It is once again time to tell you what’s been happening on the ground here in Sri Lanka.
Moving House, Again
After I had to leave my unsatisfactory Colombo rental, most of my energy was spent on finding suitable accommodation up country, in Kandy.
I looked at over 40 places while being hosted by the lovely and most generous Kawasakis. On my search, I had to face some strange and unexpected objections. Two beautiful potential centres were later refused because their owners feared powerful objections from the local monks.
I am often told that my robes are a challenge to the local perception of Buddhism and if I blended in everyone would be happier.
For now, I choose to keep the robes I was ordained in although it makes me an oddity in my country of birth. Right now, keeping these robes feels like a more authentic choice for me, however I am open to change if circumstances require a more skillful approach.
Khadro-la did tell me not to be attached to my robes.
Finding A Place — Many Traditions Bless the House
Finally it happened. It’s wonderful that I am now in new accommodation and —thanks to a couple of generous benefactors— for the next year, I am able to pay the rent. It is very expensive at $550 per month and it required a 6 months deposit as well.
Part of me is sad that in a country where there are over 2000 temples closed up and unused, I and other nuns have to pay market-rate rents so that we can live and practise here.
Soon after I moved in, a House Blessing was performed and that’s something unique for Sri Lanka.
It was attended by sangha representing 6 different countries and a mix of traditions. Given local sectarianism, this wonderfully supportive gathering was our humble effort towards dealing with it and sending a message of unity.
As usual Ken and Visakha Kawasaki helped with the arrangements and dana (the practice of generosity, giving food to sustain monks and nuns in their practice).
I am now dealing with the maintenance of the house and garden. The latest challenge was a dead polecat in the ceiling; it stank to high heaven. Nothing is sacred to them — so far polecats have pee-ed on the 8 Auspicious signs and on other holy objects.
This time of year is Sinhalese New Year and I was pleasantly surprised to be visited by many neighbours. We started the Golden Light Sutra recitation in Sinhala at an auspicious time on the 13th and finished it the next day. I am constantly encouraged by the sincere individuals who come looking for dharma.
With their insistence for a healing practice, we promptly organised a Medicine Buddha puja during the new year period. Once again, this was done in Sinhala language.
Tara Lanka Study Group is again up and running. But activities did not stop while I was hunting for a new place.
Ven Namjong’s Teachings In Galle, Kandy And Colombo
Tara Lanka continues to help people make a connection with Tibetan teachings so it was terribly exciting to host Venerable Namjong, another FPMT teacher from IMI.
He taught Langri Tangpa’s Thought Training methods in 3 different cities. Deepest gratitude to Ven Olande Ananda, a well-respected Dutch monk who lives in Sri Lanka, he hosted these Tibetan teachings at his temple. This is the second time he has hosted an FPMT teacher. Ven Olande Ananda also passed on Guru Rinpoche blessings to all the attendees — through the hanging of many Tibetan prayer flags. It’s a very courageous move to do this openly in a Theravadan temple in Sri Lanka.
Starting Meditation and Discussion In Colombo
After a chance meeting with a Dutch woman named Rita, who turns out to be a student of Sogyal Rinpoche, we have started early morning meditation at her house — at 5.30am!
Not so early for a nun but I thought so early for people living in a posh Colombo suburb. But we had a dozen people show up at that time and it seems they all enjoyed the event.
Rita has these meditation sessions scheduled monthly for the rest of the year. Amazing.
Fewer people were able to make it the second time because dengue fever had struck 3 of them and some other first-timers mistakenly thought it was at 5.30PM.
It’s exciting to have made the connection with a fellow Tibetan Buddhist and to be able to continue Tara Lanka Study Group activity in Colombo even though I am now based miles away in Kandy. We are still looking for a place to meditate in the evenings in Colombo as the majority of interested people cannot attend so early in the morning.
I have received a number of invitations to teach around Kandy and I am organising study group activities here. A two day Tara practice day and a Nuyng Nye are being planned. This year the UN Vesak celebrations are being held in Sri Lanka and Ven Namdak is aiming to be back again in May.
Dharma Sister Arrives in Time
Coinciding with the move to our new home in Kandy, Ven Thubten Kunsang arrived from Kopan nunnery. She brought with her a keen interest in connecting me with local monks and nuns so it was inspiring to have her here amongst a range of other Sangha to bless the centre.
It was a joy to have her chant 4 Mandala Tara Puja in Tibetan at Tara Lanka’s new home.
The highlight of her visit was climbing Sri Pada. Lama Zopa Rinpoche said this was the first place Shakyamuni Buddha gave Dzogchen teachings. Since the war ended, many high lamas have started visiting and doing dubchen at Sri Pada.
Time for an advertisement: Tara Lanka Pilgrimage tours are ready and waiting for you and your group. So if you want to visit Sri Pada and many other ancient Mahayana sites in Sri Lanka, please email email@example.com
Translation Work Continues
I am pleased to announce that two texts dear to my heart, are now available in Sinhala.
The first one is now in the proof reading phase. It is Ven Thubten Chodron’s book One Teacher Many Traditions — a translation from English to Sinhala. The Second one is the Golden Light Sutra, translated from Sanskrit and English to Sinhala.
I felt that One Teacher Many Traditions would be greatly beneficial if it was translated into Sinhala language. I believe it will go a long way towards addressing the misconceptions some Sri Lankans have towards other Buddhist traditions, which they see as largely made up.
The book’s author, Ven Thubten Chodron, initially asked me for help finding a translator as His Holiness considered it would be good to have it translated into Sinhala. I couldn’t find anyone to do it at the time but then I was very happy to hear that a Sri Lankan monk, based in the US, had already taken it on himself to translate this exact book.
This time I was able to assist in finding someone perfect to proof read his manuscript — Prof Gunathilaka is a professor of Sinhala and, just as importantly, he is unbiased towards other traditions.
The monk who did the Sinhala translation is Bhante Silarathna. He felt a strong urge to translate this book despite discouragement and words of warnings from well meaning dharma friends. They were worried that his work on the book would tell against him in Sri Lanka but he pushed ahead anyway.
Bhante Silarathna and I are now waiting eagerly to see it published and made available to readers in Sri Lanka.
Finishing The Sinhala Translation of The Golden Light Sutra and Sarasvati Puja
This is an inspiring story … Professor Gunathilaka, who I met surreptitiously in Kandy, has translated many Mahayana Sutras into Sinhala. Before I met him, he had already translated the Sangata Sutra — with his permission, I promptly had it printed.
I asked him if he would translate the Golden Light Sutra as Lama Zopa Rinpoche is keen for this to be recited at this time in the world. From it, the Professor amazed me by showing the Sarasvati chapter which he had already completed.
Professor Gunathilaka has been holding a monthly puja to Sarasvati Devi in his home.
He now uses this puja to introduce The Golden Light Sutra to the Sri Lankan people who have long-standing connection to Sarasvati. He establishes her Buddhist credentials and now the Golden Light Sutra is getting into the hands of people who appreciate it.
How Sarasvati is fulfilling her promise to the Buddha!!!
Girls’ Home — Sri Sisters project for Vocational training, donation of money for food
Maree and Alice’s Visit
Earlier this year, we had a visit from my Melbourne friend, Maree and her daughter, Alice. They came out to offer some help to my favourite local charity, the Kandy Women’s Development Centre. It’s such a wonderful refuge for girls who are victims of incest.
Maree and Alice introduced the girls to various ways they can generate income and personal self-worth. Maree will market their products back in Melbourne. The money will go to Skills development so these girls have a future beyond their time at the shelter. You can read more (and buy some great sustainable products) here:
Link to the website and Sri Sister blogs – here are the links
I am so inspired that they flew over here with such generosity of thought and action.
Big Thanks to All Tara Lanka Benefactors
Without your continued support, Tara Lanka’s work cannot continue. Sri Lanka is an expensive and a very difficult country to be for a Tibetan buddhist nun and I am always looking for ways to generate an income that will allow Tara Lanka to continue. In the meantime thank you so much for keeping it going.
I don’t like to single out individual benefactors because I fear I will make the mistake of leaving someone out and that would be awful, but I really must acknowledge the continuing support of one person.
This person contributes in so many ways, including $2000 that just came through from paintings that he sold. Not mentioning names, but here’s one of the paintings:
It is clear from some of the pictures from “Buddhism in the 21st Century” the recent conference that took place in India, His Holiness paid a lot of attention to the Sri Lankan Buddhist monks who attended. It is his wish to see our respective traditions work in harmony. We are all fortunate to be a tiny part of that change.
Read our previous Report here >> November 2016 Report