I lived in Sri Lanka for over 15 years, but moved to Malaysia in 2008, and last May I returned for the first time in over seven years.
I had been told that there would be many changes, but although there had evidently been some infrastructure improvements, it still seemed like the old country to me.
After being away for so long I had more or less lost contact with most of my supporters and travelling was consequently somewhat difficult.
I managed to visit only a couple of places while I was there, and I will be publishing some photographic web albums from the visit in the coming weeks.
The first is from a vipassana meditation center in Sinhapura, which is north of Polonnaruwa, where I previously lived for a couple of years in my early monastic life.
That was a very good place to be at the time as the Head Monk, Ven Saṁvutta, is very expert in traditional monastic arts, and was also a practising sculptor.
I used to travel round northern Sri Lanka with the Head Monk and his newly ordained novice monk, Ven Maliyadewa, visiting some of the historical sites and therefore got many lessons in history and culture.
Ven Saṁvutta has himself taken great care in the building of his own monastery, and was often seen working in those days at the reliefs and sculptures he was preparing.
I hadn’t visited the monastery for around 20 years when I returned in May, and it has greatly expanded in the meantime, and the photographs reflect that.
Meanwhile Ven Maliyadewa, who has grown from a 12-year old novice to an 11-Rains fully ordained monk, acted as my guide both here and in Somawathiya Chaitya, which I will feature next week.
The monastery is set in a beautiful grove that has been built up over the years, providing not just shade, but also a fine setting for the many sculptures.