I only recently found out that Ajahn Brahm had met the great German monk Ven. Ñāṇavimala, when I saw something Bhikkhu Bodhi had written for Ajahn’s 60th anniversary felicitation book, Emptiness and Stillness, which has just been released.
So when Ajahn came to Vivekavana for our Sanghika dana I was keen to ask him for his memories of that occasion, as we are trying to collect material about Bhante for a memorial book. Ajahn very kindly wrote this piece for me, which we might have titled:
I only met Venerable Ñāṇavimala once, but the meeting left a lasting impression. Sometime around 1990, I was visiting Sri Lanka and staying at a monastery in Anderson Road, Nedimala. One afternoon, an English monk and I, together with our Australian attendant, decided to walk to Vajīrārāma to pay our respects to Venerable Piyadassi. We arrived hot and tired only to be told by Ven. Piyadassī to take a seat and he would arrange some tea. Little did I know that the great Mahāthera was to make the tea himself for us! I was stunned by such humility.
After some discussion with the Venerable, he mentioned that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi was staying at Vajirarama, having just arrived back in Sri Lanka from the U.S. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi was another of my “monk heroes” and I jumped at the opportunity to pay my respects and express my sincere gratitude to him for translating so many Suttas into readable English.
Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi then mentioned that Ven. Kheminda was staying in the next room. Ven Kheminda had written that excellent booklet on the importance of Jhāna and had, as a consequence, endured with admirable fortitude the unwarranted criticism from other less knowledgable monks. I had admired him for many years and relished the occasion of bowing at his feet and expressing my support for his courage in standing up for the Dhamma taught by the Buddha.
Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi then advised that we should pay our respects to another monk whom I had never heard of before, an ageing German monk called Ñāṇavimala. It was as if the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi was saving the best treat for the last. I recall Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi saying that Ven. Ñāṇavimala doesn’t speak very much so we should just enter the room, pay our respects and then leave. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi waited outside.
It was over an hour before we left that room. What happened inside remains with me today as the best Dhamma Talk that I have ever had the good karma to listen to! It was worth the whole journey from Australia to Colombo to experience. The Venerable Ñāṇavimala wove quotes from the Suttas together with explanations from his own experience into such a symphony of Dhamma that I left not with stars in my eyes, more like Dhammacakka wheels in my eyes! They would call it today “Awesome”.
I felt so sorry for the kind Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. When we emerged he asked where we had been. When we replied that we had just heard a rip-roaring Dhamma Talk from Ven. Ñāṇavimala, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi lamented that Ven. Ñāṇavimala rarely if ever gives such talks and he had missed it!
I never had the good fortune to meet Ven. Ñāṇavimala again but that one chance meeting will never be forgotten. A photo of the Ven. Ñāṇavimala hangs in our Dānasāla in Perth alongside other great and inspiring monks.
Photos of Ajahn Brahm and Ven. Ñāṇavimala from around 1990
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