Tripin 2020 - page 23

We are soon ushered in to the
private quarters of The Chief
Incubent, Most Venerable Dr.
Mahinda Sangharakkitha Nayaka
Thera (the chief monk). My boss
and I exchange nervous glances,
fully understanding that this is
no ordinary meeting. He greets
us with a kind smile disarming us
with his gentle disposition. As we
discuss the nitty gritty of the work
we plan to do for the Duruthu
Maha Perahera I am most taken
by the unassuming nature of this
highly esteemed man. I have come
across many Buddhist monks in
my life but he was different. None
of this assumed reverence. He was
self-effacing and seemed truly
enlightened. After the business
talk was over, Dr. Mahinda
Sangharakkitha Nayaka Thera
requested a stately gentleman
who everyone called Padmasiri
Sir (who we found out later was
the 3rd in line to head temple
matters) to take us on a guided
tour of the temple. Notebooks
open, cameras out, we followed
with quiet elation.
Our first stop is the giant stupa. A
mound-like structure, traditionally
housing Buddhist relics, stands
startling white in contrast to
the pale orange temple walls.
Its rotund exterior is perfectly
smooth against the bright blue
sky. This stupa is perhaps one of
the most sacred in all of Sri Lanka,
as it is rumoured to house the
jewel encrusted throne, gifted to
Buddha by the King at the time,
from which Buddha himself had
preached the Dhamma to the King
and his subjects in 5th century
B.C. It was surreal to confirm
we were now standing where
Buddha had once stood, where
Royalty and 500 enlightened
beings had borne witness to the
sacred teachings of Buddhism
straight from the source. Devotees
dressed all in white, circle the
structure, place fragrant lotus
around the stupa, palms joined in
silent prayer.
The next stop is the main
attraction, The Kelaniya Raja
Maha Vihara. The New Temple
House section of the Kelani
Viharaya is 150 feet long and 90
feet broad, with the distinctive
octagon roof built in the Kandyan
architectural style. The walls of
the temple interior are covered
“Enter the great city of Kelaniya/Whose beauty
from moment to moment is ever renewed/
Forests of bell-hung banners enclose its fine
dwellings/And glittering gems are set on its
pinnacle tips. Amorous husbands and wives,
each with no thought but for the other/Wearing
exquisite garlands of special fragrance/Their
bodies anointed with sandal paste and saffron/
Lie in that city’s moonlit balconies.”
– Sri Rahula Thera
in Salalihini Sandesaya
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