A solitary career is better
Better it is to live alone. There is no fellowship with the
ignorant. Let one live alone, doing no evil, carefree like an elephant
in the elephant forest.
Naga Vagga - The Dhammapada
Starting the path where we find it
The path : I remember once, when I was a monk, being asked to
give a talk at a home for disabled children. An amazing variety of
electric wheelchairs rolled into the hall, different kinds of machines
that helped the children work with their physical pain and disabilities.
I did some chanting then gave a talk about how we all have our own
areas of struggle. Whatever our pain, I said that we should try and work
with it in skilful ways. With courage it is possible to overcome our
suffering. we must have a tenderness for ourselves whatever our
One particular nurse was furious about this. She said "It's easy for
you sitting there peacefully all day!" She seemed almost proud of the
suffering, having the idea that to be a caring person you have to be
It reminded me of a difficult situation I was involved in when I was
in Thailand. I was staying at Wat Nanachat with other Western monks. I
started thinking "Oh gosh, we Westerners talk too much.
I'll never get anywhere with all this talking." So I went off to
Ajahn Jun's monastery, as it had a reputation for being tough. They got
up earlier in that monastery and didn't chatter, and nobody spoke to
One day I was dyeing my robes. I picked up a straw mat in order to
roll it up. Under the mat was a tropical centipede, notoriously
dangerous. It clamped itself onto my finger with its big pincers, its
body hanging down six inches.
The Thai monks went wild, "Takaab! Takaab!" They were running around
wailing, "Oh God! The farang (the foreign monk) has been bitten by a
takaab!" I felt this fire moving up my arm.
The monks were chanting mantras and Ajahn Jun got the nuns involved,
who started brewing up some medicinal concoction; some of them even
started spitting on my finger.
The fire in my arm got higher and higher. The pain was unbearable. I
thought, "What is going to happen when it hits my heart?"
I sat moaning in the sala all night. A few days later Ajahn Chah came
to visit. The monks told him "The farang was bitten by a centipede! The
farang was bitten by a centipede!" What was so moving was that Ajahn
Chah came up and just held my hand.
He simply asked "Jep mai? does it hurt?", not trying to make it
better, not going "Oh no! That's terrible!" but held my hand peacefully,
not panicing, with a quiet smile, "Does it hurt?"
My hand was swollen for three weeks: then I started urinating blood.
Ajahn Jun thought, "Gosh, the farang is going to die in my monastery.
I'd better send him to hospital," So off I went. In hospital I didn't
accept painkillers because I thought monks were not supposed to need
them. Then in the middle of the night I heard someone screaming; it woke
me up - and I realized it was me.
I was screaming from incredible pain in the kidney area. So I asked
for medicine. I found the hospital scary. I was in the monks' ward. The
first night the monk on my right died of cholera.
The monks across the hall had a leg with a huge sore; they thought he
might lose it. His little brother slept on the floor under him. The monk
on my left was possibly to have a kidney operation. So moaning, pain and
suffering filled the room.
After a day or two, Ajahn Chah came to visit. It was like a rising
sun, a lovely orange ball, a beautiful glow as he walked in. Even though
I was the only person he knew, he went around each monk there, bestowing
courage and kindness.
To me he said, "It's okay. You can be here," I said, "Ajahn, I just
want to get out," He said, "If you leave,, I'll send the police after
you." It was a joke; it was nice.
Then I asked, "What should I do about this unbearable pain?" Though I
have terrible Thai, I could understand what he said: "Tong roo kwahm jep
townan: You just need to know the pain for what it is."
This is the essence of the First Noble Truth, the encouragement: "You
can wait a little longer. You can open to this, not for the sake of
special points, but just to understand, just to know."
And then he said something else: "Pom ja dai cheui cheui," which
means, "I'm going to die, and it'll be okay. It's not going to be a
Ajahn Chah had so much sickness in his life. He had years of it,
being with what was uncomfortable. One of his most important gifts was
to bestow on us the courage to look at our suffering. He wanted us to
see that being continually afraid to stop lest something catch up with
us is torture, because then we will never rest, we spend our lives
guarding and avoiding.
The essence of the First Noble Truth is the encouragement not to be
ashamed or terrified of our suffering. If there is terror, it gives us
the courage to touch that terror, to get a feeling for what it is.
When we do that, all the Four Noble Truths emerge from it. If you go
deeply into suffering, you will discover non-suffering. So I encourage
us all to practice this, and to start the Path where we can find it.
Courtesy: Forest Sangha Newsletter
Maha Pajapathi Gothami
The greatest Buddhist woman, heroic figure
With power'n impact in Buddhist literature
If not for her dauntless overwhelming hardships
The Buddhist world wouldn't have known her leadership.
The only sister of mother queen Maha Maya
Gothami born in ancient India in Devadaha.
Her Father Suppabuddha, mother Maha Lumpini
As soothsayers predicted, named Maha Pajapathi Gothami.
Seven days after the birth of Prince Siddharta
Demise of Queen Maya made Gothami Podiamma
With social concepts then, she married king Suddhodana
Amidst great affection, grew Bodisatva Prince Siddharta.
The new Queen's magnanimous gesture, maternal sacrifice
Nurtured, nursed showering everything, heavy enterprise
Earned gratitude, Buddhist world divine qualities
A position of obligation for Prince Siddharta, in loyalties.
Maha Pajapathi Gothami a few years later
Gave birth, a son and a beautiful daughter
Prince Siddharta, Prince Nanda, Sundari Nanda princess
The three enjoyed affection in equal tenderness.
King Suddhodana's death changed Gothami's lay life
She decided to renounce worldly pleasures, good wife
Reiterated the Buddha thrice, to enter Sangha, only request
With fortitude overcame impediments to gain conquest
Touching upon sense of gratitude, delicate matter smoothly
Great quality extolled by the Buddha's unanimously
Armed with facts'n figures relevant venerable Ananda
With undaunted determination approached Sakyamuni Buddha.
The Buddha's devoted close associate Ven. Ananda ardently
Approached The Enlightened One importuned repeatedly
Fervent continuous appeals gained victory ultimately
The Buddha imposed eight regulations Bhikkuni Order carefully.
Kapilavatthu to Vesali her march for Liberation
Distance, hundred 'n fifty miles sans lamentation
Pajapathi Gothami's steadfast commitment, determination
Opened doors for womankind anywhere to seek emancipation.
All women should extremely be greatful, her endeavour
Centuries ago the only woman stood in our favour.
An occasion to commemorate, pay homage monthly
Immense achievement, new chapter significant historically.
Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera - dynamic Buddhist prelate
Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera
Buddhist prelate: Aryabhodi Viharaya, Udubaddawa is a well known
Buddhist centre situated in beautiful surroundings amidst greenery.
Popularly known as the 'Thailand Temple', it has a large Thailand style
Buddha statue and a viharaya in Thailand tradition.
Many could find solace in this temple away from the vexations of
daily life. The incumbent and founder of Aryabhodi Viharaya is Ven.
Horathapola Palitha Thera who has made a distinct impression on the
religious, social and cultural scene in our country.
An outspoken and vibrant Buddhist prelate Horathapola Palitha Thera
will be 72 on February 19, 2007. There will be a special Pinkama at
Aryabhodi Viharaya, on that date for the occasion.
Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera was born on February 19, 1935 at
Horathapola in Katugampola Korale in the Kurunegala District. He had his
early education at Walpitagama Roman Catholic School.
He entered Sasana at the age 9 and was ordained a Samanera or Novice
on November 22, 1944. His preceptors were Ven. Yatagama Sri Gnanukansa
Thera and Ven. Welagama Sri Gnanawimala Thera.
After his formal monastic education at Nadalagamuwa Pirivena and
several other pirivenas, he studied for university entrance at Sri Lanka
Vidyalaya (Pirivena). He entered Vidyodaya University in 1962 and passed
out as a graduate in 1965.
From 1965 to 1968, Horathapola Palitha Thera served as a temporary
teacher and then as the librarian at Sri Lanka College. Later he served
in several other institutions and in 1976 joined the government service
as a teacher in Beramada Vidyalaya in the Badulla District. In 1986 he
retired prematurely as a teacher in Dhammananda Maha Vidyalaya
In the meantime in 1984, he set up Aryabhodi Viharaya in a land at
Udubaddawa and developed it in a short time to become a prominent
religious centre in the area. However Horathapola Palitha Thera is
better known for his political activities.
Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera joined the MEP in 1960. Since then in
victory and in defeat, in good times and in bad times he had been loyal
to the MEP. He was one of those who maintained the continuity of the MEP
when Philip Gunawardena lost the Avissawella seat in 1970 and he passed
away in 1972.
Horathapola Palitha Thera is a forceful speaker and an able organiser.
He is a well-known journalist whose writings have adorned many Sinhala
journals, magazines and periodicals. He has also made his mark as a
renowned author of several outstanding works.
'Jathiye Navodaya' a felicitation volume of Philip Gunawardena
compiled by Horathapola Palitha Thera in 1967 was the first of its kind
presented on a politician. His work 'Wathman Bhikku Parapura' in 1970
was severely criticised as an attack on the higher ranks of the Sangha.
Nevertheless Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula has commended Horathapola Palitha
Thera for fearlessly expressing his views.
It was Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera who edited and presented the
book 'Seethavaka Urumaya' on the facts and material provided by Philip
Gunawardena. When the book was posthumously released in 1973 after the
death of Philip Gunawardena, Prof. Tikiri Abhayasinghe, the historian
remarked "Philip Gunawardena dealing with history has done a better
service than historians dealing with politics."
Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera released his autobiography titled 'Jeevithayaka
Udanaya' on November 22, 1994 for his golden jubilees as a Buddhist
monk. This book vividly presents his successes and failures and what he
has achieved in life against many odds.
His magnum opus is 'Saraswathie Vihara Wansaya' dealing with the
history of Ramanna Nikaya and more particularly the Balagalla
Saraswathie sect to which he belongs. In 1997 this volume was carried on
the back of an elephant and released at a grand ceremony at Saraswathie
Pirivena, Divulapitiya presided over by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the
then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
I came to know Ven. Horathapola Palitha Thera in 1979, when he
organised a felicitation ceremony for my father Warnakulasuriya Santiago
Fernando, who was a renowned Catholic. On that occasion the biography of
my father titled 'Sahodara Guruthuma' written by the Horathapola Palitha
Thera himself was released.
At that time Santiago Fernando was the President of the MEP but in
that ceremony more emphasis was placed on his religious, cultural and
social activities. To my knowledge this was the first occasion where
dignitaries of different religions and representatives of various
political parties appeared in a common platform in Negombo.
Although this function was held at Bauddha Mandiraya, it had a
Catholic background with hymns sung in between.
Next time I met Horathapola Palitha Thera was at the death of my
father in 1991. He came all the way from Udubaddawa - a distance of
about 35 kilometres by bus to Negombo and then walking to our home.
Horathapola Palitha Thera who has a majestic personality with a well
built physique looked dejected on that day.
When he paid the last respects to my father, I saw him wiping the
tears with the yellow handkerchief. The time was about 5.30 in the
evening and I told him that the car and driver is ready for him to get
back to Udubaddawa. He politely declined the offer saying that the
vehicle should be available at the funeral house and returned to
Udubaddawa by bus.
On the following day Horathapola Palitha Thera came to the funeral
with a bus load of Maha Sangha. Once the funeral orations were over at
the house, he sent back the Maha Sangha in the bus and remained with us
till the mortal remains of my father was interred at the Catholic
Cemetery, Sea Street, Negombo.
Santiago Fernando was the first Catholic in Negombo who was conferred
the honour 'Kithu Nandana Pranamaya' by the Church. Nevertheless when
the last rites were performed to his body at the cemetery the only
religious dignitary present there was Horathapola Palitha Thera and even
the prayer book was read by a Catholic layman.
If my father watched the scene from another world he would have been
happy to see the Thera who sincerely admired him at the grave side.
It is my honour and privilege to be close to Ven. Horathapola Palitha
The writer is a former High Court Judge