Daleena Samarajiwa narrates a modern fairytale in which a small pink quartz heart led her to a sacred mountain
Once upon a holy summit
Namal Uyana happened to me, as in a fairytale. Returning to Sri Lanka after nine years to grieve the death of a relative, I had no plans for leisure travel. I had learned energy healing in Hong Kong, and my teacher had gifted me a beautiful little pink quartz heart to use for healing my family. I carried out a healing ritual diligently every morning, and then one day, breakfasting after such a session, I glanced through a newspaper and saw a half-page photo-spread of a magnificent rose quartz mountain. I felt compelled to visit. What better than to wander among a vast expanse of pink quartz, whose high frequency energy vibrations are said to heal all forms of heart-felt damage.

In search of tranquillity
It was a five-hour, 158 mile drive from Colombo to the Anuradhapura. Both myself and the friend who was accompanying me felt relaxed as we took off, distancing ourselves from the noise of the city and entering the luxuriant countryside.

It was a fiery day when we reached Namal Uyana at noon. A lone man sat in a solitary guard-post beside a large overhead sign that read Jathika NaMal Uyana. I asked for Ven. Wanawasi Rahula Thera, the legendary monk/keeper of the pink quartz mountain and its surrounding Na (ironwood) forest. The man pointed to a figure lounging in a deck chair in the patio of the only house nearby.

The monk questioned me; I told him that the quartz mountain had drawn me, but as a writer I was interested in writing about the site.We chatted awhile and he took us into the hall of the hermitage and played a DVD of a documentary of the forest. I showed him my pink quartz heart and he showed me a chunk of quartz from the mountain. He too used the quartz for healing.

The tale of Na
Ven. Vanavasi Rahula Thero had arrived at Namal Uyana 12 years ago, to meditate in the forest. He built himself a little tree-house, 40 feet above the ground in the branches of a Mora tree which kept him safe from wild beasts. It was his home for almost a year, after which he moved to the hermitage built of cheap woods from neighbouring villages. He is now firmly established as head monk of the forest: its guardian.The role has been designated to monks for thousands of years. It's a role he believes he carried out in a previous life 800 years ago.

My companion and I set off into the forest, accompanied by a young monk guide. We took the route leading to a white Buddha statue atop the mountain. The Na (Ironwood) tree proliferates in this forest. The national tree of Sri Lanka, it is revered as the abode of deities. Three Buddhas - Sumana, Revana and Sobitha - are said to have attained enlightenment under Na trees, and it is believed that the future Maitreya Buddha will do the same. Its every part is used in the Ayurvedic medical system practised in Sri Lanka. The monk pointed out other plants with medicinal uses: more than 70 other varieties grow in the forest, about 85 percent of its plant life, is said to have medicinal value.

Rulers and outlaws
We skipped over stone pillars and ancient foundation stones lying amidst the foliage. When Rahula Thero first came to the forest, he did not realize the extent of its natural and historical treasures - ruins of an ancient monastery that received the royal patronage of King Devanampiya Tissa (307-267 B.C.E) and granite foundations of very old buildings were strewn on a section of the forest bed. A square Buddha statue, an ancient shrine and palace, a moonstone, a well, latrines, and even a begging bowl are among them. It is said that a meditation centre for Buddhist monks once existed there. Two references to the use of Namal Uyana for human habitation have been found on inscriptions on stone slabs, one at the ancient historical capital, Anuradhapura. Many of these sites are unprotected and Ven. Rahula says that illegal excavations are carried out at night.

At the beginning of the eighth century, a section of the forest became what probably was the world's oldest recorded human sanctuary. Anyone fleeing their enemies or on the run from even the king was entitled to sanctuary in this forest, which was under the sole jurisdiction of Buddhist monks. The king had no automatic right of arrest. Legend has it that outlaws and the persecuted seeking sanctuary in Namal Uyana were transformed into Na trees. Closer to fact was that they were obliged by the monks to plant and care for the trees. Indeed, the semi-orderly formation of the forest strongly indicates human plantation.

We climbed a gentle mountain slope. The stone glistened whitish pink in the sun. The monk said the quartz was brightest after a rain. The Buddha statue atop the mountain was pure white, disappointingly not of pink quartz but a synthetic fibre.

Healing touch
Like the Na tree, the quartz mountain is associated with healing and is considered sacred. Pink quartz is associated with the heart, the most powerful centre of the human energy system according to Vedic knowledge and vibrational healing sciences.Energy healers believe that pink quartz has a beneficial effect on human emotions such as love thereby reducing stress. The stone's calming effect promotes happiness, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, kindness and tolerance.It's ability to heal emotional wounds makes its presence in Sri Lanka, a country that has experienced severe emotional trauma, a great blessing.

Pink quartz is also the stone of individual healing; It is said to have the power to raise self-esteem and enhance all aspects of self-love. It can also remove fear, resentment and anger, and heal childhood traumas, neglect, and deprivation of love, in part by enhancing inner awareness.

Pink quartz also has major physical benefits. It is used to strengthen the heart and the circulatory system, enhance fertility and many other ailments.It can reduce signs of aging by diminishing wrinkles, spleen problems and fibromyalgia. It can also help one achieve and maintain one's ideal weight, and ease childbirth. Some healers are of the opinion that pink quartz promotes clarity of mind.

Journey through sansara
As we approached the hermitage, descending the quartz mountain we were greeted by the sight of Ven. Rahula, seated on the floor with a child in front flanked by a man and woman.The girl was in a deep trance, incarnating as Pattini, a benevolent local deity. She was describing historical events that took place in the forest, the kings who had walked through it, and a visit of a famous queen, Vihara Maha Devi. The monk invited me to sit in front of the girl and ask her a question.

I asked for some personal information and received amazingly accurate answers. Ven. Rahula was instructed on his role as caretaker of the forest. The name of the deity who guarded the area was mentioned with great respect. After a while, the girl came out of her trance and fell into the arms of the woman beside her.

I met the girl the next day and my companion, the girl, her relatives, the young monk and I set off into the jungle. We felt a strange familiarity: the differences of upbringing, community, spiritual beliefs faded.

The girl and I held hands as we walked sidestepping elephant dung and stopping to examine snake skin and hunt for colourful pink quartz pebbles. The girl said we were sisters in a previous life. I told her, in this life, given our vast age difference, she would be better as a daughter. She seemed wise beyond her years.

It was a six-hour trek, crawling through animal trails, scouring large boulders and dry river beds.As I looked about for signs of a leopard. I couldn't help noticing how safe I felt, as though the presence of dangerous animals did not matter because they would not harm me and we could co-exist in harmony.

The last part of the upward journey, I clambered nervously up what must have been 10-foot steep face of pink quartz, daring not to look at the ground so far below my feet.

Despite the noon-day sun I felt healthy, peaceful and calm. Surely it was the magic of the pink quartz. The mountain is said to date back more than 500 million years, and is also home of the largest collection of fossilized plants dating back some 200 million years.

Noble vision
At the hermitage nearing the end of the visit, I had another chat with Ven. Rahula Thero. An open and humble man, he was keen to know more about the healing arts I had learned in Hong Kong. He knew Buddhist healing techniques. He talked of his vision of having a meditation and research centre in the forest, and welcomed any party interested in conducting research or using this amazing place for holistic purposes.He is making plans to educate his band of monks in various natural healing arts. He is also aware that the power of the site lies in its purity and is anxious to protect it.

Ven. Rahula Thero has worked hard to increase awareness of and protect his forest. When he arrived, it was being denuded by chena cultivators from nearby villages who would burn down the trees to clear land for cultivation. It had also fallen prey to timber merchants.

There was little public awareness of its uniqueness. Today, chena cultivation and timber logging have almost ceased.The Namal Uyana Trust, set up from donations from organizations and individuals and the proceeds of the very nominal entrance fee, are used to uplift the lives of the people of the surrounding villages.

About 15,000 villagers now receive electricity and water, and a programme to provide brick houses for about 200 families who live in wattle and daub huts is underway. Plans have already been drawn out for the construction of a Community and Research Centre.

A section of the forest, declared a reserve area, has already opened to the public, and is drawing about 25,000 people, both foreign and local, each month. Steps have been taken to declare the forest a World Heritage site.

Anxious to educate the new generation about the need for environmental protection, he has also succeeded in including pictures of the pink quartz mountains in school social science textbooks. Ven. Rahula's dynamism has been recognized and applauded by the government which has bestowed numerous honorary titles on him. We parted with promises to keep in touch.

On the way back, I reviewed the strange sequence of events that had passed: Would I have visited the mountain if I had not had a small pink rose quartz heart? What if I had not picked up the newspaper that day? What were the chances of meeting that girl that afternoon? I had changed the date of my trip three times before settling on the date I met her. Momentarily, I considered adopting her. I know there is more to life than satisfies reason: I was thankful that magic is still alive.

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