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DateLine Sunday, 26 August 2007





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Simplicity and contentment

A glimpse of Aranya life:

Ven. Kadawedduwe Sri Jinawansa Thera

The first emotion we experienced was an overwhelming sense of calmness. It's a wonder that a source of such peace can be situated so near a city. We were at an aranya called the Thalawathugoda Meditation Centre, not far from the Pelawatta junction.

An Aranya is usually a forest based monastery established for the main purpose of meditation. Belonging to the Kalyana Yogashrama Sansthawa the Thalawathugoda Meditation Centre, was clearly different from modern day temples, although there was no forest to discern it as an Aranya.

The Thalawathugoda Nyanarama Meditation Centre was built and offered to the Maha Sangha over 20 years ago by a Mr. Weragoda. But it was incorporated in to the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha only in the year 2000.

Ven. Meegahawatte Pagngnasiri Thera of the Thalawathugoda Meditation centre explained that the history of Aranya Senasana of Sri Lanka runs back 1951, when Ven. Kadawedduwa Sri Jinawansa Thera, with the guidance of Mathara Siri Nanarama Thera, founded it by ordaining 12 children in the Galdoowa Aranya, which was to become the Centre point of the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha.

Ven. Meegahawatte
Pagngnasiri Thera

Ven. Kadawedduwa Sri Jinawansa Thera himself was ordained at the age of 13, and founded the Thebuwana Granthakara Piriwena when he was only 25 and served as Pariwenadhipathi for over 20 years. He started the Kalyana Yogashrama Sansthawa at the age of 45, and enjoyed a long life of 98 years.

Following the way of the Buddha he strongly believed that all the riches of life meant nothing without Vimukthi and that the pleasure derived from letting go was incomparable to any other. Consequently he left all his students except for one,Ven.Gatamanne Wimalawansa Thera, who accompanied him in his quest for a fitting dwelling for deep meditation. The support rendered by Ven. Gatamanne Wimalawansa Thera and Mathara Siri Nanarama Thera in this quest, was immense.

To commemorate the 2500th Buddha Jayanthi Ven. Kadawedduwe Sri Jinawansa Thera founded the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha on 18th June 1951. Nimalawa Aranya Senasanaya in Kirinda was selected as the first aranya of a number of aranya senasana that was to be named Kalyana Yogashrama Sansthawa. With the passage of time the fame of Kalyana Yogashrama grew. People in many walks of life flowed in to the Aranya in search of the authentic way of meditation.

But setting up the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha was no easy task. Although most ley persons were attracted to Ven. Kadawedduwe Sri Jinawansa Theras extremely eloquent sermons, there were people, the ley and monks alike who resented and envied his success.

But thanks to his conviction the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha now has over 150 Aranya with over 1500 monks.

The Meditation Centre at Thalawathugoda

The Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha has expanded to include Aranya like Kurunegala Ruwangiri kanda Aranya, Meethirigala Missarana Aranya, Buththala Budhu Gallena Aranya, Ampara Piyangala Aranya, Colombo Sri Kalyani Ashrama, Thalangama Sri Shanthi Yogashrama, Kurunegala Nathagana Aranya, Malsiripura Na Uyana Aranya, Padaviya Galpiyum Aranya, etc. Ambalangoda Galdoowa Aranya acts as the main centre with the guidance of Ven. Naauyane Ariyadhamma Thera.

All the monks in all the Aranya belonging to the Yogashrama Sanstha, work according to the same time table. They all worship three times a day. They start the day at four a.m. and meditate for an hour. Unlike in temples of today the main focus of an Aranya is meditation.

This can be predominantly observed in Aranya such as in the Naauyana Aranya, where the monks can be observed spending most of their time meditating in separate chambers in the surrounding forest. They meditate according to the "Vissuddhimagga" where it leads from Samatha to Vidharshana, as recommended by the Lord Buddha himself.

The monks of the Aranya tradition meditate in individual chambers set in the wilderness. Sri Gunawardhana Yogashramaya in Galdoowa, Ambalangoda - the main centre - is probably one of the most unique centres of the world.

Situated on a peak of a mountain, this aranya is the perfect picture of beauty and exhibits to perfection, the natural and spiritual qualities of an ideal aranya, with many species of trees; wild birds such as parrots, ravens, nightingales and mammals such as mongoose, hares, porcupines roaming free, making it a meditators haven.

Places of worship such as the Bo tree and Dagaba are situated on high cliffs ensuring the preservation of their esteem and protection. More over unlike in city based aranya like the Thalawathugoda Meditation centre, there are separate chambers based in the wilderness for any visitor.

From one to five p.m. the younger monks engage in studies. But nothing concerning worldly aspects are taught in these aranya piriwena. Only Tripitaka Dharma and Pali studies are conducted.

Monks of Aranya tradition are forbidden to attend university, if they do so they will be expelled by the disciplinary committee. From eight p.m. onwards they chant pirith, and conduct what's called 'Wath bana' where one monk a day has to give a sermon in front of all other monks. "This is a very significant ritual since it improves the eloquence of young monks"

There are many differences between monks of normal temples and ones coming from the aranya tradition, apart from not attending university. Their lives are ones of simplicity.

They are forbidden to handle money, they do not eat after 12 noon, unless it's due to a grave illness. They dye their own robes, and pathra (alms bowls) using gingelly oil.

They use palm leaves instead of umbrellas, most of them do not even wear slippers. But above all they are forbidden to vote. But life in an aranya like Nimalawa or any other aranya belonging to the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha is quite different from any other temple. Ven. Meegahawatta Pagngnasiri Thera claimed that the public is less respectable to some monks because of their own behaviour.

He believes that respect is some thing that has to be earned. Upon visiting the Thalawathugoda Meditation Centre I personally felt that the lives of the monks of the aranya system is much similar to the life lead by the Lord Buddha himself - one of simplicity and contentment.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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