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Rajagala and the Parable of the Panner

by damith
September 19, 2023 1:04 am 0 comment

‘One day we should go to Rajagala,’ I told Tharindu Amunugama, insatiable explorer and wonderful travel companion. ‘Of course,’ he said. We’ve planned but it never happened. It is on our unwritten ‘must go’ list which neither of us allow to gather dust.

Perhaps by way of a nudge or for the relevance in terms of plans we’ve talked about, Tharindu sent me a Facebook post. It was a picture of three people among the Rajagala ruins along with the following caption: (tourists who haven’t seen Rajagala are not tourists).

I feel that it was not meant to be condescending or to ridicule people who travel and yet have not visited Rajagala although it could certainly be read as such. It is essentially an invitation: ‘you must visit this place!’

I took it in that spirit. I responded to Tharindu: ‘When you return in November,’ he said. All in good spirit, as it should be.

I pondered about the claim, though. On the one hand, it’s like saying ‘you are somehow a lesser human being if you didn’t do this or that,’ which of course is too silly to dwell on. What is ‘Rajagala’ and where is ‘Rajagala’ are the questions that I thought about.

It took me back nine years. April 13, 2013. I’ve written about it in an article titled ‘The trust location of Kala Wewa,’ published in the now defunct ‘The Nation.’

The gist:

I wanted to go to Kala Wewa and called a friend, Wasantha Wijewardena, self-proclaimed ‘professional rastiyaadukaarayaa (loafer).’ He agreed to accompany me. So we took off with a full tank of petrol. It was around 2 pm when we stopped for a cup of tea somewhere near Narammala. This was when Wasantha made a brilliant observation: ‘There are many Kala Wewas this side of Kala Wewa.’ Of course!

It is what we want anything to be. Our Kala Wewa on that occasion was the Maha Wewa in Madadombe, a village a few kilo meters from Gallewa, which is about nine kilo meters along the Galgamuwa-Ehetuwewa road. It was not Kala Wewa. The Kala Wewa serenity is something else. It was, however, serene enough for us.

There’s something about the physical aspect that is too unique to replicate. Maha Wewa, Madadombe, is not Kala Wewa, Anuradhapura. There could be, theoretically, many Rajagalas outside the Digamadulla District and the Gal Oya basin. If ‘monastic complex’ is about deep and sustained reflection on eternal verities, then the world is made of Rajagalas, one could argue.

And yet, I understand Tharindu and I understand that Facebook post. I can sense the kindness and generosity that lie beneath the outwardly arrogant claim. Tharindu, after all, has visited Rajagala and he’s not a ‘you must or else..’ kind of person. It is that human wish to share something wonderful with others. Simply put, it is for the same reason that I write.

I am sitting somewhere in the Rajagala monastic complex right now. The wind has stopped. The Sun has withdrawn the most terrible of its rays. There are no kings, architects or engineers. Even the footprints of those who came before have been covered by a fine layer of dust which will lift itself when I’m gone.

And my mind wanders to and stops at the ‘Pa sudhovakasutta’ in the ‘Anguttara Nikaya’. It is the parable of the panner. I need not venture into the extrapolations:

‘Gold has coarse corruptions: sand, soil, and gravel. A panner or their apprentice pours it into a pan, where they wash, rinse, and clean it. When that’s been eliminated, there are medium corruptions in the gold: fine grit and coarse sand. The panner washes it again. When that’s been eliminated, there are fine corruptions in the gold: fine sand and black grime. The panner washes it again. When that’s been eliminated, only gold dust is left. A goldsmith or their apprentice places the gold in a crucible where they blow, melt, and smelt it. Still the gold is not settled and the dross is not totally gone. It’s not pliable, workable, or radiant, but is brittle and not completely ready for working. But the goldsmith keeps on blowing, melting, and smelting it. The gold becomes pliable, workable, and radiant, not brittle, and ready to be worked. Then the goldsmith can successfully create any kind of ornament they want, whether a bracelet, earrings, a necklace, or a golden garland.’

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