Sri Lanka has always impressed me. First, I came to this country to learn the basic philosophy of Buddhism, for Sri Lanka is a country that has a root of Theravada Buddhism, often known as "The Ancient Sound", the oldest surviving Buddhist school in the world today.
My arrival here coincided with the end of the Vesak Lantern Festival in Colombo, that held up to one week after Vesak. For me this is a special opportunity to see the national lantern festival that is very popular in Sri Lanka.
My encounter with a monk in SIBA (Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy) --a place where I took a short course of Buddhist Studies-- in Kandy, Sri Lanka's central province, brought some fresh air for my adventure here.
Hemaloka, I called him Bhante Hemaloka - Bhante is a call for a monk. Bhante Hemaloka majored in Buddhist Leadership for his undergraduate concentration in SIBA.
Lucky for me, Bhante Hemaloka's monastery is in Colombo, where the national lantern festival was held. He asked if I was interested to see the lantern festival and stay at his monastery. Of course! Without hesitation I accepted his invitation and get started on this journey.
|Bhante Hemaloka sit in the front seat. It is a law in Sri Lanka to give the front seats to monks.|
With the intercity bus, it takes approximately three and a half hours to reach Colombo from Kandy. One interesting thing I found on the bus, that in Sri Lanka there is a law that guaranteed monks to have a seat, in the front seat, in any public transportation. So if there is someone sitting in the front seat and there is a monk who happened to be riding the same bus or train, he had to give his seat to the monk. Also, the monks are free to use public transportation within the city.
|Bhante Hemaloka carrying offerings for the Buddha.|
|Venerable Sri Khavi Dhaja, the founder of|
Sri Kavi Dhaja Meditation Center, Bhante Hemaloka's monastery.
|Bhante Hemaloka eating in his alms bowl.|
|Friendly animal around the monastery - parrot.|
|Friendly animal around the Monastery - dog.|
Arriving in Colombo I was staying at Bhante Hemaloka's monastery and meeting other monks who live there. Dharma-brothers, as they called each other. There are five young monks who live there, two of them are studying outside Colombo, so there are only three monks that serves there daily. Bhante Hemaloka (fourth from the left) is taking his BA degree in Kandy and Bhanthe Dhamma Kushala (first from the left) is taking his Master degree in Thailand. In their vacation time they like to go back and serve in their monastery.
|Sri Khavi Dhaja dhamma-brothers. From left to right: Bhante Dhamma Kushala, |
Bhante Dhamma Sena, Bhante Soratha, Bhante Hemaloka, Bhante Sobita.
|Bhante Hemaloka in front of his bedroom door.|
At night the people of Sri Lanka again impressed me with their enthusiasm for their own traditional festival! Lots of the people from across Sri Lanka came to Colombo only to see this festival. From the way they respect their own culture, I know they all are amazing people.
|People watching Toran, a traditional Sri Lankan light ornaments, |
Toran usually depicts a life story of the Buddha.
|Traditional home-made circuit system for the Torang.|
|People watching light festival.|
|Vesak lantern art, this one depicts the story of Hell.|
|Young monks and their devotees.|
|People in Sri Lanka spending their time |
to enjoy night scenes on the street.
|Monks in Sri Lanka usually live a monastic life since their childhood. They were sent|
to the monastery around age 6 to 8 and become a Samanera (novice monk),
so they don't experienced youth life like most of the people their age.
The next morning, I feel very lucky to see the smiles of children in Sunday dharma-school that held each week by Bhante Hemaloka. I just knew that every weekend, he's traveling round-trip from Kandy-Colombo-Kandy, regularly, only to teach this Sunday-school.
|Flock of students in Dhamma-School.|
|Bhante Hemaloka leading meditation session at the Dhamma-School.|
|Children meditating before studying Dhamma.|
|Bhante Hemaloka and his sunday-school disciples.|
|Talking with the parents.|
|Giving some advice. From couples, business men to|
police men seeking advices from monks.
Seems like being a bhikku among Sri Lankan society nowadays, even though someone could call it a sworn life under poverty, is somewhat a prestigious life. Being a bhikku is respected for the people here. In their point of view the bhikkus (and bhikkunis) are sacrificing their life's pleasure for the service of others. It is a customary here to bow and prostate to the monks when you visit a temple. It is not a Buddhist custom but more of a Sri Lankan cultural tradition.
|Students prostate before Bhante Hemaloka in the stage before she|
receives a certificate as one of the best students.
Sunday afternoon, back to our journey to return to our campus in Kandy. This time we decided to take economic class train, so that I could see a new atmosphere of Sri Lankan public transportation. It cost me about 200 Sri Lankan Rupee, about $1.5 USD for the economic class. The ride was an hour faster than bus.
|In Sri Lanka I've never seen Sri Lankan flags, but Buddhist flags are everywhere.|
|The locals and some hippie tourists at the train station.|
|Always get his front seat everywhere. I didn't get any seat so I just sat next to the door.|
|Sri Lankan economic-train scenery.|
|Conductors collecting tickets.|
|Taking care of her little sister.|