I came to the Sumantiphala Meditation center to understand my own mind better and for a better understanding of the Buddha's teaching. One might wonder why a person goes to the other end of the earth to get to know one’s own mind! The truth is, that it is indeed not necessary, because our mind is always with us. Yet it is also true that a place like Sumathipala Na Himi Meditation Center does provide the appropriate and necessary conditions for getting to know one’s mind better.
When one takes part in a meditation course, it does raise many questions: I learned to meditate, but meditation itself is not Buddhism. What is Buddhism in a Buddhist country? And how should I practise in everyday life? Where else, other than, a Buddhist meditation center in Asia can I find the answers to these questions?
Sumantipala offers a peaceful environment which helps to lead people finely and gently into the practice of Dhamma. Being in the presence of renowned meditation teacher, Venerable Pemasiri, for an evening lecture of "Dhamma classes" and being surrounded by practicing monks, nuns and laypeople, all these factors offer support to a person doing meditation practice. Everybody manages their own meditation (which is led by a teacher) and it depends on each individual on how intensively each one engages in the meditation and which activities each individual chooses to attend.
Each day begins with Breakfast at 6:15 am. After breakfast at 8 o'clock, there are talks about
meditation with Ven. Pemasiri or Ven.Visuddhi and Ven.Vineethe. Until lunchtime, which is at 11:15, one has the opportunity to meditate. After lunch, it is appropriate to have a rest, because of the immense heat. After resting, one can again start meditating. The Dhamma class starts at 16:30 and after that at 18:00, follows the evening Puja which is a group recitation of the Buddha’s words (Sutta) along with the offering of flowers. It is possible to participate in either the classic Puja or in Bodhi Puja, which takes place at the Bodhi tree during the same time. In the evening it is more suitable for meditation due to cooler weather conditions.
As I mentioned above, each individual can decide whether to participate in all these activities or if one prefers continuing with meditation practice, relaxation or even visiting the village.
Facilities for meditation consist of the Meditation Hall, which is divided into a female and male section and the front section is allocated specially for monastics. The meditation hall is intended only for meditation. Lectures about Dhamma and Puja take place in other areas allocated. In the area where the Puja takes place, there is also an extensive Library of Buddhist literature , which includes some titles in English. One can also use ones‘ own "kuti"(hut) for meditation, where each person stays in the centre.
The kutis, meditation hall and special allocated areas are set in a beautiful medicinal garden, which consists of different kinds of trees, shrubs and ponds. In the center there are many birds and wild animals, such as lizards, lots of squirrels, snakes and monkeys.
Apart from meditation everybody has the opportunity to practice “sila”- ethical conduct, which is necessary for the cultivation of Dhamma practice and meditation and together it forms an inseparable whole. First of all, it is the practice of “dana”, which means practising generosity.
We learn to offer food or other necessities to monks and nuns or children living in very poor conditions in the local orphanage.
Another opportunity to practise sila is taking care of the environment in which we live and meditate, whether it is the everyday sweeping of fallen leaves or collecting the flowers for the evening recitation.
For me it was surprising to see the number of people who are volunteers who work and take care of this place and all its daily operations.
It is truly inspiring to see the participation in the Buddhist Poya Day, in which ordinary villagers along with wealthy people come to practise together in the meditation center. Everyone meditates, listens to a talk about Dhamma from Venerable Pemasiri and bows respectfully to the monastics.
I owe my thanks to Venerable Visuddhi who organized our stay here and advised us how to behave appropriately and what to do in different situations here.
- Written by Hanka