Comfort and care at the end of a selfless journey
Posted on May 5th, 2018

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

he journeyed to the nooks and crannies of the country preaching bana or delivering dharma deshana, a grim reality hit him hard.

With age making them feeble and frail, monks who had followed in the footsteps of Lord Buddha, renouncing all that was worldly including their relatives, faced absolute neglect.

These were monks in remote aranyas who had become antha asarana wela, yanna thenak nethuwa”, recalls Ven. Galigamuwe Gnanadeepa Thera, explaining that they were in dire straits, with no place to go to.

They had lived solitary, lonely and frugal lives, forfeiting money, material and relatives, going on pinda patha for their basic necessities.

Suddenly old age had come upon them and Ven. Galigamuwe Gnanadeepa Thera had found some who were very ill and bedridden, with no one to clean them up, others who had not been bathed in months and one who had even begged of him to give him something to end his misery.

This is what propelled him towards setting up the Seela Suwa Arana Gilan Bhikkhu Centre six years ago, beginning with just four kuti,which has now blossomed into a three-storey building with accommodation for 35. Currently, there are 31 ranging in age from 18 to 96 years with different ailments – some are paralyzed, some are severe diabetics, some have cancer and one is to undergo a kidney removal soon.

We visit this Healthcare Monastery set amidst lush greenery in Akkara 4, Welipatha, Kandana, about four kilometres from Horana town, passing through wel-yayas as far as the eye can see and also dense and gloomy rubber plantations on Tuesday, with the holiest day for Buddhists, Vesak, just five days away.

The Healthcare Monastery is set amidst 260 perches of land, 100 donated to Ven. Galigamuwe Gnanadeepa Thera and the balance taken on long lease from the state, an ideal location for holistic care.

There have been times when he was compelled to sell the Ata Pirikara offered to him, while his travels abroad have also brought in donations after his deshana. He has a staff of about 35 including a doctor and nurses and says one cannot expect volunteers to do all that is expected of the staff as they are trained to attend to the monks, oft cleaning them up tenderly when they soil themselves and thereafter paying obeisance to them, with a smile.

It is individualized care that is extended at the Healthcare Monastery with a dietitian looking into the nutritional requirements. For those who cannot swallow, the food is blended and fed and those who are diabetics will get a special diet.

Currently, some are being taken for ayurveda treatment and Ven.

Galigamuwe Gnanadeepa Thera says that a section for in-house treatment along with beheth oru et al is on the drawing boards, as also concrete pathways so that the monks who are wheelchair-bound can be wheeled around outside taking in the fresh air. Then both forms of treatment – western and ayurveda will be close at hand for the ailing monks.

At least once a month, all those who can be taken are gently put into a vehicle and transported to such places as the Kalutara Bodhiya where they can engage in religious activity and also have a small outing.

Whenever they become seriously-ill they are taken to the Horana Hospital by ambulance which the Healthcare Monastery owns and there will always be someone by their side when they pass away.

We see the words as deeds when we walk around the building, guided by Chief Male Nurse Ananda Kandawala. Four years ago, 18-year-old Pallewala Sumanasena Himi from Mirigama had fallen from a tree, injuring his spine. He is now in a wheelchair.

In another room, Matara Wimala Keerthi Himi, 88, calls out blessings on all those who are looking after him, smilingly and serenely saying that he has only thava sulu kalayai” (only a little time left).

Debahera Dhammawansa Himi is having a problem with his nerves after slipping and falling, while returning to his remote aranya, having preached bana about two years ago. He is also hit by diabetes and is awaiting the removal of a diseased kidney.

The tales of illness are similar and different at the same time – Kirindagalle Gnanathilake Himi, 75, is a diabetic with the disease making him blind, having only a little vision in the right eye. From the remote Athdalagala Aranya in Meegalewa, interior from Galgamuwa, he was the first who got succour at this monastery.

A one-bed Emergency Treatment Unit (ETU) and a pharmacy are all part of the care, while a Bakkula Maha Seya is taking shape on the premises.

It is comfort and care in a holistic manner for ageing monks who have served their devotees with dedication in keeping with Lord Buddha’s way.

A meritorious deed indeed

Thinking of doing a meritorious deed – you can make a donation to the Seela Suwa Arana this Vesak.

Contributions may be channelled to Account No. 0067-6000-0068 of the Sampath Bank (Athurugiriya branch) or Account No. 80074124 of the Bank of Ceylon (Metropolitan branch), with both in the Account Name of ‘Seela Suwa Arana’.

People could also make a donation towards the running of the monastery because overheads are heavy.

When celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, a family a group can donate some amount towards the cost per day for such overheads, points out Ven. Galigamuwe Gnanadeepa Thera.

For more details, please contact Phone:

034-5725795, 034-2262782 or 034-2263646.

E-mail: [email protected]

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