SAVED HIS LIFE ONCE
Five years ago Ven. Balangoda
Mahanama Thera gave a new lease of life to Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar by donating a kidney to him. Today, this monk who knows
full well about the impermanence of life sums up his personal grief
with the words, “Den ethin monawada kiyanne thiyenne ?”
Kumudini Hettiarachchi reports
couldn’t sleep that night. Though he had finished his day’s
meditation and work and was in bed by about 10.30, he just couldn’t
sleep. There was a feeling of uneasiness.
and turning he decided to switch on the radio in his austere environment
and heard the news flash. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had
been grievously wounded while getting out of his swimming pool at
his Buller’s Lane home.
had this young monk in a meditation centre off Thotupalathenne in
Balangoda and elder statesman Kadirgamar in common? There was a
special affinity between them for Mr. Kadirgamar had one of the
The young monk, Balangoda Mahanama Thera had donated a kidney to
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in 2000.
The Sunday Times visited the Lenagala Vipassana Bhavana Centre located
amidst lush hillsides covered with tea bushes and other thick vegetation
off Kirimetithenne near Balangoda town, the 34-year-old Thera was
under the Bo-tree near the Budu Ge, looking up at the sky anxiously.
in the palm of his right hand was a tiny baby squirrel. “Len
patiya kuuduwen vetila. Eyage amma enakang pravesam karanna oney
nethnam kaputo geneyanne puluwani,” said the Thera explaining
that the baby squirrel had fallen from its nest in the bana hall
and he would have to keep it safe until its mother returned, otherwise
the crows would get it.
it in his hand, the warmth of which the squirrel seemed to find
comfort in for not a sound or struggle did it make, this Thera with
a quick smile and ready laugh, agreed to spare some time for an
was during a visit back in 2000 to their main centre – the
International Vipassana Bhavana Centre – down Wijerama Mawatha
in Colombo 7, that the Nayake Thera mentioned that a patient was
looking for a kidney and requested him to see if he could find a
donor. “I did not know for whom it was. I gave it some thought
and told the Loku Hamuduruwo that I am willing to give one of my
kidneys,” he says. But there was one condition – the
young monk did not want the donation publicized, so he told the
Nayake Thera, “Kaath ekkawath kiyanne epa”. (“Do
not tell anyone.”)
Earlier a monk in the Lenagala Centre had agreed to give a kidney
to someone else and there were so many stories doing the rounds,
some of which were not even true, he explains. A son of Balangoda
itself, the Thera is well-known in the area. His father is a farmer
and owns kumuburu and te (paddy and tea). As a young man, just after
his Ordinary Level examination he too took to the cultivation of
land. “Up to Grade 5, I attended the Kirimetithenne Vidyalaya
and then moved on to the Balangoda Jathika Pasela,” he says
adding that he has three elder brothers and two younger ones. “Mama
hatharaweniya.” (I’m the fourth).
once he became a farmer and settled down to what he thought was
his future livelihood, life took a different turn. H thought deep
and hard, he wracked his brain as to what life was all about. Finally
came the decision…… “Sansarika duken midenna weda
karanna, hithagaththa,” he says adding that he yearned to
be released from the sorrow of this world. “Everywhere I looked
there was sadness.” That’s when he donned the robes.
He was 21. Thereafter it was a life of meditation, bana preaching
and spartan living. There also followed regular visits to the International
Vipassana Bhavana Centre.
soon as he informed his Loku Hamuduruwo that he would like to donate
a kidney, a battery of tests followed. The blood group matched.
It was B positive. The date for the sethkama (transplant operation)
was set. It was March 10, 2000. He flew to the Apollo Hospital in
New Delhi ahead of the scheduled day, with Mr. Kadirgamar preceding
him. More tests followed. The day before the transplant, however,
Mr. Kadirgamar requested that Balangoda Mahanama Thera chant pirith
and that’s what he did. “The operation lasted a long
time,” says the Thera explaining that when they took him to
the theatre it was around 7.30 in the morning and when he regained
consciousness it was evening.
was kept at the hospital for about five days and later moved to
a nearby hotel. His trip to India ended with a much looked-forward
to pilgrimage to Dambadiva, arranged by Mr. Kadirgamar as a token
of appreciation. When he returned to Delhi to catch his return flight
to Colombo, he chanted pirith once again and partook in a dane organized
at the residence of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India.
enna epa maawa balanna,” was his earnest appeal to Mr. Kadirgamar
before he left Delhi. He wanted the Foreign Minister to keep mum
about his sacrifice and requested him never-ever to visit him in
Balangoda. “I feared that people who got to know our connection
would make me become a nuisance to him by asking me to get favours
such as jobs from him,” says the Thera. But on and off they
spoke on the phone because Mr. Kadirgamar was always very concerned
about the Thera’s health and grateful for saving his life.
that Minister Kadirgamar is no more – felled by an assassin
in his own home – Balangoda Mahanama Thera feels powerful
emotions. “Death is inevitable, but this is an untimely death
that the country cannot bear. When I could save his life I did.
One of the best brains in the country is lost. This could have a
bearing on peace,” he says. “Den ethin monawada kiyanne
thiyenne,” he asks. “What is left to be said.”