guide from last year and his lovely wife, Dinesha, have recently become proud parents of a baby boy!
Amith lives close to Colombo airport and can help with private arrangements throughout Sri Lanka- a country of so much cultural diversity, natural wonders including national parks with elephants happily in the wild, tea plantations and beaches from where you can see dolphins and whales.
Ayubowan! ( May you have Long Life!)
Here is a beautiful You Tube from Dekanduwala Bhikkhuni Training Center.
No English subtitles, but enjoy the scenery and music ( 9 min. )
Also, an inspiring talk in English by Ven. Bhikkhuni Bodhicitta with Questions and Answers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqMQIhzsjEc
More links for other wonders of Sri Lanka: