Today is Vesak. As a child studying as a boarder at Kalutara Balika and then Musaeus, observing Sil for Poya was mandatory. Sil seemed like a chore then, except on Vesak. Vesak was special. There was always milk toffee or something special with lunch. At Kalutara Balika we did a 24 hour Sil observation for Vesak. (Other days we broke Sil or did Sil pavarana at 5pm). There was no dinner on a 24-hour Sil day but we managed. It felt like camping. I remember putting a candle on a turtle’s back and watching it crawl away into the darkness (did not seem cruel. forest fires did not seem like a possibility). And I remember waking up early in the morning to pick up Sepalika flowers for morning Puja. (Don’t see those flowers much these days). If I remember right, the full moon would still there at 5 AM on some days.
Today too I feel the need to do something special to celebrate the birthday of the one very special, but don’t know how. From the time I returned to Sri Lanka in 2002, I have been looking around for a temple. I tried the Pagoda Meditation Center but the interest of the dayakas there seemed to be too much into esoteric Dhamma discussions. Vipassana Bhavana Center on Wijerama Road and the Kuppiawate Temple were the centers of our devotion in my days at school at Musaeus. Vipassana Center was uninspiring. Kuppiawatte did not seem like a promising prospect after my experience with a priest there.
My ideal temple is a traditional Buddhist one with some Christian elements. Like in the Ganegodalle Purana Vihara in Kitulgoda of the old days, the neighborhood temple of my family then, there will be lots of white sand. There will be a large Bo tree. There may or not be a small Chaithya. (I think a Chaithyas for small temples is a waste). The Budu Medura will be small but the Salawa or the hall would be large to accommodate any event, a Bhavana, a Dharma Deshana or a Salpila – a fund-raising event for the temple. Nobody will bring flowers in sili-sili bags. Everybody or every family will have a special basket they use and re-use for flowers. The Budu Madura will have a beautiful Pan-Kendiya for filtered water and the ritual of offering flowers will feel special. The Priests quarters and Dana Salawa will be in a corner, discreetly.
The Christian elements I’d like to borrow concern financing and community service. Every Sunday there will be a ‘service’ (I prefer the cool of the evenings). The service may include a puja, a sermon and a Bhavana session. Every week, after the service, everyone will make a contribution to the temple. Each will put whatever they can into an envelope and put in the donation box. Two from the Dayaka Sabha will help the priest collect the money and maintain accounts. (The envelopes, of course, will be reused). The dayaka sabha will make sure that the priest does not have to be hitting on you for money or goodies every time you walk into the temple. The dayakas will also keep the temple clean and nice through a structured Sramadana calendar.
There will be a special committee to handle community services. The temple will take responsibility for helping those in the neighborhood to help themselves. They will raise additional funds to take care of the needs of those in need. Our animal friends too will not be forgotten. Stray cats and dogs in the neighborhood too will be the responsibility of the temple. The committee will carry out programs to educate people about sterilizing their pets if necessary, and that it is cruel to use street dogs as their informal guard dogs and not look after the needs of those dogs. Overall, the community will be able to channel most of their community service efforts and rupees through their temple.
Anybody knows a temple that will fit the bill or has the potential?
Wish you all a day of dana-seela-bhavana, and a night of happy dan-sal hopping.