10th December 2000
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At peace with sights and sounds of the jungle

By D.C. Ranatunge
Most foreigners who don the robe seek the solitude and peace of a jungle existence, shunning publicity. These are the experiences of a foreign monk who has been living alone in the jungle for the past 20 years. 

I first met him at the Nisalawana Aranyaya at Meetirigala. Most foreign monks go there after ordination to get a solid grounding from the Loku Hamuduruwo who is well versed in the art of meditation. Most, however, don't stay there for too long, preferring the solitude of the forest.

We had met occasionally in earlier years, but I had lost track of him until quite by accident, I met him in Colombo the other day. He had spent most of his time in the jungle, been to his homeland and also spent sometime in Thailand meditating, he told me. He was only in Colombo for a few days. ÒThen I will be getting back to my little ÔkutiyaÕ,Ó he said.

What attracts him to the jungle, I asked. ÒThe peaceful and calm environment,Ó was his brief answer. Day in and day out, he lives by himself in the ÔkutiyaÕ , which the villagers had built. How does he spend his days?

ÒOne decides to go into the jungle when one wants to lead a meditative life, undisturbed. You are then away from the community. You are away from the undercurrents which affect you when you are in a community. In the jungle, you are all by yourself and you manage time the way it suits you best,Ó he explains.

ÒWhen you are on your own you begin planning the dayÕs routine at your own pace. I rise by four and start meditating. As the first light appears I am out on ÔpindapathaÕ to collect a little food.Ó

For him it is a half an hour walk to the village. There are around 15 to 20 houses in the village. He doesnÕt tax them every day. He selects about four houses a day and plans his own roster, though not in a regimented way. Twice a week he walks about one and a half hours (each way) for his ÔpindapathaÕ. One day he walks an hourÕs distance and on other days makes do with a half-an-hour walk. Once or twice a month he walks a longer distance possibly taking up to two hours one way. This gives a chance for those who live a little further away to participate in a ÔdanaÕ. ÒThey all love to give. So they are ready when I go.Ó

However, food has never been a problem for him. Even as a young layman he had been a vegetarian, often living on fruits. He never had any craving for luxuries. ÒMy possessions have always been very few. So life has never been a burden,Ó he says, smiling.

On his return trip, he would sit by a stream and have the ÔdanaÕ. To him, both the Ôheel daneÕ (morning alms) and the Ôdawal daneÕ (afternoon alms) are one. He eats just once a day. Sometimes, he gets back to the ÔkutiyaÕ and has the ÔdanaÕ. Clearing up and sweeping the ÔkutiyaÕ comes next on his timetable.

The ÔkutiyaÕ is a simple abode with walls on three sides. The front is open. There is a plank bed, a little table and a shelf where the monk keeps his meagre belongings. Cowdung is applied on the floor.

After the ÔdanaÕ he studies the Dhamma going through the few books he has with him. He recites the ÔsuttasÕ in the evening and gets back to meditation which he does either in the ÔkutiyaÕ or in the Ôsakman maluwaÕ - a short pathway adjoining the ÔkutiyaÕ where he does the Ôwalking meditationÕ. In between he has a cup of plain tea for his ÔgilampasaÕ.

DonÕt you feel lonely, I ask. ÒWhy should you feel lonely when you are surrounded by nature,Ó he replies. ÒWhen there are so many trees around you and when the elephant comes to your doorstep, you know you are not alone.Ó Often the elephant comes at night and the sound of the breaking of branches, tells him the elephant is on his way. The elephant comes in search of two things - food and salt, says the monk. He keeps a little lantern burning at the entrance to the ÔkutiyaÕ to indicate that there is someone inside. When he knows the elephant is close, the monk makes his presence known by reciting a ÔgathaÕ. Normally he would recall the virtues of the Buddha reciting ÔIthipiso Bhagawa Arahan Samma SambuddhoÕ. Sometimes he would flash the torch and the animal would quietly move away, breaking a few branches in the backyard in parting. 

Never has an elephant harmed him. However, the monk vividly remembers one instance when he was charged by an elephant while going to the village on ÔpindapathaÕ. He was at a mountain -top when he suddenly saw the elephant charging at him. ÒPossibly he felt I was blocking his way. I knew what I had to do was to move away. I did. And he went his way ignoring me. He was possibly trying to see who was more powerful, man or beast!Ó

Being in the jungle, one automatically becomes a nature lover. Being a monk, he is trained to appreciate what he hears and sees in the most detached manner. ÒThe sound of the insects one hears at night is the most beautiful experience I have had,Ó he says. He has also identified four different types of owls and hawks and eagles too. He often encounters deer and sambhur when he walks down to the village.

Occasionally in the quiet of the evening, he hears the sound of a leopard making his way to the stream and sees its paw marks in the sandy bank. After years of meditation, what is his message to the Buddhist layman? ÒMake full use of the facilities available to learn and develop meditation. There are so many teachers and so many places one can go to. Once you get into the trend, practise daily. Set aside time for your meditation and make it a daily routine. Have access to an experienced teacher. Go to him and follow his teachings,Ó he advises. 

Pirith power

By Ven.Panditha Meegahakumbure Dhammagaveshi 
(Viharadhipati, Lankarama Vihara, Sydney, Australia)

ÔParittaÕ in Pali, ÔParitranaÕ in Sanskrit and ÔPirithÕ in Sinhala literally means protection. They are Dhamma discourses proclaimed by the Buddha and are meant to bless and protect. The protection comes through reciting, listening and practising the religious way shown by these discourses. 

The practice of reciting and listening to Pirith began during the time of the Buddha. 

The Buddha recommended some discourses to guard against troubled times. They would then act as protection. 

Even some members of the Order of the Sangha sought protection through the chanting of Pirith.

Once the Buddha chanted the Ratana Sutta, a powerful and effective discourse at Vesali where people were suffering from famine and sickness. They were harassed by evil spirits and were experiencing numerous misfortunes. After chanting Pirith the people regained their health and happiness. 

There was also the instance when some 500 monks went to the forest to practise meditation, and were disturbed and frightened by evil spirits. They could not concentrate. They then reported to the Buddha who instructed them to recite the ÔKaraneeya Metta SuttaÕ and practise loving thoughts towards the spirits. They did as they were advised and the evil spirits did not bother them after that. 

Pirith chanting is powerful due to a combination of factors. Given here are some of the factors:

Power of the Buddha

The Buddha is neither a God nor an incarnation of God or an agent of God. He is a human being but not an ordinary one. He is superhuman. 

The Buddha had developed His mind to the highest level when He reached Buddhahood. All His effort was based on compassion, loving kindness and wisdom. 

Power of the Dhamma

Dhamma is Truth. Each and every word spoken by the Buddha is the Truth. Reciting of Pirith is a kind of asseveration (ÔsachchakiriyaÕ). That is why at the end of every ÔsuttaÕ, the words Ôetena sacca vajjena sottu te hotu sabbada, sabba rogo vinassatu, hotetu jaya mangalamÕ are recited. (ÔBy the power of the truth embedded in this chanting may you ever be in good health, may all blessings ever be with youÕ.)

Power of the Sangha

ÔSanghaÕ is the community of monks - disciples of the Buddha. It includes monks who lived in the past, those who live at present and who will be monks in the future. The monks recite the holy words of the Buddha by pronouncing them correctly and with mindfulness. 

Also the great qualities of the Order of the monks are included in the Pirith itself. These qualities are far superior to those of the general public who are not engaged in the spiritual path.

Power of the Mind

In psychology, the power of the mind is introduced as a cognitive factor. Cognitive psychologists believe that internal mental events - thoughts, images, memories, feelings and emotions - are vital parts in any explanation of behaviour. 

The Buddha gives pride of place to the mind in Buddhist psychology. Mind is very closely linked to the body. The body acts on the commands of the mind. When we have calm, peaceful, serene, compassionate and loving thoughts, our behaviour becomes peaceful, calm and serene. 

When Pirith is being chanted, the minds of both the listeners and those who recite become calm and peaceful. As a result, a very relaxed atmosphere is created. 

Negative energy gets decreased and positive energy is increased. This helps one lead a happy and long life.

May all beings be well and happy!

May they see the Truth! 

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