Childless for six years with the medical verdict being that the chances of conception are nil and the only option held out being adoption, a desperate young Sri Lankan in England comes across a simple blue book with a long-stemmed lotus on the cover page. On her request, many miles across the seas, her mother [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Prarthana: Connecting those who care

People who help people with a pure wish accompanied by a pure thought

Childless for six years with the medical verdict being that the chances of conception are nil and the only option held out being adoption, a desperate young Sri Lankan in England comes across a simple blue book with a long-stemmed lotus on the cover page.

Dhammeswari: The book is a blessing from the heart. Pic by Indika Handuwala

On her request, many miles across the seas, her mother hurries to a group of people who hold the intense belief that powerful pure thought directed towards a specific aim, helps a person to achieve that aim. The young Sri Lankan is now expecting a baby, the joy of childbirth scheduled for November and it is initiator of ‘Prarthana’, Dhammeswari Wickramasinghe, who explains the concept of the ripple effect and the fruits which have come about since they set afloat this thought process. (See box)

Eighty-year-old Mrs. Wickramasinghe who heads the ‘Prarthana Committee’ as its Chairperson had for a long time been lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on and doling out advice, to anyone who came to her seeking solace or a solution to a problem. Different people came to her with different problems – a child who was not studying even when examinations were nigh but was glued to the television, cut-throatism in offices, family trials and tribulations et al.

Whenever someone came to her with a heavy heart that she was unable to conceive, she would advise her to find a mother-to-be who was facing difficult times and help her through her pregnancy. “The help could come in various forms, not just money. But the giving had to come from the bottom of the heart,” says Mrs. Wickramasinghe.

A pure wish accompanied by a pure thought, with the effectiveness depending on the intensity and sincerity of the Prarthana and not on the material value, she elaborates, explaining that the committee members “bond” the well-to-do and the lesser-well-to-do in a network of donors and donees.

When the childless girl’s mother supplied nutritional needs to expectant mothers identified by a few midwives in different areas of Sri Lanka after the Prarthana Committee had contacted them, her own daughter had conceived three months later. The next stage followed soon after to nurture the tiny life within the girl in England, with her mother visiting the Premature Baby Unit of the Castle Street Hospital for Women bearing gifts of 10 oxygen masks to help newborns gasping for breath.

Later, it was to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children that she went, along with a set of volunteers, taking with them heart-connector valves and next to the De Soysa Maternity Home with mackintoshes which were an urgent necessity. Many other stories flow forth – sometimes a helping hand having to be extended after the wish has been fulfilled, as in the case of a Colombo Medical Faculty Lecturer desperately wanting to find a bride for her son. The suggestion by the committee was that the mother should find a needy bridegroom and finance the ‘wedding package’, clothes, flowers and all.

However, with her own daughter’s wedding being the following week, the bridesmaid had taken ill and a friend had flown down from England to take her place. It was love at first sight for the Lecturer’s son when he saw the substitute bridesmaid, even though the Prarthana circle had not been completed. It was on the day that the hall was booked for his wedding that a minor employee had invited her son to be his marriage witness. Not only had he readily agreed but he had also financed the wedding.
Supporting others in their times of need came naturally to Mrs. Wickramasinghe, values imbibed from her parents, D.E.D.S. Karunaratne and Trixie, who were not rich but always helped any relative in need. Their adage was for her to be like a tree “only giving but not asking”.

Apt imagery when she vocalizes: “Looking at the trees on my early morning walks, I see how they have grown over the years giving much shade each in its own way…….bringing forth new flowers, fruits, seeds…..affording a home to birds, squirrels, insects. The freshness of the branches soothes me, the dewdrops glistening on the leaves bring me joy. The trees in all their majesty, silently remind me of the art of giving effortlessly and asking for nothing in return.”

The values inculcated by her parents have followed her from childhood to adulthood and still remain a strong guiding principle. Initially her education was at Ladies’ College and when it was closed during World War II, she moved over to Visakha Vidyalaya.
Her brilliant academic career is detailed by close friends – 1st in the island at the Advanced Level examination, a four-year Honours Degree in Pali and Sanskrit completed in three years at the University of Peradeniya, leaving its portals with a BA (Hons) First Class. Her schoolteachers had urged her to pursue science and become a doctor, but young Dhammeswari was more interested in being with people and studying the mind. A Master’s Degree with Distinction followed from the University of London.

Asked to join the University of Colombo as a Lecturer, her choice, however, was the unheard-of Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, a small school with poor children. By now she was married to Mechanical Engineer, Sena Wickramasinghe. After several years of service at this school had come an order from the then Director of Education, “vahama veda baraganna” as Deputy Principal of Visakha Vidyalaya, where she served till 1995. On retirement, at the urgings of her son “not to stay at home but to do something” the Shakthi Institute in Colombo had been launched in 1997.

It was in 2011, that Mrs. Wickramasinghe made concrete the concept of helping people and in turn helping themselves.
“The name just fell into place,” laughs Mrs. Wickramasinghe. As the committee was debating and discarding suggestions, the phone had rung with a member in England suggesting, ‘Prarthana’ which had instant approval.

As we chat in her office room, in her home in Colombo 5, Mrs. Wickramasinghe’s fervent wish is to build a worldwide web of Prarthana followers – people who care. Her office is cosy and comfortable, with her desk facing a shrine with the pristine white Samadhi Buddha statue exuding serenity and tranquillity. The interview is over and as we step back into a frenetic world of hectic schedules, stress and worry, we take away with us a little dab of peace.

Personal stories of positive gain

Now there is an orange book, ‘Prarthana Re-awakened’, the sequel to ‘Prarthana’.
To be launched on August 28 at the Galle Face Hotel, it will consist of over 30 personal stories of how the concept has helped secure positive gain.

These 1,000 books are not for sale only for distribution, given as a blessing from the heart, says Mrs. Wickramasinghe, paying tribute to her one-and-only son, Tushan, for taking on their printing costs. Originally set to be launched on August 17, the 80th birthday of Mrs. Wickramasinghe, the date had to be pushed back due to the Parliamentary Election.

Earlier, ‘Prarthana’ launched on October 18, 2013, on the 50th wedding anniversary of Mrs. Wickramasinghe, highlighted the stories of numerous people who had benefited from the concept of pure thought. Its distribution in Sri Lanka as well as abroad “to spread the message” had brought in its wake numerous more testaments as well as pleas for help through letters and e-mails about its effect, giving birth to the sequel.

Among the heart-warming tales that dot ‘Prarthana Re-awakened’ are how a ruggerite of a leading school faced insurmountable challenges but with the help of Prarthana was able to secure the captaincy and lead his team to victory. “The copy of ‘Prarthana’ is on my desk next to my Bible,” says the ruggerite, underscoring that it taught him that right can win over might.

The narratives that inspired through ‘Prarthana’ ranged from conception and difficult pregnancies to sickness and education, career and sports to housing, marriage and family life. “It struck a responsive chord in the hearts of many around the world who felt energized with hope,” says Mrs. Wickramasinghe, adding that reaching out to those less fortunate struggling themselves to achieve their targets helps provide momentum for us to achieve our goals.

The Prarthana Committee members are based in Sri Lanka, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Australia. Anyone who wishes to gain more information may contact E-mail:

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