A Meditation Centre set up by Late Venerable Walane Amatha Gavesi Thero

by Charles Perera

Take a bus to Digana-Kundasale, at the Kandy Bus Stand near the Clock Tower, and ask for the Meditation Centre at Pallekelle. One can of course take a” three wheeler”, which is much more convenient though the hiring cost may be more than the ten rupees for the bus. At the bus stop at Pallekelle Gamudawa, you cross the road to take a red sandy path among savage bushes with multicoloured flowers set besides large brick houses of exaggerated taste .

The entrance to the Devenapathis Samatha Vipassana Meditation Centre, is a brick arch with embossed designs on white cement plaster with an iron gate which is left open during the day. The gate way as well as the whole site in which the Meditation Centre has been set up are a part of the village development plan “Gam Udawa” of the Late President R.Premadasa and donated to the Late Venerable Walane Amatha Gavesi Thero in 1991 for the purpose of establishing a meditation centre. A replica of the Independence Hall at the Torrington Square, Colombo, with an enlarged roof, now accommodates thousands of devotees among who are some of the yogis, out of approximately 10000 who have followed 14 day retreats at the centre since 1991, who come to observe the ten precepts for three days commencing from the third day preceding the full moon day every month. The last day which is the full moon poya day is celebrated with a spectacular morning food offering to the Buddha and 80 great disciples which commences as early as 5 a.m.

Gruel at 4 30 after the morning pirith chanting, breakfast and lunch as well as plain tea are offered by Buddhist donors( dayaka) free to everyone present what ever the number. In the evening there is a colourful offering of light by the thousands of devotees carrying oil lamps from the Independence Hall to the Shrine room on the top of the hillock. Through out the three days there are dhamma talks and meditation instructions given by the Nuns.

Besides the full moon poya day celeberations, the centre offers 14 day Meditation retreats under the guidance of experienced Nuns, popularly called “Manio”. The method of meditation which was taught by the Late Thero, is based on his own experience, directly in keeping with the teachings of the Buddha. He was able to set aside the details that often becomes an obstacle to understand core issues involved in meditation. He depended on the yogi’s saddha (unwavering confidence in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha). Saddha is a great gift that born Buddhists have inculcated into them, but this is where the Western Buddhists have got mixed up trying to explain the necessity to balance Saddha with pranna (wisdom).

In short without giving a distorted view of the late Venerable Mahathero’s instructions for meditation, the method of Meditation at the Centre may be described as getting a Meditator to attain deep concentration (Samadhi) through Ananapanasati Bhavana, and then through determination ( adisthana) attain the absorpstions into the four jhanas, and coming “down” from Jhana states, sit for Vipassana Meditation according to the instructions given by the Nuns to further development of the mind through Vipassana Samadhi. The method is direct and simple and the results are remarkable. Purists may disagree, but one has to experience the “process” to understand it. One who goes through the experience of meditation at the Centre will certainly return to it again and again, so great is the effect.

The site itself is so calm and serene, attractive in its natural setting, perfect for spiritual development. The Late Maha Thero, has made it particular and unique having uplifted the status of ordinary dasasilmatha, instructing them in Dhamma and Meditation. The Sil Mathas popularly called the Maniyo- nearly 26 in number, reside at the 15 acre Centre in simple Kuti (small brick houses) constructed by grateful Buddhist laity. As every 14 days of the month there is a change of meditators about 30 for each session, with the arrival of the new for the next, the “Maniyos” are kept fully occupied instructing the Meditators, giving sermons, tending to the plots of land surrounding their “Kuti”, collecting followers from the araliya tress and jasmine vines that adorn the site and from myriad other plants that are always in bloom for the several offerings and celebrations during the day. All the administrative work and organising the few salaried helpers to keep the place clean are done by the “Maniyos”.

From time to time there are a few visitors from Singapore , who have largely contributed to the maintenance and constructional enlargement of the Centre and providing mechanical instruments to keep the place in good order . Besides them, a few of the Sri Lankan expatriate community in America, Canada, Australia , Europe and Japan, who have meditated here regularly return to the Centre for meditation and give their material and moral support. There is now a resident Japanese Nun.

A visitor to the place will observe at once the uniqueness of the place, which is unlike any other meditation centre, any where else in Sri Lanka, or as a matter of fact anywhere else in the World.

The Late Venerble Amatha Gavesi Thero who spent all his life and means to set up the Centre was himself, a unique personality. He came from a middle class family from Panadura. His father was a Chief Headman and his mother a house wife was a devoted Buddhist. The late Venerable thero’s religious inspiration began thus from his birth into this very religious Buddhist family. He passed his Senior School Certificate and was an English Teacher in a school in Matara. While teaching he saw a gazette notification for the recruitment of sub-inspectors and he sent his application. He was selected and thus started his carrier in the Sri Lanka Police Department. His very impressive physical stature and his understanding of human nature, kindness a and polite approach to deal with the “ miscreants” won a special place in the police force. He introduced a Buddhist way of life for those police officers who served under him. He was soon a popular police officer and promotions came to him easily. He ended up as the Director of the Police Training School in Kalutara. He retired from the service in the Police Department to devote the rest of his life for the propagation of Buddhist Bhavana practice.

He had married to a an equally devoted Buddhist lady from Matale and had two children a son and a daughter. He decided to live a celibate life with the agreement of his wife and donned the saffron robe and became a Bikkhu at the Kanduboda Meditation. His wife became a sil mata. The late Venerable Amathagavesi, left the Kanduboda Meditation Centre owing to a disagreement on the choice of the object of meditation for “anapanasati Bhavana” at the Centre, and went on his own to organise Meditation groups at Daham Medura in Nugegoda. Finally he came to Pallekelle Gamudawa where he established the Devanapathis Samatha Vipassana Meditation Centre, and commenced regular 14 day meditation sessions since February,1994, assisted by Upasikas in white robes. Later, in 1996, he got down a yellow robed Dasasil Maniyo Chandra Manio from , Pothuhera, Kurunegala, and began organising an order of nuns. He has ordained well over 50 nuns and some of them have opened Centres of their own where the Late Maha thero’s method of Meditation is taught. The Pallekelle centre is the 7 th Centre he had organised and one which is known internationally actively functioning, catering to all categories of Sri Lankans and visitors from abroad.



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