I’m back in Sri Lanka after a few months working at the Great Stupa in Australia. My time there —greeting and talking to visitors about the Dharma— was fruitful and inspiring.
Many Sri Lankan Australians come from the local Bendigo area and from Melbourne so I was able to help them make the connection with Tibetan Buddhism and the finale was a grand event with Sir Lankan style dana and a short talk on Tibetan Buddhism. At least one person requested all the obscure sutras that have been translated to Sinhala and one lady wants to volunteer at the Great Stupa.
I am having to relearn how to live in Sri Lanka. What I am discovering is a new culture after 25 year absence.
On the Ground in Sri Lanka
In many ways, I feel I am back where I started when I returned here after the Nepal earthquake. I am homeless for the 4th time in 18 months.
Thanks to the kindness of my brother and his family, living at their home with Tara Lanka was both wonderful and overwhelming. So many people came to practice and we quickly out grew the living room. Now I am looking for a new place that will not only provide shelter for me but also scope for Tara Lanka study group.
There is definite local enthusiasm but the support has not yet manifested.
Meanwhile, Rinpoche keeps delivering inspiration for me to be here where I can continue to talk to the many people who are asking about dharma. Two people reported they have had dreams in which Rinpoche gave them clear instructions and blessings.
One is now reciting the Sangatha Sutra for the 56th time as her preliminary practice. Many more to go though if the dream is anything to go by. The other is planning to visit Rinpoche in Nepal. My mind boggles as they have never met Rinpoche or had any connection with Tibetan Buddhism prior to my arrival here.
This is what makes it worthwhile; building a bridge between the two traditions.
Old Traps for New Players
When I first came back to Sri Lanka as a nun, I was swept off my feet by the amazing connections I made in such a short time. It was so different to anything I had expected and I got over excited by the coincidences and possibilities.
People were so hungry for Dharma answers that I felt compelled to fulfill all their wishes. I dived into too many things.
Running around, staying alive, practising, giving talks, funding the centre, translating and publishing texts, and all the rest that I took on, was way too much. On top of that I was working hard to have Rinpoche visit Sri Lanka.
It was overwhelming and I didn’t know who to ask for help.
Cost of Living Here is as Expensive as In Melbourne
Just last week water went up by 30%. VAT increased by 15% across the board just a few months before that.
Rental costs are high. Food, transport and services are almost same as they are in Australia. I am not talking about luxuries here. When I meet Sri Lankan Australians, they have the same concerns about the cost of living in the home country.
Crime Rate is High
It is very unsafe here, so I can’t live alone. Here’s a recent incident to illustrate:
A young girl was abducted and raped by 3 men (that’s not unusual). But when she was released, she ran to a temple for help because her mother knows the monk. When she told the monk what had happened, he promptly shut the door and raped her. She wasn’t even 16. The monk is on the run from the police.
Moving From Colombo
I have decided to try Kandy hoping it’s cleaner, cooler and cheaper to rent there.
Unfortunately after a week of house hunting, I see how the city has every inch being built on and the traffic is extreme.
However I have one American couple, who are already looking out for me. They have a friend who would like to share a house with me. Once I have a stable roof over my head, I will become a mobile study group coordinator.
The Pilgrimage is Ready to Go
After many months of research and hard work, Tara Lanka’s Pilgrimage Tours are ready for customers.
Some friends of Tara Lanka encouraged me to develop and lead tours that we could offer to pilgrims and help support the centre.
Other forms of Buddhism existed here in the early days of Dharma in Sri Lanka. There are significant ancient constructions, giant carvings, newly re-discovered historical locations and little known facts that will really surprise pilgrims.
Sally Dudgeon flew out in July and we were joined by two other FPMT students for our “proof of concept” Pilgrimage. It was declared a success. Accommodation and logistics are being handled by one of the leading tour operators here, and I will be leading the Pilgrimage.
A pdf brochure is available and I am very happy to email it to you if you’d like to see what we can offer. This is a fund raiser for Tara Lanka study group and it will help us to bring Rinpoche to Sri Lanka.
Successful Fundraising Night in Melbourne
TLC friends —lead by Ingrid Liebbrandt— organised a fund raiser that I was very pleased to attend. Although there was some last minute panic when we heard that Kim Looi had brought a group of eight people… because they’d gone to the wrong place. Thanks to Adam Pritchard for climbing out of his sickbed and rustling up his friends to attend.
It was a brilliant night of classical music and Tibetan chanting that was quite moving to experience. The event raised $1700 for Tara Lanka. Thank you for so much work and such a great result.
New Support for the Girls Home
While in Melbourne, I was able to find some good help for incest sufferers and the Girls Home that is trying to look after them. A Tara Institute Member invited me to speak at a Rotary club. Five new sources of support emerged after the talk and after making others aware of the dreadful incest impacts that the Girls Home is struggling to deal with.
Rotary members promised to send a shipment of goods to the Home.
A friend —who has already begun to support them financially— will visit early next year to teach them new skills. Three Sri Lankan Australians will visit the Home bringing essential items for pregnant mums. An FPMT student and a Rotary club member in Bendigo are researching a possible project that the girls could take on to help support themselves.
Doccie does it again
Some people are creative in their generosity and Doc Wight is certainly one of those people. He continues to surprise us with all the ways he thinks of to help. Doc has single-handedly found cafes to leave donation boxes. He rents his rooms and does so much else including fetching high prices for his paintings and donating everything to TaraLanka.
He is available for dog walking and personal art therapy sessions too for a good cause 😉
My short time in Australia —thanks especially to Jan, Lynette, Marie and Sarah— has been fruitful and I’ve come back energised (and hopefully wiser).
Once I’ve jumped this first big hurdle of finding a new home, I am confident that Tara Lanka momentum will pick up where it left off. I will appreciate your continuous prayers for the success of Tara Lanka.
Thank you so much for continuing to support my work here in Sri Lanka.