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2021 News from Sri Lanka

Unfortunately Tara Lanka people are scattered geographically and also divided by language. Most Tara Lanka people don’t speak English. People who contact me for guidance with their Mahayana practices simultaneously seek life advice and crisis counselling for many other life challenges.

The need is high and very time consuming, but their inspiring success stories fuel my meager efforts. My study of Trauma over the last two years has really helped me to be of service.

English speaking students are studying several FPMT courses online and connecting with the wider FPMT community. I rejoice in their dedication and commitment to studying the Mahayana path. One student requested Rinpoche to be her teacher which he accepted and provided many life practices in his hallmark style. She is doing her preliminaries at the moment.

Our past seven years purification practices is paying dividends all around the country. There are more discussions about Mahayana and several books written by His Holiness are now available in Sinhalese.

A history professor, Prof W. M Gunathilaka, (right) is vigorously challenging prevailing views in the media where, siting archeological and other research, he is pointing out evidence of the depth of Mahayana in Sri Lanka. Ruwan Basnayaka, (left) a Tara Lanka student, set up a niche publisher to publish all of professor’s translations which include many Mahayana texts.

Inspiring Stories from Students

There are many stunning stories of successes that people are having from following Rinpoche’s advice regarding practices. Here are a couple that spring to mind. 

A close Tara Lanka student, Malintha Perera‘s mother was quite ill last year — bedridden and suffering from a terrible wound related to diabetes. 

She was able to join one of my online discussion groups following which she began to practice. After about three months of practicing Medicine Buddha mantra, she wrote that she noticed her health was improving. That encouraged her to keep going and 12 months later, she is no longer lying in bed. 

Her wound has completely healed, and she is now self-sufficient and mobile. Due to her experience she introduced the practice to her cancer-stricken sister too. A short while later x ray showed there was no longer any cancer and her Sri Lankan doctor said that he had seen a miracle. 

Another student. Kumari Kumaragamage, was living in a remote tea plantation area where she was taking care of many cats and dogs. One of her dogs became seriously ill. Fearing for the dog’s prospects, Kumari took him all the way to Colombo to a vet. Her husband cared for the dog in Colombo while Kumari had to return to look after the other animals.

Before she left, she recorded the Medicine Buddha mantra and her supportive husband played it repeatedly so the dog could hear her voice.

The dying dog healed totally and Kumari’s once skeptical husband, a professor of engineering, is now a believer in the healing power of mantras, so much so that he has taken to chanting and prostrating.

K. Sugathadasa, a Tara Lanka student with a strong connection to Mahayana, was going through a very difficult time. He had worked overseas for some years, and while he was away, monks in the neighbouring temple claimed a piece of land he owned. When he lost that job, he returned to Sri Lanka wanting to build a house on his land but the monks were not letting go. 

Strange obstacles came up. Machinery broke down and workers got sick or injured and abandoned jobs after a few days claiming they were scared of spirits. All his efforts with Mani mantras and other sutras had no visible impact. He felt his predicament was due to strong spirit attacks due to black magic, which is common in Sri Lanka. 

He turned to me for advice as he had had previous success with recitations of Golden Light Sutra and Sanghata Sutra. We connected via WhatsApp and recited Vajra Claws practice for several days. 

Then this challenging situation completely changed. Neighbours reconciled and apologised. Soon a modest house was built. He is now planting cinnamon on the site and practices with even more joy.

Another one from Sugathadasa, who, with his family, attended the opening ceremony for a new stupa and shrine that was built in unusual circumstances (another story). After the event they stayed to recite the Golden Light Sutra. Meanwhile, the monk in charge was found outside taking photographs in the dark. Without knowing anything about the Sutra recitations, he had been excited to see unusual activity in the sky above the new building and he wanted to capture them.

A Shrine room for Ksitigharba and Medicine Buddha statues

Exciting things are happening to carry out Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s grand plan of building a 15 meter Medicine Buddha statue in Sri Lanka.

A big Medicine Buddha Puja is being organised in Anuradhapura in the first half of 2022. I will be joining via Zoom to lead the puja in Sinhalese. We sought permission from the Chief monk at Abayagiriya temple —the 12th Century Mahayana complex of 5000 monks— and received his blessings and wise advice on making it culturally acceptable for locals.

Currently we are completing 1 million Medicine Buddha mantras for the success of this project.

• If you’d like to take part by reciting MB mantras please email me •

Subsequent to transformations in her life due to practice, Malintha Perera has offered to construct a shrine room on her land where we can house the Ksitigharba statue and the replica version of the Medicine Buddha. We have made a detailed presentation and sent it to Lama Zopa Rinpoche to approve.

Sugathadasa met an unusual builder of stupas —the buildings referred to earlier— in a remote village on reclaimed Buddhist temple land that is now surrounded by muslims who might reasonably have objected. It turns out this builder claims he communicated with the local gods who told him the shape they want. We are waiting to hear what Rinpoche says.

Translating texts into Sinhala

Thanks to Tushita in Dharamshala who provided teachings on Medicine Buddha (which meant I could have some of them translated into Sinhala), I am now giving talks on Medicine Buddha practice to groups via Zoom . As a result, a variety of stories have emerged from those engaging in these practices.

A big milestone has been achieved; the translation of The Pearl Garland An Anthology of Lamrims by Rosemary Patton, and the Vajra Cutter Sutra. When Geshe Namdak visited Sri Lanka in 2017 he suggested we get this version of Lam Rim translated to Sinhala. Yet again Prof W. M Gunathilaka has done a magnificent job of finishing them but we have yet to print them. We are looking for sponsors who value all the benefits of printing texts… 

to make an offering for the publication of these two texts, please email me

Medicine Buddha Puja booklet was translated and printed four years ago, however since then Rinpoche has suggested that more Medicine Buddha Pujas be performed in Sri Lanka. So 1000 new booklets and mantra cards (with an explanation of Medicine Buddha and the benefits of its practice from Rinpoche) were printed. Printing costs were covered by Ruwan Basnayaka. Mantra cards were printed and distributed during Covid by Piyasiri Kularathna, an avid and dedicated Medicine Buddha practitioner. Renuka, Deepthika and Mahesh in Sri Lanka and Christine and Ven Drime from Atisha also contributed.

Girls Shelter

After a grueling six years of supporting the girl’s shelter I am rewarded with a great success story. Viveka, a girl who was a victim of incest, had given birth just prior to her OL exam. Thanks to Tikiri’s intervention and support she studied through tears and depression and passed OL exam. Her courage is a rare inspiration to continue this extremely difficult and obstacle-littered work.

Gayathri and Harini, our two Mawbray students, show much improvement in life skills and confidence. In a rare direct conversation with a child protection officer, he thanked me for our work as he noticed a substantial difference in the girls we support.

It was a hugely challenging year to work at the shelter, as it threatened to close. We often lacked access to the girls and faced unreliable information that made it extraordinarily tough for the tutors and myself. Tikiri and I counselled the distraught girls and never stopped reassuring them of our ongoing support. It’s heartbreaking to know that —with all our limitations— we are all they have.

• Birthday celebrations at the shelter     •Maree teaching  English to Madavi and Sakuni

Maree Fowler continues to provide English lessons from Melbourne via Zoom and we kept celebrating birthdays at the shelter, Tikiri and Chathurika continued to teach maths and other subjects. My deep gratitude to them all.

The possible adoption of a girl to an American family: Dr Tyagi visited the shelter from the USA and fell in love with a young girl. Remarkably, against a corrupt, tough and callous system we are hopeful to finally succeed. It has taken me 1 .6 years just to get the correct case number from the child protection agency. We needed it in order to clear up court proceedings that kept the girl tied to Sri Lanka, yet people repeatedly gave us the wrong (possibly made-up) numbers. This is a nightmarish system to work with but we have persisted in an effort to try to release this girl to a new life in the US as she has no hope of a future beyond servitude in SL.

During the crisis that threatened accommodation for our shelter girls, we desperately searched for alternatives and were fortunate to connect with some like-minded and dedicated individuals with whom I hope to liase in the future.

Those girls who turn 18 can no longer stay at the shelter. They inevitably return home with mental problems that were never addressed in years of institutionalisation. Without basic life skills, they return to a society that is unwelcoming, cold and unkind. They turn to us for help as they have no one else. Priyadarshanie, Sachini, Malkanthi and Anjalie are some of the very few we can continue to assist.

A professional legal lobby group sought feedback from me on my experiences. They currently work on the ground, aiming to mend this terribly broken system in which children are unjustly paying for crimes committed against them — by adults they should be able to trust not fear.

• Tikiri visits a remote village to offer gifts to Viveka for paaing her O Level exam • Below girls enjoy gifts to all from Maree •