Serenity amidst a canopy of green
By D. C. Ranatunga
Over one hundred monks were present for the midday 'dana'. It was a rare sight to see them walking silently down the pathway on pindapatha in keeping with tradition dating back to the days of the Buddha when monks went on alms rounds for their food.

They came in single file, one after the other, each carrying the alms bowl. Once their feet were washed, they moved on and patiently let the devotees serve the dana into their bowls. Then they retired into the alms hall a little distance away and sat down to eat the food they had been offered.

The monks were followed by a group of nuns clad in their deep brown robes. We were at Nauyana forest monastery, a few miles away from Kurunegala on the Dambulla road. Turning left just before reaching Melsiripura, we drove along a newly tarred road, certain sections of which were still being given the final touches.

A neatly kept pathway led us on a steady climb through the forest, the greenery all around providing a cool canopy. It was a hot sunny morning, yet the shade protected us from the heat. The serene undisturbed environment seemed ideal for meditation and the pathway led to the kutis where monks stay and meditate.

The monastery is in the midst of a 200-acre forest. The government reserve has been given over on the strict understanding that the trees will be protected. The temple authorities are going one better. While protecting the existing flora, they have a programme planned to grow more trees including mahogany and other species.

In all, there are kutis for at least 60 monks. These have been built away from the entrance to the monastery where the shrine room and the preaching hall are located. Facilities are also provided for the devotees who come to offer alms. It's only during a restricted period that visitors are allowed into the areas where the kutis are. This is to avoid disturbing the meditating monks.

Our visit coincided with a 'pinkama' organised to commemorate the birthday of the chief monk, the highly respected and renowned meditation teacher Venerable Nauyane Ariyadahamma Nayaka Thera.

Nauyana forest monastery is one in a chain of nearly 150 meditation centres functioning under the Nayaka Thera throughout the island. It has its headquarters at Galduwa near Ambalangoda. The entire operation is managed by a Sangha Sabha, the Galduwa Kalyani Yogashrama Sansthawa assisted by the lay 'dayaka sabhas' at each venue.

While there are monks in permanent residence at the different monasteries, foreign monks also come here for short periods. Laymen both local and foreign can also stay for short periods and practise meditation.

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