you become aware
years ago, a young graduate from Holland became interested in meditation
and yoga. Having studied Economic Sociology at the University of
Amsterdam, he was looking for a career in development projects and
thought India would be an ideal country to get started.
During his six-month
stay there, he became interested in Buddhism and toured Buddhagaya
and other Buddhist places of worship. He went back to Holland and
returned to India the following year wanting to be ordained as a
Hindu priest. However, on the advice of a Buddhist monk he came
over to Sri Lanka and was ordained as a Bhikku instead.
Ananda Thera (in keeping with the tradition of using a monk's birthplace
ahead of the name, he prefers to use the Sinhala term for Holland)
is immersed in meditation. Making Sri Lanka his base, he tours Germany,
Holland and USA to conduct meditation retreats several times a year
while also holding regular sessions at Pagoda, Nugegoda.
to Sri Lanka on May 1, 1975 and spent five months as an Upasaka
in white cloth with a beard like a Yogi, before making contact with
Ven. Dauldene Gnannissara Maha Nayaka Thera at his Pagoda temple,"
Ven. Ananda recalls. He then went to the Kanduboda meditation centre
but on his teacher's advice, he made the Pagoda temple his headquarters
and learnt the Buddhist way of life.
layman I visited and practised Vipassana at Kanduboda and soon realised
that the practice of Vipassana and Sathi Pattana were more valuable
to me than the Hindu practices I had followed earlier. That's how
I decided to become a Buddhist monk. After ordination, I also got
in touch with several learned monks including Ven. Madihe Pannasiha
Maha Nayaka Thera, Ampitiya Rahula Maha Thera, Ven. Narada and Ven.
Piyadassi. I began studying the books, practising meditation and
having Dhamma discussions - that was my informal study of Buddhism."
Having done meditation for three decades, how does he feel it helps
the layman? "If Buddhism has to have an effect on people's
minds and help give them either insight or peace of mind, then I
think just studying the words of the Buddha won't do. It should
be complemented with some type of insight through meditation. That
will bring inner calmness," he explains.
advantages are two-fold - short term and long term. Among the short-term
advantages, there can be an immediate effect on your state of mind.
If you are confused or unhappy or not focused and you don't find
real happiness in the things around you - then there is the possibility
that through meditation you may get some sort of stability and focus,
clarity, calm and happiness in your mind. The long-term effect would
be to help overcome the causes of our suffering at a deeper level
in uprooting greed and hatred through the elimination of delusion,
little by little through the practice of the meditation," he
At the Pagoda
Centre, Ven. Ananda conducts meditation sessions on Sundays (3-5
in the afternoon) and on Tuesdays (5-7.30 in the evening). The simple,
practical sessions in English are suitable both for beginners as
well as advanced practitioners. After a short introduction, there
is guided meditation - sitting and walking. A Dhamma discussion
follows - an open forum where Ven. Ananda answers questions relating
to meditation and Dhamma in general. "Anyone interested may
call me on 812397 between 8 and 9 in the morning or evening and
come over," he says.
travels widely and he sees an increasing global interest in Buddhism,
especially in meditation. Rather than rituals and festivals, the
interest is in the practice of meditation. There is considerable
interest both in Theravada and Vipassana meditation on the one hand,
and Mahayana Zen meditation and Tibetan Buddhism on the other. There
are very well organized meditation centres in many countries.
He has also
conducted meditation programmes in the Netherlands and Germany and
since 1997, has been invited every year to Buddha Haus in Allgau,
Germany founded by Ayya Khema, to conduct a six to eight-day meditation
programme. At the Metta Vihara retreat centre, in a mountainous
region of Germany close to the Austrian border, he has a programme
stretching over five to six weeks for individual meditation.
With plans to
formally open the spacious building at the Pagoda Centre next month,
for residential courses, he will spend more time in Sri Lanka. He
hopes to arrange for structured courses over the weekends and longer
retreats where both resident laymen as well as locals could attend.
How do you begin?
"One shouldn't have high expectations that one's mind is immediately
without thoughts and completely focused on one object. The objective
is not to get into 'dhyana' and attain Nirvana on the spot but rather
to sit down with mindfulness of what actually is. That is to get
in touch with one's body and feelings and with the present moment
in a relaxing way, with mindfulness and relaxation at the same time.
sits down and first becomes aware of the present moment, that one
is sitting at a particular place and feels the body from top to
toe sitting there, then the mind already gets away from the tendency
to go off to the past and the future. You give your mind an object
which is really here in the present and then once you feel the body
sitting there, then one can start focusing on the 'anapana' -the
mindfulness of breathing. This is an object to focus on, to stay
with as much as possible, to return to whenever the mind is going
here and there, and to become aware of all those objects like wandering
mind or sounds and feelings as they occur. Not to think that they
should not occur but to include those objects also as objects for
do practise it over and over, it becomes easier to stay with the
chosen object. If your mind doesn't stay focussed it does not mean
that you have failed in meditation. The idea is to have the flexibility
to be aware of other objects and to remain mindful and equanimous
or even-minded towards other objects which are to do with our own
body, mind and sense objects.
Bhavana or development of universal loving kindness to all beings
including oneself is another form. That will help us to create some
kind of tranquillity.
there are two types of meditation - Tranquillity meditation or Samatha
bhavana and insight meditation or Satipattana and Vipassana. Actually
Vipassana is the result of the practice of 'sati' and the practice
of mindfulness leads to insights which give a real view of things
as they really are - 'yatha bhuta gnana dassana' which Buddha talks
about to see things as they really are. That will help us to uproot
ignorance and delusion and gradually overcome the causes of suffering
like greed and hatred. I would say that certain amount of Samatha
meditation like Metta Bhavana and focusing on the breath is a pre-requisite
for deeper insights.
In his classes,
Ven. Ananda starts with 'metta bhavana' and 'anapana sati' as a
kind of focusing and concentration technique but also allows the
other objects, not to get into 'dhyana' but rather to have moment
to moment awareness which in turn is also a bridge towards the practice
of mindfulness in daily life. "To practise mindfulness in daily
life means to be aware of what one is thinking, saying and doing.
Then the 'sati' in daily life while walking, talking, driving, working
or doing the dishes and all other activities, will also become part
of one's mental and daily life and be an extension of the mind with
more awareness of what one is experiencing, saying and doing,"
- D.C. Ranatunga
dream comes true
The Pagoda Meditation
Centre is the result of many years of hard work by scholar-monk,
Ven. Davuldena Gnannissara Maha Nayaka Thera of the Udarata Amarapura
Samagri Sangha Sabha.
The 88-year-old Maha Nayaka Thera made use of donations he received
during a six-year stay in Taiwan teaching Pali and Buddhist Studies,
to construct the spacious building for the centre on a half-acre
plot donated by philanthropist Seelawathi Konsalkorale.
is to be opened on March 8, with an almsgiving for 100 monks preceded
by an all-night Pirith ceremony.
now in my last stages. The establishment of a Bhikkhu rest and a
meditation centre brings me solace and comfort that I have been
able to achieve something useful," the ailing but mentally
alert Maha Nayaka Thera said. There are facilities for eight residents.
A library will also be set up with multi-media facilities to assist
the Davuldena village in Uva Paranagama in the Welimada area, the
Maha Nayaka Thera has been in robes for 76 years having been ordained
at the age of 12. His father, Aloka Mudiyanselage Kavurala and mother
Gajanayaka Mudiyanselage Kirimenike brought up 11 children, three
of whom died early. He had his education at Vidyodaya Pirivena and
later taught in a number of Buddhist institutions including the
Pali Buddhist University, Vidyodaya Pirivena, Sri Vajiranana Dharmayatanaya,
Gangaramaya and Bhuvanekaba Pirivena, Gampola.
in several languages, the Maha Nayaka Thera has authored many books
in Sanskrit. He has been to England, Australia, United States and
Mongolia on Dhammaduta work.